Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: May 10, 2016 Guest: Andrea Bernstein
CHRIS HAYES, "ALL IN" HOST: That does it for us. MSNBC`s primary night coverage continues with Rachel Maddow, as the polls close in Nebraska.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you, my friend.
And polls are closing in Nebraska. Thank you at home for joining us this hour. Happy Tuesday.
One of the things that happens if you run for president but you don`t win is that when you come back to your old job, sometimes people clap for you. That`s what happened after Marco Rubio dropped out of the race for president, and returned to his seat in the Senate.
That is also what happened today to Ted Cruz who was spotted by a reporter from "Roll Call" today, getting out of a car on Capitol Hill to go back to his day job. The car incidentally was very, very, very badly parked.
Do we have that picture? We don`t have that picture.
But you know what -- there you go, thank you. Can we drop that? So you can see how the car is parked? Awesome.
He`s Ted Cruz, that`s how he rolls, that`s how he parks. He may not have won his race for the Republican presidential nomination, but today, he came back to his old job in the Senate. His staff did clap for him when he finally went back into his office.
Before that nice moment, though, Senator Cruz made time this morning to do an interview on right wing talk radio in which he kind of sort of did but not really suggested that maybe he still is running for president. Maybe he`ll get back in.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
PAT GRAY, HOST: Ted, are you leaving the door open to -- if Nebraska were to somehow --
GLENN BECK, HOST: That`s not going to happen.
GRAY: -- miraculously choose you tonight --
BECK: Pat`s going for the Hail Mary.
GRAY: Is there -- I mean, if that happened, would you consider getting back in the race?
SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: Well, I am not holding my breath. My assumption is that that will not happen.
But listen, let`s be very clear. If there is a path to victory -- we launched this campaign intending to win. The reason we suspended the race last week, is with Indiana`s loss, I didn`t see a viable path to victory.
CRUZ: If that changes, we will certainly respond accordingly.
BECK: I don`t know about you, Nebraska, but I take that as a yes.
GRAY: I`d take that as a big yes.
BECK: Get to the polls now and vote for Ted Cruz.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: You guys, Ted Cruz might unsuspend! He might get back into the race!
Actually, no. He`s definitely not. Polls are now closed all across the great state of Nebraska. NBC News has projected that the winner of the winner take all Nebraska Republican primary, no surprise, is Donald Trump - - the last remaining Republican candidate in the Republican primary.
Nebraska has 36 delegates on the Republican side. This is a winner take all contest. Donald Trump will get all of those delegates.
Earlier this evening, Donald Trump was projected to be the winner of the West Virginia Republican primary. Again, no surprise. He is the last remaining Republican in the Republican primary.
Interestingly, though, tonight, at the same time that NBC News was able to project that win for Donald Trump in West Virginia, NBC was also able to project this win for Bernie Sanders in the great state of West Virginia.
On the Democratic side of the race, there are more than -- there are still two candidates. There is more than one person still running. There is still a race there.
We`re going to be talking about the implications of that West Virginia win for Sanders and the rest of the race going forward in some detail tonight, including with some very elaborate math. We`ve got that coming up in the next few minutes here on this show.
But West Virginia, it`s interesting. West Virginia today, they voted on both sides, Democratic and Republican side.
And West Virginia today had kind of a monster ballot. That`s in part because you weren`t just voting for your presidential candidate in West Virginia, you had to vote by name for individual delegates. You have to pick a whole roster of presidential delegates in West Virginia. More than 200 people were running to be Republican convention delegates alone today. But 22 of them will be picked. Most if not all of them will be pledged to support Donald Trump.
And we`ll be watching these races tonight to get the final exact tally in terms of the margin of victory. But even from this point, it`s fairly easy to tell that Mr. Trump has just won these two states tonight by margins that you would expect in a race that is over, because the Republican presidential primary is over.
That little joking discussion by Ted Cruz that he might get back in the race today, it was a joke. It`s over. The only open question in the Republican primary, which absolutely may be settled tonight, is whether or not Donald Trump is going to break the record for the most votes ever received by anyone in a Republican presidential primary season.
Donald Trump has already easily surpassed every other recent Republican presidential nominee in terms of the number of votes he has received this year. He`s surpassed everybody including the last two Republican nominees, Mitt Romney and John McCain. The only question tonight is whether tonight`s going to be the night that Donald Trump beats the all-time record for votes in a Republican primary. The all-time record is held by George W. Bush from the Republican primary held in the year 2000.
