CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Before we go, a quick reminder about this week's episode of our podcast "Why is This Happening". It features one of the founding members of the Black Lives Matter movement, Alicia Garza, really interesting discussion about the movement's origins, its evolution and where it stands today. Go and listen, subscribe wherever you get your podcast.
That's ALL IN this evening.
"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend.
HAYES: You bet.
MADDOW: Much appreciated.
Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy Friday. Good to have you with us.
So, last night, we led this show with a special report on the state where not only has a Republican-controlled state legislature passed legislation to ban abortion, as several Republican-led states have done this year. In Missouri, the state government is closing in on the last clinic left in the state that's still allowed to provide abortion services at all.
In our special report last night, we spoke with staff at that facility who say that within the past week as the state government has closed in on them and tried to pull their license and shut them down, the state has also instituted a new requirement that any woman seeking an abortion at a facility from here on out must submit herself to an extra invasive medically unnecessary pelvic exam, literally an internal vaginal examination on orders of the state government as the price of requesting an abortion at that last clinic.
That is a new requirement that is being enforced in the state of Missouri. That was our special report last night. Tonight, we're going to have part two of that special report which is about who's doing that. Who made that happen? Who in the state government decided to order these doctors to do these medically unnecessary mandatory vaginal expectations?
The answer we found is very specific and it may surprise you. We've got the second part of that special report coming up tonight. I hope you will stick with us for that.
That said, because it's Friday, the news gods are pitching stuff to us tonight like they've got eight arms throwing all at once all with terrible aim. It's been hard to field it all today.
First of all, a federal judge in D.C. tonight has ordered the Justice Department to remove a bunch of the redactions from the James Comey memos. You may remember the James Comey memos were part of the way the whole existential Trump presidency started to break open in the first place. When we first learned early on in Trump's few weeks in office, we learned that FBI Director James Comey had kept contemporaneous memos of his interactions with President Trump, including that the president had told him to end the criminal investigation into Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, and then the president fired James Comey after Comey agreed to do no such thing.
When we learned that Comey had contemporaneous memos documenting his interactions with the president leading up to his being fired, that was one of the things that opened up the whole scandal, led to the hiring of the special counsel, led to the whole obstruction of justice investigation. That's part of what started the whole kit and caboodle.
Well, now, in a court ruling tonight, a federal district court judge in D.C. has ordered that the FBI must show the public more of what was in Comey's memos than we have been able to see thus far. Now, this ruling tonight is a win for CNN, which was the plaintiff in this case. They were suing the government to try to make them release more of this stuff. It's a loss for the FBI, which was fighting to keep this stuff secret.
That said, we don't know exactly what's going to be redacted from the memos and when, but the judge did single out in his ruling stuff like this section of Comey's memos. And the judge basically said that the FBI is not justified in keeping these block boxes in this section of Comey's memo blanked out. You know, we'll see it when we see it, but if the judge is telling us this is the kind of stuff that's about to get unredacted, I mean, just this one section, I would love to see this without redactions, frankly, we all would.
This is all from Comey's memos with redactions. Imagine if we got to fill in all the blanks. Comey memo says, Trump explained that he has serious reservations about Michael Flynn's judgment and illustrated from a story in that day in which the president apparently discovered during his toast to Theresa May that blank had called four days ago. Apparently as the president was toasting Prime Minister May, he was explaining she had been the first to call him after his inauguration and Flynn interrupted to say that, actually, blank had called first.
It was then that the president learned of blank's call, and he confronted Flynn about it. Flynn said the return call was scheduled for Saturday, which prompted a heated reply from president Trump that six days was not an appropriate period of time to return a call from the blank of a country like blank.
This isn't blank we're talking about, he said. He said if he called blank and didn't get a return call for six days, he would be very upset. I mean, presumably what Comey was writing up there -- I mean, I'm just guessing, but presumably that is President Trump freaking out that he didn't take Putin's call right away.
Oh, god. What will he think of me that I didn't take the call and then I didn't call right back. You idiot, Flynn, do you know how important this is? Somebody get me a phone. I need to call him right away. Let's send chocolates. Let's flowers. Let's send Crimea.
With this ruling from Judge James Boasberg tonight, we will get to see for ourselves who, in fact, is behind all of the intriguing blanks in that redacted portion of Comey's memos.
