Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: October 31, 2018 Guest:
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy to have you with us.
Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas has been a senator for over 20 years. He was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1996. He`s right now serving his fourth term in the Senate.
Kansas, of course, is a sort of beet red state right now, and has been for some time. And Republican Senator Pat Roberts, for the most part, has sat pretty comfortably in his U.S. Senate seat. So comfortably that he`s even faced some questions over time about whether he still really lives in Kansas, or whether he really just now chooses to reside full-time at his home closer to work in Washington, D.C.
During a radio interview a few years ago, Senator Roberts slipped up and told the guy interviewing him, quote, every time I get an opponent, I mean, every time I get a chance, I`m home. Meaning, I`m only home when I have to be in order to save my Senate seat. Oops, not supposed to admit that.
But that same year, in 2014, Senator Roberts had a new reason to be home. First, he did have a tough primary challenge that year, which he survived only by single digits. And then, when he got to the general election, Senator Pat Roberts was, again, faced with a challenge from not one but two other candidates. He was running against a Democrat, but he was also running against an independent named Greg Orman.
A bit of an outsider. He was a rich guy who entered the race late in the game that year. He ended up doing really well really early. At one point, he was polling ten points ahead of this incumbent Republican senator, Pat Roberts.
And with that upstart independent candidate doing great in that Kansas Senate race, it`s interesting. The Democrat in that three-way race decided to drop out, which left Greg Orman, this independent, a clear shot at winning this race. It was him against Pat Roberts. He had a clear shot at unseating longtime Republican Senator Pat Roberts. He could have done it. He might have done it. He definitely had a chance to do it. He did not do it.
Greg Orman, this independent, he was head-to-head with Pat Roberts in the end, but he lost to Pat Roberts by ten points on Election Day. And that, in fact, helped the National Republican Party win a new majority in the U.S. Senate for 2014.
Well, now, this year, in 2018, Greg Orman is back, and he`s in another three-way race. This time it`s for governor in that state. This year, the Republican candidate for governor of Kansas is the Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who is way, way, way out there on the right. And he would not mind saying so, so I don`t mean that to cast aspersions. He just is. The Democratic candidate is a well-known moderate, longtime state senator, named Laura Kelly.
Now, between Kris Kobach and Laura Kelly, the two of them, the race is excruciatingly close. The latest polling from Emerson shows Kris Kobach ahead in that governor`s race by one point.
A new poll from Ipsos shows the Democrat Laura Kelly up by two points, in Kansas. I mean, you basically can`t fit a penny between the two candidates of the two major parties. But that race has been a little crowded, because that guy, Greg Orman, is also running for governor of Kansas as an independent. In those same polls that show a one or two-point race between the Democrat and the Republican, there`s Greg Orman, polling at eight or nine points.
Greg Orman from eight or nine points in the polls, he appears to have no chance at all to win or to get anywhere close to winning. But he`s definitely polling more than enough votes to change the outcome of this race. And honestly, because Greg Orman is running as a moderate, the candidate Orman seems to be pulling votes from is the other moderate in the race, Democrat Laura Kelly. And to win in Kansas, she will need every last vote she can wrangle.
Now, Greg Orman says he has no intention of bowing out of this governor`s race, even though he`s only polling at 8 or 9 percent, he has no intention of quitting. But now, someone on his campaign definitely thinks he should. Yesterday, the treasurer of the Greg Orman campaign, who himself is a Republican former state senator from Kansas, the treasurer of Orman`s campaign resigned so he could endorse the Democratic candidate, Laura Kelly.
He said in a statement released by Kelly`s gubernatorial campaign, quote, Laura Kelly is the only viable candidate for governor who can win and bring people together. I`ve been a friend and colleague to Greg Orman for several years. I supported his run for Senate in 2014. And until today, I supported his run for governor.
However, this is a critical election for Kansas. We cannot risk the future of our state. Quote, electing Kris Kobach governor is one of the worst things that could happen to our state.
That`s the campaign treasurer for the potential spoiler independent candidate in Kansas, he himself a former -- a Republican and former state senator. He`s saying he has no choice but to drop out for the independent candidate and switch instead to the Democrat. He says it`s the only way to stop Kris Kobach from taking office, which again he says would be one of the worst things that could happen to our state.
So, we`re going to be talking with the great Steve Kornacki in just a moment about that governor`s race in Kansas, and a whole bunch of others where the polling might surprise you. What is happening in Kansas right now in the governor`s race and the polls is basically tied in Kansas.
