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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 4/29/2016

The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 4/29/2016

Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: April 29, 2016 Guest:

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. I want to wish you a very happy Friday.

We`ve got a lot to talk about tonight. There`s a lot going on in today`s news.

In just a moment, we`re going to take a look at the raucous and rowdy and aggressive and at times violent protests that erupted today in Burlingame, California, as anti-Donald Trump protesters just exploded with rage over an appearance by Mr. Trump at the California state Republican convention. This is the second day in a row that anti-Trump protests have gotten violent in California. We`ve got the story of those clashes coming up in just a moment.

We`ve also got some news tonight -- caught on camera -- about an important news about a $10 bet that involves Vice President Joe Biden and a Cadillac.

We`ve got also some very funny news ahead about this weekend. The reason I know it is funny because a wide radius of producers and staffers in THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW newsroom today had to phone on headphones this afternoon to block out the loud sounds of snorting and giggling coming from the producer who was assigned to cut tape for that very funny. So, that very funny story about your weekend is ahead.

There`s also some very weird new news on the turnout from this week`s presidential primaries. It just happened. So, as I said -- lots to get to.

But where we start is with a big bunch of new news that just broke this evening about what appears to be a hard turn in the race for president. There are ten states that still have to vote on the Republican side. There are ten states plus Washington, D.C. that still have to vote on the Democratic side.

And although we do have a clear front-runner in both parties, neither of them has clinched. There are at least 5 1/2 more weeks of voting and campaigning yet to come. But what is now emerging today on the Democratic side is that even though the race is not over, it does appear to be going through a massive singular change.

We got the first signs that something like this -- something at least of this magnitude might be coming. We`ve got the first signs of that this week. Right after those five Northeastern states voted on Tuesday night, Hillary Clinton won four of the five states that voted this week, the following day the Bernie Sanders campaign announced more than 200 staffers would be laid off.

Joy Reid reported on this show that the layoffs of these Bernie Sanders staffers came in the form of a short rather cursory conference call with the Sanders campaign manager, Jeff Weaver.

Senator Sanders himself did not make an appearance on that call. At least some Sanders staffers reported they had no idea the layoffs were coming and they were a little miffed at how they did come. They had assumed no matter what happened in the race between Sanders and Clinton overall, they`d still have jobs on the campaign through California, through June 7th.

So, internally, at least in a swath of the Sanders campaign, the layoffs this week did come as a surprise. The Sanders campaign externally spun the layoffs as not a big deal, as the kind of thing that was just to be expected at this point in the race as we got down to just ten states left in the calendar.

But, you know, if the length of the calendar -- if the number of states left is the only thing that drove those layoffs, you would expect that both candidates who, right, after all, have the same calendar, you would expect both candidates would be making the same kinds of changes.

That`s not what we saw this week, though. We did the Bernie Sanders Clinton lay off 200 staffers this week. The Hillary Clinton is not laying off any staffers this week, even though the primary calendar is getting short. To the contrary, we can now report as of tonight that the Clinton campaign is leaving in place their staffers in the upcoming states that have yet to vote in the primary and in addition to that, they are adding staff and assigning people senior roles in states that aren`t among the last ten remaining states in the Democratic primary.

They are naming staff leaders and assigning people to go work in states that have already voted in the Democratic primary. The bombshell that the Clinton campaign dropped late this afternoon is that they are starting to staff up in what they see as general election swing states for the November campaign. This was first reported by "USA Today" and "The Associated Press". NBC News has now confirmed that the Hillary Clinton campaign is basically starting its general election campaign as of today.

Again, they`re not pulling staffers out of the remaining Democratic primary states but they are reducing the scale of their effort against Bernie Sanders, to the point where they are running zero TV ads in all of the Democratic primary states that are left on the calendar. They are spending zero collars on ads, the Clinton campaign, in these next states that are due to vote.

Where they are spending money is by staffing up and installing new state directors in November`s swing states like New Hampshire and Florida and Colorado.

Now, all of those states have already voted in the Democratic primary but the Clinton campaign named new state directors for all three of those states today. Basically to get those people in place to try to already start the effort today of trying to win those states in the general election in November.

And just in case that turned to the general election was not explicit enough, the Clinton campaign also let it be known tonight that their lawyers are now reviewing a list of more than two dozen possible choices for Hillary Clinton`s would-be vice presidential running mate.

Now, there is no new news on who might be on the short list. The new news here is that is the list is not all that short, if they`re considering at least 24 people. The Clinton running mate search team is apparently being helmed by John Podesta and by Cheryl Mills.

