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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 1/22/2016

Guests: Lindsey Smith, Linda Lee

Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: January 22, 2016 Guest: Lindsey Smith, Linda Lee

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: And thanks to you at home for joining with us this hour. Happy weekend. Happy Friday.

OK, this goes in an unexpected place but trust me, you`re going to enjoy the ride.

In May 2008, John McCain had all but wrapped up the Republican presidential nomination. At that point, it was basically just a march to the convention for him.

But sometimes candidates hit obstacles in their campaigns that weren`t put there by their opponents. It`s not because one of their rivals for the nomination or a candidate from another party has hit them with something particularly hard. Sometimes, candidates just make their own unforced errors.

And John McCain did that in the spring of 2008 when he momentarily hopped into bed with a sort of high-profile guy who it turned out had very, very strong and strongly stated beliefs about among other things the Catholic Church.


JOHN HAGEE, TEXAS PASTOR: This is the great whore of Revelations 17. This is the antichrist system. This is the apostate church. God says the day is going to come when I`m going to cause this beast to devour this apostate system.


MADDOW: That man`s name is John Hagee, a Texas pastor who preaches that the Catholic Church is the whore of Babylon that will be devoured by the antichrist. He also claimed that the great whore, aka the Catholic Church, drinks the blood of the Jewish people.

John Hagee in the spring of 2008 endorsed Senator John McCain for president. And John McCain initially was psyched. He appeared with Pastor Hagee to accept his endorsement in person. He thanked him in person for the endorsement. He basically campaigned on that endorsement.

But if the Catholic Church being the whore of Babylon wasn`t enough to sour that blossoming political alliance, eventually this part of John Hagee`s public life made the whole thing slightly untenable for Senator McCain.

Do we have this clip from John Hagee? Oh, I think we`ll have it in just a second. This is -- well, OK. Go ahead. Go for it. Roll it.


HAGEE: God sent a hunter. A hunter is someone who comes with a gun. And he forces you.

Hitler was a hunter. How did it happen? Because God allowed it to happen. Why did it happen? Because God said my top priority for the Jewish people is to get them to come back to the land of Israel.


MADDOW: God sent Hitler. God sent Hitler.

Well, John McCain could apparently endure some of the other things that Pastor John Hagee was known to have said about the Catholic Church and other topics. Pastor Hagee, for example, also blamed Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans having once hosted a gay pride parade. God sent the hurricane to New Orleans to punish them for gay people existing in public in that city.

But when John Hagee said that the Nazis were doing God`s work, that Hitler was sent by God to kill the Jews, that was kind of a harder sell.

And so, in May of 2008 John McCain, having accepted the endorsement and campaigned on the endorsement from John Hagee, he had to retroactively reject John Hagee`s endorsement and endure a few days worth of headlines like these, "McCain rejects Hagee backing as not (INAUDIBLE)"

So, that was one bump on the road to John McCain being nominated as the Republican Party`s candidate in 2008. And honestly, you know what, candidates cannot be held responsible for everything said and done and believed by people who like them and endorse them and vote for them, right?

But that`s why the Hagee debacle was such an unforced error on the part of John McCain. It would be one thing if John Hagee had just endorsed John McCain and John McCain had nothing to do with him, then he wouldn`t be responsible for vetting Pastor John Hagee and make sure that he didn`t, for example, think Hitler was doing God`s work.

John McCain`s screw-up in 2008 was that he overtly welcomed the endorsement. And appeared with the guy and campaigned on the endorsement. And once you do that, you kind of own it, which somebody should explain sometime very soon to Texas Senator Ted Cruz.


MIKE BICKLKE, INTERNATIONAL HOUSE OF PRAYER FOUNDER: Let me tell you, these 20 -- less than 20 million Jews worldwide. God is going to bring them all back.

The Lord says I`m going to offer two strategies to Israel, to these 20 million. He says, first I`m going to offer them grace. I`m going to send the fisherman.

Do you know how a fisherman lures? I mean, do you know how a fisherman does their thing? They have the bait in front, luring the fish. It`s a picture of grace.

The hunters are opposite. Instead of luring them in front, hunters drive with fear from behind.

The Lord says, I`m going to give all 20 million of them the chance to respond to the fisherman. I`m going to give them grace. I`m going to give them grace. And he says that if they don`t respond to grace, I`m going to raise up the hunters.

And the most famous hunter in recent history is a man named Adolf Hitler.


MADDOW: Here we are again. God sent Hitler to chase the Jews.

Now, that is not the guy who famously had to be renounced by John McCain in 2008. That wasn`t John Hagee who you just heard there. That`s a different guy. His name is Mike Bickle.

And the Ted Cruz campaign just put out an excited statement proclaiming the Ted Cruz endorsement from Pastor Mike Bickle. Look, presidential candidate Ted Cruz announced the endorsement of Mike Bickle, founder and director of the International House of Prayer of Kansas City.