Also in another nearby federal court in the eastern district of Virginia today, an informal adviser to the Trump White House and apparently quite a key adviser to the Trump campaign, George Nader tried to make his case to a judge today that he should be released on bail ahead of his trial on charges of transporting child pornography. George Nader is cited multiple times in Mueller's report as a witness who was involved in multiple high- level meetings during the transition and White House meetings as well during the campaign we know that he met with people including Mike Flynn and Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon and Donald Trump Jr.
Mr. Nader reportedly attending a meeting in which the Trump campaign was offered a foreign-run social media manipulation campaign to try to tilt the election in Trump's favor. Imagine that. Now, the Trump campaign says they did not buy what was being offered to them at that meeting, but soon after the election, George Nader nevertheless did pay $2 million to the foreign firm that had been pitching the Trump campaign that particular service, which has always been a source of intrigue. Nobody knows what that payment was for.
Now, according to Mueller's report, George Nader was also a key intermediary between the Trump transition and the Kremlin, including arranging a meeting between a Kremlin-connected Russian banker and Erik Prince, as a representative of the Trump transition. That meeting set up by Nader was reportedly intended to establish a secret back channel for communications between the new administration and Vladimir Putin's office. But now, George Nader is in custody and awaiting trial on child pornography charges.
The judge in his case in Virginia today ordered that Nader must stay in jail until his trial despite George Nader's generous offer in court today that he would not only pay $1 million cash bond, he was also happy to pay for round-the-clock security guards for himself who surely would not let him go astray or flee the country. Again, prosecutors told the judge today that in addition to the child pornography, Mr. Nader had on his phones, he also had direct phone numbers for the ruling princes of both the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.
So, yes, even apart from the seriousness of the charge he's facing, the charge requires a 15-year minimum federal prison sentence if he is convicted, a minimum sentence. I mean, separate and apart from the seriousness of the charge he's facing, when this arrest warrant was pending for a year a still phone numbers of the two richest people in the world on his personal phone, that makes it hard that you're going to stick around for your trial.
And so, George Nader will stay in jail until the trial starts as decided today by the federal judge in the Eastern District of Virginia.
But there's always rest of the news tonight that also pertains to more cases against more people involved in the Trump campaign, including Trump national security adviser Mike Flynn. For some of that news today, we need to go back to a weekend in May 2017 and a conference on U.S./Turkey relations. The 36th annual conference on U.S.-Turkey relations, to be exact, held in Washington, D.C., by a Turkish business lobbying group.
You know, nothing particularly notable about that on its face, international business lobbyists host conferences in D.C. all the time. But here what was notable about this one. First of all, the event was being run by a Turkish businessman who had paid Trump national security adviser Mike Flynn over half a million dollars to lobby for the Turkish government. That's while Flynn was the top security official in Trump campaign and then the Trump transition.
So, the guy who had Trump's first national security adviser on a foreign government's payroll, he was running this conference in D.C. about U.S. relations with that foreign government. He was holding that conference at Donald Trump's Washington, D.C., hotel, of course, because, of course, he was. He had put over half million into the pocket of Trump's first national security adviser, but that guy got fired. So why not start putting money directly into Donald Trump's pocket through his hotel?
That was May 2017. If may 2017 rings a bell for you as an important time, that's probably because just four days before that Turkish lobbying conference got under way at Trump's hotel, Robert Mueller was appointed special counsel to look into the Russian attack on the 2016 election and any potential involvement by the Trump campaign. Not to mention all related matters.
Well, here's what we now know as of today. Apparently, that Turkish businessman, the guy who paid Mike Flynn to lobby for the Turkish government, after Robert Mueller was appointed, that guy's lawyers contacted Mueller, contacted the special counsel's office. They called up Mueller and said, hey, our client, who paid the Trump national security adviser to work secretly for the Turkish government, our client's going to be in town this weekend for a conference at the Trump hotel, would you like to speak with him?
Robert Mueller was just appointed less than a week earlier. I mean, he probably hadn't even gotten his nameplate on the office door and didn't have a trash can yet. But this Turkish guy's lawyers call him up out of the blue, hey, our client would love to talk with you just in case you have any questions for him.
