Guests: Miguel Almaguer, Jon Ralston, Kathy Spillar
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Lawrence. Thanks a lot.
And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour.
We begin tonight with some breaking news in national politics. A sitting United States senator, a Republican, the junior senator from the great state of Nevada, is resigning.
This is a senator who barely a month and a half ago announced he would not be running for re-election next year, but now suddenly comes news that he will leave not in 2013, but in 12 days. This means that Nevada‘s Republican governor will appoint a replacement for the senator in Washington. The man resigning, of course, is Republican Senator John Ensign.
As a candidate for Senate, and as a senator, John Ensign was a family values Republican. He also lived at C Street, the pseudo-church subsidized boarding house for conservative members of Congress run by the secretive religious organization known as The Family.
In 1998, John Ensign demanded that President Clinton resign from office as president because of the Monica Lewinsky affair. In 2004, John Ensign crusaded to amend the U.S. Constitution to keep same-sex couples from being allowed to get married.
Quoting him from the congressional record then, “For those who say that the Constitution is so sacred that we cannot or should not adopt the Federal Marriage Amendment banning marriage rights for gay people, I would simply point out that marriage and the sanctity of that institution, predates the American Constitution and the founding of our nation.”
But then after all of that, in 2009, John Ensign got caught cheating on his wife. He was shtooping one of his own staffers who was married to another Ensign staffer, all the while he was—all of which was taking place as he was serving as the Republican Party‘s Senate campaign chairman. Incidentally, in that next election, the Republicans lost a ton of seats in the Senate.
When John Ensign‘s affair was outed, the senator cut both of the staffers in the situation loose. He cut loose the one he was shtooping and he cut loose the one that she was married to. Both of them had to leave John Ensign‘s employ.
But when they did, Senator Ensign‘s parents cut their family a check for $96,000. His mom and dad did it. They are very wealthy apparently. They own casinos.
If that $96,000 was a severance payment to the senator‘s girlfriend
and her husband, that could be construed as illegal. So, a lawyer for the
Ensign family claimed at the time that this $96,000 was really just a gift
a gift specifically structured as eight separate $12,000 payments to avoid paying the gift tax.
Quote, “His parents decided to make the gifts out of concern for the well-being of longtime friends during a difficult time.”
Despite that near $100,000 payoff, the husband, whose wife Senator Ensign was shtooping complained publicly about the senator‘s behavior, and about the financial straits of his family, after both husband and wife lost their jobs with John Ensign.
Last month, that same husband was indicted on charges of lobbying illegally, specifically, lobbying Senator John Ensign illegally—lobbying Senator John Ensign illegally from a job that Senator Ensign arranged from him after that whole “I have to fire you and your wife because I‘m shtooping her” thing. The husband was indicted. Senator Ensign was not indicted.
But the FBI launched an investigation into the situation after the affair came to light. The Justice Department launched an investigation. The Senate launched an ethics investigation.
Through it all, John Ensign never lost the public support of the Republican Party. But then last month, on his own terms, Senator Ensign announced his retirement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN ENSIGN ®, NEVADA: As you all know, campaigns are ugly enough today, and this campaign would be exceptionally ugly. And because of that, I don‘t want to put my family through that. And for these reasons, I will not be seeking re-election in 2012.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was barely a month and a half ago. But now unexpectedly, John Ensign has decided not to wait until the end of his term. He has, all of a sudden, decided that he is resigning right now, effective May 3rd.
In a letter to the president of the Senate, who, of course, is Vice President Biden, a letter that will be delivered tomorrow, Senator Ensign writes this. Quote, “While I stand behind my firm belief that I have not violated any law, rule or standard of conduct of the Senate and I have fought to prove this publicly, I will not continue to subject my family, my constituents, or the Senate to any further rounds of investigation, depositions, drawn out proceedings, or especially public hearings. For my family and me, this continued personal cost is simply too great.”
He also said, quote, “To the people of Nevada, I humbly say thank you for what you have given to me through the years. To my family, thank you for the support and love that you have shown me. To my staff, thank you for coming on this incredible journey with me and for standing by me despite the obstacles.”
Presumably, that excludes the staff members he was either shtooping or whose wife he was shtooping. They got their own specific thank you, remember, from mom and dad?
Last month, when Senator Ensign was asked whether that Senate ethics investigation which had been underway since October 2009, when he was asked whether—that ethics investigation had anything to do with his decision to retire, Senator Ensign first told reporters this. He said, quote, “If I was concerned about that, I would resign.”
And then he added this:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ENSIGN: I didn‘t break any ethics rules. I didn‘t break any of the laws. I didn‘t do any of those things. So, resigning would be admitting guilt.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Resigning would be admitting guilt. That‘s what he said last month. Now, he‘s resigning.
Joining us now is the man who broke the news of Senator Ensign‘s resignation this evening, Jon Ralston, columnist for “The Las Vegas Sun” and host of “Face-to-Face with Jon Ralston.”
Jon, congratulations on this scoop, and thanks for being here tonight.