Quote, "Heidi and I," this is in Ted Cruz`s voice, "Heidi, my wife and I are grateful to have Mike`s prayers and supports. With the support of Mike and many people of faith, we will fight the good fight, finish the course, and keep the faith."

Part of what Mike Bickle teaches at his version of IHOP, the international house of not pancakes but prayer, is that God sent Hitler to chase the Jews, the Nazis were doing God`s work.

Mike Bickle also famously says he can see in the United States today harbingers of the antichrist. Things that tell you the antichrist is coming. And you`d never believe who he thinks is the most nefarious one. Spoiler alert: It`s not President Obama.


BICKLE: The harlot of Babylon is preparing the nations to receive the antichrist. The harlot of Babylon will be the religion of affirmation, toleration, no absolutes, a counterfeit justice movement. They will be sincere, many of them, but their sincerity will not in any way lessen the impact of their deception. The fact that they are sincere does not make their deception less damaging. I believe that one of the main pastors as a forerunner to the harlot movement, it`s not a movement yet, is Oprah.


MADDOW: Who? Oprah. Oprah Winfrey, harbinger of the antichrist.

Seems unlikely, right? But that`s the whole point. Seems so unlikely. That`s how she does it.


BICKLE: Oprah. She is winsome. She is kind. She is reasonable. She is utterly deceived. Utterly deceived.

A classy woman. A cool woman. A charming woman. But has a spirit of deception. And she`s one of the clear pastors, forerunners to the harlot movement.


MADDOW: That is who just gave a presidential endorsement to Ted Cruz. And that is the guy who Ted Cruz put out the official campaign statement proclaiming the endorsement thanking Pastor Mike Bickle for the endorsement.

Ted Cruz is now campaigning on his support from this guy who says that Oprah is the harbinger of the antichrist, first reported by people for the American Way.

And it will be interesting to see if the Republican Party has changed enough since 2008, right? Even though John McCain couldn`t endure holding on to this endorsement in 2008 from a guy who said that God sent Hitler to come hunt the Jews. That was not sustainable in Republican Party politics in 2008.

It will be interesting to see if eight years later in 2016, Ted Cruz can stand to proclaim and welcome and be proud of the endorsement of a guy who said the exact same thing, that God sent Hitler to hunt the Jews, it was God`s will.

That will be interesting to watch. Even just over this weekend. To see if Ted Cruz has to walk back his excited statement of support from the guy who says that Hitler was God`s Jew hunter.

Whether or not that happens, though, this endorsement from Mike Bickle of Ted Cruz and his proclaiming of it, it also offers an interesting new angle on the fast escalating fight between Ted Cruz and Donald Trump on the campaign trail because it turns out one weird front of battle between Ted Cruz and Donald Trump is Oprah Winfrey.

And you think I`m kidding, I know. But I`m not, because it`s very clear. Here`s Ted Cruz`s guy whose endorsement Ted Cruz is now campaigning on. Here`s what he thinks about Oprah.


BICKLE: One of the main pastors as a forerunner to the harlot movement. It`s not the harlot movement yet. It`s Oprah.


MADDOW: Oprah. How you know the antichrist is on his way. That`s Ted Cruz`s guy. That`s how Oprah functions in the Ted Cruz for president campaign. Here is how Oprah functions in the Donald Trump for president campaign.

Here`s how Oprah functions in the Donald Trump for president campaign.


MATT LAUER, TODAY SHOW: Running mate. If you decide to go with this, who would be the ideal running mate for Donald Trump?

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Oh, I think Oprah would be great.

LAUER: Seriously.

TRUMP: I think that -- probably that would be serious, actually.


MADDOW: That was Donald Trump the first time he flirted with running for president in the 2000 presidential campaign. He volunteered apropos of nothing that he was considering Oprah Winfrey to be his vice presidential running mate that year if he in fact mounted a bid for the presidency which he didn`t.

That was the only name he ever floated as a possible vice president in the 2000 campaign. That wasn`t like people were asking him, "Hey, everybody likes Oprah, you`re friendly with Oprah, shouldn`t Oprah be your running mate?" No, he just brought it up. Vice president Oprah.

That was a long time ago. That would have been the presidential campaign in the year 2000. But apparently, he is still thinking along those lines this time around.


INTERVIEWER: Back in 1999 when you were thinking as the reform party candidate you told Larry King that you`d consider Oprah for vice president.

TRUMP: I like Oprah. What can I tell you?

INTERVIEWER: Still on your short list?

TRUMP: She`s great. She`s talented. She`s a friend of mine. She`s a good person. I`ve been on her show. In fact I was on her show the last week. She said, could I be on her show with the whole family. I like Oprah. Is that supposed to be a bad thing?

