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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 2/22/2017

Guests: Steve Bullock, Ed Gonzalez

Show: The Rachel Maddow Show Date: February 22, 2017 Guest: Steve Bullock, Ed Gonzalez 

CHRIS HAYES, "ALL IN" HOST: That is "ALL IN" for this evening.

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now, right on time.

Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Not like I ever hold you to it, man. You can have my seconds any time you need them.

HAYES: He`s taking notes, Michael Moore is. So, I hit the post there.

MADDOW: Thanks, my dear.

And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.

I`d like to introduce you to a man named Mike Fellows. Mike Fellows was the chair of the Libertarian Party in the state of Montana. In every single election held in Montana over the span of the last 20 years, Mike Fellows ran for something.

He ran for Supreme Court. He ran for secretary of state. He ran for state legislature, he ran for Congress. He`s run for everything.

He`s run in every single election in the last 20 years and he never won anything ever, but he`s committed political activist and he put his money where his mouth was and he did the work and he made sure that his party, the Libertarian Party, had somebody on the ballot in all of those races.

The last election in which Mike Fellows ran was this last one we held in November. Montana is one of seven states in the country that has only one member of Congress for the whole state. Every state has two U.S. senators, but there are seven states in the country that have such small populations they only have one representative in the House, and Montana is one of those states. Their current member of Congress is Republican Congressman Ryan Zinke.

This past November, Mike Fellows ran as the libertarian candidate against Ryan Zinke for Congress, and nobody thinks that Mike Fellows had a shot at unseating this incumbent congressman, but it still had a really big political impact on the state of Montana, when Mike Fellows unexpectedly died in the lead-up to the election.

He`s only 59 years old. He was driving home from a campaign event on a Monday night in September. He got into a head-on car crash, and Mike Fellows died, led to a lot of kind tributes to him in Montana from people across the state, people across the ideological spectrum.

But one of the practical nuts and bolts and indeed financial consequences of Mike Fellows dying right before that election, after he had qualified for the libertarian line on the ballot in that congressional election is that it cost counties across Montana a lot of money for that election. There`s a law in Montana that`s very strict about ballots for every election having to be absolutely correct.

So when Mike Fellows died just a few weeks before the election, every single county in the state had to shred all of their ballots that they had printed already and they had to reprint all new ballots for the November election. And that, among other things, made the 2016 November election in Montana the most expensive election that state has ever had.

I mean, added to that factor about that guy passing away, it was also a very high turnout election. It was an unusually long ballot in Montana this year, because they had a bunch of stuff to vote on in the state, but all in all, usually the statewide cost of running a statewide election in Montana is about $2 million. This past November, it was about $3 million.

And the counties in Montana were really not happy about that extra expense. I mean, there`s no magic pile of money that comes in from the federal government or even from the state government that pays for the cost of administering elections in Montana. It`s the counties, local taxpayers, local budgets have to foot the bill, no matter what they cost, and this last election, they just had, you know, through nobody`s fault, just through a series of circumstances it was 50 percent more expensive than any election they`d had before.

And a lot of counties didn`t have money in the budget to pay for the extra expense. And that was already a real cause of financial consternation in that state before Montana`s one congressman, Ryan Zinke, got nominated by the new administration to leave Congress and instead go join the president`s cabinet.

Ryan Zinke, Montana`s only member of Congress, he`s also the new nominee to be secretary of the interior. Now, he hasn`t been confirmed yet, Democrats have managed to slow down most of the cabinet confirmation process, although we`re going to report later on tonight that one of the cabinet nominees Republicans were able to rush through they may be having second thoughts about him, some buyers remorse on one they were able to get done.

But Ryan Zinke is still on ice. There`s been some concern over him getting disciplined during his Navy career for falsifying travel records so he`d get reimbursed for travel he shouldn`t have been reimbursed for. There`s been some controversy around that.

Aside from that though, it is still broadly expected that he`s going to get confirmed. He is going to get the job. Maybe it will happen sometime in March they`ll confirm him?

Whenever they confirm him, at that point, that will start the process of Montana holding a special election to replace him. Montana will need to elect a new member of Congress to replace Ryan Zinke. And in terms of how that`s going to go, well, you know at first glance Montana is a very red state. Trump won there in November by a lot, by like 20 points.

Republicans have won every presidential election in Montana all the way back to 1992. But the state is more complicated than that, even just when it comes to statewide races. Montana has a Democratic U.S. senator, Jon Tester. They`ve got a Democratic governor, Steve Bullock.

