JOY REID, MSNBC HOST, "A.M. JOY": Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Joy. Thank you, my friend. Happy Thursday.
REID: Thank you very much. Have a great show and let`s pray for peace.
MADDOW: Pray for peace, as always, as we do, even when it`s not Holy Thursday. Thank you, my friend.
REID: Yes. Have a good one.
MADDOW: And thanks to at home as well for joining us this hour.
There is a lot going on tonight, we got a big show tonight.
We`ve got a story out of Arkansas that you may think you have heard about, but you really haven`t heard about it. It will curl your hair tonight.
We`ve got the attorney general of the United States making news for all the wrong reasons, making news that he is not intending to make.
We`ve got those stories and more coming up tonight.
But we`re going to start with British spy stuff. If you are into British spy stuff, even just in terms of like British spy novels and like BBC serials and that kind of stuff, you will know that there is a convenient mnemonic device for us Americans about British spy stuff, a convenient device to help us remember what the different British spy agencies are, right?
They have one domestic intelligence agency that`s called MI5. That`s the rough equivalent of our FBI. They have another intelligence agency called MI6. That`s the rough equivalent of our CIA. And there`s this handy mnemonic device for remembering which one is which, which is that MI5, five is the FBI, and MI6 is the CIA. It`s very handy, it`s very handy.
That said, it all falls apart when you get to their third intelligence agency which is called GCHQ, because that does not sound like anything. There is no neat, easy to remember device to remind us all to give a sub- mnemonic cue that the British intelligence agency called GCHQ is pretty much the equivalent of our NSC, our national security adviser. There`s no easy way to remember. You just have to memorize it.
But that`s what the GCHQ is over there. That`s their headquarters, kind of an amazing looking building, right? And the shape of that building at least reminds you that what GCHQ is it`s basically a global vacuum for information.
GCHQ stands for Government Communications Headquarters. That`s a deliberately obscure name that`s supposed to not attract attention. GCHQ started out fairly small, started as a cryptography outfit in the early 20th century in Britain. In World War II, it became very, very important.
In World War, the Nazis used a machine enigma to encrypt their sensitive communications. Enigma was widely thought to be unbreakable. In fact, it was important that the Germans believed in the enigma was unbreakable.
Because they believed that it was unbreakable, nobody had broken it, it was impenetrable as a coding device, the Nazi sent all of their most important communications using these enigma machines. They had complete confidence that nobody would know what they were saying.
One of the great British intelligence secrets of World War II is that secretly during the war, the GCHQ had hacked, had cracked the Enigma. The Germans had no idea, but the Brits were able to read the Germans most secret communications and that`s part of why World War II ended the way it did.
That part of the British intelligence apparatus responsible for cracking Enigma, the geniuses who cracked the Nazi code, right, that agency is now GCHQ. Now, they are much more high-profile. They are much more gigantic. They have thousands of employees.
But big part of what they do is they still deal with encryptions. They still do cryptography at a very high level.
And what they do overall as an agency is called signals intelligence. GCHQ vacuums up surveillance data from all over the globe, just as our NSA does.
At the beginning of March, "The New York Times" reported that the British government and the Dutch government had turned over to the U.S. during our presidential campaign last year, they had turned over evidence that people associated with Donald Trump, people associated with the Trump for president campaign had attended, quote, "meetings in European cities with Russian officials and others close to Russia`s President Vladimir Putin.
"The New York Times" reported that on March 1st. And that`s a provocative statement, right? They attributed this information to three former American officials who requested anonymity in discussing classified intelligence.
But that has always been a sort of really interesting dangling thread in this scandal and in this investigation, right? Not just the idea that Trump campaign people physically met with Vladimir Putin`s associates in in-person meetings in European cities, not just that. The other part of this that was very intriguing from that "New York Times" report back in early March was where they say that information went, right?
They said that not only did these meetings happen in European cities, but European intelligence agencies cut them, saw them doing it, surveilled the meetings basically, and then reported that surveillance data to the United States. Well, that piece of it as of today we`ve now got more on, because this morning, a new scoop from "The Guardian" newspaper in Britain advances this story.
Now, "The Guardian" is not reporting more on these alleged in-person meetings in European cities but they are reporting a lot more about European intelligence agencies, about European intelligence agencies cottoning into what was going on, basically catching these alleged communications and contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian individuals, documenting those contacts and giving that documentation over to the United States.
