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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 3/30/2016

Guests: Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders

Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: March 30, 2016 Guest: Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: So welcome to back-to-back front-runners night tonight here on MSNBC. Chris Matthews just hosted that town hall event in Wisconsin with the Republican Party`s front-runner, Donald Trump, and in just a moment, we`ve got my interview with the Democratic Party`s front- runner, Hillary Clinton.

Hillary Clinton was here in New York today to do this event that you see here at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. But let me just give you the peek behind the curtain here.

Let me be honest with you, show you how things go behind the scenes with these things because I think it`s going to explain a little bit about what you`re about to see. So this was Hillary Clinton`s rally today in Harlem. Big long line of people to get in to see her. People all dressed up and her name up on the marquee at the Apollo Theater. You can see in the foreground there Bernie people across the street from the theater.

Meanwhile when that was all happening, me and my crew were inside the Apollo backstage in the offices there prepping last-minute questions and research for Secretary Clinton, fact checking everything we were going to ask her and put to her.

As soon as the event ended and they cleared out that auditorium that had been so full to see her, we rushed in as fast as possible to set up the lighting and the cameras and the microphones and the chairs and the tables and the water glasses and everything on that stage.

I got seated on the stage then she got seated right after me then it`s like rush, right, everybody got your phones turned off? OK. Good. We got to go. Secretary Clinton and I kibitzed for just a teeny tiny second until everything is adjusted in terms of the lights and the sound and everything then we go, go, go. No messing around. She`s only got so much time. She`s a presidential candidate.

We do the interview. It`s fairly intense. You`re going to see it in just a moment. She ends up making news on the Supreme Court and on Bernie Sanders and on what European leaders have been privately telling her during the campaign -- and, and, and, and, and. Fascinating interview. Super intense. Then wrap, it`s over. She`s got to go.

So, whew, you know, turn on the lights, exhale. And then we all get off that stage, grab our stuff, we all turn our phones back on and, and, oh, my God, what just happened? While that was happening, we had our phones turned off. Did you guys see this?

Literally while we were taping that interview with Hillary Clinton today, Chris Matthews was simultaneously doing the part of his town hall with Donald Trump where Donald Trump started pontificating on exactly how he would like to punish women. Jail them maybe, maybe some fines. If any American woman tried to have an abortion in this country once he was president and abortion was banned.


CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Should the woman be punished for having abortion?


MATTHEWS: This is not something you can dodge. If you say abortion is a crime or murder, you have to deal with it under the law. Should abortion be punished?

TRUMP: Well, people in certain parts of the Republican party and conservative Republicans would say yes, they should be punished.

MATTHEWS: How about you?

TRUMP: I would say that it`s a very serious problem. And it`s a problem that we have to decide on. It`s very --

MATTHEWS: You`re for banning it.

TRUMP: Wait. Are you going to say put them in jail? Is that --

MATTHEWS: No, I`m asking you. You say you want to ban it. What`s that mean?

TRUMP: I am against -- I am pro-life, yes. I am pro-life.

MATTHEWS: How do you ban abortion? How do you actually do it?

TRUMP: You know, you`ll go back to a position like they had where people will, perhaps, go to illegal places.


TRUMP: But you have to ban it.

MATTHEWS: You ban it and they go to somebody who flunked out of medical school.

TRUMP: Are you Catholic?

MATTHEWS: Yes, I think --

TRUMP: How do you people about the Catholic Church`s position?

MATTHEWS: Well, I accept the teaching authority of my church on moral issues.

TRUMP: Do you know they position on abortion?


TRUMP: Do you concur?

MATTHEWS: I concur with the moral -- it`s not funny.

TRUMP: It`s really not funny. What do you say about your church?

MATTHEWS: The churches make their moral judgments but you running for president of the United States will be chief executive of the United States. Do you believe in punishment for abortion? Yes or no, as a principle?

TRUMP: The answer is thereat there has to be some form of punishment.

MATTHEWS: For the woman?

TRUMP: Yes, there has to be some form.

MATTHEWS: Ten cents, ten years? You take positions on everything else.

TRUMP: I do take positions on everything else. It`s a complicated position.

MATTHEWS: Tell me what the law should be. You say you`re pro-life.

TRUMP: I am pro-life with exception.

MATTHEWS: What`s that mean?

TRUMP: I am pro-life. I have not determined what the punishment --

MATTHEWS: Why not?

TRUMP: I haven`t determined it.

MATTHEWS: By saying you`re fro-life you want to ban abortion. How do you ban abortion with some kind of sanction? You get into the very tricky question of a sanction, a fine on human life which you call murder --

TRUMP: It will have to be a --

MATTHEWS: A fine, imprisonment for a young woman who finds herself pregnant?

TRUMP: It will have to be determined.


MADDOW: Donald Trump in that remarkable exchange with Chris Matthews there. That happened just here on MSNBC. Mr. Trump, the Republican front- runner, pontificating on how he would punish women who might dare to try to have an abortion in this country, something which he would try to ban if he was president of the United States.

Well, after that clip was released today and several varieties of heck broke out across the political spectrum, Mr. Trump ultimately changed his mind. Several hours after, he said that to Chris Matthews. He put out a statement saying he actually wants to jail or punish doctors, not necessarily women, for the crime of having an abortion.

That is not at all what he said out loud when Chris Matthews asked him about it today on camera.

Now, because this all happened while I was talking to Hillary Clinton at the Apollo Theater today and we did not know about it until after that conversation was over, I ended up -- I kid you not -- left the Apollo Theater, came back to my office then turned right back around, rushed back out again to find her again. After our interview was done because I felt like I really need to get her response to this development.

I`m not in the habit of following people back to their offices after my interview with them is over, but in this case, that`s exactly what I did and I`m glad I did it because watch this.


MADDOW: Madam Secretary, I`m not in the hasn`t of chasing people down after I`ve had the chance to speak with them for a second round, but while we were speaking today, Donald Trump made some remarks that you have had a strong reaction to and I just wanted to get your take on this.

Mr. Trump told Chris Matthews today that abortion must be banned in this country, that he thinks women will go back to illegal places to get abortions. Once it is banned, he said quote, "there has to be punishment for a woman seeking an abortion and hasn`t determined what the punishment should be."

And you said on Twitter about that just when you thought it couldn`t get worse, horrific and telling.

What do you mean by that?

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What Donald Trump said today was outrageous and dangerous, and, you know, I`m constantly just taken aback at the kinds of things that he advocates for. You know, Maya Angelo said when someone shows you who they are, believe them, and once again he has shown us who he is.

The idea that he and all the Republicans espouse that abortion should be illegal, is one that is not embraced by the vast majority of Americans in our country. And, in fact, as he pointed out, if it were illegal, then women and doctors would be criminals and this is just beyond any position taken by someone running for president in a serious way in a very long time.

And I think not only women, but men, all Americans need to understand that this kind of inflammatory, destructive rhetoric is, you know, really on the outer edges of what is permitted under our constitution. What we believe in. And people should reject it.