Now, just as an aside, that means if these two are going to follow the Dick Cheney method of searching for just the right presidential candidate, we should expect Hillary Clinton to be running with either John Podesta or Cheryl Mills come November since Dick Cheney when he was given this job picked himself.

The Clinton campaign also put out word today that however conflicted the Republican Party might be about the state of its primary race and the remaining Republican contenders for President, the Clinton campaign put out word today that they think the Republican choice is clear.

According to the Clinton campaign there is no reason to hem and haw anymore, they are proceeding with their general election campaign starting today as if Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee and Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee who she is running against in the fall.

Now, one of the major points of contention in the Democratic primary, one of the main bones that Bernie Sanders has had to pick with Hillary Clinton, one of the key distinctions between these two Democratic candidates has been that Bernie Sanders would not accept major support from super PACs while Hillary Clinton has. Priorities USA Action is the main Hillary Clinton super PAC. And when they were formed for this presidential effort, and they started raising money, its been reported that they actually didn`t anticipate spending any money on the Democratic primary at all.

Now, Bernie Sanders ended up putting up a tougher than expected fight in Priorities USA did end up spending millions of dollars on behalf of Hillary Clinton in the primary in order to fend off Bernie Sanders and try to get Clinton the nomination. But what they were really designed for was the general election. And we are about to see what that looks like, because "The Associated Press" was first to report today that Priorities USA Action is planning to start the Hillary Clinton versus Donald Trump general election campaign with a bang and really soon.

I had an interview last night on this show with Jane Sanders, Bernie Sanders` wife. And in that interview at one point, she said that pro- Clinton super PACs had spent more than $70 million on Hillary Clinton`s behalf already. That actually was not true. Super PACs have not spent anywhere near that much money supporting Hillary Clinton thus far.

But we now know that they`re about to, because the "A.P." is reporting tonight that on the morning after the California primary, on June 8th, Priorities USA Action is going to start a huge $90 million, seven-state ad campaign against Donald Trump and for Hillary Clinton, $90 million! That`s massive. That is like three times what super PACs -- all super PACs combined did spend on Hillary Clinton in the primary campaign thus far.

And I know at one level or another, like all very large numbers start to sound alike, especially all very large numbers with dollar signs on them. Like once you get above an amount that you can personally imagine, it`s all just big numbers. But $90 million worth of ads against Donald Trump and for Hillary Clinton, 90? That is -- enormous.

Just for context, at one point in this presidential race, we thought that Jeb Bush might chase all the other Republican candidates out of the race because he had raised $100 million for his campaign, $100 million for everything. For his whole effort. This $100 million, right? That was supposed to be shock and awe, everybody else gets out.

This one ad buy for Clinton and against Trump is going to be $90 million? I mean, how are they going to do it? I mean, looking at the most FEC filing for Priorities USA Action, they don`t have $900 million cash on hand. They`ve only got about half of that.

So, $90 million in ads against Trump and for Clinton? I mean, how does this work? Do they plan to raise another $45 million between now and June 8th to start this $90 million ad buy? I mean presumably that`s their buy for the whole rest of the year. When do they need to raise the money buy in order to make that happen?

Is this an unimaginably large number because that can`t possibly happen? Are they just blowing smoke about something they say they`re going to do but they don`t actually have the resources to do it? Are they just trying to psyche out the Republicans here?

Conceivably, are they just trying to psyche out the Sanders campaign? I mean, there is still a primary campaign under way. There are still ten states left, including California. The Clinton campaign has never explicitly said that Senator Sanders should drop out of the race but they have now announced they are looking past Bernie Sanders and starting to run as of today against Donald Trump.

There is also and unsubtle hint tonight to "The Associated Press" that if Bernie Sanders does get out of the race any earlier than he is planning on it, quote, this whole ad campaign against Donald Trump, quote, "could go on the air sooner."

So, this is big news today from the Clinton campaign. Essentially not walking away from the primary but moving on from the primary and starting to run against Trump. Is it partly a psychological operation to sideline Bernie Sanders and make it seem like the Clinton campaign is moving downfield past him? Or is this just the Clinton campaign moving downfield past him and they don`t particularly care what effect it has on the primary because in their mind, the primary really is done?

Joining us now is Kristen Welker, who covers the Clinton campaign for NBC News.

Kristen, it`s great to see you. Thanks very much for being here.

KRISTEN WELKER, NBC NEWS - COVERING CLINTON CAMPAIGN: Great to see you, too, Rachel. Thanks so much for having me.