And Montana is one of those places where, in political terms, it sort of looks like somebody hit that state with jumper cables since the election results came in. This, for example, is what it looked like -- look at this -- January 30th at the state capitol in Helena, Montana. Look at this, there have been more than a handful of instances since the election where the Republicans in Washington tried to go ahead with something, but then they had to change their mind and take it back when the public blowback was so strong they couldn`t handle it, right?

One of those things was the first day of the first Congress when the Republicans tried to gut the Congressional Ethics Office, remember they had to take that one pack because of the blowback? And then, remember them demanding the names of all the scientists who had ever worked on climate change at the Energy Department. But they had to reverse those things. They`ve this to face blowback and take those things back.

Another big one, big flat-out reversal from the Republicans in Washington was a plan to sell off more than 3 million makers of public land, tens of thousands of the acres they wanted to sell off were in Montana, and this was the reaction in Montana to Republicans trying to sell that land off. It was a pretty big reaction, and when Republicans in the House saw this big reaction in Montana, and in other states like that, they did back off. They changed their mind. They dropped that bill to sell off public lands.

But for a taste what have it was like in Montana when that was still pending, this is Montana`s Democratic Governor Steve Bullock speaking at that demonstration at the state capitol January 30th. Watch how it goes here. You`ll see why Republicans didn`t want to be up against this, particularly in states all over the Mountain West.


GOV. STEVE BULLOCK (D), MONTANA: Thank you for coming out from all corners of our state today. Thanks for what you`re doing today, and every day to keep our public lands in public hands.


I see folks from Sanders County. I see sportsmen and sportswomen. I see ranchers. I see veterans. I see big fishers and fly fishers.

I see grandparents. I see the next generation. I even see some of my former high school teachers here.


And you know what`s great? Every one of us own these public lands.


The 30 million acres in Montana, and the beauty is, we don`t need permission to go on them, do we?


BULLOCK: These lands are our heritage. These lands are our birthright.

These lands are one of our great equalizers the size of our checkbook doesn`t matter to access our blue ribbon streams, our rivers, and hunt in some of the finest places around the world, because we all own them.


MADDOW: Montana Governor Steve Bullock. That day, more than 1,000 people piled into the Montana state capitol to protest the Republican plan to sell off over 3 million acres of public land, including tens of thousands of acres in Montana.

And Republicans backed off. They changed their minds about that in Washington. But that footage from Montana, I remember seeing that the day that that happened January 30th and being like oh, whoa, Montana, wow.

And it turns out it wasn`t just that one issue. The day after the presidential inauguration, we all know that was that huge women`s march in Washington. We know there were protests around the country, even around the world that day, sister marches, right?

Even knowing that, I was still taken aback to learn that the number of people who turned out that day in Montana for the Montana women`s march at their state capitol, the number of people who turned out was 10,000. What? There are only a million people in the whole state, 10,000 people came out and protested at their state capitol that day.

I mentioned that Montana has a Democratic U.S. senator in Jon Tester. They also have a Republican U.S. Senator Steve Daines. Since the election, Steve Daines has been finding that when he comes home, his airport greetings from his constituents are not what they used to be.

Do we have that footage?


CROWD: You work for us! You work for us! You work for us! You work for us! You work for us! You work for us! You work for us!


MADDOW: Senator Steve Daines not being greeted the way he was used to being greeted when he came home to the airport in Montana.

Like many members of Congress and senators around the country, Senator Daines has been facing calls to do a town hall, to meet with his constituents. Like many, especially Republican senators and representatives, he has refused to do that, and that has included lots of protesters turning up at Steve Daines` constituents offices at home in Montana, his constituents wanting to meet with him, he is so far saying no.

Yesterday, he was due to speak to state legislators at the capitol, when his constituents found out he was going to do that, they turned up in great numbers. Several hundred people were waiting outside the capitol to try to engage with him, when he turned up.

Seeing that, Steve Daines canceled his appearance at the legislature. He postponed it. He did turn up at the state capitol a day late, he turned up today.

He still would not meet with any of his constituents who wanted to meet with him. He still would not agree to a town hall. He did speak at a press conference, sponsored by a conservative interest group but even as he did so, his constituents would not leave him alone.

