Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: April 20, 2016 Guest: Tad Devine, Curt Guyette
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR: Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
We`ve got a big show tonight. There`s a lot going on today in the news. There`s a lot going on in politics.
As you probably know, the first criminal charges were brought in the Flint, Michigan lead point poisoning disaster. Today, we`ve got a big report on that coming up later on in tonight`s show.
We`ve also got an interview tonight with someone who one of the people charged today basically confessed to on camera and we`ve got that what amounts to a confession on tape and we`ve got that interview coming up. It`s just a remarkable thing to see. These criminal charges being filed is a landmark thing for the Flint story that we`ve been covering for so many months now, and that story is ahead.
Also tonight, we`ve got the top strategist for the Bernie Sanders for president campaign. Hillary Clinton, of course, won an unexpectedly resounding victory last night in New York state. That has led to a lot of really difficult discussions today on the Democratic side as to whether or not Bernie Sanders is still really competing for the nomination at this point. The Sanders campaign is really being more pressured on that issue today than they have been at any other time in the entire campaign.
And so, tonight, here on this show live we`ve got the top guy in the Sanders campaign. We`ve got the senior strategist for Bernie Sanders here tonight for an extensive interview. That`s coming up in just a moment.
But I want to start tonight with something that I`ll tell you off of the bat I cannot explain it. It`s legitimately weird, maybe you can explain it, but I can`t. And it concerns this guy -- concerns this handsome gentleman. His name is Eliot Engel. He`s one of the more recognizable members of Congress. In any setting, in any picture, if people are holding still or moving really fast, you can tell if he`s somewhere in the frame because Eliot Engel, as you can see, he has a truly heroic giant mustache.
It`s a completely different size than the whole rest of him. Clown shoes are to clowns what Eliot Engle`s mustache is to Eliot Engel. I say that with total affection. My dad had a mustache for most of my life that looked exactly like Eliot Engel`s mustache. He has since shaved it, but I still think of him as kind of looking like Eliot Engel at least between the nose and top lip.
Anyway, because he reminds me of my dad before my dad shaved, because he has inarguably the best Democratic mustache in American politics, Congressman Eliot Engel of New York was easy to spot on stage last night as a whole giant crowd of New York state Democrats crowded on stage with Hillary Clinton, as she finished up her victory speech in Manhattan.
So, amid former Mayor David Dinkins, and current mayor, Bill de Blasio, and the attorney general for New York, Eric Schneiderman, all these other New York officials, all these people up there, there unmistakably, right, is Eliot Engel right behind Hillary Clinton there. See, there`s the mustache? Mr. Mustachio.
Eliot Engel and his mustache represent a district just north of New York in Westchester County. It`s a very heavily Democratic district. It also turned out last night to be a very pro-Clinton district. Hillary Clinton won that congressional district last night by a 38-point margin.
But the weird thing that happened in Eliot Engel`s congressional district last night that legitimately cannot explain is something that happened on the Republican side and yes, it`s true that there aren`t that many Republicans in Eliot Engel`s district. Yesterday, for example, the number of Democrats who voted -- the number of Democrats who voted in that district tripled the number of Republicans who voted in that district.
But it doesn`t mean that the Republican votes there are unimportant, right? Every congressional district had three delegates to give out on the Republican side. Be even if there were only a handful of Republicans voting in one particular district, they still got three delegates to give out. So, therefore, even in this district where there aren`t that many Republicans, it still really matters who wins.
And in Eliot Engel`s district last night, Donald Trump won. He won with more than 50 percent of the vote. He got all three of the congressional delegates from that district, convention delegates from that district. But a strange thing also happened in that district on the Republican side in addition to Donald Trump winning there, because when we started producing this show today, looking at the results from that district, there were 82 percent of precincts reporting in that congressional district and at the top, it was as you would expect, Donald Trump was winning by a lot, John Kasich was coming in second, OK.
But with 82 percent of precincts reporting, this is as of this afternoon, look at the other people getting votes in the Republican race. Ted Cruz had 1,757 votes. Ben Carson, who dropped out of the race in the first week of March, Ben Carson had significantly more votes than Ted Cruz. He was up over 2,000 votes. This was with 82 percent of precincts reporting.
Ted Cruz on track in that one congressional district of the New York suburbs did not only lose to Donald Trump and lose to John Kasich, but also to lose to a guy who has not been in the race for six weeks. And everybody knows it. It`s not like this a leftover thing where a whole bunch of people early voted for Ben Carson. There`s no early voting in New York. So, that result is nuts.