MADDOW: So, how big a deal is this announcement of this sort of change of direction from the Clinton campaign and can you tell whether some of it is basically a psychological operation to psyche people out or whether this is real?

WELKER: Well, look, I think your set-up was perfect. To some extent I think it aimed in part at sending a psychological message at Senator Sanders. I think the Clinton campaign, Clinton surrogates have for quite some time have been nudging Senator Sanders, not necessarily to get out of the race but to scale back his attacks and, of course, this larger message they continue to say to him, which is that when he does get out of the race, they`d like him to help them unify the party.

So, I think that this aimed at part in sidelining Senator Sanders. But, Rachel, I do think the broader point here is to get a head start on Donald Trump. I think this underscores something that the Clinton campaign believes, which is that he is going to be a formidable candidate and essentially underscores that everything you saw the GOP candidates do in the primary race, the Clinton campaign is going to do the opposite of that. They think that the GOP candidates made a major miscalculation by not taking him seriously, by essentially laughing him off by thinking that he was going to somehow implode.

And what they`re saying tonight is that they don`t think that`s going to happen, that they need to build up a robust ground game in all of these general election states that are battleground states and that they need to take this very seriously. You`ve seen this strategy start to play out in recent days.

As you know, she`s been counterpunching. He`s made a number of these statements about playing the woman`s card. Well, she has counterpunched quite aggressively. So, I think it is in large part a statement they are taking Donald Trump seriously.

MADDOW: And, Kristen, I saw -- there might haven been more but I saw the names, the actual individual names of three state directors that the Clinton campaign announced for Colorado, New Hampshire and Florida. I don`t know if they announced more. But are the folks in charge of these states known quantities? Are these heavy hitters in terms of political skills?

WELKER: They are, Rachel. And so far, I only have three names. We`re trying to get more.

Let me run through what we have so far though. These are three key battleground states.

Emmy Ruiz, who is going to be the director of Colorado. This is someone who ran Clinton`s Nevada field office. She`s someone who rallied Latinos there, clearly aimed at rallying Latinos in that critical battleground state.

Mike Vlacich, I hope I`m pronouncing his name right. He is going to head up the New Hampshire office. He was the former New Hampshire state director. He`s someone who has deep roots in that state. He worked on Senator Jean Shaheen`s 2014 re-election campaign.

And then, Simone Ward, Florida. This is the former political director for the DSCC, someone who`s also done a fair amount of outreach to African- Americans when she was working with the DNC.

So, what we`re essentially seeing a clear and strong, robust pitch to rally the Obama coalition, which is going to be critical to Secretary Clinton. Now, I think the one real challenge here is, does this wind up alienating Sanders supporters. Do they say this and say, hey, wait a minute, you`re rushing this race. The Clinton campaign insists that`s not going to happen but I think that`s the potential political risk here. The counter to that is that they are still competing in primary states, but will they wind up alienating some of those Sanders supporters, we`ll have to see.

MADDOW: That`s right. They`re walking that line and saying, listen, we`re not giving up on the primary states. We`re still campaigning, even if we`re not running any ads for a while.

WELKER: Indeed.

MADDOW: But simultaneously, they`re starting this effort against Trump. It`s fascinating -- this is a fascinating moment.

Kristen Welker covering the Clinton campaign for NBC, Kristen, I know lots of demands on your time right now. Thanks for being here with us tonight.

WELKER: So glad to be here, Rachel. Thank you so much for having me.

MADDOW: Sure. All right. Lots to come tonight. Very busy news night indeed. Stay with us.


MADDOW: So, there is a big "do" in Washington this weekend. We`re going to be talking about that in just a couple of minutes. What we think of as the good part of that Washington do this weekend.

But after this weekend, on Monday morning, when Washington is still sleeping off the hangover from its big weekend, something is about to happen on Monday morning that isn`t yet really circled on people`s calendars but I think it should be and here`s my pitch. For a few weeks now, we`ve been covering what threatens to be a new chapter in the D.C. madam case from a few years ago.

Over the past couple of months, a lawyer at the center of that case and that scandal from 10 years ago, he`s been fighting in the federal courts to release phone records from the D.C. madam escort service, records that have not yet been seen publicly before. And the lawyer says he wants them released to the public now because he says they are somehow relevant to the 2016 presidential election. And though we don`t know exactly what he means, but that`s the case he`s make being to the courts.