They were holding up signs, they were saying "you work for us". They were asking him for a meeting, this one woman over the course -- you see there on the right side there, one woman holding up a sign that quotes Adele, that says, "hello from the other side, I must have called a thousand times."

Randomly, you see the guy in yellow there, a guy in a chicken suit now who follows Steve Daines around everywhere he goes. We only have this little bit of footage. He`s not even wearing the chicken head, standing there flapping his chicken arms no matter where Steve Daines goes anymore because Steve Daines won`t meet with his constituents.

Montana is one of these places where civic life is just different now than it used to be, because of the outcome of this election, because of the way people are reacting around the country to this president and here`s one super interesting, super practical consequence of that, that may have national implications and it has just come to pass today in Montana.

One of the consequences around the country of this huge reaction that we`re seeing to the Trump presidency, this reinvigoration of civil engagement and protests and demonstrations around the country and political organizing, one of the consequences of that is there`s a lot of attention being paid to the individual elections here and there, that are what otherwise look like one-offs, strays, in terms of electoral politics around the country. So, for example, this Saturday, this weekend, there`s a state Senate race in Delaware that wouldn`t usually make national news but that state Senate race will determine which party controls the Delaware state Senate. So, the Democratic candidate in that race has been getting support from like former Vice President Joe Biden and Democratic leaning groups around the country.

Another Republican incumbent congressman who is leaving the House to join the Trump cabinet is Tom Price in Georgia. His district only went for Donald Trump by 1.5 points. There`s a huge amount of Democratic interest nationwide in trying to make that seat a Democratic pickup when they`ve got that special election for that seat in April.

We profiled the other night, the efforts of the liberal Daily Kos website to support a Democratic candidate named John Ossoff in that Tom Price race. Daily Kos announced today that they`ve raised nearly $1 million on behalf of John Ossoff in that race. The first polling we`ve seen in that Georgia race puts John Ossoff not just ahead of the Democrats in the race, but ahead of a whole giant field, including the multitude-ness of Republicans who are running in, running for that seat as well.

Well, in Montana, there`s going to be another one of those special elections. Like I said Montana only has one member of congress, a congressional district special election in Montana is a statewide election, because that`s the congressional district. Depending on when Ryan Zinke gets confirmed to the cabinet, it`s likely that the race to replace him in Congress will be, I don`t know, May? June? Early June? I don`t know.

Here`s the thing though. Across that state, the county clerks and elections administrators, the people who actually run elections county by county across that state, those clerks have started squawking. They have started raising the alarm about the cost of that election, because remember, Montana just had the most expensive statewide election they have ever had this past November. Counties hadn`t budgeted extra money for it.

It was 50 percent more expensive than they thought it was going to be. It`s 50 percent more expensive than they had ever paid for any election ever before. There wasn`t extra money to pay for that, they are way in the hole in terms of what they spent on elections and now, unexpectedly, they have got to run another statewide special election to fill this congressional seat.

Where is the money coming from to do that? The counties have to cough up that money. They don`t have that money.

Well, the county clerks have an idea, they`ve been lobbying for it statewide and writing op-eds and testifying is at the legislature. Their idea is this: in Montana already, when there are local elections, when there are school board elections, often times, those elections are run without the expense of opening up the polling places, right? They run instead by mail.

Montana is a huge state with not that many people in it. Running an election by mail just makes economic sense in a state where the people are that spread out. And Montana elections administrators, they have a lot of experience of running elections by mail because of it. Why not do the congressional election tht way as well? Just mail everybody a ballot.

Here`s the Teton County clerk and recorder making the case in her local paper, quote, "As Representative Zinke`s pending appointment looms over Montana, election administrators across the state see mounting costs for an unbudgeted election. Election administrators have a solution to save the taxpayers money." Quote, "We are proposing a bill to conduct the congressional special election by mail. Conducting the election by mail would conservatively save taxpayers statewide between half a million and three-quarters of a million dollars."

Here`s another county clerk making the case in her local paper, quote, "Mail ballot elections are safe, secure, and cost effective. In an effort to minimize costs for Ryan Zinke`s congressional seat, election administrators across the state see holding a mail ballot election as a solution."

This is a technocratic thing, right? This is a practical noncontroversial thing. It`s a solution that is only designed to save money. It`s being put forward as a good government option by the people who actually have to run that part of the government, trying to save taxpayers money.

