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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 2/16/2017

Guests: Bob Ferguson, David Nir

Show: The Rachel Maddow Show Date: February 16, 2017 Guest: Bob Ferguson, David Nir

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.

All right. It was April 29th, 2014. And he tried to get up off the gurney in the middle of it. His name was Clayton Lockett. They were trying to kill him, but they really just could not figure it out. They couldn`t get it done.

They made more than a dozen tries inserting IV lines into him, more than a dozen tries, including into his arms, into his legs, into his groin. And the whole time, he was supposed to be knocked out. He was supposed to be unconscious.

But he was not unconscious. He was awake. He was writhing, arching his back, talking about how much everything hurt. And it just went on and on and on. It went on for ten minutes, and then 20 minutes, and then 30 minutes and then 40 minutes. He, actually, at one point, ended up try to help them, trying to help them kill him.

He tried to help them get the needles into himself because they made these more than a dozen tries and nothing was working to knock him out. Finally, it went on for so long prison officials who are overseeing the execution, they pulled the curtain so the witnesses couldn`t see anymore of what was going on. And soon after that, they actually decided they couldn`t go ahead with it.

Not that they felt bad and they didn`t want to keep trying to do it, but they literally believed that they could not do it. They had messed up their chance. It wasn`t working. They couldn`t figure it out.

They called the governor. She was at a basketball game at the time, but she heard them out from the prison and told them, OK, if they felt like they couldn`t complete the execution, they should call it off. The state would stop the execution in the middle of it. They would stop trying to kill him. So, they started to make preparations to bring Clayton Lockett back. They started making preparations to try to revive him after spending all this time trying to kill him, but by then he was groaning and then he was convulsing and then he was in and out of consciousness.

And then, finally, after 43 minutes, including them trying to call it off in the middle of it, and trying to bring him back, after 43 minutes he finally died of a heart attack. That was April, 2014. Just botched, right?

The idea basically, I mean, whatever you think about the death penalty, this is not the way it`s supposed to go. I mean, you`re supposed to be rendered unconscious and then they kill you in our sleep. This was the opposite of that. Oklahoma just absolutely blew it.

And the drug they were using to try to kill him is a drug that Oklahoma had never tried to use before and we learned the execution team, the people who are actually sticking him with the needles, the medical people and corrections people, people on the team trying to carry out this execution, they didn`t know anything about this new drug. They`d never used it before obviously. They didn`t know anything about how it was supposed to work, how it might be different than other drugs. They`d never trained on it, been briefed on it.

And that Clayton Lockett execution ended up making national headlines because of how brutal and botched and bloody it was because it went on for so long, because the witnesses saw so much of what happened and it was so disturbing. But it wasn`t until months after it happened that we found out what went wrong there. And we found out specifically how Oklahoma ended up getting that drug and why they got that drug.

It turns out in part it was because of this guy. Recognize him?

This little bloody chapter in modern American history is not what this man is famous for but it`s part of his record. Let me explain. Back in 2014, after the -- this execution went so wrong, investigative reporters at "The Tulsa World" newspaper, they were able to figure out mostly through court documents but also through their own digging that the state in that execution, they hadn`t followed their own laws and protocols about how an execution like that is supposed to work.

I mean, what happened in that particular execution is the state apparently realized sort of belatedly, oops, that they didn`t have drugs on hand for this next execution that they wanted to do and when they figured that out, rather than stopping the process, raising it up the chain of command, maybe delaying the executions a little longer in order to figure out how they were going to handle that serious roadblock to what they wanted to do. Instead of that, they decided, no, we have to do these executions. Now, we`re not going to delay them. We`ve been under a lot of scrutiny. We`re going for them and they scrambled. We`ll figure out the drugs.

And specifically, it was lawyers from the general counsel`s office and the corrections department and lawyers from the attorney`s general office. Scott Pruitt, the attorney general of that state, his office and the top lawyer at the Corrections Department, they decided with this execution date bearing down on them, they decided that they were basically going to freelance. They`re going to figure it out. Never mind the protocol, never mind the rules. They tried to figure it out themselves.

Lawyers from Scott Pruitt`s office and the general counsel`s office and the corrections department, they personally got online and they said they just started browsing around. The general counsel later explained in a court filing that he and Scott Pruitt`s office, they started basically, randomly looking around online to see if they could figure out how long it takes for various drugs to kill people.

