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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 12/18/2015

Guests: Mona Hanna-Attisha, Jesse Lewis

Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: December 18, 2015 Guest: Mona Hanna-Attisha, Jesse Lewis

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Alex. Thanks a lot.

And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy Friday night.

What a weird political news day today has been with all this drama in the Democratic Party for once -- with the Bernie Sanders campaign suing the Democratic Party as we speak, like right now, and the Hillary Clinton campaign accusing the Sanders campaign of criminal theft. It`s this big fight over data in the Democratic Party. A data breach.

It is a strange fight. It is ongoing right now as I speak. We`re going to have the latest on that in just a moment tonight.

But we are going to begin our show not with that story. We are beginning our show with a bit of a special report.

We cover a lot of crazy stuff on the show. And there has been a lot of this show. We just had our seventh birthday this year, which means that in cable news years this show is basically like a 340-year-old dog now.

But in all of the craziness we have covered over all of these years, there is one thing that has happened in one American state which stands out to me above all others. And it stands out to me because I maintain that it really is the single most radical policy, the single most radical piece of legislation put into law by any state in the country in our modern American political history. Even if you know nothing else about how the United States of America is governed, you know that we`re a representative democracy, right?

We elect our leaders at the federal level, at the state level, at the local level. We hold elections. The people who win those elections because they win the most votes, those people get put in charge of government. That`s the way it works.

Except in the one place where they decided to not do it that way anymore, and that place is in Michigan.

Republican Governor Rick Snyder at the start of his first term as governor, he signed legislation that lets him overturn elections basically wherever he wants to. Yes, you can still vote for your mayor or your school board member, whatever, but if Rick Snyder doesn`t like what you and your neighbors decided in your little election, then he has the power to step in.

The state can step in and effectively void local election results. They can take your elected mayor or your elected city council or your elected school board and strip them of their power and instead install someone of the governor`s choosing to run things solo, by fiat, answering to no one other than the governor.

It`s kind of a remarkable idea, right? I mean, this idea that if your town needs fixing somehow, something`s wrong in your town, democracy is not going to be part of the solution, it`s not going to be the way you solve that problem. Democracy is the problem.

Democracy has to be gotten rid of if we`re going to fix things in Michigan towns and cities. Governor Rick Snyder knows best. So, he will sweep away your elected officials and instead install someone to run your town, to fix it without pesky democracy and voters electing people or getting in the way.

It`s such a radical idea. Just -- it`s a radical idea let alone a thing to go through with and do. I still almost can`t believe it`s real, all these years after we started covering it.

But very quietly this is the very radical thing that Michigan has started doing. It`s been going on for a few years now. Rick Snyder`s in his second term as governor now. It`s been going on long enough that we can see how it works.

It turns out with a few exceptions towns or school boards that get put under this emergency management state oversight, turns out in most cases they never really come out of it again.

I mean, in theory the idea is to hit pause on democracy so real work can get done fixing places and then democracy can unpause and start up again in those places once those big problems have been fixed. That`s the theoretical idea. That has mostly not been the way it has worked.

The places under emergency management seem to just stay under emergency management. They just stay broken. And therefore, the democratic form of government just doesn`t get switched back on in those places. That`s mostly how it works.

And turns out we can now say, having one non-elected overseer making basically autocratic solo personal decisions by fiat. We now know that that is a form of governance that leads to, in Michigan`s case, some notorious consequences. Like for example, when the emergency manager of the school district in Detroit moves to close down that city`s only school specifically for pregnant girls and young mothers. And when the pregnant girls and young mothers protested, police ended up dragging them bodily from the building.

Or when the emergency manager in Pontiac, Michigan, sold the Silverdome for pennies on the dollar to a company that then let the roof cave in. Or when the emergency manager for the city of Detroit shut off the water to thousands of inhabited homes.

The outrage and outcry and flat out desperation over denying people drinking water, that got so loud that the people of Detroit were heard by the United Nations. Special rapporteur`s from the U.N. were dispatched to Detroit to study the situation as a world-class international human rights violation.

Well, now here`s another one. And this one is just astonishing. And you know what? It is not a local story. It is a story about truly unbelievably reckless radicalism in our country -- a story about which it is starting to become inconceivable that nobody has gone to jail or been impeached or been recalled from office.

This is the subject of our special report tonight, and this is how it starts. This is another one of these orders by an emergency manager. You`ll see this one is dated June 2013. See right up at the top there. By the emergency manager. Hire an engineering firm to get the town ready for using, quote, "The Flint River as a primary drinking water source."

