Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: October 12, 2018 Guest: Stacey Abrams, Mike Siegel
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: I was going to start the show right now, but now I`m going to leave to start a multibillion business selling things on which it says rediscover your moxie. Joy Reid, it`s got you right there, because you just crowned a million, a million memes, my dear. Well done. Thank you. Appreciate it.
And following that discussion about Stacey Abrams, one of candidates they were talk about, we are going to be joined by Stacey Abrams live here in just a couple of minutes. So, I`m very happy to have you with us. Happy Friday.
Because it is Friday and the show is live, that means I can pretty much promise you that there is going to be some breaking news over the course of the hour, and I say that with some confidence because I was just advised as I was running out here to start the show that we are going to be killing a block that we had previously planned to do a little later on in the show, killing a story we were previously planning on covering in the middle of this hour tonight right after we talk to Stacey Abrams, because I have been told there is some breaking news that we are getting a new guest about.
At this point, I do not totally understand it. I have just been advised. But I swear by the time we get there, you`ll know what it is and I will too.
So, Friday nights are just like this now. Bear with me. Things might be a little hurly-burly.
All right. June 2016, so the summer before the presidential election, that`s when we first learned that the Democratic National Committee, Democratic Party had been hacked. This was the first story that ran about it in "The Washington Post," which also hopefully made clear based on a forensic analysis that was done by a computer security firm, that it appeared that that hack of the Democratic Party was carried out by Russian government hackers.
That was the first inkling we got about Russia being all up in our election. That was June 2016. By the time the Democratic Convention started in late July 2016, Russia had started their first document dumps of stolen material that they had taken from Democratic Party servers.
And those document dumps caused the intended havoc at their national convention to nominate the Democratic Party`s presidential candidate. The Democratic Party also fired the chair of the national party, right? Chaos in the party. Those leaks were specifically designed and curated to stoke maximum discontent and dissension among different factions of Democrats, so that convention wouldn`t unify them and wouldn`t bring them together to mount a single energized effort for the general election. Desired effect achieved, Republicans, of course, were ecstatic about it. They loved it.
And soon, Republican candidate Donald Trump was calling on national television for Russian hackers to please hack and steal Hillary Clinton`s personal e-mails as well. We found out later in an indictment from Robert Mueller and the special counsel`s office that, in fact, Russian military intelligence officers tried to do just that the very day that Donald Trump asked them to do it.
By the following month, by August, August 15th, we now know the FBI was investigating not only what Russia was trying to do to intrude in our election, but also whether the Russians might have any American confederates who were trying to help them. By August 15th, the Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson convened a conference call with all the top elections officials all over the country to give them all an in-person warning from the secretary of homeland security about security risks to state election systems. He got on the phone with all the secretaries of state in the country to talk to them about Russia`s aggression and apparent willingness to meddle in that particular election and what appeared to be their designs specifically on our election infrastructure in the states.
Now that call, Jeh Johnson will later explain, didn`t go all that well, but then three days later, August 18th, 2016, the FBI sent out a secret flash alert from its cyber division, again, warning state election officials, warning secretaries of state that they needed to take steps now to beef up their firewalls, beef up their other security measures because it wasn`t some vague sense of hostile intentions towards our elections. No, by that point the FBI cyber division had observed Russian state hackers specifically targeting multiple U.S. states and succeeding in breaching security and getting into election systems so conceivably they could mess with the vote or mess with voter registrations in at least two states.
So, the FBI sent out that flash alert August 18th, 2016, sent it from the FBI cyber division that was supposed to be a secret alert to all the states. Of course, it immediately leaked to the press.
But at least at this point, you know, the call from the homeland security secretary, with the public reporting that it was Russian state actors who hacked the Democratic Party with this flash secret alert from FBI cyber, hey, this is happening, they`re really doing it, they`re going after the states, and they`re successfully breeching security in the states, I mean, at least to this point it is clear, right, that this is a serious thing. This is a serious threat, serious measures need to be taken in response. Everybody at least gets it by this point, right?
No. One secretary of state in particular came out immediately and said, I`m refusing any offer of assistance to beef up security around the election in my state. My election systems are fine. I don`t want any help from the FBI. I don`t want any help from the Homeland Security Department, no.
I also refuse to accept these warnings, he said. Basically said this is all a liberal plot. This one Republican secretary of state told the publication "Nextgov" at the time, quote, the question remains whether the federal government will subvert the Constitution to achieve the goal of federalizing elections under this guise of security.
