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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 2/17/2016

Guests: Karen Weaver

Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: February 17, 2016 Guest: Karen Weaver

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening. Happy Wednesday. Thanks for joining us this evening.

When Jeb Bush first announced that he was running for president of the United States, there was an unexpected moment right after he said he was running when he ended up making an exciting and I`m pretty sure unscripted animal noise.


JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m a candidate for president of the United States of America.




MADDOW: Whoo! Jeb Bush went whoo right after he announced that he was running for president of the United States last year. And that was the first sign of what has ended up being an unexpected pleasure in covering his campaign for president.

Without warning and for all sorts of different reasons on all sorts of different occasions, he makes unusual noises and he makes them a lot.


BUSH: The Twitter universe, there`s some heads exploding right now. I can feel it like doo, doo, doo --

Politically we`re going to win when we`re hopeful and optimistic and big and broad rather than, grrr or grrrr.

REPORTER: Speaking of which, you know, the whispering campaign has already started that Bush is falling apart, he may not even --

BUSH: Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

REPORTER: You know what they`re saying out there.

BUSH: That`s my answer, blah, blah, blah.


MADDOW: Nothing else in this presidential campaign is turning out the way people expected it to. The Jeb Bush campaign is certainly not working out the way people expected it to. But it has become one of the expected things about the Jeb Bush for president campaign that every couple of weeks or so, he unveils a new noise. And today, bingo.


BUSH: I wish we could actually have that argument on a debate stage instead of rararah, rararah, rararah.


MADDOW: This is the new one from Jeb Bush and he did it twice.


BUSH: Rararah, rararah, rararah.


MADDOW: This is Jeb Bush`s new noise. He has just unveiled it in the context of complaining about what it is like to debate Donald Trump.


BUSH: He doesn`t stop talking. And I actually saw tapes, he just starts - - I mean, it`s not what he says, it`s just the fact that he says it louder and louder and louder and you just have to keep talking through it. It`s not a skill set I ever envisioned being necessary to aspire to the presidency of the United States. But I`ve gotten better at it. Rarararararah.


MADDOW: Jeb Bush in South Carolina complaining about the Republican presidential front-runner, Donald Trump, but doing it obviously with good cheer.

Later, though, candidate Jeb Bush`s mood had darkened considerably when he tried what I think was supposed to be a little gallows humor on a crowd in Somerville, South Carolina.


BUSH: I know how to beat Hillary Clinton. I know how to win and I ask for your support on Saturday. It`s all been decided, apparently. The pundits have made it all -- it`s all decided. We don`t have to go vote, I guess, it`s all finished. I should stop campaigning maybe, huh? It`s all done.


MADDOW: Jeb Bush today in South Carolina making a point to that town hall audience, but clearly kind of just needing a hug, you know.

Mr. Bush is running fourth in South Carolina in a new poll out tonight from Bloomberg. He`s running fifth in a new poll out from Monmouth. The Monmouth poll is probably particular low troubling for the Bush campaign. It shows him not just in fifth place out of six but only has 8 percent of the vote. That means he`s only one point ahead of the guy who was dead last.

And, you know, maybe a result like that would not be fatal, especially if you have a lot of money like Jeb Bush does. A fifth place finish should not be inherently fatal for any candidacy, but it might be if that fifth place finish indicates that you have underperformed even your own expectations for how you were going to do in that race.

That is what we saw happen with the death of Chris Christie`s campaign after New Hampshire, right? In New Hampshire, Chris Christie basically ended his own campaign by his own error of prognostication and it didn`t have to happen that way. Chris Christie had some money, maybe had some prospects in states down the road. But in New Hampshire he made the mistake of explicitly, publicly setting expectations for how he would do in New Hampshire.

Honestly, that is just something a candidate should never do.


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: What you do on Tuesday is going to narrow this field and you`re going to decide who the other 48 states gets to pick from. We started with 17, we`re down to eight. And you`ll probably get it down to three or four or five.


MADDOW: Going to be three or four or five candidates left.

It`s fine to say that if you know you`re going to go on in New Hampshire to place in the top three or four or five. But if you have just said the field is going to shrink to five candidates and then, like Chris Christie did, you place sixth in New Hampshire, you have just opened an exit door for yourself that you then basically must walk through.

And so, Chris Christie said there`s only going to be five people left after New Hampshire, he didn`t make the top five and now he`s no longer on the campaign trail. He`s home today in New Jersey having just given his budget address to the state legislature, back to his old job.