Until today, because of that, this proposal had bipartisan support, and then that bipartisan support clams collapsed today because the chair of the Republican Party in Montana sent out this, "The emergency chairman`s report on the negative impact on Republican candidates due to mail ballot elections."

Even though this was a Republican bill that was sponsored by a Republican in the House and a Republican in the Senate, the Republican Party chairman has now come out in an emergency action come out against it and told Montana Republicans they have to stand against this, because if Montana votes by mail, too many people might vote.

Quote, "All mail ballots give the Democrats an inherent advantage. Vote- by-mail is designed to increase participation rates of lower propensity voters. Democrats in Montana perform better than Republican candidates among lower propensity voters. I know my position will not be popular with many fiscally conservative Republicans or the sponsors of this bill. They may be well intended but this bill could be the death of our effort to make Montana a reliably Republican state."

If it`s too easy to vote, the Democrats might win.

There are not that many of these special election, these one-off elections this year. But each one of them is going to be interesting, both in terms of their consequences as, you know, consequences clock consequences. But they`re also going to be interesting, each of them as a potential sort of check of the country`s temperature, right? We`re going through these very strong changes in Washington, and in response to what`s going on in Washington.

There`s a very strong movement in this country that is responding negatively to this new president, and Montana is one of those states in the country right now where, if we take the temperature we might find it is at a fever pitch, at least it looks like the temperature may have changed a lot in response to what happened in the presidential election. You know, after Donald Trump won the presidency in Montana by 20 points, Republicans in that state shouldn`t have to worry about the exact logistics of how the next congressional election would be administered in their state, right? They shouldn`t be lobbying to purposely waste hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer money to try to tilt the playing field against Democrats and make it harder to vote.

I mean, even the initial Republican sponsor of the vote-by-mail bill, she`s a Republican. She says she doesn`t get it. Quote, "Personally, I would rather get beat in an election with a good turnout than win in an election with low turnout."

But apparently, her party is not with her on that, even in red state Montana. Her party appears to be scared about holding onto Ryan Zinke`s congressional seat, scared to the point they`re trying to make it harder to vote on purpose when it comes time for that next election.


MADDOW: When Montana Republican Senator Steve Daines arrived at the Montana state house today to give a little prepared speech about his support for the Donald Trump Supreme Court nominee, he was greeted by a whole lot of his constituents who would really like him to meet with them, would really like him to hold a town hall meeting with his constituents. These folks have intercepted him at the airport, but he wouldn`t answer their questions. They held their own town hall outside the state house yesterday when Senator Daines was originally scheduled to visit the statehouse, except when he heard about his constituents waiting for him there at the last minute he canceled his visit. They held a town hall meeting without him.

But his constituents did find him at this conservative press conference, including the listless guy in the yellow chicken suit.

This is the climate in Montana right now, as a brand new strange controversy has sprung up around the election they`re going to need to hold in that state to fill the seat of Montana`s lone member of Congress, Ryan Zinke is expected to soon join Donald Trump`s cabinet, two Republicans in the state legislature sponsored a bill that would make the special election to replace Ryan Zinke a mail in your ballot election. It`s much cheaper that way.

The elections administrators in the state were begging to do it that way and Republicans put forward a bill to do the election that way, everybody vote by mail.

Now, today -- U-turn. The chair of the Montana Republican Party has put out an emergency report saying that bill must be blocked. The election can`t be by mail because if the election is run by mail-in ballot, too many people will vote, and then Republicans will lose that seat.

And now that bill, even though it`s sponsored by Republicans now, it is in jeopardy. What`s going to happen here? And what does this mean about Montana and what does this mean about the country?

Joining us now is Montana`s Democratic Governor Steve Bullock.

Governor, thank you very much for being here. It`s really nice to have you here.

GOV. STEVE BULLOCK (D), MONTANA: It`s great to be with you tonight, Rachel, for sure.

MADDOW: So, have I summarized what`s going on right with this bill? Am I right that this was a Republican-sponsored bill in the House and the Senate, but right now, we don`t know what`s going to happen?

BULLOCK: Well, that`s what`s fairly shocking, to have the Republican Party chair, who is also a sitting legislator, brazenly acknowledge that he wants to spend more taxpayer dollars with the hope of getting fewer voters? I mean, that`s not only wrong for Montana, it`s wrong for the country. We need to be figuring out ways to encourage people to vote, certainly not take away their voting franchise.

