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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 1/26/2016

Guests: Karen Weaver

Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: January 26, 2016 Guest: Karen Weaver

CHRIS HAYES, "ALL IN" HOST: That is "ALL IN" for this evening.

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.

Good evening, Rachel.

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

HAYES: You bet.

MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. I love days like this.

Today, as the day got longer, as the sun went down, as afternoon turned to evening, the political news just went completely nuts. If you are a civics dork, you live for days like this.

Now if you`re not sure whether or not you are a civics dork, one way to tell is if a news day like today has you grinning from ear to ear at the sheer exciting, unprecedented chaos of it all.

Another way to tell if you`re a civics dork is by closely monitoring the feeling that you have when you receive something like this in your mailbox. Now, most people when they get summon to jury duty, they get bummed out, they start complaining, they start thinking about ways to get out of it, but a true civics dork sees something like this in their mailbox, and this is basically up there with like an unexpected tax refund or an unsolicited box of chocolates from your ex who you secretly still have a thing for.

This is very exciting. If you are a true civics dork, getting invited to jury duty is cause for much excitement, even celebration.

See, for example, the reaction to getting called for jury duty that we got from Missouri`s Democratic U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill. Shortly after 9:00 yesterday morning, Senator McCaskill started tweeting her experiences and her excitement about being called up for jury duty in Missouri. Started this one, "Yes, just reported for jury duty. On my bucket list to serve."

She said she`s hoping that she gets picked. She`s creating a suspense about how the process will go. See at the start there, "drum roll". She tweeted pictures of the jury assembly room and her group number she got on her little badge. You see on the lower right.

She explained how she had made a good decision in terms of where to sit in the waiting room with access to a power outlet so she could keep twitting. She counted the number of knitters in the room versus the number of people reading and whether they were reading on a screen, or reading from a book, waiting -- people waiting whether they`d be called.

She excitedly reported on a little drama in the waiting area. There was apparently some sort of dispute or at least uncertainty over what TV channel the TV in the waiting room would be set on that led her to start the hashtag, quote, "Please God, not FOX News." They ultimately decided on Comedy Central apparently. She said it was both a good decision and a bad decision.

But then there was pure excitement from Senator McCaskill. "OMG, oh my God, I got called. On my way to the courtroom. Yes!"

A little later on, she said somebody recognized her at the courthouse and basically told her she wasn`t going to get picked for the jury. She says that person told her, quote, "They don`t want lawyers." Senator McCaskill is a lawyer. She responded with that little despondent emoji. Such sad news. She wants to be picked so bad.

There was more suspense. They got dismissed for lunch apparently. And this is Senator McCaskill saying, you see the time stamp just after 1:00 p.m. "Going to seat us in the courtroom, then dismiss us for lunch. Tease." Still doesn`t know if she will get picked.

But this is true civics dorkdom, right? She`s so excited, she so wants to be on the jury. And this is kind of compelling drama at this point. This point in her Twitter feed, I wrote on Twitter in response to her in the middle of this, "Is it weird that I`m desperate to know if Claire is going to get picked for that jury?"

And Senator McCaskill responded right away, "Yes, it`s a little weird." But no worries, she says, "I will let you know." I responded. "OK. We`re all pulling for you, Senator."

But then hours went by after the lunch dismissal, remember, it was after 1:00 p.m., they got dismissed for lunch. Between 1:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m., we heard nothing from Senator Claire McCaskill, even though she`d been tweeting excitedly all day.

And then boom! Six-thirty last night, all caps. "Holy expletive. I am on the jury." She got picked. She`s so psyched.

This is heaven for any civics dork, right? But particularly for somebody like Claire McCaskill who is not just a civics dork. She`s also a lawyer. She`s a former prosecutor. She`s a Twitter enthusiast, so we get to see all these things about her.

But Senator McCaskill is also a really good politician. One of the more interesting conspiracy theories about why she got picked for that jury this week in Missouri is that she`s been a really good surrogate for Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail and so maybe these were Republican lawyers who don`t want Claire McCaskill stomping for Hillary Clinton in Iowa over the next six days before the Iowa caucuses. This is a surefire way to keep her locked down in a Missouri courtroom, at least for the duration of this now unexpectedly high profile slip and fall case involving the St. Louis convenience store. I don`t think that`s what happened.

But Claire McCaskill is a formidable politician. When Claire McCaskill was first elected to the Senate in 2006, she was running as a Democrat in the red state of Missouri. And despite those headwinds, she was able to unseat an incumbent Republican senator that year. So, then, she served her first term in the Senate, basically a centrist red state but outspoken, aggressive Democrat. Then she decided she`d run for re-election when her first term was up in 2012.