At the time, the state appointed one man government for Flint, Michigan. The state-appoint emergency manager was trying to carry out a plan that the city counsel hello voted for back in the day, which was to try to save money by having Flint buy its drinking water from Detroit. They`d always bought water from Detroit, but it was expensive and they decided Flint was broke, they needed to save money, they needed to get a better deal for Flint so, they wanted to use a new water system, be part of a new water system that was still under construction.

In the meantime, while that new water system was still under construction, the city of Flint had a choice to make. They could make some sort of kind of short-term deal with Detroit, which the emergency manager said was really too expensive, or they could MacGyver some kind of solution for where they would get their water now that they were quitting Detroit but the new system wasn`t ready. They need someday bridge between getting out of Detroit and getting out of the new system.

Flint`s emergency manager decided not to try to work something out with Detroit but instead they went with option B. They decided to MacGyver it.

He signed that order, that June 2013 order to -- for Flint to get ready to use it as the primary drinking water source for at least a couple of years. A few years after that, April 2014, with Flint now being run by yet another emergency manager, Flint unhooked itself from Detroit`s water and started drinking from the mighty, mighty Flint River.

The following month, that new emergency manager in Flint decided to sell the pipe between Flint and Detroit. So, if anything went wrong with this new MacGyver solution of getting the water from the river -- well, now there was no going back.

The emergency manager sold off literally the pipe that would let them go back to Detroit water if for any reason they need to. He basically sold the escape hatch, right? He sold the eject button. So, Flint was committed to drinking from the river, this idea they`d come up with.

The Detroit water, the water they used to be on, that was water from the Great Lakes. The water they were switching to was river water from the Flint River. And if you talked to people who know about this stuff, they will tell you that you do not switch from drinking lake water to drinking river water, as Flint did, without taking certain precautions.

River water has a different chemical balance, which basically boils down to rivers being saltier than big lakes, and that makes river water more corrosive. So, you have to take steps to keep river water from basically eating the old pipes, which are held together with lead soldering. If you let the untreated, corroded salty river water eat the pipes, the lead leaches out of those pipes and gets into the water. And lead in the water makes people really, really sick.

There`s no level of lead in water that is considered safe. But if you take in way too much lead, it`s rashes and skin lesions and hair loss and also permanent neurological damage, particularly if you`re exposed as a kid. It can lead to lower IQ, emotional problems, behavioral problems, the works.

It`s not the issue that you should never use river water for drinking water. Plenty of places do. You just have to do this one thing. You just have to do it safely. You have to treat the water first so it doesn`t corrode the pipes.

We now know that the state of Michigan, the Snyder administration, told Flint it was OK to switch to that new water source without the anti- corrosion treatment. And so they did. They just made the switch.

And first came reports that the new water smelled bad. It stung in the shower. And some homes, when you poured it in the tap it came out rusty colored or it came out looking like maybe it was light beer.

Next came news that a local General Motors plant had a problem with the new water, it was corroding the engine parts built at that factory. GM started bringing in semi trucks full of water to use at that plant. They knew they had to get Flint`s terrible new water away from their car parts.

Meanwhile, the state, the Rick Snyder administration, the state environmental agency started to get in test results showing that the level of lead in Flint water was rising. It started at 6 parts per billion. Within six months that had nearly doubled to 11 parts per billion.

Around the same time, somebody leaked a copy of an EPA memo warning that some very, very high lead levels were showing up in Flint water samples. When that EPA memo started making headlines the state of Michigan denounced the EPA worker who were it as a, quote, "rogue employee." So, the Snyder administration knows that lead levels are rising. That EPA report shows very high, very worrying lead levels, in some samples from some Flint homes.

The Rick Snyder administration at the time had an answer for an increasingly worried public who was looking at this stuff going on and starting to realize that there might really be a problem. And the Snyder administration`s message to an increasingly worried public was relax. Relax, people. Geez.


BRAD WURFEL, MICHIGAN DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY: Let me start here. Anyone who is concerned about lead in the drinking water in Flint can relax. There is no broad problem right now that we`ve seen with lead in the drinking water in Flint.


MADDOW: So that was the word from the Rick Snyder administration in July. Literally. Relax. There`s no broad problem that we have seen with lead in the drinking water in Flint.

Turns out there was a broad problem with the drinking water in Flint. And the Snyder administration so obviously not caring about it spurred other people to action when they saw that the state did not care.

A MacArthur genius award-winning drinking water expert drove 15 straight hours from Virginia Tech to start testing Flint`s water. When he got the results, he went back to Flint and held a press conference on the lawn in front of city hall to show Flint`s water eating through an iron nail. He told the people of Flint, do not drink this water.