MADDOW: From what -- I was trying to follow the history of this proposal and I read all these op-eds and looked at the testimony from the county clerks and administrators, people who run these elections around the state. And it doesn`t seem like it was offered as a partisan thing. It doesn`t seem like it was offered as even a proposal to try to increase voter turnout in the state.

Seems like the counties were like, hey, we`re out of Monday. The November election was really expensive. We`d like to do this, it`s cheaper. It`s a safe, easy, cheap way to do this, and we`ve got experience with it.

It feels like it became partisan when it just started as kind of a technocratic, fiscally conservative thing.

BULLOCK: Well, and that`s right, because at the end of the day, I mean, it`s Republicans carrying it, clerks and recorders who are on the front lines each and every day are saying we ought to do it this way, our county organizations are saying, let`s save $750,000, and let`s try to do everything we can to get more people voting.

So, that`s -- from the perspective of, you know, my job as a governor, is to represent Democrats, Republicans, all Montanans, and I don`t care where your stay is on that as long as we can get more people voting it`s good for democracy, good for our elections and it will save taxpayers dollars.

MADDOW: Governor, obviously, if Ryan Zinke is confirmed to the Senate, that will be a landmark moment for Montana. The first Montanan in a cabinet position, at least as far as I know. It will create a statewide opening because he`s the lone congressional representative for your state.


MADDOW: When you take the temperature of where people are at in your state, I saw that tape of you speaking before more than 1,000 Montanans crammed into the state capitol to try to save public lands in your state. I saw the footage of 10,000 people turning out for the women`s march at the state capitol. I`ve seen the way people are hounding Senator Steve Daines and trying to get him to talk to them.

What`s your assessment where the state is right now and how Montana is reacting to this president? Obviously, Donald Trump did very well on November 8th in Montana.

BULLOCK: Yes, recognizing what Donald Trump took Montana by about 20 points, even though there are more television ads run in the state of Montana than any other state for a governor`s race. I won by 4 1/2.

So I think Montanans look at where are the values of folks and who is going to take our state and represent our state the best in Washington, D.C. You know, you played that clip.

I truly believe public lands are one of our great equalizers. I think public education is one of our great equalizers and the neat thing on Election Day, every Montanan is exactly equal.

So, the right to vote and access to the polls is one of those great equalizers, too, and we sure shouldn`t be spending more money to try to get fewer people voting.

MADDOW: Montana Governor Steve Bullock, you have a way with a turn of phrase, Governor. It`s good to have you here.

Keep us apprised on how this goes. It`s taken some weird, sharp turns in the last couple of days. We`ll be interested to see how this turns out, sir.

BULLOCK: Sure will do so, Rachel.

MADDOW: Thank you.

All right. We`ve got much more ahead tonight. Please stay with us.


MADDOW: For more than one month now, I have wallowed in shame over a mistake I made on inauguration day. It had to do with this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Crime and the gangs and the drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential. This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.


MADDOW: "This American carnage". For many Americans, that`s an understandably terrifying phrase, right, coming from the leader of the free world. But for a very specific group of awesome Americans, the phrase "American carnage" means something else. It means metal!

The 2010 American Carnage Tour headlined by Megadeth and Testament and Anthrax and Slayer, and on inauguration day when I told the history of the American carnage tour and how weird it was to have that metal tour echoed in a presidential inaugural address, at one point, I called the bass player and lead singer of slayer Tim Araya.

His name is Tom Araya. Actually in the segment I called him both Tom and Tim, because I miss, like, typed it in my notes. That`s almost worse, right? I mean, there`s nothing less metal than slipping and falling on a typo and thereby inventing a new diminutive Timmy nickname for a metal god like Tom Araya. I felt so bad, I have felt bad for more than a month.

But tonight, perhaps an opportunity for a reprieve, because tonight, right after the show at 10:00 p.m. Eastern, we are going back to American carnage. Tonight is our special on "Trump: The First Month." I`m co- hosting with Brian Williams and Chris Matthews and all the other members from MSNBC. It`s right after our show here.

But tonight, I`m going to get American carnage right. I`ve got my American carnage tour t-shirt. I`ve got Slayer lyrics tattooed on the inside of my eyeballs. Tonight, I get a second chance to get at least the metal part of this right.

Stay with us. I`m seriously going to wear this shirt during the coverage.


MADDOW: On Saturday, June 11th, about 1,000 people turned out in the streets of Houston, Texas. They wore orange shirts and chanting. They marched from the convention center to the Harris County Jail. They had signs reading, "Time is running out, end 287(g)." See that down in the lower right hand corner by the MSNBC? 287(g).