And the 2012 election was amazing. 2012 election for her Senate seat in Missouri, that was the election that brought us this epic photo series of a sitting U.S. female senator shot gunning a beer in her pajamas.

This is from the 2012 re-election race by Claire McCaskill in Missouri. In these photos, she`s settling a bet with her kids. She`s not celebrating a win in that race. That had not happened yet at the point these pictures were taken.

What she is celebrating is the results of the Republican primary in that race. She is celebrating in these pictures, who the Republican voters of Missouri chose to be their candidate to run against her for her Senate seat. And the reason she`s celebrating the results of the Republican primary that year is because her campaign spent a ton of money to basically choose her opponent. To choose who she wanted to run against in the general election for that race.

In the closing two weeks of that Republican primary in the Missouri Senate race in 2012, Democratic incumbent Senator Claire McCaskill spent more money on the Republican primary than the victorious Republican candidate spent on himself. And she did it with what was ostensibly an attack ad against him.

This is how Claire McCaskill chose her own opponent. This is how she chose the winner of the Republican Party in that Senate race this year. This was her ostensible attack ad that she ran specifically as a way to try to sway Republican primary voters.


SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: I`m Claire McCaskill and I approve this message.

AD NARRATOR: The most conservative congressman in Missouri as our senator, Todd Akin. A crusader against bigger government, Akin would completely eliminate the Departments of Education and Energy, and privatize Social Security. Todd`s pro-family agenda would outlaw many forms of contraception and Akin alone says President Obama is a complete menace to our civilization.

Todd Akin, Missouri`s true conservative is just too conservative.


MADDOW: Missouri`s true conservative.

So, technically, that was a negative ad against Todd Akin run by Senator Claire McCaskill. But, clearly, it was a negative ad that was basically begging hard core Republican primary voters to vote for the true conservative Todd Akin.

And Missouri Republican voters did just that. He became the Republican nominee and Senator McCaskill shotgunned a beer in her PJs to celebrate and her chosen opponent Todd Akin went onto inevitably to talk about legitimate rape, right, in the election campaign and say a lot of other things beside, and Claire McCaskill squashed him like a bug. She beat him by 15 points in red state Missouri, even as her state went for Mitt Romney on that same night by almost 10 points.

They put Democrat Claire McCaskill back in the Senate by a mile. The $2 million she spent to choose Todd Akin as her opponent, that was $2 million well-spent.

Well, now, today, it`s happening again. Part of the way you can tell is again Claire McCaskill`s Twitter feed. Her first post-jury duty Twitter feed -- tweet on her Twitter feed, was this last night. It says, quote, "I see you Joe Ricketts. And I know exactly what you`re up to. #ToddAkin. Don`t fall for it, Iowa Democrats."

And what she links to is a "New York Times" story about a new super PAC ad being run in Iowa by a Republican donor named Joe Ricketts. Now, the Ricketts family, they have been huge supporters in this presidential race of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. The problem for the Ricketts family is that Scott Walker pooped out really early in the Republican primary.

So, the Ricketts family has a ton of money. They love to spend their money to try to help Republicans win elections. They`ve got a keen interest in this presidential election, but apparently, they don`t like any of the other Republican presidential candidates as much as they like their old guy Scott Walker.

So, what they`ve apparently to spend their money on is not choosing any one Republican candidate over any of the others. Not picking a favorite in the Republican primary, but instead, they are trying to spend their money choosing a Democratic opponent for whoever the Republican nominee is likely to be.

So, Joe`s super PAC has pulled a page from the Claire McCaskill playbook, and they have started running this ostensibly negative ad in Iowa to try to affect the Iowa Democratic primary.


AD NARRATOR: Senator Bernie Sanders has some very big plans. Bernie wants to provide free college for our young people, no tuition, completely free. Now, Bernie`s doubling down with Medicare for all, which is basically single-payer government-sponsored health care. No big insurance companies, just more government spending, paid for by raising taxes on Wall Street, big business and the super rich.

Senator Bernie Sanders, too liberal for Iowa.

ESA Fund is responsible for the content of this ad.


MADDOW: Bernie Sanders is so liberal. Free college for our young people. No more big insurance companies. Raising taxes on Wall Street, big business and the super rich.

I see what you`re doing there.

This ad is now running in Iowa. It`s a big buy. They are apparently spending $600,000 to run this ad, a gazillion times in Iowa over next six days before the Iowa caucuses.

In addition to this $600,000 TV ad buy, there`s also reportedly a substantial radio buy for this ad and a substantial online buy for this ad as well. This is ham-handed, right? It`s easy to see what they are doing. They are trying to get liberal Iowa caucus-goers to like Bernie Sanders more and vote for him.