A local doctor started studying blood samples from kids in Flint. Her results were scary and stunning. The proportion of kids with elevated lead in their blood was nearly double what it had been before the town switched its water source. Just in a matter of a few months.

In some neighborhoods, the danger had tripled, not doubled. The first guy, the professor, says the Snyder administration dismissed him as basically a huckster when he presented the results of his testing. The state described him as a magician who pulls the same rabbit out of a hat wherever he goes.

The Flint doctor who tried to tell them that Flint kids were getting lead poisoning, the Snyder administration told people not to believe her. They said that doctor`s results were spliced and diced. And in think case, the Snyder administration said those results were, quote, "not related to the water supply." So relax, people. Drink your water. Six glasses a day, they say.

The Snyder administration held that line in public until finally they could not hold that line anymore. And then finally, after Flint kids had been drinking this poisonous water for 17 months, in late September, Governor Rick Snyder conceded that maybe possibly lead might be a problem in Flint. Saying for the first time, quote, "It appears that water lead levels could be higher or have increased since the town switched to river water." There are, quote, "probably things that weren`t fully understood when the switch was made."

You think? You think maybe some things went a long cockeyed here and now the kids who grew up in Flint are going to have to deal with it the rest of their lives, with points irreversibly shaved off their IQs and learning disabilities and behavioral problems irreversibly for their whole lives? You think somebody didn`t think this thing through, it appears?

On Monday this week, the mayor of Flint, Michigan, just personally declared a state of emergency. A state of manmade emergency, she called it, in Flint. Basically just declaring herself as mayor, saying even now that the governor is acknowledging finally that what these emergency managers decided and what his state agencies did, now that he`s acknowledging that that might be a problem here, the fixing of this problem is a matter that needs more help than anybody wants to count on Rick Snyder to be able to give.

If you want to know where things stand now, reporters asked Governor Snyder again yesterday whether his administration is ready to help the kids who quite literally have been poisoned because of his administration in Flint.

Watch this. This is just amazing.


REPORTER: Representative Dan Kildee has called saying looking down the road we`re going to be needing more state resources and more federal resources to be able to help the children who might have been affected by this. Do you agree that the state will have to kick in some kind of money somewhere down the line?

GOV. RICK SNYDER (R), MICHIGAN: Well, again, we`ve already made major contributions. Let`s get the facts. Let`s keep working this. And let`s remember, water isn`t the only source of lead. And so we need to make sure we`re encouraging people to look at other place that could create a threat.


MADDOW: Let`s make sure we encourage people to look at anything that is not the giant catastrophe that just happened on my watch in Flint, Michigan.

Governor, the water of Flint, Michigan, has been poisoned. And this isn`t like -- let me just say here for a second. I think the resistance to this being seen as a national story is because people think of lead as being like a long-term infrastructure problem like things went bad in that old city that needs work. This is like, if you want to make an analogy to personal health, this is not like something finally coming due after you`ve had a bad diet and no exercise for 20 years.

This is the personal health equivalent of having been shot. This is not something that went bad over a long period of time. This is they flipped a switch to turn off one spigot last April and turn on a different spigot. And the spigot they turned on poisoned the kids.

The kids of Flint, Michigan, have been poisoned by a policy decision, all at once. The town has been poisoned. Under your watch, Governor, through the actions and inactions of people who report to you and the people who you appointed.

The emergency manager who signed that initial order to get ready for drinking from the river, he reported directly to Governor Snyder and to no one else. The emergency manager who sold the pipeline that should have been the escape hatch, he reported directly to Governor Snyder and no one else. The agency that did not tell Flint how to do this safely and that ignored the fast-rising lead levels in Flint`s water and that disparage the first -- first, the EPA whistleblower and then the professor and then the local doctor who all tried to help, that agency reported to and continues to report only to Rick Snyder, the governor of Michigan.

And now, Governor Snyder is like, well, I guess we could try to do a little bit more to help you but you know, we`ve done a lot. Let`s not get ahead of ourselves.

How about a task force? How about I appoint someone with a lot of experience in PR? Which Governor Snyder did this week as part of his response to this crisis. He appointed a brand new state-paid communications professional to handle this.

This month in Lansing, a local pastor tried to get a petition approved for recalling Governor Snyder from office because of this manmade disaster. And look at this. This is the petition. Just look closely at it. It`s a handwritten thing.

Twice now, he has tried with a handwritten petition to recall the governor for decisions made by him and his appointees and his administration related to this scandal. His petition has been rejected on technical grounds.