Since January, Montgomery Blair Sibley, kind of an eccentric D.C. character, he`s been trying to get a federal gag order lifted so these D.C. madam phone records can be made public. He`s taken it all the way up to the Supreme Court. His initial request to the Supreme Court was denied by Chief Justice Roberts.

He then resubmitted his request to Justice Clarence Thomas, and Justice Clarence Thomas didn`t issue an immediate no. Justice Thomas instead decided to distribute the application for conference, which means he has put the issue of these unseen D.C. madam phone records and a gag order that`s preventing their release, he`s put it up to the full court for a discussion.

And that discussion, that conference about the D.C. madam phone records was scheduled to take place at the United States Supreme Court today behind closed doors.

Now, if the justices decide to take up this issue, this lawyer says he will look forward to the Supreme Court considering this matter, if they decide not to take up the issue and they reject his application, he has repeatedly threatened that he might break the gag order himself illegally in order to get these records out there into the public domain.

The justices` conference was scheduled to happen today at the court. So far at least we have no word on what they decided. We are likely to learn what they decided about these phone records on Monday. Which is why you should circle Monday morning in your calendar, even if you are still a little rough around the edges from your weekend, you guys.

Watch this space.


MADDOW: So, the Republicans have ten states left to go. This is the polling we`ve got in the states that have yet to vote on the Republican side. We don`t have a ton of polling, but in every state we do have recent polling, Donald Trump is in the lead.

If he does win Indiana next week, I think it`s possible that at least Ted Cruz, if not both of the other candidates standing against him, might conceivably drop out of the race but nobody knows what`s going to happen in Indiana. And in the event that the Republican race keeps going right through the end of their primary calendar, the Republican campaigns have all turned their attention in the last few days to California. California votes on the last day of the Republican primary on June 7th.

Well, the arrival of Donald Trump and his campaign this week has been marked so far in California by some really ugly scenes, including protests that have been more than just out of hand. They have been occasionally violent.


REPORTER: Outside city hall, a rally turned ugly when tensioned between anti-Trump protesters and Trump supporters boiled over. At one point, it sounds like someone fires a stun gun.

Also captured on cell phone video, a woman spraying someone with pepper spray. All told five people were pepper sprayed, including two young girls who were caught in the cross fire.

In this photo, you can see as a Trump supporter takes the brunt of a young man`s pepper spray canister. The Trump supporter took it right in the face.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That kid that sprayed me walked into my bull horn and I claims I hit him with it and he sprayed me in the face.


MADDOW: So, that was Anaheim, California, on Tuesday.

This was Costa Mesa, in Orange County, California, last night.


REPORTER: The situation turned ugly quickly. This man wearing a Trump T- shirt was targeted by some protesters. We don`t know why. Trump supporters trying to leave the rally were targeted by others. Costa Mesa police and Orange County deputies responded force. So far, Costa Mesa police confirm 17 people were arrested for failure to disperse but after seeing images like this, folks took so social media calling on law enforcement to move in, this while officers formed skirmish lines to form this crowd out of the area.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People are throwing things. People are going crazy.

REPORTER: And these aren`t your people.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These are not my people. I am Hispanic. I am anti- Trump. And I am anti-violence and everything that`s going on here.

REPORTER: That`s my colleague, Lolita Lopez, speaking with one of the protesters, the folks who expected a peaceful protest clearly protested with the vandalism and violence --


MADDOW: So, Anaheim on Tuesday, that was last night in Costa Mesa, and then there was today in California when Donald Trump made his way to the California state Republican convention, which was held in Burlingame. It`s been a hour south San Francisco, in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The Trump motorcade had to pull off the highway and sort of four-wheel it where there was not an exit from the highway. They pull off to a grassy patch where they let Mr. Trump and his security and his entourage to basically hoof across the field into a backdoor of the hotel. That`s the only way they can get him in, that`s because hundreds of protesters on scene, a lot of whom were peaceful but some of whom, though, had blocked the road in from the convention hotel.

About two dozen protesters tore down police barricades at the venue, and flooded into the hotel that was hosting the convention. There were a series of altercations between anti-Trump and pro-Trump protesters, including a lot of pushing and shoving. Some Trump supporters reporting getting kicked and punched and spit on.

There were also altercations between protesters and police. Burlingame police said five people were arrested. There was one injury reported.

So, that was the scene today in California, and as Donald Trump made his way to the San Francisco Bay Area.

Donald Trump may yet win Republican primary in California. It is five weeks from now. Polls right now say that he will win in the state but Republicans are only one-quarter of the electorate in California. Republicans haven`t elected a state wide elected official in ten years. Both California senators have been Democrats since 1993.