So the special counsel's office apparently did take that meeting. They did that interview with this Turkish businessman literally one week after Mueller was appointed and that businessman walked in and, according to federal prosecutors, he sat down with Mueller's team and he told them whole bunch of porky pies. He lied to Mueller's investigators after having volunteered that he wanted to and in talk to them.
Yes, that's as terrible as an idea as you think it is because that guy, the Turkish businessman guy, is now under indictment for, among other things, lying to the FBI in that interview. If you were going to lie to them, why did you volunteer yourself for that purpose?
Also, he's now on the lam. There's a warrant out for his arrest. Nobody knows if he's ever going to face trial in a U.S. courtroom, along with this other guy associated with Mike Flynn who was indicted with him.
This is another one of these dangling threads at this point, but when it comes to sort of proximity to Michael Flynn, all of the dangling threads seem to be twisting in unusual and unpredictable ways right now. I mean, that Turkish guy is the lam, he's in the wind, but he does have lawyers who for the first time have turned up in federal court in Virginia to object to the government's case. Even though they also basically say their client has no intention of showing up to actually answer the charges against him, their filings late yesterday are how we learned about their client calling up Robert Mueller, the moment he was appointed and him making time in his busy hotel conference schedule to go to the special counsel's office and commit felonies allegedly by lying to the FBI.
We have not heard from that guy since he was indicted six months ago, but here he is. He just popped up. He has lawyers representing him even though he doesn't plan on being here to face trial.
And that odd turn comes at the same time as several other sort of unsettling developments over the last couple of days in the case of this guy's business associate, right, the case of Michael Flynn. In Flynn's own criminal case, we've just gotten released a less redacted version of the FBI's notes for their own interview with him in January 2017. That's the FBI interview where Flynn lied to the FBI about his conversations with the Russian government during the transition.
Those interview notes give us a bunch of additional details about Mike Flynn and Russia we didn't have before. Part of his plea deal with the government when he pled guilty to lying to the FBI was admitting he was an unregistered agent of Turkey, right? He'd been covering up and lying about his Turkish lobbying scheme. That's what his two associates including the guy who paid Flynn $500,000 and is still at large, that's what his associates are indicted for as well, all stuff related to that unregistered lobbying for Turkey.
But Flynn's relationship with Russia and his contacts with Russia, that has always raised some pretty significant, forgive me, red flags about him. I mean, even before we knew about the turkey thing. What we get from these newly unredacted FBI interview notes pertaining to Flynn was his contacts were more extensive than we thought. And we already thought they were pretty extensive.
In this newly unsealed interview, newly unredacted parts of this interview, we learned that Flynn talks about his visit to the Moscow headquarters of Russian military intelligence. He visited Russian military intelligence headquarters, headquarters of the GRU in 2013.
Now, he was the first he had of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency to ever make such a visit. He described the FBI agents viewing him that the head of the GRU he believed was, quote, someone the U.S. could work with. So we learned he was enthused to work with the GRU as early as 2013.
We learned that in 2015, right before his fairly infamous trip to Moscow where he sat next to Vladimir Putin at a celebration for a Russian propaganda network, we learned newly from these newly unredacted documents that Flynn took a meeting with the Russian ambassador to the United States ahead of that trip to Moscow. Flynn went to the Russian ambassador's residence for a meeting before he jetted off to go sit next to Putin and Jill Stein while they all celebrated Russia's propaganda network.
A year later, during the Trump transition, Flynn and the same ambassador discussed setting up a video conference between Trump and Putin on Trump's first full day in office after he was sworn in. Don't want to waste any time getting that relationship up and going. Flynn did not ultimately make that happen, but according to James Comey's contemporaneous memos, we think that Putin probably was the first to call Trump after his inauguration and Trump was super mad at Flynn for not telling him.
You didn't put me through on the phone with Putin. He's going to be so mad. Oh, god, what's going to come out now? Guess Flynn should have made that day one video conference happening. Falling down on the job, Mike.
I mean, there's always been this sort of biographical element in the room when it comes to Flynn and his appointment at national security adviser, right, which is that weird stuff has happened between him and Russia. Yes, he was working as angle emissary when he went over to meet with the GRU in 2013, but he did a lot of stuff with the GRU that has never happened before. He did sort of oddly collegial things with our most aggressively competitive long-standing international intelligence foe.
