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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 4/14/2016

Guests: Steven Dettelbach, Muriel Bowser

Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: April 14, 2016 Guest: Steven Dettelbach, Muriel Bowser RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Happy Thursday night. Thanks for being with us tonight. The 1976 Republican national convention was contested, quite dramatically contested. Gerald Ford was the president at that time. He was seen as a very weak incumbent. Not only had President Gerald Ford not been elected president, he`d never been elected vice president either. Heading into that 1976 convention, the last presidential election had, of course, been 1972, when Richard Nixon won reelection along with his vice presidential running mate, Spiro Agnew. But then shortly, basically right after they won that election and were sworn in to start the second term in 1973, shortly thereafter, Vice President Spiro Agnew came under investigation for bribery. Now, this was before Watergate and all of that other mishegoss. But Nixon`s vice president, Spiro Agnew, got investigating for bribery. He ended up getting criminally charged. He had to resign from office. He had to resign the vice presidency. We sort of forget this now because of the way the Nixon administration ended. But even before Nixon himself became the great scandal of the Nixon era, his vice president really did have to resign in disgrace and face criminal charges. And, you know, the vice presidency may not be the most crucial job in the federal government but there does have to be somebody holding that position. So, when Spiro Agnew had to go into that criminal cloud and leave the vice presidency, President Nixon then had to choose someone to replace him as vice president. And that is how a congressman from Michigan who had never been elected by an electorate larger than his congressional district back home nevertheless got himself into place to himself ascend to the presidency, when Nixon had to resign himself because of Watergate. That`s how we got incumbent President Gerald Ford, even though Gerald Ford had never been nationally elected to anything. And that is how we got the contested Republican national convention in 1976 when Gerald Ford decided to run nationally to try to hold onto this position in Oval Office that he arrived at through such unexpected and undemocratic means. Because of that series of back doors that Gerald Ford took to the presidency, Gerald Ford that year in 1976, he didn`t get the deference that is typically afforded to an incumbent president. And although he was still the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination that year, he was such a weak front-runner that an upstart conservative named Ronald Reagan very nearly took the presidential nomination from President Ford at the party`s 1976 convention in Kansas City. That 1976 convention was a bit nuts. There was a lot of confusion on the floor among the delegates. There were long and impossible fights over seemingly arcane rules that ended up being crucial to how delegates would vote and who they would pick. President Ford may have been weak front- runner and an accidental president, but he was still president. For that 1976 convention he was not above using things like flights on Air Force One and promised visits to the White House as bribes to get convention delegates to support him. So, 1976 was a little nutty. 1976 was the last time the Republican Party had a contested national convention. That`s basically what everybody is expecting to be replayed this summer, but worse when this year`s Republican convention unfolds in Cleveland. But back at the last contested convention in 1976, there are basically two really important world changing outcomes that were the results of that contested convention. And the first one was the obvious one which is that Gerald Ford beat Ronald Reagan. He got the nomination and that he went onto lose the general election to Jimmy Carter. Second result of that convention though was that even though Ronald Reagan didn`t succeed in knocking off Gerald Ford in `76, his effort to do in `76, and how close he got to it in `76, that did play excellent groundwork for Ronald Reagan four years later to take over leadership of the Republican Party much more easily. And in 1980, when Republicans convened for their next convention in Detroit, that Republican convention in 1980 not only was that not a fight, it was an absolute coronation. Reagan put his chief rival George Bush on the ticket as a running mate. There was a little noise that maybe Reagan was going to pick as southern segregationist like Jesse Helms as his running mate. But that was only a little bit of noise. It was a pretty smooth decision actually. And the vice presidency went to Poppy Bush, which was a very tidy way, a very unifying way to end the competition from the Republican primary that year. They had also set up the rules at the 1980 convention so only one name could be put in nomination. So, there was no drama over that. Another Reagan challenger named John Anderson, he had fought hard that year to get a speaking