But then at some point today, Eliot Engel`s congressional district got in the rest of the vote. So those results you were looking at were 82 percent of precincts reporting. Then we flipped over at some point today from 82 percent reporting to 100 percent reporting and, oh, boy, with that last little bit of that district was that good for Ted Cruz because when those final 18 percent of precincts came in Ted Cruz went from 1,757 votes up to 2,100 votes even. He gained 343 votes when those final precincts were tallied.
And Ben Carson went from 2,056 votes to 162 votes. So when those final precincts came in, Ben Carson got a minus 1,894 votes from the last 18 percent of precincts. The negative voting for Ben Carson in those last 18 percent of precincts, that`s really something. He lost 1,800 votes. That saved Ted Cruz from a fourth place finish to a guy who is no longer running and hasn`t been for weeks.
What happened there?
New York is a cosmopolitan, fairly well off state that just had presidential primaries in both parties that were unusually consequential and exciting. Millions of dollars were spent by the candidates to inspire voter turnout. Dozens if not hundreds of candidate events were held in New York City, and in New York state. Palpable enthusiasm across New York for this presidential contest this year and still, New York is so screwed up. New York makes it so difficult to vote in this state that New York`s voter turnout was worst voter turnout than ever other state that has held a primary so far this year other than Louisiana, which is also a disaster, but everybody expects that from Louisiana.
New York has archaic, arcane, terribly run, non-transparent, super sketchy elections and they have forever thanks to the fact that the elections in this state are organized and administered by the state of government of New York which proudly features what I think is inarguably, the most inconsistently and flagrantly corrupt state legislator in the entire nation, at least as measured by indictments and convictions, right?
I mean, there`s a lot of competition for most corrupt state legislature. But New York.
Even so, even with Ted Cruz appearing to benefit from a last minute surge of minus 1,800 votes for Ben Carson in one congressional district, Ben Carson who was apparently beating him in that district, huh, nevertheless the results were stark enough in New York that even the disaster that is the election system in this state, it cannot disguise the overall story of what happened here.
Obviously, the top line story, the victory story is that both front-runners won in New York. They both won by a lot. Hillary Clinton`s margin was about 16 points in the end, Donald Trump`s margin was 35 points, which is just astonishing.
And the only thing as impressive as the size of those victories for Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump last night, the only thing that equivalent in terms of its magnitude last night was the truly epic and complete nature of the Ted Cruz wipeout in the state of New York. Not only did Ted Cruz lose to Donald Trump and lose to John Kasich, he almost lost to John Kasich -- he did lose by double digits.
Not only did Ted Cruz not win a single delegate in all of New York state, Ted Cruz didn`t even win a single congressional district. He didn`t win a single county in all of New York. He was just destroyed here.
And maybe that`s fine for your campaign if you`re one of 17 candidates running in a giant field and maybe in a state where nobody knows your name and you`re not trying. But this is -- but this is Ted Cruz at the point where the Republican field is down to three people and he wants you to think it`s actually down to him and Donald Trump because he wants you to think of John Kasich as not really being in the running anymore.
What Ted Cruz and his campaign are trying to sell the Republican Party and its voters right now is that Ted Cruz is obviously the guy who should be seen as the alternative to Donald Trump, particularly the electable alternative to Donald Trump. Well, in this big diverse state of 20 million people, the answer to that last night was, ha, and to add injury to that insult by winning precisely zero delegates out of the 95 that were at stake last night on the Republican side in New York. Ted Cruz officially last night according to "The Associated Press", was mathematically excluded from the possibility of winning the Republican presidential nomination through some means other than talking the delegates into it at a contested convention in July.
Now, NBC News says it slightly different. NBC News, in terms of the delegate count, which is an inexact science, says that he is, you know, within a micron of being excluded. "The A.P." says he flat out is mathematically excluded. From "The A.P.`s" math, there are 674 delegates still at stake in the remaining Republican races, 674 still at stake. Ted Cruz needs 678 to get the nomination. So, he`s not going to get there. Obviously neither is John Kasich.
But now, John Kasich and Ted Cruz are in exactly the same boat. They are both guys who can`t win ahead of the convention, whose only hope at winning the nomination is some prayer that Donald Trump won`t be able to clench before the convention either and then those two guys, having also not won will be hanging around when the convention starts, hoping that things go their way.
You know, we knew this day would eventually come. NBC`s "First Read" actually saw this coming I think in early March was when they ran their first analysis piece, pointing out that it was already clear at that point that the only Republican candidate who could conceivably clench the nomination would be Donald Trump. Everybody else could only even hope to get it at the convention. That has been clear for a long time, that this is where the race was going.