He then told politico.com, quote: It seems like it is just the D.C. media and the Democrats because of the DNC getting hacked. They now think our whole system is on the verge of disaster because some Russian is going to tap into the voting system. And that is just not -- I mean anything is possible, but it is not probable at all.
"Politico" published that on the morning of August 28th, 2016. By lunchtime on August 18th, 2016, literally that same day, within hours of that "Politico" piece being published, a researcher at an American computer security firm called up the election officials in that guy`s state to let officials know just as a courtesy that in case they weren`t aware, their entire election system was completely open to the public and available without any hacking at all to any interested person who wanted to look at it or mess with it.
This is a state where all of the voting on one type of electronic voting machine with no paper record created at any point in the process. And all of those election machines, excuse me, all of those election machines, the whole system is all run out of a centralized election server.
And what this computer security firm was calling to let them know, on the day that state`s secretary of state was nah, this is ridiculous, we don`t need your help, on the day he said that, this computer security firm calls to say, hey, basically, it`s a little weird that you`re the one secretary of state in the whole country who is saying no, I refuse any federal help, I don`t need it, and it`s ridiculous to think we`d ever be vulnerable to any hacking in my state, when his state had left the voting software and the voter registration information for millions of voters in that statewide open and available for anybody to take it on publicly facing computers.
And if you didn`t feel like just stealing the information, you could always leave there it and change it, mess with it a little bit, right? That would make for a fun election day that would make for fun vote tabulating. Just a remarkable piece of that moment in modern American history that we have all lived through now, right? This is the one state where the secretary of state says he doesn`t need no stinking help from no federalis, right? And his state appears to be possibly the worst protected state in the whole country in terms of its voting system.
Just a few weeks later, not long after that, this guy, you know, talks to "Politico" and says, I don`t need any help, we`re fine. Computer security researchers, dude, your whole system is public facing. I can access all of it. A few weeks later, the elections happen.
The Clinton campaign thought they might win in that state. They didn`t win. In fact they lost by more than they thought possible in that state. They lost by more than five points.
But Trump wins the election overall. Trump gets sworn in January. And in February, about a month after Trump`s inauguration, February 2017, another computer security firm takes another poke at that one state`s election systems online, and it turns out in that one state, nothing is any better.
Again, this was a computer security firm, calling up the state with kind of friendly heads up. Hey, I mean you no harm, not doing this to hurt you. But you should know that you can still get all of the voter registration information from your voters in your state off of your website. It`s still just sitting out there for anybody to take or change or mess with. That was February 2017.
The following month in March 2017, a professor at a local college in the state, actually the college where the election servers are held for the whole state, he called up the state as well and said, hey, not only is all our voter registration information available online, thanks to how we set up our system, we`ve also got people`s Social Security numbers out there and exposed for anybody to grab. This doesn`t seem good.
So, a local good government group sues the state in summer of 2017. They`re basically like wow, given the ongoing and unusually severe problems here, we, A, want the state to fix this, and B, we`d like there to be a look at these centralized servers that run our state`s elections. Somebody should take a look at these things, so we can make sure that there hasn`t already been a hostile infiltration, no hostile actors either foreign or domestic steal organize manipulating information about any voters or voter data given how poorly protected this information is and all of this infrastructure is in our state, given the fact that our secretary of state rejected all expert federal help to come in and shore up security.
Well, the state responded to that lawsuit a few months later by admitting that actually, it wouldn`t do anybody any help to look at the servers to see if anybody had hacked them or done anything bad because the state had just wiped them. They just wiped the servers. They erased everything. So there is nothing to look at now.
That was this time last year. This time last year, despite by then was pretty considerable concern in the state about what`s going on with their election system, with their secretary of state in particular who stood alone in the country in saying no, this isn`t a problem. I don`t want help. We`re fine.
Russian, are you kidding? Election security? Ours is perfect. We don`t need any help with that.
When the state kept officially insisting there was definitely nothing to worry about. This was all being overblown. Everything was fine. But stuff was obviously weird.
I mean, primaries were held in that state in May of this year. That good government group, they re-upped their lawsuit because a whole bunch of weird stuff happened on primary day this year, including my favorite one from Mud Creek.