slot at the Republican convention but the Republican Party and the Reagan campaign forces figured out way to box John Anderson out of that so he didn`t get to speak. So, it was a no drama occasion. `76 had been crazy. `80 was not crazy. Ronald Reagan at the 1980 convention, he got 97 percent of the delegate votes that year. It was as smooth as glass. They cast their votes. They formally nominated him. He gave his acceptance speech. The convention was seen as huge, smoothly run success in 1980. And the first thing that Ronald Reagan did thereafter, the first thing he did after winning the nomination in that perfectly orchestrated, micromanage, tightly scripted pageant, the first thing he did as the newly minted Republican presidential nominee of 1980 was to go here, to go 800 miles south-southwest from that convention in Detroit to an out of way place that`s hard to get to, that had no national political significance as a location other than the one thing that town and that county were famous for. Again, this was 1980. One of the things going on in president politics that year was that 1980 was the first presidential election since 1960. First presidential election in 20 years in which Alabama`s segregationist governor was not a candidate in one way or another or in the general election. George Wallace had been running a segregationist campaign for president for so many years. He ran in `64, he ran in `68, he ran in `72, he ran in `76. 1980 was the first one in which George Wallace wasn`t going to be a factor having run in the previous four presidential elections. And when Ronald Reagan became the nominee for president that year in 1980, he had to make a decision about where to start his general election campaign. He made a decision that was widely seen, at the time, as basically Ronald Reagan`s attempt to lock up any stray remaining George Wallace votes that might still be out there in the country. Ronald Reagan had run in `76 and again in `80 as basically an insurgent conservative force within the Republican Party. He wasn`t a Gerald Ford Republican. He wasn`t a Nelson Rockefeller Republican. He was campaigning for president as somebody who was promising to not just bring the country to the right, he was promising Republican Party significantly to the right. Nobody knew if that kind of campaign would work at national level, but if it was going to work, everybody knew that Reagan would need every single conservative vote in the country. And George Wallace voters had been a very specific kind of conservative for the previous four presidential elections. And so, in 1980 with George Wallace finally and completely out of presidential running for the first time in 20 years, there was a strategic decision made to try to make sure the Republican nominee in 1980 would be able to mop up votes from any of the people left in the country who had favored that segregationist candidate, George Wallace, and all those previous elections in which you had run, who might have felt in 1980 like they didn`t have candidate anymore now that Wallace wasn`t running again for the first time in two decades. So, Ronald Reagan didn`t go campaign in his home state of California after he won the nomination. He didn`t rush off to some obvious swing state. Ronald Reagan`s first stop after the convention, the place he started his general election campaign was Mississippi. Specifically, it was Neshoba County, Mississippi, which was nationally famous, still today, and was certainly nationally famous at the time for exactly one thing. Neshoba County, Philadelphia, Mississippi, is where James Chaney, Michael Schwerner and Michael Goodman were lynched by the Klan in 1964, and where local law enforcement participated in their racist murders and then covered it up. I mean, the reason they make movies about that case, the reason Chaney, Schwerner and Goodman are still household names today, the reason that story is so -- I mean, incredible and emotionally heartrending and there`s such intense national storytelling about that triple murder is not just because of the horror of that crime, it`s because of the critical and dramatic fact that local law enforcements was fine with it. Local law enforcement was in on it. And it took the federal government to go down and force themselves in to Neshoba County, Mississippi, in order to solve those murders, even just to find the bodies, because under local authority in Neshoba County, Mississippi, it was not otherwise going to happen. On August 3rd, 1980, right after he was made the Republican nominee, Neshoba County is where Ronald Reagan went. He went on a hot sweaty day in August and he told a crowd of 30,000, wildly enthusiastic white Mississippians quote, "I believe in states` rights." He stood in front of that all white, huge, screaming crowd of tens of thousands in Mississippi and said that the federal government had too much power, that if he became president he would reign in that federal overreach and restore to the states and local communities those functions which properly belong there. I believe in states rights. Andrew Goodman lasted one day in that town before the Klan murdered him, along with his fellow civil rights