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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 1/25/2016

Guests: Jason Noble, Bryn Mickle

Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: January 25, 2016 Guest: Jason Noble, Bryn Mickle


Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend.

HAYES: You bet.

MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.

So, this is the time when weird stuff starts to happen. I don`t mean, you know, 9:00 on MSNBC is when weird stuff happens, although sometimes that`s true too. What I mean is a week before Iowa is when weird stuff starts to happen.

It`s around this time every four years when we get two things happening at once. First, beltway reporters start writing these wistful, patronizing, reductive little sing song lullabies about how sweet and quaint everything is in Iowa with all these little Iowa people going to their little caucuses and how little and pure it is, right? It restores your faith in the American political process. Right? Every four years. You get that stuff from beltway reporters.

Simultaneously every four years, at this time, yet you see those articles from the Beltway and in Iowa, at the exact at the same time stuff starts to get really freaking sketchy. In some cases, it gets downright criminally corrupt.

Iowa may be rural and it may be landlocked but Iowans are not rubes. Iowans are pros. And honestly, be on your toes. Be ready for anything.

We are now seven days from Iowa. Last time around in 2012, it was six days from Iowa when we got a shocking change on the Republican side.

You might remember this. In 2012, Michele Bachmann did very well in the early days in Iowa, right? She won the Ames, Iowa, straw poll. She locked up a lot of endorsements in the state.

Then, six days before the Iowa caucuses, in 2012, Michele Bachmann`s statewide campaign co-chair called a press conference to announce that at a that late date with less than a week to go before the caucuses, he was changing his allegiance. He would no longer be Michele Bachmann`s Iowa state co-chair. Instead, he was going to support Rand Paul -- excuse me, Ron Paul.

And the Michele Bachmann campaign went nuts. And it was this big, shocking ripple through the race. Nobody knew to expect it. Nobody knew what was going on there. Now, we do know what was going on there. Turns out Michele Bachmann`s Iowa co-chair switched his allegiance six days before the caucuses because they paid him to.

That Michele Bachmann Iowa state co-chair in 2012, he was an Iowa state senator at the time. He has since pled guilty to federal charges. He admitted to taking money from the Ron Paul campaign to switch his endorsement and then helping cover up that bribe. He is facing up to 25 years in prison in this Iowa Republican caucuses bribery case.

The reason he hasn`t been sentenced yet, though, is because it turns out the case is still ongoing. Three Ron Paul aides were indicted last August in the scheme. One of them ultimately had the charges against him dropped. One of them was convicted, and one of them was acquitted. Although the one acquitted is now being charged again. Prosecutors indicted him again this past November.

And this is not ancient history. This is what happened the last time around in the Republican caucuses in Iowa. Last presidential cycle, this bribery thing happened. And there are still pending charges and one guy is still awaiting sentencing. There`s ongoing drama and suspense around who was going to go to prison and for how long. And the bribery case from the Iowa Republican caucuses from 2012.

That said the question, as to whether or not there was bribery in the Iowa Republican caucuses, that is a settled matter. There`s no drama or suspense about that. The bribery definitely happened. It`s only a question of who is going to get in trouble for it.

But that`s apparently how Republicans in Iowa -- not only did it in 2012. It`s apparently how they`ve been doing the caucuses for awhile now. At least that`s how it seems based on the indictments. Part of the reason we got the detail in the Ron Paul campaign bribery indictments is because they have a long back and forth negotiation between the Ron Paul campaign and the state senator about how much he wanted to get paid when he was going take this bribe for his support.

The state senator, it turns out, he had elaborate expectations how much his endorsement would be worth in the Iowa Republican caucuses because he knew there was a real market for it. The reason he knew there was a market for it, in part, because the Michele Bachmann campaign had been bribing him too. He was trying to trade up.

So, yes, at one level, the Iowa caucuses are adorable. How quaint. How sweetly small town America. On the other hand, the Iowa caucuses are kind of gangster.

And not just about the process, also, about the results. Por ejemplo, again, just looking at the last time the Republicans held their caucuses in Iowa. Do you remember who won the Iowa caucuses in 2012 on the Republican side?

If you don`t remember, don`t beat yourself up about it. There are a lot of right answers to that question. Night of the Iowa caucuses in 2012, this was the first thing that the Iowa Republican state chairman announced about the results of the caucuses.


MATT STRAWN, IOWA GOP CHAIRMAN: I can report with 1,770 precincts reporting, Governor Mitt Romney received 30,015 votes, Senator Rick Santorum received 30,007 votes. Congratulations to Governor Mitt Romney, winner of the 2012 Iowa caucuses.