And women in particular must know that this right, which we have guaranteed to us under the Constitution, could be taken away and that`s why the stakes in this election couldn`t be higher.

MADDOW: He sort of walked this comment back a few hours after he made it and said that if abortion were illegal, it should be doctors who performed abortions and not women who should be punished for this. That was a change from several hours earlier in the day.

Do you find that any more acceptable?

CLINTON: No, absolutely not. He would make women and doctors criminals.

And, you know, under Roe v. Wade, there is a right, a constitutional right for women to exercise our own autonomy and decision-making over the most serious and personal health care decisions, and this is an issue that we have been arguing over for many years now. But even other candidates on the Republican side who run for office haven`t gone as far as Donald Trump has in recent years and what me said today is just among the most outrageous and dangerous statements that I`ve heard anybody running for president say in a really long time.

MADDOW: Let me just ask you one last thing about this. I spoke with your Democratic opponent, Bernie Sanders, after this happened, and he was -- he was critical of Mr. Trump`s remark, but then he also said that this is basically another Donald Trump stupid remark, that the media will cover ad nauseam as opposed to something like his position on minimum wage, or taxes, or climate change that might be more deserving of extended attention.

Do you think this was just another Donald Trump stupid comment and that the media might be making too much of this?

CLINTON: No, absolutely not. You know, I`ve been on the front lines of the fight to preserve a woman`s choice and ability to make these difficult decisions. That`s why I was endorsed by the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, why I was endorsed by NARAL, because I`ve been a leader in trying to make sure that our rights as women were not in any way eroded.

And to think this is an issue that is not deserving of reaction just demonstrates lack of appreciation for how serious this is. This goes to the heart of who we are as women, what kinds of rights and choices we have. It certainly is as important as any economic issue because when it`s all stripped away, so much of the Republican agenda is to turn the clock back on women.

Make no mistake about it, Rachel, you know, they would pretend otherwise, but whether it`s economic or health or any of the other positions they take, but this one on choice, on the right to a safe and legal abortion, which you do not have to choose, but under our law and our Constitution, you have a right to do so, for it to be both legal and safe, is under concerted attack by Republicans from Washington across our country.

That`s one of the, you know, real dangers that women in many states are facing, that their health care decisions are being basically ripped away for partisan political reasons. And Donald Trump is on the real spear point of this assault on women`s rights.

So, you know, it`s a serious matter. The press needs to cover it. The outrage should be forthcoming. And people who believe that women have just as much right to make our most personal decisions as men should be joined together to speak out and call out Donald Trump for not only what he said, but for the Republican Party that largely agrees with him even if they don`t say it exactly as he did.

MADDOW: Madam Secretary, thanks for the time. Thank you.

CLINTON: Thanks, Rachel.


MADDOW: Hillary Clinton today in New York in what ended up being one part of a two-part interview that I was able to do with her.

Now, we discussed there the Bernie Sanders reaction to Donald Trump saying that he might want to jail women for having abortions in this country. You`ll be able to see that tonight in the 10:00 hour here on MSNBC, that full-length interview with Senator Bernie Sanders is coming up next hour. You`re not going to want to miss that. He makes a lot of news.

But before we get there, first, we`ve got much more ahead from Secretary Clinton, including her expectations for the big Wisconsin primary, why she think she got clobbered in the caucuses this past weekend by Senator Sanders and what she says are her best hopes for the Republican Party. That`s all ahead.

It`s a big night here. Stay with us.


MADDOW: Do you basically look at the Republican Party in this kind of crisis and say good riddance, that party needs to be blown up, I hope they come back as something better? Or do you worry about that?




MADDOW: Madam Secretary, thank you for doing this.

CLINTON: Thank you.

MADDOW: I really appreciate it.

CLINTON: We`re live at The Apollo.

MADDOW: Live at The Apollo, which is, you know, you can kind of feel the energy here. You just had a big event here. I thought I was going to have to chase you all the way to Wisconsin to


MADDOW: -- to find you this week.

But -- I mean but that`s a strategic decision. So New York votes April 19th.


MADDOW: Wisconsin votes on Tuesday.


MADDOW: On April 5th.

CLINTON: Right. Right.

MADDOW: The Sanders campaign seems to think that they are going to win in Wisconsin.

Do you share that expectation? What do you think is going to happen?

CLINTON: Well, I`m going back to Wisconsin this weekend.


CLINTON: So I will be back in Wisconsin and I had a great day and a half there, uh, yesterday, the day before. And we`ve got a really good organization and we`re going to just keep working very hard to win every vote we can.

And I`m just committed to doing that. I know that, you know, so is Senator Sanders` campaign. And, you know, we`ll see who turns out and votes on Tuesday.

MADDOW: I -- I know that you expect to win this nomination. Do you also expect that Senator Sanders is still going to be there fighting for it at the convention?

CLINTON: Well, I think it matters, where we stand in delegates, and, frankly, in popular vote. Right now, I`m, uh, gratified that I have more votes than anybody in this election, nearly nine million. And that`s a million more than Donald Trump and it`s two and a half million more than Bernie Sanders.

And I have a delegate count that is a higher margin between me and Senator Sanders than it ever was between me and President Obama.

So I think we are on a very good path to getting the nomination, but I`m not taking anything or anyone or any place for granted. And I`m going to work really hard.

Now, I hope that if I am fortunate enough to secure the nomination, that we will come together as a party, as I did when we ended our very tough contest and I endorsed then Senator Obama.

I nominated him at our convention in Denver and worked my heart out to get him elected because that`s what I think you do when a primary is over.

MADDOW: Senator Sanders` campaign this week has suggested that if, heading into that convention, he is behind in the pledged delegates and even if he is behind in the popular vote, that he will still try to win the nomination at that convention by persuading super delegates to switch their allegiance to him at that point.

Is that a legitimate, reasonable, ethical way to try to get the nomination? Would you foreswear that sort of strategy yourself if the situation was reversed?

CLINTON: Well, l don`t understand the argument. If I have more popular votes and more delegates then I think it`s pretty clear that the people who turned out and voted, uh, chose me to be the nominee. And that`s what I would expect, uh, as I found. I`ve been on the other side of this equation.

I got slightly more in the popular vote in 2008, but not in the delegates. And so from my perspective, you know, this is about delegates. You have to have the right number of delegates to get the nomination. I`m ahead. I`m ahead by a significant number. I believe I`m going to continue to add to that number and I believe that I will be the Democratic nominee and I certainly hope that Senator Sanders and his supporters will join ranks the way that I did with President Obama.

MADDOW: To be clear on this issue of super delegates versus delegates, the Republican Party really wishes they had super delegates right now, because they`d love to have some manifestation of the establishment worries about their frontrunner that they could throw a big part in the nominating process back, basically to the party and take it away from the voters.

Do you make a distinction between the different kinds of delegates that the Democrats have? I mean, are super delegates an inappropriate thing in terms of the process, that there are these party leaders and elected officials who can make such a big difference?