But this is a Republican effort to influence the Democratic primary in Iowa, right? They are trying to persuade liberal Democratic Iowa caucus- goers, they ought to choose Bernie Sanders instead of Hillary Clinton, because he`s so liberal.

Apparently, these Republican donors would rather have Bernie Sanders win Iowa than Hillary Clinton. They would rather have Bernie Sanders as an opponent for whoever the Republican nominee will be in a general election.

So, it`s a fake negative ad. It`s Republican interference in the Democratic primary. It`s not quite a dirty trick. It`s like a stealth knuckle ball in politics.

I told you this is time of year when things are about to get weird. Things are getting weird. Now, in terms of the Democratic campaigns themselves, both Hillary Clinton`s campaign and Bernie Sanders have released today ads that are believed to be their final ads before the Iowa caucuses.

Now, they could always release something later but for right now, this is what we`re expecting to be their closing arguments before Iowa. And whatever you think about Republicans waiting into the Democratic race and the fake negative ad being run by the super PAC in Iowa, if you actually go to these candidate themselves, what they are each making as closing arguments is not about their opponent. It`s about themselves, it`s positive, very positive. And Hillary Clinton`s campaign, it`s a positive biographical ad. And in Bernie Sanders` case, it`s a positive and basically inspirational sum up of his platform.

Again, we think these are the two closing argument ads for Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. We think this is the last each of them is going to run before the Iowa caucuses on Monday.

Now, in terms of their closing argument to New Hampshire voters, because right after Iowa, New Hampshire is two weeks from today. What`s going to be the last word that New Hampshire voters get from Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton before New Hampshire goes to vote?

We know what their last words are in Iowa. What are the last words will be in New Hampshire? I`m glad you asked, because that is another part of politics that went absolutely nuts today.

It involves "The Union Leader" newspaper in New Hampshire. It involves me and Chuck Todd and the possibility that the Democratic candidates may decide to break down Democratic Party rules and do an illegal, unsanctioned debate that`s off the Democratic Party schedule. That is totally not allowed in Democratic Party politics, but maybe they`re going to do it anyway?

That`s part of what made today so absolutely nuts in terms of political news. Today on both the Republican side and Democratic side, candidates took steps that could basically blow up the primary process as it has been controlled by both parties.

And a lot of this is still unsettled, still breaking tonight. It turns out we are right in the middle of it. But it`s all ahead this hour.

Stay with us.


MADDOW: Did you hear late today that chuck Todd and I are going to be moderating a newly scheduled presidential debate? I heard that today too. Very exciting.

Also, I`m not sure what it all means. I`m not sure, at this point, if it`s actually happening, which is strange because it`s supposed to happen next week. Strange, exciting. Actual intrigue. We`ve got that story ahead tonight.

We`ve also got the mayor of Flint, Michigan, joining us live tonight.

We`ve got lots to come. Stay with us.


MADDOW: So, we`re going to hear in just a moment about the latest drama on the Republican side in the 2016 presidential race, which is the late- breaking news that Donald Trump, the Republican`s frontrunner is apparently planning on sitting out the next Republican presidential debate -- the one that`s scheduled for Thursday night, the last one before Iowa. He said he`s sitting it out because he does not like one of the moderators that the FOX News Channel is planning on using at that debate. We`re going to have details on that including a live report from NBC reporter who has been embedded with the Trump campaign. That`s coming up in just a moment.

But there`s also some significant drama on the Democratic side tonight, where there have been far fewer debates than the Republicans have had. The Democrats have only scheduled six debates in total for their entire primary season this year. Four of them have already happened. They`ve only got two more scheduled. One on February 11th and one on March 9th.

That sparse schedule has a source of consternation and criticism throughout the Democratic campaign, including sometimes on this hour on this show.


MADDOW: Is this lack of debates on the Democratic side and hiding them in these obscure places in the schedule, is it a big enough problem that you and the other candidates might revolt and try to at least get another one scheduled?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, look, when the Republicans do primetime debates, they get 20 million, 25 million people watching it. When we have debates, the one here in Iowa was literally on the night of a huge football game. I think it was Iowa State versus the University of Iowa, probably the worst time you could schedule a debate.

If we want to win in November, it is important that the American people hear our ideas. And debates are one way that millions of people can hear our ideas and hear the differences between the candidates. So, I think we have got to do a lot better than that.

MADDOW: I`m struck by the fact that even though the Republicans just had a debate and they`re about to have another debate before Iowa, there isn`t another Democratic debate before Iowa or before the primary in New Hampshire. Do you wish there were more debates? Are you enjoying these debates when they do happen?

