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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 12/17/2015

Guests: James Pindell, Jon Erpenbach

Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: December 17, 2015 Guest: James Pindell, Jon Erpenbach RACHEL MADDOW, THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW HOST: Alex, you have just blasphemed against my religion. ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC HOST: I`m sorry about that, Rachel. MADDOW: When Gene Robinson said that Donald Trump creates his own reality, that he creates his own political weather, I was like, as do we all aspire, right? WAGNER: This is our world. MADDOW: This is our world. Our tyrannical world. Welcome to it. Thank you very much. WAGNER: Enjoy your world, my friend. MADDOW: Thanks a lot. And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Debunktion junction, what`s my function? Hoot, hoot. Debunktion junction`s first stop today is with George Pataki, the former governor of New York, who is running for president. (BUZZER) MADDOW: A little quick on the trigger there, guys. You have to wait until I actually get to the story. Sorry about that. We`ll try this again. George Pataki, who is currently running for the Republican presidential nomination -- (BUZZER) MADDOW: Hold on. Wait a second. George Pataki is running for president, isn`t he? (BUZZER) MADDOW: False apparently. While George Pataki appears to be running for president in the sense that he keeps appearing on television while labeled as a candidate for president of the United States, George Pataki does not actually appear to be running a campaign that is even trying to make him a real candidate for president of the United States. Last month, we learned that Governor Pataki will not be on the Republican primary ballot in Florida. Now, to understand the importance of that, consider this -- all you had to do to get onto the ballot in Florida was either pay a fee or get a ton of signatures or you have the option of just showing up one day. You could just show up to a Republican conference thingy in Florida one day, which allowed -- which with itself, just you being there, would instantly get you on the ballot for free. So just showing up at the Florida Republican event, that`s all it would take to get on the ballot. That is what basically all the other candidates did, even the hopeless ones. But not George Pataki. George Pataki didn`t even bother to get on the Florida ballot when he had the opportunity to do so for free. George Pataki`s campaign later telling us by way of explanation that Florida is a winner-take-all state in terms of how it allocates its delegates. And so, we`re left to surmise that maybe that`s why he was not even trying to compete there? Not totally sure. But then yesterday, we learned that Governor Pataki did not even try to get on to another ballot in another big winner-take-all state. Ohio announced yesterday who`s going to be on its Republican primary ballot and the state let it be known that Governor George Pataki will not be on the ballot in Ohio -- not because he tried and failed to get on the Ohio ballot but because he didn`t even try. Again, though, Ohio is a winner-take-all state like Florida in terms of allocating their delegates. So, maybe he`s following that same logic, that made him not even try to get on the ballot in Florida either. Maybe it`s just winner-take-all states. He thinks he`s not going to win. He`s not going to come in first so he`s not even trying in states like that. Except -- let it also be known that George Pataki is also not going to be on the ballot in Virginia, and Virginia is not a winner-take-all state. If you win just a little bit of the vote in Virginia, you can win a small share of the delegates there. So, if it`s the winner-take-all thing that`s been justification for George Pataki not even trying to get on the ballot in some of these other states, that doesn`t explain for him what`s going on in Virginia. And now, Texas has said that George Pataki didn`t even bother to file the paperwork to get onto the ballot in that state either. So, something`s going on here. I mean, clearly, George Pataki likes to appear to be running for president when they put him in the debates. He appears as if he`s running. But I hereby contend that the dude is not really running. He`s explicitly not running in Florida, Ohio, Virginia, and Texas and whatever other states I forgot to check. I mean, is there somewhere where you are running, Governor? I mean, honestly, even if you as a potential voter wanted a George Pataki for president T-shirt or a mug or something because you are in some state somewhere where he might conceivably end up on the ballot, if you wanted George Pataki for president T-shirts, you can`t even go to his Web site and buy them. At least some of these other more well-known presidential candidates like Deez Nuts and Butt Stuff, they at least have a robust memorabilia section if you want to buy a Deez Nuts or Butt Stuff t- shirt. I should also mention that Deez Nuts and Butt Stuff will have the same place on the Ohio presidential ballots as George Pataki, which is to say they will not be there. But at least they`re merchandising. So, at this point, honestly, until I get some contrary evidence, some proof to the contrary, I hereby say that George Pataki is not running for president. (BELL) MADDOW: Ding, ding, ding. There`s also a case to be made that Jim Gilmore isn`t running for president. This is Jim Gilmore`s announcement video from when he got into the race in July. By September -- so, July, August, September, a ways after that announcement -- by September, "The Washington Post" reported that Jim Gilmore had yet to do a single campaign event of any kind, other than his announcement video. I mean, Jim Gilmore at least in some states has been trying to get onto the ballot unlike George Pataki. When George Pataki skipped trying to get