But now that this mathematical truth has arrived, it does sort of feel like a different day in the Republican race. Math makes a difference.
On the Democratic side of the race, the math is also becoming an increasingly tough topic of discussion. For the Bernie Sanders campaign, the scale of Hillary Clinton`s 16 point victory in New York, well, it seems to have taken both the campaigns by surprise. Again, delegate math is not an exact science, but our best guess at this point is that Secretary Clinton will add something like 31 delegates to her lead over Bernie Sanders, thanks to New York`s results.
In the states voting next week, where there is public polling, Secretary Clinton is ahead in all of those states as well. And the combination of her lead in the delegates and the nature of the next part of the Democratic calendar, it just made it very difficult for the Sanders campaign to explain exactly how they see themselves really competing for the nomination at this point, really having any chance to win.
And the Sanders campaign, when they talked to the press, the Sanders campaign when you hear it from the candidate himself, the Sanders campaign when they put out on their fundraising e-mails, they do keep saying overtly that, of course, they can win, that, of course, they`re in real competition for the nomination. Of course, they have a path to victory, but there was this I think really important moment last night on our election night broadcast here in studio when Bernie Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver, he was asked here in person on our set to explain that path, to show the math, to show us and our viewers how Senator Sanders would win.
And this is what he said to explain it and this is why the two words "Jeff" and "Weaver" were trending all night last night on Twitter because of this public case that they`re now making for how Bernie Sanders would win.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC ANCHOR: Let manage ask you this, is this a fair statement? The popular vote and the pledged delegate count, if you are not leading at least one of those counts when June 7th finishes up, when we finish this primary process, you don`t have a claim to get those super delegates to flip. Are you still trying to flip super delegates without winning one of these?
JEFF WEAVER, BERNIE SANDERS CAMPAIGN MANAGER: I don`t think that that`s the case. Look, we`re going to go to the convention. It`s extremely unlikely that either candidate will have the requisite number of pledged delegates to get to this number, right? So, it`s going to be an election determined by the super delegates.
KORNACKI: You know as well as I do if June 7th comes and goes and Hillary Clinton has won the pledged delegate count in the primaries and she`s won the popular vote, there are going to be calls from her campaign and calls from a lot of influential delegates in this country, for you the Sanders campaign to make a decision to unite around her, you`re saying instead of that, you will spend those months, those weeks in the summer trying to flip super delegates to Bernie Sanders before the convention.
WEAVER: At this point, yes, absolutely.
KORNACKI: OK. Jeff Weaver, campaign manager for Bernie Sanders, thanks for the time. Appreciate it.
WEAVER: Glad to be here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Jeff Weaver last night speaking for the Sanders campaign here in our studio with Steve Kornacki. He left a trail of dropped jaws in his wake as he left the studio having explained that the Sanders campaign would take that path.
That if it comes to it, they will take a candidate who is behind in the vote, who is behind in the delegates who has therefore effectively been beaten in the primary process in a two person head to head competition they would take that campaign to the Democratic nominating convention in Philadelphia and continue their fight at the convention in Philadelphia to try to defeat the effective winner of the primary contest, to try to turn the super delegates against Secretary Clinton right through the Democratic nominating convention in July.
And so, now, there arises a really interesting empirical question, which is it`s an empirical question, it is an answerable question, and I`m hoping we`re going to get an answer for it tonight. And the question is this, is that Jeff Weaver or is the whole Sanders campaign in agreement on that? Is that the plan?
Is Senator Sanders in agreement with that? Is the other top strategists for the Sanders campaign in agreement with that? His name is Tad Devine and I`m going to ask him that next. He`s here live for the interview right after this.
MADDOW: Today, for the first time, criminal charges were filed in the Flint, Michigan lead poisoning disaster. We`re going to be talking about that story, including a person who played an absolutely key role in that, an unsung but absolutely key role in what lead to those criminal charges today. That`s coming up.
But here next for the interview is the senior adviser to the Bernie Sanders for president campaign, Tad Devine.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: I`m very pleased to say that joining us now for the interview is Tad Devine. He`s the senior adviser for the Bernie Sanders for president campaign.
Mr. Devine it`s really nice to have you on the show. You`ve never been my guest here with me one-on-one on 9:00. I really appreciate you being here.
TAD DEVINE, BERNIE SANDERS CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISOR: It`s great to be with you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Last night, it felt going into New York that you guys thought you were going to do better than you did. I know that anticipation and expectations, it`s a little bit spin, it`s a little bit science. Did you do less well than you thought you would last night?