Heading into tonight, Mr. Trump was a little under 200,000 votes shy of George W. Bush`s all-time vote record. So, we`ll be watching the total vote tallies in both Nebraska and West Virginia tonight. We`ll also be watching the overall voter turnout to see what it`s like.
I mean, you expect voter turnout to drop once a race is effectively over, once a person`s vote at the presidential level no longer helps decide some competitive presidential contest. But it`s interesting. I mean, heading into West Virginia in particular and less so in Nebraska, local officials said today that they were still expecting a lot of people, if not a record number of people, to turn out.
So, if turnout is sufficiently high, Donald Trump will become the new all- time record holder in American history in terms of most votes ever cast for anyone running for president in a Republican primary. But remember, the beltway press still insists the Republican Party is not psyched at all about Donald Trump as their nominee, right? The beltway narrative is that Republicans don`t have enthusiasm for him, they are deeply conflicted the possibility of him being their nominee. While meanwhile, in the real world, he really is racking up more votes than any other Republican candidate has ever had in a Republican primary ever.
The beltway narrative insists that the Trump nomination is causing a huge division in that party. Beltway keeps insisting that there is an important and influential cadre of noble if not heroic resistance to Mr. Trump becoming the leader of that esteemed party.
Well, here`s today`s latest data on the supposedly principled resistance to Donald Trump among influential Republicans. Take it away, Senator.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Well, I`ve signed a pledge that said I`d support the Republican nominee and I intend to continue to do that. I intend to live up to the pledge that we made.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN: But it`s not just concerns that you`ve had about it. You once said that you didn`t think -- that you had concerns about the fact -- about the nuclear codes being in the hands of an erratic con man. That was what you said.
RUBIO: So I`m not going to -- here`s what I`m not going to do the next six months is take shots at him. I stand by the things that I said, but I`m not going to sit here now and become his chief critic over the next six months.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I stand by my assessment that he is an erratic con man who should never be given access to the nuclear codes. And, I will also support him for president. That is how the Republican Party is taking their principled stand against Donald Trump.
I guess to be clear the principle at work here is, it`s better to give the nuclear launch codes to an erratic con man than it is to not vote Republican. Think about what they`re saying. You`re in a voting booth and some sort of terrorist came in and said, vote for a Democrat or I will give the nuclear launch codes to an erratic con man!
You would say, OK, give the nuclear launch codes to an erratic con man, that`s better than voting for a Democrat. That`s the principled stance that we`re getting from Republican leaders, including today Marco Rubio.
The last race on the Republican side will be June 7th when five states vote in the Republican primary, including the biggest one, California. Last night, the California secretary of state released list of delegates that have been formally assigned to each campaign.
The Donald Trump list of delegates made headlines this afternoon when "Mother Jones" was first to report the Trump named delegate slate, which was officially approved by the Trump campaign, published by the California secretary of state -- the Trump delegate list includes this guy.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIPS)
WILLIAM JOHNSON, AMERICAN NATIONAL SUPER PAC: The American National Super PAC makes this call to support Donald Trump. I am William Johnson, a farmer and white nationalist. The white race is dying out in America and Europe because we are afraid to be called racist. Few schools anymore have beautiful white children as the majority, gradual genocide against the white race.
Donald Trump is not a racist but Donald Trump is not afraid. Don`t vote for a Cuban. Vote for Donald Trump.
The white race is being replaced by other peoples in America and in all white countries. Donald Trump stands strong as a nationalist. The American National Super PAC makes this call in support of Donald Trump. My name is William Johnson. I am a farmer and a white nationalist.
(END AUDIO CLIPS)
MADDOW: And now, William Johnson, farmer and white nationalist, who has run those white supremacist robocalls supporting Donald Trump in at least seven states during the Republican primary, that guy who voices those ads, who paid for those ads, gave out his cell phone number in those ads, the self-proclaimed white nationalist who runs the American Freedom Party who`s been working his white supremacist guts out for Donald Trump, he has just been named an official delegate for the Donald Trump campaign in the great state of California.
Josh Harkinson, "Mother Jones" reports today that Mr. Johnson submitted his name to the Trump campaign several months ago for consideration to become a delegate. Mr. Harkinson reports this guy submitted at least one of those overtly racist robocalls as part of his application to be a delegate to the Trump campaign. And the Trump campaign presumably reviewed all these applications, and they picked him.