Now, remember, these are lawyers. These are not medical professionals of any kind who have any expertise on this matter. And when the lawyers were asked where they got the information that they found about how long various drugs take to kill people, I want to read you literally the actual quote in the deposition and the answer to that question was this, quote, "On WikiLeaks or whatever. I did my own research, I looked online. You know, what passed the key, WikiLeaks, WikiLeaks or whatever it is."

That`s where they say they found the information that led them to pick the drugs that they picked, that were then used for the first time in that state on Clayton Lockett. They found it on WikiLeaks or whatever. They looked around online.

The attorney general of the state is not supposed to be involved in a process like that. Picking the actual drugs, that is not the attorney general`s purview. Nobody in the attorney general`s office is even expected to have any expertise for doing anything like that and the rules and protocols in the state don`t say that the attorney general should do anything like that.

And the attorney general, Scott Pruitt, he denied up and down for a long time that he or his office had anything to do with that process. No, we didn`t have anything to do with picking those drugs. Why would anybody even say that? Obviously, that`s not in the rules, why would we do it?

But you know what? There was an investigation. Multiple sources, multiple other actors, multiple other state officials involved in that terribly botched process of killing that guy in 2014, multiple people said despite your denials, Scott Pruitt, yes, you were involved in this. The Department of Public Safety in Oklahoma did an investigation into the botched execution.

And the director of the corrections department confirmed that a lethal drug in that execution were not chosen, according to the protocol designed by the state. They weren`t. They`re picked by the lawyers.

He said, quote, "The previous general counsel and the attorney general`s office that`s who chose the drugs. That general counsel who was himself involved in searching the WikiLeaks or whatever, for the drug information, along with Scott Pruitt`s office. He later explained how it was that he and these other lawyers ended up in that weird position which they were never supposed to be in.

He told investigators that basically was political. He told investigators that the state was under pressure to carry out that execution that night, particularly because it was supposed to be a very exciting double header. That night, it was going to be Clayton Lockett then they had another guy standing by who they were going to kill with the same drugs right after Clayton Lockett. They were going to do two in one night.

A lot of attention for something like that. Quote, "The attorney general`s office being an elected office was under a lot of pressure. The staff over there was under a lot of pressure to say get it done, you know? And so, yeah, yeah, I think it was a joint decision but there was. I`ve got to say there was a push to make the decision, get it done, hurry up about it."

Get it done, hurry up about it. That was from the attorney general`s office, because it`s an elected office. He`s an ambitious guy in that office, and they wanted to get those guys killed, get this thing over with. Right?

Who cares what the drug is? Who cares if we`ve never used that drug before, I looked something up on the WikiLeaks or whatever. You got yourself a smartphone, right?

We`ll use something we have never tried before, who cares, get it done.

And that is how Scott Pruitt apparently ended up making the decision about a brand new experiment method that Oklahoma was going to try out on its prisoners that led to 43 minutes of Clayton Lockett writhing and talking and trying to get the needle in himself and them trying to call off the execution in the middle of it and him trying to get off the gurney before finally three quarters of an hour into it, it was finally a heart attack that killed him.

Publicly, Scott Pruitt denied up and down that he had anything to do with that, that his office worked on that in any way. The state investigation proved that he was lying when he issued those denials.

It was around that time that that investigation became publicly known Scott Pruitt got famous for something else. He in fact made the front page of the "New York Times," it was an investigative piece by Eric Lipton at the "New York Times" that won Lipton the Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting in 2014.

Eric Lipton discovered that what Scott Pruitt was doing on environmental issues in Oklahoma is that he was taking letters and documents written by oil and gas companies that were big campaign contributors to him and he was literally copying and pasting the full text of the documents that they wrote, the letters that they wrote. He was copying and pasting those things from oil and gas companies on to his own letterhead intact as if they were his own work, and then he was sending those things to Washington as if they were the views of the state of Oklahoma. And mostly those letters were, like berating the EPA about something or another.

Well, now, Scott Pruitt is who the Trump administration has chosen to run the EPA for the country. And the vote on his nomination is supposed to be tomorrow.

But despite all of that stuff, which is known about Scott Pruitt and a lot else besides, his vote is scheduled tomorrow and it looks like the wrench in the works on Scott Pruitt, if there is going to be one, is a wrench in the works that a judge in Oklahoma threw tonight. Tonight, a judge in Oklahoma threw a wrench in the works for the Scott Pruitt nomination because there`s actually something else that Scott Pruitt was starting to get famous for in Oklahoma.