DEVINE: We did. I thought we were going to do better. I thought -- I thought we`re going to get into the mid-40s, you know, maybe 46 or so. So, yes, we fell short and we won fewer delegates than I thought we would too, and we`re in a race for delegates right now. So, that was a setback.
MADDOW: After that loss, there`s been a lot of discussion in Democratic politics, both observers and people who are partisans about whether or not Senator Sanders still really has a realistic shot at winning the Democratic nomination. I know that your campaign believes that you do.
Do you believe you`ve got a realistic shot at winning the nomination ahead of the convention or is your only path, one that flips super delegates once the convention starts?
DEVINE: Well, I think we can win the nomination before the convention. I think the party can coalesce around Bernie Sanders. But, you know, it`s going to be -- you know, it`s going to be a difficult task. I mean, to do that, Rachel, I think we`re going to have win most of the events between now and the end, and most of the delegates.
Right now, we`re in our count we`re about 236 delegates behind -- pledged delegates behind Hillary Clinton in the delegate count. So, we`re going to have to make up that difference between now and the end of the voting in the middle of June.
I think we can do that. We can do it through a combination of victories in a number of states, and also, by continuing to win delegates in the caucus process. We`ve done very well in caucus states, and, you know, the living delegate calendar of the caucus states is as backloaded as the delegate allocation calendar of the primaries is frontloaded.
It gives us an opportunity in tier to tier in a caucus process to pick up more delegates. We`ve been doing it in places like Colorado, Nevada and elsewhere, and I think we`ll do it in all those states where we`ve done well before.
MADDOW: So, to be clear, in terms of that delegate process that you`re describing there, you`re saying that we should sort of expect to see a little bit from you guys what we`ve seen from Ted Cruz on the Republican side, that even in states where Hillary Clinton may have done better in what we think as the contest in that state when it comes to picking delegates there, you`re thinking you`re going to get more delegates out of that states than she will.
DEVINE: Yes, I think we`re proving that and I`ll use Nevada as an example. The first stage of the caucus process in Nevada when they counted up the results, Hillary Clinton had 20 delegates, in national delegate equivalencies and Bernie Sanders had 15. When we had the county conventions, we had an enormous turnout at the county conventions. And now, our delegate county is Bernie Sanders 19, Hillary Clinton 16.
So, we turned -- and that`s a really good amount of progress and I think when we get to the state convention in Nevada, we`ll pick up some more. So, that process is going to repeat it itself from tier to tier in the caucus process, and I think we`ll pick up a lot of delegates along the way.
MADDOW: Is there a point of friction between the case that Senator Sanders has made for people power basically, for this not being decided by the establishment for the Democratic Party insiders not doing this and it being the will of the voters and it should be something that gets decided in backrooms, gets decided in public. Is there a point of friction between that strategy that you`re describing state by state, also the super delegate strategy that you guys have talked about and the way he`s talked about how he wants to win?
DEVINE: I don`t think there is. I mean, these are the rules. Unlike the Republicans, Trump in particular, you know, we`re not going around saying everything`s rigged and running against the rules. The rules are as they are. We may not, you know, like the way the rules are set up in some places, but we`ve agreed to play by them.
So, you know, we`ll work hard under the rules of caucus states. We`ll work hard in other places. The super delegates are there. We`re going to work hard to earn their support. I think we`ll be able to do that.
If we succeed, listen, the key test is succeeding with voters. In 2008, I wrote a piece that they published in "The New York Times" right after Super Tuesday, and I argued that super delegates should wait and look and listen to what the voters do and follow the will of the voters and I can tell you, I got a lot of pushback from the Clinton campaign at the time. You know, when I publish that piece.
But I believe that today, that our super delegates, that our party leaders should let the voters speak first. And I think if they do that, all the way through the end of the voting, that will strengthen, and certainly strengthen our hand if we succeed with voters between now and June.
MADDOW: To that point, directly to that point, if at the end of the nominating contest, the last one is the Democratic contest in Washington, D.C., which I think is June 14th?
MADDOW: I have to check my tattoo, which I`ve now put on the inside of my hand, if at that point the voters have spoken and Hillary Clinton has more votes and she`s earned more pledged delegates by earning more votes, at that point, Jeff Weaver suggested last night that even at that point, the Sanders campaign strategy will still be to get super delegates to do exactly the opposite of what you described, to get them to flip and even though she`s got more votes, persuade them to go for Sanders anyway. Does that mean that you and Jeff have a difference of opinion on this?