There`s no particular result in any one state that should force any particular candidate to quit, unless that candidate has been dumb enough to make his or her own public prognostication for how they`re going to do and then they fail to meet that own stated expectation.

And a candidate like John Kasich, whatever else you think about Kasich`s campaign, he at least has this figured out. Here`s John Kasich today. This is perfect. This is how you build appropriate expectations for how, John Kasich, are going to do in a state like South Carolina.


GOV. JOHN KASICH (R-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hopefully, we`ll do better than what`s expected here because I don`t think people expected me to do squat, and I think we`ll do better than squat, but we`ll see.


MADDOW: Right. That`s how you do it. That`s setting yourself up for success, because better than squat. I mean, John Kasich has defined success, if he gets squat plus one. If he gets one vote in South Carolina, he`s doing better than expected and he`s still in. Doing better than everybody thought he would.

This is why I think it`s fair to say that Jeb Bush is bad at his job. His job is running for president right now. He`s not good at running for president.

Even compared to the other candidates who are not doing great and are likely not to get the nomination, it just repeatedly feels like Governor Bush doesn`t know the basics. I mean, you compare what John Kasich just said about how he`s going to try to get not zero in South Carolina. Compare that to what Jeb Bush has said now about how he`s going to do in South Carolina.


INTERVIEWER: Let me ask you about your quest for the presidency. You finished sixth in Iowa, you finished fourth in New Hampshire, you`re now running fifth in South Carolina. When do you have to start winning?

BUSH: Well, I think we`ll do better than fifth here. I`m really excited about the progress we`re making.


MADDOW: Jeb Bush saying publicly ahead of the South Carolina vote that he`ll do better than fifth in South Carolina. That`s the expectation he has now publicly set for how he will finish, better than fifth. He`s currently fifth in most polls, fourth in one that came out today.

I mean, if you`re fifth place in the polls or even fourth place in the polls three days out from the contest, don`t say you have to do fourth or better in the contest or your campaign is dead. Ask Chris Christie, it`s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Just campaign malpractice for the Jeb Bush campaign to allow their candidate to say things like that.

He`s opening a door he will have to walk through that leads off the stage, out of the theater and into the cold if he doesn`t do what he just said he`s going to have to do. He just appears to have all the wrong instincts.

Similarly, this will go down in political campaigning textbooks as something a candidate should never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever say about an endorsement that that candidate does not yet have.


INTERVIEWER: How important is Nikki Haley`s endorsement in this race? She said she`s considering you or Marco Rubio?

BUSH: She is probably the most meaningful endorsement, if she`s going to give an endorsement, it would be the most powerful, meaningful one.

INTERVIEWER: If you don`t get it, what message does it send?

BUSH: It sends a signal that I`ve got to work harder.


MADDOW: Today, naturally one day after Jeb Bush called her endorsement the most powerful and meaningful one in the state and says if he doesn`t get that endorsement, that would be a very bad sign for his campaign, it would show he has to start working a lot harder, naturally today, Nikki Haley did not endorse Jeb Bush but instead endorsed Marco Rubio.

In terms of the impact of that endorsement, it may end up being important for Marco Rubio as he tries to get some traction in South Carolina. It may, it may not. Didn`t do much for Mitt Romney when Nikki Haley endorsed him in 2012 and went on to vote for Newt Gingrich of all people in the South Carolina primary that year. Newt Gingrich who disappeared on the campaign trail immediately thereafter.

So, the effect on the Marco Rubio candidacy being endorsed by Nikki Haley, that effect has yet to be seen for Mr. Rubio. But for Mr. Bush, this is a self-inflicted stab wound with a rusty knife.

I mean, Mr. Bush not only sought Nikki Haley`s endorsement, he reportedly had his brother and his father actively seek that endorsement from Nikki Haley for him. He said he was desperate for her endorsement, that her decision about who endorse would be very consequential, would be the most powerful, the most meaningful endorsement in the state. He said it would be bad news for him if he didn`t get that endorsement and then, of course, he didn`t get it.

And so, when Jeb Bush ultimately does get out of the race -- I mean, I shouldn`t say that. Who knows? Maybe he will pull off an upset victory and he will be the Republican nomination. That`s starting to look impossible, not just unlikely.

But let`s say if and when Jeb Bush does get out of the race, there is going to be a majestic symphony of noise from the beltway all wondering why he didn`t catch fire. What was different this year about the Republican electorate that they didn`t pick a guy they were expected to pick like Jeb Bush? What does this say about Republican voters and the Republican mind?

Let the record show that aside from the Republican mind and all the rest of it, Jeb Bush isn`t very good at running for president. Just the basics of what it takes to be a candidate. He may really, really want it but he does not appear to be wired to get anywhere near the nomination.