That is not a solo, like, a -- that`s not like a standalone, weird result right now. It turns out there`s a whole bunch of states that we think of as red states or strongly red-leaning states where Democrats right now stand more than a good chance of winning the governorship. If you haven`t been following governor`s races closely, you`ll be surprised how well Democrats are looking in the polls in governor`s races, even in pretty conservative states. So, we`re going to bring in Steve Kornacki about that in just a second.
But first, before we do that, I want you to meet someone. I want you to meet my new favorite student council president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRMS PRODUCER: How old are you?
ALEJANDRO RANGEL-LOPEZ, DODGE CITY HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: I`m 18 years old as of today.
TRMS PRODUCER: Happy birthday.
RANGEL-LOPEZ: Thank you.
TRMS PRODUCER: How does that feel?
RANGEL-LOPEZ: It`s exhilarating, kind of. I called last week to ask about my voter registration, to make sure it`s going to go through before this whole thing started, and they said it`s going to be on hold until today. So, hopefully, it went through today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Alejandro Rangel-Lopez, he`s a senior in high school. He`s a busy kid. He is student council president on his high school, which is awesome. He`s also on the debate team. He`s also active in local politics. In his case, he`s a Democrat. He`s active with the local Democratic Party.
Alejandro just turned 18 this week. He works two part-time jobs right now to pay for his braces. See he`s got braces? Paying for those himself with two jobs in addition to being student council president and on the debate team.
He turned 18 the day that we actually went to his hometown to meet him this week. For his birthday, Alejandro told us what he would very much like as his birthday present is for his town to make it easier for people to vote, because that`s what you wish for, for your birthday, if you live where he does this year.
Alejandro Rangel-Lopez lives in Dodge City, Kansas. Dodge City is a town that grew up along the historic Santa Fe railroad. You probably already know iconic pop culture Dodge City. Remember the TV western "Gunsmoke"? "Gunsmoke" was set in Dodge City.
When the bad guys would show up and Marshal Matt Dillon wanted the bad guys to hit the road, he would say it like this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARSHAL MATT DILLON: Jacqueline, you take him and you take the rest of your men and you get out of Dodge!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: You get out of dodge. That saying comes from a real place, comes from Dodge City, Kansas. It`s about 2 1/2 hours west of Wichita.
Nowadays, the people of Dodge City, they are happy to tell you that they would love for you to come back. Dodge City welcomes you. Don`t go, don`t get out of Dodge, don`t go, come back.
Over the past few decades, Dodge City, Kansas, has changed dramatically, in large part because of the opening of two big meat packing plants right in town. Those plants and their steady jobs became a magnet for Hispanic workers in particular, and today, 60 percent of the people who live in Dodge City are Hispanic.
Dodge City is one of the few places in Kansas where the population is majority minority, when white people are not the majority population in the town. Alejandro`s family is one of those families that moved to Dodge City for work. He was born and raised in Dodge City. And now, he`s old enough to have a say in who represents Dodge City in our democracy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RANGEL-LOPEZ: As a son of immigrants, and the son of two people from Mexico, came here in the `90s. They always instilled in me that voting is one of the most important rights you earn from being born here and becoming a U.S. citizen. And when my dad became a U.S. citizen in 2004, he`s voted in every midterm and every presidential election. So, that was always an integral part of him being an American citizen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: For all of Alejandro`s life, 18 years and a couple days now, there`s been one place in Dodge City where you can cast your ballot, only one. The Dodge City Civic Center. Dodge City Civic Center, that polling location, that one location serves ten times the number of voters assigned to the average polling place in Kansas. On average, Kansas polling places serve about 1,200 people. This one in Dodge City serves 13,000 registered voters.
Alejandro told us this week that he`s used to his dad having to wait in line for an hour or two every single time he votes in every election, because everybody else has the same plan every election, to get off work at end of shift and rush to the one polling place the town has to cast your vote. So, it`s always big, long lines.
The situation for voting in Dodge City, Kansas, has not necessarily been easy, right? Thirteen thousand registered voters all turning up for a single polling place. But this year, for Alejandro`s first time voting, they have taken that one polling place for all of Dodge City and they had moved it out of town, outside the city.
The county clerk explained that because of construction at the civic center, where everybody used to vote, this year instead, that polling place would not be used and she would move the polling place, the single polling place for all of Dodge City to another location, one that is completely outside the city.