onto the Virginia ballot, Jim Gilmore`s home state, the Virginia elections ballot says someone representing Jim Gilmore was last among all the candidates to sprint into the elections office with Jim Gilmore`s signatures to get him onto the ballot. They turned in their Jim Gilmore paperwork at 4:48 p.m. when the Virginia deadline was 5:00 p.m. So, at least in his home state, he`s trying. Still, though, it`s hard to say in which way that`s materially relevant he`s still in the race. Jim Gilmore did make it into the kids` table debate in Cleveland you might remember, but he did not qualify for the kids table in the second debate, nor did he qualify for the kids table at the third debate, nor did he qualify for the kids` table at the fourth debate. Nor did he qualify for the kids` table at the fifth debate this week. Jim Gilmore is just not there. I mean, at least in his home state he`s trying to get on the ballot unlike George Pataki. But there`s a case to be made that Jim Gilmore`s not actually in the race for president anymore either. And if you want your next member of that club, it`s probably this handsome fellow. We reported last week that there had been a mysterious unexplained high-level shake-up in the Mike Huckabee for president campaign. His top spokesperson, his communications director, suddenly and without warning, quit. After she quit the campaign put out a micro sized very curt little statement that said she was no longer with the campaign. But the statement did not wish her well, it didn`t thank her, it didn`t explain anything about why she quit or where she was going. And with Mike Huckabee getting down into Lindsey Graham and George Pataki territory in the polls, him inexplicably losing a top staffer like that, that felt like that thing people say about rats in sinking ships. So, after a couple of days of people worrying about this development in the Mike Huckabee, Governor Huckabee did try to publicly address what had happened. But it did not work out well. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: So, I have to ask you, Alice Stewart, your campaign`s communications director just announced she`s leaving the campaign. Usually, staffers leaving not a great sign for any campaign. What`s behind her resignation? MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, you know, we`ve got dozen of people in many states working for us. We hate to lose Alice. But she`s decided that she`s I think exhausted from the campaign. She`s left. It`s her decision. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Mike Huckabee venturing there on CNN that his top spokesperson who had left his campaign with no explanation, he says she left because she was exhausted from the campaign. That was a bad move, Governor. Tonight in, Governor Huckabee`s former spokeswoman, the woman who quit, she tells "Politico" two things about herself. Number one, she`s a marathon runner. And number two, quote, "I am far from exhausted." So that means still no explanation of why Mike Huckabee has lost this top staffer, somebody who worked with him for years. And "Politico" further reports tonight that the Mike Huckabee campaign is also slashing the salaries of senior staffers. One very senior staffer who definitely will not be quitting the Mike Huckabee campaign no matter how low her salary goes is Mike Huckabee`s campaign manager. And the reason that she is likely to never quit is because she`s working as the campaign manager for her dad. Mike Huckabee`s campaign manager is his daughter, Sarah B -- excuse me -- Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Sadly, she also admitted to "Politico" tonight amid these reports of senior staff leaving and salary cuts at the campaign, she admits to "Politico" tonight, quote, "Obviously, if we go to Iowa and lose, well, frankly we probably won`t keep going." So, by the campaign`s own admission, it is win Iowa or bust for the Mike Huckabee for president campaign -- which means among other things that wow, the Mike Huckabee combine plans on still existing for a few more weeks, through the first week of February at least. This is kind of one of the weird dynamics this year in this race. Nobody`s quitting. We started off with a historically enormous, untenable 17-candidate Republican field. We`ve still got 14 of them running all these months later. Only three of them dropped out. Three of them are gone, poof, Scott Walker, Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal. Three governors poofed. Otherwise, they`re all staying. Even the ones who aren`t really running by my contention, Jim Gilmore and George Pataki, even the guy who flirts with zero percent so often that it is probably undercutting his future effectiveness in his day job of what used to be a pretty influential United States senator, even the guy whose bottom of the barrel presidential run is hurting his chances for his Senate re-election race next year. Even this guy`s still running. This guy maybe I understand because he`s basically been running for president as a full-time job for years now, and I think it`s the only job he has. But it`s a weird and unexpected fact about this race that nobody is getting out. Nobody is technically getting out, even candidates who are barely registering at all, even candidates who are failing in a humiliating fashion and in a way that hurts their other work in politics, even candidates who aren`t really running except to the extent that they keep a suit clean in case somebody calls and asks them out. Nobody is quitting. And alongside that, nobody`s in a hurry to wrap this thing up. It`s fascinating and it`s totally different than the way it has happened in previous election cycles. Usually by this time in the presidential race, the states have been fighting like a bag of hornets that somebody just shook as to whose primary can be earliest. That definitely happened in 2008. Remember in 2008, they were voting like while the Christmas trees were still up? Yes. It happened in 2008 and then it happened again in 2012. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Florida poised to move its presidential primary to the last day of January, the speaker of the Florida state house telling NBC News he expects the 31st to be the date when Florida formalizes it tomorrow. If that happens, it means South Carolina will move its primary date up, which means Nevada will move up its caucus state, which means New Hampshire, will move up its primary date, which means Iowa will be holding the Iowa caucuses just after the New Year again. And there would be five nominating contests just in the month of January. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: So, that was 2012. Same haircut. For the last two presidential elections, states have been fighting tooth and nail to go as early as possible in the presidential nominating process. And the theory they were doing that is obvious. The theory of the race in both of those instances was that the Republicans at least would pick their nominee very early. They would settle the nomination race so quickly that states really faced the prospect of irrelevance if their primary or their caucus was too late. If their folks were voting after the de facto nominee was already chosen. So, they all fought to go as early as possible. They pressured Iowa. They pressured New Hampshire. They pressured South Carolina. In some states` cases, they broke the rules and hurt themselves, lost delegates just so they could get to go as early as possible. That`s what happened in 2008. That`s what happened in 2012. That`s why we were voting at basically New Year`s for the start of the primary race in 2008 and 2012. This year, that`s not happening. The great state of New Hampshire announced today that they have picked their date for the New Hampshire primary this year. The New Hampshire primary will be on February 9th. Do you hear the clamor? No, because there`s no clamor. It`s the very definition of a no-drama announcement this year. Quoting from the "A.P." today, "in past years, other states have jockeyed to move their primaries and caucuses earlier in hopes of grabbing some of New Hampshire`s spotlight. This year, though, there was none of the usual wrangling over the calendar." This year, Republicans apparently are not operating under the same theory of the race that they had for the last two elections. Last time, last couple of elections, they wanted to be early in the process because they thought the nomination would get wrapped up early. This year apparently, nobody expects an early wrap-up. No state is fighting to go early. Nobody`s pressuring New Hampshire. No candidate, no matter how much of a long shot is getting out of the race either. Just in case, right? Things might turn their way. The Republican National Committee is preparing for the possibility that they might not even have a nominee by the time of their convention next summer. This year, the Republican theory of the case is the early decision- making process, the early parts of the primaries and caucuses, those don`t matter that much. It`s not worth it to be in that part of the decision- making process because it`s going to take a long time for Republicans to pick a nominee so it`s better to be a state that goes later in the process, not earlier. Also, it`s better to be a long shot candidate still in the race months from now even if you look all through 2015 like you had absolutely no chance. Nobody`s quitting and no states want to go early. Why has the Republican theory of the case changed so much in the last two elections? Is there any reason to believe that the Republicans are guessing right this year about how this is going to go? And given that the Republican Party this year has a front-runner who is leading by more and for longer than any other nominee at this stage in the nominating process other than George W. Bush in the year 2000, why is this the year they decided the process is going to take forever for them to pick someone? Joining us now is James Pindell. He`s a political reporter for "The Boston Globe". He`s the former political director for New Hampshire`s WMUR TV. Mr. Pindell, it`s a real pleasure to have you here. Thanks for being here. JAMES PINDELL, BOSTON GLOBE POLITICAL REPORTER: Thanks for having me. MADDOW: So, it felt to me like not only was it a little quiet when New Hampshire announced their primary date today, we`re sort of used to it being a more clamorous occasions and other states competing with them, it also took them a long time to announce it. Isn`t this kind of late in the process for them to be telling us when they`re voting? PINDELL: Well, here`s the deal. Everybody pretty much agreed it would be February 9th but the one person who actually sets it is going to be the New Hampshire secretary of state. He`s acting like a lot of girls did when I was in high school where you have a date, you say, we`ll go out on Friday night, but you`re really not setting it in until a couple hours in, they`re waiting to see other options or other things they should be doing -- MADDOW: You went to a terrible high school. PINDELL: No, just look at this face. It`s pretty easy. The deal is, right? But the deal is that by state law in New Hampshire, the secretary of state has to put the New Hampshire primary first. It has to be seven days before any similar election. So, he was just waiting around to see if there`s going to be any last-minute challenges. If you were to write stories as I have written several stories, saying that the New Hampshire primary would likely be on February 9th, he would never dissuade you. But you`re right, it was this anti-climactic moment. It`s usually I cover two stories in the year before the primary. I cover the race for president and I cover the race for who`s going to have the first primary. And I didn`t get to cover that at all this year. This time, he just steps