MADDOW: So, the state Republican Party chairman comes out in Iowa the night of the caucuses and says, hey, Mitt Romney won. That was the night of the caucuses. Then two weeks later, it turns out Mitt Romney did not win the Iowa caucuses. Republican Party two weeks after the caucuses were held told "The Des Moines Register," for their edition that came out January 19th. Quote, "It is a split decision."

Split decision. It`s a tie. How can it be a tie? It`s an election. I mean, shouldn`t there be a tie breaker if it`s a tie? Nope.

And then by later that afternoon, the Republican Party of Iowa had decided to change its mind again. They decided that they would decide who won the tie. In fact, they decided that it wasn`t Mitt Romney and it wasn`t a tie after all. Actually, a different guy won it. Rick Santorum won.

Remember, just that same morning the party had said it was a split decision, but then in the afternoon the state party chairman said this:


STRAWN: It is indisputable that the certified caucus results had Rick Santorum winning by 34 votes. I feel I owe Senator Santorum`s supporters and his folks an apology.

JAN MICKELSON: So, you`re declaring this, then, a victory for Rick Santorum?

STRAWN: Yes, the certified vote results.


MADDOW: So, the last time Republicans held their Iowa caucuses that night they declared Romney won. Two weeks later they said that was tie. A split decision, then that afternoon, they decided it wasn`t a split decision after all. It was a Rick Santorum victory.

And then in the end, who got the presidential nominating contests delegates from the state of Iowa for 2012? After they went through that whole make it up as we go along rigmarole? It turns out it was neither of the candidates who won or tied, fending on which day you ask. Neither of them.


MADDOW: And now 16 weeks after the voting happened, and Mitt Romney was declared the winner, and 14 weeks after Santorum was declared the winner, now, it appears that Ron Paul is the winner in Iowa.


MADDOW: Mitt Romney first, then a tie, then it was Rick Santorum, then, Ron Paul got all the delegates, or at least almost all the delegates.

That, of course, was before three of his aides got indicted on federal criminal charges for the way they bribed their way to the victory. Can we call it a victory?

Iowa gets treated by the beltway press like it`s some cross between a Hallmark card and a Norman Rockwell painting and a slice of apple pie with a puppy on top, right? But Iowa, at least on the Republican side of the caucuses, has been kind of a banana republic in recent years. I don`t mean the clothing store.

After the debacle in 2012 in the Iowa Republican caucuses, not only did Ron Paul get almost all of the votes, all of the indictments out of the caucuses that year, Ron Paul supporters also briefly took over the Iowa Republican Party. And that lasted for a few years before Iowa`s long serving Republican Governor Terry Branstad decided to end all of that. He waded into Iowa state internal Republican politics and took back over the party through the Ron Paul lights out.

This time around for 2016, Terry Branstad is still Iowa`s Republican governor. He`s the longest serving governor in U.S. history in any state. He`s serving his sixth four-year term in Iowa.

So, Terry Branstad is a fixture. He`s been through a lot of Iowa caucuses. He`s basically said he`ll stay neutral through the Iowa caucus process, so as not to put his thumb on the scale for that otherwise pristine ethical contest.

This year, already, though, Governor Branstad has stretched, if not broken that promise. He has not explicitly endorsed a Republican candidate this year, but he did go out of his way last week to say explicitly that he opposite of endorses Ted Cruz. He`s not telling Iowa Republicans who they should vote for, but he is telling them explicitly, "don`t you dare vote for Ted Cruz", which is a way to put your thumb on the scale, if you`re a long serving governor of that state.


GOV. TERRY BRANSTAD (R), IOWA: I believe that would be a big mistake for Iowa to support him. I know he`s ahead in the polls, but the only poll that counts is the one that they take on caucus night. I think it could change between now and then.


MADDOW: Iowa`s long serving Governor Terry Branstad speaking last week.

And, you know, it may have had an effect. The polling that came out of Iowa over the last few days does show Ted Cruz basically losing his lead in that state. Three polls have come out of Iowa in the last two days. All three of them show Donald Trump now polling back ahead of Ted Cruz in Iowa. That includes the latest poll out tonight from FOX News in Iowa, which shows Donald Trump leading Ted Cruz in the state by 11 points.

New polling in New Hampshire tonight also has Donald Trump doing very well, even better than he has been doing before. The FOX News poll out tonight in New Hampshire has Donald Trump leading Ted Cruz in that state by 17 points.

The CBS News poll out in New Hampshire tonight also has him leading big in New Hampshire by 18 points. The CNN poll out over the weekend has Donald Trump leading in New Hampshire by 20 points.