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I love the debates. I really do. I feel that it gives me chance to get up on the stage and explain my positions, answer questions from the moderators, draw contrast with my opponents. So, it`s been a good experience for me so far. I think it`s helped me make my case for my candidacy.

MADDOW: Well, if you and Senator Sanders and Governor O`Malley ever decide that you want more and you don`t want to negotiate it, you can all just show up here and I`ll help.

CLINTON: We did have that great forum that you moderated.

MADDOW: In South Carolina. That`s right.

CLINTON: Yes, that got a lot of good response. So, we sure have enough attention to this campaign. So, I hope whatever the format is for getting us before the voters, it will encourage more people to come out and caucus and vote in the primary.

MADDOW: Given that you feel like Southern states aren`t getting their due from the Democratic Party, given that you feel like the Democratic Party screwed up in the way they scheduled the debates, given that you said from the beginning that there ought to be more of these debates, I feel like the candidates are sort of more important than the party is. Do you and Governor O`Malley and Secretary Clinton, do you envisage the three of you getting together and telling the party to stuff it and doing it the way all three of you articulate you`d rather do it?

SANDERS: Well, count me in as one person, you know, if Secretary Clinton and Governor O`Malley want to do it, I`m there. I love debates. I think they are way to inform the American people about positions and our differences. So, I think that is a great idea.

So, I`m in. If the other candidates are in, you count me in.

MADDOW: I`m never the one who starts these things but I feel like I may be starting something here.


MADDOW: Apparently, we were starting something there.

All right. Here`s what happened today, "The Union Leader" newspaper in New Hampshire, biggest newspaper in New Hampshire, has been seriously advocating that there ought to be a Democratic debate before the New Hampshire primary this year. Every year, there`s been a contested Democratic primary going back to 1984.

There`s apparently been a debate right before the New Hampshire primary. This is the first year that hasn`t happened since 1984. Today, "The Union Leader" announced that they are planning on hosting an unsanctioned Democratic Party debate right before the New Hampshire primary next Thursday night, February 4th.

"The Union Leader" has asked MSNBC to be their media partner. MSNBC has said that Chuck Todd and I will participate in the debate. We will moderate. Now, it`s a question of figuring out if the candidates will come.

So, the Democratic Party doesn`t want to do this. The Democratic Party says six is enough. They say they will not sanction anymore debates until after the New Hampshire primary. They had said that before the primary process started, that any candidate who participated in a non-sanctioned debate would forfeit the ability to participate in any of the further sanctioned events.

But again, there`s not that many further sanctioned events. There`s only two more debates scheduled altogether. What are they going to do, hold the debates without any candidates there because the candidates all decided to debate in New Hampshire?

Well, this is what the campaigns have said since "The Union Leader" made their announcement. Martin O`Malley says he`s in. Quote, "We look forward to participating."

Hillary Clinton`s campaign says this, quote, "Hillary Clinton would be happy to participate in a debate in New Hampshire, if the other candidates agree, which would allow the DNC to sanction the debate."

We reach out to the Bernie Sanders campaign tonight. His communications director told us this, quote, "We will be working with the DNC and other campaigns to schedule additional debates."

So, wait a minute. Does that mean we`re having a debate next Thursday or not?

"The New York Times" is reporting tonight that Sanders campaign is saying that he will not participate in the unsanctioned MSNBC/"New Hampshire Union Leader" debate because it could risk him being denied participation in future debates. The DNC tonight, again, says they will not sanction that debate. They will not sanction anymore debates until New Hampshire is over. They`ve said explicitly they won`t sanction until after New Hampshire.

But who holds the cards here, the candidates or the party? At this point, the DNC says they won`t sanction. The candidates all say that will be happy to do it if the Democratic Party sanctions it. Why won`t the Democratic Party sanction it?

And what happens if they don`t and all the Democrats do it any way? Are they not allow all the Democratic candidates to participate in any further debates? Who does that serve?

So, Maybe Chuck Todd and I are moderating a debate with "The Union Leader" next week in New Hampshire. Maybe we`re not.

But, honestly, if you`re a politics junkie and you can stand a little ambiguity, a little uncertainty in your timeline, this year is the best of all years. This is the best of all times.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Anything else that you want to add about Trump? Do you see an endorsement coming very soon from you?

DR. DAVID DUKE: Well, I have not endorsed him. As far as what I see, according to the candidates that are out there now, Republicans and Democrats, I think he`s head and shoulders right now above the rest.

I don`t agree with everything he says. He speaks a little more -- actually, he speaks a lot more radically than I talk. I think that`s a positive and negative.