out and says oh, look at this nice little poster I have for the primary. And then reporters s notice that it said wait, you actually set the date. He said, yes, I guess I set the date. MADDOW: So, what we`ve seen in previous years, especially on the Republican side, was the Republican Party trying to enforce real discipline around the early schedule, telling Florida I remember listen, Florida, if you push it too far we`re going to strip your delegates or at least half your delegates. They did that again this year, threatening all this discipline against the states. So, I feel like people saying this year that there wasn`t any clamor to compete with the early primary and caucus states, people saying that was because the party enforced discipline isn`t necessarily explanatory in terms of what happened this year because the party tried to enforce discipline like that in years past, didn`t they? PINDELL: They did. Though first off we`re going to talk about the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party actually through the years has threatened the status quo of Iowa, New Hampshire much more than the Republicans have. They did in 1984 when it almost went away, and then most recently in 2008 with Florida and Michigan. Same deal in 2004, which led to a commission that eventually added Nevada to the whole process, because they said let`s just take a big look at it. What I think we finally found is that these parties have found the right mix of carrots and sticks. And further, there`s still this idea that 2008 really changed things. This contest between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the idea that it could go -- this contest could go so long in the process and that any state could be as pivotal. And look, if you are a state like Florida, and Florida`s a really good example, they decided early on that they were not going to challenge for the first time in a while, challenge New Hampshire`s status. And the reason why was the Republican rules. The Republican rules said, if you wait until March 15th, so if you waited basically about five weeks after the New Hampshire primary, Florida as you mentioned in your piece with George Pataki becomes a winner take all. That`s huge. So there`s Florida, there`s Ohio, there`s Illinois on this very key day. That could who the nominee`s going to be, and they decided that, you know what, facing the penalties of not even having their delegates seated at the convention, they`re going to go with the carrots. MADDOW: And they have been threatened in the past. This year, the threats are working with them. As you say, the combination of the threats and the incentives. I can`t help but thinking, though, that they`ve all just decided that this year, looking at Donald Trump being that far ahead, they think that this is going to be a more complicated process of pick a nominee than years past. We`ll see. PINDELL: You know, I actually think what you said earlier was really interesting. It`s not so much the Donald Trump effect as it is the super PAC effect. No one`s going to be dropping out if they lose Iowa and New Hampshire except for a few people at the bottom. MADDOW: Yes, although the super PAC for George Pataki has yet to run me over in the street crossing over into this building where he works. James Pindell -- PINDELL: Except for the people you mentioned is what I said. MADDOW: Right. James Pindell, political reporter for "The Boston Globe" -- pleasure having you here, James. Thanks a lot. PINDELL: Thank you. MADDOW: All right. We`ve got much more ahead on this busy news night including what the president is going to be doing tomorrow. You know one of the things he`s doing tomorrow I think you do not know about the other thing. We`ve got both of those stories next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: So, we`ve just gotten a hold of some incredible details about what authorities say happened after the San Bernardino shootings, including a 911 call by somebody authorities say was intimately connected to those shootings. Those details including that 911 call next. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Tomorrow, President Obama`s expected to give his end of the year news conference at the White House. The end of the year presidential news conference is a little different from your average presidential presser, because President Obama for one tends to take questions for a longer time than usual. He also tends to get questions from reporters that are on the kind of big picture reflect on this past year, reflect on your presidency, gets kind of those kinds of questions from reporters. Sometimes the year-end press conference is notable for other reasons, though. You might remember last year at his end of the year press conference, the president made a point of only calling on female reporters. He took eight questions last year, all of them from women. So, that`s one thing to have on your radar: President Obama`s year-end presser. Tomorrow afternoon. It`s scheduled for just before 2:00 Eastern Time. Another thing to maybe expect is for the president to issue some pardons. Last year, President Obama issued 12 pardons and eight commutations. Two days before his end of the year news conference. Compared to other presidents, President Obama has issued relatively few pardons, although he`s ahead of his predecessors in commuting people`s sentences. Given his recent focus on criminal justice reform, there`s an open question as to whether or not there might be actually be a whole lot more pardon`s and commutations coming from President Obama before he leaves office. So, as we get toward the end of the year, everybody`s watching for that and we could potentially hear something on that front tomorrow. After the president`s news conference tomorrow, the president will be leaving for Hawaii for his annual Christmas vacation in the place where he grew up. On his way, though, he`s going to stop in is