On primary day in a county up in the northeastern part of that state, in a precinct called Mud Creek, the secretary of state`s website said on primary day in May that there were 276 registered voters in that Mud Creek precinct. On primary day, though, those 276 voters cast 670 votes. Hmm.
They`re very high output voters? I mean, that`s remarkably good voter turnout, right? That`s means 243 percent of the registered voters in that precinct turned out and voted that day. Mazel tov!
I mean, so said the secretary of state with his handy centralized voting system that he insists he needs no help with whatsoever because it is perfect, and anybody who tells him otherwise is a liberal who is just trying to steal stuff.
So the primaries were in May. The summer rolls around. Mid-July this past summer, July 2018, Robert Mueller and the special counsel`s office indict a whole bunch of Russian military officers, remember, for their role in attacking the United States during the 2016 presidential election to try and elect Donald Trump.
And on page 26 of that indictment of all those GRU officers, this one somewhat troubled U.S. state -- I mean, it`s a great state. It`s a growing state. It`s a vibrant state. But it does have this problem when it comes to election security and the people who are in charge of it in their state who seem to be neglecting that very badly.
On page 26 of this indictment from Mueller in the special counsel`s office, this one state with all of this trouble in terms of its election security and its election systems, they get an unexpected little turn in the spotlight when Robert Mueller and his prosecutors spell out new news we hadn`t had before about what exactly Russian military intelligence officers were doing in the immediate lead-up to voting day 2016.
Quoting from the indictment: on or about October 28th, 2016, Kovalev and his co-conspirators visited the websites of certain counties in Georgia, Iowa and Florida to identify vulnerabilities. Kovalev in this context is Anatoliy Sergeyevich Kovalev, an officer in the Russian military assigned to unit 74455, who worked in 22 Krova Street in Moscow, for Russian military intelligence for the GRU.
From hi cubicle in Moscow, we learned in that indictment that that Russian military officer personally targeted election infrastructure in Florida, in Iowa and in Georgia. And Georgia is the state where the secretary of state alone among all other states in the country, he alone refused any help when it came to shoring up the security of his state elections, even after he was directly warned by homeland security and subsequently by the FBI.
Georgia is the state where the secretary of state said these warnings were ridiculous. Ridiculous warnings. There is no chance Russia would ever target his state. Are you kidding?
It turns out his state is one of the states that Russia targeted on October 28th, 2016. And we can name the guy who did it. And the office he was sitting in when he did it.
Once those Russian military officers start -- were targeting Georgia`s elections system starting on October 28th, 2016, I wonder what they did with Georgia`s voter systems. We don`t know because under that secretary of state, rather than let anybody investigate if anything untoward might have happened, instead they wiped the servers. They erased the servers. So nothing can ever be checked.
That secretary of state in Georgia is now the Republican candidate for governor of Georgia. He is presumably running for governor on the basis of his performance as secretary of state, which honestly, is a performance for which anybody might rightfully expect to be famous.
Well before the disaster of Georgia election security in the 2016 election, in his first full year as secretary of state in 2010, he sent armed agents door to door in black neighborhoods in Brooks County, Georgia. This is after a big get out the vote effort there among black residents. That big get out the vote effort led to the first ever majority African-American school board in their town. Local residents said they`ve been motivated that year by teacher layoffs in their district, teacher layoffs that were really unpopular.
And according to one local leader of the voter registration effort, quote, we`d been bit by the Obama bug. This is 2010. We`d been bit by the Obama bug, and we knew it was time for a change in Brooks County as well.
They brought criminal charges against 12 local black residents who`d helped in the get out the vote effort. They brought charges against those 12 residents for things like bringing envelopes containing completed absentee ballots to a mailbox. They criminally charged this group of local residents with more than 100 election law violations, including dozens of felonies. They put them on trial to face more than a thousand combined years in prison.
And you know what? Not a single one of those charges held up. On every single one of those charges, the local resident was either acquitted or the charge had to be dropped by the prosecutors. Not only were there no convictions, there weren`t even any plea deals. Acquitted or dropped on every single one, and the attorney general of the state subsequently had to issue a statement clarifying that actually, none of the actions those African-American local residents in Brooks County had been charged with, none of the things they were charged with were actually illegal.
Mailing in absentee ballots is not a crime. Registering your neighbors to vote is not a crime. But tell that to the people who Brian Kemp sent his armed agents door to door after in 2010. That`s Brian Kemp, Georgia`s secretary of state.