For the last two years, he has been refusing to answer public records requests sent to his office in Oklahoma. He`s the attorney general of the state. He`s subject to the same transparency rules and freedom of information rules as every other part of the state government. But for the last two years Scott Pruitt has inexplicably been rejecting public records requests for documents and correspondents between his office and oil and gas companies.

There`s no legal basis for him resisting or rejecting these records requests. He`s just been saying no. And tonight, a federal judge in Oklahoma proclaimed, quote, "There really is no reasonable explanation why his office hasn`t complied with public records requests." She described his actions as a, quote, "abject failure to follow the law." And this judge in Oklahoma tonight ordered him -- he`s finally got to do it, he`s got to hand over what`s expected to be about 3,000 pages of e-mails and other types of communications and correspondence between his office and the oil and gas companies that have been taking such good care of him all of these years in Oklahoma. Wow. Right?

So, we`re finally, finally going to see that stuff from Scott Pruitt`s office from his time as attorney general which is his current job. The judge says he has to produce this stuff, make it publicly available by Tuesday. Oh, but wait. His vote to be the head of the EPA is tomorrow. Hmm.

Democrats were not psyched about the Scott Pruitt EPA nomination anyway, at least most Democrats. But now it would seem that both Democrats and Republicans might have good reason to just wait a few more days before they vote on him since some time between now and Tuesday, we`re going to get 3,000 pages of his communications with oil and gas companies, 3,000 pages of communications with oil and gas companies that he has been illegally withholding from public view for the last two years.

That kind of seems like stuff you might want to see before you vote on this guy to be in charge of great swathes of public policy that affect oil and gas companies, right? I mean, whether you`re a Democrat or Republican, you would at least want to see this stuff before you vote, wouldn`t you? Especially if you only have to wait a few days, wouldn`t, wouldn`t?

When the new president picked Michael Flynn to be his national security advisor, he also announced one of the deputy national security advisors he wanted, that would be a woman named Monica Crowley. She was a FOX News personality. Not long after her name was announced it emerged her last book was substantially plagiarized and then her publisher yanked the book and it was reported a bunch of her newspaper columns were also plagiarized, then it was reported that, ooh, her PhD thesis is also substantially plagiarized.

And at that point, Monica Crowley got yanked as a deputy national security advisor. They had to pull her name.

The first person who the new president picked to be secretary of the army was a billionaire finance guy who had been a Trump donor. Shortly after his nomination was announced to lead the Army, it emerged he has been written up in a police report for punching a guy out. Not all that long ago at a fancy horse auction in New York state.

And then he, too, Vincent viola, got his name yanked as secretary of the army.

Earlier this week, the shortest national security advisor tenure in American history came to an end at a record 24 days after Michael Flynn was fired, resigned, fired, resigned in the midst of an ongoing and now increasingly serious scandal about his prolific contacts with the Russian government before he became national security advisor and even before the election during the campaign.

The beltway story about Michael Flynn`s firing has mostly focused on the fact that he lied about his contacts with the Russian government to people in the White House. But, you know what? Maybe that`s not the biggest deal here. "The Washington Post" reports tonight that he may have lied about those contacts with the Russian government to the FBI. And that`s a very serious thing, indeed, because that`s a felony.

I mean, remember the back story here is that there are transcripts and recordings of Michael Flynn`s contacts with Russian officials because the U.S. government monitors the communications of Russian officials and it is reportedly clear in those recordings that Michael Flynn was talking to the Russian government about the sanctions the Obama administration had levied against Russia as punishment for them interfering in our presidential election. Again, "The Washington Post" reporting tonight that even though it`s clear in the recordings and the transcripts that that subject, the sanctions subject was discussed in those calls, "The Washington Post" reports tonight that Flynn nevertheless denied to the FBI that he had ever discussed those matters with the Russians. They`ve got him on the transcripts talking about it and then he told them in person he didn`t.

If he lied to the FBI, that would be a felony. If it were prosecuted, he could be looking at serious jail time. That said, the decision about whether or not to prosecute him would be made by the Justice Department which, of course, is now headed up by the man who is chairman of our National Security Advisory Committee on the Trump campaign, Jeff Sessions. He`s now under increasing scrutiny over the fact that he refuses to recuse himself from many investigations of the campaign that he was a part of.