So, that news about the Nikki Haley endorsement today in South Carolina, it is a big deal, right? Particularly for Jeb Bush, maybe for Marco Rubio. It capped what ended up being kind of an emotional and at times surprising day on the campaign trail today.

There was news today that Ted Cruz`s campaign is now threatening South Carolina TV stations with cease and desist letters for super PAC ads that those stations have been running against Ted Cruz. There was news today that the Marco Rubio campaign has started running robocalls in South Carolina that accuse Ted Cruz of running other robocalls in South Carolina. Ooh!

Ted Cruz made a long, angry screed out of a public appearance today in which he spent 30 straight minutes ripping Marco Rubio and ripping Donald Trump and calling them both liars. This kind of remarkable and emotional performance today from Mr. Cruz included him reading to the assembled audience a letter that he said he just received from Donald Trump`s lawyers threatening to sue him.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: A letter concludes by threatening that if we will not pull down the ad, that Mr. Trump will seek immediate legal action to prevent the continued broadcast of this ad and to hold me jointly and severally liable to the fullest extent of the law for any damages resulting therefrom.

You know, I have to say to Mr. Trump, you have been threatening frivolous lawsuits for your entire adult life. Even in the annals of frivolous lawsuits, this takes the cake.

So, Donald, I would encourage you, if you want to file a lawsuit challenging this ad claiming it is defamation, file the lawsuit. I look forward to any lawsuit.

And let me note, by the way, one of the things I look forward to most of all is deposing Donald Trump. For that particular endeavor, I may well not use outside counsel, I may take the deposition myself.


MADDOW: Oh, he`ll take the deposition himself. Kapow!

And because this is what the Republican campaign is like now, Mr. Trump responded to Ted Cruz in a statement saying, quote, "he is a liar."

"He is a liar and these ads and statements made by Cruz are clearly watching his campaign go up in flames. Finally explains Cruz`s logo."

For the record, this is the Ted Cruz logo. It`s actually kind of funny.

Mr. Trump`s statement continues, "If I want to bring a lawsuit, it would be legitimate. Likewise, if I want to bring a lawsuit regarding Senator Cruz being a natural born Canadian, I will do so. Time will tell, Teddy," end quote. Teddy.

Behold, the Republican Party`s contest to put forward their best choice for president of the United States, leader of the free world and commander in chief of the largest military the world has ever known. Teddy.

Now, in terms of what Mr. Trump said about Ted Cruz`s campaign going up in flames and this just being a desperate attack from Senator Cruz because Senator Cruz is now so worried about how bad he is losing to Donald Trump, there is a little bit of a point to that. In the latest South Carolina polling, that Bloomberg poll has Donald Trump winning in South Carolina by a mile, ahead of Ted Cruz by 19 points.

The Monmouth poll just in South Carolina also has Mr. Trump out by a mile, leading Ted Cruz by 16 points. Nationally, the picture is also stark. In a "USA Today"/Suffolk poll that`s just out today nationwide, Donald Trump has a 15-point lead over Senator Cruz.

In the new national Quinnipiac poll that`s out on the Republican side, Mr. Trump has a 20-point lead over Ted Cruz. He`s at 38 percent support in the new Quinnipiac poll. And that`s the highest level of support Mr. Trump has had nationwide throughout this entire campaign in that poll.

That led to this sort of devastating headline from the Quinnipiac folks today. Trump surges to a 2-1 lead among Republicans nationwide. He`s just lapping the field.

So, whatever you think about this junior high level fight between Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, when Donald Trump says neener neener, doesn`t matter, I`m still beating you in the polls and you`ve just mad about it -- he does have him in term of beating him in the polls, or at least he did until 5:00 in the NBC/"Wall Street Journal" national poll came out, and, hey, look, look, look at that. That`s something you don`t see every day.

Donald Trump no longer leading. Donald Trump trailing Ted Cruz nationwide by two points. This is the first time that Ted Cruz, I think, has ever led in a national poll.

Since Mr. Trump got into the race last summer, I did a count today based on the polls that are listed at This is not a purely scientific survey of polls but they keep a pretty good running tally of all the polls as they come out. So, using their metric, there have been roughly 72 national polls on the Republican side since Donald Trump declared. Donald Trump, of those 72 polls, has been leading in 68 of the 72.

The only person who led any other time in this race before today was Ben Carson, who by the way stopped doing that around Halloween and has basically disappeared from the race ever since and is fighting with Jeb Bush for last place in the race right now.