Now, to the everlasting frustration of local officials, the decision to tell Dodge City residents that to vote they had to literally get out of Dodge, that decision hasn`t gone over well in the local community and in the local media. And to be honest, it has not come off as a purely logistical decision. The Ford County clerk announced in late September that she was moving the polling location out of Dodge City. Within days, the ACLU of Kansas called her up to say, basically, hey, this is a problem. They offered immediately to work with her in order to try to fix it, to open more polling locations in Dodge City that would be more able to accommodate Dodge City voters.
Then it emerged that the county clerk had given out the wrong address for the new polling place to hundreds of people who had newly registered to vote for the first time in the county this year. Really? On top of everything?
Amid all of this wrangling and all these things going wrong in what appeared to be a cascade of bad faith when it comes to running the election for Dodge City, Kansas, the ACLU tried one last time. They reached out to the county clerk to ask, okay, given these changes, given the confusion, given you handing out the wrong address, can you at least publicize our special voter helpline ahead of the election, can you at least do that since you`re apparently not going to fix this problem or the polling location?
The "Wichita Eagle" then reported when the ACLU of Kansas reached out that way to the Ford County clerk, asking her to publicize this voter help line for any voters who were confused, the Ford County clerk didn`t even respond to the ACLU, she instead forwarded that e-mail to the Kansas secretary of state`s office saying, this is what I got today from the ACLU, LOL.
That`s the top elections official in Ford County, Kansas, which is administering this election in Dodge City. LOL about that voter help line, am I right? And, wonder of wonders, the Republican secretary of state in Kansas, Kris Kobach, who`s also the Republican nominee for governor, so he`s at the top of the ticket in the elections in that state this year, he`s running for governor after building his career on making it more difficult for people to vote in his state.
And even in the country more broadly, he`s the one who worked with President Trump to try to make it harder to vote nationwide. Even Kris Kobach, when asked about that situation in Dodge City, he now says, yes, maybe they should have another polling place, then, for Dodge City. Even he says that. But he also says that this decision this year to have the single polling place for 13,000 voters fully outside the city limits, he says that has nothing to do with him or his office.
He says he in his office are not involved in that at all. This was just the county acting on its own, talk to them. It turns out we have now determined that is bullpucky, because when we first called the county about this story, the story is now the focus of national attention. We first called the county to talk to them about this story, Kris Kobach`s office is saying, well, it`s not us. This had been decided at the county.
We called the county, the office of the county clerk refused to talk to us and instead told us that we should call Kris Kobach. Oh, so that is who is responsible for this. OK. So we called Kris Kobach, and at first his office was more than happy to defend the decision to move the polling place outside of town.
But, of course, as this has become a national news story and it has stuck, they stopped defending it. Kris Kobach is now saying, oh, maybe, sure, there should be a second location. And now they`re insisting, oh, actually, we have nothing to do with this, Kris Kobach is not involved in with at all, that`s not us. After a few days of talking about the story on this show, trying to get people to explain to us over the phone what is going on, a producer from our show, Julia Nutter (ph), went to Dodge City this week to see what it`s like with this new location for voting.
In the press, the county clerk`s office, and used to be Kris Kobach`s office, they were defending this as no big deal, no big change, nothing that will change the access to the polls in Dodge City at all, no reason to worry. We wanted to see for ourselves. So, producer Julia went and found what used to be the polling location in Dodge City, and she found what is the new one that they have just moved to.
Now, we`re showing you what it takes to get from the relatively convenient old place where they used to vote to get to the new one where they had moved it to this year. We have had to speed up this video, as you can see for time, but yes, the new polling location is literally outside the city limits, it`s also about a mile from the nearest bus stop. It`s at a place where there are no sidewalks and it is in a place where there lots of big, rattling trucks coming to and from the meat packing plants. Good luck crossing the street.
And remember, the reason the county clerk said they had to move to this totally out of the way, off the end of the earth, moonscape place that you can`t really get to is because that old city center location -- sorry, it`s just a disaster, there`s construction, you can`t use it, it`s completely inaccessible this year. We keep hearing, we keep seeing national reporting on this, that there`s construction at that site that has made the old site inaccessible, the county`s hands are tied, there had to be some new polling place, right?
That`s been the reason given for why Dodge City can`t vote this year in Dodge City, where they`ve always voted.