So, it has looked before like Ted Cruz was going to win Iowa. Donald Trump is now ahead in the polls again in Iowa. And he`s really ahead in New Hampshire.

Sort of feels the like Donald Trump had a scare there for awhile with Ted Cruz. But with numbers like this, there isn`t much reason for him to be scared anymore.

Let me give you a wild card, though, which is that guy. Follow the arrow. Yes. That guy. Chris Christie.

Chris Christie polling at roughly 6 or 7 percent these days in New Hampshire, which on a good day has him tied for fifth place. Most days further behind than that.

Governor Christie is betting all his presidential prospects to New Hampshire. He`s basically moved to New Hampshire full time. Actually, I don`t need to qualify that. He hasn`t basically moved to New Hampshire full time. He has moved to New Hampshire full time.

That`s why it was news this weekend when he left New Hampshire for less than 48 hours to go home to New Jersey where he`s still the governor so he could oversee response to winter storm Jonas. Jonas hit New Jersey with a ton of snow and also with some pretty serious coastal flooding along the Jersey shore.

Governor Christie initially said he wouldn`t need to leave New Hampshire to oversee the response to that storm. He said, this isn`t out first rodeo. Ultimately, he relented on Friday night, he went back to New Jersey, he stayed on New Jersey on Saturday and Saturday night, and then by Sunday afternoon, he was back in New Hampshire.

All day long today, Governor Christie has faced criticism that he basically left his state in the lurch in terms of the response to the storm, that he shouldn`t have rushed back to New Hampshire so soon. That the state, particularly the parts of the Jersey shore that flooded, they still need him and should be there taking care of business instead of running his distant campaign for president up in New Hampshire.

Governor Christie has been parrying those criticisms from reporters and people at New Hampshire town halls all day.

But, tonight, he appears to have lost his cool a little bit, lost his ability to handle the question with any degree of civility. And this very, very, very nervous young woman dared to put the question to him tonight. He blew up.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, so I actually went to school in New Jersey. I have a lot of friends --



CHRISTIE: All right.


CHRISTIE: Yes, ma`am?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, I actually had a quick question. With a lot of family and friend still living there, they had me ask you, why are you here in New Hampshire campaigning instead of there helping, serving the damages done by the coastal flooding from the storm?

CHRISTIE: Well, because it`s already done. It`s already done.


CHRISTIE: Tell me why you think it isn`t?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have friends, family calling and sending me videos and pictures --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- all over the state --

CHRISTIE: All over the state?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- of flooding.

CHRISTIE: All over the state? Really?

There`s been one county that is flooded in the state. One county. That was Cape May County. It`s the one county that flooded. So, I don`t know from all over the state since we have 21 counties where that`s happened.

Second, I don`t see what you expect me to do. Do you want me to go down there with a mop?


MADDOW: Want me to go down there with a mop?

Governor Christie yelling at a nervous girl tonight in New Hampshire. After that happened tonight, the governor got some very, very good news for his campaign. "The Boston Herald", it is, as the name implies, based in Boston. But "The Boston Herald" is very widely read in New Hampshire, particularly in the heavily populated southern part of New Hampshire.

And "The Boston Herald" tonight just issued its endorsement in the Republican presidential primary this year, and they have given their endorsement to Chris Christie. They say, quote, "Governor Chris Christie is a smart and principled candidate with a real shot at uniting his party and broadening its appeal in November", so says "The Boston Herald" tonight.

You want him to go down there with a mop? I told you this is when stuff starts to get weird.

We`ve got a lot ahead tonight. Stay with us.



CHRISTIE: There`s been one county that is flooded in the state. One county. That was Cape May County. It`s a county that`s flooded. So, I don`t know where from all over the state, since we have 21 counties, where that`s happened.

Second, I don`t see what you expect me to do. You want me to go down there with a mop?


MADDOW: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in New Hampshire today asking sarcastically if he should clean up the storm damage in his state with a mop. Accidentally, I think there were two counties in New Jersey that flooded. Not just the one.

But that sarcastic retort tonight to a nervous young woman who`s asking question, that was right before Governor Christie got the news that "The Boston Herald" newspaper has just endorsed him in the Republican primary for president. "The Boston Herald", obviously, based in Massachusetts but it`s widely read in New Hampshire, particularly Southern New Hampshire, population center in the state.

So, that endorsement tonight is a big get for Chris Christie. That said, the other major Boston paper, which is widely read in New Hampshire, particularly in southern New Hampshire, is "The Boston Globe." And tonight, "The Boston Globe" has just released their presidential endorsement as well, and they have picked not Chris Christie, but instead John Kasich.