And we know that because when they decided to name him to their official slate of delegates for the state, they sent him a congratulatory e-mail. Directly from the Donald Trump campaign.
Josh Harkinson interviewed William Johnson about his enthusiasm for Trump, and how the Trump campaign fits into his life`s work, which he sees as the goal of his life is deporting all nonwhite people from this country, making America an all-white pure Aryan nation. That`s the work of his life. And William Johnson is now exalting publicly over how Donald Trump and Donald Trump`s success in the Republican Party has made things so much better and so much easier for professional racists and white supremacists like him.
Quote, "For many, many years when I would say these things, other white people would call me names. Oh, you`re a hatemonger. You`re a Nazi. You`re like Hitler. Now they come and say, oh, you`re like Donald Trump."
After the Trump campaign congratulated William Johnson, farmer and white nationalist, on being selected as an official Trump delegate, after the California secretary of state published his name as an official Trump delegate. After "Mother Jones" published this remarkable piece today pointing out that Donald Trump just named as one of his delegates the white nationalist robocall guy from the primaries -- after all of that, late today, the Trump campaign decided to rescind their offer to William Johnson, farmer and white nationalist. They`re attributing the whole thing to what they`re calling a database error.
But we do have the list from California of all of the official delegates from all of the campaigns. Apparently, because of this database error, William Johnson, the farmer and white nationalist, he will be taken off the Trump slate of delegates.
Had he remained a Trump delegate, he would have been able to serve in that capacity alongside this man who`s also on the list. His name you probably recognize, because he is the number two Republican in Congress, under Paul Ryan. Kevin McCarthy was briefly considered to be the next speaker after John Boehner stepped down. The job ended up going to Paul Ryan instead. Congressman Kevin McCarthy is second in command in the House of Representatives for the Republican party, and heading into the California primary he is now listed officially as a would-be convention delegate, specifically for Donald Trump.
So, the Republican Party is not exactly being torn asunder by Donald Trump being their nominee. There is no heroic resistance, despite what you`ve been reading. Again, these are the results of tonight`s two Republican contests, in the presidential race.
In West Virginia and in Nebraska, we`ve got Donald Trump as the projected winner in both states. We`re going to have the Democratic results in more detail coming up in just a moment. But you know what, these results on the Republican side, these are also likely to be the results in all the remaining Republican primary contests this the year, all the way through June 7th. And the narrative will eventually wither and die that the Republican party is somehow standing up to Mr. Trump or trying to stop him from becoming the leader of their party in any meaningful way.
He is the leader of the Republican Party. Full stop. This is the face of the Republican Party from here on out. And the rest of the country may be very troubled by that.
But honestly, despite what you have been hearing from the beltway, Republicans are not troubled by that. They do not seem to be.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think on the Democratic side, let the process play itself out. You mention the delegate math. I think everybody knows what that math is.
I think Senator Sanders has done an extraordinary job raising a whole range of issues that are important to Democratic voters as well as the American people generally. And I know that at some point, there`s going to be a conversation between Secretary Clinton and Bernie Sanders about how we move towards the convention.
The good news is that despite the fact that during the course of primaries everybody started getting a little chippy, I`ve been through this, it`s natural, sometimes even more with staffs and supporters than with the candidates themselves. The good news is, is that there`s a pretty strong consensus within the Democratic Party on the vast majority of issues.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: President Obama speaking last week about the Democratic presidential primary, expressing some optimism basically about what he called the chippy time, chippy time in the Democratic primary, everybody gets a little chippy.
He was asked directly in that press conference if Senator Bernie Sanders should get out of the Democratic primary, if he should get out of the race. The president said, let the process play out. Then he also said, quote, "I think everybody knows what that math is." meaning the delegate math in the Democratic race.
So, that was President Obama speaking last week. Today, the vice president, Joe Biden, was much more direct on the same subject.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I feel confident that Hillary will be the nominee and I feel confident she`ll be the next president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Vice President Biden no longer beating around the Bush about the state of the Democratic race. But that comment from the vice president today, "I feel confident that Hillary will be the nominee," that did come from Vice President Biden today on the same day that senator Sanders has notched another win over Secretary Clinton.
At poll closing in West Virginia, NBC News projected that Bernie Sanders will win the West Virginia Democratic primary. NBC also projected that Donald Trump will win the West Virginia Republican primary and Mr. Trump will win the Nebraska Republican primary as well, which is not a surprise given that the Republican presidential primary race is over and it only has one guy left in it.