For instance, Governor Snyder`s private attorney argues that the recall petition is not timely because Flint switched to the river water that poisoned the town back in the governor`s first term, and now, it`s the governor`s second term, and so basically got to let those bygones be bygones. Can`t recall him for that.

According to Rick Snyder`s lawyers, what`s done is done, settled. Nobody is accountable. Certainly nobody in the governor`s office and certainly not the governor.

Mr. Snyder did manage to cobble together enough money to switch Flint back onto Detroit water for now, even though they sold the pipe.

In Flint, though, remember what this problem is technically, right? Corrosion by that river water that came through, right? The pipes are still in Flint all scoured out from the untreated river water. Who knows how long they`re going to keep leaching lead?

Is Flint habitable anymore? Really?

Michigan made a decision with Rick Snyder a few years ago to do something very, very radical to the way we govern ourselves as Americans, something that nobody else has done. Now we`re getting in the first results of what they have done. I did not expect those would have to be blood test results from kids, but that`s what they are. That`s what Rick Snyder did.


MADDOW: We`ve got the latest news ahead on what tonight is still an ongoing giant fight inside the Democratic Party between the Bernie Sanders campaign and the Hillary Clinton campaign and the DNC over this strange data breach which we just learned about today. That story is ongoing tonight. And we`ve got the latest details ahead.

Plus, I`m still sweating from the A block. If the special report we just did about Flint bummed you out, I have the closest thing we`ve got to a cure for that feeling, coming up.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t know how it`s clean if it tastes bad.

REPORTER: Flint resident Senegal Williams can`t even remember the city`s water tasting this bad. Now he`s turning to bottled water and avoiding the tap.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s not proper for people to be drinking, man. If I can smell it, this is not a big debate. This is nothing that nobody can figure out.


MADDOW: That guy was right. There was something very wrong with the water, even though the Rick Snyder administration in Michigan and local officials kept saying everything was OK, even after some of them knew it wasn`t OK.

One local doctor in Flint decided that if there was trouble in the water in Flint, if there was lead in the water in Flint, then someone should test the lead levels of the bloodstreams of the kids in Flint. That local doctor in September released a study showing that since Flint had switched to drinking water from the local river kids in town were two and three times more likely to have elevated levels of lead in their blood.

The state of Michigan tried to dismiss her study, but that doctor was right. And forgive my saying so, but if you are looking for a hero in this story, she is a hero in this story, and she joins us now for the interview.

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha of Hurley Children`s Hospital in Flint -- thank you for being here.

DR. MONA HANNA-ATTISHA, PEDIATRICIAN IN FLINT, MI: Thank you for having me, Rachel.

MADDOW: First of all, I have to ask you I did a big long rant and summation of this. Did I get any of that wrong?

HANNA-ATTISHA: I think that was pretty accurate.

MADDOW: What made you decide to start doing the testing?

HANNA-ATTISHA: Well, I was at my house for a dinner party and I was having a glass of wine. So, all good things start with a glass of wine. And my good friend Elan, who`s a water expert, and she was at my house. She`s a former EPA employee.

She`s like Mona, I`ve been hearing all these reports about corrosion and lack of corrosion control in the water in Flint. And you know, this can leach lead out. This is going to happen. I can`t believe nobody`s thought about this.

She`s like, you know, you work up there and you`re in charge of stuff up there. Have you guys looked at the blood lead levels?

And when pediatricians hear about the possibility of lead anywhere, we absolutely freak out because lead is -- we know lead. Lead is the most potent neurotoxin you can think of. So that was pretty much my call to action.

MADDOW: Lead is a concern for pediatricians because kids are exposed to lead through lead paint, through -- there are other sources. And so when you started doing your testing it`s not like you expected there to be no lead evident in kids in Flint.

HANNA-ATTISHA: Right. So kids do have lead. But for the last 30 years the public health world has done a great job. We got lead out of paint, got lead out of gasoline, we`ve got these great home abatement levels. So, lead levels every year have been going down in children.

MADDOW: For decades.

HANNA-ATTISHA: For decades. And in the city of Flint, they`ve been going down every single year. But after this water switch happened they spiked up.

MADDOW: And when you saw that, how many samples roughly were you looking at before you realized you had a statistically significant result? Are we talking about a handful of samples or dozens?

HANNA-ATTISHA: The first time we did our research was just at our clinic, the Hurley Children`s clinic is our primary teaching clinic. We see the most Medicaid, publicly insured kids in the county. And we saw this drastic increase in that population.