The Republican Party in California is basically vestigial. And in the Bay Area, which is where I`m from, trust me, the Bay Area has even more particular politics. In a new field poll out of California, it`s kind of the gold standard poll for the state, Donald Trump`s unfavorables were really, really high across the state. And yes, Donald Trump has high unfavorables all over the country, with large group of people. He has high unfavorables statewide in California, OK.

But look at his unfavorable number specifically in the Bay Area in California. I don`t know if any other public official or public figure who I`ve ever seen have a 86 percent disapproval rating. But that`s what Donald Trump has in the San Francisco Bay Area. And so, maybe that tells you something about what kind of reception he would get or expect in the Bay Area today.

But, honestly, no matter how unfavorably somebody is viewed, nobody should ever, ever expect these kinds of scenes in American politics.


MADDOW: I`m very sorry. The other night on this show, I said this is what it looked like when the governor of Indiana signed one of his anti-abortion bills.

That was wrong. I shouldn`t have said it. That is the governor of Indiana, and he has signed the anti-abortion bills, but what that picture was, was him signing -- not an anti-abortion bill, but one of the anti-gay discrimination bills that have given Republican governors so much trouble lately.

Whether I regret the photo captioning error more than he secretly regrets signing that bill, I do not know. But I do have my regrets. And it turns out the governor would like a word -- next.


MADDOW: I know this might be asking a little much for a Friday night, but just close your eyes for a second and imagine that you are Mike Pence.

Just bear with me here. Just imagine that you are Mike Pence, the Republican governor of Indiana. And you are up for re-election this fall.

And as you are heading toward that re-election campaign you are hoping everyone`s forgotten about the mess you got in about that anti-gay discrimination bill you signed last year, in which you tried not to understand, and then tried to take it back but not really and people started boycotting your states. You are hoping everybody forgets about that mess in time for your numbers to bounce back this year so you can get re-elected.

But it turns out you, Mike Pence, are unlucky, because on the way to your reelection race in Indiana this year, you have now got to face something you didn`t expect to be such a big deal -- next week`s Indiana Republican presidential primary. Apparently, it matters this year. Oh, no! Which means people care about it.

And that means you as the sitting Republican governor, you kind to need to pick a side. Everybody wants to know who Mike Pence will endorse.

And since John Kasich from neighboring Ohio sort of kind of not really competing in the state anymore, depending on which day you ask and who you ask, if you count out John Kasich because of that confusion, you do have two remaining options -- you have the antidiscrimination, antiestablishment Mr. Trump or you have the super conservative pro-discrimination bill senator who most Republicans seem to hate with the heat of a thousand burning suns, Senator Ted Cruz. So what do you do?

Well, first, you put on a brave face.


GOV. MIKE PENCE (R), INDIANA: It`s clear this is a time for choosing. And all of America is looking to Indiana to make a choice. I`ve always thought that to lead is to choice.


MADDOW: To lead is to choice.

OK! So, lead, sir.


PENCE: I urge every Hoosier to make up their own mind.


MADDOW: This is his big leadership moment! Everybody just decide for yourself. As for him, it is kind of a neither/nor praise one guy/say you`ll vote for the other guy. Make clear you will vote/but it`s not like you want to insist or anything that there`s any significance to the matter.


PENCE: I like and respect all three of the Republican candidates in the field. I particularly want to commend Donald Trump. I`m grateful -- I`m grateful for his voice in the national debate. Let me say I`ve come to my decision about who I`m supporting. I`m not against anybody but I will be voting for Ted Cruz in the upcoming Republican primary.


MADDOW: Did I mention how much I like Donald Trump? I`m not against anybody, I`m -- I will kind of vote for this guy, I guess, but I don`t want you to read anything thing into it.

Mike Pence, you are note alone. This keeps happening. Mitt Romney said he voted for Ted Cruz but was not endorsing Ted Cruz. Rudy Giuliani said he was voting for Donald Trump but he was not endorsing Donald Trump.

Even David Duke, former KKK grand wizard David Duke, right, he said he too would vote for Donald Trump. He didn`t want to be seen as endorsing Donald Trump.

It`s even happened on John Kasich side of the race. Arizona Senator Jeff Flake recently said he would support John Kasich over Ted Cruz but he wants to be clear, that is not an endorsement of John Kasich.

The best one of all was Idaho Senator Jim Risch. This is never what it was like before but this is how Republicans endorse each other now.