You want to see that site? You want to see that site as of this week, as of two days ago? Here it is. Does it look inaccessible to you? Is it completely blocked off by construction?
And that`s the parking area outside. Do you think that looks completely inaccessible to pedestrian and potential voters? We got there this week, it was totally no big deal to drive up and park anywhere in the civic center parking lot, to walk right up to the civic center doors. It`s right in the center of town, easy to get to. They said it would be all blocked off by construction.
The civic center even became sort of home base for our producer on the ground. Hey, everybody, this place is easy to get to, let`s meet at the civic center. And, you know, there is some construction happening across the street, you can see it in the distance there. But they`re not blocking access -- that construction is not blocking access to the civic center at all.
There`s tons of events happening right here at the civic center between now and the election day, and even events that are already planned for after election day. There`s a big recycling event for example happening on Saturday, this week, a private event scheduled there on Sunday, Sunday before the election. There`s a teacher appreciation dinner scheduled for two days after the election and a big ho, ho, holiday expo scheduled for two weeks from now, all still on as scheduled.
Not only is it fine at the civic center right now, but even after election day, it`s still going to be fine for the ho, ho, holiday expo, right? Because otherwise, why would the "Dodge City Daily Globe" be planning its big holiday gift expo if the civic center is going to be so inaccessible? I mean, call me an optimist, but I`m not expecting hard hats to be required at the ho, ho, holiday expo. I`m just saying.
Our producer, Julia Nutter (ph), she did stop by the county clerk`s office to see if we could get any more information in person and we could get on the phone about moving the polling place, first of all, and, second of all, moving it way out of town. The county clerk has rejected the idea of having people vote in local schools in Dodge City, for example. We wanted to know more about why that was, since everybody can get to their local school.
We`ve been trying to get answers for days, calling in from our offices across the country. But when we dispatch somebody go do it in person, when our producer got to the clerk`s office in Dodge City, the county clerk staff told our producer that the clerk wasn`t there and actually no one was there who would answer any questions.
They did give us the name of the county clerk`s new lawyer that they have just hired for this fight over their balloting. I should tell you that we reached out to him and he didn`t respond.
I`ll tell you also that late last week, the ACLU of Kansas took the county to court saying this change with the polling places has made it harder for people in Dodge City to vote, especially Hispanic voters, who are less likely to have access to a vehicle to drive themselves to this new site that you can`t get to without one. The ACLU is asking the clerk to please open another polling place for Dodge City, in Dodge City.
The named plaintiff in the ACLU`s case is Alejandro. Alejandro Rangel- Lopez, a high school senior who just turned 18 this week and who is psyched to vote this year for the first time ever.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RANGEL-LOPEZ: My family is immigrants. My friends are immigrants. This community is made up of immigrants. And many of those are undocumented, or DACA recipients or are Dreamers. And they don`t have the right to vote or have any other rights that citizens like myself have.
And as (INAUDIBLE), it`s very important that people who have the opportunity to vote exercise that right to vote. And do anything possible to make it easier or to make their voice heard about issues that are important to them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Alejandro tells us that after college, he plans to return back home with a law degree, to practice immigration law and to help people in the city. But this year, Alejandro, welcome to voting, the way we do it now in 2018, with tens of thousands of voter registrations on ice in Georgia, decades-old voting machines in Texas that appear to be switching votes on people, and your polling place that is not where you live, and is actually nowhere near where you live for no discernible reason, and no one will own up to doing it. And the only thing that anybody can plainly see when you go to this place is how hard this change will make it to vote this year in what happens to be a mostly Hispanic town, when the Republican secretary of state, who is running this election, happens to be on the ballot for governor in what turns out to be a spectacularly close race.
As the headlines have piled up, Dodge City officials have scrambled to set up and publicize bus rides to the polls, so you can call and reserve a seat on a bus like this one, or a transit van like this one, for early voting in town or for Election Day voting at that polling place out of town. And the county clerk now says she`s now planning to offer a second polling place for Dodge City, which is news. She`s planning to add that maybe in 2020, or maybe, maybe, even by next year. But definitely not for this year, not this year, not while Kris Kobach is on the ballot, no way, LOL.
The 2018 Election Day is less than a week away now. The hearing on the matter in Dodge City has been scheduled for tomorrow. In the meantime, we`re hoping maybe the Ford County clerk will start returning our calls. You have our number.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: When you think of red states in which Democrats might be competitive this year, you think of Georgia, right? Maybe Arizona. You don`t think of Kansas, or Oklahoma, or South Dakota? Yes. Yes, actually.