Raise your hand if you think Jeff Sessions is going to prosecute mike Flynn for lying to the FBI? No, raise your hand. I can`t --

The day after the Michael Flynn resignation this week, the Trump administration also had to pull its labor secretary nominee Andy Puzder. And now, tonight, we`ve learned that the man who the White House wanted to replace Michael Flynn as national security advisor, he has told the White House, no, he won`t take the job. "The Financial Times" quotes a person with firsthand knowledge of the discussions between President Trump and Admiral Robert Harward as saying, quote, "Harward is conflicted between the call of duty and the obvious dysfunctionality."

Let`s keep going. Tonight, Senate Democrats are planning to hold the floor all night long in opposition to the vote tomorrow on Scott Pruitt to head up the EPA. Not because of just their objections to him but now the fact that within a matter of five days, 3,000 pages of documentation that his office was illegally withholding about communications between him and oil and gas companies, those are about to be released. How can the Republicans possibly defend voting on him tomorrow when some time in the next five days, we`re getting a 3,000 page document dump on him on exactly the subject he`s now being elevated to the federal government to oversee.

So, the president today held a press conference in which he proclaimed that he`s just mystified anybody thinks anything`s going wrong.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I turn on the TV, open the newspapers and I see stories of chaos. Chaos. Yet it is the exact opposite. This administration is running like a fine tuned machine.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: The personnel debacles and the serious scandals that already attend to this less than one-month-old presidency are really -- without hyperbole, they are unlike anything we have ever seen at the start of a presidential term and that`s completely leaving aside the issue of policy. I mean, there has been no significant legislation passed since this president has been in office. He has signed into law zero major policies, the only exception to that is his Muslim ban and refugee ban which he signed as an executive order at the end of January.

Well, today as the president proclaimed how finely tune his machine is, as he crowed about how perfectly everything has rolled out thus far, including that Muslim ban, today that, too, his first policy initiative, that today completely fell apart. Administration lawyers as he was wrapping up that press conference they were writing to the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals asking that court to please vacate its previous ruling striking down the ban as unconstitutional or at least, forgive me, upholding a stay on it on those grounds.

The reason the administration asked the court to vacate their previous ruling is because, quote, "the president intends in the near future to rescind the order and replace it with a new substantially revised executive order." This is the one substantial policy they have tried to enact in this first disastrous four weeks of his administration. This is the one policy they have tried to enact. And today, he was forced to take it back and try to start over.

I mean, nobody wants to see the United States of America fail. But if you want to know what it looks like when a president fails in every conceivable way, in every conceivable measure, this is what it looks like when a president fails in every way.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: You know even as a non-lawyer, you might have a chance of explaining it when the ruling from the court fits on one page and it`s double spaced and there`s still room at the bottom.

We have some breaking news. We have new news about the president`s Muslim ban and refugee ban. I mentioned at the top of the shower, lawyers for the president today told the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that the president intends to take back his travel ban and try again.

Well, we now have the court`s response. Again, this is breaking news. This just came in just a moment ago. And as far as I read it this amounts to the court saying "fine by us." The ruling says the administration will inform the court of any new developments, but I think this means there is will be no new hearing at the ninth circuit, no en banc full court hearing because the administration is rescinding its travel ban.

They are basically conceding they lost on this. At least that`s how I read it but not a lawyer.

Let`s ask somebody who is better positioned to understand this. Joining us now is Bob Ferguson. He`s Washington state attorney general. He brought this case in the first place.

Mr. Attorney General, thank you for your time tonight.

BOB FERGUSON, WASHINGTON STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL: Thanks for having me on, Rachel. I really appreciate it.

MADDOW: So, they`ve pulled the ban, they`ve rescinded it, they say they`re going to try again. To me, as a sort of lay observer of this, this looks to me like you won here. Like you`ve beat them and you`ve made them concede they lost. Is that how you see it?

FERGUSON: Without any question. The administration, the president is conceding. They filed that brief today as you read, saying the president was going to rescind the executive order. They did not want to seek review from the Ninth Circuit or the U.S. Supreme Court because they knew what`s become increasing obvious. It would just be one more defeat on top of multiple defeats they`ve already -- they`ve already suffered.

MADDOW: So they could -- when the president responded to the Ninth Circuit, those three judges, their decision a few days ago, when the president said, "See you in court", everybody read that bluster from the president as seeing he would appeal to a wider panel of the Ninth Circuit, he wanted a bigger group of judges to be hearing it, or that he would go straight to the Supreme Court.

In essence, the administration has decided -- no, neither, we`re going to go back to the drawing board entirely. This law is dead now.