DEVINE: No, no, I think Jeff and I are in the same place. Let me take a minute to talk about those two things, votes and delegates, OK? I think it`s really important and we`re trying and we believe we can win more pledged delegates to the national convention than Hillary Clinton when the voting ends. It`s going to be a tough process, a hard process, but I think we can get there.
You know, hopefully, we`ll get all the way there, but if we come four or five delegates short, you know, and we go from being 326 delegates behind on the 15th of March to two, well, technically, she has more delegates. But I think if we get very close or we`re a few ahead, you know, I think that will be impressive.
Now, as to votes, that`s another category. I hear the Clinton campaign all the time, quoting, you know, they`ve got a few weeks ago, it was 2.5 million, and it`s 2.4 million, then there`s 2.3 million after Wisconsin, you know, they`ll have a couple thousand more after New York, you know? And if every state were a primary and every state voted the way primaries vote, you know, I think the number of votes that counted would be a fair and objective measure.
But the truth is that many of the states that we use in this process are not primaries. So, if you`re not going to count a lot of primary states in the count of votes and one candidate, Bernie Sanders in this case, wins a lot of caucuses as opposed to primaries, you know, is it really fair to say we should use votes as a measure when I believe one big -- caucuses -- Washington state is a caucus, Minnesota, Colorado, you know, and we win a lot of small states that have caucuses, too.
Is that really a fair measure? I think the fair measure is pledged delegates and I think we should look at states, too. That`s how you elect a president, by winning states. So, let`s see who has won the states, let`s see who`s won the delegates, let`s see where we are in June. And I think then we`ll know what to do.
MADDOW: Tad, is there any circumstance under which it would be inappropriate for a candidate who is behind to try to get the super delegates to flip? I mean, is there any circumstance in which you as a senior adviser to the Sanders campaign to say, you know what, let`s stop lobbying the super delegates, and let`s fold it up and unify the party -- I mean, the way you`re describing this and the different variable you`re saying it work, it seems to me like a recipe for saying we`re never, ever, ever going to stop this campaign no matter what happens.
DEVINE: Well, no, listen, I think -- you know, we want to see where we are when the process ends. First of all, Bernie has made a commitment to go through the end and I`ll tell you why -- because millions of people are part of this campaign, they`ve contributed to it, literally millions. They`ve participated in as volunteers making phone calls on behalf of the campaign, more than 1 million people have come to events that we had around the country.
So, all of those people that have been a big part of this campaign, he wants to give them an opportunity to vote for him and we`re going to stay in to make sure they have that opportunity.
Now, when all that`s done, I think we have to step back and look at where we are and he has to make a decision about whether or not we then have a path to victory. Right now, we think we can get there. We think we can win more pledged delegates. We think we can win more states. We think we can prove to the Democratic Party leadership when this process is over that he will by far be the strongest candidate in the general election. And if we can make that case and win it, then we would hope the party would endorse him.
MADDOW: Tad Devine, senior adviser for Sanders for president, a man about who many people speak, but it is an honor to have a chance to talk to you about what you`re thinking rather than surmising it. Thanks for your time tonight, sir. I know it`s a busy time for you. Appreciate it.
DEVINE: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. Much more ahead tonight. Please stay with us.
MADDOW: Personal note: they say that news is anything that happens near an editor. Well, tonight, a little bit of news happened near me, you`re nice 9:00 lady on the cable TV and the $19 blazer. Tonight, we learned that a giant gas pipeline, which was proposed for the part of Massachusetts where I live, the rural western part of the state, a hugely controversial project, it has galvanized western New England and western Massachusetts in particular like nothing I have ever seen in the nearly 20 years I have lived there -- tonight, we learned, all of a sudden, unexpectedly, that that pipeline is not going to get built.
The pipeline company, a huge company called Kinder Morgan announced tonight unexpectedly that they are suspending their plans to build this $3 billion pipeline after years of fighting over it with the people who live in that part of the country.
And I say this as personal news because this is going to make a lot of my neighbors very, very, very happy. Especially the guy who turned out for the last protest march in my town holding a giant blue dragonfly, thus proving news happens where you live and also proving a new thing I didn`t know before today, which sometimes, news comes from giant dragon flies.
MADDOW: Today, for the first time, criminal charges were filed in conjunction with the lead poisoning disaster in Flint, Michigan, led all three network newscasts nationwide tonight. And these criminal charges for Flint, they come at an interesting time.
On Monday, it`s going to be exactly two years since the state made that decision to switch off Flint`s old water supply and switch on a new water supply in a way that it destroyed the city`s water structure and poisoned the town. The two-year anniversary of that decision is coming on up on Monday.