In those three red states this year, Democratic candidates for governor are definitely within striking distance of pulling off upsets. In South Dakota, that bastion of liberalism, the most recent poll shows that the Democrat and Republican in the race for governor are tied. In Oklahoma and Kansas, the governor`s races in both of those states are considered toss- ups right now.
Last night, the great Steve Kornacki was here live with us on set to talk about the chances that Democrats might win control of the House of Representatives next week. Tonight, I`ve asked Steve to come back to give us a look at who`s looking good in the governor`s races for next week.
Joining us now is MSNBC national political correspondent Steve Kornacki.
Mr. Kornacki, thank you for being here.
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Rachel.
And, yes, and let`s take a look at one particular region. We can find interesting races around the country, but I want to focus on the region that made Donald Trump president.
Remember election night, two years ago, Pennsylvania had gone for Obama, went for Trump. Ohio had gone Obama, went for Trump. Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, all through the Rust Belt, the Great Lake states, the Midwest, whatever you wanted to call it, all of these Obama-Trump voters, all of these Obama Trump states, the reason Donald Trump became president.
So, take a look, two years later, statewide races in just about all these states, governor`s races, what are we seeing there? Take a look at the polling. Pennsylvania, remember, Donald Trump, the first Republican to win this state since 1988, wins it in 2016. Two years later, the Democratic governor is coasting to re-election there in Pennsylvania.
Ohio, this one didn`t just swing to Trump, it swung hard to Trump. He won Ohio by eight points in 2016. You can see it there. Now, you got a neck and neck governor`s race. In fact, Richard Cordray, the Democrat there, he may be slightly ahead in that race, a close one, a chance for Democrats to get Ohio.
Michigan, obviously, Trump needed Michigan, barely got Michigan. 2018, the governor`s race, almost a double-digit lead in the average poll for the Democrat there.
How about Wisconsin? Again, one of those, 1984, which is the last time a Republican won Wisconsin before Trump, he got it in 2016. Now, Scott Walker, new poll out today, dead even with Tony Evers, the Democrat running against him. There`s been other polls, in fact, that had Evers ahead in this race. Democrats had a shot to take out Scott Walker in the state that won it for Trump two years ago.
Iowa, this went to Trump by almost ten points. Remember, Obama won Iowa twice, Trump by almost ten points. Now, the Republican acting governor in that state actually behind in a recent poll in Iowa.
We can say Minnesota, not a Trump state, almost a Trump state, we got within a point of Hillary Clinton here. But again, two years later, the governor`s race, Tim Walz, the congressman running as the Democrat, he enjoys a healthy lead in the polls there.
So, you could see, Rachel, all of those states that flipped from Obama to Trump, two years later, there is a chance that Democrats could run the table out there in governor races.
MADDOW: Steve, that is fascinating. Thank you for that.
Especially striking to see it when you talk about incumbent Republicans who are still having trouble in some of those states. Great stuff, my friend. Thank you very much. Much appreciated.
MSNBC national political correspondent Steve Kornacki, you`re going to be seeing a lot of him over the next week. Lucky you.
All right. Much more to get to tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: One of the things that`s a little different about this time in the news right now, about this last few days of the run-up to this year`s congressional elections is that, I don`t know if you noticed or not, but Robert Mueller has stopped indicting people. At least he stopped indicting Americans associated with President Trump. I mean, there was that recent Justice Department indictment of a Russian who allegedly has been working as the accountant for Russia`s efforts, not just in 2016, but also this year in 2018 to sway our elections.
They`re a big, well-organized, multimillion dollar Russian interference effort to freak Americans out and shift our political debate and our candidate preferences in ways that the Putin administration would prefer. There was that indictment, right? So Mueller and the Justice Department are still indicting Russians.
And, of course, before this election season, Mueller had already indicted a whole bunch of Americans associated with President Trump. I mean, when is the last time we headed into a congressional election midway through the first term of a new president while that new president`s campaign chair, his deputy campaign chair, his national security adviser and his longtime personal lawyer were all awaiting sentencing on federal felony charges?
All of them convicted and/or pled guilty, all of them looking at possible prison time. All of them cooperating with Robert Mueller and the special counsel`s office in their ongoing criminal and counterintelligence investigation of the president and his campaign and the crucial question of whether or not it was kosher how he got this job in the first place.