He also instituted what`s called an exact match program designed, honestly, to kill voter registration applications. If there is even one single digital character difference between your voter registration application and any other record the state has on file for you.
So, it`s like there is an extra space added by the registrar when she types in your name or your address, literally an extra space, or if you live on something-something road and the registrar types in RD period to abbreviate road instead of RD, which is the way it`s abbreviated without the period in some other database, then forget it. You`re not registered. Your voter registration will be held until these irregularities can be sorted, if they can be sorted.
Brian Kemp invented that. He got sued over that effort, in part because that unique program he designed and pursued out of his office seems to have had what everybody understood to be its desired effect. In the initial iteration of that program which he came up with, 76 percent of the voter registration applications that got snagged by that new program Brian Kemp invented, 76 percent of them were from Georgia voters who were black, Latino or Asian.
So, civil rights groups sued him over that policy in 2016. In the end, he agreed to end the policy and settle with them. They thought that it was over and that would lead to reforms. Nope. Instead, Brian Kemp got the Republican-controlled Georgia legislature to pass a new law, which codified that policy that he had just been sued over. So, he could put the new policy into effect under a different statutory framework.
And under the new iteration of that policy, it appears to be even more racially targeted. Under the old version of the law, the registrations he was snagging with this policy were 76 percent black, Latino or Asian. Under the newer iteration of the law, it`s 80 percent black, Latino or Asian. See? He is getting better at this.
Meanwhile, the "Associated Press" this week revealed under the new iteration of this policy for Brian Kemp, his office is sitting on over -- excuse me, over 50,000 applications for voter registrations that he has set aside because of the new iteration of this exact match program that he invented where you don`t count as registered if there is an extra space somewhere or there is a period missing or a hyphen missing or somebody misspelled your name by one letter, more than 50,000.
As we reported at this time last night, the same is civil rights group that sued Brian Kemp over the last iteration of this policy have now filed another lawsuit against him to try to basically free those voter registrations and to get him to stop doing this.
But here`s the question -- in the state of Georgia, election systems are not like a normal level of screwed up. Georgia elections under Brian Kemp specifically have become special, very special in their big problems. That would be a big enough problem for the state if Brian Kemp was just running this year to stay on for another glorious term as secretary of state in Georgia, running the state`s election infrastructure.
But instead he is both running the state`s election infrastructure, administering this year`s elections, running this year`s voter registration process as secretary of state, and simultaneously, he is running as the Republican Party`s candidate for governor in the same election.
Imagine you`re Stacey Abrams. How do you run against a guy who is holding that kind of power in this process? How do you run to win, right? How do you run against a guy when is serving both as your competitor at the top of the ticket in the election and he is serving as the umpire who has very specific, very aggressive, very apparently racially inflected ideas about who gets to vote in his state and how the votes are handled and counted and who takes care to make sure the system is secure.
His competitor in the governor`s race this year is the former Democratic leader in the Georgia state legislature. A very effective Georgia leader named Stacey Abrams. She is a graduate of the great Spellman College. She is an incredibly effective speaker and organizer.
She is the founder of a voting rights organization that made it its mission to register minority voters all over the state of Georgia. And you know what? You need powerful organizations to try to do that work in Georgia because, boy, are the headwinds strong.
Stacey Abrams is now calling for Brian Kemp to step down from his job as secretary of state ahead of next month`s election in which he himself is at the top of the ticket. That demand from Abrams comes as we`re waiting to find out if Kemp`s office will be subject to a restraining order on the basis of this new federal lawsuit that`s just been filed against what he is doing with these tens of thousands of mostly black voter registrations that he is not letting go.
How do you fight in that sort of a context? And more importantly, how do you fight to win in that kind of a context?
Stacey Abrams joins us live for the interview, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC HOLDER, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: Are we going to win?
HOLDER: Are we going to win?
HOLDER: Are we going to tell Donald Trump (INAUDIBLE) -- are we going to send a message to Donald Trump?
HOLDER: Are we going to send a message to Republicans in this state?
HOLDER: Are we going to send a message to this nation about what Georgia is really all about?
HOLDER: We`re proud as hell to be Democrats. We are willing to fight for the ideals of the Democratic Party. We`re proud of our history. We`re proud of our present, and we`re proud of the future we can create for this country.
And we`re not in this just to make a statement. We`re in this to win, all right? And the reality is if we don`t win, people who are less committed, less idealistic, less imbued with the values that make this nation really great will run this country.