So, I mean, maybe this NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll will turn out to be some sort of crazy outlier. I don`t know, time will tell. It`s a really good poll. It is weird to see Donald Trump leading by 15, leading by 20 and losing by two in the last two national polls out over just a couple of days.

But maybe the race just turned around on a dime. Who knows? In this race, weirder things have happened.


CRUZ: Now, I do have for you guys a bit of breaking news. Just a few minutes ago NBC and "The Wall Street Journal" announced a new national poll. And for the first time in many months, there`s a new national front- runner on the Republican side.


According to NBC and "The Wall Street Journal", nationally, we`re in first place with 28 percent.


In second place is Donald Trump with 26 percent. And then the next closest candidate is way down at 17 percent.

So, the sound you`re hearing is the sound of screams coming from Washington, D.C.


MADDOW: There may be screams coming from Washington, D.C., but they may be coming from all over. At this point in the race, I wouldn`t limit anything. We`ll be right back.


BUSH: Do, doo, doo. Whoo! Arrr, arrrr. Blah, blah, blah, blah. Blah, blah, blah. Rararah, rararah. Rararararah.



MADDOW: Big show ahead tonight. We`ve got some news to break on the show tonight on the Supreme Court vacancy that`s opened up because of the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. We`ve got some exclusive news on that story, ahead.

Plus, we`ve got news from the nerves of steel mayor in the America`s number one lead poisoned city.

Plus, we`ve got a big announcement about Vice President Joe Biden.

There`s lots ahead this hour. Please stay with us.


MADDOW: So, last night, we told you about a new project we`re working on. It`s our attempt here to flesh out some of the surprisingly elusive details about the Hillary Clinton versus Bernie Sanders race on the Democratic side of the presidential contest.

Despite all the punditry and all the jibber jabber about this race in the press, there`s very little hard data reported about the strengths of the Clinton and Sanders operations, particularly when you get beyond Nevada and South Carolina.

If you`re wondering who`s going to win that race, it would be helpful to know how strong those campaigns are after Nevada and South Carolina. We`re fairly certain that the race between these two will go on past Nevada and South Carolina. Neither candidate is expected to drop out no matter how they do in these next two states.

That means the next stage, potentially the definitive stage for deciding the Democratic presidential nominee this year is going to happen on March 1st and the 11 states that all vote that day.

So, we`ve been looking at the strength of the campaigns in those states. What we found thus far is that despite the beltway narrative that Super Tuesday is a strong Hillary Clinton firewall, despite the big polling lead she`s held in many of the states that vote on March 1st, we`ve found the Bernie Sanders campaign has a surprisingly strong ground game in lots of March 1st states.

As we first reported last night, Senator Sanders` campaign was first on the ground to open up campaign offices in Texas and in Alabama and in Tennessee and in Virginia.

Well, today we got new polling of those states. PPP, which is a Democratic-leaning firm with a very good reputation, they polled the nine states which are going to hold primaries on March 1st. There are two other states, Colorado and Minnesota, that are going to hold caucuses. They didn`t poll those states. Caucuses are notoriously hard to poll for.

But these big sweet of nine PPP polling results shows an interesting race. The broad strokes are that Secretary Clinton is leading in a lot of southern states. PPP finds Hillary Clinton maintaining double-digit leads in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia, up by double digits, in some cases by a lot of double digits in those states.

Speaking of up by a lot, though. Check out Bernie Sanders` lead in his home state of Vermont. It`s not that he`s got 76 percent of the vote, he has a 76-point lead in Vermont. That`s nuts. It`s nice to be a hero in your own hometown.

But not every state on March 1st is shaping up to be a blowout or even a distant contest. We reported last night that one of the March 1st states we could find almost no data for was Oklahoma.

Well, in the last 24 hours, we have now been able to flesh that out a little bit thanks to some good Oklahoma sources and some new reporting on the states. In ad spending, it looks like the Sanders campaign is really stepping it up in Oklahoma. They have just poured $400,000 into TV ads in Oklahoma. Bloomberg reports that the Sanders campaign is outspending the Clinton campaign in ads in the Tulsa and Oklahoma City markets by more than 2-1.

"The Tulsa World" newspaper today told us that Sanders now has six staffers in the state. He`s got four staffed offices. Hillary Clinton in contrast has just one.

So, the Sanders campaign we can now report seems to be ramping up pretty hard in Oklahoma, appears to be spending more resources and more money trying to win that state. And look at how close the state is, at least according to this new PPP poll just out today. In Oklahoma, the distance between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders is 2 percentage points, Hillary Clinton up by two.