"The Guardian" reports today that is far back as 2015, GCHQ which is the British equivalent of the NSA, GCHQ picked up signals intelligence of, quote, "members of Donald Trump`s campaign team having contact with Russian intelligence operatives."
According to this "Guardian" report today, Britain was first on this. Britain`s surveillance agency, GCHQ, was first. But then according to "The Guardian", lots of other European spy agencies ended up reporting the same basic thing thereafter. Quote, "GCHQ first became aware in late 2015 of suspicious interactions between figures connected to Trump and known or suspected Russian agents. This intelligence was passed to the U.S. as part of a routine exchange of information.
Over the next six months until the summer of 2016, a number of Western agencies shared further information on contacts between Trump`s inner circle and Russians. The European countries that passed on electronic intelligence included Germany, Estonia and Poland. Australia also relayed material. Quote, "It is understood that GCHQ was at no point carrying out a targeted operation against Trump or his game or proactively seeking information. These alleged conversations were picked up rather by chance as part of routine surveillance of Russian intelligence assets.
Over several months, different agencies targeting the same people, presumably targeting the same Russians. They began to see a pattern of connections that were flagged to intelligence officials in the United States.
Again, this is a British paper with this scoop today. This is "The Guardian" newspaper. And they definitely have a British perspective on this or at least this story comes from a British place.
And by that I mean, if he`s out of read between the lines, it seems like part of the motivation of their intelligence sources who are telling them this new information is that they sort of want to brag about the fact that the British and these other intelligence services overseas, they were first to pick up on these dodgy contacts between the Trump campaign and the Russians. They`re sort of dragging about the fact that they were on it.
But they`re also complaining about how slow America was to pick up on this stuff compared to everybody else in the world. I mean, after all, this is intelligence that would be of most importance to the United States. Why were American intelligence agencies not first to pick it up? And once it was picked up by these other friendly intelligence agencies, why did America not act on it with more alacrity?
One source speaking with "The Guardian" today is quoted saying this, quote, "It looks like the U.S. intelligence agencies were asleep. The European agencies were saying there are contacts going on between people close to Mr. Trump and people we believe our Russian intelligence agents. You should be wary of this. The message was: watch out, there`s something not right here.
And -- I mean, who knows if this is just these other foreign intelligence agencies pounding their chests about how great they are, right? Who knows if this is just hindsight is twenty-twenty? Ah, now we see how serious it was, you should have believed us.
I mean, maybe it was truly weird that American agencies weren`t more Johnny-on-the-spot about this information. It`s hard for us lay observers of this stuff to tell from here. But this is new information in terms of other intelligence agencies having a handle on this stuff.
And there`s one more piece of this "Guardian" report today that makes another piece of this story finally makes sense. Last week, last Thursday, on the night that the new administration decided to shoot those Tomahawk missiles at that Syrian air base so all the other news get sort of shut off for the night, that evening, "The New York Times" reported late but it was not just the FBI that was looking into the Russian attack on our election last year, and the question of whether or not the Trump campaign might have been involved in that attack.
On Thursday night, last week, "The New York Times" reported that the CIA Director John Brennan, late last summer, he did individual one-on-one briefings. He personally did them as director of the CIA with the top leadership in Congress, with the heads of the intelligence committees and the heads of both parties in both houses of Congress.
And according to "The New York Times", John Brennan, CIA director at the time, he briefed these members of Congress late last summer, A, that Russia was interfering in our election, B, that Russia appeared to be interfering in our election specifically to try to help Trump win, and, C, that the CIA was quote seeing signs of possible connections between the Russian attack and the Trump campaign.
So, that was reported last week. Hey, this wasn`t just the FBI. The CIA was sounding the alarm for some reason late last summer. The director of the CIA was personally sounding the alarm lately summer. That was sort of floating out there untethered last week from "The New York Times", and almost nobody followed that because it was swamped by all the other news.
Well, according to "The Guardian" today, we now at least have their reporting which suggests what might have freaked out John Brennan enough to go do those one-on-one in person briefings.