activists. Those three young men were murdered in June 1964. The town did not cough up their bodies until August. When Ronald Reagan stood up on that stage 16 years later in August, at that time, some of the co-conspirators in that triple murder were still being protected in that town. As the newly minted Republican presidential nominee of 1980 went down to that town, showed up at the country fair, spoke to an all white audience and said not one word about the murders that town was nationally famous for and instead that whipped that sea of 30,000 white faces into a frenzy and preached states rights to them and told them that he was their candidate. That was 1980. In 2008, in the presidential election that year, the country elected our first African-American president. That election was November 4th, 2008. On November 4th, 2008, that was a Tuesday. Election is always on a Tuesday. But that same day, four days later on Saturday of that week, a group of teenagers from a county called Suffolk County in New York went out in the very morning hours with a BB gun. Their plan was to try to find a Hispanic immigrant in their town and shoot at that person with a BB gun. They found a Hispanic man sitting on his porch not doing anything, not bothering anybody and they shot him multiple times with that BB gun. Later that day, that same day, the same group added a few more friends and added again looking for Hispanic immigrants to attack. In the town of Patchogue, they found a Hispanic man walking on the street, rolling his bicycle along, teenagers got out of their car and started screaming racist slurs at him. They circled him and they eventually started beating and kicking him. They did not kill him. The man was able to get away. The group was not done. Later the same night, the same group went out, again looking for another Hispanic immigrant to try to terrorize and attack. They found two Hispanic men walking near the train station in this same time where they had earlier beaten up the guy with the bike. And again, this group, they surrounded these men who they found on the street who were doing nothing to them, doing nothing wrong but they had the misfortune of being Hispanic. They beat them. They called them racist names, attacked them and this time, one of those two men they were attacking, they did kill him. One of the men who they attacked, a 37-year-old man who worked at a local dry cleaners, they stabbed him in the chest and killed him. The national story at that point, that week, the week of November 4th, 2008, what was beginning on in the country, we what were all thinking about in terms of race and our country was, wow, we`re the country who just elected a black president. But in New York, the local story was Suffolk County and these racist attacks, these escalating racist attacks that had suddenly but probably inevitably turned fatal. In the wake of that murder, this hate-crime murder. This murder came at the end of beating by seven teenagers, the local Hispanic population started reporting that this was the culmination of what had been years of these kinds of organized attacks unprovoked, racist predatory attacks. A few months after the murder, "The New York Times" published ten pages of racist unprovoked attacks on Hispanics in that town and surrounding towns. People beaten badly enough to need surgery, people beaten with baseball bats, beaten with belts and chains, all completely unprovoked attacks. And again and again and again, each of these attacks, the story of the police is the police just seemed not to care. Eventually in 2009, the federal Department of Justice investigated the local police for discriminatory policing, discouraging Latino victims from filing complaints, failing to investigate crimes, failing to investigate hate crimes against Latinos. The number of raw crimes against Latinos in this county. The Justice Department eventually entered into an agreement with the county police department. The county police department agreed to cooperate. That happened in place called Suffolk County, New York. The epicenter of these hate crimes and these racist attacks, including the police seeming to not care about these racist attacks, the epicenter was a little town called Patchogue in Suffolk County. I mean, it`s a little town. I mean 12,000 people. It`s in kind of out of way place. It has no national political significance whatsoever other than this thing from a few years ago if which it`s sort of famous. What it`s famous for is the racist targeting of Hispanic immigrants to the point of murder. And today, that town, that little town of 12,000 people is where Donald Trump decided to campaign. He didn`t just go to Suffolk County. He didn`t just go to Patchogue. He decided to campaign today on the street where 37-year-old Marcelo Lucero was beaten and then stabbed to death by racist mob that attacked him because he was a Hispanic immigrant. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: The message from Hispanic advocate s clear is that Trump shouldn`t appear on the same street where Lucero was killed in a headline- making 2008 hate crime. Twenty-one-year Patchogue resident Maria Avacella said she remembers when immigrants were beaten routinely here and she worries that Trump`s visit will start the violence again. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m really afraid because I don`t want this bad things happen. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump is the front-runner. So, we welcome him to Suffolk County. REPORTER: The chairman of Suffolk`s Republican Party says he has no plan to move or postpone the Trump appearance. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The local news report from last night. Today, the Suffolk County Republican Party went ahead with this invitation they extended to Donald Trump to campaign on the same street as that fatal hate crime, immediately adjacent to that fatal hate crime site, literally a couple hundred yards from where that young man died. Mr. Trump was introduced at that event by former Republican candidate for New York governor, Carl Paladino. This is how he introduced them. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CARL PALADINO, TRUMP`S NY HONORARY CAMPAIGN CO-CHAIR: Anybody chances anybody in this room know if we`re going to build a wall? (CHEERS) Are we going to build a wall? (CHEERS) Who`s going to pay for that wall? (CHEERS) Is that right? New Yorkers are with Donald Trump all the way. (CHEERS) Because he speaks truth and because he doesn`t fear. We`re going to build that wall? (CHEERS) Is Mexico going to pay for it? One more time, who`s going to build that wall? Who`s going to pay for that wall? Thank you. God bless America and God bless Donald Trump for facing these people. DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We`re going to have strong voters. We`re going to have a wall. The wall is going to be built. You, of course, know who`s paying for the wall, right? Who`s paying? We`re going to build a wall. Who`s going to pay for that wall? A hundred percent. John is predicting this is going to be my single biggest margin Suffolk, this whole area. (CHEERS) He better be right. He better be right. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Patchogue`s history of racist and fatal hate crimes against Latino immigrants. It`s not necessarily a nationally famous story. But it is a New York famous story. Donald Trump has not yet won the Republican nomination. He`s still trying to win the New York primary, but campaigning in Patchogue today on the street where Marcelo Lucero was murdered, it means something specific in New York. Local activists and local boards have been begging Suffolk County Republicans and Donald Trump to please not do this. "The New York Times" editorial board called it a disgraceful provocation by Trump and local Republicans for inviting him, but he did it. He was greeted by a very enthusiastic, screaming, almost entirely white crowd inside. While a more diverse group of protesters outside expressed themselves as well. Tonight, Mr. Trump and other Republican candidates for president are at the New York state Republican gala in midtown Manhattan where yet more protesters are outside trying to be a counterpoint to what the candidates stand for. You know, and protests are part of politicking. This nomination is not yet sewn up by anyone. But in presidential politicking, symbolism is a deliberate choice. And racial provocation is something with a deep and resonant history. And it is one thing to do that as a small fry politician. It is another thing to do it as a frontrunner for a major party`s presidential nomination. Being a presidential front-runner is a powerful thing. It can also be a dangerous thing if you want it to be. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Lots of news tonight, including news of a standoff in the making between Washington, D.C. and Republicans in Congress, and what this giant history basic field of Republican contender has to say about the way the current race can and cannot be run this year under penalty of law. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: So, last night on this show, I made an embarrassing but I still think kind of funny mistake of showing Republican Congressman Peter King of New York, lower left there, when I meant to be showing a picture of Senator Angus King of Maine. I would like to thank everyone on Twitter who kindly corrected me immediately. I would like to thank the people that corrected me not kindly. I get it. I screwed up. I`m sorry. Now with that experience behind me, I`m going to try again. This, as best as I can tell, is the entire Republican presidential field from 1876, including the great Roscoe Conkling and unpronounceable John Hartranft and good old Eli Washburne, God rest his soul. Also the guy who eventually won the presidency that year, Rutherford B. Hayes, the governor of Ohio. Rutherford Hayes was one of nine candidates for the Republican nomination that year. The nomination was eventually decided at a contested convention in Hayes` home state, Cincinnati, Ohio. Although Ohio governor Hayes finished near the back of the pack, the convention ended up going to seven ballots before they got a nominee. It was the hometown guy who won. Now, in advance of that hotly contested convention of 1876 which was held in Cincinnati, Ohio, the