We didn`t necessarily expect to see such a close race in Oklahoma. In 2008, Hillary Clinton beat then-Senator Barack Obama in Oklahoma by 23 points. Earlier this month, an Oklahoma poll had Hillary Clinton leading Bernie Sanders by 16 points in Oklahoma. PPP says that lead has now shrunk to just 2 points.

Look what else we learned today. The Clinton campaign has just announced that Bill Clinton will be heading to Oklahoma for a fund-raiser this Sunday. Ah, maybe it`s all a coincidence.

The other state that jumps out of the data is Massachusetts. You may remember back in December, Hillary Clinton unveiled her Massachusetts leadership team. That made a lot of national waves because the big story at the time was that Hillary Clinton had received the endorsement of the entire Massachusetts congressional delegation except for Elizabeth Warren. Notable exception. Senator Warren has endorsed no one so far in the race.

Our research shows that Senator Sanders currently has more campaign offices open in Massachusetts than the Clinton campaign does. He apparently has five staffed campaign offices in the state to Hillary Clinton`s two. Today, the Clinton campaign announced that they will be opening another four Massachusetts campaign offices this very weekend.

According to today`s PPP poll in Massachusetts, Bernie Sanders leads Hillary Clinton in the state by seven points. And that`s a big deal not just because of Massachusetts being the home of Elizabeth Warren and everybody wondering about that endorsement, it`s also a big deal because Massachusetts is the third biggest delegate haul on March 1st after Texas and Georgia.

So fascinating state of the race, right? All the more fascinating when you add actual data to the broad impressions that have otherwise driven all the political coverage of the Democratic contest. Heading into the next fight in that contest, though, the guy who seems to hold all the data about what is otherwise a black box of the Nevada caucuses, that guy joins us next.

Stay with us.


MADDOW: One of the things that has made this part of the presidential race society of exciting is that we keep hearing that it`s basically impossible to poll the Nevada caucuses, which come next to the Democratic contest. Most major polling firms won`t try to poll in Nevada because they`re pretty sure they can`t get a statistically accurate sample of who might actually turn out to go to those caucuses.

Well, CNN/ORC has now taken a stab at it and that`s exciting because they`re a real polling firm. The only other recent poll in Nevada was commissioned by a conservative website from a Republican firm that has done no other public polling and they only polled the Democratic side of the race and not the Republican side. So, that was a little fishy.

But this CNN/ORC poll, this is a real firm with a real track record. What they say is the state of the race in Nevada, they say Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, it`s a one-point race. Hillary Clinton leading 48-47.

Is that a good poll? Is that the state of the race in Nevada?

Joining us now is Jon Ralston, host of "Ralston Live", which airs statewide in Nevada on PBS, also an MSNBC political analyst.

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


MADDOW: So we got this new poll today from CNN/ORC and it shows obviously a one-point race, which is very exciting. But looking at the internals of the poll, trying to figure out if this is a real poll, it is a little weird, right?

It shows the split between them, for example, among white voters but not among nonwhite voters. It shows the split between them among women but not among men. So, there`s some holes in the data that I don`t really understand. Do you trust these numbers?

RALSTON: Well, first of all, I should say thanks for giving me the warnings. I`ve been fumbling around trying to find this key to the black box of data that I`m supposed to have, so I hope I have that for you.

Listen, you asked exactly the right questions there, Rachel. I actually asked for those figures from the pollster. I never got an answer.

Listen, it`s a very small sample. It`s 250 or so folks. They don`t even have enough in those cohorts to have the numbers in there. It shows Hillary Clinton with a slight lead. I think it`s 46-44 among white voters. There`s no racial breakdowns. We don`t know what the Hispanic breakdown is in that poll. And as you mentioned, the gender breakdowns are weird too.

So, it`s a very small sample. However, I will say, and I was on the last time you went through your extensive mockery of that "Free Beacon" poll, what`s really interesting about those two polls is they essentially showed the same thing.

MADDOW: Right.

RALSTON: What they showed is a trend. And I think whether it`s a one- point race or whether it`s a five-point race, I think both campaigns think that the race is close enough that it`s going to depend on what kind of new voters come, what the racial breakdown is on caucus day on Saturday.

The race is close, whether it`s one point or five points or six points. Both campaigns and their internal data from what I understand think it`s close.

MADDOW: And given that, given that it at least feels like it`s going to be close -- I mean one of the things that may come into play is that the Democratic Party in Nevada has not been organizing these caucuses for very long. It`s only been three cycles when the Democrats and Republicans have been doing this. In 2012, there really wasn`t a Democratic race so this will be the second time they have done this with all the pressure on them for being an early state.