This from "The Guardian" today, quote, "GCHQ`s then head, Robert Hannigan, past material in the summer of to the CIA chief John Brennan. The matter was deemed so sensitive, it was handled at the director level." Meaning, it was -- this information was handed from their director of their NSA, basically, the director of their GCHQ, to the director of our CIA. It wasn`t like agency to agency. It wasn`t staff or assistance, it was head of the agency to head of the agency, personally handing off this information.
And according to "The New York Times", our top at the CIA, once he got that information, he then personally went right to the oversight committees and right to the top leadership in Congress with it himself alone.
Did he take those actions? Did he mount those one-on-one in-person briefings because of what the British intelligence services and these other intelligence services had collected?
It is what alarmed him enough to do those one-on-one briefings, was it what the European agencies-western agencies collected in terms of surveilling Trump campaign people talking with Russian intelligence operatives? Is that how he learned what was going on?
Did he believe that information was credible and corroborated? Did the CIA director believe as reported in "The New York Times" that what he had was evidence not just that the Russians were attacking our elections, but that the Trump campaign was helping with the Russian attacks somehow?
I mean, this would be an excellent time to hear John Brennan answer questions like that, especially because I`m not basing this on any classified information, all I have access to his open source information and all of this stuff has now been reported in newspapers and he can now be asked about it in a non-classified context in an open hearing based on this open source reporting that we all can read. He could answer these questions for us. If he were asked about it in a public hearing which maybe has something to do with the fact that the House Intelligence Committee cancelled the public hearing where they were due to question John Brennan.
This afternoon, CNN added their own corroboration to this story, citing U.S. congressional and law enforcement and U.S. and European intelligence sources, that`s what they phrase they`re sourcing. Their report as of this afternoon is that the GCHQ and the other European intelligence services, quote, "intercepted communications between associates of Donald Trump and Russian officials and other Russian individuals during the campaign and passed on those communications to their U.S. counterparts.
So, they are corroborating the guardians reporting that European intelligence agencies including GCHQ collected documentation, collected information on those meetings and passed them on to the U.S. In terms of the scope of what we`re talking about here, CNN describes, quote, "multiple communications over several months between the Trump associates and Russian individuals". And, of course, that was during the campaign while Russia was mounting its operation to hack documents and run their foreign intelligence operation to help Trump win the election.
In terms of how these investigations are proceeding if it feels like new stuff is coming out every day now, it`s because new stuff is coming out every day now. Obviously, there`s a lot of investigative journalism going on in the press both here and abroad on the subject.
Clearly, there`s an active FBI inquiry or two or three or five or six or seven. There is the stalled -- apparently stalled House Intelligence Committee investigation that hasn`t rescheduled that public hearing with John Brennan.
There`s also what appears to be an active Senate Intelligence Committee investigation. The Senate Intelligence Committee right now is reportedly conducting witness interviews with U.S. intelligence analysts who produced that consensus report back in January, which said the U.S. intelligence community had concluded that Russia attacked our election with the aim of trying to help Trump win the election.
So, they`re reportedly interviewing those intelligence agents now. We really don`t know what`s happening in a closed doors parts of these investigations, but we are in open source material seeing evidence of some stuff going on, right?
As we reported last night, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, he says he is now retroactively registering as an agent of a foreign power, after conversations with, quote, "federal authorities" about his previous work with pro-Putin forces in Ukraine. And whatever you think about his work with foreign governments and whether or not Paul Manafort ought to be registered as a foreign agent, either now or in the past, this statement from him that after conversations with foreign authorities, he has decided to make this registration, this statement from Manafort is direct evidence that the Trump campaign chair is now having serious conversations with federal authorities about his contacts with foreign governments and his work on their behalf and the legal requirements that devolved therefrom.
I mean, from the outside looking in, just being an observer, right? Just being a citizen trying to figure this out, trying to figure out this important question, trying to figure out this president is in place because of, you know, the normal domestic course of political events or rather because of a foreign intelligence operation that he collaborated with, just as a person trying to keep track of that important basic question, trying to track, trying to notice track and understand all the different shoes that keep dropping every day, it`s hard to know right now the status of any one of these investigations, right? It`s hard to predict the time frame on which we`re finally going to get to the bottom this and get a definitive answer as to what happened here to our country.
But it seems clear right now, that there`s something different going on at least in the part of this investigation that`s going on in open source materials, the part of this investigation that`s happening in the press. What`s different about what`s happening in the press right now is that you`re starting to get individual sources, usually anonymous sources, saying things like this to "The Guardian".