SEN. JIM RISCH (R), IDAHO: Obviously, Kasich is so far behind it is impossible really for him to get the numbers. By process of elimination that gets you to Ted Cruz.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: So, you want Ted Cruz to get the Republican nomination?

RISCH: Well, at this point, there is no choice.

BLITZER: So far, you`re only I think by our count the third senator -- Republican senator who now effectively on this program has come out and endorsed Cruz. Lindsey Graham and Mike Lee, your colleagues, they have. But I haven`t seen --

RISCH: Did I just endorse, Wolf?

BLITZER: I don`t know. You sort of said you prefer him over the other two.

RISCH: I do.

BLITZER: That sounds like an endorsement, doesn`t it?

RISCH: I guess it depends on your definition.


MADDOW: Did I endorse? I didn`t mean to endorse. What`s the definition of endorse?

Yesterday, Donald Trump got the support of these three Republican congressmen, Representatives Bill Shuster, Jeff Miller and Mike Kelly, all three are supporting Donald Trump. But only two of the three are endorsing Donald Trump.

Congressman Kelly on the right there, Congressman Kelly`s office later said they needed to clarify what they said were erroneous reports of an endorsement. They wanted to clear it up. They said the congressman has not endorsed Donald Trump. He merely voted for Donald Trump and is attending pro-Trump meetings on Capitol Hill.

But that is not an endorsement. Why would you think that`s an endorsement? I don`t even know how to spell endorsement.

What`s going on with this? I find this absolutely ridiculous.

Joining us now to decode is Elise Jordan, former policy adviser for the Rand Paul campaign. She`s now an analyst for NBC and for network.

Elise, it`s great to see you. Thank you for being here.


MADDOW: As an outsider looking in on Republican politics, this makes no sense to me at all. Do you have any explanation for what`s going on with these guys?

JORDAN: You know, it really is just the chaos of 2016 and having 16 candidates, fairly strong candidates throughout this whole process. You know, this goes back months and months and months to when all these candidates starting getting into the race over the summer and endorsements didn`t trickle in, because there were so many different alliances and people didn`t want to choose and they wanted to just let everything go its course.

And so, that`s in a nutshell kind of why we`re stuck with Donald Trump, because no one would step up and take a stand just because of not going with where -- not seeing where the power was going to go because this race was so unpredictable. And it`s -- you know, it`s unfortunate that that`s where it is now.

MADDOW: But now, it is, this -- I mean you see repeated dynamics in politics and political science. You see the same kinds of things happen in every cycle. I`ve never before seen a whole litany of elected officials and very prominent people from one party go to this great pains to say, I have cast a vote for this person and I will publicly admit to that, but it is not an endorsement.

What it is the -- like did some Republicans, golly spin doctor come out and say, make sure you don`t endorse, here`s a way to endorse without endorsing?

JORDAN: You know, I think it`s the Trump effect because it he is so unpredictable and there`s so many terrible associations that go with his brand, he is a really disreputable brand, you know, everyone wants to -- they don`t want to go in too hard with Trump because they don`t know what`s going to happen.

You know, he is essentially a sinking ship. I think he probably will get beaten very soundly by Hillary Clinton in November and who wants to be attached to that wreckage. You know, I think today with Governor Pence, he is looking to 2020 and to what is going to be the Republican party in the future. He chose to give his tepid Ted Cruz endorsement just because he sees more of a future being anti-Trump.

MADDOW: After praising Trump though.

JORDAN: After -- yes. Exactly.

MADDOW: After praising Trump.

JORDAN: Semantics.

MADDOW: These guys don`t want to be anchored to the sinking ship of Trump, but they`re not endorsing but saying you voted for him. Nobody is going to forgive you for one of those if they like you for other. It`s just -- this is amazing.

Elise Jordan, former policy adviser for the Rand Paul -- Elise, it`s always great to see you. Thanks for being here.

JORDAN: Thanks for having me, Rachel.

MADDOW: As a counterbalance to all the brave non-endorsing endorsers in Republican politics right now, we do have a story tonight about real physical heroism in politics. It happened on the high seas.

It happened this week. We`ve got the story of it tonight. It should become a kid`s picture book, I swear. That`s right at the end of the show.

Stay with us.


MADDOW: Vice President Joe Biden has had a big week. There was his surprise visit to Iraq earlier this week. And now, today, he popped up at the Vatican. He was there to speak at a conference about regenerative medicine as part of his new moon shot initiative to try to find a cure for cancer.