San Bernardino California. The White House says he`s going to meet with victims and families of those killed in the shooting two weeks ago. Fourteen people were killed, 22 people were injured in the San Bernardino attack. And today, there was a major, major development in the investigation into what happened in San Bernardino. Federal prosecutors filed charges today against Enrique Marquez. He`s a 24-year-old neighbor, friend, and former next-door neighbor of one of the attackers, Syed Farook. Enrique Marquez is now charged with conspiring to give material support to terrorists. According to the criminal complaint, Farook introduced Enrique Marquez to Islam, and Enrique Marquez converted in 2007. Prosecutors say that Syed Farook then began introducing Mr. Marquez to "radical Islamic ideology", including the teachings of radical American cleric Anwar al Awlaki. Enrique Marquez allegedly told investigators that both he and Syed Farook together plotted terrorist attacks in late 2011. They planned to attack Riverside Community College, where they both had been students. They planned that attack with pipe bombs and guns. They specifically, according to the complaint, planned to escape from the attack and then conduct a follow-on attack at another location. The criminal complaint says they talked about throwing pipe bombs to stop traffic on a crowded section of a state highway in rush hour. And then they planned to shoot people who were stuck in their cars in that traffic jam that they had caused. Police say Enrique Marquez and Syed Farook continued to plan for terror attacks by going to firing ranges to become better shots, but reportedly, again, according to the complaint, they got spooked by other terrorism-related arrests in southern California in late 2012 and their planning then stopped. In addition to the conspiracy charge, which is about those planned attacks that never happened, Enrique Marquez is also now being charged with violating gun laws when he bought two assault rifles in 2011 and 2012 which ended up being used by Syed Farook and his wife in the San Bernardino shooting. Enrique Marquez allegedly also bought explosive powder, which is believed to be the powder that Syed Farook and his wife used to make the pipe bombs that were found in their house in California. Today`s complaint, though, and this is important, suggests that Enrique Marquez knew nothing about the plans for the San Bernardino shooting earlier this month. The day after the shooting, Enrique Marquez called 911, and there is a transcript of that call and it is chilling and kind of amazing. This is the transcript -- 911: What`s wrong? Why do you feel like you want to kill yourself? What`s going on? Marquez: I don`t know. My neighbor. He did the San Bernardino shooting. 911: Your neighbor did what? He did the San Bernardino shooting. 911: Your neighbor was in the San Bernardino shooting? He died or what? He was the shooter or what? Marquez: He was the shooter. 911: He was the shooter? Marquez: The bleeping bleep used my gun in the shooting. 911: You said he used your gun? Marquez: Yes. Oh, my God. 911: How do you know it`s your gun? Marquez: They can trace all the guns back to me. Enrique Marquez went to an emergency room shortly after that call. He was held in the psych ward. He later spoke with FBI agents for ten days. They say he waived his right to a lawyer for that entire ten-day period of questioning. He was arrested on these charges this afternoon. His court appearance lasted just a few minutes. He`ll be back in court for a bail hearing on Monday. (COMMECIAL BREAK) MADDOW: It was about a decade after the civil war had ended. The south had lost that war. But there was an uprising in the city of New Orleans. A white supremacist group called the Crescent City White League, led an insurrection essentially against the post-civil war reconstruction government there. And the Crescent City White League won that fight. They held the city of New Orleans for days before the federal government came in and restored order. That was called the Battle of Liberty Place. This is the monument that has stood in New Orleans basically since then, marking that 19th century battle honoring the white supremacist militia that won that fight. Well, today, the New Orleans City Council decided that that monument is come down. The city council today voted to remove not just the battle of liberty place monument but also three other confederate statues, statues honoring General Robert E. Lee, General John P.G.T. Beauregard, and Confederate President Jefferson Davis. New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu made the order to take them down in June after the Charleston, South Carolina church massacre by a Confederate flag-wielding assailant. Today, the city council in New Orleans made it official. The vote was 6-1. The mayor says the statues will be put in storage until they can be displayed with the proper context. He says a commission should be formed to deal with all the Confederate statues around the city. But that monument honoring the Crescent City White League and those three Confederate generals, those are coming down now -- coming down in New Orleans. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: This is one of my favorite "A.P." headlines of all time. Look, quote, "Wisconsin recall webcam so boring, it`s mesmerizing." That was not just the "Associated Press" being snarky. That was the "Associated Press" reporting real-life actual new, because in fact the Wisconsin recall webcam was so boring that it really was mesmerizing. It was riveting. It was a livestreaming webcam that played nonstop 24 hours a day for ten straight weeks. At one particularly crucial time in that state`s political history in 2012. There was no audio. It was just this one camera angle, never changed, never moved. And in any normal universe this would probably be the least watched web series of all time. This would be like after the eagles left the nest but they left the webcam up there for a few more months. But no, this it turns out was really, really popular. This livestream attracted tens of thousands of viewers just in its first few days. People really were riveted to that unmoving webcam of a typical office scene. It was amazing. Quoting from the "A.P.", quote, "the America" -- excuse me. The camera. The America. "The camera featuring a live look at the guarded secret location where petitions to recall Governor Scott Walker and five other Republicans are being housed and processed has its own account on Twitter. It also has a growing cadre of followers who have attached nicknames to the workers." Those people in that office who became minor nicknamed Internet celebrities for a few weeks, they were staffers for something called the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, which is also a very boring name. But it`s boring for all the right reasons. It`s boring on purpose. In that really highly charged, really fired-up partisan political environment where the sitting governor of Wisconsin was facing a recall, it was the government accountability board`s job to basically be the referee, to do the work to get it done right, to dot the I`s, cross the T`s. What they were doing on the webcam at that secret location for weeks was determining in a plodding, calm, boring way whether or not enough legit signatures had been turned in to actually mount that recall election against Governor Walker. The Government Accountability Board were technocrats. They weren`t on either side of the fight. They were the non-partisan, transparent, always on webcam good government office, making sure it all got done according to the rules. Government Accountability Board. They formed this thing in 2007 after a big corruption scandal in that state resulted in prison sentences for lawmakers from both parties. The state realized after that scandal in the early 2000s that their watchdogs on campaign spending and election law were toothless and pointless and partisan and easily swayed. So, they instead decided to get aggressive and they formed an aggressively non-partisan independent board to police things like ethics and campaign spending, to try to restore Wisconsin`s long-standing self- image as a model of good government, to try to make Wisconsin the cleanest and most ethical election system in the country, and the rules for this board they created after that terrible scandal, the rules were amazing. Total national model for being aggressively non-partisan. Check this out. The board had six members. All of them had to be former judges. These judges got nominated to the board by an independent non-partisan committee and then appointed by the governor, but the governor could only choose people who were presented to them by that non-partisan independent committee. The members of the board could not hold any other public office. For at least a year before they were nominated, they couldn`t be a member of any political party. They couldn`t even be a member of any political club. They`re not allowed to make any political contributions of any kind of any amount while they`re on the board. They can`t be lobbyists for anyone. And crucially, they don`t have to go begging the politicians they may be investigating to please fund their investigations. The funding of this group was independent of the legislature. So the legislature couldn`t have the option of yanking their funding if they didn`t like what the board was doing or what the board was investigating. That`s nails, right? That`s tough. That`s a model of good, tough, transparent, independent non-partisan good government watchdogging. That is what good old Wisconsin invented to police ethics and political money in that state -- a national model created to be non-partisan by bipartisan legislators acting in concert. And so, Republican Governor Scott Walker just abolished it. Republicans in the state legislature did not have the authority to defund this thing, but they did find the authority to just abolish it. And so, they voted, Republicans in the legislature, they voted to scrap the Government Accountability Board, this boring non-partisan nationally recognized symbol of good government. And instead they voted to replace it with commissions stacked with partisan appointees, just like the good old days. And in a private, no media allowed ceremony, Governor Walker just signed that bill but not before line item vetoing one part of the bill to give himself even more power over what will now be his partisan appointments to oversee elections and ethics in that state. And this would usually be the part where I say this is why we can`t have nice things. But in this case, Wisconsin really did have a nice thing for a while. An island of non-partisan technocratic good government in an election system that feels like it gets more partisan and more gerrymandered and more stacks for one party all the time. They really did have a nice thing in Wisconsin. And Scott Walker and his state`s Republican legislators just went out of their way to kill it. Joining us now is Senator Jon Erpenbach. He helped author the bill that created the Government Accountability Board in the first place. Senator Erpenbach, it`s nice to see you. Thanks for being with us tonight. STATE SEN. JON ERPENBACH (D-WI), VOTED TO CREATE BOARD: Thank you, Rachel. It`s good to see you. MADDOW: So, what should voters know about this board that`s being dissolved? You helped create it. What`s important about losing it? ERPENBACH: Well, a couple of things. First of all, it was six retired judges. Non-partisan by any nature of the definition of the word "non-partisan." and they took their job very, very seriously. They had no agenda. It didn`t matter if it was a Democratic issue or a Republican issue before the Government Accountability Board. They looked at the fact, they looked at the laws, and