CLINTON: Well, I have more popular votes.

MADDOW: Right.

CLINTON: And I have more pledged delegates. And we have a system in our party that was set up before I decided to run, or before Senator Sanders even decided to run. And that`s the process. And I feel very good about where I am in that process.

MADDOW: There has been a number of caucus states recently where not only has Sanders` won -- Senator Sanders won, he`s won by a lot. And this seems to be a pretty clear pattern in the contests between you two so far, that you are winning overall, both in terms of more states and more delegates and more popular vote.

But when there are caucus contests, he tends to win, and by a lot. He`s won 10 of the 12 caucuses and he`s won 10 straight. And the ones this weekend were by huge margins.

Why is that?

CLINTON: Well, you`d have to ask caucus-goers. But, you know, clearly, not as many people participate in caucuses as they do in primaries. In fact, if you add up the votes that Senator Sanders got in last weekend`s caucuses, I got more votes than he did in the Arizona primary.

So I think that caucuses are a very unusual way for some states to really choose who they want to be delegates and who those delegates are pledged to.

That`s fine. Every state gets to pick however they want to.

But when you get to the general election, it`s about who gets the most votes and who gets the most electoral votes. And I think there`s no question, given what I`ve already achieved, that I`m in a far stronger position when it actually comes to voting in November to win and to become president.

MADDOW: It seems like looking ahead at that general election right now, we`re at a -- we -- we`ve just hit a turning point. Last night, all three of the Republican candidates who are left seemed to basically abandon what had been their previous pledge that they would support the ultimate nominee of their party, whoever it was. None of them are saying that any longer, which means whoever they pick, there`s a really good chance that the Republican Party is not going to all be in favor of their presidential nominee.

Now, as a -- as a Democrat, looking ahead at that general election, do you basically look at the Republican Party in this kind of crisis and say, you know, good riddance, that party needs to be blown up, I hope they come back as something better?


MADDOW: Or -- or do you worry about that? I mean, we are a country with a two party system. Do both parties need to be strong and sane and, together enough to really contest the ideas that the country needs to fight about?

CLINTON: Well, I do favor two strong parties. And at different points in our recent history, the Republicans have been stronger and more unified than the Democrats. At other points, we have been. And clearly there is a lot of turmoil going on among Republican voters and elected officials and party leaders that they`re going to have to sort out.

But if you really look at what the three remaining candidates have said, what they`ve stood for, I think they are much closer in their ideology and their position on issues than their personal animus perhaps suggests.

So whoever emerges, I`m going to hopefully be the Democratic nominee to take on where they stand when it comes to how we get the economy going. We`re not going to back to that trickle down economics snake oil that doesn`t work and cannot work, where they stand on health care. We`re not going to repeal the Affordable Care Act, we`re going to make it work for people.

You go down the list, they have a very strong affinity when it comes to ideology and issues. They may express it in different ways and some are more colorful than others, certainly. But when you really strip it down, they are peddling the same failed policies that they have for the last 30, 40 years. And the country cannot tolerate that.

So whoever emerges, whether it`s one of the three or they engineer some kind of convention coup, whoever emerges is going to be on the wrong side of what our country needs to do, how we meet the test that I laid out in my speech today, can the next president actually produce positive results in people`s lives, starting with good jobs and rising incomes? Can the next president and commander-in-chief keep us safe and demonstrate strong, effective, smart American leadership in the world? And can the next president bring our country together?

I`ve seen no evidence that these three candidates on the Republican side can meet those tests. So I`ll let them fight it out however they choose. I`m going to keep talking about what I will do as president to make sure we do meet those tests and that our country is better off because I will have served.

MADDOW: It`s -- it sounds like you are -- you have a very different take. With that, with what you just laid out there, it sounds like you have a very different take than sort of -- I don`t even want to say the Beltway common wisdom, just the broad political common wisdom about what`s going on in this race, which is that on the Republican side, there is a very different kind of candidate as their frontrunner.

The country is sort of convulsed in fascination I think with Mr. Trump being the frontrunner because everybody believes that he has a very different kind of politician, he has a very different kind of Republican. If the Republican Party picks him, it will somehow change that party fundamentally, if not destroy it.

It sounds like you think he`s just another Republican politician.

CLINTON: Well, he has a different personality and he presents himself differently. But look at the budget he presented. It would throw our federal government into the biggest deficit hole and increase the national debt beyond anybody`s wildest imagination.

Look at his commitment to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Look at how he has basically said, you know, he`s going to make decisions and he`s going to try to, you know, solve problems like deporting 11 million or 12 million immigrants.

He`s not that far off from others who are also still in the race or were in the race before.

You go down the list, Rachel, and there may be differences of degree, but not of kind when it comes to comparing where the party is, and its leadership and these candidates.

What I think is going on is that, you know, they know, because of his personality, because of his divisiveness, which is much more out there than what you see among other Republicans, not that it`s that different, but the way he expresses it, you know, going after Mexicans as rapists and criminals, insulting women, barring Muslims. You know, that reflects a certain strain of belief within the Republican Party. It`s not totally outside the pale of what many of their leaders have been saying, campaigning on, winning elections on.

What they`ve done is to create the environment where someone emerges who is truly, in their view, a personality they don`t know what to do with. And yet on issues, it -- they should look in the mirror.

MADDOW: You, as secretary of State, and in other parts -- elements of your political career, including the senator -- being a senator from here in New York, you`ve had lots of contact with leaders around the world.

Mr. Trump, as the Republican frontrunner, is obviously having some success with Republican voters. He really is way ahead of the field. He does look like he`s likely to get the nomination.

Whatever he`s offering, it is playing in our country, to a certain degree, with the Republican electorate.

How do you imagine it will play with world leaders?

CLINTON: Well, we already know that, because we can see public comments from world leaders and we also have a lot of evidence from private communications that I and others have received, asking what is going on, what does this mean?

Just take two of the points that he has made. One around terrorism and barring all Muslims from coming to the United States.

We know if we`re going to defeat ISIS, which is a very high priority for us, for our partners in Europe and the Middle East, especially Israel and others, we have to form coalitions with predominantly Muslim nations. I know how hard it is to form a coalition. I formed the coalition that imposed the sanctions on Iran, got Russia and China and others to be part of it.

You don`t form a coalition by starting with insulting the religion of the people in the countries you`re trying to get into the coalition.

And then when he turns his back on NATO, the most successful defense alliance in history, which has to be a part of our effort to defeat ISIS and to stop terrorist attacks in Europe and elsewhere, it doesn`t show that he`s strong, it shows that he is dangerously wrong. He`s in over his head.

This idea he`s been putting out recently that we should withdraw from the Pacific, so we`re no longer a Pacific power, we`re no longer fulfilling our treaty obligations to Japan, South Korea and others, in fact, off the cuff, he said, let them have nuclear weapons, so we`d have an arms race under his theory, not just in the Middle East, but also in Asia.