Now, I see all these great Stacey Abrams t-shirts. Think what the message would be to Donald Trump, to the nation and to the world if a black woman, a black woman was elected governor of this great state. Think about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That`s former Attorney General Eric Holder campaigning in Georgia this past weekend for Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams, who is running for governor in Georgia. She is running against Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp who made this ad during the campaign saying, literally, that he has a big truck so he can go around and round up the illegals.
He also made a name for himself during the Obama administration by being the only secretary of state in the country to reject help from homeland security and the FBI to shore up the election system in his state which he was running at the time. An indictment from Robert Mueller later revealed that under Brian Kemp, Georgia`s election system was in fact hit by Russian hackers, even as Kemp maintained publicly that was impossible and he didn`t need any help to protect against it.
Kemp is also now embroiled in a new controversy, in a new lawsuit because he is holding in his office over 50,000 voter registration applications, the vast majority of which are from African American voters.
I need to tell you that we asked Mr. Kemp if he would please join us on the program this evening. He hasn`t responded.
But you know who did? Joining us now is Stacey Abrams. She is the Democratic candidate for governor in Georgia.
Ms. Abrams, I know you are incredibly busy right now. Thank you so much for taking time out to be here.
STACEY ABRAMS (D), GEORGIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you so much for having me.
MADDOW: So you are less than a month out now. Polls are showing pretty much a dead heat between you and your opponent.
What`s your take on how things are going and how you`re going run through the next three and a half weeks?
ABRAMS: We are incredibly excited about where we are. To be in a dead heat usually with polls that are looking at likely voters is a great thing for a Democrat, a great place for a Democrat to be because we`re not just counting on likely voters. We`re also counting on unlikely voters, those who don`t normally show up in midterm elections.
And our campaign has been working since June of 2017 to engage and turn these voters out, and we`ve seen extraordinary numbers. Early voting by absentee ballots are up dramatically, and they are, including a lot of people of color who`ve never voted absentee before or participated in midterms. So, we`re very bullish on our ability to win.
MADDOW: What`s the secret sauce? What`s the magic for making unlikely voters actually vote? Presumably people don`t vote, not because they`ve never been asked to, not because -- not because it`s something -- that they could go either way about.
Presumably people don`t vote for a reason. What`s the way that you turn people who haven`t made it a habit into voting for the first time?
ABRAMS: People don`t vote because you don`t ask them, but also, because they don`t know how their lives improve if they vote. So what we`ve been doing from the very beginning is talking consistently about education from cradle to career, early childhood, really strong K through 12 and post secondary. We talk about creating good jobs in all 159 counties, creating a thriving and diverse economy where people don`t have to work two or three jobs to make a living.
And we talk about health care. Expanding Medicaid in Georgia will create 56,000 jobs, save rural hospital, and it will make our state stronger. And I`ve been talking about these things consistently.
I talk about criminal justice reform and the need to make certain that being poor is not a crime if Georgia anymore. We talk about the issues that matter to people, but we also take the time to listen to their issues and their concerns, and that has a transformative effect on the electorate.
MADDOW: It is hard not to look at your race and think that you are playing on a tilted playing field. Your opponent obviously is the secretary of state. You`ve now called on him to step down as secretary of state because of the conflict of interest in him running at the top of telephone ticket in this election in his office, he himself administering this election.
There`s been so much controversy over potential voter suppression and the tactics of his office to try to make it harder to register. As I mentioned in the introduction, Secretary Kemp did not respond to our invitation to have him join us tonight, but he did put out a statement in which he blamed any concerns around voter suppression in this election on, quote, outside agitators who disparage this office and falsely attack us.
How do you -- how do you respond to that?
ABRAMS: Brian Kemp has been an exquisite architect of voter suppression for the last decade, and the outside agitators he so blithely dismisses include Asian-American groups based in the state of Georgia, Latino groups based in the state of Georgia, African-American community organizations based in the state of Georgia who have been doing this work for decades. He`s wrong. He`s wrong in how he approaches the right to vote.
He is wrong in his aggressive attempts to dissuade people from voting because voter suppression works in two ways. One is how he does it, which is to stop you from actually being able to cast a ballot. But the second is by creating this miasma of fear where people are afraid to even exercise their right to vote.