INTERVIEWER: No. The kind of people you`re going to run --

TRUMP: Oprah would be great. I`d like to have Oprah. I think we`d win easily actually.


MADDOW: In what is turning out to be kind of a Donald Trump-Ted Cruz death match at this stage in the 2016 presidential race one of the fronts of battle turns out to be Oprah Winfrey. It`s a pretty clear distinction, right? Harbinger of the antichrist or possible running mate. Choose.

Ted Cruz and Donald Trump today also both broke new ground in their campaigns by unveiling straight up attack ads against each other. In terms of my assessment of these ads, I think they`re both about the same caliber, same quality, will have the same effect. I will say the anti-Trump ad by Ted Cruz does have one laugh out loud moment that I think you`re not supposed to laugh at.


TRUMP: I`m Donald Trump, and I approve this message.

BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS: It sounded like you wanted the bill to pass.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Of course, I wanted the bill to pass -- my amendment to pass. What my amendment did --

BAIER: You said the bill.

CRUZ: -- is take citizenship off the table. But it doesn`t mean -- what it doesn`t mean that I supported the other aspects of the bill.

I want immigration reform to pass. And it allows those who are here illegally to come in out of the shadows.

BAIER: The amendment would have allowed undocumented immigrants to remain in the U.S. permanently and obtain legal status. So, how do you square this circle?

CRUZ: Actually, Bret, it wouldn`t have.

TRUMP: People want to take back their country. We want to do it in a humane way, but we have to have a country.

We don`t have a country right now. We have people pouring in. They`re pouring in. And they`re doing tremendous damage.

If you look at the crime, if you look at the economy, we want to have borders. To have a country you have to have borders. We don`t have borders right now.

AD NARRATOR: Eminent domain -- fancy term for politicians seizing private property to enrich the fat cats who bankroll them. Like Trump.

TRUMP: I think eminent domain is wonderful.

AD NARRATOR: It made him rich. Like when Trump colluded with Atlantic City insiders to bulldoze the home of an elderly widow for a limousine parking lot at his casino.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He doesn`t have a heart.

AD NARRATOR: Trump won`t change the system. He`s what`s wrong with it.

CRUZ: I`m Ted Cruz, and I approve this message.


MADDOW: Donald Trump and Ted Cruz both unveiling direct old school nasty style attack ads against each other today, ten days out from the Iowa caucuses.

Neither of these candidates has spent very much money at all on advertisements thus far. They are both sitting on basically infinite funds. So, if Ted Cruz and Donald Trump decide to spend all of their infinite funds, throwing stuff like that at each other, the people of Iowa over these next ten days are going to be treating their TVs like a hazmat site, like not only are people not going to watch TV anymore, they`re going to throw blankets over their TVs just in case they wake themselves up and accidentally start showing that stuff and scaring the kids.

Tonight, just as we were going to art FOX News Channel released their latest poll in the Republican presidential race. This is a national poll of Republican voters. What it shows is a very clear stratifying of the race.

So, just look. This is a pretty good snapshot actually for this time of year. We`ll start at the bottom.

At 1 percent, you`ve got Jim Gilmore and Carly Fiorina. Remember when Carly Fiorina was going to be a contender? Yes.

At 2 percent, that`s Mike Huckabee and Rand Paul, utterly unsustainable for those candidates. Rand Paul`s dad even did an interview with a conservative website this week in which he told the interviewer he`s pretty sure Donald Trump is going to beat his son and win the nomination. That could not have helped, dear old dad. Dad!

That said, Ron Paul is expected to be out on the campaign trail with his Mr. 2 Percent Son. It will be Ron campaigning with Rand for the first time this year, first time this season. They`ll start this weekend.

Up at 3 percent, it`s Chris Christie who just left the campaign trail in New Hampshire this afternoon to head back to New Jersey in the face of the oncoming blizzard.

Tied for 4 percent nationwide it is John Kasich and Jeb Bush. The main difference between these two candidates right now is John Kasich has spent a total of about $11 million to get to 4 percent in the national polls and Jeb Bush has spent $59 million to get to 4 percent in the national polls. Unless Jeb Bush somehow pulls this out miraculously, he is going to be one of the most spectacularly expensive political failures of all time.

So, that`s the lowest tier of candidates right now in national polling, according to this new FOX News polling that`s out tonight. Second tier has two candidates in it. Ben Carson is at 8 percent which is still low, but it`s double Jeb Bush. Marco Rubio is also in the second tier. He`s at 11 percent.

On top of them, it`s the clear top tier of the Republican race indisputably now. Donald Trump is still way out ahead. He`s definitely the front- runner. He`s got 34 percent of the vote. The only guy up there with him at all anywhere near him is Ted Cruz with 20 percent.