And then soon thereafter, after he was fired by the Obama administration, he really did go over to Moscow to attend this event celebrating one of Russia's state-controlled propaganda TV networks. Happy to be here. This is all super inspiring celebrating your state-controlled propaganda network, sitting right here with Putin.
I mean, that trip gave rise to a memorable exchange with investigative reporter Michael Isikoff who tried during the campaign to pin Flynn down on whether or not he was actually paid by Russia to do that. Flynn, of course, insisted that he had not.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL ISIKOFF, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Last December, you flew over to Moscow --
MIKE FLYNN, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Yes.
ISIKOFF: -- to participate in the 10th anniversary celebration of RT, Russian Television, a propaganda arm of the Russian government, and you sat next to Vladimir Putin at a celebratory dinner. Were you paid for that event?
FLYNN: You would have to ask the folks.
ISIKOFF: I'm asking you. You know if you were paid?
FLYNN: Yes, I went over there as a speaking event. It was a speaking event. What difference does that make? Oh, he's paid by the Russians.
ISIKOFF: Donald Trump made a lot of the fact that Hillary Clinton has taken money from Wall Street.
FLYNN: I didn't take my money from Russia, if that's what you're asking me.
ISIKOFF: Then who paid you?
FLYNN: My speakers bureau, ask them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I didn't take any money from Russia. This is the part of the documentary where the deep voice narrator comes in and says, in fact, Michael Flynn did take money from Russia as Michael Isikoff would soon report, it was, in fact, Russia that paid him tens of thousands of dollars for that report -- for that trip, plus a three-day long all expenses paid trip to Moscow, including business class and round trip airfare and accommodations at a five-star hotel, and not just for him, but for him and his son, Mike Jr. Must have been awesome.
And, you know, then getting closer to the scandal that led to Flynn's curtain lot in life as he awaits federal sentencing, I mean, there's the sequence of events that followed after him going to Moscow for that event. I mean, this is a guy who was career military, but he is a registered Democrat. Registered Democrat, no affiliation with any politicians whatsoever, other than having worked for Obama. He's fired by the Obama administration, like in 18 months later, he makes a weird three-day jaunt to Moscow to celebrate their propaganda network while denying that they're paying him.
Then just a few weeks later after he gets home from Moscow, he signs up with the Trump campaign. I mean, it's always been weird. And now as Flynn's legal case seems to be coming to its end, assist more stuff starts getting released by the judge in this case who apparently wants this stuff put out there in the public record, it's unsettling about Flynn, but there seems to be something sort of hot about what Flynn knew about the president and what he might tell prosecutors about the president.
I mean, the president was trying to end the investigation of Flynn when he fired the FBI director, right? That's what led to the firing of James Comey. Will you go easy on Flynn? Comey would not go easy on Flynn and so, Comey had to be fired. Firing Comey because he wouldn't ease up on Flynn, that's what gave rise to the appointment of the special counsel, the whole obstruction of justice investigation, all of it.
Why was it so important to shut down that investigation of Flynn? And now, as Flynn's case approaches its end, as he approaches he's sentencing, Michael Flynn suddenly fired his lawyers who represented him all of this time. A week before Flynn's next status update in his case, we're expecting a sentencing date. Boom, he's fired his lawyers.
This is just sort of track now. Whatever the track was here before, this feels off track now when it comes to Flynn. And we still have no confirmation about who Flynn's new lawyers are or why he might have picked them. There's explanation that he dumped his lawyers in the hopes of a totally whole new strategy, which is a lot of people are on sort of pardon watch when it comes to Flynn.
Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut warning explicitly about that possibility now since these events have started to unfold over the last couple of days.
Senator Blumenthal joins us here live, next.
MADDOW: Get your rest this weekend. We got a big week coming up next week.
On Tuesday, the full House will vote whether or not to hold Attorney General William Barr and former White House counsel Don McGahn in contempt over their refusal to cooperate with congressional subpoenas related to the Mueller investigation.
Also next week, we're expecting an important court deadline for Trump's national security adviser Mike Flynn. Both the prosecution and defense will outline how Flynn's cooperation is going. We'll find out if they'll tell the judge they're finally ready to move ahead to sentencing for Flynn.