The very first person to spoke at the conference after Vice President Biden was Pope Frances himself. After the Pope Francis wrapped up his remarks, he stepped off the stage to go personally greet Vice President Biden, which -- you know, if you`re a round of a mill Catholic, that`s the kind of thing that might make your heart leap out of your chest.

If you`re Joe Biden, it is time for some laughs. It is time for what appear to be some inside jokes with your old buddy, the pope, because by now you are buddies with the pope. You`re basically old friends.

Later this afternoon, Vice President Biden dropped in on the Vatican secretary of state, highest ranking cardinal in the Vatican. Because the vice president was really in rare form today, he used that meeting as an opportunity to sneak in a quick confession. Sort of drive-by penance. This was awesome. Watch this.


JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have met with the Holy Father and I`ve met with these guys, too. I had to pay this man $10. He is from the "New York Times." We had a bet which was a faster car -- the new Cadillac or the new Musk car, the --


BIDEN: The Tesla. I bet Cadillac. He was --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was in the old, I was in the new.

BIDEN: The Tesla is two-tenths of a second faster. But I lost, I paid my $10. I want the record to show I paid him 10 bucks.

REPORTER: Does that count as a confession, sir?

BIDEN: I`m seeking absolution.


MADDOW: For the record, Vice President Biden was not lying to the top cardinal at the Vatican as he sought his absolution for gambling.

"The New York Times" reporter just before vice president and the press corps deplaned in Rome, the vice president went hunting for your pooler, mean went hunting for this reporter to pay off a $10 bet regarding certain automotive capabilities.

The vice president paid up and then confessed, go and sin no more.

The intersection of politics and reporting sometimes gets weird in a good way. We`ve got state side proof of that straight ahead. Stay with us.


MADDOW: You got free food, free booze, and you get jokes, sometimes historically funny jokes. Sometimes terrible jokes.

The White House Correspondents Dinner is known among comedians as a great and scary gig. It can also be very consequential. Stephen Colbert basically recalibrated the whole country when he roasted President Bush in 2006.

Year after year, the White House Correspondents Dinner gets hosted by the funniest people on earth. Since President Obama took office he`s seen everyone from Wanda Sykes to Seth Meyers to Cecily Strong.

Tomorrow night, it`s going to be very, very funny Larry Wilmore, who honestly is perfect in every way, most particularly because he is merciless.


LARRY WILMORE, COMEDIAN: Tonight, the Oscar nominations are out and they`re so white, a grand jury has decided not to indict them.

I got to get down to business here, because last night our country gathered together to hear from one of the most important black voices in American history.

Thanks for watching, everyone.

Yeah! I thought our show last night was baller! You just going to leave me hanging, huh?

Really, folks, how many more do we need? Thirty-five allegations. Let`s understand this number, OK? That`s like in Bill Cosby drugged and raped every single U.S. president from George Washington to John F. Kennedy. True.

But Grover Cleveland was (INAUDIBLE)

It`s tough being overweight in today`s society. Magazines, television and movies are full of images of thin people having good stuff happen to them. I mean, it`s true -- even if you go to church, you see a P-90x version of Jesus on the cross. I mean, talk about cross fit, right? Am I right? Bam!

Based on the demographics, if Bernie Sanders rallied for a Ben & Jerry`s ice cream flavor, it would be Nilla, please. Keep it at 100. Keep it at 100.

No, the chocolate is in there somewhere but you going to need a lot of vanilla to get to it. That`s what I`m saying.


MADDOW: Tomorrow night, it will be Larry Wilmore hosting the White House correspondents dinner and that is going to be very good. And if past is any prologue, this guy will also be pretty good.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Of course, even after I`ve done all of this, some folks still don`t think I spend enough time with Congress. "Why don`t you get a drink with Mitch McConnell?" they ask.

Really? Why don`t you get a drink with Mitch McConnell?

And I`m feeling sorry, believe it or not, for the speaker of the House as well. These days, the House Republicans actually give John Boehner a harder time than they give me. Which means orange really is the new black.

And Bernie Sanders might run. I like Bernie. Bernie`s an interesting guy. Apparently, some folks really want to see a pot-smoking socialist in the White House. We could get a third Obama term after all.


MADDOW: In a year when it feels like we`re constantly talking about the last time President Obama does something, tomorrow night`s going to be the last time we see this president on this particular stage. MSNBC is going to be covering the White House correspondents` dinner live tomorrow night, starting at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

And then hopefully this time next year, we`ll have a new president who is also really good at telling a joke. Please, God.


MADDOW: I`ve never been there, but I hear it`s very nice. It`s called Block Island. And it`s about 12 miles off the coast of Rhode Island.