MADDOW: Former Ku Klux Klan wizard David Duke excited about Donald Trump`s presidential campaign, although the former Klan leader says sometimes Mr. Trump is a little over the top in the way he speaks compared to David Duke. That all but endorsement was soon followed by this robocall which went out on Mr. Trump`s behalf from another corner of the white supremacist movement.


JARED TAYLOR: I`m Jared Taylor with American Renaissance. I urge you to vote for Donald Trump because he is the one candidate who points out that we should accept immigrants who are good for America. We don`t need Muslims. We need smart, well-educated white people who will assimilate to our culture. Vote Trump.

WILLIAM JOHNSON: I am William Johnson, a farmer and a white nationalist. Support Donald Trump.


MADDOW: That robocall went out on behalf of Donald Trump in Iowa a couple of weeks ago. The ad was not authorized by Mr. Trump or paid for by him. But whether or not Mr. Trump likes it, the white supremacists of our country have really chosen him as their guy this year.

And today, we got the latest twist on that windy little road.


STATE SEN. JAKE KNOTTS, JR. (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: In the next three days, find out that her daddy wears a turban around Lexington and her mama wears a ruby between her head and she is a sheik and trying to be a Methodist and gets to Greenville around the Bob Jones University people, they`re not going to like that. With Pat Robinson sending out that e-mail, people need to look at that. We got a -- we got a rag head in Washington. We don`t need a rag head in the state house.


MADDOW: South Carolina Republican State Senator Jake Knotts speaking in 2010, talking about then-Republican candidate for South Carolina governor, Nikki Haley. State Senator Knotts did not remain a state senator for long after that tape saw the light of day. But now, he`s back in the public eye, because now, he is announcing his pick for the Republican nomination. Guess who he likes?

Not only is the "we don`t need a rag head in the state house" guy endorsing Donald Trump for president, he`s also scheduled to appear on stage with Mr. Trump at a campaign rally in South Carolina tomorrow afternoon.

Mr. Trump today also got a much hyped endorsement from Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona. Sheriff Joe was found guilty of racial profiling against Latinos in 2013. Mr. Trump today said Sheriff Arpaio`s endorsement, quote, "means a lot to me."

And despite the beltway certainty that Ted Cruz has locked up all the high profile evangelical endorsements in the country, today, Donald Trump was also endorsed by Jerry Falwell Jr. from Liberty University. Jerry Falwell Jr. said that Mr. Trump reminds him of his dad, the late televangelist.

Things are weird in the world of Donald Trump for president these days. But whatever you think of how he is doing it, he is doing it. He`s winning that race. He`s up by 16 points nationwide in the new "Washington Post" poll. He`s up by 22 points in a new CNN national poll.

Iowa was once a Ted Cruz stronghold, but Donald Trump is winning in Iowa in four out of last five polls there, including the new one out today from Quinnipiac, which is close, but Donald Trump is leading Ted Cruz by two.

In the latest New Hampshire polling for "The Boston Herald", it`s not close at all. He`s ahead by a whopping 19-point margin in New Hampshire. And when you`re that far ahead, maybe that means you have the luxury to blow up the process.

This was Mr. Trump tonight saying he`s not or at least he`s probably not going to attend the next Republican debate. This will be the last Republican debate before Iowa. It`s supposed to happen this upcoming Thursday, a day after tomorrow. He says he might not do it because he doesn`t like one of the moderators who the FOX News Channel has chosen for that debate.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, FOX is playing games. Yes. FOX is going to make a fortune. I told FOX you should give money to the Wounded Warriors. I`m not a fan of Megyn Kelly. I think she`s a third rate reporter. I think she frankly is not good at what she does, and I think they could do a lot better than Megyn Kelly. And so, I`m going to be making a decision with FOX, but I probably won`t bother doing the debate.

I see they picked me as number one. Not only number one, number one by far. But probably, I won`t be doing the debate. I`m going to have something else in Iowa. We`ll do something where we raise money for the veterans and the Wounded Warriors. We`re going to do something simultaneously with the debate, but most likely, I`m not going to do the debate.

I didn`t like the fact they sent out press releases toying, talking about Putin and playing games. I don`t know what games Roger Ailes is playing, but what`s wrong over there? Something`s wrong.

When they sent out that press release talking about, I said what are these people playing games? So, most likely, I won`t be doing the debate.


MADDOW: Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump saying tonight he most likely will not participate in the next Republican debate, the last debate before Iowa. His campaign manager clarified after that statement from the candidate himself. The campaign manager said, quote, "He`s definitely not participating in the debate."