Ohio legislature had passed a new law to try to avert shenanigans. They tried to prevent anybody from bribing their way to a presidential nomination at that convention. They were worried about that because that happened a lot at conventions in those days. This is the "Cincinnati Enquirer" in 1874. Quote, "Purchases for votes for money have been openly made in the hall where conventions are held. A class of political bummers who have arisen, who become delegates for no purpose in the world but to sell their votes to the highest bidder." Political bummers. Today, I learned political bummers, thank you 19 century Ohio. But that state law prohibiting political bummers forbidding the bribing of delegates at political conventions in Ohio, that 1870s Ohio law is still on the books. This is the law. "No person shall before, during or after any primary convention or election give, lend, offer or procure or promise to give, lend, offer, or procure any money, office, position, employment, influence or any other valuable consideration to or for a delegate, elector or other person. In other words, you can`t bribe delegates at a convention in Ohio. It`s illegal. However else you`re supposed to win that crazy contested Republican convention of 1876, Ohio law straight up banned the bribing of delegates. Rutherford B. Hayes had to get there the hard way. But the fact of that decision way back in the 1870s, that now matters all over again because Republicans this year really do seem to be mud-wrestling their way to another contested convention. And that law might be an important part of how it`s decided. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Under federal law, there basically are no rules when it comes to what you can offer a delegate in exchange for his or her vote at a contested Republican nominating convention. Now, public officials aren`t supposed to take bribes as public officials. But let`s say you`re a delegate who`s not a public official. There`s nothing in the federal law that says you can`t sell your allegiance, you can`t sell your vote as a delegate for a car or a suitcase full of cash or anything. Under federal law, arguably, a rich candidate like, say, Donald Trump, could spend a few tens of millions of dollars of his personal wealth buying a few hundred delegates new houses or new cars or just writing them checks in other words to seal up the nomination for himself. Federal law apparently would not stop that. Here`s the wrinkle in the checkbook, though -- this particular Republican convention is going to take place in the great state of Ohio. It turns out, weirdly, since the 1870s, Ohio has had a very specific law that bans anyone from bribing the delegates at a political convention. So, it may be fine under federal law, but under Ohio law it would be a fourth degree felony prosecutable under the long arm of the law. So, here`s my question -- how long is that arm of the law? Does it apply only to bribing delegates within the state of Ohio? What if the bribe is offered in Indiana, and then the delegate travels to Ohio to vote at the convention in Cleveland? Or what about like those uncommitted delegates from the U.S. Virgin Islands. What if they turn up in Cleveland in time to collect the keys to their new Lake Tahoe timeshares that they have traded in exchange for their votes, would they have to face trial in Ohio? Who would arrest them? How does that work? Joining us now is Steven Dettelbach. He`s a former U.S. attorney for northern Ohio. Mr. Dettelbach, it`s really nice to have your here tonight. Thanks for being here. STEVEN DETTELBACH, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY FOR NORTHERN OHIO: Great. Thanks for having me. MADDOW: Have I explained the Ohio law here? And am I asking the right questions about it? DETTELBACH: Yes. Well, I think you are. I`m in the sure I agree it`s clear that even under federal law that you can`t pay a delegate for their vote and be in some trouble. But we don`t have to get there. As you said, in Ohio, of all places, there`s a specific law that clearly covers delegates at conventions. Look, like all criminal laws, they apply to conduct that ours in part or in whole in Ohio. So, we talk about in the criminal law, a thing called venue, jurisdiction. Where can something be done? Just as if you committed fraud and part of the fraud occurred in Ohio and part of the fraud occurred in Indiana or a crime of violence or rape or any horrible crime, you know, if part of this crime occurs in Ohio, you`re going to have to face an investigation and prosecution in Ohio. MADDOW: In terms of, I don`t mean to get too technical, this terms of "by taking place in Ohio," how would that apply to a bribe consummated in Cleveland, right? Let`s say someone in the U.S. Virgin Islands makes a deal and accepts the crime and all they do in Cleveland is vote. Would that still be -- (CROSSTALK) DETTELBACH: That`s a pretty big thing to do. That`s what you`re being bribed for is the vote. One example is cases involving Congress people in the federal side, where there`s a case involving former Congressman Dan Rostenkowski, right? A lot of things of value, a lot of corrupt action happened in Illinois. He