And so, it`s really starting to look like the race for the Republican nomination is a race between Donald Trump and just Ted Cruz.

And frankly, if it comes down to that, I think we should let Oprah pick.


MADDOW: What are you doing Wednesday night? If you don`t have plans already, don`t make them. If you do have plans for Wednesday night already, how firm are they?

We`ve got an announcement coming up in just a moment. We`re doing something on this show on Wednesday night. It`s something we have never done before. It`s kind of a big deal for us.

That announcement is straight ahead. Please stay with us.


MADDOW: So, the federal government, the EPA, has now issued an 18-page emergency order to the state of Michigan and it`s pretty stern and it`s pretty dire. Quote, "EPA does not have information that would provide any assurance that contamination in Flint`s water system has been controlled."

And then in this order, they order the Rick Snyder administration to get on it, fast. They give the state of Michigan a series of really short deadlines. Within five days, the Snyder administration has to create a website where it has to post all its water testing results, all its testing plans, all its weekly status reports.

Within ten days, the Snyder administration has to finally answer all the questions it never answered the last time the EPA asked the state for information about the lead in Flint`s water, which was back in November.

And if you`re wondering how many questions the EPA had back then, yes. Look. It was a lot.

And the Snyder administration has not been able to answer those questions for two months. Now, they`re under an emergency order that they`ve got to produce those answers in ten days.

Also within ten days, the Snyder administration has to submit water quality measurements from Flint including ph, alkalinity, orthophosphates, chloride, turbidity, iron, calcium, temperature conductivity -- they have to measure all of those things at ten sites every week and hand over the results. Also within ten days, the Snyder administration has to hand in all their lead testing results for Flint from the past three years.

And within three days, the Snyder administration has to give the EPA a list of the zip codes in Flint where the highest blood levels have been found.

It`s going to be a busy few days responding to this, right? Oh, but wait, there`s more. Because also in that ten-day window the Snyder administration is now ordered to hand over an inventory of homes in Flint, houses in Flint that are connected to the city water lines with service lines that are made out of lead.

And they need to hand over that lead pipe inventory in a very specific way. They have to hand it over, quote, "in Excel spreadsheet or a similar format."

And I know you might be thinking, OK, so Michigan has to hand over a lot of data to the EPA, it`s not that big a deal, they can just send over their spreadsheets with all of that information.

Here`s the thing, though -- consider just one of the things the EPA is asking for, this spreadsheet. Excel or similar, right? A spreadsheet listing all of the homes in Flint that get their water through lead service lines.

It`s important to know where they lead service lines are because then you know where you most need to test the water for lead, and you have to know it because those are the lines that are going to have to be dug up and replaced now that the untreated Flint River water has corroded them so badly that they will constantly leach lead into the water no matter how clean the water is that`s getting pumped through them. These again are the service lines that connect people`s houses to the water mains in the street.

Back in November when the state finally started taking Flint`s lead poisoning crisis seriously, the state asked the city of Flint for this information. Where are all the lead service lines in the city? The city could not answer that question back in November.

And when the folks at Michigan radio went to the Flint records office themselves to try to get the information themselves, they found out why the city couldn`t answer. And it`s amazing. Because it turns out these are Flint`s records of its water lines -- filing cabinets full of disorganized handwritten index cards from the last 100 years along with a couple of old torn-up maps, more than 40,000 handwritten index cards. This is it.

Flint has been in the process of trying to organize these records with the help of the University of Michigan, but you can see why if the EPA said we need a spreadsheet with all your lead service lines on it, we need it within 10 days, you can see why that might be a problem. And we`re now finding out this evening that might not be the only problem -- at least according to the Snyder administration.

The EPA did tell us tonight that Michigan has stated that it is committed to complying with this order, it is committed to implementing these measures, these things the EPA is asking for, but we have now also learned that the head of Michigan`s environmental agency has written to the EPA to say that the state, the Snyder administration, is questioning the legality of this federal order, questioning whether the EPA has the authority to order the state to take all these steps.

Two sides are promising to try to talk this out, but right now, it looks like this could turn into a standoff between Michigan and the EPA, which is just what Flint needs.

Hold that thought.


MADDOW: So, yesterday, the EPA, the federal government sent the Rick Snyder administration in Michigan an 18-page emergency order giving the state a list of things they have to do very quickly to start addressing the lead poisoning crisis in Flint. As we just mentioned, we have learned tonight that the Snyder administration is challenging the legality of that order from the federal government.

One of the things the state is being ordered to do by the federal government is hand over a spreadsheet listing lead pipe service lines in the city of Flint. Michigan radio was first to report that -- do we have this picture? That this is the existing data information system in Flint for where those lead pipes are. It`s tens of thousands of handwritten index cards.

Joining us now is Lindsey Smith. She`s reporter for Michigan Radio. She and her colleagues there have been doing great work on this story.