But our sample size was too small, so I couldn`t go screaming from the rooftops. So then, we had the idea of looking at all the laps that are processed through our children`s hospital. We`re the only children`s hospital in the area. And our sample size more than quadrupled and we saw the same findings.

And they were statistically significant. We had over 1,700 samples. Equal number before the water switch happened compared to after the water switch happened. And that`s where we saw this dramatic increase.

MADDOW: And when you went public with that increase, my understanding from looking at a lot of the good local reporting on the subject is that the state, the Snyder administration essentially tried to discredit you and tried to discredit your work. Is that true?

HANNA-ATTISHA: Yes. So we as a researcher you are paranoid. And we check and we double-check and we triple-check our work because this was a politically hot issue. But when the state tells you, you`re wrong you second guess yourself. You`re like am I wrong?

But the numbers didn`t lie. And even if you have a sliver of doubt, when it`s lead you`re talking about you need to go public and you need to raise the alarms.

MADDOW: The kids who have been affected in Flint, and it`s a lot of them.

HANNA-ATTISHA: It`s every single kid who drank this water or cooked with this water.

MADDOW: You have to tell their families the lead exposure, the harm it causes in these kids is irreversible.

HANNA-ATTISHA: That is true. Lead is an irreversible neurotoxin that causes problems with your cognition, your IQ, your behavior. But we need to do something now. So, our story is not done. Yes, they got this irreversible exposure. But. if we bring in resources to these kids now, we can mitigate this exposure.

So, we are fighting for early intervention services, education services, great nutrition. All of these things can buffer the impact of this exposure. Our whole community`s been traumatized. They are psychologically traumatized from this exposure.

MADDOW: And physically damaged.

HANNA-ATTISHA: And physically damaged. It`s like PTSD. It is a toxic stress. But we have to give them hope. We have to have the state of emergency to bring in additional resources which our city and county cannot bring in on our own to mitigate this exposure.

MADDOW: Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha of Children`s Hospital in Flint, Michigan. You`ve been through hell and high water to get this done but had you not done this I don`t think we`d be talking about this story and nobody would be trying to fix it. So, thank you.

HANNA-ATTISHA: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

MADDOW: We`ll be right back.


MADDOW: So, this started a very weird day in Democratic Party politics. This was published early this morning by "The Washington Post": "DNC penalizes Sanders campaign for improper access of Clinton voter data. Officials with the Democratic National Committee have accuse the Sanders campaign of improperly accessing confidential voters information gathered by the rival campaign of Hillary Clinton. The discovery sparked alarm at the DNC, which promptly shut off the Sanders campaign`s access to the strategically crucial list of likely Democratic voters."

Here`s the basic context here. The fight here is about a database of detailed Democratic voter information that the Democratic Party owns and that it rents out to individual Democratic campaigns like for example President Obama`s re-election campaign or Senator Elizabeth Warren`s Senate campaign, or in this case, the Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders campaigns for president.

Democratic Party hired a firm to basically manage that voter information database. The name of the firm is an impossible to remember acronym, NGPVAN. All right.

In addition to housing this huge database of Democratic Party voters from the DNC, each campaign gathers and uses their own proprietary data gathered painstakingly by their own staff and volunteers. And even though each of the campaigns has access to the DNC stuff, obviously the campaigns are not supposed to be able to access each other`s information, right? There are firewalls to prevent them getting access to each other`s proprietary information, even though they can both see what the DNC provides them.

Well, on Wednesday, two days ago, apparently those firewalls that make sure campaigns can`t see each other`s crucial voter information, those firewalls went down in this system maintained by the DNC and its contractor. They went down for about 40 minutes. That left all the campaigns` voter information exposed to the other side.

Now, the DNC says during that 40 minutes, four staffers with the Bernie Sanders campaign accessed important data from the Clinton campaign. They conducted searches of Clinton campaign data, likely Clinton supporters, and more than ten early voting states. These are the logs of those searches which are now been obtained by NBC News.

The Bernie Sanders staffers appear to have saved some of that Clinton data to personal folders before the firewalls went back up. The DNC says it remains unclear whether the Sanders folks still have that Clinton data either in electronic form or hard copy form. Once the Democratic Party figured out what had happened they gave the story to the press, weirdly. And then, they revoked the Sanders campaign`s access to the database.


REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D-FL), DNC CHAIR: We learned that during the period of time in which there was an opening in which our campaigns could see one another`s proprietary data, the Sanders campaign staff chose to view, download, export and download that data that did not belong to them. And we asked for that information from them once we learned of it on Wednesday, we asked for them to tell us who accessed it, what they had, and for them to demonstrate that they had destroyed it and no longer had access to it. And we are still waiting for that.