Whatever's going on with the Flynn case right now, Flynn did just fire his longtime lawyers in a surprise move. We don't know who his new lawyers are. There's also been a steady drip of new details released to the public by orders of the judge in the Flynn case, including auto voicemail from President Trump's lawyer John Dowd right before Flynn flipped and started cooperating with the government. Dowd telling Flynn's lawyer that he wanted a heads-up if Flynn was going to provide information to prosecutors that would implicate the president saying that that might have national security consequences.
We don't know what Flynn might have been able to say about the president that would implicate him and have national security consequences, but that voicemail got a lot of people's attention this week, including Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut who said this. Quote: Hearing the striking audio in the tapes released yesterday actualizes the pardon the president's lawyer dangled in front of Flynn. Americans did he need to hear and see more, all of the evidence making clear of the case for obstruction.
Joining us is now Senator Blumenthal of Connecticut. He's a member of the Judiciary Committee in the Senate.
Sir, it's great to have you here tonight. Thanks for being here.
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: So, what do you mean when you say this voicemail from John Dowd actualizes the pardon that was dangled to Flynn? What do you mean?
BLUMENTHAL: Well, you quoted a part of what he said, which was not only that national security interests might be implicated in what Flynn would be offering to Robert Mueller by cooperating, but also there's a quote that he needed a heads-up to protect, quote, all of our interests, not just national security, and the president, and he said, remember what our feelings are about Michael Flynn. Those feelings are still the same after the president on repeated occasions said had a nice guy Flynn was, what a good man he was.
And that sort of dangling the pardon in the voice that was projected in that tape was deadly serious, even a bit desperate, and will be very, very powerful to Americans if they ever see and hear John Dowd himself as a witness in a House or Senate hearing.
MADDOW: Why is it damning and potentially obstructive for a president's lawyer conveying to a witness who's about to turn state's evidence, about to start working with prosecutors? Can you spell out why that is potentially obstructive, potentially inappropriate or criminal to have that expression? The president likes you, the president wants you to remember how much he likes you, that's still in effect? What is the implication of that?
BLUMENTHAL: Really important to break it down and understand it. And the best explanation of it really is in the Mueller report, because he presents it as one of those potentially obstructive acts that the president of the United States committed. And he says he can't really attribute it to Trump because he doesn't know whether Trump knew everything that Dowd was saying, and he declined to interview Dowd because of the attorney/client privilege.
But basically, here it is. The witness, Michael Flynn, knows all this stuff about Trump, and Dowd is saying give us a heads-up, meaning tell us what he's going to tell Mueller to protect all of our interests, and remember what a good man we think you are, and the pardon is dangled so that, in effect, Flynn will be playing both sides of the street. There's no longer the joint defense going on, but the two of them can still work together if Dowd is informed and protect Donald Trump's interests.
MADDOW: As Flynn's case appears to be heading towards sentencing, something is going on in the case that's hard to discern from the outside. He's fired his lawyers, the initial sentencing plan in December went haywire when clearly there was a big disconnect between the lawyers in the case and the jungle who basically told Flynn, you don't want me to sentence you right now. Why don't you see if you can cooperate more because -- essentially signaling he was going to throw the book at him.
Something's going on right now. A lot of people have speculated that Flynn may be in line for a pardon right now, and maybe that's why he's replacing his legal team and the president might be heading toward that now. Would that be potentially problematic in terms of the president being liable for obstruction?
BLUMENTHAL: I think it would be very problematic. A pardon under these circumstances would raise all kinds of questions of obstruction. The Mueller report alludes to the possibility that the president can be prosecuted after he leaves office in volume one, pages one and two, talks about preserving evidence, and not only documents, but also memories and testimony.
And so, what the president may well be doing is trying to stop that prosecution after he leaves office. And that's not only problematic, it is deeply concerning from the standpoint of Americans seeing justice, holding the president accountable, and eventually making sure that he is brought to justice as he would be if he were not president of the United States. I've written a letter with a thousand other prosecutors saying if he weren't president, he would be in handcuffs and indicted right now.
MADDOW: Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, member of the Senate Judiciary Committee -- sir, thanks for being here especially on a Friday night. Really appreciate it.
BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We'll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: The first rule of presidential polling at this time of year is, it's way too early. I mean, at this stage presidential primary polls really do not matter at all. If they did, we would have had Presidents Rudy Giuliani, and Joe Lieberman and Gary Hart, and Jeb Bush.