That`s what he did down in Brooks County. It`s what he did in Hancock County. It`s what he has done all over the state of Georgia.
But our campaign is grounded in the belief if we tell people they have power and we show them how to use it, they will wield it and we will win this election.
MADDOW: How do you thread that needle to alerting people of the dangers and letting them know, you know, don`t leave without at least casting a provisional ballot, make sure when you turn up, if you got ID, that you bring your ID. If anybody tells you you`re not registered, you find out why -- you know, how do you steel people for the kinds of suppression they may fight, fight against those suppressive efforts, but also not contribute to that miasma you describe, that fear that may actually enervate people and make people think that it`s not worth it to go out because their votes are not going to count?
ABRAMS: Well, I`ve been fighting Brian Kemp on voter suppression for more than four years. In fact, it was my organization, the New Georgia Project that helped bring to light his problem in 2016. We submitted so many applications that were held unlawfully that we were able to pull together a coalition, fight him in the courts and win.
And so, what I tell people is this: we`ve won before and we will win again, but we beat him first by making sure that the 53,000 have all the good information they need. And that`s why I`m so proud of this coalition of organizations that have been sending out this information.
But number two, we tell people turn in your absentee ballots. Beat him by voting.
Number three, vote starting October 15th. Georgia has 21 days of in-person early voting. We should fill those voting booths every single day. And turn out on November 6th and bring every friend you have, bring every foe you have who is going to vote in their best interests and make certain you don`t let him win.
He wins when we stay home. He wins when voter suppression works, because people aren`t just looking at these voters, they`re looking at the state of Georgia. And given all that you described, we know that if Georgia turns the tide in this election, we change America, and that`s what I want people to know.
This isn`t about me. This is about them and this is about us. And they cannot let him steal their votes.
MADDOW: Stacey Abrams, the Democratic candidate for governor in Georgia, thank you for, again, for taking time. I know that this is crunch time for you. I know you`re going to be running through the tape over these next 20-something days.
Good luck. Keep us apprised.
ABRAMS: Thank you so much. Rachel, can I add one quick thing?
ABRAMS: I just want to tell people if you have any questions about voting, please go to 866-OURVOTE. Call that hotline. It`s run by the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law. They`re one of the folks suing to stop Brian Kemp. But please make sure you trust that you have the right to vote and we`ll give you good information. Thank you so much.
MADDOW: That`s a very reasonable thing to have done. Thank you very much.
You know, it`s funny. Sometimes when you good night people in an interview like this and they ask to say one more thing, I`m always afraid they`re going to give their website, which they`re like they`re going to do a fundraising thing, and I`m going to have to figure out the fundraising website for their opponent and give that to make sure they`re being fair.
No, actually she is giving out the voter suppression hotline, which is the right thing to do. Again, 866-OURVOTE, which is the voter protection hotline. It`s amazing that it`s a national story than Georgia race and about every race in Georgia, that voting rights are as much on the ballot and as much a potential determinant of what happens as the fight between the two candidates. But that`s the reality right now.
All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: I mentioned there was going to be some breaking news on the show this hour. This is about a story we actually covered here last night. You probably remember the story. It`s out of Texas.
It`s sort of an unbelievably outrageous story. Field director for a Democratic Congressional candidate in Texas, candidate named Mike Siegel, a Democrat who is running against Republican incumbent Michael McCaul.
He went to the local county courthouse in Waller County, Texas. He went there to drop off a letter about protecting the voting rights of college students at a nearby college, Prairie View A&M, a historically black college.
This field director for Mike Siegel drops off that letter about the voting rights of the students at this nearby college. A bailiff and then police and sheriff`s deputies follow this kid out. They start questioning him. He explains at one point that he works for a congressional candidate. He gets the congressional candidate on the phone while he is being questioned by these officers.
One of the officers then asks the field director oh, you work for a candidate, a candidate from which party? He tells them the Democratic Party. And then they arrested him, right after asking the party affiliation of the candidate who he worked for.
Now, the students that letter was about, the students were again from Prairie View A&M. Prairie View A&M, the student body, is about 82 percent black. Waller County, Texas, where that school is, is about 70 percent white. The college and the county have clashed repeatedly for decades over whether or not the largely black student population of that college should be allowed to vote.
This is a battle that at one point went all the way to the Supreme Court, where I should mention the Supreme Court sided with the students and said, yes, they can.