The Democratic race, though, is not over. Senator Sanders` win is real news in West Virginia.
We`re going to Steve Kornacki at the big board in just a moment to talk about the size of Senator Sanders` win in West Virginia, the significance of that win, and whether or not there is any suspension left in the Democratic race as it does steam quickly toward its end.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: An update for you on Senator Sanders` victory in the West Virginia Democratic primary. NBC projected his victory right as the polls closed at 7:30 Eastern. Right now with 34 percent of the vote in, Senator Sanders has 50 percent of the vote to Hillary Clinton`s 40 percent of the vote.
For Hillary Clinton, tonight`s contest in West Virginia marks a 180-degree reversal from the last time she ran in this state. Eight years ago this week, West Virginia handed Hillary Clinton one of her most lopsided victories of the entire primary campaign that she ran that year against Barack Obama.
At this time, eight years ago, she trailed in the delegate count overall. She was facing calls to drop out of the race and make room for Barack Obama to be the party`s nominee. But then she went to West Virginia in May 2008 and she beat Senator Barack Obama there by 41 freaking points. After that she ended up staying in the race for nearly another month.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am more determined than ever to carry on this campaign until everyone has had a chance to make their voices heard. I can win this nomination if you decide I should. And I can lead this party to victory in the general election if you lead me to victory now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was West Virginia then. This is the exact opposite. This time around, Hillary Clinton is losing right now by double digits in West Virginia, even though she is winning the overall Democratic primary race also by a lot.
As much as the Clinton campaign palpably wants this primary race to be over, it continues. Senator Sanders continues to draw massive crowds, over 16,000 people turned out to see him last night in Sacramento, California. Another 6,000 people showed up today for an afternoon rally in Stockton, California.
Senator Sanders won in Indiana last week. He is heavily favored to win in Oregon next week. Today, Senator Sanders repeated a claim he thinks he can still win a majority of pledged delegates.
Despite all the things that are going his way right now, the prospect of him winning a majority of pledged delegates continues to be a downright herculean thing to imagine. Senator Sanders would need to win 65 percent or more of the pledged delegates in every state remaining.
If you factor in the superdelegates, regardless of tonight`s results, Secretary Clinton woke up this morning already with 93 percent of the total delegates she needed to clinch the nomination, 93 percent. And when you`re that close, presumably you want to end the race, right? You want to put down any chance of a comeback. You want to put an end to your primary opponent taking shots at you and running ads against you.
You probably just want to win more state so you can stick a fork in this primary, call it done, move on to the general election.
Well, today Hillary Clinton campaigned in Kentucky which holds its primary a week from today, next Tuesday. Senator Sanders is slightly favored to win in Kentucky.
But Hillary Clinton is not just campaigning in Kentucky with three events there today and tonight. She`s also now spending money in Kentucky. We were first to report last night that the Clinton campaign might be reconsidering its earlier decision to stop spending money on ads in the Democratic primary at all.
Well, now that has come to pass. Clinton campaign has undecided to stop spending money on ads in the primary. They have now booked $168,000 worth of ads in Kentucky for that race next week against Bernie Sanders. That presumably means that Kentucky is the next state on the calendar where the Clinton campaign believes they might have a chance to put the Democratic primary to bed.
Could they actually put the Democratic primary to bed if Hillary Clinton beat Bernie Sanders in Kentucky? What are the feasible endings to the Democratic primary right now, fantastical or not?
Steve Kornacki joins us here next.
MADDOW: So, there`s a couple of big questions coming off Senator Bernie Sanders` big win in Virginia tonight. Could Hillary Clinton effectively kill Senator Sanders off by winning a state like Kentucky next week? A state where she has now decided to spend ad dollars. Clinton campaign previously said they weren`t going to spend any more on advertising in the Democratic race, they are now doing that in Kentucky.
If what they`re trying to do is win there, could a win for the Clinton campaign in Kentucky be fatal to the Sanders campaign? Overall what are the conceivable ends to the Democratic race from this point forward?
And in terms of what happened tonight in West Virginia, does anything about who turned out to vote tonight in West Virginia or what we know about the Democratic electorate tonight in this latest state to go for Sanders, does it tell us anything that might help us answer any of those big important questions about the Democratic race?
You may have noticed I`m standing and have awkward body language. That`s because the big board is here along with its best friend, Steve Kornacki.
Steve, thank you very much for doing this.
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Sure.
MADDOW: Can we start first of all with the overall state of the Democratic race, how important tonight is and whether it changes anything?