Heading up toward that anniversary, the governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder, he`s made a big public relations splash in the last few days by promising that he himself will spend the next 30 days drinking water drawn from a faucet in this nice lady`s house in Flint, Michigan. She has a filter on her faucet, and like all these faucet filters you can get anywhere in the country, and they`re supposed to be on every single faucet in every home in Flint, these filters are rated to filter out lead up to 150 parts per billion.
Well, we have lead testing results from that specific house in Flint from which Rick Snyder brought him his jugs full of water the other day. Since January, most of the tests in that home have been safe and the federal action level for doing anything about lead in the water is 15 parts per billion, and in January, and in February and beginning in March, that house was way under that danger zone.
But there was one day last month when they tested the water in that specific house and it was way over the limit. It was not only over the federal action alert level of 15 parts per billion, it was over 150 parts per billion, which is what that faucet filter is rated to be able to handle.
The problem in Flint is not that lead filled water was sent into the city`s water system. The problem in Flint is that the state government by making this terrible decision, they ruined the pipes in Flint. And so, the pipes unpredictably here and there, some days on, some days off, they episodically spit out big amounts of lead, dangerous amounts of lead.
Most days in that house where Rick Snyder took his glass of water the other day, most days, the lead levels in that house are fine. Every once in a while, not so much. Every once in a while, way more lead comes out of that tap than that filter is rated to handle.
So, I don`t what the lead was like on that day when Rick Snyder filled up all those jugs and took home all that water that he says he`s going to drink all month long. I don`t know if that was a good lead day or bad lead day in that house.
So, these criminal charges today for Flint, they come at an interesting time. They come at a time when the governor is still trying to manage his image around this stuff. They come at a time when Flint is still an active crime scene, right?
The city is still being lead poisoned. You still cannot drink from the tap in Flint. There is no door-to-door delivery of clean water in Flint. All over the city, there are still houses still testing way above what is safe, there are still houses with lead testing with lead levels in the thousands.
The pipes that the state ruined in Flint, they`re still there. They`re still the water pipes in that city. The mayor is trying to replace the lead pipes in the city one by one, house by house, trying to scrunch up money to get it done. But though the state ruined the pipes, there`s no state run effort to replace the pipes.
And so, now, while that crime is still happening and the people of Flint are still in terrible distress, now, in the midst of that, we do have the first criminal charges and they`ve been brought by the state attorney general. It was not self-evident that that`s where the first criminal charges would come from.
In January, we learned that the federal Justice Department was investigating what happened in Flint. The U.S. Attorney`s Office confirmed they opened a criminal investigation working with the FBI and also the U.S. postal inspection service. That part of it I don`t get.
The criminal division of the federal EPA has also been investigating what happened in Flint. The county prosecutor has been investigating what happened in Flint.
But today, these first charges turned out they were brought by the state attorney general in a big, splashy press conference, with tons of media there, the state attorney general himself making the announcement, giving a big speech. He`s widely known to have higher political aspirations in the state of Michigan.
If today`s press conference about these criminal charges felt like kind of a well-staged political event, that probably was not by accident. The three people who were charged today, they were as you probably expected, they were fairly low-level folks, one engineer and one supervisor from a state agency and one guy from Flint who worked at the water treatment plant.
But in addition to being low-level government officials, there`s also a sense in which these guys were the low hanging fruit in terms of criminal culpability.
Attorney General Bill Schuette today went out of his way to praise and thank and talk up the skills ands credentials of his crack investigating team that he formed on this matter, and this is not to take anything away from them, but all three of these people who were charged today, the things they were charged for are all things that have been basically reported out in great detail in public by journalists in Michigan.
The allegations against these three low level public officials they`re now spelled out in a criminal indictment from the attorney general, but they were first spelled out in great detail in the public domain.
Here`s an example. The e-mails obtained by activists and reporters in December showed that Stephen Busch told the state environment agency, he told the EPA that Flint was doing corrosion control to prevent lead from getting into the water, when that wasn`t true. They weren`t doing corrosion control. He told the EPA that they were. Today, he was charged with a felony for that. He`s pleaded not guilty.
The second state employee who was charged today, Michael Prysby, he signed off on using the Flint water plant to treat the city`s new water sources. And then in an e-mail that`s been notorious for months now in Michigan, he got this desperate message from the water quality supervisor at the Flint water plant that said this, quote, "If water is distributed from this plant in the next couple of weeks, it will be against my direction. I need time to adequately train additional staff and update our monitoring plans before I feel we are ready."