Both Chris Christie and John Kasich have hinged their campaigns for president on New Hampshire. They`re both all in in New Hampshire. They`re both looking for exactly this kind of establishment boost to their prospects. It will be interesting to see if "The Boston Herald" and "The Boston Globe" endorsements do have an impact in the polls for Christie and Kasich in New Hampshire.

Now, in Iowa, the equivalent of "The Boston Herald" and "The Globe" rolled up into one and based inside the state is "The Des Moines Register". And this weekend, "The Des Moines Register" endorsed in both the Democratic and Republican primaries. They picked Hillary Clinton for their Democratic endorsement. And for their Republican endorsement, interestingly, they picked Marco Rubio.

Marco Rubio is running basically third in Iowa behind Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. Broadly speaking, Senator is in that position nationwide, third place as well.

Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are really far out ahead in the polls in Iowa. But in what I think was a genius political move by each of them, both of these candidates, both Donald Trump and Ted Cruz decided that they would not even try for "The Des Moines Register" newspaper endorsement. Each of these candidates, in fact, refused to meet with the editorial board from "The Des Moines Register." So, they weren`t even in the running for the endorsement.

And that has two genius political consequences. Number one, it means that neither can be faulted for not winning the endorsement. They weren`t competing for it.

And number two, it sort of devalues the endorsement that Marco Rubio did get from the paper because it makes him look like he`s the establishment guy who wanted the paper to like him and who bothered competing for something that Ted Cruz and Donald Trump wouldn`t have wanted even if they had gotten it.

Ah! The race is so weird this year. I love it.

Joining us now is Jason Noble, political reporter for "The Des Moines Register".

Mr. Noble, it`s great to see you. Thanks for being here.


MADDOW: Exactly, one week out from the caucuses, is there something you can see from close up that we can`t necessarily see from a national level in terms of who is doing a good job organizing?

NOBLE: No, I think you nailed it. This looks like it`s a two-man race. You know, you noted the polling here with Donald Trump. He`s opened up a bit of a lead.

But Ted Cruz and Donald Trump are way ahead of the rest of the pack. We`re looking at the fascinating dynamic between the two of them as being decisive going into week out from the caucuses. You`ve got Donald Trump very sort of non-traditional candidate attracting a non-traditional following in Iowa. And the question is whether he`s going to be able to turn those people out.

You`ve got Ted Cruz who is a very much a traditional Iowa candidate and has really drawn a lot of support, a lot of official support from social conservatives, evangelicals but has faced some of the head winds you mentioned with the comments from our governor and the beating that he`s taken from Donald Trump.

MADDOW: On that point about Governor Branstad -- obviously, Governor Branstad is sort of a figure without parallel in other states. I mean, not only is he the longest serving governor in history, six different four-year terms. But also it`s Iowa. So, he knows not only how the state works, but he knows how the state functions in national politics.

Do you think it is an influential thing? Do you think it has had an impact on the race for him to come out and make this extraordinary statement that Iowa Republicans should vote for anybody who`s not named Ted Cruz?

NOBLE: We`re really going to have to wait to see. You know, he`s speaking very parochially. He`s thinking about the business and economic interest of the state. Obviously, the ag industry and biofuel industry is very important here.

That`s interest that he was representing. That is a big force within politics here, within Republican politics here. The counter-weight within the Republican Party would be the social conservatives and evangelicals that are Ted Cruz`s base. We`ll see, eventually, to find out how much that takes the edge off of Cruz`s support here given his base is with social conservatives.

MADDOW: Jason Noble, political reporter for "The Des Moines Register" -- Jason, thanks a lot. It`s nice to have you here.

NOBLE: Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: One of the interesting things I will tell you about Iowa caucuses this year, again, one week from tonight. It`s just going to be -- that`s just going to be seeing whether or not they are as chaotic this year on the Republican side as they were in 2012. People forget that 2012 was complete chaos on the Republican side. And we still never found out who won.

I`m sort of looking forward to seeing if they`ve got their act together as much as I`m looking forward to seeing who`s going to do well.

Stay with us. Lots more ahead.


MADDOW: Imagine what it feels like to be parent right now living in Flint, Michigan. Specifically, imagine what it feels like being the parent of a kid enrolled at local elementary school like Brownell-Holmes STEM Academy. It`s one of three Flint schools where initial screenings back in October found the water levels at the school testing above 15 parts per billion for lead, which means the lead levels at the school were exceeding federal safety guidelines.