Now, this comes after Mr. Trump has been complaining for days about the inclusion of FOX News hosts Megyn Kelly as one of the debate`s moderators. He even posted a poll online asking his supporters if he should participate in the debate.

That led the FOX News Channel to put out one of their patented PR department statements, quote, "We learned from a secret back channel that the ayatollah and Putin intend to treat Donald Trump unfairly when they meet with him if he becomes president. A nefarious source sells us that Trump has his own secret plan to replace the cabinet with his Twitter followers to see if he should even go to those meetings" -- which is hilarious in public relations sophomore year class. But it appears to have backfired in the real world, in national politics.

And now, Mr. Trump is not going to be in the FOX News debate. And at this late date in the last week before Iowa, with Iowa looking like it`s really close, what effect is going to have on the race for him to sit out the debate? I mean, who knows what effect that`s going to have on the race? Who knows what effect that`s going to have on whether or not people watch that debate without Donald Trump in it, particularly if he does a competing event somewhere else at the same time?

That said, we did also learn today that Rand Paul has been asked back to participate in the debate this time from the main stage and we learned today from FOX News that Jim Gilmore has been invited back to be at the kids table again.

So, maybe Donald Trump doesn`t matter at all. Maybe America will tune in for that.

Joining us now from Marshall Town, Iowa, is NBC News political reporter Katy Tur.

Katy, thanks very much for being with us.


MADDOW: So, Mr. Trump has made his threats before. In October, he threatened to pull out of the CNBC debate unless his demands were met. He did the same thing in December for a CNN debate. Now, his campaign is saying nothing will change his mind. He`s definitely not showing up on Thursday. Do you believe him?

TUR: It seems like the campaign is much more serious about this than they`ve been in the past with their past threats. In fact, just released a statement and it says in part, "As the person who wrote `The Art of the Deal`, Mr. Trump knows a bad deal when he sees one." It goes onto say why he`s not going to be participating in this FOX News debate and he says he`s going to have, as you mentioned, an alternate event where he is going to raise money for Wounded Warriors and veterans also here in Iowa.

I think right now, we`re hearing they`re trying to find another network to compete -- to counter programming with the debate to air that special with Donald Trump. Who knows if they`re going to be able to do that?

We`ve also been reaching out to Wounded Warriors and other veteran groups, to find out if the campaign has reached out to them yet. So far, no response. It sounds like this is in the beginning planning stages. They`d just decided this spur of the moment, this afternoon.

And when I`ve spoken to the RNC, they didn`t know about this until Donald Trump announced it at this press conference. They say that basically it`s up to the campaign to decide whether or not they want to participate in this debate. But I think everyone is going to wait until tomorrow afternoon to find out if this is really something that is happening.

He has threatened the boycott FOX News in the past a number of times, but has ultimately started appearing on their show. This is different, though, Rachel. They are releasing statement. They are getting pretty serious about this one.

MADDOW: Katy, as far as I understand the party rules. We have been looking at party rules because the Democrats are considering whether or not to do an unsanctioned debate. There`s no consequences, no spelled out consequences in case a candidate decides not to show up to a debate to which he or she is invited.

That said, the mentioned from the campaign of "The Art of the Deal" and their statement about this, I wonder if it`s possible that Mr. Trump is trying to get some sort of concession out of FOX, trying to give FOX to give him something he can`t get from them in exchange for him participating on Thursday.

TUR: I think he`s playing a game of chicken with FOX. I think FOX is not necessarily the network to do that. They are not necessarily going to back down. They have backing Megyn Kelly throughout this entire campaign. This war he`s waged on Megyn Kelly over Twitter for the past seven months and in a number of campaign speeches.

So, I don`t think FOX is necessarily going to back down after this. The RNC says they will not get involved. This is not a situation like we saw with "The National Review" where they were against Donald Trump. It`s also not a situation like "The Union Leader" in New Hampshire which is also kicked out of a debate because they endorsed Chris Christie.

This is a different situation. This is about questions and about moderators. And this is not the RNC`s purview. They have said it`s up to each campaign to decide whether or not they want to participate. Obviously, they said they would like all the campaigns and the candidates to be on that stage. But if they decide they don`t want to, they`re not going to do anything about it.

MADDOW: Katy Tur, NBC News political reporter with us, with the Trump campaign right now in Iowa -- Katy, thank you very much. Really appreciate it.

TUR: Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: This is such a weird day. This is such a weird day. There`s more ahead, including some kind of big news from Flint, Michigan. Stay with us.


MADDOW: As you know, we`re going to have a show tomorrow night from Flint, Michigan. We`re doing what`s basically a town hall on the mass lead poisoning of that city and what`s going to happen next in that city because of it.