But even still, though, right, I mean, the Russians still being indicted, that one may have been timed to let us all know that the Russians were caught working to mess with this election too, just like they did with the last one. The Russians are still being indicted, OK, and a bunch of the president`s men already indicted and convicted and awaiting sentencing from before. But, still, in the immediate lead-up to this election, you know, there`s lots of interesting reporting, lots of public speculation about what the special counsel`s office and Robert Mueller might be up to right now.
But in the immediate lead-up to this election, as we sort of expected might happen, Mueller`s publicly observable activity has come to a complete halt. And because of Justice Department rules and practice around this thing, we sort of expected that might happen in the immediate lead-up to this election. It`s kind of weird, though, right? Feels like an eerie, unsettling calm in the middle of the storm. Ooh, happy Halloween.
Well, tonight, fittingly enough on Halloween, we appear to have just taken a big step forward as a country toward understanding what we can expect from Mueller as soon as the election is over. Newly unsealed documents today, new revelations about what we can reasonably expect from Mueller as soon as next week`s election is over. That story is next.
MADDOW: Behold, the Dictabelt. Don`t laugh. Honey, I can hear you laughing from here. Don`t laugh.
This is a real thing. This is a magazine ad for the Dictabelt from 1953. Not a health product, it turns out, despite the illustration.
Quote, brilliant new Dictabelt makes dictation easier for you and clearer for your secretary. Quote, it`s said and done. Neat.
The way it worked is, you would take pinkish, red, circular tape-looking thing, the belt in Dictabelt, and you would run it through the machine part, through the dictaphone. It was a slightly tweaked design for an old school analog tape recorder, instead of cassette tapes, the audio got recorded on the belt, on the Dictabelt. That`s basically the tape in this style of tape recorder.
And it gave this thing the sort of Don Draper treatment for its ads. They made it into something in the ads that wasn`t just a new tape recorder design. It was something that would change your life. The Dictabelt record collects your thoughts and turns them into action.
Dictabelt is a mailable, fileable, permanent record that cannot be erased or changed. The Dictabelt.
That ad campaign was a little over the top for sure. But you know what? Just today, we found out how permanent Dictabelt tape could turn out to be.
Look. Page ten, footnote 5.2, quote, Dictabelt recording of the president`s recollections of March 21st, 1973, and transcript thereof.
That footnote is part of this document, which was just unsealed for the first time. It`s from 1974, the year that Richard Nixon resigned the presidency. And this document, which we the people are just seeing for the first time ever today, this document is basically the reason why Nixon resigned the presidency.
And so, the release of this document for the first time, this is a big deal for historians. It`s a big deal for anybody interested in Watergate. This is something we`ve been waiting 44 1/2 years to see.
But this was also released right now for a reason, and with implications that are absolutely, positively, 100 percent not about Richard Nixon, and that old scandal that ended his presidency. This turns out to be an important new piece of information about the current president, and the question of whether scandal will end his time in office, as well.
Let me show you what I mean. All right. As you know, 45 years ago this past week was the Saturday night massacre, October, 1973. That`s when Nixon fired the special prosecutor who is investigating Watergate. That was this guy, Archibald Cox. Nixon fired his way through the upper echelons of the Justice Department until someone would finally obey his order to fire the Watergate special prosecutor.
But there was such an outcry that soon enough, another special prosecutor was appointed to take his place. His name was Leon Jaworski. Now, first under Archibald Cox, and then Leon Jaworski, there were tons of people who were indicted in the Watergate scandal, dozens of them. Nearly 50 government officials indicted for felony crimes by a grand jury, and then convicted. And a lot of them went to prison.
But when it came to President Nixon, there was an issue. The grand jury that indicted all those other government officials in Watergate, turns out they heard a lot of evidence about President Nixon`s criminal behavior, as well.
But could you bring an indictment against a sitting president the way you could for other government officials? Could you bring criminal charges against a president?
I know half of you at home are saying, yes, of course you can, the president isn`t above the law. Right. But how would that work?
You bring criminal charges against the president. He`s arraigned. What if the president is not granted bail after he`s charged?
What if he`s seen as a flight risk? Would he still be president from jail while awaiting trial? Would he still be president while he was on trial? If he was convicted at that trial, and he didn`t resign, would he still be president of the United States as a convict serving a sentence in federal prison?
When grand juries collect evidence, that information is secret. Testimony they hear, the documents they receive, it`s secret and it`s designed to stay secret forever.