So, I had to take the extraordinary step of calling Senator Sanders, and I informed him myself for the first time that this breach had occurred. His own staff had not told him.

Senator Sanders is a man of integrity. I have tremendous admiration for him. I think he`s run a remarkable campaign. But, you know, unfortunately his campaign staff have not served him well.


MADDOW: National Democratic Party Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz speaking on this network tonight, explaining that until they know for sure that the Sanders campaign doesn`t still have Clinton campaign information, well, then they can`t have anything. They can`t have access to the big voter information system, at all. Without voter information on their supporters and on persuadable voters in places like Iowa and New Hampshire the Sanders campaign is basically hamstrung. That`s how they do their work.

Well, now by all accounts, the reason those firewalls came down in the first place was not the Sanders campaign fault at all. It was the firm that hosts the data for the DNC that screwed up. The firewalls went down because of some bug in their system which allowed the Bernie Sanders staffers to search through the Clinton campaign`s voter information. The Sanders campaign fired the staffer who apparently did this.

But the Sanders campaign is also enraged. They are enraged that the DNC`s contractor who made this error to bring the firewalls down and expose all this proprietary information.

They`re also enraged at the DNC, so enraged that tonight they are suing the DNC.


JEFF WEAVER, BERNIE SANDERS CAMPAIGN MANAGER: I have been trying to negotiate with them for days over what information they wanted after we provided this information to them. I said if this is not satisfactory, what else do you need? And we got nothing back.

Now, the truth of the matter is it took the lawsuit. Now that we have filed the lawsuit they are coming running now to try to fix this problem.

Using legal discovery, we will get access to all of the internal communications of the DNC where we can demonstrate what I think most people think is going on, which is that there are some people in there who are clearly trying to help the Clinton campaign. Certainly, this debate schedule has been widely discussed, very few debates, many on nights when a lot of people aren`t going to be watching.

Now, we see certainly there was a problem. The DNC`s firewall failed miserably. I mean, this is the equivalent of Debbie Wasserman Schultz walking by the desks of my staffers and throwing files of Clinton materials on their desk.

Now, they should not have opened them and looked at them. That is absolutely the case. That does not meet our high standards. And certainly we have fired one staffer. We are looking at some others. But let`s be clear. We had a few 20-year-olds who looked at files that were provided to them by the DNC --


MADDOW: Today, the Bernie Sanders for president campaign filed a lawsuit against the Democratic Party over what they are calling a breach of contract. The fired Bernie Sanders staffer who accessed the Clinton information in the first place says he only searched through the Clinton campaign`s voter information to gauge how badly the Sanders campaign was exposed from this terrible data breach.

The Clinton campaign, for their part, they`re also enraged. They`re calling this theft. They`re saying the Sanders campaign might have broken the law when they accessed their confidential information.

Tonight, they put out a statement calling for swift action in resolving this matter. Quote, "We hope that the court will resolve this matter tonight and the Sanders campaign will have access to their voter files right away with adequate protections of our proprietary information, which we understand could be completed in short order. As we stated earlier today, we also want a full, independent accounting of the Sanders campaign`s actions as well as assurance that`s no data or strategic insight from this act of intrusion will be used by this campaign. This was an egregious breach of data and ethics."

And that`s where we are. So, right now, here`s the picture. Going into tomorrow night`s Democratic debate we have one candidate being accused of stealing confidential information from a front-runner. We`ve got that candidate`s campaign essentially being hog-tied and arrested by the Democratic Party in the midst of an investigation into what they did. And we`ve got that candidate suing the Democratic Party for hog-tying and arresting their campaign.

I don`t know if the DNC secretly wants nobody to watch the Democratic debates this year, but tomorrow night`s Saturday night before Christmas debate did just get a whole lot more interesting, at least in theory. A completely bizarre turn of events in the presidential race. I have no idea how this is going to resolve.

Watch this space.


MADDOW: That guy who`s winning got himself another record-high poll number today. In the new FOX News poll out this evening, Donald Trump is at 39 percent nationwide. This is the best any candidate has done in FOX national polling all year. He`s up 11 points in that poll from a month ago.

Tuesday night`s Republican debate does not seem to have done anything to change the dynamics in the Republican race or to knock Mr. Trump off his massive lead in that race. That means it`s increasingly desperation time for his rivals.

Today, Jeb Bush, for example, rolled out his brother, former president George W. Bush, to do a conference call with donors. On that call, former President Bush reportedly said, "Jeb is a candidate who is peaking at the right time."