was prosecuted in the district in the District of Columbia by then U.S. Attorney Eric Holder. It`s hard to imagine a situation where the convention happening in the state of Ohio where there would be some sort of illegal conduct that would not touch Ohio at all. And I guess now, as a private attorney, if a client came to me and said, hey, you know, I`m going to do this thing that`s clearly illegal, but I`m going to do around it by doing most of the stuff outside of Ohio, I`d tell them to channel the Republican Party`s Nancy Reagan and just say no, because that`s a very dangerous place to be. Juries don`t like those arguments and judges don`t like those arguments. And you don`t want to be making those arguments from some jail cell in some appeals case. MADDOW: Steven Dettelbach, former U.S. attorney -- thank you for helping us understand this. This is a strange aspect of the story, but it`s good to be forewarned. Thank you, sir. DETTELBACH: Thanks. MADDOW: The prospect of Ohio prosecutors prowling the Cleveland convention site when one of the contenders for the nomination is the Ohio governor. They`re going to prosecute this under state law. I hope it doesn`t come to that. All right. Much more ahead. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Remember when Spam was just delicious canned meat? Remember the original junk mail when it wasn`t an inbox folder on a screen. It was shady printed material promising you`ve already been selected as a winner. You`d not actually been selected as a winner, but if you got far enough into reading the nonsense, suss that out, they probably already lured you this enough to scam you out of something. Well, it turns out that real old fashioned Spam has been updated. Spam now comes in lots of delicious different flavors. And it turns out that real old fashioned junk mail has been updated. And now, it comes in political flavors designed to swindle your grandparents for political purposes. I`ll warn you, this is a fairly disgusting story. It involves the National Republican Party. We first covered the story several weeks ago. The story has broken wide open. We have that story ahead. Bring your bucket. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Today`s April 14th, which means tomorrow is Tax Day or at least it should be. Except this year, it`s not. Tax Day isn`t April 15th this year. It`s April 18th. It`s Monday. And that is thanks to Abraham Lincoln and Washington, D.C. The Emancipation Proclamation freed more than 3 million slaves in this country. It was issued January 1st, 1863. But about nine months before that, President Lincoln issued a sort of mini-Emancipation Proclamation or a geographic special one for Washington, D.C. more than 3,000 slaves held this D.C. was freed nine months before the Emancipation Proclamation for the whole country. D.C. celebrates Emancipation Day every year. So, this year for Emancipation Day, there`s going to be a parade. They`re going to bring out what the mayor says is her favorite thing about Emancipation Day. They bring out the dump trucks and the snowplows and the fire trucks, all the city trucks. So, all the D.C. kids can touch all the cool trucks, which is awesome. There`s going to be fireworks for Emancipation Day, and because it`s a holiday, everything in D.C. is going to be shut down tomorrow for the holiday, for Emancipation Day. And that includes the IRS which is located in Washington, D.C. That is why you get until Monday to turn in your taxes this year. While you are thanking D.C. for that, spare thought for what D.C. also has to put up with because the federal government happens to be situated there. Paul Ryan was the biggest story in Republican politics when he had to hold a press conference to convince people he`s not running for president. But the job he does hold is speaker of the house. One of the lower profile things about Paul Ryan is that he seems like he`s not going to be able to pass a federal budget this year. That is embarrassing for him. It`s annoying to lots of people who depend on the federal budget for important stuff. But for D.C. specifically, it`s insane and dumb. Because when D.C. comes up with its budget every year, it`s not like states. They can`t debate and amend and pass a budget. The D.C. budget, even though it`s their own money, their budget as a city has to go to the White House where the president is asked to please include that budget request this his federal budget request and it goes to Congress and Congress decides on it. So, like members of Congress from Hawaii and Utah get to decide whether or not the city of D.C. gets its budget or if it should be changed. And that`s annoying enough when D.C. has to wade through the interference and wait for the federal government to pass a budget for the country before this one city gets to spend its own money. But when somebody like Paul Ryan is in charge and so, we`re apparently not going to be able to get a budget, D.C. ends up being in limbo forever through new fault of their own. And, you know what? D.C. right now as a city is doing pretty great. D.C. not only has a population bigger than the state of Vermont and the state of Wyoming. D.C. is doing so well right now, they are adding a thousands people to their population every month. So many people are moving into the district. They`ve got a big budget surplus. D.C. is doing great. They are just forced to put everything they want to do as a city, even with their own money, through this totally dysfunctional, completely deadlocked, insanely partisan, incompetent Congress. At least they have been until now, because this year, D.C. has decided to celebrate Emancipation Day, this awesome holiday that buys us extra three days to do our taxes, D.C. has decided to celebrate Emancipation Day this year by not sending Congress its budget and just proceeding on its terms to spend their money as they see fit. D.C.