A follow up investigation by the state after those initial October readings, excuse me, found that 12 of the 23 drinking fountains and faucets in one of the school`s buildings, so drinking fountains and faucets that you see here used for drinking but also used for cooking and food prep for the kids in the school cafeteria, almost half this had led parts exceeding 15 parts per billion. Some samples even tested as high as 166 parts per billion which is more than 10 times the threshold that is supposed to set off alarms in terms of federal standards for lead exposure.

Imagine finding that out, right, about that school if you`re parent of a kid at that school, how that must feel knowing that you`re sending your kid there every day. Well, the way the schools have reacted is part of the unsung part of this story. The way the schools have reacted will surprise you when you hear this story, and that is one of the stories we`re going to be talking about on Wednesday night.

We`re going to be doing the show from Flint, holding a town hall meeting on the lead poisoning crisis in that city. We`re actually going the hold that meeting at the Brownell-Holmes STEM Academy. That school I was just describing.

It`s a town hall, Wednesday night. It`s called "American Disaster: The Crisis In Flint". It`s going to be airing here 9:00 Wednesday. We`ll be broadcasting from that school. Cannot wait.


MADDOW: This is the most recent cover of "Time Magazine". It shows a 2- year-old from Flint, Michigan whose skin is covered in rash. The rashes that he`s got, his family believes them to be a result of him bathing in that city`s lead poison water. The woman who took this picture of this little 2-year-old kid is photographer for "The Detroit Free Press". Her name is Regina Boon.

Getting a "Time Magazine" cover is a big deal for any photographer. But Regina Boon is really, really good, and she`s done some amazing photos in terms of what`s going on in Flint. And on this story, to have it be a local paper`s photographer getting the cover shot, that`s just -- it`s good. That`s really good.

Another one of "The Detroit Free Press`s" excellent photographers who`s done really good work on the story is named Ryan Garza. Ryan Garza did an amazing photo essay. These are the images from it.

He did it at a free clinic held this weekend in downtown Flint. Now, this clinic was sponsored by Herb Sanders, who`s a Detroit area lawyer who put on the event to help test local residents for high levels of lead. They were offering blood tests for lead levels. Oh, my God, did people turn out, lines out the door and out the building.

Ryan Garza`s photos from this event are just heart wrenching. This one is of 3-year-old Kaden who is getting a blood test and screaming while the sample is being taken. The man holding him is his grandfather. And the next photograph in the series shows the grandfather wiping away his own tears after seeing what his little grandson went through.

The doors to this clinic didn`t open until 10:00 a.m. on Saturday this weekend. But there was already a line of people waiting to get in an hour and a half before that. By 8:30 a.m., there was already a line for when the doors opened at 10:00. Two hours in after they opened the doors, volunteers had to start turning residents away because they had run out of testing kits. That`s how great the demand was to get tested.

This ongoing story out of Flint is producing, among other things, some visuals that you just can`t believe, including some very unexpected visuals from these folks. If you were to stumble upon the Facebook page for the Genesee County Volunteer Militia, you see a lot of photos like this one. This is, yes, an arm chair constructed out of rifles and ammunition.

Here is another, "In case of tyranny, break glass." I think it`s some sort of AR-15 back there. There`s a lot of memes on the militia`s Facebook page. This one says, "freedom fries", but as you can see, the French fries container is chockfull of big bullets.

You might very well expect this kind of thing from a militia`s Facebook page. But if you do follow them on Facebook, you might have noticed their photo stream has taken an unexpected turn as of late, because starting last week, the Genesee County Volunteer Militia has been in Flint handing out bottled water alongside the American Red Cross.

On Sunday, the group gathered at Flint city hall and it might have seemed like a militia Second Amendment rally with the armed people gathered wearing camo and folks waving flags, "Don`t Thread on Me" flags, the militia was actually there to demand accountability over the ongoing lead poisoning water crisis in Flint. Afterwards, the group handed out cases of water to Flint residents from the back of their trucks.

One of the bright spots, unusual moments in the crisis, is that it has really brought together groups you might not expect would otherwise be allies. It happened in a small way this weekend with the militia. These are two brothers Lamont and Nate Williams. They are from Chicago and they traveled from the south side of Chicago to Flint this weekend to help respond to the crisis. They just gathered water donations on their own from people they knew and brought the donations to Flint on their own. They`re not affiliated with anybody. They just came the two brothers.

It turns out they ended up chatting with members of the Genesee County Volunteer Militia while on a water run for the local Walmart. So they, too, ended up speaking at the militia rally.


LAMONT WILLIAMS: I am overjoyed to see everybody out here supporting this city. I`m from Chicago, the south side of Chicago. In is my little brother Nate. We drove up here by ourselves. We`re not a part of any organization. We don`t represent anything other than humans need water. And people coming together in times of crisis.