Now, that information is collected for a reason. It`s used to determine whether or not a person gets charged with a crime. If and when a person does get charged with a crime, all the stuff the grand jury did, all the evidence they saw, the testimony they took, that gets handed over to prosecutors. But then prosecutors have to prove the crimes in open court.
The secrecy of what happens before the grand jury itself, that is sacred and it is supposed to be permanent. It`s an integral part of the process. It`s sacred, as a general matter.
But when it comes to the president, it`s a different situation. The grand jury who heard all of that evidence about Nixon and his apparent crimes, they weren`t sure if they could do anything with the evidence of crimes committed by the president, because what a grand jury does is indict people, and can a president be indicted, right?
So, this is a difficult thing. The way it was resolved in 1974 was elegant. The grand jury collated all that evidence, enough for an indictment for sure, they made clear, but because it was the president, what happened was the judge overseeing the grand jury proceedings ruled that the secrecy of the grand jury proceeding in terms of all that testimony they collected, all that evidence they collected about Nixon`s crimes, the secrecy of that process could be broken in one very specific way for this one very specific case.
Per judge`s orders, they were cleared, the grand jury was cleared to collate all the evidence they had collected that might otherwise be used to bring an indictment against the president. They were allowed to put that evidence together in a sealed, confidential report. And instead of creating an indictment, they were cleared by the judge to send that document over to the Judiciary Committee in the House for them to do with as they saw fit, to start the process of impeaching the president to remove him from office.
Basically, here, from the grand jury, use this information, not to put the president on trial in a courtroom, use it to put on an impeachment trial against him in the Congress. The grand jury is allowed to break its secrecy to provide that evidence to the only court in which that president will be tried, which is impeachment proceedings in Congress to potentially remove him. That`s what they did. That`s what happened.
And what they sent over to the Judiciary Committee, from the grand jury, that`s ultimately why Nixon quit. He knew he was going to be impeached, and he quit.
Well, now, today, we`ve got that report, we`ve got what the grand jury sent over to Congress. You can see the handwritten note at the top, filed under seal, March 1st, 1974, and you see the title, in re report and recommendation of grand jury concerning transmission of evidence to the House of Representatives.
Quote: The grand jury has heard evidence that it regards as having a material bearing on matters that are within the primary jurisdiction of the House of Representatives committee and its present investigation to determine whether sufficient grounds exist for the House of Representatives to exercise its constitutional power to impeach Richard M. Nixon, president of the United States. It`s the belief of this grand jury that it should presently defer to the House of Representatives and allow the House to determine what action may be warranted at this time by this evidence.
And then it just lays out all the evidence, in the simplest possible terms. This is, like, a 50, 60-page document. You can read it in -- you can read it on a coffee break. This lays it out with no narrative.
Page one of the evidence, Watergate burglar communicates to the White House that he wants $120,000. He says he has done, quote, some seamy things for White House and that if he is not paid soon, he will have to, quote, review his options. That`s page one.
Page two, that message is relayed to the White House counsel, John Dean. Page three, the White House counsel tells the top aide to the president, who says, oh, we better tell the attorney general about this. Page four, the attorney general is told about this.
Page five, the next day, the president convenes a big meeting to talk about this matter, to talk about how much money the Watergate burglar wants to stay quiet about the burglary, and the amount of money that would ultimately be required to keep him and other Watergate defendants silent.
That`s the content of that meeting involving the president. How do we know that? Well, check the footnotes. That`s where we get the footnote referencing the president`s Dictabelt recording. Turns out those things last.
Page seven, they authorize the hush money payment to the burglar. He asks for $120,000, he`s going to get $75,000. Page ten, the hush money payment gets dropped off, quote, on the late evening of March 21st, 1973. Fred LaRue caused $75,000 in cash funds to be placed in the mailbox at the residence of the burglar`s attorney.
Page 11, the next morning, the attorney general tells the White House counsel, White House chief of staff, Nixon`s top aide, that the burglar was no longer a problem. Page 12, later that day, another meeting with the president, handily taped by the White House taping system, according to the footnotes, were at that meeting and discussed what they just did and prepared a written report for the president so he can deny any involvement in case this becomes known.
It`s all just there, step by step by step, everything the grand jury learned about the president`s criminal acts -- a ready-made road map to the evidence on which you would base impeachment proceedings against the president. They didn`t indict them. They give this to the Congress so the Congress would impeach him.