Well, now a new chapter in that standoff involves the county instructing students to use the specific school addresses on their voter registration forms for this year`s election, and then the county changing its mind and saying oh, no actually, if those are the addresses you used, your registration is screwed up. That`s the thing that led to this bizarre arrest this week at the county courthouse, and now we`ve got this breaking news.
We just -- after we covered this last night, we just got a call that something big has changed in this case, and I am going to have my next guest explain that in just a moment.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Joining us now live from the great state of Texas is Mike Siegel. He is a congressional Democratic candidate in Texas running against incumbent Republican Mike McCaul.
I should tell you, I asked Mr. Siegel to come back on the show tonight because apparently the somewhat outrageous problem he joined us to talk about last night, presto-chango, now looks like it may be fixed.
Mr. Siegel, thank you very much for coming back and joining us.
MIKE SIEGEL, TEXAS DEMOCRATIC CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Oh, thanks for having me, Rachel. I appreciate it.
MADDOW: So, and I -- I don`t mean to make you do all the work here, but maybe it would be helpful here if you could walk us through the state of play for the students at Prairie View A&M as of 24 hours ago when we last talked to you, and how that has just changed, I`m told, just in the last hour or so.
SIEGEL: Sure, I`d be happy to. So the previous situation which led us to deliver this letter which resulted in my staffer being arrested was that the elections official for Waller County was going to require every student who had registered in accordance with previous county instructions, they were going to require the students to submit a statement of residency prior to voting, essentially putting up a barrier to the vote.
And then this afternoon at about 3:00 p.m., I get a call from the Texas secretary of state, which was interesting news by itself, and he wants me to join a conference call with county Democratic and Republican officials, as well as the elections administrator. And the secretary of state basically asks how can we make sure there are no impediments to voting for the students, and during the course of this conversation, the elections official agrees that she will not require any paperwork from the students, that maybe after the students vote, she will ask them to update their registration, but that I will they will concede to exactly what we`re asking for a few days ago.
MADDOW: So the reason the county was planning on making students at Prairie View A&M jump through these extra hoops is because the county had told these students how they should register, what address they should put down. Then the county subsequently changed their mind and said OK, if you followed our instructions, your registration is bad.
That`s the part of it that seems -- it just seemed unsustainable in terms of why they were going to make this an extra burden for these students. The county now just concedes that it`s not fair to put that on the students and it`s their problem?
SIEGEL: Well, I think it`s wonderful. It`s a victory for community organizing, for the students and community members who fought back on this issue. Yes, it was absurd, the idea that you`re going change the rules for voter registration two weeks before the voter registration deadline. That`s obviously not fair, and against Democratic principles. I mean, I think big picture, you would agree that the right to vote in a democracy is the most fundamental right, and what they were putting in danger is the franchise for students, the ability to vote in a simple and effective way.
And so I`m glad that the secretary of state intervened and now we have the status quo which is that students can vote without any impediment, and we can get back to work trying to elect better representatives in Congress and state government.
MADDOW: It`s just remarkable in particular, sorry to interrupt you there, just because of the history at Prairie View and how hard students at this school in particular have had to fight in order to be allowed to vote.
I just want to ask you one last question, Mike, before I let you go. Obviously you having your field director arrested while trying to give county officials a letter, speaking up on behalf of these students voting rights, your field director being asked if you`re a Democrat or a Republican, when he answered Democrat, he then found himself arrested, that situation so outrageous and so strange, that`s why I asked you and Jacob to be here last night. I wondered after I said good night to you last night, I wished I`d asked you last night, if your Republican opponent, Congressman McCaul had intervened on Jacob`s behalf at all or had inserted himself into this process at all as the sitting congressman to try to fix that situation. Obviously, it`s such an outrageous thing to have happened.
Did you get any help from Congressman McCaul?
SIEGEL: No. Unfortunately, Congressman McCaul is not available to his voters. He hasn`t held a public meeting in ten years, so he would not be available on an issue like this.
But big picture, we`re in Waller County. Another thing to note this is the county where Sandra Bland died in police custody a few years ago. This is a place of an historic fight for voting rights and civil rights. And so I`m just very thankful that I`m able to lend a little bit of support to the people that have been fighting for decades to protect their civil rights, to protect their right to vote, and now, we`re going get the students out.
I had a friend say to me there is nothing like getting some young person to do something, then telling them they can`t do it.