This is how "The Guardian" ends their piece today, quote, "One source suggested the official investigation was making progress", quote, "They now have specific concrete and corroborating evidence of collusion between people in the Trump campaign and agents of Russian influence relating to the use of hacked material."
Oh, really? Who is this source? What is this specific concrete and corroborating evidence of collusion?
Who knows? And there is no way we can assess the validity of that explosive claim without knowing what it`s based on or whether or not that source is in a position to know these things.
But increasingly, you are now seeing in the serious press looking into this scandal, you are increasingly seeing these anonymous sources -- usually anonymous government sources -- starting to make very blunt declarative statements like that and increasingly like this reporting with all these British sources bragging about how early they were on this story, even before the dumb slow Americans cotton to what was happening. Increasingly, you were starting to see people basically trying to claim credit, for knowing this all along, for being first to realize where this was all going even when nobody else thought it was important.
We still do not know if this possible crime was committed. We do not know if this alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians will be proven. But we are at the part of the story, I think it`s fair to notice, where people are starting to expect that that`s going to happen, and they`re trying to claim credit for themselves for having been right about it from the beginning.
I mean, you`re seeing it now with the CIA in the United States, trying to say, hey, hey, hey, it wasn`t just the FBI. We were trying to sound the alarm on this too, don`t forget. We were even earlier than them. We had good detail on this. We tried to tell people.
You`re seeing it with the CIA, with that reporting about the CIA. You are seeing it with foreign intelligence services trying to say, oh, we have this one, we were first on this one, we are the ones who came up with a good dirt on this.
You were also seeing it with anonymous sources who are cultivating reporters on this story, even before they`re ready to give their names. I saw this coming. We knew this was going to happen. I`m going to be proven right.
The press -- the open source investigation into this scandal has taken a turn. As to whether or not we will ever find out whether that`s justified? We`ll stay on it. Watch this space.
MADDOW: What do you call it when somebody plans to get up and pound their chests and say something super-confrontational, super-controversial, super- tough, but then when it comes time to actually do it, they didn`t chicken out? What do you call that? I mean, what do you call that other than chickening out?
I`m sure there is a nicer term for that. I`m hoping there`s at least a more official term for that, because it seems inappropriate to use a barnyard taunt like chickening out when it comes to the behavior of the top law enforcement official in the United States.
But this phenomenon, whatever we choose to call it, it is now becoming sort of a hallmark for him. First time we noticed, it was a couple of weeks ago when he went to St. Louis, Missouri. Attorney General Jeff Sessions had just made a decision on paper that the Justice Department was basically going to pull out of its agreements with local police departments around the country to try to reform troubled local departments.
His department had put out a memo announcing that change and then they arranged for the attorney general to go to St. Louis to talk about it. And in his prepared remarks on the subject were like, whoa. His prepared remarks on the subject were like the attorney general equivalent of ripping off your shirt and crawling up under the top turnbuckle and body slamming the ref in the middle of the ring. It was like, wow, I can`t believe the attorney general`s going to -- really?
I mean, this was -- this was from his prepared remarks: "Unfortunately, many law enforcement leaders say this kind of policing has become more difficult in an age of viral videos and targeted killings of police."
So, they circulated this speech. They circulated this text. This is what Jeff Sessions was going to say in his speech in Missouri. A lot of people looking at that speech at the time were like, wow, holy cow, we`re in an age of targeted killings of police and viral videos of those targeted killings.
And then, he actually gave the speech. Here`s how it went.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Unfortunately, many law enforcement leaders say this kind of policing is becoming more difficult today for a lot of reasons.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: When it came time to say the really provocative "punch him in the teeth" part of his remarks, "this kind of policing has become more difficult than age of viral videos and targeted killings of police", when he got to that part of his remarks, he kind of decided to abbreviate it as instead of saying "in age of viral videos and targeted killings of police", he said, "for a lot of reasons", basically. Reasons -- reasons I won`t go into here, didn`t say the thing about targeted killings of police.
So, that was a couple weeks ago. Then, it happened again this week. A day before yesterday, he went to Nogales, Arizona. You may remember us reporting a couple years ago on the striking, striking scenes.