FERGUSON: I would agree. Once it`s rescinded, it`s going to be rescinded. By the way, the president had a third option after his "see you in court" tweet. Back before the trial court judge, there was a hearing in which we said, we`re ready to move forward on the merits and the administration said, no, no, we don`t want to move forward on the merits, either.

So, frankly, immediately after the tweet, we`ll see you in court, the Department of Justice and the administration and everything they could to avoid seeing frankly anybody in court, because they knew they would lose.

MADDOW: They do say that they`re going to rewrite this thing. That they`re going to try again. They`re going to come up with a new one.

What do you expect from them on that? And do you feel like there is a way for them to more constitutionally craft the same kind of intention that was evident in the first try at this?

FERGUSON: Well, frankly I`m glad they`re going to take another shot at this. We`ve been saying from day one they should tear up the original executive order and try again. It`s hard to pre-judge what that`s going to look like without seeing it, Rachel, obviously. But what I can`t say is that it is still our belief, of course, that no one is above the law or above the Constitution. That includes the president and my team will carefully scrutinize line by line, word by word any new executive order that this administration puts forward.

MADDOW: Mr. Attorney General, let me ask you one last question. We`ve talked about this a number of times since you filed this challenge. I never asked you about the politics of this.

Obviously, you represent Washington state. You`re the attorney general in that state. It is a legal decision but to a certain degree a political decision, a statement of values for the state to do this.

Has this been a controversial decision in your state? Do you feel like you`ve felt sort of political blowback of any kind or, contrarily, political support for doing this? Ultimately, you and Minnesota bringing there case is what seems to have stopped it in its track. What`s the reaction about that from your constituents?

FERGUSON: You know, it`s interesting. I proposed recently repealing the death penalty in our state and banning the sale of assault weapons. On issues like that, I received an amount of blowback, as you might imagine, even in a blue state like Washington.

But to be candid, Rachel, on this issue it`s been frankly nothing but positive feedback as we walk down the street with my solicitor general, Noah Purcell. We can`t get more than a block without people rolling down their car windows saying, "Hey, way to go, keep it up" or stopping us on the street.

So, frankly, it`s been really affirming that people believe in the rule of law, that no one is above the law, even the president, and we`re going to hold them to the Constitution. And so, it`s really been a positive experience. I`m very proud of my team who`s worked literally around the clock, Rachel, to get to this really fantastic result.

MADDOW: Bob Ferguson, Washington state attorney general, celebrating a very big win against the Trump administration tonight.

Mr. Attorney General, thank you again. Appreciate it.

FERGUSON: Thanks, Rachel. Appreciate it.

MADDOW: You know, we all -- we knew one of the things that we knew was going to happen was that blue states were going to fight legal battles against this administration. We didn`t necessarily know who was going to be tip of the spear and who is going to have the most success. But this case brought by Washington state and Minnesota, this absolutely cut the Trump administration off at their knees. The first and only policy of any significant size they have tried is this travel ban and those states just stopped them. It`s dead.

Much more ahead. Busy night. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: We`ve got some sort of heartening news for Democrats coming up in the show tonight. News that`s been a little bit under the radar so far but it`s about to break open. That`s our next story.

But we also have a cliffhanger story last night right here on this show at the very end of the show. It ended as a mystery. We got lots of feedback about it last night because it was a what`s going to happen story? Now, it has found a very surprising ending, and that means -- I`m going to need music, it`s a dramatic story, it has a sound track, it has a dramatic ending. Our cliffhanger will be revolved.

Coming up. Stay right there. I`m terrible at this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: In 2004, George W. Bush was reelected and things looked really gloomy for the Democrats. But then things turned around fast. 2004, Bush was reelected, 2006, Democrats took the House and Senate. 2008, which you remember most for Barack Obama winning the presidency, that year, Democrats also piled up more wins in Congress on top of what they had already won in 2006. That `06/`08 double whammy was huge for the Democrats.

But then it turned around on them really fast. Barely a month into the Obama presidency, the Tea Party movement started springing up around the country. The initial anti-Obama anti-Democrat Tea Party rallies were actually held in February, 2009, literally the month after Obama was inaugurated.

Then, there were anti-Obama, anti-Democrat Tea Party rallies nationwide on Tax Day, April 15th, 2009, and on through the summer and into the hall of that year. And at the time, Barack Obama was a really popular president. He won that election in `08 convincingly. He had huge majorities in Washington, his polling numbers were pretty good.