Lindsey, it`s really nice to have you here. Your reporting really has been indispensable.


MADDOW: What do you make of this letter we`re just learn about from the head of the state environmental agency saying we`ve spent all this money, we`ve done what you asked, and we don`t think you have the legal authority to order us to do anything.

Is that just the expected response when something like this happens?

SMITH: I -- you know, I think the letter said there are some facts and omissions that the EPA they`re saying is maybe not clear about in their response that they have done so far. I think the thing to note is the state has really in the last two weeks changed some major direction in how they`ve tried to handle this crisis, bringing in the National Guard, bringing in the state police, switching from just having water distribution sites to going door to door.

So, I assume they will try to make the case that they have been trying to do everything they can to adequately protect public health, which is what the EPA`s order, this emergency order, says that they have not been able to do so far.

MADDOW: In terms of what the EPA is asking for or telling the Snyder administration they need to do, from what you`ve reported about how information is managed in Flint and what`s known about the systems there, thinking specifically about this deadline where they have to tell them where all the lead service lines are in all of the -- for all of the homes in Flint, does it seem conceivable to you that the state could get that information together in electronic spreadsheet form within ten days?

SMITH: They -- I know they`re working on it. I`ll give you that. We really -- I think this came to light in the course of this crisis because you do have to test for homes with lead service lines, at least 50 percent of your sampling pool is supposed to be from these homes because those are really the worst case scenario. That`s where the lead is going to show up first if you`re not treating the water properly, which is what happened in Flint.

And when we realized that the records weren`t really in good order, we approached the state with that information, myself and other reporters, and said, you know, you dropped these two high lead samples for technical reasons, but you didn`t really look at the overall sample pool to make sure that the city of Flint was getting samples that they were supposed to from houses with lead service lines.

And they -- it was very shortly after some of those reports started coming out that the state sent the letter to Flint that you mentioned earlier saying, hey, you need to give us this information. Even before then the University of Michigan`s Flint campus had announced that they would be working with the city of Flint to try to make an electronic database as best they could.

But talking to water officials in Flint, a lot of that is in their -- a lot of the records or a lot of the things they know about the water system and not everything. I`m not trying to over-exaggerate this. But the guy told me a lot of this is in my memory, it`s in my head. We`ve worked here for a long time, so we know these things.

So, they`re going to have to take these different databases they have, the index cards, the maps, and arguably what`s in the guys` heads and try to come up with a way to map the city as best they can. In November, they wanted to get that done by early February was the earliest they had told us they were going to be able to get that done. But I think once the state stepped in and said you need to get this to us there was a pedal to the metal push.

So, I don`t know if they`re going to be able to pull it off or not. I think that`s some of the things we`re asking right now.

MADDOW: And the federal government pressure certainly is going to add to the pressure. But it remains to be seen what their capacity is.

Lindsey Smith, reporter for Michigan Radio, really appreciate your time tonight in helping us with this story. And again, Michigan Radio has done seminal work on this story so far. It`s been indispensable for us trying to follow it at the national level. So, thank you.

SMITH: My pleasure.

MADDOW: Thank you.

I should also tell you, if we can go back there for a second. Thank you very much. I should also tell you that Michigan Radio`s documentary on this disaster in Flint is going to be airing on public radio stations across the country this weekend.

You should check your public radio station listings for this. The documentary is called "Not Safe to Drink." Again, check your local listings. They`re really, really good on this story. You owe it to yourself to hear this.


MADDOW: For the first seven-plus years that I had this show I could not get a Clinton on this show to save my life. I asked in the context of the 2008 campaign. I asked in the context of Hillary Clinton`s time as secretary of state. I asked in the context of her stepping down as secretary of state. I asked in a whole bunch of circumstances for an interview with former President Bill Clinton.

I said I would travel, I said I would pretape, I`d do it live, anything. No dice. No Clintons for more than seven years.

But then, tick, tick, tick, tick, ding. Something happened. A bell went off somewhere that allowed the circumstance to change. And now, during this presidential campaign over the last few weeks, I have had several opportunities to interview Secretary Clinton, which has been super helpful for our ability to cover this race. It`s been great.

But in the first interview that I had with Secretary Clinton we had never met before after seven years of me asking for an interview.

There was one question in that first interview that led to a little flurry of right-wing criticism at the time. And now today that issue is back. But in a very unexpected way. Here was the exchange I`m talking about.


MADDOW: One policy question that I think the Republicans are raising, they`re talking about amongst themselves -- hasn`t really burst into a general election conversation yet, but I`m genuinely shocked by it. Which is it`s becoming sort of fashionable in Republican circles to talk about abolishing the V.A., privatizing the V.A., getting rid of it.


MADDOW: Throwing veterans onto the mercies of the for profit health care system.