The second rule of presidential polling at this time of year is that it's super, super matters, it's really important, in part because it's how the candidates get into debates. Tomorrow night at 7:00 p.m., "The Des Moines Register" is going to release its poll of the Democratic field. The Iowa poll is really the gold standard of polling in Iowa.
In addition to providing an authoritative snapshot of Democratic voters' preferences, this poll is one of the polls that's going to be used by the DNC to determine which Democratic candidates nails down a slot, one of the 20 available slots in the first debate.
And all of that put together is why this weekend, I kid you not, 19 different Democratic candidates are all going to be in Iowa at the same time. There will be no room for Iowans in Iowa this weekend. It's going to be Democrats running for president. Nineteen of them all at once. Pray for good weather, right?
One of the 19 has decided to start living in Iowa. Marianne Williamson has just signed a lease on a Des Moines condo. I kid you not.
Now, the one conspicuous absence from this weekend's Democratic presidential candidate action in Iowa is Joe Biden. He will not be there this weekend. He's the frontrunner right now. But even so, he will be there Tuesday, right after all the other ones have left, or at least most of them have left.
If you're in Iowa this weekend, there's a good chance you're going to bump into a Democratic hopeful or three. And in a coincidence that you couldn't cook up if you tried, just look at today's "Des Moines Register". Right next to the story about this weekend's all-important Iowa poll, we learned that the world's biggest bounce house has just arrived in Iowa just in time for 19 different candidates to start bouncing around the state all at the same time, trying not to bang into each other, each one hoping this weekend will be the proverbial polling bounce they need to get into the first debate.
I mean, here comes an honest to goodness bounce house, the largest one in the world in Iowa, specifically, at the time the 19 candidates were all converging, with their polling bounce on the line.
Iowa, you are amazing. You always are.
MADDOW: So, last night, we brought you a special report about the state of Missouri, which is on precipice right now of becoming the first state to eliminate all legal abortion access since Roe v. Wade in 1973.
As we are still waiting for a judge to rule on whether the state government can shut down that last remaining clinic in the state, we found that the Republican-run state government in Missouri this week started directing the doctors at this last clinic to subject their patients to new medically unnecessary manual vaginal exams as the price of asking for an abortion. This is a new thing the state of Missouri is doing that they were not doing before. But as they got the clinic on the ropes trying to shut them down, this a new thing they're making those doctors do before women are allowed to get an abortion.
Now, there's one aspect of that story we're going to follow up on tonight which is how this is happening in Missouri right now. This was not part of the state's new abortion ban that was debated by legislators or signed by the governor. This new policy that they've instituted in the past week was instituted on the orders of a specific guy in state government.
And it turns out he's a really interesting case here. And that story, part two of our special report, is next.
MADDOW: To this is a coal-fired power plant in Belmont, North Carolina. It's called the Allen steam station and it is run by the Duke Energy Corporation.
Now, one of the problems with running a coal-fire power plant like Allen -- I mean, don't get me started. I could go on. There's a lot of problems.
But one of the problems with a coal burning power plant like that is that after you burn the coal to fuel this plant, it produces leftovers. And the leftovers after you burn coal is something called coal ash. From a plant like this, the leftover coal ash is voluminous, there's a ton of it, and it is dangerous. It's toxins and heavy metals like arsenic, known carcinogens.
Well, Duke Energy stores that marvelous stuff in coal ash pits like these ones. They're basically man-made little ponds designed to hold all of this toxic sludge from the coal-burning power plants.
Oftentimes, those pits aren't even lined, which means there's an increased chance that the toxic materials from the coal ash will leak into not just the ground, but into the local ground water. And that's what many people believe happened in areas surrounding Duke Energy's many coal-fire power plants, including those in North Carolina, power plants like the Allen Steam Station.
In April 2015, North Carolina officials issued letters to people who owned wells, 330 wells that were near the state's coal-burning plants, and those letters notified those people that their well water was contaminated. Wells showed us carcinogen levels higher than the state's warning level. You were at risk of getting cancer if you drank from that contaminated water. That was the notice that homeowners and land owners got from the state in April 2015.