Also this one, "Tell Ron Hickman", that`s the yellow sign there, "Tell Ron Hickman that 287(g) tears families apart."

Ron Hickman was the sheriff of Harris County. Harris County is huge. Harris County is Houston. It`s 4.5 million people.

We`re talking about Montana earlier in the show. Harris County alone has four times the population of all of Montana.

The decision facing Sheriff Hickman last June with those protests in the streets was whether his department would renew or end an agreement that he had made with the federal government, under that oddly named 287(g). The idea behind 287(g) is that counties can sign a contract with the feds that allows the federal government to basically deputize local law enforcement, to turn local police, local sheriffs into federal immigration enforcement officers.

The policy has evolved over time, but the lasting criticism of it is that it hurts local law enforcement efforts. It makes immigrant communities afraid to call the police, even when they need help. If you`re the victim of a crime, you need to be able to call police, even if you are undocumented.

If the police are going to deport you for calling up and reporting that you got mugged, that`s a problem for your local community. I mean, it`s great for muggers, but it`s bad for everybody else.

And so, a thousand people came out from across the county to show support at that march in Houston to be part of that call for reform, to tell Sheriff Hickman in Harris County that they didn`t want him to renew that program that had local cops deputized to basically be immigration agents. In part because of that 287(g) program, Harris County has been responsible for more deportations than any other county in the entire country.

Now, about a week after those protests last June, Sheriff Hickman made his decision. He decided he was going to renew that agreement with the federal government. His local officers would keep doing that federal immigration enforcement work.

But then you know, as it happens, Sheriff Hickman came up for re-election in November. And in addition to organizing those street protests, those same activists behind those protests had been very busy working on, among other things, registering Latino voters in Harris County. Conveniently for those efforts, there was a nice stark dividing line between the incumbent Sheriff Hickman and his opponent, a man named Ed Gonzalez.

Sheriff Hickman was for that federal agreement that turned local cops into immigration enforcers. Ed Gonzalez said if he wanted to end that agreement. He was said if he was elected, he would end it.

There are 254 counties in the great state of Texas, out of those 254 only 27 went blue on election night, but Harris County, the big one, Harris County was one of those blue counties and Harris County didn`t just vote top of the ticket for Hillary Clinton, Harris County also elected a new sheriff, ousted the incumbent.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our Decision 2016 coverage with some surprising results in the race for Harris County sheriff. As we showed you right before the break, the latest numbers have Democratic challenger Ed Gonzalez still ahead of Republican sheriff incumbent Ron Hickman with 52 percent, with 53 percent of the vote now.

Bill Spencer joining us live at Gonzalez campaign headquarters in The Heights -- Bill

BILL SPENCER, REPORTER: Yes, Bill, and the candidate just took the stage a few minutes ago along with his lovely wife Melissa and he did accept winning the sheriff`s race. He acknowledged himself as the new sheriff -- the new sheriff in town, in fact.


MADDOW: A new sheriff in town, in fact. That thing we always say applies literally here.

Elections do have consequences. Sheriff Hickman lost and Harris County Ed Gonzalez became the new sheriff in town.

Interestingly, that didn`t stop the local activists. They continued to rally and march and organize even after Ed Gonzalez was elected. Almost every week, people would march to the city council, march to the county jail to put pressure on the new sheriff to keep his campaign promise, to get rid of 287(g).

And today, he kept his promise. Today, Sheriff Gonzalez in Harris County announced that he would scrap that program.


ED GONZALEZ, HARRIS COUNTY SHERIFF: I decided to opt out of the voluntary 287(g). The department will no longer be serving as front line immigration officers as they`ve been deputized to do under this program.


MADDOW: The new sheriff reviewed the program. He decided to opt out a day after the Trump administration released new Homeland Security memos outlining plans for aggressively implementing anti-immigrant policies in the Trump era, including plans to revive that 287(g) program.

Sheriff Gonzalez`s decision may not have been a political one but it definitely sends a message around the country at a time when the Trump administration is saying they want to put rocket boosters on 287(g), the top law enforcement agent in one of the most populous counties in America, a county that was responsible for more deportations than any other county in the country they saying, no, we`re out, we`re not going to do it.

Joining us now is Harris County sheriff, Ed Gonzalez.