Those amazing holy week visuals of the American cardinal going to Nogales, Arizona, and conducting that cross-border mass, remember that? With a Catholic clergy, they said this mass that people could hear on both sides of the border, they offered communion to people through the wall, literally through the border fence.
So, Jeff Sessions went to that same spot this year, went there this week. And instead of doing anything like that, obviously, what he planned to do was denounced the filth coming across the border from Mexico into the United States.
You might have seen headlines this week about Jeff Sessions planning on giving what some people were calling a full-blown white nationalist scary speech on the border. Part of the reason people thought it was a scary speech is because of the use of the word filth.
Here was part of his prepared remarks, quote, "It is here on this sliver of land where we first take our stand against this filth." That was his prepared remarks.
Here`s what happened when he came to that part of the speech in real life.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SESSIONS: It is here on this sliver of land, on this border, where the first -- we first take our stand.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Jeff Sessions right to speech and crafts policies around the idea that people crossing the border are seen by the United States as filth but then he chickens out when it comes time to actually say it in front of real people.
We need a better term than chickening out to explain what he`s doing here but he keeps doing it, and although he is afraid to look anybody in the eye and say it in person, particularly in places where it might have a real life effect, doesn`t mean that he`s not acting on these ideas.
This is Daniela Trujillo (ph). She`s three years old. She has three older siblings who are aged 10, 12 and 14. So, Daniela is the baby in the family. And Daniela had some health problems. She has recurring seizures.
And that`s a serious thing for anybody at any age, but when you`re three, that creates really serious issues in terms of your care. Luckily in Daniela`s family, her mom has been specially trained to recognize signs when Daniela might be about to have a seizure how to take care of right anticipate that and then take care of her in those instances.
So, some more than even a usual mother-daughter bond, that medical necessity means that Daniela and her mom are just inseparable or they were.
Last week, Daniela`s mom Maribel (ph) was snatched off the street near her family`s home outside Cincinnati, Ohio. She grabbed off the street. She was put in a local jail then moved to another jail near Columbus, and now, they have flown her to a detention facility in Louisiana.
At each step of the way at each place where she has been held since she was grabbed last week, there have been rallies in support of Maribel. The archdiocese of Cincinnati has rallied to support her in part because she`s a devout member of her local church. She volunteers at the church.
Maribel Trujillo, the mom in this case, she has no criminal record, never been charged or convicted -- charged with or convicted of anything. She has four kids. All of her four kids are U.S. citizens, including her youngest daughter who has these special needs.
Like many people who are in her situations who may have come here years ago without documentation but who have no significant criminal charges of any kind laid against them, Maribel Trujillo has been regularly showing up for her me with ICE, with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. She checks in. She goes to every appointment. She has never missed. She`s never not done something that they said.
She had her most recent check an appointment with ICE a week and a half ago, went fine as normal. And then two days later, they grabbed her off the street, and they are now taking steps to deport her. They put her in jail and moved her to another jail, flown her down to a detention center in Louisiana.
And despite the rallies of support for her in Cincinnati, they had rallies in support of her in Cincinnati. They had more rallies when they moved her to Columbus. They had rallies outside the courthouse that hurt her appeal this week.
She didn`t win the appeal though and they have now moved her down South. They`re planning to send her to Mexico on Wednesday.
She has lived in the United States for 15 years. She`s raised all of her kids here. All of her kids are U.S. citizens. She has no criminal record.
The reason she came from Mexico in the first place is her brother and her father were both kidnapped by drug cartels and she wanted to avoid that fate herself. But now, ICE under the new Trump administration which, you know, is embarrassed to pronounce the fact that they view people who have crossed the border as filth they`ve decided that Maribel Trujillo is a priority.
It`s actually been reported that part of the delay between now and Wednesday, which is the new date they have to deport her, part of that delay may be explained by efforts to try and figure out a way to send her three-year-old disabled U.S. citizen daughter with her when she gets deported, even though her daughter is a citizen, because they`re trying to figure out maybe it`s better to split up the family that way then to split up the family involving splitting the mother from the three-year-old?
Republican Governor John Kasich of Ohio, Republican Senator Rob Portman, Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown, they have all weighed in on this case. They`ve all weighed on Maribel Trujillo`s behalf, asking for mercy in this case as has the archdiocese.
I mean, you see all these headlines today about how the Trump administration is going soft all their most controversial policy proposals out there. They`re flip-flopping now and abandoning all the hard-line things the Trump campaign done.