We`re going to do that tomorrow. Tonight, we`re about to speak with the mayor of Flint, Michigan. We wanted to talk to her tonight ahead of that town hall, talk to her about the situation and the city.

We found tonight that we could only get her on the phone. We couldn`t get her in front of camera because she`s been in a long meeting all day or at least all night tonight with Michigan`s governor, Rick Snyder. And it turns out, out of that meeting, there`s some big news as to what is about to happen in Michigan, what Michigan is asking for. This is a totally different scale from anything we have heard before. And that and the mayor are next.

Stay with us.


MADDOW: OK. We have some breaking news to report out of Flint, Michigan. In terms of the response to the lead poisoning crisis in Flint, President Obama, you`ll remember last week dispatched this person, Dr. Nicolle Lurie, to be on site in Flint, heading up the federal response to the mass poisoning there.

Dr. Lurie hit the ground in Flint last week, again, as the federal point person for this crisis. Late this evening, we`re getting new news of what kind of federal help she might be asked to muster and coordinate.

Governor Rick Snyder of Michigan tonight says she is requesting that the federal government provide medical care for young people in Flint. He`s going to ask Dr. Lurie`s agency, the public health service, to cover long term health care for people in Flint under the age of 21. Governor Snyder says tonight that he wants a Flint specific expansion of Medicaid. So, that federal health insurance program will cover every young person in Flint regardless of income. He`s asking for comprehensive medical treatment for the long haul for all Flint kids because they all drank that lead poisoned water because of what his administration did.

Now, that is apparently request coming from the state of Michigan. We have not heard back from the public health service on this request. But this is new. What Michigan Governor Rick Snyder is asking for from the federal government, long term help, medical help for people who live in Flint and especially long term help for Flint`s kids.

Joining us now is the mayor of Flint, Michigan. I`m told that Mayor Karen Weaver is on the phone with us and not in front of a camera because she just got out of a long meeting with Governor Rick Snyder on this very subject.

Mayor Weaver, thank you so much for being with us. Thanks for joining us.

KAREN WEAVER, MAYOR OF FLINT, MI (via telephone): Thank you. And I apologize I couldn`t be there in person. But we just finished up.

MADDOW: Well, can you tell us about what happened in this meeting. What you understand to be the current state of the governor`s request for federal help and the next steps for Flint?

WEAVER: You know what, let me say this, I had the opportunity to not only have this meeting with him but I was always in the meeting when our national state and local president sat down from the NAACP sat down and put some requests in place as well. But one of the things when you were talking about, the medical help that is going to be coming for Medicaid to be expanding.

You know, those are things we have wanted. We know we have to get the kids identified to know what they need. These are really good first steps. We still have to put the services in place they will need from here on out. That`s what we have to look at as well.

We still have to have a com comprehensive set of services for kids and families. But I was really pleased with this first step. I will be meeting with Dr. Lurie. I just got back in town early this morning. I was in the snowstorm. I have not had the opportunity to sit down with her a second time.

But that`s what we want to look at is how do we extend all these kinds of services for kids. You know, we want to look at other services. We want to look at extending WIC. We want to look at extending Head Start, those kinds of things as well. So, that`s what we`re drying to put in place.

The other thing that the governor talked about is, you know, I`ve been saying that the $28 million isn`t enough. The governor said he recognizes that as well. That was another up with of his first steps.

Now, the budget is going to be put in place probably within the month and so, what I`m working on now with my team is getting some figures to him, because we`re doing another ask. We need some more money. I just want it to be very clear with him this is what we need to have happened next.

He has given some first steps that we are in favor of, we appreciate, but we know we need more, because some of the other things we have to look here in the city of Flint is what`s happening to our economy as a result of this water. You know, our economy has gone down.

Our businesses have gone down. People aren`t coming into certain, to restaurants. People can`t afford filtration systems for restaurants. Businesses will leave here.

So, we are also putting an economic development plan in place for the city of Flint, in addition, to the services a and support the kids and families will need. So, we have to look at other things because Flint has been impacted in so many ways as a result of what`s happened.

MADDOW: Mayor Weaver, in terms of recovery of Flint, I`m very moved by what you`re saying in terms of supporting kids and supporting their families in terms of kids that have been exposed. I`m also thinking about the risk of continued exposure. We see all that bottled water being brought in to Flint and that is great and in many cases, it`s heart warming to see those donations, but you can`t indefinitely run a city of 100,000 people where everything has to be done with water in plastic bottles.

So, what about the -- what about the pipes? What about the lead pipes that were ruined in the city?