Sheriff Gonzalez, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I really appreciate your time, sir.

GONZALEZ: Hi, Rachel. Honor to be with you.

MADDOW: So, I was expressing a moment ago there that some of the concerns about this program making local law enforcement into federal immigration enforcement authorities, effectively, it is a problem for local law enforcement. It made people in immigrant communities reluctant understandably to call 911, to call when they needed help.

Was that, in fact, happening in Harris County? Was that part of your decision-making process?

GONZALEZ: It was part of the decision-making process. Over the course of last year, through the election and here in my first month and a half, I`ve noticed that there`s been a lot of fear and concern in the community. I could feel that. I could see that.

And obviously, with everything that`s going on at the national level, it really concerns me to see that kind of fear happening in communities. To me, it leads to more mistrust of police at a time when we need to be growing more trust, more collaboration with communities to solve local crimes.

MADDOW: I`ve read the way that you addressed this in the past. I hear the way you`re speaking about it now. It`s clear that you don`t -- you don`t see this as a political crusade of any kind. This is a question of resources and priorities and practicalities.

It does have political resonance though nationwide. Are you worried about losing funding as a result? Are you worried about Texas state government coming after you in some way? Are you worried about the federal government coming after you in some way and trying to reduce your resources or make life hard for you in other ways because of this decision?

GONZALEZ: I`m not worried about that. In my mind, this has been the correct decision to do at the end of the day. I`m going to focus on what`s best for the men and women of the Harris County Sheriff`s Office, as well as what I can do each day to make sure the resident of Harris County are safe.

This is the right decision to do. It`s under my purview. Considering that this a voluntary program and, frankly, up until recently, we`ve been an outlier. We were the only county sheriff`s office to be under this program for many, many years and even now, out of 254 counties, 251 have been able to operate out it. So, I think it was time to end this program.

MADDOW: Sheriff, since you made this announcement today. Obviously, this was part of your campaign in November and people may have known this is coming. What`s the reaction today, now that you`ve made the announcement?

GONZALEZ: I think overall, we`ve received very positive comments and I think people understand the need for us to focus on local priorities. I basically run what`s considered the largest mental state hospital, if you will, by the number of inmates that I have. I have a huge jail over crowding issue, our jail is understaffed. We need more patrol cars for our deputies.

These are issues that we need to be focusing on to make sure we`re keeping our local communities safe and that`s my priority each and every day. So, to me this say common sense approach, smart on crime, making sure we can redirect the costs we were investing into this program, this voluntary program where we were spending over $675,000 staffing it. We can now redeploy those resources to fight local public safety issues.

MADDOW: Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez of Texas, thank you very much for your time tonight, sir. Keep us apprised, stay in touch with us as this change happens in your county and in your state. We`d be interested to see how this works out for you, sir. Thank you.

GONZALEZ: Sure will, thank you.

MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.


MADDOW: We have news tonight from this new administration`s continued whiplash pattern of radical changes in course. Tonight, the Justice Department, which is now led by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, announced that they are reversing the Obama administration policy on the rights of transgender students in American schools.

We have known that the White House intended to roll back LGBT rights. We thought they might first take aim at kids. We`ve been waiting all day for the official notice and here it is.

The Justice Department tonight notifying the U.S. Supreme Court that they`re withdrawing the transgender protections that had been issued by President Obama. But they`re also telling schools, quote, "This withdrawal of these guidance documents does not leave students without protections from discrimination, bullying or harassment. The Department of Education`s Office for Civil Rights will continue its duty under law to hear claims of discrimination and will explore every appropriate opportunity to protect all students to encourage civility in our classrooms."

How exactly the new administration intends to secure safety and a stability by uprooting the policy that protects transgender kids` rights -- that`s for history to say. But as of tonight, everybody who told you that the Trump administration wouldn`t be terrible on LGBT issues, at least they`ll be OK on that -- as of tonight, now you know those people were all full of it.


MADDOW: This was the line at Senator Tom Cotton`s town hall tonight in Arkansas. People still lining up to ask a question an hour and 15 minutes after he started. And that`s after he moved the venue of this thing I think five separate times. Obviously, people were still able to find him at the end of the day.

We also just got in this video tonight from Branchburg, New Jersey. Hundreds of people apparently not able to get inside a packed town hall meeting with Republican Congressman Leonard Lance in New Jersey tonight.