They are not -- not at least when it comes to real people, real regular families, who they don`t have to stand in front of and make speeches to.
When you`re willing to do this stuff as policy but you`re unwilling to look people in the eye and admit out loud that this is what you are doing, I know "chickening out" is the wrong term, but I`m not sure exactly what the right term is.
MADDOW: The Women`s March had just ended. Millions of people all over the world who turned out the protest the brand new president. It`s one of the biggest days of simultaneous protest ever on any subject.
When it was all over, one American law professor had a though, let`s plan another, except this time let`s peg it to the president`s refusal to release his tax returns.
And it started as a like, hey, let`s do this thing kind of pie in the sky suggestion on Twitter. But it took off like a rocket.
Technically, this year, your taxes are not due until the beginning of next week that`s what happens when tax day falls on a weekend. But the day we think of as Tax Day, April 15th, is this weekend, it`s Saturday, and this year, Tax Day, Saturday, will be marked by what are expected to be pretty big tax day protests targeted at the new president.
About 10,000 people are expected to hit the streets in Washington, D.C. Democratic members of Congress like Senator Ron Wyden, House Democrats Maxine Waters, Jamie Reskin have all said they`re going to be there at that D.C. march.
The Women`s March in D.C. was, of course, one of the largest protests in that city ever. Nobody`s expecting these Tax Day protest to be anywhere near that size. But part of the impact, part of the sort of secret sauce for the effect of that that Women`s March was how many there were these marches cropped up everywhere, all over the country and all over the world.
Expect a little taste of that again this weekend, too. Tax Day protests are expected on Saturday in more than states, hundreds of cities from Boise to Birmingham to freaking Juneau, Alaska. There are even going to be Trump release your tax returns protests planned for other countries that do not have a Tax Day this weekend, including Germany and Japan and New Zealand and the U.K.
The Trump era in U.S. politics is also turning out to be an era of invigorated U.S. protests against this new president. The next round comes on Saturday. Happy Tax Day.
MADDOW: Oklahoma and Arkansas share a long border just shy of 200 miles. Oklahoma to the west obviously, Arkansas to the east. And the truth is as you move along the border in that part of the country, there are parts of Oklahoma and Arkansas that kind of blend together, whether you are in Westville or Somers or Remy or Dora or Octavia or Hatfield.
As you hop across the border from one side to the other, it`s not necessarily easy to tell where one state begins and the next state ends. They share that border. They share the Arkansas River. They share the Ouachita National Forest.
They even share a fair. It`s the Arkansas-Oklahoma State Fair. Should be Arkansas-Oklahoma states` fair. Runs about a week, rides, hog races, there`s a talent show, there`s an alligator show, there`s a milking competition.
Oklahoma and Arkansas, big long border, joined at the hip.
Few years ago, Oklahoma issued some official advice. Oklahoma had just emerged from an especially grisly botched execution and after that ordeal which was a terrible ordeal and got them a lot of national attention because it went so terribly wrong, the state did a review they looked into what had gone wrong and they came out with a couple of recommended fixes.
For example, the state said it would be better to have a system of communication established among the staff during the execution since the one they`ve sort of MacGyvered during the botched execution literally involved a code where staff would push different colored pencils through holes in a wall in order to signal different medical information to each other. That didn`t work so great. We should have our real communication system.
They also advised that in the future, everybody involved in the execution should in advance agree to use the same terms throughout the period of the execution. They should decide what they meant like the words like stop or stay or a halt. The state said everybody should know in advance exactly what`s expected to happen when a command like that is given. Basic stuff but that`s how basically things went wrong.
And then there was their big recommendation. Quote, "Executions should not be scheduled within seven calendar days of each other." That execution that went so badly in Oklahoma that led to this review that led to all these new recommendations, that botched execution was actually supposed to be the first in a doubleheader execution that night, but they lost control the first one, first one went so terribly wrong and they were forced to call off the second one.
And that after action review in Oklahoma turned up evidence that the stress and the pressure of planning to kill two people back to back on that same night, that may very well have contributed to the medical staff getting things so wrong in that first one and the whole thing falling apart.