Mike Prysby today was charged with a felony for permitting the water plant to operate despite warnings like that one. He`s pled not guilty to that.
And the person who wrote that warning e-mail, the guy who worked at the Flint water treatment plant who warned in that e-mail that the switch should not happen, that Flint was not ready, they did not have adequate preparation do it safely, that guy who wrote that email, his name is Mike Glasgow, it turns out he`s the third person who was charged today. He`s not yet entered a plea in court.
And the reason he was charged today is because however heroic his warning was about the switch, we shouldn`t do the switch, we`re not ready, it`s against my wishes, however horrific that warning was, once the water switch happened, Mike Glasgow later basically confessed to doing the lead tests after the switch wrong. He confessed to saying the lead tests showed one thing when he knew they did not show that. And he not only confessed that to a reporter, he confessed that to a reporter on the record and on camera.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CURT GUYETTE, ACLU: How were you able to determine that every single housed a lead service line?
MIKE GLASGOW, FLINT`S LABORATORY AND WATER QUALITY SUPERVISOR: We`re not really. We threw bottles out everywhere to collect as many as we can to try to hit a number and that`s why we just turn in every result that we get in.
GUYETTE: You indicated on those reports that all those lines were lead service lines --
GLASGOW: To the best of our knowledge.
GUYETTE: When you didn`t have actual documentation for each house where you put that down.
GLASGOW: Yes, we`re still looking through the records.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, yes, that is one of the things for which this low level city of Flint public employee has been charged today in this first round of criminal charges in this still ongoing scandal.
And maybe the attorney general meant it when he said this is just the start, there will many more charges to come, presumably of people much higher up the food chain. But for know, what the attorney general has done is charged people, low level government employees, whose crimes have been thoroughly documented by reporters in the state of Michigan, including the man who standing opposite Mike Glasgow in that tape, asking him those questions and getting him basically to confess to what Mike Glasgow was today criminally charged with.
That reporter`s name is Curt Guyette. He`s a veteran investigative reporter. He has been working this story as an investigative reporter for the Michigan`s chapter of the ACLU. In a lot of important ways, Curt Guyette broke the story of what happened in Flint, Michigan, and he joins us next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Do you feel you did anything criminally wrong here.
GOV. RICK SNYDER (R), MICHIGAN: Again, I don`t want to get into that kind of speculation. I don`t believe so.
REPORTER: Governor, were you questioned as part of this investigation? And if so, by whom?
SNYDER: With respect to this investigation, I have not been questioned or been interviewed at this point in time. Our office has been cooperating, as I mentioned earlier, with this investigation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Governor Rick Snyder of Michigan today answering questions after three officials, three relatively low ranking officials were criminally charged in the Flint water lead poisoning disaster.
Joining us now is Curt Guyette. He`s an investigative reporter. He`s been working the story for the Michigan chapter of the ACLU. Today, Mr. Guyette received a prestigious prize, journalism prize called the Hillman Prize for his just invaluable and groundbreaking coverage of this story.
Curt, congratulations on that award --
CURT GUYETTE, ACLU OF MICHIGAN INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Thanks.
MADDOW: -- and thanks for being here.
Did you know that criminal charges were coming? Did you expect that these would be the first round of them?
GUYETTE: I had been told that it was likely criminal charges were going to be filed and I expected it would be the low level people that they would be starting off with, yes.
MADDOW: In terms of the low-level nature of these people`s jobs, right, in the sense that they`re not necessarily high ranking public officials, are they also people who were down the decision making tree, sort of down the line of accountability in terms of where the decisions were made that were so disastrous in Flint? Are they mid-level people, low level people?
GUYETTE: Well, Mike Glasgow, the Flint official, he was the person on the front lines and in charge of conducting the tests that were not just flawed, but rigged, and the people from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality were in charge of overseeing and that making some of the decisions. They were involved in the decision to use the water plant when it was not ready. They were involved in the decision not to use the mandatory corrosion control that caused all the damage and resulted in the disaster.
So, but what we haven`t seen or at least I haven`t seen yet is the whole decision making process and were orders coming down. You know, I think that`s probably things that are still going to come out in the investigations.
MADDOW: There are a number of concurrent investigations. We have the U.S. attorney, the criminal division of the EPA, we had the state attorney general investigation. Is there also a county prosecutor investigation?
MADDOW: So all of these investigations going on simultaneously. Do you have as has investigated this from the get-go, as a reporter, do you have more confidence or less confidence in any of those?