This week for Congress presents kind of a devil`s choice for lawmakers. Do you show up and face your constituents who are lining up with really hard questions and unfriendly feedback, or do you run?

Republican Senator Deb Fisher of Nebraska, do you run?



DEMONSTRATORS: Deb, when are you going to hold a town hall? Hey, Deb, meet with us! Hey, Deb, meet with us! Hey, Deb, meet with us! Hey, Deb, meet with us! Hey, Deb, meet with us! Hey, Deb, meet with us! Hey, Deb, meet with us!


MADDOW: Senator Deb Fisher of Nebraska doing her best to slip out of a closed door meeting that she held with a local business group in her district or her state last night. I like how the security guard is no, not that car. This car over here, turn around. Smile and wave. Do not meet with your constituents, whatever you do.

People have been trying every which way to track down their member of Congress and their senators. This is like a lost puppy ad that ran today in the "Palm Beach Post" newspaper. Quote, "Lost, United States senator. He may respond to the title Senator Marco Rubio, though his constituents have been unable to verify whether this is still the case as they have been unable to contact him in recent weeks."

In Huntington Beach, California, Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher`s constituents say they`ve been trying for weeks to get ahold of him or anyone at his office. They have tried lobbying his staff through tint come outside his office. They have tried pushing letters under the door that they will not open.

One lone Vietnam War veteran tried to walk into the office alone to please schedule a meeting. He was run out of the place by two uniformed police officers who kicked him out.

Yesterday, Dana Rohrabacher`s constituents tried again to get his attention. They`re sort of down to the bottom of the barrel in tactics. This time they just spelled out his name on the beach with their bodies. "Where`s Dana?" Maybe that one will work.

In Pennsylvania, Senator Pat Toomey`s constituents decided to hold a town hall without him since he wouldn`t agree to meet with them. They did hold a place for him, though. They asked their questions to an empty suit they put on stage just hanging from a hanger.

Here is another interesting one out of New Jersey, though, one that may have just made some news. In New Jersey, constituents of Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen, they`ve been asking for a town hall with him for ages. He`s got an important job now though. He`s the brand new chair of the Appropriations Committee. Every Friday, his constituents have been showing up at his district offices to please meet with them. His answer consistently has been no, no, no, I won`t meet with you.

That`s why it was surprising to see the congressman tweet this, quote, "Great questions and comments during my telephone town hall meeting last night. Thousands of constituents on the line. I`m listening."

People were like, what telephone town hall? As far as we can tell, there was no warning, no advanced notice that the congressman would be holding a town hall by telephone or otherwise. Apparently, it was an invitation-only event.

The whole thing was so low-key, it didn`t even register in the local New Jersey press except for one reporter who found out about it at the last minute and managed to listen, in and good thing too. Because when Congress members do have to listen to people in their district, even under duress, even then sometimes they say something important.


NANCY SOLOMON, MANAGING EDITOR, NEW JERSEY PUBLIC RADIO: I think actually the congressman made have made some news with some of the things he said in his response to constituents.


SOLOMON: Like that he -- that any funding for a wall on the Mexican border would be stopped by his committee. He has no intention of funding that.


MADDOW: House Appropriations Committee chairman reportedly telling constituents last night at his telephone town hall that he has no intention of funding a wall on the Mexican border.

That`s one thing if you`re an average Schmoe. That`s national news if you`re head of the Appropriations Committee. I mean, if the head of the Appropriations Committee won`t fund the wall, that means the wall won`t be funded, not unless you believe that bullpucky about Mexico paying for it. Nobody fell for that, right?

We reached out to the Congressman Frelinghuysen`s office tonight for clarification on this point. Also to see if we can get audio of this telephone town hall or transcript. We haven`t yet gotten our hands on audio or a transcript, but we did get a statement from the congressman denying that reporting and saying any request for funds from the administration will be reviewed in due course by his committee. OK. But we`d still like to know what you said to your constituents last night.

If anybody else out there was on the line for the last-minute telephone town hall last night with Congressman Frelinghuysen, anybody has the audio, or hey, no matter where you are, if you have shareable stuff from town halls in your town, please send to it me, E-mail it to me Let`s find out who else is very quietly making news.

That does it for us this hour, but we have much more to come tonight. I`m about to run to another studio and join Brian Williams and Chris Matthews and our MSNBC colleagues for an in-depth look at the first month of this new presidency of ours.

This is going to be fun.

"Trump: The First Month" starts right now.


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