So, even though Oklahoma is largely fine with the death penalty, Oklahoma is in fact so thirsty for executing its prisoners that voters have added the death penalty explicitly to the state constitution and they say they`re willing to consider bringing back the gas chamber of all things even in Oklahoma which is not squeamish about these things, even there they agreed what they never want to do again is two of these things in a row. Never try that ever again.
Quote, "Executions should not be scheduled within seven calendar days of each other."
It`s only about 330 highway miles between the death row in Oklahoma and the death row in Arkansas. And Oklahoma and Arkansas, they share a lot.
But it`s possible that nobody in Arkansas read that report out of Oklahoma, about what happened in Oklahoma with their execution problem. We don`t know, but right now, the state of Arkansas has scheduled not just one night of back-to-back executions, not two, not three, Arkansas has scheduled four sets of back-to-back doubleheader executions over a period of days starting Monday. It`s a mass execution.
No state has executed this many people this fast since the country reinstated the death penalty in 1970s. One of the biggest questions has been whether the judicial system in that state can even absorb this many hearings, right? The last minute appeals for clemency and stays, can you do that when you get all of these people who you`re going to kill in this close proximity over the last two weeks? Already, the courts have blocked one of the executions saying his clemency case deserves further consideration and so, he should not be part of this rush of doubleheaders.
The scheduling, the rush in this case appears to be driven by the fact that one of the drugs that Arkansas wants to use to kill all these guys is a drug that is set to expire at the end of this month, rushing to get an unheard of amount of executions off because your stash of drugs is about to expire. By itself, that is a little chilling.
But consider a couple other things here Arkansas has never used this particular drug before to kill somebody, they`ve never used this drug before. This will be their first time using it and they`re trying to use it in for double headers and ten days.
They haven`t done any executions at all in Arkansas in more than 12 years. The director of corrections in the state who`s going to be overseeing this mass execution, that person has never overseen an execution at all, and they apparently have no contingency plan on file in case any of this goes wrong.
I should also mention that the expiring drug that they want to use that they`ve never used before, it`s the same drug that went so wrong in that Oklahoma execution that caused that statewide freak-out and a revision of all of their protocols.
But Arkansas does not plan on heating Oklahoma`s warning. They are going forward with this spree, this execution spree, and there is still time, there are still challenges being argued in state and federal courts. As of right now, the first two executions are slated for Monday, but tonight the drug companies who are implicated in this story against their will are trying to put their feet down to stop it too.
That`s a super interesting development in this and we`ve got more on that ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: On Monday, Arkansas is planning to try to kill two people, two prisoners with a drug they have never used to kill people before. It`s the first of four scheduled doubleheader, two a night executions that the state is trying to pull off, all with the drug they`ve never used before, even though they`ve never killed anybody in more than the past 12 years.
The courts, so far, have blocked one of the planned killing. So, now Arkansas is down to three planned doubleheaders and one solo execution night, all in the course of ten days.
But, tonight, interesting development. Two drug companies that make drugs that are apparently going to be used in these executions, two companies have asked a federal judge to step in and stop all of the executions. The companies both say they have put strict controls on their supplies to ensure that their drugs aren`t used in capital punishment. They say that their supply indications are that no sales of these drugs have been authorized through their distributors to the state`s prison system.
A spokesman for one of the company says in a statement tonight, quote, "So we can only conclude Arkansas may have acquired this product from an unauthorized seller. Pharmaceuticals obtained in this manner are at risk of adulteration or chemical change."
Again, they are asking -- these drug companies are saying, you`re planning on using our drugs, you did not get them legally. You did not get them in a way that can be guaranteed that these drugs are what you say they are, you should not be allowed to use them to kill anyone, let alone eight people in 10 days.
Joining us now is an attorney for the Death Penalty Clinic at U.C. Berkeley`s Law School, Megan McCracken. She`s one of the country`s leading experts on lethal injection and the death penalty.
Ms. McCracken, thanks very much for joining us tonight. I appreciate your time.
MEGAN MCCRACKEN, U.C. BERKELEY SCHOOL OF LAW, DEATH PENALTY CLINIC: Hi, Rachel. Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: So, I want to ask you about this latest development. There`s been a lot of legal wrangling around this remarkable plan in Arkansas. What does it mean to you? How do you assess this intervention by the drug companies tonight?