With that being said, we drove up here with a couple of donations from friends and family but mostly out of our own pockets. We made about four or five trips to Walmart. We handed out over a hundred cases to families at the fire station on MLK Avenue and Crosby. We`re trying to do our part.

I know when I go back home and tell my story and Nate tells his story to friends and family we`ll be back and in will be more the next time.


I want to say Chicago is with you, and I`m just so happy to have met all the wonderful people of Flint. You`ve been nothing but kind since we`ve been here. We want to help out.



MADDOW: Unity. There was some unexpected unity, some new alliances outside Flint city hall this weekend.

But unity on how best to tackle the crisis. Unity in terms of purpose, unity of purpose in terms of how to get it done. How to fix the problem overall.

That turns out to be severely lacking now. You`ll never guess who the culprit is. Actually, you`ll guess who the culprit is. But that story is next.

Stay with us.


MADDOW: This is a letter sent to the state of Michigan late last week by the federal government. The Obama administration specifically, the EPA, sent Michigan this 18-page letter. It was essentially a list of things that the state has to do and soon to address the lead poisoning crisis in Flint.

The letter says within five days, the Snyder administration has to create a website where they post the water testing results, all their testing plans, all of their weekly status reports. Within 10 days the Snyder administration has to hand over the lead testing results for Flint for the last three years.

Within ten days they have to hand over an inventory with service lines that are made out of lead. They have to hand over the information in Excel or a similar format, which should be hilarious given that the last system Flint used to catalog the location of its old lead pipe was this drawer full of tens of thousands of handwritten index cards. But now, the EPA wants it in spread sheet form.

This order from the EPA went to the state of Michigan on Thursday. This is not a list of recommendations. This is the federal government saying to Michigan, you are here by ordered to perform the following tasks and you were ordered to complete them by specific deadlines set forth in this order.

So, the state of Michigan received this order from the EPA last week and the Snyder administration, which created the disaster, the Rick Snyder administration responded to the EPA by saying, basically, "Got your letter. Thank you for writing. But we really don`t think you are the right to tell us what to do."

Governor Rick Snyder`s administration was legally obligated to respond to the EPA within one day of receiving the order. And they did. But the response from his administration to this very specific, very detailed federal order reads in part, quote, "We question whether the EPA has the legal authority to order a state and its agencies to take the actions outlined in this order."

So, the Snyder administration caused this disaster. They know they did. They admit they did. And now, as if the city of Flint isn`t dealing with enough, thanks to them, now the Snyder administration is telling the federal government to back off and stop telling them what to do. Leave it to them to sort it out.

Well, that response from the state came on Friday night. We can now report that the federal government has responded back.

The Feds have written back a one page, one paragraph letter to the state of Michigan telling them that not only does the EPA have the legal authority but Michigan better step on it. The state must, quote, "immediately commence and continue work to meet the obligations as ordered."

The EPA says state officials must comply and they expect, quote, "full implementation of the order." One page, one paragraph. Feds to Michigan, get moving.

Joining us now is Bryn Mickle. He`s editor of "The Flint Journal", which has been muckraking fearlessly and advocating fiercely for their town throughout this crisis.

Mr. Mickle, it`s nice to have you with us again tonight. Thanks for being here.

BRYN MICKLE, FLINT JOURNAL EDITOR: Thank you for having me.

MADDOW: So, the Snyder administration is responding to the federal government, in part, by pushing back against the EPA and saying you have no right to tell us what to do. Is that boilerplate? Should we have expected that?

MICKLE: I don`t think we should have expected it. I think, at this point, actions speak louder than words. We`ve heard a lot of apologies, but we haven`t seen much in the form of action.

And the idea they are spending time of arguing with the EPA instead of developing plan to replace the lead lines is mind-boggling. You know, this is energy better directed at solving the problem.

MADDOW: Last week, President Obama said he would speed $80 million to Michigan. The initial response, was yes, you got $5 million to help and then he said while he was in Detroit for the auto show and talking to the conference of mayors said we`re going to get $80 million to Michigan.

The White House strongly suggesting the money should go toward the crisis. Do we actually know if Governor Snyder to commit to using that $80 million for Flint?

MICKLE: No. My last communication on Friday and I was told flat out that they were evaluating all of their options. It seemed pretty clear to me that the intent of the president was for that money to go toward the Flint crisis. I don`t think it was any coincidence that he announced it in connection with Flint. But I was told, no, we`re studying the issue.

And again, you know, this is the governor that right now is hiring PR firms. Where are the engineering firms? You know, let`s get the lead lines dug up and replaced. There`s no time to wait on this.