And the main way that people get to Block Island is by ferryboat. And the ferry takes off from a spot on the mainland called Point Judith. Excuse me. This time of year, during the week, the final ferry leaves Port Judith for Block Island at 4:45 p.m., sharp, on the dot. It is known to be a very punctual ferry.

Except for one very important day this past week. Rhode Island is one of the five states that had primaries this week, on Tuesday. And according to "The Block Island Times", during the Rhode Island primary on Tuesday afternoon, election officials on Block Island noticed that they were running low on Democratic ballots. They had reserved 300 ballots for people to vote in the Democratic primary, but they were flying through those ballots at a much greater clip than they expected, Block Island was going to run out of Democratic ballots.

By the time they realized it, it was after 4:00 in the afternoon and the ferry schedule became a problem, right? The only chance to get more ballots out to Block Island was to somehow get more sent over from the mainland on that one last ferry of the day. The one scheduled to leave right on time, punctually every single day at 4:45 p.m.

So the town clerk in block island realizes the problem, calls over to the main land, asks if folks in Narragansett can please round up some extra ballots for Block Island and then please, once they have got them, rush them down to Point Judith, so those ballots can make it on to the 4:45 p.m. ferry.

Now, the ferry captain, Captain Steve Kimball, was there at the dock, at Point Judith. He was all loaded up with 92 passengers onboard, ready to go, and that ferry always leaves ton time, but this was Election Day. And if those ballots didn`t make it on time, if those ballots didn`t make it over to the island with him on the last ferry, people on Block Island wouldn`t be able to vote -- through no fault of their own, just because there was too much interest in the election.

And so, Captain Kimball made a decision that probably cut against every fiber of his punctual ferryboat captain being, and he held the boat. He left late. They never leave late. He left late.

He left 22 minutes late so the town clerk from Narragansett could find new ballots and seal them up and race them down to Point Judith in her car and find the ferry and give them to the captain and he waited. He waited. He waited 22 minutes and the ballots got to Block Island before poll closing and so everybody got to vote.

And it mattered. Instead of going through the 300 Democratic ballots they had planned for on Tuesday night when they were due to do their count, Block Island had to go through 308 Democratic ballots. They would have been eight short had it not been for that heroic captain.

And by the way, if you`re wondering who benefited from this heroic action, who carried Block Island, it turns out it wasn`t even close. It was Democratic ballots they were running out of on Block Island, and Bernie Sanders ended up winning Block Island by 30 points.

But here`s something that`s interesting about this whole scenario. Even though Block Island election officials were surprised by the unexpectedly high Democratic turnout there, they ran out of ballots, they had to go to these heroic "delay the ferryboat lengths" to get enough Democratic ballots on to the island, even though that happened, turnout on Block Island was actually down from the last contested presidential primary. It was down from 2008.

In 2008, it was 328 Block Islanders who voted in the Democratic primary, which is 20 more than turned out this time around. And that pattern held true for all of Rhode Island. On the Democratic side, there was a lot of enthusiasm, and Rhode Island really mattered in this race this year, but Democratic turnout overall, in Rhode Island, was down 35 percent from its high in 2008.

And by and large, that has been the story on the Democratic side for this whole presidential primary season. Nearly every state has seen lower Democratic turnout compared to the last contested Democratic primary, which was in 2008. And we saw that pattern emerge, right away in the primary season. I think we were the first national news outlet to point out that this was happening.

We now know that it has continued throughout the primary season and into this week. We can now tell you in all five states that voted this week in Tuesday, in all five of those states, turnout was down for Democrats. And conversely, it was up for Republicans, by a lot.

I mean, in Rhode Island, when Democratic turnout dropped 35 percent, Republican turnout went up 320 percent. In Connecticut, Democratic turnout was down, Republican turnout was up by 259 percent. In Pennsylvania, Republican turnout was up 94 percent. In Maryland, it was up 75 percent. In Delaware, it was up 144 percent. And in all of those states, as Republican turnout went up, Democratic turnout went down.

Republicans have seen their turnout numbers go up in nearly every single state that has voted so far in their primary, often by record margins. Democrats, not so much.

And you know what, we do not know what this means for the general election. But come November, Democrats are going to need more than heroic ferryboat captains to win the election. They`re going to need a lot of people to turn up at the polls. And the primary results are probably worrying the Democratic Party for that reason.

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

Now, no prison for you! It`s time for "HARDBALL WITH CHRIS MATTHEWS".