I have no idea what that means other than it scares me and it scares a lot of thoughtful leaders around the world.

The United States has kept the peace. We have created the conditions for global prosperity. We now have to up our game economically so that more Americans benefit from that global prosperity. And I have the plans, I think, that will deliver on that.

But if we withdraw from the world, if we, in a sense, build a wall around the United States, we will pay a big price. And I think if he decides to continue with that sort of foreign policy, national security adlibbing, it`s going to cause a lot of, serious questioning among our friends and allies that could have unfortunate consequences for our policies.

MADDOW: But the criticism that he has raised about NATO, which you were just discussing there, is obviously raising eyebrows not just around the world, but also here at home. It`s seen as a very, very radical proposal, that we would turn our back on NATO.

But there is an element of his criticism which I think is -- is not seen as extreme, and there is widespread concern about, and that`s the fact that NATO countries, less than a fifth of them are spending what they are supposedly obligated to spend on defense.


MADDOW: I mean this is a mutual defense pact. We count on our allies to be holding up their end of the bargain on this.

He`s complaining that we are basically carrying other countries` weight in NATO and that other countries aren`t keeping up with us.

Isn`t there something to that -- that part of the criticism?

CLINTON: Well, I think it`s fair to say that we do want the countries that are partners in NATO with us to fulfill their obligations. And we will continue to push that. Some countries, as you said, have really stepped up in the last few years to do that. And we want more to step up.

But we have to look at what it means to have defense. We have to modernize NATO. What kind of alliance will NATO be? How does it protect from the non-state threat of terrorism?

We`ve always been in an alliance primarily focused on Russia and aggression, then moving our eyes toward Iran and the potential of nuclear weapons and the like. We have to take a 360-degree look about how NATO is going to help improve the defense and security of our European partners.

But I would still argue, while we`re in that process, to get them to do more for themselves and to change some of their laws so they can be better partners with us, particularly on sharing information across their own borders and with the United States when it comes to potential terrorist activity, I, again, don`t think you accomplish that by holding this threat over their heads where it add -- you act like you are totally oblivious to the fact that Russia is probing the boundaries of the Baltic States, for example.

You don`t, I think, get what you need out of NATO countries, all of them, including the smallest ones, by acting as though you could walk away from it. That could lead to the politicians and the forces within, let`s say, the Baltic countries, who are favorable toward Russia, like Russian speaking populations, to say to their fellow leaders, hey, you know what, the U.S. is out of here. We`d better start making accommodations with Russia.

MADDOW: Um-hmm.

CLINTON: This all is a very complex set of circumstances that I don`t think he even has studied or cares to understand.

And so, you know, from my perspective, I`m willing and anxious to take him on on this broad range of foreign policy and security issues.

MADDOW: Do you think that he`s manifestly unqualified to be running for president given what you just described as his approach to foreign affairs?


MADDOW: Secretary Clinton answers that manifestly unqualified question and not in the way you think she might right after this break. We`ll be right back.


MADDOW: Today with me in New York, Hillary Clinton discussed a wide range of things she thinks are wrong with the Republican Party, the Republican presidential field and the Republican presidential front-runner, particularly when it comes to foreign affairs. Her criticism of Donald Trump in particular was so sharp today I asked her if she basically thought he shouldn`t even be running for president.

Do you think that he`s manifestly unqualified to be running for president? Given what you just described as his approach to foreign affairs?


MADDOW: Do you think that he`s manifestly unqualified to be running for president? Given what you just described as his approach to foreign affairs?

CLINTON: Well, I`ll let voters decide that. But I look forward, if he is the nominee and I`m the nominee, to really going after him on issues. Because remember, the Republicans still have not gone after him on issues, in large measure, because they agree with him on so many issues.

So when they start moaning and groaning and gnashing their teeth and the best they can do is insult each other`s wives and call each other names, they`re not dealing with issues, because they`re afraid to deal with him on issues because he`ll turn around and say, well, you said this and you said that and I know where you stand.

I`m the only one who will be finally taking him on on issues. And I believe once we start doing that, the American people, who have been watching this like the most ramped up, you know, reality celebrity TV show, are going to start saying he is scary, he is dangerous, we can`t, you know, we can`t let him go forward.

MADDOW: I hear your eagerness, uh, to engage in that general election fight.

Have -- I have to just ask you, big picture, if you are frustrated that the Democratic primary is probably going to go until June, if not July, if you felt when you started this process, that by now, you`d already be talking general election and -- and focused on a nomination that you`d already sewn up.

Are you surprised that Senator Sanders is -- has been this much of a fight for you?

CLINTON: No, I`m really not. I always knew that it would be a contest. It should be a contest. We`re going after the most consequential job in the world. And it`s like a big job interview. And we`re asking the American people to hire us.

And remember, I`m the person who went all the way to the end in June in 2008. So, why would I expect anybody running against me to give up or quit before the process is done? I don`t expect that at all.

I expect to win it. I expect that I will be the nominee. But I respect the process. And so, I`m going to go after every vote in every contest going forward.

And I also believe that when I think about Trump or Cruz, I`m not turning my attention to the general election as though the primary is not still going on. Today, in my remarks here at the Apollo I addressed some of the differences that Senator Sanders and I have.

You know, we share a lot of the same goals, but we do have differences. We have differences of experience. We have differences of approach. And that should be part of the primary contest between us.

But I also know how the rest of the world is hearing Trump and Cruz. I know how other Americans are hearing them. And since the Republicans are not taking them on on issues, I feel an obligation to stand up and say, you know what, NATO is important, I understand that.

I get messages from European leaders saying, "Thank you, thank you. You know, we just thought, you know, that we didn`t believe what we were hearing."

Here at home, you`ve got Trump talking about racially profiling Muslim communities and Cruz talking about policing Muslim communities.

I can`t let that go unanswered. You know, I`m fighting to unite our country and I don`t think you wait and then take on these outrageous, offensive, dangerous statements, you take them on as they happen and you give some comfort to Americans who are literally coming up to me, Rachel, all over this country and saying, "Thank you, thank you for standing up, thank you for speaking out."

More of us need to be doing that. This is outrageous, and look, I`m not going to, you know, join in the chorus of bashing the press, but for a long time, you know, I think the media just was in awe of the rating spikes and the amazing number of eyes that were willing to watch Trump do anything.

And so, he was basically unchallenged and now finally as he`s gotten more and more outrageous in a lot of what he`s said, where he`s gone after large populations of people, Muslims, immigrants, women, you name it, I think there are a lot of Americans who are not part of the Republican primary process because think about it, I`ve gotten more votes than he has nationwide. He has not demonstrated that he can really broaden his appeal but I don`t want his views to be appealing, either. So I`m going to keep raising my voice about him.


MADDOW: Secretary Clinton fired up today in New York, basically saying she`s not pivoting to the general election when she talks about Republicans. She says she`s just outraged by them and she feels like she should say so. She also said European leaders have been contacting her with their worries about Donald Trump.