MADDOW: Your newspaper, "The Flint Journal", has called for Governor Snyder to release all of his e-mails in the crisis. He`s posted his e- mails from two years of the crisis, 2013 -- 2014 and 2015, excuse me. He hasn`t posted anything from this year and he hasn`t posted anything from 2013 or before.

Why did your paper call for those extra years? Those additional years to have -- to be disclosed by the governor?

MICKLE: To be honest. To see what else was going on as far as what communications there were prior. It was really surprising when we got the e-mails and there was only a handful that were actually written by the governor.

You know, transparency -- saying it is great -- but clearly, there`s more information out here. Maybe it`s in the form of text messages. Maybe it`s in form of e-mails from earlier, but more needs to be released here.

I would encourage the governor to reconsider his idea of keeping secret the communications by his staffers, by his appointees. This information needs to come out.

MADDOW: Bryn Mickle, editor of "The Flint Journal", thank you. Again, I`ve said this before, but thank you for your paper`s work on this and thanks for helping understand what`s going on tonight. I appreciate you for being here.

MICKLE: Well, thank you.

MADDOW: Thanks.

For the record, we asked Governor Snyder`s office again today for his e- mails about Flint water from 2013 and from 2016 this year and that we`ve also asked him for his e-mails from 2012. We want 2012, 2013 and 2016 to go along with the other two years they have released. The governor`s office has not responded to our request.

But Michigan Radio supports that subpoenas in a class action lawsuit have gone off. These plaintiffs are suing over the Flint water disaster and they are asking for those documents and more from Rick Snyder`s office and from the emergency managers that the governor put in charge of Flint.

We don`t know if they`re going to get those records and the messages they are seeking from the Snyder administration, but they`re trying. They are taking it to the courts.

We`ll be right back.


MADDOW: We`re going to back in a moment with a story I cannot report. There is news to report on this story, but I cannot report it, because basically one Republican governor`s office has gone completely absolutely nuts. This is so strange. This is the weirdest interaction we`ve had with a sitting governor since Mark Sanford disappeared and said he was hiking the Appalachian Trail when he was secretly in Argentina stooping someone who wasn`t his wife.

This is the weirdest thing with a governor`s office we have had since Mark Sanford went missing, but it explains why I can`t tell you what`s about to happen in one American state.

And that story, the whole weird tale of it, is next.



GOV. PAUL LEPAGE (R), MAINE: Now the traffickers, these are people that take drugs. These are the people named D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty. These types of guys that come from Connecticut and New York, they come up here, they sell their heroin and then they go back home. Incidentally, half the time they impregnate a young, white girl before they leave.


MADDOW: Maine Governor Paul LePage.

He later explained he had nothing to apologize for in those remarks because after all, Maine is very white.


LEPAGE: I was going impromptu and my brain didn`t watch up to my mouth. Instead of saying Maine women. I said white women. I`m not going to apologize to the Maine women for that, because if you go to Maine, you will see that we`re essentially 95 percent white.


MADDOW: We are super white, you guys. No harm, no foul. I mean, who was offended?

Maine Governor Paul LePage is an unusual kind of governor and that means under Governor Paul LePage`s leadership, the state of Maine makes unusual kind of news.

When we last left Maine Governor LePage in the wake of his D-Money impregnating a white girl comments, Maine was on the eve of a big debate in their legislature over whether or not he would be impeached on abuse of power allegations. That effort took up a good chunk of the legislature`s time a couple weeks ago. Ultimately, it went nowhere, though. Democrats and the leadership joined Republicans to postpone the Paul LePage impeachment effort indefinitely.

When the impeachment effort fell apart, Governor LePage called the whole thing, quote, "foolishness." But he also left an open question that`s of significant consequence for his state, because in the days before the impeachment debate the governor had threatened that he would skip his annual state of the state address. He decided that if the legislature wanted to impeach him, then he just wasn`t going to do that thing this year.


LEPAGE: Why am I going to go up and face people and talk to them in an audience that just a day -- you know, a week or two before they`re trying to impeach me? That`s just silliness. So why don`t we just I`ll go to work, keep working, I`ll send them a letter and call it a day.


MADDOW: Governor Paul LePage doesn`t want to give the state of the state this year. Not if it means talking in person to the legislature that just debated impeaching him. He raised the prospect that he might skip the whole speech this year, submit it in writing instead.

But then the impeachment thing fell apart and now, we`re left with this interesting open question. Since it turns out you`re not being impeached, Governor, is the speech back on or are you still literally going to mail it in for Maine`s state of the state this year? Simple question.