they made their decisions. It worked before, and as you mentioned before you`re right, it was a national model. And this is something I worked on with a Republican state senator by the name of Mike Ellis. And we put this together in 2008. And it passed the state Senate back then by a vote of 33-0. In fact, Rachel, some of the Republican senators who are still in office today supported, it said glowing things about it. But it`s very upsetting that the governor and the Republicans in the legislature pushed forward with the change and basically blew it out of the water. MADDOW: It was 33-0? It was a unanimous vote to create it? Amazing. ERPENBACH: In the state assembly, it was 97-2. MADDOW: Wow. ERPENBACH: It was a really good thing. And other states took a look at it. Some states implemented it. And it was a very fair way to go about the process. MADDOW: One of the things that the Government Accountability Board got involved in since it was created is these John Doe investigations into alleged illegal collusion between Governor Walker`s various political campaigns and conservative groups in the state of Wisconsin. That was one of the investigations that they at least got involved in at the state. Is Republican resentment over those investigations, part of what sort of turned them against this institution that they liked when they created it? ERPENBACH: Yes. I think so. It`s one of those situations where they don`t like what the messenger has to say based on the law, in the state of Wisconsin. So let`s just get rid of the messenger. Let`s pass legislation and outlaw, get rid of the board and come up with something different. And, by the way, the Republicans also passed two pieces of legislation dealing with John Doe investigations, meaning that legislators within the legislation can`t be part of a John Doe investigation anymore. Any public official cannot be part of a John Doe or the subject of a John Doe investigation anymore. MADDOW: In terms of national press and the national public looking in at Wisconsin, I think a lot of people thought that Scott Walker in particular was playing as hard right as he possibly could in order to set up his presidential campaign. His presidential campaign lasted 70 days and ended in a heap of debt and he disappeared from the national stage. Have you noticed any difference in behavior by him as governor since he stopped being a presidential contender? ERPENBACH: Well, I remember talking to you about this a couple of months ago and the fact that I thought he`d come back to Wisconsin and basically reach across the other side of the aisle and try to work with Democrats to try to make Wisconsin a better place to live and work and raise a family. In fact, it`s just -- it`s the opposite. It`s like he has this list, a checklist of people he wants to get or agencies he wants to get rid of. And he`s going through with his agenda. Again, I can`t stress enough how non-partisan the Government Accountability Board was. How well it worked. And it didn`t matter. They had no agenda. Didn`t matter if you`re a Democrat or Republican. And it`s too bad we don`t have it anymore. MADDOW: Jon Erpenbach, Wisconsin state senator. Thanks. Sir, it`s good to see you. ERPENBACH: You too, Rachel. Thank you. MADDOW: Thanks. You know, it`s interesting. We do have such a partisan and screwed up election system in this country but there are a few places where it`s not gerrymandered because they`ve got a non-partisan board that sets the districts or the ethics issues and spending issues are adjudicated by non- partisan retired independently funded judges, groups like this set up in Wisconsin. There`s just these few little points of light routine country where there isn`t something that`s better for liberals and not conservatives, but there`s literally something that is non-partisan, non-biased and just technocratic good government. There`s only a few of them. But instead of building on them, which is what you`d think we`d do as a country as we get more and more just over time, instead those things are more and more becoming targets of Republican politics. I did not expect it, but they are really waging war on the good stuff, in election politics. We`ll be back. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: We got lots more ahead tonight, including somebody getting fired for reasons that ought to keep Donald Trump up at night. I don`t necessarily think that anything keeps Mr. Trump up at night. But this probably should. And that`s ahead. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: I know you`re really psyched to see "Star Wars". I know you. I know, I know. You`re going to have the best time. But before you go see "Star Wars", look at this thing from NASA, from real NASA looking at a real thing. This is NASA`s animation, which shows the world`s biggest cities and the amount of greenhouse gas they give up off. NASA has a mega cities carbon project. One of the things they`re doing with that project is testing out new ways to measure the output of greenhouse gases. They`re running experiments on this subject in ginormous world cities like in Paris and Sao Paulo, Brazil, and in greater Los Angeles. And in greater Los Angeles, NASA has a new point of focus now, a new very specific, very American place in the global search to understand what we are doing to the planet, for better or for worse, and that`s because for the past couple of weeks, this has been going on. Actually for the past couple of months, this has been going on. We`ve been showing you these time lapse infrared images from Porter Ranch, California. In Porter Ranch, California, an underground natural gas well has been leaking almost unimaginable enormous amounts of methane since October. You have to use infrared imagery like this to see it, because to the naked eye, the natural gas looks like nothing. You can`t see it. But this is a huge, huge leak and it stinks and it`s flammable. A few