The reason they`re able to propose something that radical is because the problems at the V.A. seem so intractable. If I had been running a Republican campaign against President Obama last year, I would have run it entirely on the V.A. A bureaucracy, a bloated big government program that can`t be fixed and let`s do right by our veterans.

CLINTON: Mm-hmm.

MADDOW: Do you -- do you have any new ideas for trying to fix it? You can`t find a person in politics who doesn`t say we shouldn`t do right by our veterans. But for some reason, this can`t get fixed fast enough.

CLINTON: Yes. And I don`t understand that. You know, I don`t understand why we have such a problem, because there have been a number of surveys of veterans. And overall, veterans who do get treated are satisfied with their treatment --

MADDOW: Much more so than people in the regular system.

CLINTON: That`s exactly right. No one would believe that from the coverage you see and the constant berating of the V.A. that comes from Republicans, in part in pursuit of this ideological agenda --

MADDOW: Well, in part because there has been real scandal.

CLINTON: There has been. But it`s not been as widespread as it has been made out to be.


MADDOW: It has not been as widespread as it has been made out to be. Secretary Clinton went on to say that the V.A. needed to be reformed, she had specific things that she wanted to see changed to improve the V.A.

But that comment, that part of her response about how widespread the problems were, that turned into like red alert, all caps, get out your fax machine hysteria on the right for about five minutes. Republicans professed to be very upset with that specific way that she characterized the problems at the V.A. despite everything else she said. Clearly, they said she was underplaying the terribleness of the V.A., she was apologizing for the V.A. when they implied the only right thing to say about the V.A. is that it should be condemned wholesale.

And that little revolt on the right after that interview, that turned out to be a really instructive moment because there has been something quietly brewing on the right in the Republican Party, mostly under the radar but it bubbled up in that moment with Hillary Clinton in that interview, and it is coming up again right now for a completely backwards, opposite reason. And that story`s next.


MADDOW: One of the weird things about presidential politics this year is that almost to a person, the entire Republican presidential field this year is totally on board with abolishing the V.A., getting rid of the V.A. or at least privatizing huge swaths of it, telling veterans they`re not going to be provided medical care anymore, they can go get it themselves.

So, when veterans get off the plane and come home from war, just set them loose into the private health insurance market to fend for themselves. Thanks for your service, good luck with that, here`s a coupon.

This used to be a very radical idea. When Mitt Romney dipped his toe into the "privatize the V.A." pool back in 2012, he got it chomped off so fast that he abandoned the idea immediately and basically never spoke of it again.

But this year hasn`t been that long, only four years later, and this year almost the entire Republican field is in favor of abolishing or privatizing the V.A. in some way. And that didn`t just happen overnight, even though it happened fast.

Candidates this year were led in that direction, in part by this group. This is a group called Concerned Veterans for America, a fairly new conservative veterans group. They have been quietly courting the Republican presidential candidates over the past year, and singing to them the virtues of getting rid of the V.A.

They`ve held a series of town hall events with this year`s presidential candidates in the early primary states and one by one, the Republican candidates have dutifully said that, yes, they see the light, they too want to radically change the way veterans in this country get their care, in some cases to turn veterans over to the private health insurance market even though veterans themselves say they very much do not want that.

Concerned Veterans for America has been led for a long time by this guy, seen here in his other job as a FOX News Channel host. Naturally. His name is Pete Hegseth. He`s a veteran himself.

And about a year and a half ago, Mr. Hegseth let out a little secret about Concerned Veterans for America. He kind of spilled the beans on a thing that had long been suspected but was never actually verified until he said it out-loud. Which is that this ostensibly grassroots veterans group, this group that has been single-mindedly focused on trying to kill the V.A., turns out they`re not so grassrootsy after all.

In fact, the "kill the V.A." conservative veterans group didn`t arise organically out of the veterans community. It was a deliberate creation of the billionaire conservative activist brothers Charles and David Koch. And the reason we know that the Koch brothers donor network supposedly created the grassroots veterans group is because the head of that group, Pete Hegseth himself, admitted it while speaking at a Koch donor conference about a year and a half ago.

This is audio of those remarks. It was obtained by an online outfit called "The Undercurrent", was published by "The Nation", although MSNBC has not independently verified it.


PETE HEGSETH, CONCERNED VETERANS FOR AMERICA: Concerned Veterans for America is an organization this network literally created. Now, unless you`ve been living under a rock for the last couple of months, you know about the crisis at the Department of Veterans Affairs. What you probably don`t know is the central role that Concerned Veterans for America played in exposing and driving this crisis from the very beginning. I thank Charles and David, Marc Short, Kevin Gentry, everyone that puts in the sweat equity that makes this possible. And I want to thank you for your courage for standing up and being here.