WEAVER: Exactly, because we`ve -- I`m sorry. We`ve got to get started on those lead service lines. That was one of the other things. So, maybe I neglected to say that.

We`ve got to get working on that. We know it`s a difficult time because it`s winter right now and there are parts of the ground that are frozen, but that`s one of our priorities. We`ve got to get that going, because you`re absolutely right. We don`t any when this film will build back up. We cannot survive on bottled water for an extended period of time.

MADDOW: Karen Weaver, mayor of Flint, Michigan -- Mayor, thank you for your time tonight, especially when you are so busy and doing what you`re doing for your city and I know we`re going to see you tomorrow night at our town hall in Flint. I really appreciate it.

WEAVER: We are looking forward to it. We appreciate you as well.

MADDOW: Not nearly as much as I`m looking forward to it, ma`am. Thank you. I`ll see you then. Thank you.

WEAVER: Thank you.

MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.


MADDOW: (AUDIO GAP) Rachel Maddow have such an unnatural obsession with Governor LePage? Her fixation on him is kind of bizarre. Quote, "Does Rachel have ties to Maine. If not, what is her weird fascination with him?" Quote, "What`s with Maddow`s obsession with the governor?"

That verbatim is what the office of the Governor Paul LePage of Maine has been willing to tell us over the past week or so when we have repeatedly inquired as to whether or not Governor LePage was going to give his state of the state speech in amine this year.

The reason we were asking is because Governor LePage had threatened not to give that speech this year because the legislator had recently debated whether or not they were going to impeach him. He was so offended by that debate over his potential impeachment that he said he might mail the speech into the legislator instead of actually showing up in person and delivering it.

The governor`s office basically called me a nut job for even asking if he had made up his mind about that issue. And we were -- that`s how far we were in the story as of this time last night. But now, today, Governor LePage has apparently made up his mind. This closely guarded secret about whether or not he`s going to give the state of the state in person, it`s now been let out.


GOV. PAUL LEPAGE (R), MAINE: The truth is I`m going do to do a state of the state in writing so people can`t change my words.

HOST: OK. So, you will not do a live state of the state and you will send a letter to the legislature?

LEPAGE: Right. It makes so sense. Last week they tried to impeach me. This week, they`re throwing rotten tomatoes in front of me. Why would I go stand in front of them for an hour and a half?


MADDOW: So just to be clear, the governor is going do the state of the state address in main this year in writing, quote, "so people can`t change my words," because he thinks people change his words when he speaks them, but not when he writes them.

I haven`t really been obsessed unnaturally with the governor of Maine, but I`m starting to be. I`m starting to be.


MADDOW: So as you have heard tomorrow night we`re going to be broadcasting the show from Flint, Michigan. We`re going to be hosting a town hall there on the water crisis, on this American disaster in Flint created when the state government lead poisoned that whole town.

We`re going to be holding the town hall at an elementary school in Flint called the Holmes STEM Academy.

We`re going to do it in the school gym. We`re being advised that apparently the event is going to be packed.

We`re also starting to hear about people throwing watch parties for the event like this one at Luigi`s Restaurant and Pizzeria in Flint which is going to be hosted by the Michigan State Senator Jim Ananich. It`s going to include free pizza and salad and soft drinks and naturally bottled water.

We have heard about another one being held tomorrow night in Ann Arbor, another watch party there. If there are other watch parties you guys are planning on doing for the Flint town hall, let us know by email. You just e-mail them to us at

At the town hall, of course, we`re going to be discussing what happened in Flint, why and how it happened, and most importantly, I was just discussing with the mayor, we`re going to be talking about what needs to happen right now to fix this. I think there`s been a misconception in the country that because there`s a lot of attention to Flint, that that means it`s kind of over or it`s done or it`s being attended to. That`s not necessarily the case.

But tomorrow night, we`re going to be joined by many of the people central to the story of what has happened in Flint and elected officials like Flint Mayor Karen Weaver, local champions like Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, who`s the doctor who first exposed the elevated lead levels in the blood of Flint`s kids. But most importantly, the people who are going to be there tomorrow in bulk are the people of Flint, people who of knew immediately there was something wrong with their water, despite authorities assuring them for over a year that their water was not safe, people who spoke out when nobody would listen, and people who today despite all the national attention, as far as we can tell, at least, they`re still not getting the help they need.

We have invited Michigan Governor Rick Snyder to attend tomorrow`s event. As of this evening, he hasn`t said one way or the other. Hope springs eternal.

That`s all tomorrow night, 9:00 right here. We hope you can join us and possibly your neighbors at a watch party near you.

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


Good evening, Lawrence.