Is the Nevada Democratic Party well-organized and together and putting one foot in front of the other and going to run this in a way that`s going to reduce the amount of chaos that can sometimes happen in caucuses and be inviting to a big turnout?

RALSTON: Well, they had a record turnout in 2008 and handled it very well and the Nevada`s Democratic Party is almost the opposite of the state Republican Party, which totally botched the caucus in 2012, took three days to count 33,000 votes.

So, at the risk of putting myself out there and saying I think they`re going to do a good job and then it gets screwed up on Saturday, I would say that the Democrats here really know what they`re doing. Harry Reid has put a lot on the line, first to get this early caucus here. He wants this one to go well. It`s the last one that he`ll essentially be overseeing as the Grand Poobah of Nevada. So, yes, I think so.

But, Rachel, there`s a real wild card out there. Nobody on either side really knows what the turnout is going to be. It was 120,000 in 2008. That`s what Reid had projected and so, they were ready for it.

They think it`s going to be less this time, maybe about three-quarters of that or so. But what if it`s not? What if there`s this flood of new people, that Bernie Sanders has brought in or somehow the Clinton organization has brought in.

Then they might have some problems because a caucus, of course, is fraught with a lot more peril than just having people go into a voting booth and push a button and leave.

MADDOW: Jon Ralston, host of "Ralston Live", now an MSNBC political analyst and a man who`s not allowed to sleep until late on Sunday at this point. Jon, hold it together this week, man. It`s good to have you here, thank you.

RALSTON: Well --

MADDOW: All right. We are about to break some news here tonight about that vacancy on the United States Supreme Court. This is news that we`ve got exclusively and it is straight ahead. Stay with us.


MADDOW: I`ve got some breaking news tonight on the vacancy on the United States Supreme Court. An Obama administration cabinet official who had been floated as a possible nominee for the Supreme Court seat vacated by the death of justice Antonin Scalia, the nation`s Secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, he is 58 years old, he was confirmed to the Senate by his current job. He got 78 votes when he was confirmed, 78-16. He has been suggested as a possible replacement for Justice Scalia on the nation`s highest court.

Full disclosure, I am one of the people who has suggested that Jeh Johnson might conceivably be in the running for the seat because he`s a distinguished attorney, because he was confirmed by the Senate by this large margin, because he`s well-known and well-respected in Washington both as a national security expert and as someone who is currently running one of the largest agencies of government.

Jeh Johnson`s name has been out there from the very beginning when people have talked about replacing Justice Scalia on the court. But I can report tonight that at least as far as he`s concerned, Secretary Johnson says it`s not going to happen. I have it from a reliable source today that Secretary Johnson has told friends that he has, and I quote, "better chance to be pope than to be our nation`s next Supreme Court justice." And I don`t even think he`s Catholic.

So -- and I don`t think he`s in the running to be the next pope. So, oh well, there`s that.

Secretary Johnson now joins California attorney general and U.S. Senate candidate Kamala Harris, as well as Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, in saying he`s not putting his name forward, is not seeking a seat on the Supreme Court nor does he believe he will be chosen.

Of course, as we know, it`s not really up to them. President Obama is going to nominate whoever he wants to replace Justice Antonin Scalia.

While we wait for that process to begin in earnest, we did learn some details today about what will happen in terms of the nation paying their respects to Justice Scalia. We now know that his body will lie in repose at the Supreme Court on Friday. The public will be allowed to go there to pay their respects from 10:30 a.m. until 8:00 p.m. at the court on Friday. President Obama will also pay his respects then.

Then on Saturday there will be a funeral mass said for Justice Scalia at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. President Obama will not attend the funeral on Saturday but Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, will attend that funeral.

I would love to talk with Joe Biden about his feelings about Justice Scalia`s passing. Vice President Biden once said he regretted to confirm Justice Scalia when he was in the Senate because Justice Scalia had ended up being so effective once he made it onto the court. That`s kind of an excellent compliment to give somebody.

I`d also love to ask Vice President Biden what the administration is going to do about this vacancy on the court and about Republicans` threats to hold the vacancy open for a year. I`d love to ask him about that given his absolutely pivotal role in confirming and rejecting Supreme Court nominees in the past during his time in the Senate. I would love to talk to Joe Biden of all people about that.

And apparently I will -- that and other things -- because tomorrow we are going to be doing a special edition of THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW at 8:00 p.m. Eastern instead of 9:00 p.m. Eastern, our usual time. So, I`ll be on the air an hour early. And during that special show at 8:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow, I will be interviewing Vice President Joe Biden.