But that protest movement, that bottled up frustrated conservative energy, that was soon put to very specific electoral use. They got their first big chance of turning their new protest movement into really political results -- ironically, in the most stereo typically blue state in the country, Massachusetts.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCOTT BROWN (R-MA), THEN-U.S. SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: My name is Scott Brown and I`m running for the United States Senate. This is my truck. I put a lot of miles on it during this campaign. Wherever I go people tell me they`re concerned about the path our country is on. Spending is out of control, the government keeps getting bigger and bigger. It`s time for a new direction.

I love this old truck. It`s brought me closer to the people of this state.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Scott Brown and his truck. Scott Brown, a previously obscure state senator with no major accomplishments of any kind. Really, he had never done anything of note, even though he was very handsome and he had been a model and he got a lot of press for that.

But after Senator Ted Kennedy died, Scott Brown, this very unlikely candidate, he ran as the Republican candidate in the special election for that Senate seat. No Republican had won a Senate seat in Massachusetts for almost 40 years.

But that was 2010, not a normal year in politics. It was the year that wave of Tea Party energy and Scott Brown of all people, he won in Massachusetts and that shock upset victory was the first indicator of what was on the way for Republicans and Democrats. Scott Brown was first, he won that forever blue Senate seat in January, 2010.

And later that year in November, 2010, that was the wipeout for Democrats. Democrats lost 63 seats in the House. They lost six seats in the Senate, canceled out all the gains of the previous four years. President Obama called it a shellacking.

Well, now we`re on the same kind of spot on the political timeline. Now, there`s another brand new president. But this time, President Trump is far less popular than President Obama was at this time. He`s also facing an unprecedented level of serious scandal early in his administration and he`s also facing a grassroots protest movement against him just like President Obama did with the Tea Party folks, but already the on-the-ground movement against Trump is larger than the Tea Party ever was, even at its height.

Anti-Trump protests started the day of his inauguration. They got huge one day after the inauguration, possibly the biggest protest day in U.S. history. And now almost four weeks into his time in office, the protests are not just continuing, they are spreading.

Hello Providence, Rhode Island town hall meeting with members of Congress this week. Eight hundred people in Rhode Island yelling "just say no." as in just say no to everything from this president.

This was a crowded scene inside the office of Congressman Eric Paulson of Minnesota. This is his home district office in Minnesota, he`s a Republican congressman, look at the people who want to talk to his staffers.

In Orlando this week, this was Marco Rubio`s constituent office, people demanding that he stand up to President Trump on something, anything.

Wilmington, North Carolina, a similar crowd with a similar message gathered outside the office of North Carolina Republican Senator Richard Burr.

In Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, last weekend, so many people showed up for a grassroots meeting to oppose Trump and his agenda that half of the 250 people who showed up had to sit outside and have a parallel meeting. They had to meet inside and outside at the same time.

This is inside Ohio Congressman Pat Teabury`s office in Columbus, Ohio. This guy on the right is inviting the congressman to a town hall on the Affordable Care Act. His constituents have set up a time and a location. All they need is their congressman. Look at the staffer, how he`s scowling at the guy. "He is not coming to that town hall."

Here`s a picture of an organizing group in New Jersey. They say this was their first meeting one month ago. You can see there, it`s already pretty big. They just this week posted same meeting room, same group, what it looks like this week. They`re growing.

Last night, over 400 people turned out for the first Indivisible organizing meeting in Yolo County, California, in all places. That`s Yolo County. This movement, this protest movement against Trump is showing signs that it is not just big, it`s sustainable, it`s growing.

The question is whether Democrats -- well, one question about it is whether Democrats can turn that energy, can turn that movement into nuts and bolts political gains, whether they can turn it into electoral gains the way Republicans did starting with the Tea Party wave and old Scott Brown in 2010.

The first big test of that is about to happen like next week. It`s a fascinating story. That`s next.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Democrats lost an election this week in Minnesota and they`re super excited about it. It was a special election to fill an open state rep seat in a Minnesota House district, 32B. It was a seat that was previously held by a Republican and a Republican again won the seat this week.

Here`s why Democrats are psyched about losing that race, though. When Minnesota`s House district 32B voted in November, Donald Trump won by nearly 30 points in that district. This week, they voted for their Republican candidate for state rep there. She didn`t win by 30 points like Donald Trump did, she only won by six.

If you`re a Democrat, that`s called hope. That`s called progress. And now`s the time the Democrats are starting to wonder around the country, can they close the gap? Does this terrible public view of the new president and these protests in the streets and this organizing energy on the center and left, can they bottle it to boost chances of electing Democrats across the country?