SIEGEL: So we`re hopeful that now that students have been discouraged from voting, they will take it that much more seriously and get involved in this election.
MADDOW: Democratic congressional candidate Mike Siegel in Texas, running in the 10th district -- sir, thank you. And congratulation on winning this fight. When I talked to you last night, I didn`t know how it was going to resolve. I certainly didn`t know you would be back here one day later telling me that you fixed it. Well done. Thank you.
SIEGEL: Thank you, Rachel. Appreciate your help.
MADDOW: We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Happy Friday night. Happy 25 days from the big election.
One thing that tends to drive Democratic hopes at this point in an election season is that women historically have preferred Democrats over Republicans even when men don`t. We`re seeing that dynamic again this year.
For example, a CNN poll last week found that voters overall support generically a Democrat over a generic Republican by 13 points. Thirteen point generic advantage for the Republican, that`s the kind of number Democrats like to see when they think about their prospects of taking back the House.
But if you look at that 13 point margin for Democrats, it`s pretty easy to see what it driving it. Look at the gap among women. Among women, women prefer Democrats for Congress not by 13 points but by 30 points.
Democrats count on that kind of a gender gap, that kind of disproportionate support from women every year, especially this year. But there is also a twist this year in the way Democrats are trying to capitalize on and build that advantage. And I do not usually show political ads here just because once you start, where do you end?
But I want to show you this one because I think this will be an important part of history of this moment in Democratic politics when we`re finally ready to tell that history. Just -- I just want you to see this. Watch this. I think it`s remarkable.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Before I decided to run for office.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Before I became a combat search and rescue pilot.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I followed my dreams. I wanted to be a fighter pilot.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Before I served eight years in the CIA.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Become a captain in the Air Force.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Before I became a Navy helicopter pilot.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Before I was promoted to commander.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Before I was a CIA analyst in the Middle East.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Before serving three tours.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In Iraq.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In Afghanistan.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Aboard the USS Harry S. Truman.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Before I was awarded the Purple Heart.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Or becoming a federal agent.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was the first woman marine to fly in an F-18 in combat.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Before I served in the Bush and Obama White House.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In the executive office of the president --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Commanding over 400 combat ready --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In the marines.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In CIA.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In the Air Force.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Before I announced my candidacy for Congress.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I chose to serve my country.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I bled on foreign soil for people to have the right to vote.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is the first time I run for office.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have never run for political office before.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I started realizing maybe I should run.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I felt like, all right, let`s go, let`s do this.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And come November 6th, I will continue to serve the people.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The people of Michigan.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Of Pennsylvania.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: New Jersey.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kentucky.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Virginia.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALES: The people of Texas.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I will continue to serve the people of the United States of America.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you ready to serve America?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Those eight candidates are all Democrats. They`ve all served in the military or in U.S. intelligence frequently in scary jobs where they held positions of real power. That ad comes from the Serve America PAC, which was started by Congressman Seth Moulton of Massachusetts.
If you think Democrats are missing out on the appeal of the strong woman candidate this year, check your Facebook page because somebody you know just posted this ad. And yes, before you ask, yes, Bruce Springsteen did give them permission to use the song.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: I mentioned last night that Hurricane Michael seems to have done some serious damage to Tyndall Air Base in Florida. First flyover footage we got seemed to corroborate that. A particular concern, of course, were these massive hangars, with the roof ripped off and what appeared to be lots of aircraft inside. Many of those hangers had survived other storms just fine, but obviously not this one.
Ahead of the storm Tyndall said they evacuated personnel and they moved the aircraft off the base, but apparently, not all the aircraft removed which makes for a very expensive proposition here.
According to "The New York Times", Tyndall is home of the nation`s largest group of F-22 stealth fighters, 55 of them, each costing $339 million. At least 33 of the planes were flown to safety, but that means 22 weren`t.
F-22s have sort of funny looking tails with the vertical stabilizers that pop up like bunny ears. You see that? It is an open question whether in the aerial footage of the hangars, whether you can make out those weird looking F-22 tails.
In this photo though that we got, you can definitely make out those bunny ears poking out of that hanger that was shredded by the storm. The Air Force is not confirming the exact number of F-22s that were left behind or that were damaged.
"Military Times" is putting it anywhere between 4 and 10. West case scenario, four f-22s were damaged, worst-case scenario ten, or maybe more at $339 million a pop.
That does it for us tonight. We will see you again on Monday.
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