KEVIN GENTRY, VICE PRESIDENT, CHARLES KOCH FOUNDATION: Concerned Vets is something that came out of this network, and you all as investors are the ones who made this happen.


MADDOW: That is reportedly the Koch brothers guy at the end there saying, "You all as Koch network investors, you all are the ones who made this group happened, you created Concerned Veterans."

We reached out to the Koch donor network to see if they could tell us how much they have given this group and if they share this policy goal of killing the V.A. We haven`t yet heard back.

But it`s kind of one of the sleeper issues of this campaign, that the Republican candidates have basically been captured by this Koch brothers- created, this Koch brothers-funded movement to kill the Veterans Administration. And now, in the midst of that effort with Iowa a week from Monday, with just a few months to go before the general election when presumably this issue is going to pop like you can`t believe it in the general election.

I mean, imagine the fights about this at the general election debates. Right when all this kill the V.A. Koch brothers-funded organizing is about to blow up as an issue, the guy who has led that group, the guy who`s been at the forefront of this abolish the va movement since it started, he has just all of a sudden poofed.

He`s just disappeared. He quit. He is no longer the head of Concerned Veterans for America, and nobody seems to know why. Hmm.

Officially both sides are saying this was a mutual decision, we reached out to Concerned Veterans this week, they declined to provide any more details about what happened. Pete Hegseth told us himself he left over a, quote, "difference of opinion over the future of the organization." And that`s basically all he would say.

But regardless of the circumstances of his departure, what happens now? Because this is weird, right? This one group has been the driving force behind all of these Republican candidates getting on board with this incredibly radical idea of killing the V.A., making veterans fend for themselves in the private health insurance market to get their coverage, which brings a huge, totally hot button issue into the general election because, obviously, no Democratic candidate is going to stand for that and almost all of the Republicans want to do it.

But now, the group that has turned this radical idea into mainstream Republican policy, they appear to be in the midst of maybe melting down themselves. This policy position on privatizing the V.A. or getting rid of it is now basically part of the Republican Party platform. It`s conservative orthodoxy now that the V.A. has to be burned to the ground and never rebuilt, good luck, vets. And if you disagree with that you have to be called out as a V.A. apologist.

It was this Koch brothers-created group that helped push the Republican Party to that radical position. Now, their top guy has poofed right at the start of the election with no explanation whatsoever.

So, what happens next here? And does that mean that the most radical plan to deal with veterans` issues in our country that we have seen in generations poofs with him?

Watch this space.


MADDOW: I mentioned earlier that there was a big announcement coming. Here it is.

On Wednesday, this show is going to be traveling to Flint, Michigan. We`re going to have a live town hall event in Flint. We`re going to be joined by some of the people who have been working day and night inside Flint to sound the alarm about the mass lead poisoning in that city. We`re going to be talking with the locals who are fighting to protect kids and families there, the doctor who exposed the danger of Flint`s water, the new mayor who`s been desperately trying to get any help for her city any way she could think of.

This is going to be Wednesday night, next week, 9:00 p.m. Eastern, live from Flint -- what happened, how it happened and I think what`s going to be some surprising, if not shocking news, about what`s going to have to happen next in that city.

So, be with us. This bat channel, this bat time Wednesday night from Flint with the people of Flint.


MADDOW: It doesn`t sound like a snowplow. It`s not! It`s the Friday night news dump. Yay.

Wendy McNeal, who is today`s lucky player?

WENDY MCNEAL, TRMS PRODUCER: Yay! Tonight, Rachel, we have ms. Linda Lee from Lincoln, Nebraska.

Ms. Linda is a retired medical transcriptionist. She`s originally from New York and she rescues animals.

Rachel, please meet Linda.

MADDOW: Hi, Linda. I`m so happy to meet you.

LINDA LEE, LINCOLN, NEBRASKA: Hi, Rachel, I`m happier.

MADDOW: Who is that with you? I can see little tufty ears.

LEE: That`s Petey. My little pom that just got a hair cut.

MADDOW: How often does Petey get a hair cut?

LEE: Probably six to eight weeks.

MADDOW: You know, I know somebody else who`s in that bank.


LEE: I can`t see you. I don`t have a picture of you.

MADDOW: I basically look middle aged pot belly lesbian wearing a black vest that like I always do.

LEE: No, Rachel.


LEE: You`re perfect.

MADDOW: You`re perfect, too, as is Petey.


MADDOEW: You probably know how this works. Three multiple choice questions about this week`s news. You get two of them right, you will get this piece of junk.

Wendy, please show everybody.

MCNEAL: Ms. Linda, you can get your cocktail shake on with THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW cocktail shaker.

MADDOW: A branded teeny, tiny Pomeranian-sized cocktail shaker.

And for extra credit, we`ve got something truly random that we found in the office today. Wendy, can you describe the random office swag?