But within a couple of months, by July of that same year, something interesting happened in North Carolina. The governor of North Carolina at the time was a longtime Duke Energy executive and a Republican, a guy by the name of Pat McCrory, and he hired this man, a new state health director for the state, a man named Dr. Randall Williams.
Now, although Williams did not conduct any new testing of ground water or these wells near coal ash pits and all this stuff, despite the fact that he conducted no new scientific inquiry on the subject, the new state health director, Dr. Williams, decided not long after he started at his new job, he decided that the state had been not thinking clearly when it sent out those do not drink orders, when it declared that well water unsafe.
And as a new health director of the state of North Carolina, he decided to rescind those orders. Remember that do not drink order you got about the contamination in your well? Never mind. Never mind that. I'm the new health director. I say it's fine.
The story did not go away as quietly as Dr. Williams might have hoped however. In a lawsuit later filed against Duke Energy, the state's toxicologist, a guy by the name of Kenneth Rudo (ph), testified that state officials knowingly told people that their water was safe when we knew it wasn't. Rudo had been the state's toxicologist for nearly 30 years and he blew the whistle on this specifically calling out the new health director, Dr. Randall Williams, in this 220-page deposition saying the state's health director was to protect public health but in this specific instance, the opposite occurred. The state toxicologist called the reversal of the "do not drink" advisory, quote, "highly unethical and possibly illegal."
The following month, his boss, the state's epidemiologist, resigned in protest, saying she could no longer work for a health department and an administration and a new state health director that, quote, deliberately was misleading the public.
So, state toxicologist blowing the whistle on what's going on here. State epidemiologist resigns in protest, sends this blistering resignation letter about how the public is being misled, this is wrong, this is unsafe. They're saying this possibly illegal.
But the new state health director, Dr. Randall, had a job to do and he maintained that the epidemiologist and toxicologist, these people were nuts. He was sure the well water was safe to drink. Why is everybody being so hysterical?
Dr. Randall Williams ended up testifying in the resulting controversy that he rescinded the "do not drink" warning noticed because he thought that they were stirring up unwarranted fears. Getting people all freaked how the about safety issues where plainly there is nothing to worry about as far as he's concerned.
Dr. Randall Williams lasted about 18 months in that job. The one thing he's remembered for in his short stint running are the health department in the state of North Carolina hired by the Duke Energy executive who was governor at the time, the one thing he's remembered for is his decision to rescind the "do not drink the water" orders, you know, and all of the fallout.
The state epidemiologist quitting in protest, the state toxicologist blowing the whistle, announcing that the state health department was deliberately lying to the public and telling them their water was safe when it was not. I mean, that's the scandal that he created in a very short period of time running the state health department in North Carolina. That's what he did in his year and a half as the state health director in North Carolina. Whoo, and then he was out.
But then he got a new job. May have been sort of a scratch and dent sale kind of thing but for whatever reason, right after that debacle in North Carolina, the new Republican governor of Missouri decided to hire him to come up to Missouri and become that state's new health director. He was appointed by the state's Republican governor before that governor ultimately had to resign in a big spooky scandal but he was confirmed by the state's Republican legislature.
And it is this same guy, Dr. Randall Williams, who is now the man who is shutting down Missouri's last remaining abortion provider in the whole state. And it is he this guy, who has insisted himself that as that last clinic fights to stay open and he is fighting to shut them down, it is he who has decided that the doctors in that clinic must now make their patients get unnecessary internal pelvic exams when they ask for an abortion, on his orders.
Republican-controlled states are of course, trying to ban abortion all over the country right now. They all want to get their state's abortion ban before the Supreme Court because they all think with Justice Brett Kavanaugh on the court now, the court will overturn Roe versus Wade. They all want their state to be first to make abortion illegal.
And that's what's going on in Missouri, too. They've got their Republican legislature. They've got their new Republican governor, replacing the old one who left in scandal. It the new one is Mike Parson. He signed their abortion into law a couple of weeks ago.
And now, today, the Republicans in Missouri state government are taking further action to stop Missouri voters from getting to have a say on whether or not that abortion ban will go into effect. So, what's happening in Missouri in some ways parallels what's going on in all these other Republican-controlled states across the country. They're all trying to ban abortion.