Just to be clear, in that FOX News poll this evening, Jeb Bush is at 3 percent, which is his worst number in that poll ever. These are his poll numbers over the last six months. His are the ones in green. Perhaps President Bush was looking at this chart upside down.

Or maybe it was a homonym issue. People on the call thought he said peaking but maybe he says peeking like P-E-E -- like he`s peeking around the corner or peeking up at the front-runners from the basement where he lives. Or maybe he meant piquing with a Q, as he`s having a fit of pique, he`s getting mad at the right time.

There must be some other explanation, because if George W. Bush said his brother is peaking right now, I don`t think that means what he thinks it means.


MADDOW: We still have a lot to cover tonight, believe it or not, including some not good, not great, but incredibly good and great news, which has been long overdue. If you need good news in your life, that story is ahead. Plus, I`m going to give away a pair of my pants. What more could you possibly want? Stay with us.


MADDOW: Busy day. Before heading west today to start his Christmas vacation, President Obama commuted the sentences of 95 federal prisoners. He granted two pardons. He also held his final news conference of the year, which he bragged a little bit about this year`s accomplishments in his eyes, especially bragged on the climate deal, just agreed to by the whole world in Paris.

The president promised to sprint to the finish line of his presidency. He said he would, quote, "leave it all on the field" in 2016. For now, though, President Obama is off to San Bernardino tonight, and then he`s off to Hawaii.

And it`s one of the very last things he did before leaving the White House today, the president signed the ginormous spending bill that will keep the government running.

And if you were looking for a little silver lining to wrap around life`s occasional clouds, that big bill the president signed today does in fact include the 9/11 first responders bill, the Zadroga bill for the 9/11 first responders who got sick from working at Ground Zero. That program now has a lifetime extension. Done. Did it. Finally.

This week, we reported on an advocacy campaign the New York City mayor`s office started to try to get Zadroga over the finish line. It was basically a series of photo showing first responders and other 9/11 responders holding numbers. Like this boy and his mom holding the number 4,166. That`s the number of 9/11 rescue and recovery workers who`ve been diagnosed with a 9/11-related cancer.

Each of the numbers represented a similar jarring 9/11 statistic. The number of lives lost. The number of miles walked lobbying for this legislation.

Well, today the mayor`s office released an update to that campaign. A new set of photos showing those same people, each of those people photographed but trading in their numbers this time for "thank you" signs, every single one of them. They no longer need to advocate on behalf of this legislation. It`s now done. It`s now law. So thank you.


MADDOW: Wait for it. Wait. Wait. Wait, wait. I said wait.

Friday night news dump time. Happy Friday.

Producer Nick Tuths, who is today`s lucky player?

NICK TUTHS, PRODUCER: Today, we`re being joined by Jesse Lewis Jr. from Elizabeth, New Jersey, works for an AIDS advocacy group, used to work in financial services. Proud grandfather of two.

Rachel, meet Jesse.

MADDOW: Jesse, Mr. Lewis, it`s very nice to meet you. Thank you for being on the program.

JESSE LEWIS, JR., ELIZABETH, NJ: Hi, Rachel. It`s exciting. I`m honored. I`m thrilled.

MADDOW: Well, it is mutual. I have to ask, because frankly, Nick brought it up. How old are your grand kids?

LEWIS: One is 2, one is 6 months.

MADDOW: I was told we have a picture and they`re stunningly adorable.

We don`t have a picture.

LEWIS: They`re adorable and I`m proud.

MADDOW: I don`t think we have a picture of your grandchildren.

We just have these little angels who appeared on the screen. It must be them.

All right. Here`s how the game works. You get three multiple choice questions about this week`s news. If you get two right, you will win a little bit of junk I`m a little ashamed of.

Nick, please show everyone.

TUTHS: A Rachel Maddow cocktail shaker.

MADDOW: A junky cocktail shaker. If you get all the questions right, we do have something random for you that until tonight has been cluttering up our office.

Nick, what is random office swag tonight?

TUTHS: These very fetching pajama bottoms. In 2008, when you -- rather, when Sarah Palin was talking about bloggers blogging from their mom`s basement in pajama bottoms, and you wore these in solidarity.

MADDOW: I did. Jesse, I can tell you in all safety bet, I wore them over my other pants, so it`s almost like they`re never worn.

LEWIS: All right. Slightly worn with.

MADDOW: And they`re held up by the binder clips from my desk.