Take Delaware, for example. Current makeup of Delaware Senate is 10 Republicans, 10 Democrats and one to be determined. Democrats have controlled the Delaware Senate for, like, 40 years, but now, the future of the control of that body rests on the shoulders of this woman, her name is Stephanie Hanson. She`s the Democrat running in the special election for that one open seat in the Delaware Senate. The voting is a week from Saturday.

Look who showed up to support her this week. Oh, Joe Biden. Oh, yes, pride of Delaware, former vice president showed up to this little state Senate campaign event Monday night this week to help her, to try to save his party`s majority in that state`s Senate. That`s next Saturday that race.

And three days after that, voters in Connecticut will get to decide who controls their state`s legislature. The Connecticut state Senate has two open seats right now. Republicans are making a very, very, very hard play. Democrats are going to have to play hard, too, if they want to win that one or beat back the Republicans.

So, Democrats have got opportunities here. They also have got to play hard if they`re going to gain or even retain control in these states. For more on that, see Georgia. Tuesday night, we reported on the special election for a congressional seat coming up in Georgia. It`s the race to replace Republican Tom Price who has left to be part of the cabinet, to go be house secretary.

Republicans have held the Tom Price congressional seat forever but that district only went for Donald Trump by 1 1/2 points in November and I should mention there are 18 candidates running in that race as of the filing deadline yesterday. That thing is at least a little bit up for grabs, which is why, I thought it was weird, why I pointed out on Tuesday night that the Democratic Party, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee hasn`t yet sent any full time staffers to that district to work on that race. They hadn`t announced any plans to invest or make a, you know, good try in that race. Maybe that`s a pickup opportunity. Trump barely won in that district.

I should tell you that the DCCC was super mad at us for that segment, for pointing that out. They reached out firmly to say they have been helping that race, but in less obvious ways. Now, that the field is set, though, look fund-raising e-mail from the DCCC specifically from that Georgia sixth district race with all some caps bold urgency, "Breaking news, Georgia special election spells trouble for Trump and Republicans."

I can also tell you tonight, I can report exclusively that the DCCC is investing in a team of field organizers for the Georgia Democrats starting next week. They`re going to split the cost of district specific research for that race as well. So, the Democrats are jumping in. And, boy, were they mad when I said they weren`t. So, that`s something. I`m looking for signs of life where I can see them.

But this race on the Democratic side, it has been taking shape for a while. Even before the field was set last night, and the DCCC made this big jump, one of the Democrats in this race, 29-year-old John Ossoff, he`s already received a ton of grassroots and monetary support, particularly organized by the folks at the liberal blog Daily Kos, sort of the mother of all liberal blogs.

In 2012, Kos backed Elizabeth Warren`s Senate campaign. They raised a half million dollars for her to take back that U.S. Senate seat from Scott Brown in Massachusetts. When it came time to fill Tom Price`s open seat in Georgia, Daily Kos was Johnny on the spot on this race and on this candidate. They threw their support behind Ossoff very early on, right after Congressman John Lewis endorsed him. So far, they`ve raised over three quarters of a million dollars for Ossoff, which the Ossoff campaign tells us has gone right to their bank accounts.

Will this kind of thing work to flip that reliably Republican district to a Democrat? Can the Democratic Party capitalize on the efforts that have already been put forward by progressive groups, progressive blogs? Can they battle sort of magic that`s out there in terms of the public dislike of this president and this big protest movement, can they battle out to eke out a win here?

Joining us now is David Nir. He`s political director for Daily Kos. He`s a publisher of Daily Kos elections.

David, it`s nice to see you. Thanks for being here.

DAVID NIR, DAILY KOS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Thank you so much for having me.

MADDOW: The way I laid that out. Is that sort of how you see it? Or did I miss anything important?

NIR: I think that was a very good read, Rachel.

MADDOW: Why did you pick Ossoff?

NIR: We picked Ossoff because as you mentioned, John Lewis endorsed him. And that was a very big signal for us. You know, when John Lewis said he wasn`t going to attend inauguration, we in the progressive community said we`re going to support that. And so, when John Lewis says this is the guy you want to be supporting in this winnable race, we felt that was very important.

MADDOW: Do you think it is a winnable race? I mean, obviously, Tom Price won by huge margin when he was getting reelected there multiple times and it has been Republican for a long time. The thing that I think piqued everybody`s interest is how poorly Donald Trump did in that district.