We reached out to the governor`s office to ask. And I`ve got to tell you, we do this kind of thing all day long, getting basic information from all different kinds of public officials. This is what we do. This is a normal thing.

This is what we sent, "Hi. Hi. Wanted to see if the governor`s made a decision about whether or not he`ll give the state of the state address in person to lawmakers or if he still plans to send a letter. Do you have any information on that decision yet? Thanks!"

Simple question to the governor`s office, right? This was the response we got from Paul LePage`s office. Look at this. This is the whole thing.

Quote, "Why does Rachel Maddow have such an unnatural obsession with Governor LePage? Her neurotic fixation on him is kind of bizarre."


MADDOW: That was the response from the governor`s office. That was the whole thing. It`s very strange.

So, we tried again, "Is this seriously your response? Should we take this to mean that the governor has not made up his mind?"

Response from Paul LePage`s office. "It`s a serious question. Does Rachel have ties to Maine? If not, what`s her weird fascination with him?"

So, that`s a no? We tried again. "Hi. I`m going to try one more time on our question about Governor LePage`s state of the state this year. Has he made a decision whether he will give the state of the state address in person or if he will send a letter instead? We really are just looking for an answer to that question. If you can`t answer it is there someone else we can try to speak with? Thanks very much."

Governor`s response, quote, "Of course, I can answer it. But you first. What`s with Maddow`s obsession with the governor?"

Admit it. At this point you`d start to be a little obsessed as well. So, we wrote back once more to the governor`s office.

"This is becoming a strange interaction. We are just trying to get some basic information about a statement the governor made. We are covering this like we would any other newsmaker or public official in the country, or obsessiveness is only about the news. And Governor LePage is making it hard to get basic information about the governance of that state and that is starting to feel newsworthy too." Response from the governor`s office. Bupkis. Nothing.

So, seriously, I cannot tell you whether or not Maine is getting a state of the state address this year because the governor apparently finds it very offensive that I would even want to know.

So, all I can tell you that the state of the state address usually takes place by early February, but apparently you`re a sicko if you want to know any more about it than that, so says the governor of that fine state. Just amazing.


MADDOW: Measuring snowfall is hard to do because gravity. As the snow piles up, as it accumulates, the weight of the snow on the top of the pile starts to press down and crush the snow at the bottom of the pile. So even if you drop a measuring stick into the ground and it says 30 inches, you`re likely waiting around in more than that because the last snowfall, right, is squishing down the early snowfall.

Calculating snowfall accurately is a hard thing to do. And that is why the National Weather Service has developed a set of guidelines and a tool for measuring snow correctly, accounting for the gravity problem. And that tool, that highly specialized tool, is a board.

No, seriously. It`s a board. There are so many great questions in life for which plywood is the answer. And this is one of them. At, you can see some pictures of the specialized snow measuring board in action. Look at it go.

Basically, you get your board and you get a measuring stick and you put your board in an area that is free of snow drifts. And every couple of hours you measure the accumulation on the board. Then you wipe it away. Then you essentially rinse and repeat throughout the storm.

Once it stops snowing, you add up all of your measurements that you took over the course of the storm and presto change-o that is your total snowfall. Good system. It works. Simple, easy. It`s foolproof.

Until it`s not. Reagan National Airport is where the official snowfall tally is taken for Washington, D.C. That`s where they use the official snow measuring board. And that`s where they take the measurement that gets reported to the National Weather Service. And that is the official spot from which we get a snow total for Washington, D.C.

But this weekend, in the middle of that ridiculous storm this weekend, the good folks at Reagan National Airport who measure the snow, they lost the board. They lost it in the snow. Dropped it and then couldn`t find it.

Folks at Reagan national had to improvise their calculations by measuring in a bunch of different areas and averaging out those numbers and now those flawed numbers stand as D.C.`s official snowfall measurement. Even though nearby official totals at Dulles Airport and BWI airport those are nearly a foot higher than those being reported from Reagan.

They lost the snow-board. D.C. officially got 17.8 inches of snow this past weekend, which sounds like a lot. But that means, the storm did not officially crack the top three blizzards of all time in D.C.

But maybe it was actually way more snow than that and we`ll never know, because they lost the board. They lost the board! Who knew snowfall measurement was even done with a board?

Once Washington manages to dig the board out at Reagan Airport, I would like to suggest maybe they tie a little leash to it, maybe handcuff it to the snow-board wrangler for the duration of the storm next time?

I`m sorry, D.C. Your storm was probably bigger than they say it was. I know you say that to all -- never mind.

All right. That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow.


Good evening, Lawrence.