MCNEAL: Yes, the random office swag is actually really cool. This is found in your office, Rachel. The trout of North America. It`s a calendar, 2015, really gorgeous pictures of trout from North America.

MADDOW: It is outdated. It`s the 2015 calander, but it is only gently used. But it is my personal trout calendar. So there you go, Linda, that`s what you`re playing for.

LEE: OK, cutting out a little bit.

MADDOW: Can you still hear me now?

LEE: Yes, I`m having to play with the speaker a little bit. But we`re OK.

MADDOW: OK. Well, just real quick say hi to Steve from Maddow Blog. He`s going to determine if you have the right answer.

Hi, Steve.

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

MADDOW: Good evening.

LEE: Hi, Steve.

MADDOW: Here we go, Linda. First question: Tuesday, we reported on Tuesday that New Jersey Chris Christie vetoed a New Jersey bill that wasn`t just bipartisan, it was actually unanimously passed in both the House and the Senate. Of course, Chris Christie is not just governor, he wants to be president.

This bill is about guns. So, he killed it. What popular thing would that bill have done. Would it require, A, background checks for all gun sales, B, would it have banned fully automatic machine guns, C, would it have banned convicted carjackers from owning guns, or D, would it have banned presidential candidates from vetoing unanimously passed consensus gun legislation?

LEE: Well, I believe it was item C.

MADDOW: On the carjackers.

LEE: The carjackers.

MADDOW: Steve, did Linda get that one right, Steve?

BENEN: Let`s check Tuesday`s show.


MADDOW: Nobody was opposed to the bill, except for Chris Christie because, of course, he`s presumably expecting a big endorsement from the carjackers league of New Hampshire, or something. It`s just amazing.


BENEN: It is just amazing. The answer is CNN and Linda is 1-1.

MADDOW: Excellent start. Question two, Linda, is from Wednesday.

Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush has been spending some of the mountains of money that was raised to try to elect him president. In addition to a glossy 47-page full color magazine all about Jeb Bush, his campaign this week also spent money FedExing out an expensive looking item to a bunch of early-state voterers.

Which of the following is a real Jeb Bush campaign expenditure from this week? Was it A, a scientific calculator that displayed a message disparaging Ted Cruz? Was it B, a video player preloaded with a movie about Jeb Bush? Was it C, a free set of snow tires? Or D, an I`m with Jeb leather motorcycle jacket?

LEE: Well, I believe it was item B, a player.

MADDOW: The video player.

Steve, what`s the right answer?

BENEN: Let`s check Wednesday`s segment.


MADDOW: What Jeb Bush FedExed out to voters in New Hampshire is a video player which automatically starts showing his Jeb Bush movie as soon as you open it up.


BENEN: Yes, the correct answer is a surprisingly nice and expensive- looking video player. And Linda is 2-2.

MADDOW: All right, Linda, you are totally on a roll. And for this last one, here`s your curveball. You have a choice for your last question. Do you want a Donald Trump question or do you want a non-Donald Trump question?

LEE: Aye yai yai, what a choice. Let`s go non-Donald Trump.

MADDOW: All right. The answer to the Donald Trump question was Oklahoma.

But the non Donald Trump question was this. On last night`s show, we showed the homecoming of a former marine and a dual Iranian-American citizen who had been held in an Iranian prison for more than four years. His name is Amir Hekmati.

And he arrived in his hometown last night, which happens to be a city that has been in the news for other reasons lately.

Where is Amir Hekmati`s hometown? Is it A, Ferguson, Missouri? B, Porter Ranch, California? C, Burns, Oregon? Or D, Flint, Michigan?

LEE: Well, I do believe that`s Flint. I just hope he`s not going to drink the water.

MADDOW: I think lots of people are giving him that advice. Steve, do you have the answer for us?

BENEN: Let`s check last night`s show


AMIR HEKMATI: It`s great to be back in Flint, my hometown. I love this city. I love its people.


BENEN: The correct answer is the great city of Flint, Michigan. And Linda is right once again.

MADDOW: Linda, you are perfect in every way.

Wendy, did she win everything?

MCNEAL: Yes, Ms. Linda, great job. You won everything. You are now the owner of the trout calendar and the cocktail shaker.

MADDOW: Again, out of date trout calendar, but I`ll sign it or put something else in there, I swear.

Linda, it`s been great to have you here and it`s really nice to meet your pom, meet your little guy.

LEE: Well, Rachel, the pleasure is all mine. I can`t tell you how excited I was.

MADDOW: Well, thanks for being here. Congratulations.

LEE: Thank you, dear.

MADDOW: Thank you.

And if you want to play the most awesome game in basic cable news, also the only, send us an e-mail

And now, I have to tell you, you are due to go to prison for one minute. But before you do that, you really should pay attention to some big weather news.