We covered two last issues in this interview today including one issue in which Bernie Sanders says that he has a pretty sharp difference with President Obama but Secretary Clinton told me today that on this issue, there was absolutely no daylight between her and the president. That one`s next. Stay with us.


CLINTON: You know, I really find this whole line of questioning one that I`m not comfortable with because I -- we have one president at a time, and I think part of the problem right now is the Republicans are trying to act like he`s not really still president.



MADDOW: Right after President Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland to fill the current vacancy on the Supreme Court, I was able to interview Senator Bernie Sanders and I asked him what he thought of that nomination. Senator Sanders told me that if he is elected president in November, he would ask President Obama to withdraw the Merrick Garland nomination so a president Sanders could pick his own nominee for the court.

I asked Hillary Clinton that same question today. She had a very, very different take on this issue.


MADDOW: President Obama has nominated Merrick Garland at the Supreme Court.


MADDOW: If you are nominated by the Democratic Party and you are elected president in November, would you ask President Obama to withdraw that nomination in the lame duck so that you could put forward your own nominee, or would you be OK with that nomination going forward as a lame duck if that`s what the Republican Senate wanted to do?

CLINTON: You know, I really find this whole line of questioning one that I`m not comfortable with because I -- we have one president at a time, and I think part of the problem right now is the Republicans are trying to act like he`s not really still president. I was one of the 65 million people who voted to re-elect President Obama. So, my voice is being shut out because the Republican Senate won`t actually process Judge Garland`s nomination.

So, I don`t want to -- I don`t want any daylight between me and President Obama. I want to support his constitutional right and obligation. I want to keep the pressure as I did in the speech that I gave at the University of Wisconsin in Madison talking about what`s at stake in the Supreme Court.

So, let`s stay focused on what this court has before it because there are some very consequential decisions that are pending, and, you know, let`s keep the pressure, which you can see is beginning to effect some of the Republican incumbents who have tough races for re-election. I want them to feel as much heat as possible. I don`t want to give them any way out. So, I`m sticking with the president. The president`s prerogative is, his constitutional responsibility. And that`s what I`m going to stand up for.

MADDOW: You know, there is this -- I mean, there is the issue of the radicalism of what`s happening right now in the Senate. I mean, to hold a Supreme Court vacancy open for a year plus --


MADDOW: -- because as you say, they may be deciding they prefer President Obama isn`t president anymore so they`re going to pretend as if he isn`t. I look at that and I see that as so unprecedented and so radical, it makes me wonder that whether or not you are the nominee or Senator Sanders is the nominee, if there is a Democratic president elected in November, makes me wonder why they wouldn`t just continue to hold that seat open.

I mean, are we -- have we so broken the norms, have we so broken with precedent that they may decide Democratic presidents in general are not allowed to fill Supreme Court vacancies?

CLINTON: Well, first of all, we need to elect a Democratic Senate and that`s why this Supreme Court fight has real consequences for this election because it`s hard to make the Supreme Court a voting issue. I`ve tried it in the past. People see it as sort of theoretical.

But this is so in front of everybody`s eyes, front of mind about this Senate behaving in such a radical, extreme, partisan way. I actually think it can help us take back the Senate. And I would love to see that.

And if we, then, have a Democratic Senate and we have somebody as creative and vigorous as Chuck Schumer leading it, I think we`ll be back on a path of, you know, progress and problem-solving. So now, if that doesn`t happen but we narrow the margin, even that will give us leverage we don`t have right now.

MADDOW: Let me ask you one last question which I`m asking in part because we`re here in New York, which is the headquarters of the Clinton Foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative.

Is there a case to be made, an ethical case to be made that the Clinton Foundation and the Global Initiative should essentially be wound down as a family foundation while you run for president?

I ask that because I think about the good works, the good charitable works that the Clinton foundation has done, but the way that some of that work gets done is by soliciting donations from people in this country, from people from around the world, from organizations around the world. I think it is not unreasonable to suspect that people may give donations to the Clinton Foundation hoping that they will favorably influence your opinion toward them as a presidential candidate or eventually as president if you`re elected.

Is there an ethical concern that there should be a split between you and your family and this foundation that has done good work, but now your in a different position with regard to potential donors?

CLINTON: Well, look, I think the work its done has been extraordinary and I give the credit to my husband and my daughter because I haven`t been involved for that long. You know, when I look at what they`ve accomplished and what they`ve been able to amplify in terms of saving lives by getting the price of drugs for HIV-AIDS down in Sub-Saharan Africa, it`s quite astonishing.

I would hate to lose that creativity, that imagination, that extraordinary flexibility. So I think the answer is transparency. There`s no doubt there will be complete transparency about donations.

But when you have hundreds of thousands of people who are donating as they do, I think the best answer for that is what we have been doing for the last several years and that is to be transparent about it and let voters and others make their judgment.

MADDOW: Madam Secretary, it`s really nice of you to give us this time.

CLINTON: It`s a pleasure. Good to talk to you again.

MADDOW: Thanks very much.

CLINTON: Thanks, Rachel.


MADDOW: Hillary Clinton speaking exclusively with me today in New York City. We`re going to hear from Bernie Sanders in just minutes. It`s a big night. Stay with us. >


MADDOW: This was a day around here when we all reached our target heart rate. First, we got this revealing interview with Hillary Clinton where she talked about the private messages she gets from European leaders wanting to know what on earth is the deal with Donald Trump. and then, Donald Trump did his best to knock everyone off their political axis again by saying abortion should not only be outlawed, but he`s mulling the proper punishment for American women who tried to get one. Then, I ended up racing back out again to get Hillary Clinton`s red hot instant response to that.

And while I was running up there to do that, Donald Trump tried to take back what he`d said by saying instead that he actually only wants to punish doctors now.

Then, Ted Cruz decided he might try to make political hay of this by criticizing Donald Trump for saying women should be punished for abortion, although Ted Cruz has as a co-chair of his pro-life for Cruz committee, a guy who says doctors should not be given punishment for doing abortions, doctors should be given capital punishment, they should be executed for doing abortions.

And that was just the first half of the day. That was part of one. That was just warming up. Wait until you see part two with a very fired up no mood to play Senator Bernie Sanders. And that`s next.


MADDOW: Welcome back to this super-sized edition of the Rachel Maddow show tonight.

Senator Bernie Sanders is riding high today in today`s presidential politics just a few days after his huge double-digit wins over the weekend in Alaska and Hawaii and Washington State.

Bolstered by those huge margins he got in the caucuses in those states this weekend, the Sanders campaign appears to now be feeling its proverbial oats.

They`re not demanding more debates with Hillary Clinton. The Sanders campaign is now calling Secretary Clinton a weak Democratic frontrunner.

Sanders campaign is also committing to campaign heavily at some of the big states coming up, including New York State, where Senator Sanders will be tomorrow, and in the great state of Wisconsin which votes on Tuesday, and where Senator Sanders has already been holding some big rallies.