KORNACKI: Right, so these are the states left. They`re shaded in here. You see the pledged delegates up for grabs in each one of these states. You`ve got West Virginia shaded in, going on tonight.
The bottom line is this for Bernie Sanders -- he came in with a gap of 295 pledged delegates behind Hillary Clinton. The Sanders theory when you boil it down is if they can erase that gap, they can go to those superdelegates, they`re not being counted here, superdelegates, and say the will of the people is Bernie Sanders. He should be the nominee. Therefore, you should support him and not Hillary Clinton. That`s the theory.
So they need to make up an awful lot of ground in these few states that are left. Now, he`s won West Virginia tonight, good news for him. Bad news is we don`t have an official count on the delegates but it looks like -- it`s always proportional how they give out these delegates -- looks like the breakdown is going to be something like 16 to 13. It could change in either direction a little bit but looks like it will be about that.
So, if Sanders gets that, he ends tonight, he gets the win, he gets the headline. He ends tonight with another state off the board and that dent - - only a very, very small dent in that lead.
MADDOW: And not to be too pedantic on this, but that would mean that essentially with Hillary Clinton having won Guam this weekend and picked up something in the vicinity of three delegates, him winning West Virginia tonight, picking up netting something in the vicinity of three delegates, basically no change even though this is a big high-profile win for him?
KORNACKI: It effectively cancels that. That`s problem with the proportional system, you don`t have to just win states. You have to win them big, if you`re going to make a movement in the delegate count.
MADDOW: OK. So, that`s tonight.
Now, the Clinton campaign made this interesting decision about Kentucky. They had previously -- hadn`t said it overtly but they indicated there was not going to be any more ad spending throughout the races left in the Democratic primary. They have now started spending ads in Kentucky. Presumably they think Kentucky unless reach for them.
How important would it be if they win Kentucky?
KORNACKI: Well, I guess you have to separate. Psychologically, we`ve looked at Kentucky, we`ve looked at it, you know, rural, large white population. There is a sizable African-American population, though, like in Louisville, for instance. But we`ve looked at it and said, this should be a Sanders state.
So, psychologically, if she can put a win on the board there, when Bernie Sanders is in a position where he needs to win everything and needs to win it big, psychologically you`d say, well, that`s it, he has no chance now.
But basically the same math the Sanders people are pointing to now, the math probably wouldn`t change that much. It`s really to put it mildly daunting for him. I can take you through what that means.
KORNACKI: Let`s look at it this way. Less be optimistic for Bernie Sanders standpoint. Let`s say he wins Kentucky. Say he gets a crushing win in Kentucky and he nets 20 delegates out of that state, OK? So, that 292 would come down to 272.
MADDOW: Tell me what kind of percentage of the vote roughly that would be in order to get 20.
KORNACKI: Sixty-five percent, 75 percent of the vote.
MADDOW: OK. So he`s winning 2-1 in Kentucky, it`s a massive landslide.
KORNACKI: Two-thirds of the delegates to be pulling something like off, 37 to 18 would be the split in delegates. Same day Oregon. Same thing, he`s getting a massive number out of there. Let`s say he nets 20 out of Oregon. It looks like it could be a Sanders state.
MADDOW: Possible, could be.
KORNACKI: Down to 252 now. OK, takes this.
Let`s look down here, we`ve got Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands. This looks like Hillary Clinton territory. Let be fair to Sanders, say he fights her to a tie here. They get the same number here. Take it off the board. He fights here to a draw.
MADDOW: That would be a surprise.
KORNACKI: But being optimistic, we take it into June now. The last state -- it`s not a state, District of Columbia, heavy African-American population. Looks like a recipe for disaster for Sanders. Again, let`s be real optimistic from his standpoint, say he fights her to a draw in D.C., take it off the board.
Then you look at these states, this is June 7th. South Dakota looks like a good Sanders state. North Dakota, Montana, New Mexico. Landslides for Bernie Sanders in all these states, say he nets 40 delegates out of these states. Huge landslides.
MADDOW: Huge landslides, like 2-1.
KORNACKI: He`s crushing it. So, that 252 now comes down to 212. Notice there are two states left on the board.
Let`s start here in New Jersey, 126 delegates. Here`s the problem for Sanders. There`s a poll out this week in New Jersey. Hillary Clinton`s leading him by 28 points there, 60 to 32. When we say be optimistic? Miracle of all miracles he erases a 28-point deficit in New Jersey and it`s a tie. And they get the same number of delegates.