MCCRACKEN: Well, it happened just a little while ago this evening. And so, it was unexpected. And these are you know to pharmaceutical companies I think they`re related, it might just be one, acting in their own interests. They have financial interests. They have PR interest, and they don`t want their products used in executions.
And so, you know, it`s valuable to see yet another voice saying that Midazolam is an inappropriate drug to use in this way. But for the sake of the prisoners, the bottom line is just that, that this drug is not appropriate for this purpose.
MADDOW: One of the things that strikes me about this plan by Arkansas, obviously, trying to kill a lot of people all at once raises all sorts of practical and logistical questions, let alone the sort of ethical morass that it`s hard to think through on something like this. But the company that makes this drug says it shouldn`t be used for this purpose.
Other states, including Oklahoma, which I highlighted earlier has had a lot of problems, have had a lot of problems with this drug, with Midazolam, but the Supreme Court has weighed in specifically on the use of this drug and said it`s OK to use my dazzle em as part of a lethal injection protocol. Because of the Supreme Court`s ruling there, is that -- is that a settled matter, is that part of this case essentially no longer litigatable?
MCCRACKEN: No. That Supreme Court case Glossip, that you`re referring to that was a very limited case with a highly deferential legal review. So, what the court is doing there is looking at the determinations made by the trial court and reviewing them under this highly deferential standard to determine whether or not the findings that the trial court made based on the evidence before it, whether those findings were reasonable.
So, another court with a different set of evidence, different facts could reach different conclusions, and that`s exactly what we just saw happened in Ohio. With a more complete record, the court there said Midazolam does present a substantial risk of serious harm and Ohio is enjoined from moving forward with those executions using the drug.
MADDOW: Megan, last point on this, there has become a sort of increasing national attention to this because they`re going to try to kill so many people in such short order. They haven`t killed anybody in the prison system there in more than 12 years. Is there -- is there a practical legal difference in trying to kill two people in the same night or eight people in days as compared to just trying to kill one prisoner? Is it just surprising for us to slay observers or is there a legal difference here?
MCCRACKEN: There is a difference and I think you alluded to it before. I mean, the last time that we saw this attempt -- you know, an attempt to do this was in Oklahoma and there, the execution team had extraordinary difficulties. They had trouble setting an IV in Clayton Lockett`s vein and afterwards when they were being invested -- you know, investigated, questioned by state officials, the team members spoke about the stress and they said that it was harder on them to get the job done because they knew they had to get it done quickly, to move on to the next execution.
And so, that led to the official recommendation of not scheduling executions closer than seven days apart. It wasn`t just for the sake of the team members but rather for the sake of carrying out the executions properly. So, I think that there is a real issue there. It`s a practical issue but it`s a real one.
MADDOW: Megan McCracken from the U.C. Berkeley Law School, death penalty clinic on the -- on the precipice of this remarkable decision in Arkansas - - thanks very much helping us understand it. Appreciate it.
MCCRACKEN: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Tonight, the president went back to his golf club thingy in Florida. It will be his seventh trip there as president. Because of that, you`ve seen a bunch of reporting about how much more we the taxpayers are spending to send him golfing at his Florida club every weekend, compared to all the vacation and travel expenses of his predecessors.
But whether or not that bugs you, consider this: Mar-a-Lago is surrounded by water on two sides, the Atlantic Ocean on one side, the intercostal waterway on the other. Today in what is now their usual pattern, today, the Coast Guard established three big security zones around the property. It will protect the president and protect these zones 24/7, using patrol boats and helicopters until the president departs.
And that`s fine, except the Coast Guard is getting no extra funding to do this. Coast Guard`s already responsible for protecting a hundred thousand miles of U.S. coastline and inland -- coastline and inland waterways, in addition to its mission of saving American lives an average of ten a day, you know, it does this very well with very little fanfare. But the administration`s draft budget has called for cutting the Coast Guard budget by tens of billions of dollars.
They called for a $54 billion increase in military spending. None of that is going to the Coast Guard. They`re cutting the Coast Guard by fourteen percent. The Coast Guard is going to see its budget cut, even as it is now spending every weekend taking on the extra job of securing the president`s golf club. Whether or not you are upset about the president`s travel cost, one thing you might be upset about is the lack of respect for the Coast Guard, even as they are busy saving his bacon day in and day out -- all of our bacon, frankly, including the president`s while he golfs.
That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Good evening, Lawrence.
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