A brand new poll from Marquette University just out today puts Bernie Sanders ahead of Hillary Clinton in Wisconsin by four points.

Looking down the barrel at that, it is a good day to be Bernie Sanders.

Today, the senator held a big town hall event at the Orpheum Theater in Madison, Wisconsin. And the senator joins us from backstage at that theater now.

Senator Sanders, thank you so much for being here. Really appreciate your time tonight.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), VERMONT: Good to be with you, Rachel.

MADDOW: So, congratulations on this big weekend that you had, not just wins in those three caucuses, but blowouts.

Now, there aren`t that many more caucuses on the calendar, even though you`ve done so well at them. The next big state is Wisconsin on Tuesday.

Do you expect that you`re about to win Wisconsin as well?

SANDERS: well, this is what I think. I think that if there is a large voter turnout, if working-class people who have given up on the political process come out to vote, if young people who have never participated come out to vote, if there`s a good turnout, we will win.

If there`s a low turnout, we`ll probably lose. So, we`re doing everything that we can to create a high voter turnout.

MADDOW: Senator Sanders, I`m not going to ask you to play pundit. I am going to ask you about some stuff going on in the Republican field in just a second.

But before we do that, I was struck by this cover story that "Rolling Stone" have recently.

Where they put you and Secretary Clinton on the cover, they called it "The Good Fight".

Basically contrasting the fight between you two with what`s happening on the Republican side, saying that the Democratic primary has been policy- driven and decent and intelligent.

It`s been an argument to be proud of as a country. They also said it`s been "game-raising" for both of you, basically that it`s made you both better candidates.

I wanted to know if you agree with that. If you think this has been a good fight to be proud of thus far, and if you think it has changed you over time.

SANDERS: Well, Rachel, let me say that comparing us to the Republicans, you know, the bar -- that`s a pretty low bar to overcome.

And I think what is really a national disgrace, and I think this is not just what, you know, average Americans are saying.

But what many sane Republicans are saying. This country faces enormous crises. You know, massive levels of income and wealth inequality, a declining middle class, climate change, the pay equity issue for women.

And what Republican candidates have now stooped to is to starting attacking each other`s wives.

I mean, this is an international embarrassment. I think people around the rest of the world think we are pretty crazy.

So, I think compared to that, at least, you know, what Secretary Clinton and I are trying to do, and while we have very different points of view, we are trying to discuss the real issues facing the American people.

And I think most objective Americans appreciate that a lot more than the kind of circus that is taking place on the Republican side.

MADDOW: I had a chance to speak with Secretary Clinton earlier today, and I asked her this question as well.

I`m going to -- I`m going to ask you because I think it is possible that you two might have a difference of opinion on this.

Last night, the Republican candidates gave up on what had been their previous pledges that they would all support their party`s eventual nominee in the Fall.

Because of that, I think whether or not the Republicans nominate Donald Trump, there are pretty good odds now that a good portion of the Republican Party won`t support whoever that party runs for president.

Now, as a -- as somebody who`s running in the -- for the Democratic nomination, do you look at that on the Republican side and say basically, you know, good riddance, it`s about time for the Republican Party in this country to blow up --

SANDERS: Well --

MADDOW: Let`s hope they come back with something better. Are you concerned? Because our cardy -- party has a two-party system and we need both parties to be strong and sane in order to make this system work?

SANDERS: Well, first of all, I don`t necessarily take at value -- face value what they say. I think at the end of the day, they probably will come together.

But the other point, I think the more -- the deeper point, Rachel, is the Republican Party today has moved very far to the right.

They are way out of touch with where the American people are. And I think if we had a media in this country that was really prepared to look at what the Republicans actually stood for rather than quoting every absurd remark of Donald Trump.

Talking about a Republican Party, talking about hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks for the top two-tenths of 1 percent, cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

A party which with few exceptions doesn`t even acknowledge the reality of climate change, let alone do anything about it.

A party which is not prepared to stand with women in the fight for pay equity. A party that is not prepared to do anything about a broken criminal justice system or a corrupt campaign finance system.

I think, to be honest with you -- and I just don`t, you know, say this rhetorically, this is a fringe party.

It is a fringe party. Maybe they get 5, 10 percent of the vote. What you really need in this country is a progressive party standing with the working class and the middle class of this country.

And yes, a conservative party that, you know, has, you know, is more fiscally conservative. That is where we should be as a country.

But the Republican Party today now is a joke, maintained by a media which really does not force them to discuss their issues.

So that`s my 2 cents on that.

MADDOW: Well, if the -- let me try to get 3 cents out of you on that. If they`re a fringe party and a joke and they`re no longer the conservative party that they appear to be.

They`re being propped up by a media that doesn`t call them on what it is they`re actually offering, does that mean that you would applaud if the Republican Party really did blow up?

I mean, some people say that the nomination of Donald Trump and the process they`re going through now by which they might nominate him is enough to maybe destroy that party, maybe end the Republican Party.

Do you think that would -- that would be a good thing?

SANDERS: Well, I`m not going to give the Republican leadership, you know, really any ideas on how they can reorganize their party.

All I can tell you is that it is absolutely imperative for the future of this country and for future generations that we do not have a Republican in the White House.

Whether it is Trump or Cruz or anybody else. And one of the things that I`m proud of, Rachel, and it hasn`t gotten, I think, quite the attention that it deserves.

Is that in national poll after national poll, what you find is that, I am leading, you know, people like Trump -- a poll came out a few days ago, "Cnn", by 20 points and a significantly larger number than Hillary Clinton is.

So, I think one of the points that we`re trying to get across is if the Democratic Party wants a strong candidate that will defeat Trump or some other Republican and beat them badly, I think I am the candidate.

Because we appeal not only to Democrats, but to a lot of independents and actually some Republicans as well.

MADDOW: Your campaign has talked about those head-to-head match-ups, those hypothetical match-ups in November.

As essentially the case that you might make to the super delegates. And you and I talked about this before.

But since we last spoke about it, your campaign has gone into more -- to more detail about this.

Tad Devine said to Greg Sargent at "The Washington Post" this week that your campaign would try to convince super delegates to support you at the convention on this -- on the strength of what you just said there.

That you have a better chance in the general election, that they would try to flip those super delegates to support you even if at the convention, you`re behind both in the pledged delegates and in the popular vote.

I felt --

SANDERS: Well --

MADDOW: I thought that was surprising. I just wanted to find out if that really is your campaign strategy --

SANDERS: Well, look, I don`t want to get into -- too deeply into process here. First of all, we hope to be ahead in the delegate count. That`s the important thing.

But what I do believe is that, there are a lot of Republicans -- a lot of super delegates who have signed onto Hillary Clinton a long time ago.

And then you have other super delegates who are in states where we have won by 20, 30, 40 points.

And the people in those states are saying you know what? We voted for Bernie Sanders by 30 or 40 points, you`ve got to support him at the convention.

So, we`ll see what happens down the line. But our main task right now is to, in fact, come out of this whole process after California with more delegates than Secretary Clinton.