Now you`re down 212. This is so optimistic for Sanders. You`re down 212. You have one state left. It`s the mother lode. This is the one.
You talk to Sanders people, they point to California. They say 475, if we get a win big there, we can catch her.
So, based on these incredibly optimistic projections for Bernie Sanders, to get that kind of margin out of California, he would need roughly 72 percent of the vote in California. And that`s if everything went incredibly right for him. If she got out of New Jersey the kind of number this poll`s showing, he would need 77 percent out of California.
MADDOW: Wow, OK.
So the individual state by state fight continues to be of psychological interest mostly, but the delegate math is as daunting as it`s ever been, not getting any better. If he loses anything by any significant margin it`s going to get considerably worse.
KORNACKI: The 77 could be over 80 if he`s not hitting all these numbers.
MADDOW: Steve Kornacki, you and this big board is a beautiful thing. Thank you.
KORNACKI: It didn`t fail me this time.
It`s great, man. Thank you. Appreciate it.
We have Steve Kornacki and nobody else does. That`s why in the battle to the death between us and all other news properties we`ll win in the end because Steve will know the answer when it gets down to the final question we are asked by whoever`s being the life and death arbiter between us. At least that`s how I dream it every night.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Get out the timpani. It`s primary night in America. It may just be West Virginia and Nebraska, but hey, it`s West Virginia and Nebraska.
In West Virginia, NBC News projects that Bernie Sanders has won the state Democratic primary. Also in West Virginia, NBC News projects that Donald Trump will win the Republican primary there. No surprise since he`s the only person left in the Republican race.
Oh, hey, and there`s Nebraska, Donald Trump also projected by NBC News to be the winner of the Republican primary in Nebraska tonight by a margin of several miles.
Donald Trump has been the presumptive Republican nominee for one week now. And already he`s created one job, for Chris Christie. Yesterday, Donald Trump tapped the New Jersey governor and former Republican presidential candidate to lead transition efforts for president-elect Trump if he wins the general election in November. Christie will be in charge of staffing up the Trump White House.
So, we got that news about Chris Christie hiring the Trump administration staff yesterday. And that turned out to be incredible timing because today we got news that the bridgegate scandal which tore apart Christie`s own administration in New Jersey, the bridgegate scandal is roaring back to life with a very interesting vengeance right now.
The bridgegate scandal, it`s been going on three years now since a few Chris Christie political allies and staffers allegedly closed access lanes onto the busiest bridge in the world as some sort of act of political retribution. This fall a federal trial is scheduled to start in Newark, New Jersey, involving two of those three former Christie allies. A third one has already pled guilty and is cooperating with the U.S. attorney`s office in this case.
And while Governor Christie did lose his presidential bid this year, he was sort of able to sidestep this case in a way. I think in part because he was never officially legally named in the case. He`s certainly not a defendant in the case, right? It was only ever those three people, who all lost their jobs before Chris Christie wiped his hands clean of the whole affair.
Now, though, the looks of that may be about to change at least. When those three former allies were in indicted last spring one of the weird things about the indictment from the U.S. attorney`s office in New Jersey was that it named a fourth party, basically a group of other people who the U.S. attorney later described as unindicted co-conspirators, people who were in on it but didn`t get indicted.
The U.S. attorney said the names of those people might be disclosed at some point but not now. He said he would only seek to indict people who he felt confident would be convicted at trial.
Well, it turns out the U.S. attorney, the prosecutor, kept a list of those unindicted co-conspirators soars. The list was sent to the defendants and the judge presiding over this case, in preparation for this upcoming trial. But the list of unindicted conspirators was never made public.
In January, a group of media organizations including NBC Universal who filed this legal brief on behalf of WNBC, which is the NBC station here in New York, NBC Universal and about a dozen other media organizations discovered the existence of this list of bridgegate unindicted conspirators and they told the judge, hey, we want that list too. That list probably involves some public figures.
So the public deserves to know who is on there, who the government believes was in on this scandal even if they didn`t get indicted for it.
Now, the U.S. attorney, the prosecutor fought to keep the list under seal, saying that the privacy of the people on that list outweighs the public`s right to know.
But today, the judge told the U.S. attorney, told the prosecutor, no. The judge in that case now says the list of unindicted conspirators should be released to the public.
And because we know the judge has that list of unindicted conspirators, it makes her ruling all that much more jaw-dropping to read.