NIR: That`s exactly right. It`s definitely winnable precisely because that this sort of suburban, well-educated district really did rebel against Trump. You showed that figure of him just winning by one point.

And if Democrats can pull off a win here, it will send shock waves through the Republican Party because it will show Trump is really doing tremendous damage to the GOP, and if Republicans maintain their suicide pact with Trump, it means the House could be in play in 2018.

MADDOW: Do you feel like there is a split, or a difference of opinion, or a fight going on between the Democratic Party proper and progressive groups, progressive energy, on something like this, or is it a push- me/pull-you situation? Or you think you`re generally oriented in the same direction that may just be tactical differences?

NIR: I feel we`re all playing in the same direction. This is an all hands on deck race. You know, we have a huge community online at Daily Kos and we get reports on the ground from people in the district. And they are telling us the grassroots, the Democratic Party, that everyone is really pulling together on this one.

So, I feel we`re going to be incredibly unified going forward to Election Day.

MADDOW: David Nir, political director for Daily Kos, publisher of Daily Kos Elections -- I have been reading your stuff for a long time. I find you to be incredibly incisive in the way that you take apart elections day to day. It`s nice to have you here.

NIR: Thank you so much, Rachel.

MADDOW: I appreciate it.

All right. I promised you a cliffhanger tonight. I`m about to deliver what`s at the bottom of the cliff. It`s resolved way faster than I expected. That`s next.

Stay with us.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Some jobs offer just a paycheck. Teaching offers a lot more.

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MADDOW: Hmm. The more you know, excellent long running public service ad campaign. Love it.

We have our own knockoff version. For us, it`s not the more you know. For us, it`s, you know more now.

It is also intended to be a public service. Thank you, Nick.

We know more now when we have a story that we left as a bit of a cliffhanger. But when you go to check on the story, it`s been resolved. Tonight, we`ve got one that resolved faster than expected.

Right at the end of last night`s show, right at the buzzer, we reported on a politics story involving the Miami Marlins baseball team. The team is apparently up for sale. And the people who want to buy them are the Kushner family. That Kushner family.

The efforts being led by the younger brother of Jared Kushner, who is working as a senior adviser to the president. Jared Kushner is married to the president`s daughter. He`s also advising the president now. Everybody thought that kind of thing was illegal because of federal nepotism rules but hey, apparently those rules don`t count anymore.

Anyway, the Kushner family has been thinking about buying the Miami Marlins and we`ve known that for a while. But last night, the "Miami Herald" reported that the current owner of he Miami Marlins, the guy who`s considering selling the team to the White House-connected Kushner family, last night, "The Herald" reported he`s also being considered for a sweet diplomatic posting from the White House.

"The Herald" reported last night he`s the leading candidate for the best ambassador job of all. He`s in line to become the American ambassador to France, which is hilarious, right? It`s like an all caps exclamation point corruption story. Do you think the Kushner family might possibly get a better deal in buying the marlins if they can throw in the ambassadorship to France as a sweetener?

Would you also like part of the old executive office building named for you, sir? Maybe you`d like to be on the $50 bill? Is there anything else we can throw in? Jared`s family would really like to make this deal.

So, that was the news last night as we finished the show. Bingo, moments after we reported that story, moments later, the Kushner family released a new statement on this subject. They said, quote, "Although the Kushners have made substantial progress in discussions for us to purchase the Marlins, recent reports, recent reports, suggest that Mr. Loria will soon be nominated by the president to be ambassador to France. If that is true, we do not want this unrelated transaction to complicate that process and will not pursue it."

Here`s the kicker, here`s the kicker, the best part, the kicker. Quote, "The Kushners remain interested in purchasing a team and would love to buy the Marlins at another time." So, pencil it into your calendar. Buy Miami Marlins later. And in the meantime, enjoy your ambassadorship. Au revoir.

There you have it. If you were worried that the Kushner family might get a sweetheart deal for the Marlins because the current owner wants to be the ambassador to France, and they can hook them up with that -- don`t fret. Don`t fret. That`s not going to happen. Instead, they`ve decided to put the team on layaway.

He can have the ambassadorship now. They`ll get the team later, once this whole thing has blown over. I`m sure the deal will be totally up and up when it goes through.

But now, you know more now.

Thanks, Nick.

That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow.

Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD." Ari Melber sitting in for Lawrence tonight.

Good evening, Ari. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END

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