days ago, the FAA banned all airplanes from flying within 2,000 feet of the leak, partly out of concern for pilots who might fly through that giant toxic plume, even though they couldn`t see it. Here`s the other NASA part, though. Tonight, we can tell you that even though all other aircraft are banned from the site of this giant leak, NASA has requested and now received special permission from the FAA that they can approach that no-fly zone. We`ve now learned that NASA wants to break the no-fly zone and send an aircraft up there near the leak so they can try to measure this thing themselves. NASA officials tell us they may use a plane like this one, which is an ER-2 aircraft, which handles a wide variety of environmental science and atmospheric sampling. That`s a plane that has a human crew. Or they might send up a pilotless drone, spending on what they think is going to be best and safest. Whatever they send up there over Porter Ranch, NASA is going to have plenty to look at, in addition to the methane, this thing is apparent giving up tons and tons and tons of carbon dioxide. The leak is releasing what amounts to a million metric tons of carbon dioxide per month now. Remember, it`s been leaking since October. According to the data the state released, that`s equivalent of driving 210,000 cars for a year. That`s what this gas leak is belching out into the atmosphere every month. This ongoing disaster in Porter Ranch, California, has already forced the evacuation of more than 1,000 families in the area. Los Angeles County declared a local state of emergency this week, and today in an emergency meeting the L.A. Board of Education voted to shut down the schools that are nearby the leak. They`re temporarily relocating nearly 2,000 students from this area. We needed pictures from special cameras in order to see this billowing calamity thus far. But with these new emergency measures from the local measures, and movement from the state, and now, our national space agency planning to start fly-overs, it is getting easier to at least see just how serious this thing is. The gas company says plugging this league could take up to four months. Watch this space. When you do, you will soon be sharing that job with NASA. The force awakens. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: This gentleman here is an associate professor of communications at Florida Atlantic University. His name is James Tracy. Professor Tracy`s big claim to fame outside of his holding a professorship at FAU is that he insists there wasn`t really a massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, three years ago. The 20 kids and six adults killed according to him weren`t really killed. For years, he`s run a conspiracy blog, saying that massacre at Sandy Hook was an elaborate hoax, as was the Boston marathon bombing, and the Charleston church shooting. Even the San Bernardino shooting this month, all fake, all staged by FEMA or other nefarious agencies to push for gun control or mind control or whatever. Professor Tracy is a contributor to a self-published book on the subject called "Nobody Died at Sandy Hook." Last week, the parents of the youngest Sandy Hook victim, first grader Noah Pozner, they published an op-ed in "The Florida Sun Sentinel" detailing the harassment they suffered personally from Professor Tracy. They said, among other things, he sent certified letters demanding proof from them that Noah once lived, that we were the parents and that we were the rightful owner of his photographic image. Noah Pozner`s parents were so disturbed by that, they ended up filing a police report for harassment. Professor Tracy responded to the op-ed on the hoax at Sandy Hook Facebook page this week. He said these alleged parents of murdered children were benefitting financially by faking their grief. Well, now, his university, Florida Atlantic University, has moved to terminate Professor Tracy`s contract. He has ten days to appeal the decision. If you`ve ever heard a Sandy Hook denialist conspiracy theory, it is likely because of the media empire of a conspiracy theory connoisseur named Alex Jones. In the month after Sandy Hook, Professor Tracy did extensive interviews in Alex Jones land. The professor also published numerous articles on Alex Jones` Web site. And it`s not surprising this guy would find fertile ground in the Alex Jones media empire. That`s what Alex Jones traffics in. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ALEX JONES, INFO WARS: Yes, so, Sandy Hook is a synthetic, completely fake with actors, in my view, manufactured. I couldn`t believe it at first. I knew they had actors there clearly, but I thought they killed some real kids. It just shows how bold they are. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: So, it`s not surprising that this soon-to-be fired Sandy Hook truther conspiracy theorist Florida professor is in league with Alex Jones. What is surprising is that this particular conspiracy theorist corner of the country is now in league with the leading Republican candidate for president. This month, Alex Jones hosted a lengthy live interview with Donald Trump, fawning mutual appreciation society interview in which Alex Jones told Donald Trump that about 90 percent of his corner of the country is now in league with the leading Republican candidate for president. Trump gushed to Alex Jones about his amazing reputation. Especially all the stuff you`ve done on Sandy Hook about how it was all a giant hoax. That didn`t come up, right? But that`s where Donald Trump was. Florida Atlantic University finally today started to sever ties with the Alex Jones corner of the conspiracy theory right. The fringe in this case was too much for that one university in Florida. It`s not apparently too much, though, for the guy next in line to be the Republican nominee for president. That does it for us tonight. We will 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