Quote, "Individuals thus far identified as being involved in the lane closings have been public employees and/or elected or appointed officials and anyone named in the conspirator letter is likely to have held a similar position. Although privacy for third parties is indeed important, this court is satisfied the privacy interests of uncharged third parties are insufficiently compelling to outweigh the public`s right of access. Disclosure is appropriate and the media`s motion for access to the list of unindicted conspirators is granted."
Now, the ruling is kind of unusual for a couple of reasons. First, the judge uses as precedent for her ruling a particular case in which a U.S. attorney named Chris Christie put away Donald Trump`s son-in-law`s dad. So, Donald Trump`s son-in-law and Chris Christie are the two people who are supposed to be working together to put the Donald Trump transition team into place in case Donald Trump gets elected president. That`s already a little awkward because Chris Christie put that kid`s dad in prison, for tax evasion.
But now, that precedent is being cited as the reason to list -- to release the list of people who are unindicted conspirators in the bridgegate case. So there`s that.
Also, in this ruling today, the judge never gives a deadline by which this list of unindicted conspirators has to be released. It`s also unclear who is supposed to release it. And there is still a chance the U.S. attorney could appeal today`s ruling and ultimately no one will have to release it at all.
But right now the prosecutor, the judge, and the defense all have this list of unindicted conspirators. The judge says it should be released to the media. The lawyer for the media companies is demanding its, quote, "immediate turnover".
In other words, it sort of feels like it`s only a matter of time before this particular political cannonball hits the pool.
Joining us is Andrea Bernstein, senior editor for politics and policy at WNYC. I should mention that WNYC is part of New York Public Radio, which is one of the other media organizations involved in this lawsuit to release the list.
Andrea, it`s great to have you here.
ANDREA BERNSTEIN, WNYC SENIOR POLITICAL EDITOR: Good evening.
MADDOW: Did I get any of that wrong?
BERNSTEIN: No, I don`t think so.
MADDOW: It`s a little complicated except for -- the procedure of it is complicated but the basics of it are that the government thinks there are people who are in on bridgegate who they didn`t feel they could convict.
BERNSTEIN: Right. As a matter of fact, legal ruling said this isn`t just people who the U.S. attorney thinks might have been involved in the conspiracy. It`s people the U.S. attorney believes there is sufficient evidence to believe they were a part of the conspiracy.
So, it`s not as speculative as all that. They`re just people who were not charged but from the prosecutor`s point of view are equally -- have equally committed the crime of closing down the George Washington Bridge, the world`s busiest, for political retribution against a mayor who did not endorse Chris Christie in his re-election.
MADDOW: Do we know how big the list is?
BERNSTEIN: We don`t how big the list is. The judge seemed to imply it wasn`t a huge list. I mean, I think what`s interesting about the list as you mentioned, this is a man who has been named to select the staff of potentially the next White House. The bridgegate defendants, the ones we know so far, are three big failings in Christie`s staff appointments.
He has said he is not all that close to these people, that they were three rogue employees. But if the list gets wider of people close to Governor Christie and the judge has hinted they are public officials or public employees, then that becomes further problematic in the storyline of he is the best person to choose the next White House.
MADDOW: The last time he put a staff together, look what happened, yes.
BERNSTEIN: Some things did not work out so well.
MADDOW: Obviously one of the things everybody`s wondering is whether or not Chris Christie himself is going to be on the list. Do you have any informed supposition about that?
BERNSTEIN: We obviously don`t know if he is going to be on the list. It`s also very clear that they have -- from the judge`s point of view, these individuals participated in a conspiracy. So, it`s not somebody who may have known.
So, you may recall that sometime in the New Hampshire primary, Donald Trump said he totally knew about it, referring to Governor Christie. That was a moment when they were sparring with each other. And that seems to be a popular sentiment. But there`s been no proof, there`s been no evidence, there have been no documents certainly that have been in any way in the public sphere that suggests Chris Christie was a participant in this scheme and this list may or may not shed light on that.
But it will certainly widen the list of people around Chris Christie who the government believes committed a federal crime.
MADDOW: Wow. You know, I never thought this thing was going to end at any convenient time for this particular part of it to be breaking at this particular time, the day after he`s named the transition staff.
BERNSTEIN: Yes. And that the -- his son-in-law is partners with Chris Christie is further stunning news, given their opposite relationship at a time when Chris Christie was a crusading federal prosecutor himself trying to bring public corruption to light.