GUYETTE: Well, I don`t know. The state attorney general`s was the most controversial, because it took so long for them to launch it. The attorney general there is a Republican and it`s a Republican administration, so there was a question on how hard they would or how thorough they would be. But the people he brought in to really conduct the investigations independently have really, really good reputations. And when they were announced, that gave a lot of confidence.
And then, actually, I talked to some of the investigators early on, and actually all these investigations I was one of the person they talked to because of the work that we had done. And they were very thorough. I really got a good opinion of what they were doing as far as the state attorney general`s office.
All of them really I think are being very thorough. I was pretty surprised to, in that clip where they just talked about the governor hasn`t been interviewed.
GUYETTE: Here`s something. I`ve been asking, did the governor`s office play a role in making a decision to switch in the first place. When I asked thinks former spokeswoman, Sara Wurfel, that, she gave me an answer that was not an honest answer. She made -- threw out a red herring, saying the city of Detroit forced Flint off their system, which forced them to use the river.
MADDOW: And we know that`s not true.
GUYETTE: We know that`s not because of the documents that I obtained through Freedom of Information Act, we know that`s not true. But when asked a direct question that was the answer she gave. We could not have made that decision. That decision was forced on us.
So, certainly, if someone is telling manage that`s not true and were to defend a position, then it raises a lot of questions. I wish every reporter would start asking the governor that question, so we could finally get a straight answer.
MADDOW: Because we still don`t know the answer to that basic question of whose idea was it to make that switch?
MADDOW: And you know basically everything about this story. And so, if you don`t know that, that means nobody has figured out yet.
GUYETTE: All I know is when I asked the governor`s office, I was told something that was not true.
MADDOW: Curt Guyette, investigative reporter working for the Michigan chapter of the ACLU, again, congratulations on the Hillman Prize for your groundbreaking work on this. Please come back and keep us apprised.
GUYETTE: Thanks for everything you`ve been doing to draw attention to this. It`s very, very important.
MADDOW: Thank you.
We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: As you probably know, the Republican National Committee is meeting this week in Hollywood, Florida, to set some of the stuff in motion that`s going to come to fruition at their contested, likely to be contested convention this summer in Cleveland. Lots of worry and lots of discussion about whether or not they`re going to be changing some of the rules that might affect who they nominate as president at that convention.
But one of the rules they are thinking about changing would not affect Donald Trump or Ted Cruz or John Kasich or anyone else they may nominate. It would affect gravely our ability to show you what happens at that convention. And that change, which is being debated, is our next story.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Right now, the RNC is meeting down in Florida. Today, they threw a new wrinkle into the mix in terms of their convention this summer -- the prospect of electronic voting on the convention floor. The idea if adopted would be for all 2,400-something Republican delegates to register their votes on the convention floor, not by yelling them out or speaking them into a microphone, but somehow doing something electronic. The RNC says electronic voting wouldn`t necessarily be used for the nominating votes for president, but for procedural votes, though like everything else, that too could theoretically by changed.
In 2012, there was a bunch of procedural voice votes that were hotly debated like this one when it came to a full floor vote on the convention rules. Listen to the vote on this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN BOEHNER (R), FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: Without objection, the previous question is ordered. The question is on the adoption of the resolution. All those in favor signify by saying aye. All those opposed no?
Being the chair, the ayes have it. The resolution is adopted without objection, the motion is laid on the table.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Are you sure the ayes had it there? Are you sure?
How about this one, Reince Priebus putting the credentials committee report to a full vote. This is great.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REINCE PRIEBUS, RNC CHAIRMAN: All those in favor will signify by saying aye.
Those opposed no.
In the opinion of the chair, the ayes have it and the motion is agreed to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: You get the picture.
But maybe electronic voting will clear some of that up this year, but if you like that sort of thing and the floor color and ruckuses and the public nature of it all, and the booing, then, electronic voting of some kind of would probably take away some of that excitement and some of what we can show you.
Donald Trump recently said this year`s convention should have more showbiz. He said the last one was the single most boring convention I`ve ever seen. Electronic voting probably won`t help with the showbiz matters of it, but there`s also the question of make it`s screwing things up. Maybe it crashes in the middle of proceedings, right? Nothing like a technology fail to rile up 2,473 frustrated souls in Cleveland, not to mention the suspicion created by some centralize electronic new voting process controlled by the RNC -- so even more doubt about the process.
So, we`ll see. One more thing to debate. Should we e-vote? Eighty-nine days to Cleveland.
That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Lawrence, I`m sorry to be 44 seconds late going to you.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END