`s mayor and city council passed an amendment that says they have the right to do this. D.C. voters ratified it and said D.C. should be able to do this. D.C. believes it`s on firm legal ground to act of its own and finally leave Congress out of it for the first time since being founded in 1790. Now, Congress, of course, on the other hand, Congress believes that D.C. has no right to do this at all and everything has to go through Congress. But D.C. this year, they`re going for it, which means, A, fight. And B, Happy Emancipation Day. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MAYOR MURIEL BOWSER, WASHINGTON, D.C.: As we celebrate emancipation day, we honor the many champions who have fought for equality and civil rights throughout our history. We also use this opportunity to continue to fight for equality for all in our city as we renew our push for full democracy and statehood in the District of Columbia. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Joining us now is the mayor of Washington, D.C., Muriel Bowser. Mayor Bowser, thank you so much for being here. It`s great to have you here. BOWSER: Thank you, Rachel. And Happy Emancipation Day. MADDOW: I was going to ask if there`s a more appropriate greeting than "Happy Emancipation Day", but that`s just the way we say it, right? BOWSER: No, I think it`s great. I think it`s great. I couldn`t be more thrilled with the introduction you provided the nation to let people know what`s happening in Washington, D.C. MADDOW: So, you`re in this strange position where you`re the only mayor in the country where you have to send your budget through Congress every year. Am I right to say you`re stopping doing that for the first time this year? BOWSER: Well, you`re right to say. The budget autonomy allows us. It was a measure passed by the council. And you`re right, it went to the voters. It was overwhelmingly approved. And it`s been uphold in our courts. So, for the first time, I`m the first mayor in the history of Washington, D.C. that will send our local budget will not go to the White House and be a part of the federal budget. We will not be treated like a federal agency. And we will send our local budget as we would send another piece of legislation to the Congress. But we still have to send that part of to the Congress. What we`ve got to what the real fight is for us, how can we be treated like every other American citizen and have full democracy in statehood in Washington, D.C. MADDOW: What are you expecting in terms of a backlash or blowback from Congress, who`s been so aggressive and trying to sort of keep D.C. down? BOWSER: Well, I think that we and so many people have been a part of getting the vote from our voters, fighting the legal battle. Our council in the District of Columbia has been involved. I think the fact the courts have weighed in suggest to everybody that sending our budget, our local dollars up through the process, not to the White House, but directly to the Congress makes sense for everybody. MADDOW: I`m going to paint this with a broad brush and you can correct me if I`m wrong here, but it seems to me as an outsider that the Democratic Party is sympathetic to D.C.`s autonomy and to D.C. becoming a state, having a normal member of Congress and two senators, and Republicans are against that broadly speaking. Why is this a partisan issue, especially given that Republicans are for local control? BOWSER: Well, it absolutely shouldn`t devolve into a partisan discussion. Very fundamental to our rights as Americans is the idea that every person in our nation should be represented in the Congress, and in very practical ways this disadvantages the residents of Washington, D.C. When senators and Congress people are considering matters of great importance like the Affordable Care Act, we had no vote in the Congress whatsoever and no voice in the Senate. Just this week, senators from Maryland and Virginia were meeting about the state of our region`s metro system and it was so stark that there were two senators, one senator from Maryland and two senators from Virginia and we had no voice at that table. So, to the people of Washington, D.C. who pay taxes, who go to war, to not have those votes in the Congress is a travesty. MADDOW: D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, Madam Mayor, thank you so much for being here tonight. I really appreciate it. BOWSER: Thank you, Rachel. MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us tonight. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: So, this one has a happy ending. Last month, a viewer of this show from California sent us this. Kind of makes your heart race a little bit, right? It`s an envelope with past due, right? "Notice of delinquency" printed on the outside of it. Inside that scary envelope is a letter that says its recipient has funds past due and that letter is from Reince Priebus, chairman of the National Republican Party. Now, it turns out, that is not actually a bill. Nothing is overdue. What that is, is a fundraising mailer, but it`s one that is designed to scare anybody who receives it into thinking that you actually owe somebody money, and maybe a bill collector is going to come after you and your credit is about to get screwed up. So, this is the kind of sleazy tactic that elderly voters are particularly susceptible to, right? We were the first national news program to report that the Republican National Party was apparently sending these things out to try to scare elderly people into sending them money. This started showing up in mailboxes all over the country and it turns out there caused there to be a lot of anxious and angry older voters around the country who got these things. And then, thank you heavenly heavens, that -- those angry voters, that caused there to be a lot of outraged local news teams who followed up on their local viewers` behalf. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: It looks like a bill came in the mail, but Mary has reason to be suspicious. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t owe anybody. REPORTER: But retirees Mary and Bob see a warning stamped in bold red letters. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Notice of delinquency. REPORTER: And there`s more. The return address says office of records and a membership activation form with a circled eye catcher. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Past due, $25, $50, $100, $250, $500. REPORTER: Sent to the Republican national committee. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very deceptive. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good word. Definitely it`s a trick. It`s like it wants to put a scare factor into you and then you`re afraid if I don`t send this $25, maybe I won`t get to vote. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I brought it in from the mailbox and this is where I opened it right here. REPORTER: And in bright red letters notice of delinquency. So, your heart starts pounding in this moment? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely. It`s not fair. It`s not right. REPORTER: Is there any question in your mind this is predatory? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No question at all. I think they`re taking advantage of people who might not know otherwise. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was very frightened at what bill did I miss and my heart started racing and then when I opened it up, it was just my heart started racing because I was angry. Not only the mail carrier, whoever handled this from Washington, D.C. to here, they`re thinking oh, boy, here`s another dead beat. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: So when are you going to kick in a few bucks to this person you owe money to, which happens to be the Republican National Committee. Yes. Here`s the thing, all of these local news teams across the country, there are news reports from Nebraska and Virginia and North Carolina, all of them have been pushing the RNC really hard on this. They`ve been calling and e-mail their state parties too. They even contacted the United States Postal Inspection Service, the postal police, to find out if this mailer from the National Republican Party violates federal law against mailing a solicitation in the form of an invoice. One station reported that the postal cops were launching an investigation of the National Republican Party over this. But through all of this, the RNC itself never appears to have answered any of these local reporters` questions, not even to confirm that the mailer was actually from the National Republican Party. They wouldn`t give these local reporters the time of day. But now, today, I`m pleased to report that the RNC has given us an answer. The Republican National Committee told us today that, yes, this thing was their mailer and they told us it won`t happen again. Their exact quote was, "This was a limited mailing and won`t be sent again." Nice. Good. Now all that`s needed is an apology to all those nice old ladies and the millions of other Republican Party people who they sent this to and then probably the next step would be sending back any of the money they got off this sleazy nonsense because who knows how much of it was sent by older people who thought they were sending money because they had to, not because they wanted to. Don`t mess with old people, Republican Party. And don`t mess with the local news reporters all over the country who are watching out for them. This story makes me so mad. Anyway, that does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow. Now, Lawrence O`Donnell`s special look inside the stop Trump starts right now. END