MADDOW: Are you working now on lobbying some of that super delegates? We should say super delegates --

SANDERS: We are --

MADDOW: That`ll be elected officials and party leaders. Are you working now on --

SANDERS: Well --

MADDOW: On trying to persuade them? --

SANDERS: Yes, we are. We are. We have started off by going to those states, you know, states like Utah, states like Hawaii, states that have given us very large victories and trying to get to those people and say you know what?

Your state voted overwhelmingly for us, listen to what your state has to say.

MADDOW: Senator Sanders, I have -- I promise I won`t ask you only process questions here.

But I do want to ask you about something that arose this week from your campaign that I disagree with, on factual grounds.

And I`ll tell you what it is. Your campaign said this week that Secretary Clinton is leading overall, basically because you chose not to compete in eight states.

In Arkansas, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, Texas, Virginia, Tennessee.

And the reason I say I take factual issue with that is because, you know, I saw the footage of your rallies in Texas and Virginia --

SANDERS: Right --

MADDOW: At least, we reported you were first on the ground ahead of Clinton in Alabama, Virginia, Texas, Tennessee.

Why is your campaign now saying that you --

SANDERS: Well, I don`t -- look --

MADDOW: Essentially didn`t try in those states --

SANDERS: Rachel, as you talk, you say you don`t want to talk about process, it`s exactly what we`re talking about.

One person said that, I don`t know the context of that -- of course we were in Texas. We had great rallies in Dallas, in Houston and in Austin.

And of course we campaigned there. I think perhaps what Tad meant by that is we did not put a lot of money into TV advertising that we knew those states would be difficult states for us and we used our resources elsewhere.

Although, to be honest with you, we put a lot of money into South Carolina and we did poorly.

So, of course, we did compete in Mississippi, Alabama, not a whole lot to be honest with you.

But I think what Tad was meaning is that we did not put a lot of resources into those states.

MADDOW: You told me in January, you articulated it a few other places that the Democratic Party really needs to run a 50 state strategy and that people in places like South Carolina --

SANDERS: Absolutely --

MADDOW: And Mississippi specifically --

SANDERS: Absolutely --

MADDOW: Needs strong Democratic campaigns there so that their voices get heard. How do you say that --

SANDERS: Absolutely --

MADDOW: With not running that hard in a place like Mississippi?

SANDERS: Well, I will tell you how. If there were -- if we had a lot longer time, that`s exactly what I would do.

But the difficult choices you have to make -- right now, I`m in Wisconsin. Well, you know what? I should be in New York, I should be in New Jersey, I should be in California.

But what you have to do in the midst of a campaign is to say where is our time? Where are our resources?

Let`s allocate it if we`re going to win this thing. Truthfully, we knew from day one we were never going to win in Mississippi or Alabama.

But the point you make is a different point. It is a correct point. I believe that starting yesterday, the Democratic Party has got to start planting flags in all of those states.

Now, they may not win it in 2016 or 2018. But you`re never going to win it unless you begin somewhere.

Unless you mobilize the grassroots in those states, come forward with good, strong candidates.

So, it`s really not a contradiction. I do believe very strongly, and if elected president, I will create a situation where the DNC is a 50 state party.

You cannot ignore half the states in America, including those states who are -- have the poorest people, the highest levels of unemployment.

The worst healthcare systems in the country. Democrats have got to pay attention to all 50 states.

MADDOW: Senator Sanders, will you stay with us for just a moment? I have - - I have more to ask you, I promise.

Our conversation --


MADDOW: With Senator Sanders continues in just a moment, stay with us.


MADDOW: Joining us once again from Madison, Wisconsin is Senator Bernie Sanders. Senator Sanders, thank you again for being with us tonight, appreciate it.

So, sir, you tweeted today, that it was, "shameful", that was the word you used when Donald Trump said this to my colleague, Chris Matthews here on Msnbc.


CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC: How do you ban abortion? How do you actually do it?

DONALD TRUMP, CHAIRMAN & PRESIDENT, TRUMP ORGANIZATIONS & FOUNDER, TRUMP ENTERTAINMENT RESORTS: Well, you know, you`ll go back to a position like they had, where people will perhaps go to illegal places --


TRUMP: But you have to ban it. The answer is that there has to be some form of punishment.

MATTHEWS: For the woman?

TRUMP: Yes, there has to be some form.

MATTHEWS: Ten days or 10 years, why?

TRUMP: That I don`t know. That I don`t know.


MADDOW: After the word spread that Donald Trump had made those remarks today about abortion, that a woman needs to be punished if she seeks an abortion and abortion should be banned.

You said today that was shameful. What is shameful about it?

SANDERS: Well, I think it is shameful is probably understating that position. First of all, to me, and I think to most Americans, women have the right to control their own bodies and they have the right to make those personal decisions themselves.

But to punish a woman for having an abortion is beyond comprehension. I just -- you know, one would say what is in Donald Trump`s mind except we`re tired of saying that.

I don`t know what world this person lives in. So, obviously, from my perspective, and if elected president, I will do everybody that I can to allow women to make that choice and have access to clinics all over this country.

So that if they choose to have an abortion, they will be able to do so. The idea of punishing a woman, that is just, you know, beyond comprehension.

MADDOW: And Mr. Trump has made -- is making headlines on this issue today, obviously, because of what he said. It`s sort of, you know, taken the media day by storm.

That said, I think there may be a case to be made, and I`d love your -- just your response to this, your perspective on this.

That his opponent, Senator Ted Cruz is more extreme on this issue. And I say that in part because one of his national co-chairs on his pro-lifers for Cruz coalition is a man named Troy Newman, who once wrote a book saying that abortion providers should be executed.

Is Ted Cruz even further out on this issue than Donald Trump is?

SANDERS: Well, you know, you`re living in crazy world there. And that is why you know, the Republican Party if they continue in this direction will be, as I mentioned a moment ago, a fringe party.

Look, they have nothing to say. All they can appeal is to a small number of people who feel very rabid, very rabid about a particular issue.

Whether it`s abortion or maybe whether it`s gay marriage. That is their constituency. They have nothing of substance.

You know, you mentioned a moment ago, Rachel, that the media is paying attention to Donald Trump.

No kidding. Once again, every stupid remark will be broadcast, you know, for the next five days.

But what is Donald Trump`s position on raising the minimum wage? Well, he doesn`t think so.

What is Donald Trump`s position on wages in America? Well, he said it in a Republican debate, he thinks wages are too high.

What`s Donald trump`s position on taxes? Well, he wants to give billionaire families like himself hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks.

What is Donald Trump`s position on climate change? Oh, he thinks it`s a hoax perpetrated, shock of all shock, by the Chinese.

You know, on and on it goes. But because media is what media is today, any stupid, absurd remark made by Donald Trump becomes the story of the week.

Maybe, just maybe, we might want to have a serious discussion about the serious issues facing America.

Donald Trump will not look quite so interesting in that context.