MADDOW: Andrea Bernstein, senior editor for politics and policy at WNYC -- thank you very much. Please keep us apprised and keep us on this.
BERNSTEIN: Thanks. Always a pleasure.
MADDOW: All right. More to come this big political night. Stay with us.
MADDOW: It turns out they should have listened to the hippies. They wish they had listened to the hippies.
A year ago, this was the port of Seattle. The active industrial port in that city, and the hippies, I mean that as a term of endearment, the activists, you see there in these brightly colored kayaks, they were there to give Royal Dutch Shell, turns out to be good advice.
The reason they have all the little boats out, was to try to block a giant drilling rig that Shell wanted to send to Alaska to start drilling the Arctic. Shell has tried several times to drill the Arctic. They screwed it up over and over again.
In so doing, they have basically proven that even the biggest, best resourced, richest, most aggressive oil company on the planet has know idea how to safely drill the Arctic. But they tried.
This time last year, maneuvering around all those zillions of protesters, they did get their rig into Seattle for work at that port. A month later, they managed to get that rig out of that same port, again, past another flotilla of protesters, telling the company basically, don`t do it, don`t try it. It is not worth it, you don`t know how to do it.
A month after that, it was the ice breaker for that Shell drilling trip which only got out of Portland by the skin of its teeth as more protesters dangled off a bridge and rode alongside it and tried to stop it. The activists again, saying, "Don`t go. Don`t do it. Don`t try it. It`s not worth it."
You know, Shell put on a brave face. They still went. This was the CEO of Shell at the time, vowing to press on with their plans to drill the arctic, reassuring investors all was well. That the protesters didn`t know what they were talking about. That was this time last year.
And then today, today, shell gave up. All the companies did exactly. Royal Dutch Shell, ConocoPhillips, all of them.
The group Oceana got documents show that these companies that paid $2.5 billion for drilling rights in the U.S. Arctic, they have quietly relinquished those claims, after Shell braved all those protesters to go ahead with their nearly $8 billion mishap-marred quest for Arctic crude last year, they`ve now just decided to eat that -- to eat that expense. To not try again, give up the Arctic drilling rights that they paid billions for. Billions of dollars wasted, down the tubes, for Shell.
The Arctic isn`t going to be drilled. No oil company knows how to do it. They wasted billions trying to and planning to, but now it`s off. Should have listened to the hippies, you guys. Seriously. They were right. It would have saved you a bundle.
MADDOW: At this hour, in West Virginia, NBC News has projected that Bernie Sanders has won the West Virginia Democratic primary.
Also in West Virginia, NBC News has projected that Donald Trump has won the Republican primary. NBC News has also projected that Donald Trump has won the Republican primary in the state of Nebraska.
So, that all turned out the way we expected. But we have been tracking one particular wild card out there in the race, and we`ve got the latest on that in just a moment. Stay with us.
MADDOW: MSNBC`s coverage continues all night tonight. But for weeks now, as part of our reporting on this race, we have been following some -- let`s call them murky legal proceedings. In particular, keeping tabs on the Supreme Court docket for a specific reason.
We`ve been waiting for something that we`ve been told could have implications for the 2016 race. Last week, as Donald Trump stampeded through Indiana and locked up the Republican nomination, we noticed this popped up on the Supreme Court website, saying the Supreme Court would not lift a gag order which a lower court had put into effect years ago, a gag order that blocks the release of phone records from the old D.C. madam case.
A bunch of government officials and elected officials were named years ago, in phone records from the D.C. madam escort service. But the lawyer there that case has been saying since the start of the year that some of the unreleased records from that escort service are relevant to this year`s presidential race. Because of that, because of that impending public interest, once we see what`s in them, he`s asked to be released from this gag order, which prevents him from releasing the record.
The lawyer`s name is Montgomery Blair Sibley. He`s told us if the Supreme Court turns him down, he thinks those records are so important that he would consider violating the gag order and releasing the records any way in defiance of the law.
Well, now, the court has said no, and incidentally in the meantime, the Republican primary part of the race has ended.
So, are these unreleased escort service phone records still relevant to the 2016 race now, if they ever were? And will the D.C. madam lawyer risk jail time by violating the gag order and releasing them himself? We do not know.
But the Supreme Court I can tell you has now said, uh-uh, no way, gag order still applies. What happens next, we have no idea.
But our coverage this primary night continues now with Lawrence O`Donnell.
Good evening, Lawrence.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END