Again, the interview is at 8:00 Eastern Time. That`s an hour ahead of the Telemundo/MSNBC Democratic candidates town hall, which is going to start at 9:00.

And if you`re setting your clock way ahead, we will also be do a second Rachel Maddow live at 11:00 p.m. Eastern after the town hall. Big day, very exciting. Sweating a little.


MADDOW: Take a look at this. What you`re looking at here is the line to get into Bernie Sanders` very first campaign rally in Michigan. This line was so long it took this car two and a half minutes to drive the length of the line. And these people were waiting in this line in 25-degree weather.

In the end, over 9,000 people packed into Eastern Michigan University`s convocation center this week to hear senator Sanders. He spoke for well over an hour. Talked on the Supreme Court nomination, on Wall Street, on Donald Trump. And perhaps because he was in Michigan or perhaps because it has just become part of the Democratic presidential race now, Senator Sanders at this event in Michigan talked specifically about the crisis in Flint.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, when I think about Flint and what`s happening there and people say, well, you know how much money it will cost to rebuild Flint. That`s expensive. But somehow when we talk about rebuilding Flint, Michigan, very expensive. But when we went to war in Iraq, the trillions we spent there, not a problem.


MADDOW: Bernie Sanders in Michigan on Monday of this week. Senator Sanders has consistently made Flint a campaign issue over the last few weeks. He has not personally been to Flint.

Secretary Hillary Clinton has been to Flint. She was there the weekend before last. Her daughter was there last week following up. Secretary Clinton announced an endorsement that day from a bunch of Flint ministers, following an endorsement from Flint`s mayor. And now Hillary Clinton`s campaign is asking her own supporters to donate to, which is the community health effort to support Flint children that`s associated with Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha who`s the local hero who sounded the alarm about high lead levels.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They`re saying 15 years. What are we going to do for those 15 years?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We need to continue to have the spotlight shine on this story because we need some long-term solutions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I cry like right now talking to you. I`m ready to cry, but I`m holding it in. They need to fix Flint.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need action now. This is the most important work we are ever called to do -- to reach out in every way we can to lend that helping hand for every single person in Flint.


MADDOW: They need to fix Flint. Hillary Clinton raising money for

Flint really is not fixed. I mean, for all the attention including now all the high-profile political attention, Flint isn`t fixed.

Every week now, the state is publishing test results from water samples in Flint homes. It`s not generic data. They actually post the specific addresses in Flint associated about these samples, hundreds of homes are testing way above acceptable levels. The federal cutoff for action on lead is 15 parts per billion.

Just in the last week, one house in Flint tested over 10,000 parts per billion, this past week. That`s twice the level the EPA considers to be toxic waste. That`s 700 times the level that`s supposed to set off alarm bells.

The results keep showing up. They keep showing up, home after home after home with lead levels more than ten times the federal alert level, more than 100 times the federal alert level.

And when you map out the results, which you can do because you`ve got them specifically by address. You can see it`s not little one part of the city that`s got a problem and everything else is fine. On this map, the houses are color coded for how bad the lead is in each one.

Green is relatively good. Green means lead levels are below the federal alert level of 15 parts per billion. Pink and red and darker colors, that`s showing you worse lead levels. As you can see the worst lead levels are sprayed all over the city.

If you zoom in, you can have a house with a crazy super high lead level, like this one we`ve marked here that has over 5,000 parts per billion. That`s toxic waste level lead coming out of the faucet. But, look, it`s surrounded by houses with it`s 3 parts per billion or 6 parts per billion, practically right next door.

So, the mayor of Flint ht has announced this plan, this groundbreaking, ambitious, technically interesting plan for a surprisingly cheap and doable way to get the pipes replaced in Flint so the water system can be safe again.

We reported on this plan last week. It`s a sort of thing that could start immediately. They`re ready to start. They want to start with houses that have pregnant women and kids and known super high lead levels.

This plan is ready to go. They have support for this plan from the leading water expert involved in the problem in Flint. They`ve got technical support and guidance from the city of Lansing which has replaced its own lead pipes in that city in this faster and cheaper way that Lansing invented.

And then last week, it seemed like a breakthrough. Governor Snyder came around to agreeing in principle that, yes, Flint`s pipes, okay, should be replaced and that`s a huge change of heart for him.

But then out of the blue today, Governor Rick Snyder announced that actually he`s got his own plan. The governor announced that he just hired an engineering firm to start a new study of Flint`s pipes before anybody starts replacing them.