MADDOW: All right. We also need to bring in the disembodied voice of Steve Benen from Maddow Blog. He is the man who will determine whether or not you get the right answer.

Jesse, Steve. Steve, Jesse.

STEVE BENEN, MADDOW BLOG: Good evening to you both.

MADDOW: Good evening.


MADDOW: Here we go.

First question: this is from Monday`s show, Jesse. On Monday`s show, we reported on a crazy looking new stealth U.S. Navy destroyer called the Zumwalt. On the maiden voyage of the Zumwalt off the coast of Maine, the Zumwalt, it had an unscheduled adventure.

What was that unscheduled adventure? Was it A, it was sent to deliver the mail to a nearby island when the local postal boat developed some kind of trouble? Was it B, the Zumwalt helped in an emergency coast guard mission to rescue a sick fisherman? C, the Zumwalt became a mobile power plant when all of Portland harbor had its electricity knocked out because of an accident? Or D, the Zumwalt was asked to hold in port until same rare eggs that laid onboard the ship had time to hatch?

LEWIS: I would have to say, it was B, rescued a fisherman.

MADDOW: Steve, did Jesse get that right?

BENEN: Let`s check Monday`s segment.


MADDOW: The 600-foot-long Navy destroyer that weighs 15,000 tons and cost $4 billion, yes, it turns out that offers a pretty good platform, a pretty commodious platform for collecting the fisherman.


BENEN: Yes, the correct answer is B, and Jesse is one for one.

MADDOW: Woo-hoo!


MADDOW: And now extra challenge. We`re going to go to question two, but I`m going to give you a choice. You can choose a question that is about politics or one that is not about politics. Which one would you choose?

LEWIS: Well, I`m all about politics. So let`s go to politic fps.

MADDOW: The answer to the not politics one was NASA.


MADDOW: But the politics one is this. On Monday`s show, we reported on the greatest document concerning presidential health and fitness since LBJ explained his need for an extra long in seam to the man who made his pants.

In this week`s even more amazing document about presidential health and finance, Donald Trump`s personal physician effusively praised Donald Trump`s health. Which of the following phrases was not part of Donald Trump`s doctor`s letter? A, To whom my concern. B, His lab test results were astonishingly excellent. C, I can unequivocally state Mr. Trump is more healthy than the current president. Or D, Mr. Trump, I can say equivocally will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.

Which was one of those was not in the letter?

LEWIS: See, I know A was in the letter. D was in the letter. C was in the better. So I`m going to say B again.

MADDOW: Steve, what`s the right answer here?

BENEN: I couldn`t quite hear what he said.

MADDOW: He said it was B, the lab test results were astonishingly excellent. That was not in the letter.

BENEN: Let`s check the very funny video.



MADDOW: To whom my concern. If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.


BENEN: I`m sorry to say that "astonishingly excellent" was in the letter and Jesse was not correct.

MADDOW: That was a very difficult one because each of those potential answers was equally ridiculous. But, Jesse, you still have a chance to redeem yourself and get all the loot with your last question.

Ready for question three?

LEWIS: I am ready.

MADDOW: OK. This one is from Wednesday night show. At this week`s Republican presidential debate in Las Vegas, Chris Christie said this, quote, "When I sand across from King Hussein in Jordan, I will say you have a friend again, sir."

On Wednesday night show, we reported on one serious problem with that statement. What was the problem? Was it, A, Jordan doesn`t have a king. B, King Hussein is the king of Morroco, not the king of Jordan. C, the king of Jordan`s name is Hassan, not Hussein. Or D, King Hussein of Jordan has been dead since the 1990s.

LEWIS: Governor Christie says a few things that are a little crazy. I know it was D because King Hussein has been dead for 16 years.

MADDOW: Steve, do you have the answer for us.

BENEN: I do. King Hussein`s been for many years and Jesse is correct.

MADDOW: We`ve got to do the math now.

Nick, did Jesse win the prize?

TUTHS: He did.

MADDOW: Win the prize.

And, Jesse, we`re going to throw in the plants anyway, just because, because I can tell you really want them.

LEWIS: Oh, yes. I will wear them with pride and honor.

MADDOW: As an AIDS activist, a man after my own heart, I thank you for your work. I thank you for playing. It`s been great to meet you. Thank you, sir.

LEWIS: Nice meeting you. Have a great night.

MADDOW: You, too, thank you.

And if you want to play the most awesome game in basic cable news, even though the plants are already gone now, all you have to do is send us an e- mail, just tell us who you are, where you`re from and why you want to play with us and our friendly little news dump. We would love to have you, right after you get out on parole, because right now, you have to go to prison.