But there is one aspect of the fight going on in Missouri that is different, which is the active and very close to successful effort right now by that state government to shut down the last clinic in the state that is still allowed to provide abortions, in the last clinic in the entire state of Missouri. And it is a crucial thing to understand here that the state is not using a new law to try to shut Missouri's last abortion provider. This is not part of the abortion ban they just passed which is going to be tested by the federal courts now. They're not using the legislature to revoke the last Planned Parenthood clinic's license to perform legal abortion.
What they are doing as they try to shut down that last clinic and stop the last place in Missouri where a woman can get a legal abortion, what they're employing to try to do that is they're using this guy, Dr. Randall Williams, Mr. Drink-the-cancer-water. He's the one who is selectively enforcing state regulations newly as of this week to try and get abortions shut down in Missouri. He is the one specifically who lit on this idea to force Missouri women who still want to go to that last clinic to having an unnecessary invasive, medically pointless pelvic exam as the new price of asking for an abortion at that the last clinic.
As of this past week, he is the one requiring doctors in that clinic that they must do that to their patients. Fresh off his last job making national news for rescinding the do not drink the water noticed around the cancer-causing coal ash pits in North Carolina, Dr. Randall Williams says the reason he is fighting so hard to shut down the last abortion clinic in Missouri is because of his grave, grave, overriding concern for patient safety above all else.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. RANDALL WILLIAMS, MISSOURI HEALTH & SENIOR SERVICES DIRECTOR: What all us Missourians expect me to do in a regulatory fashion is to enforce the law, enforce the regulations and keep people safe. It's just our goal that it'd be done in a safe way.
Our purpose in all of those is to protect health, keep people safe. We can never sacrifice safety for that access. We just can never sacrifice safety for that. We can never do that at the expense of safety.
As I've testified in court five types now is that we can never sacrifice safety for access. We have to have both.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: We cannot sacrifice safety says Randall Williams. One of the producers of the show, Kelsey Desiderio, was at the press conference with Dr. Williams, the state's health director. She asked Williams whether shutting down the last abortion provider in the state might actually lead to an unsafe situation in the state, whether it might actually lead to a rise in women seeking illegal abortions if he succeeds in getting rid of the last legal abortion provider in the entire state of Missouri.
I mean, since he's the guy who is really superworried about women's safety, is he at all concerned about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRMS PRODUCER: Are you worried that the lack of access will jeopardize women's safety because they'll be forced to seek an illegal abortion, which puts them in danger?
WILLIAMS: I do not believe that be true that you see an increase in illegal abortions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Why would that happen? I'm not worried about that at all.
If Dr. Randall Williams succeeds, if he gets the last abortion provider in Missouri shut down, we're waiting on a judge's ruling right now to find out if he's succeeding in that, if he succeeds, Missouri will be the first state in the country to go dark in terms of access to legal abortion since the passage of Roe versus Wade in 1973. But he really does not mind that. You know, big whoop.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Missouri is contiguous to eight states. We in Tennessee share that distinction. The idea that we are a desert for any type of health care is one that already doesn't ring true. I'm sure that there are many people from all eight of those states who come to our wonderful health care centers in St. Louis and Springfield and Kansas City all the time. So, people crossing the state lines to get health care is not an unusual factor.
REPORTER: Abortion advocates say that's a huge barrier that it's a burden for many people in rural areas to get services outside the state. They have to drive hours to get child care, they're low income.
WILLIAMS: Well, again, I believe that there are facilities in Illinois that are 12 miles from her.
REPORTER: From here but not from parts of rural Missouri.
WILLIAMS: Exactly. So, once again, it gets back to the point that I made earlier, that access is incredibly important. We can never sacrifice safety for that access.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: We are waiting for a judge to make a decision any day now. Anytime now as to whether or not the last clinic in Missouri will be allowed to keep its doors open to women in that state, even the one who have to traverse the entire large state in order to get there.
But meanwhile, any woman who makes it there will have to take off her clothes and submit to a medically unnecessary vaginal exam on the orders of Dr. Randall Williams as of this week. Despite her wishes, her doctor's wishes, that's his wishes as state director. He's the one who came up with that. And so, women have to do it.
Watch this space.
That does it for us tonight. We'll see you again on Monday.
Now, it's time for "THE LAST WORD" where Ali Velshi is in for Lawrence tonight. Good night. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END