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver made clear today that -- forgive me, that was news to her. She says the governor`s said the governor she plans to start next week on replacing the pipes with a training session for local Flint workers. They`re going to plan to remove a lead service line at a vacant property as a test run, as a way of training people on the way to replace the pipes.

In a press release just before Governor Snyder held his press conference today, Mayor Weaver said she, quote, "appreciates governor`s change of heart on removing to replace Flint`s lead pipes, but she`s not agreeing to allow the governor`s engineering firm and contractors to do the work."

Mayor Karen Weaver has shown a remarkable ability to get things done for her city through sheer force of will since she took power in the middle of this crisis. The question now is, can she really get those pipes out of the ground on her own now that we`re seeing what`s arrayed against her even now? How is she going do it?

Watch this space.


MADDOW: The mayor of Flint, Michigan, says she has a plan to replace the pipes next week. Today, Michigan`s governor said his plan is do a month of study first and the Republican-led legislator says the money the governor has promised to start replacing the pipes may be months away yet. So what happens now?

Joining us now is the mayor of Flint, Michigan, Karen Weaver.

Mayor Weaver, thank you so much for being here. I know you have a lot on your plate, ma`am.

MAYOR KAREN WEAVER (D), FLINT, MICHIGAN: Thank you. I`m glad to be here.

MADDOW: So, all the headlines in Michigan today described you and the governor as at odds over replacing the pipes. But I know you both say your goal is to get the pipes replaced.

How would you characterize your difference with the governor here?

WEAVER: Well, first of all, I don`t believe we need to continue putting these studies in place. You said today before the commercial that we`re still testing high for lead. We know we need to get started.

It will be two years in April, so we`ve been waiting. This has been a long time coming and we`ve identified those homes just like you talked about where we have the high lead levels, where we have pregnant women, where we have kids under the age of six and we need to get started removing the pipes for those homes immediately. We cannot continue to wait.

MADDOW: You know, you said today you`re planning to get this pipe replacement plan that you come up with. You`re planning to get it started next week.

Do you actually have the money to start?

WEAVER: Well, you know what, we thought we had some money to start. In fact, I was surprised by the press release that you talked about earlier that came out yesterday because that`s what we were going to do. We thought $500,000 -- half a billion dollars, let me say that. We thought that was going to be coming and it didn`t come to us.

Instead, the governor decided to put his plan in place. And I thought we would be working together. What we talked about was using the money that he had to get started and that`s where we were going to do those homes that had been identified that we talked about.

Instead, he`s put his plan in place to go ahead and get started and then do this testing. Well, what we wanted to do was to get started and while that was going on, we know we would be working with Lansing, board of water and light, we were going to be on working with our own people, we`re going to be training people and we wanted to have a vetting process for the engineering company that was going to be come in and put all of the teams together.

So, now, what we are going do is we`re going to continue to get started. I`ve talked with the board of water and light down in Lansing and they said they are still willing to help. We`re going to start the test run and if they have to come and just, you know, do two houses a day, we`re going to do one child at a time, one house at a time, but that home that was tested that you referred to earlier, we need to guarantee that child that lives in that home has clean water they can drink, and we need to get started there.

One other thing we need to do is I hope by the end of this week or the first of next week, I`m getting a phone call because right now we need some things pushed through. We cannot continue to have the state saying we`re going to wait. The federal government saying, we`re waiting for the state, and in the meantime our kids, our families in the city of Flint are still dealing with toxic water. This is unacceptable.

MADDOW: Mayor of Flint, Michigan, Karen Weaver, you have brought this to a head through your own sheer insistence that it can be done quickly. We have been documenting the way everybody else has been dragging their feet. You are not, ma`am. Thank you for helping us understand it. We will stay with this.

Thank you.

WEAVER: Thank you.

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


MADDOW: In about 95 seconds, I`m about to sprint back to my office, grab my suitcase and race for the airport, because we`ve got an exclusive interview tomorrow night with Vice President Joe Biden in Minnesota. I`m so excited, I could just about fly the plane myself. I hope no one lets me.

The interview is going to air tomorrow night at a very special time, 8:00 p.m. Eastern. It`s a special 8:00 p.m. edition of THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW, and that`s going to be right before the Telemundo and MSNBC Democratic candidates town hall, which is tomorrow night 9:00 to 11:00 p.m. Eastern with both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

It`s going to be so good. We`ll get all the sleep we need next year. I swear. You can bank it like that. We should not sleep at all in 2016.

That does it for us tonight. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".

Good evening, Lawrence.