MADDOW: Are you -- are you suggesting though, that the media shouldn`t be focusing on his call to potentially jail women who have abortions? Because that`s another stupid comment --

SANDERS: I am saying that every day he comes up with another stupid remark, absurd remark, of course it should be mentioned.

But so should Trump`s overall positions. How much talk do we hear about climate change, Rachel? And Trump? Any?

MADDOW: He said that he cares more about nuclear climate change, which is a term that he`s invented.

SANDERS: Nuclear climate change?

MADDOW: That`s his -- that`s his --

SANDERS: Oh, my God --

MADDOW: That`s what he comes up with when he`s asked on the subject.

SANDERS: I see. But all I am saying is that Trump is nobody`s fool. He knows how to manipulate the media and you say an absurd thing and the media is all over it.

And my concern is that today in America, you`ve got millions of people who are struggling economically.

They want to know how we`re going to expand the middle class. Overwhelmingly, people think we should raise the minimum wage.

Vast majority of people think climate change is real and a threat to our planet. They want to do something about that.

What do we do? Vast majority of the people think the wealthiest people in this country should start paying their fair share of taxes.

But if we don`t discuss those issues, it creates the climate for people like Donald Trump to do much better than he really has a right to do.

MADDOW: Senator, you have been a fierce critic of the influence of the wealthy and big business on our politics, not just on --


MADDOW: Who gets their way but who sets the agenda. As Republican legislators and governors have recently been weighing new laws that are discriminatory, particularly against LGBT people in North Carolina, in Georgia, Missouri and Indiana.

Big business, including Bank of America today in North Carolina has weighed in strongly against those discriminatory laws.

Do you think those businesses should butt out of those issues? Is it inappropriate for them to try to wield political influence even when they do it in a progressive way?

SANDERS: Well, you know, look, they have -- when we look at politics in America, you have CEOs of major corporations who have children who are gay, who have friends who are gay, whose wives or daughters have had abortions - - they live in the real world and they`re responding to this type of very right wing reactionary policies.

And I understand that and I appreciate that. When I talk about money in politics, what I talk about is the Koch brothers and billionaires spending hundreds of millions of dollars, along with Wall Street to create a situation where politics -- politicians will be elected who represent the wealthy and the powerful.

MADDOW: On one of the issues that the Koch brothers and their networks have supported in a way that I think has been stealthy but very effective is an issue concerning veterans.

And you were the former chairman of the Veterans Committee in the Senate. And in that capacity, you worked closely with Senator John McCain on a number of issues.

He`s -- you know, he`s praised you in this campaign. You`ve talked about your ability to work with him on veterans` issues.

But right now, Senator McCain is actually pushing a proposal to effectively privatize large parts of the VA --

SANDERS: Right --

MADDOW: Which is something that the Koch brothers and their networks have pushed --


MADDOW: What`s your response to that? Do you have plans to try to stop him on that, particularly given your past relationship?

SANDERS: Of course, categorical -- categorically disagree. Look, what you have is a group called the Concerned Veterans of America.

They appear on and have appeared on stations like "Cnn" time and time again without being identified as being funded by the Koch brothers.

And what they are doing is taking legitimate criticisms of the VA and blowing them up and then coming to the conclusion that at least partially, if not totally, we should privatize the VA.

Look, this is an issue that I have dealt with. And what I will tell you is having talked to the American legion, the VFW and the DAV and the Vietnam Vets have virtually every veterans organization.

What they tell you is that once veterans get into the VA system, the care is pretty good. It is pretty good.

The problem has been getting back -- getting into the VA system and also legitimately you got people who live 50, 60, a 100 miles away, 200 miles away from a VA facility.

Should they have to travel 200 miles to get their healthcare? The answer is no, they should not.

But the idea of privatizing the VA would be, in my mind, a huge mistake and a great disservice to the men and women of this country who put their lives on the line to defend us.

MADDOW: Do you feel like the way that veterans have advocated for themselves? The way that`s changed since the Vietnam era and through to today`s generation of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.

Do you feel like there`s any lessons there, in terms of bringing about social change in this country?

You talk about a political revolution and people getting their voices heard, particularly people who otherwise get boxed out of a system stacked against them.

Have veterans in a way, sort of shown us a way around some of those structural barriers to --

SANDERS: Well --

MADDOW: Political change?

SANDERS: Well, I think you have organizations that do a very good job, and obviously, I know them all because I was chairman of the committee who represent veterans interests.

What I don`t think we have at this point is the kind of grassroots activism at the local level that we should be having.

So, there`s a lot of good groups in Washington, the DAV, the VFW, the American Legion, the Vietnam Vets and others who are really there, who are fighting for veterans rights.

But I would like to see more grassroots activism take place.

MADDOW: One last question for you, senator. I know your time is tight today. And it is about your prodigious fundraising.

After those huge wins this weekend in those three caucus states, we know that within something like 24 hours, your state had raised $4 million.

You have shown an incredible ability to tap large numbers of people for small amounts of money that really add up.

And you`ve got essentially infinite resources to stay in this campaign as long as you want --

SANDERS: Well --

MADDOW: No matter what else happens. I have to ask, though, if you have thought about whether or not you will at some point, turn your fundraising ability toward helping the Democratic Party more broadly.

To helping their campaign committees for the house and the senate and for other -- for other elections?

SANDERS: Well, right now, Rachel, as you are more than aware, our job is to -- what I`m trying to do is to win the Democratic nomination.

And I`ll tell you something, I never in a million years, Rachel, would have believed that we could have received over six million individual campaign contributions averaging 27 bucks apiece.

A very different way of raising money than Secretary Clinton has pursued.

So, right now, we are enormously appreciative. You`re right, without that type of support, we would not be where we are right now.

We would not be able to continue this campaign to the Democratic convention. So, I am just blown away and very appreciative of all of the kind of support that we have gotten from grassroots America.

MADDOW: Well, obviously, your priority is the nomination, but I mean you raised Secretary Clinton there.

She has been fundraising both for the nomination and for the Democratic Party. At some point, do you think -- do you foresee a time during this campaign when you`ll start doing that?

SANDERS: Well, we`ll see. I mean, right now, again, our focus is on winning the nomination.

Secretary Clinton has access to kinds of money that we don`t, that we`re not even interested in.

So, let`s take it one step at a time, and the step that we`re in right now is to win the Democratic nomination.

MADDOW: Vermont senator, candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, Senator Bernie Sanders.

Senator, thank you so much for your time tonight. I know you`re stretched very thin, thank you, sir.

SANDERS: Thank you, Rachel, take care.

MADDOW: All right. This is getting a big night around here, right? I mean, the John Kasich hour, the Donald Trump hour, the long-format interview with Hillary Clinton, now this long-format interview with Bernie Sanders.

All in one night, it`s very busy. In just a minute, I`m going to be joined by Steve Kornacki and Chris Matthews and Chuck Todd and many others as well to try to digest what has just happened around here because I think we`ve just changed the news.

All right, we`ll be right back, stay with us.