This thing has been called the road map, colloquially in legal circles for years. We are just getting to see it for the first time ever today. But the reason I say this is not just about Nixon, is in part because of the reason we`re seeing this today. The group that sued to release this, to unseal this today, they`re calling this a road map not just for Watergate, not just for then, but for now.
They`re calling this a road map for the Mueller investigation, for how the factual findings of the Mueller investigation that pertain to the president and potentially to the vice president, how those things should be reported to Congress and to what end. Quote, the road map is critical historical precedent for ensuring that the facts uncovered in special counsel Mueller`s investigation become public and serve as the basis for whatever accountability is necessary. Our democracy depends on it.
It is, of course, possible that the Mueller investigation and the grand jury he`s working with, it`s totally possible they will find no wrongdoing whatsoever that redounds to the president or the vice president. If they do, though, of course, Mueller could try to bring indictments. He could test that possibility. Or Mueller could do a report, maybe a Ken Starr- style, you know, potboiler report that might be made public. Or Mueller could deliver the findings of the grand jury to Congress, to form the basis of impeachment proceedings against the president or vice president if the findings of the grand jury, the evidence uncovered by the grand jury, warrants that.
And now, as of today, for the first time in U.S. history we can see what the historical precedent would be for Mueller doing just that. If Mueller followed this road map from the Watergate era and made this kind of report to Congress, obviously with the Republican Congress, presumably, we`d never see the report again.
But with a Democratic Congress, whole different ball game. Elections in six days.
MADDOW: Joining us now is Chuck Rosenberg, former U.S. attorney, former senior FBI official,
Chuck, thank you for being here tonight. Much appreciated.
CHUCK ROSENBERG, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: My pleasure, Rachel.
MADDOW: Unsealed today, first time in 44 years, is the evidence against Nixon that was obtained by the grand jury who was working under the Watergate special prosecutor. They handed that evidence over to Congress, and we`re seeing it today for the first time. So, obviously, this is a great day for history buffs.
But is this also legally important? Is this an important legal precedent we`re seeing for the first time today?
ROSENBERG: It`s at least an important factual legal precedent, Rachel. You earlier used the word elegant, and it is elegant. It`s also incredibly powerful in its simplicity. It`s nothing more than fact and then the evidence that proves the fact.
If Bob Mueller is looking for a way to present the information to Congress, he really only has two options. The Starr report which was fulsome but also argumentative and conclusory, what the Watergate special prosecutor Leon Jaworski did, which is what you described earlier.
MADDOW: Is Robert Mueller seeing this document for the first time today the same way that we are or this the sort of thing that senior Justice Department officials and FBI officials would have had access to even though we the public didn`t?
ROSENBERG: If it was under seal, it was under seal. I mean, I always like feel Bob Mueller is ten steps ahead of everybody, but on this, we may have seen at the same time, Rachel. And it would be important to him. It doesn`t necessarily mean he has to follow it. But if he`s trying to think about a way to frame the evidence for the Congress, this is a compelling way to do it.
MADDOW: The people who sued to release this document seemed to be making a public case that the unsealing of this document essentially establishes this precedent, so that Mueller, when he gets to the end of his investigation or gets to the appropriate point, he will be able to cite this document that we can all see, that we can all read as precedent in order to make the case for how he wants to release information.
It`s -- we`re not used to seeing things in the news and seeing the unsealing of things in that way, but do you think it`s a fair argument?
ROSENBERG: I do think it`s a fair argument. There`s also an important legal precedent here. You spoke earlier about grand jury secrecy. As a former federal prosecutor, that`s obviously something we take very, very seriously. But in this case the federal judge in the District of Columbia said those grand jury secrecy rules give way to really essentially the Congress` need to know, the Congress` need to have this information as a road map to a possible impeachment proceeding, in this case, against President Nixon.
And so that also for Bob Mueller is an important precedent. Why? Because it`s going to be in the same federal court that Richard Nixon`s case ended up in, in the district court for the District of Columbia. So, a factual road map and a legal precedent.
MADDOW: Chuck Rosenberg, former senior FBI official and Justice Department official, really appreciate your time tonight, Chuck. Thank you very much.
ROSENBERG: My pleasure.
MADDOW: We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Do you like my costume? Same one I wear every year. Middle-aged cable news lesbian TV host. Come on, nailed it again. Admit it.
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.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END