JON RALSTON, THE LAS VEGAS SUN: Nice to be back with you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Why is Senator Ensign resigning now? Why not back in March, six weeks ago when he announced his retirement?
RALSTON: Well, Rachel, as I‘ve said many times, I mean, John Ensign‘s political career was over on June 16th, 2009, and you showed some of that video. He seemed to be the only one who did not know that. And he had to be dragged kicking and screaming every step of the way.
From the moment he made that announcement, you know a lot of people wanted him out of there. It took the ethics committee—and I‘ve just confirmed this right before coming on here, to vote this week secretly as they do to move forward, perhaps with public hearings.
And there‘s still a mountain of evidence. Forget what the Department of Justice said. There‘s a mountain of evidence that he did a lot of things wrong. And for him to have to sit there in public hearings and then be sanctioned by the ethics committee, obviously it was too much for him.
Either that, or he was just doing it for his family, Rachel.
MADDOW: Well, to be clear, what you have just learned tonight is that the Senate Ethics Committee was due to vote on whether or not to subject him to charges? Is that right?
RALSTON: They voted, from what I understand, from some very good sources in Washington, they voted this week behind closed doors to move forward with public hearings with a mountain of evidence, and there was going to be consideration of some very severe sanctions.
You know, usually, the ethics committee is derided as being toothless. But I think that after the Department of Justice dropped this, they were going to move forward. I think that Ensign thought by making that announcement you referred to a month and a half ago that he would stop the ethics committee. Well, there‘s really only one way to stop them, and that‘s to get out of the Senate.
MADDOW: Was Senator Ensign under any pressure that you know of from Nevada Republicans, or the national Republican Party that he should quit, that he should quit now that, that somebody should be given the opportunity to be the incumbent Republican senator in Nevada come 2012?
RALSTON: There‘s no question that Republicans here and in Washington, D.C., wanted Ensign to get out of there so that Governor Brian Sandoval could appoint Dean Heller, who is now running for that seat to give him the title of senator when he was running.
But Ensign has not listened to anyone but the voices in his own head for a long time now, Rachel. We know that. So that pressure seemed to be doing nothing.
It has taken something at every step of the way to finally nudge him in the right direction. And as you mentioned, Rachel, going through those facts, and they never - they never get old. The staggering hypocrisy of this man to continue to parade his family out, to evoke his family in that part of statement that you read, it‘s just incredible. It‘s as if he has to be pulled back into reality by other people finally. And, in this case, it was the Senate Ethics Committee voting.
MADDOW: Jon, is there anybody else in contention for this appointment from Nevada‘s governor besides Congressman Dean Heller? Is he considered to be pretty much a shoo-in for this appointment now?
RALSTON: Yes. I think there‘s others obviously who would like to get the appointment, Rachel. But Brian Sandoval—and this is a tight-knit state. Brian Sandoval knows Dean Heller very well. They‘re friends.
And people close to Sandoval are also close to Heller. It‘s a fait accompli. Heller is going to be appointed.
The real interesting phenomenon here is that there‘s going to be a special election for Heller‘s seat, and our favorite person, I know one of yours, Sharron Angle, is going to be involved in that.
MADDOW: So, Dean Heller, currently a member of the House. If he gets appointed to the Senate, which you say is a fait accompli, there has to be a special election to fill his seat in Congress.
Now that isn‘t filled by an appointment. That—there‘s got to be some sort of election process in that case. Do we know anything about when that election would happen? What the circumstances would be? How much control the party might have over who was able to run for that seat?
RALSTON: Well, we don‘t know any of those things for sure. And people have been scrambling, even the people in the secretary of state‘s office are not sure that the statutes are as clear as they should be here. This has never happened before in this state.
What is clear is that the governor gets to set the election within a certain time period after he appoints Dean Heller to the Senate seat. But what people have concluded early on—and, Rachel, nothing is sure here—is that this could be a free-for-all where there is no primary for any party, and anybody essentially can file, which is going to cost—if that is what happens, that is going to be a spectacle unlike any we have seen here, and we have seen a few.
MADDOW: Can you handicap for us the prospects of Sharron Engel actually getting to go to Washington through this process? I mean, as you said, we still don‘t know by what means exactly this seat is going to be filled. But if there is a free-for-all, how would that bode for Sharron Angle‘s chances versus the other means by which this election might be arranged?
RALSTON: Yes. If it went to the party nominating committees, which is another possibility, although I can‘t find that in the statute that seems to be applicable here, although there‘s another statute that talks about that, there‘s no chance she would get through the party‘s nominating committees. But in a free-for-all, she still does have a base of people who would die for Sharron Angle.
The really interesting aspect here, though, Rachel, is if a bunch of Republicans get in, this is a traditionally Republican seat, no Democrat has ever held it since it was formed in 1981 -- then a Democrat who has run there before like Jill Derby who came close to beating Dean Heller a couple of times against a bunch of Republicans, you‘re not going to need that high of a percentage of votes to win.
Now, again, all of the caveats apply here. I‘m not sure that‘s how it‘s going to work. But in the free-for-all, the Democrats have a shot at taking that seat.
MADDOW: Jon Ralston, columnist for “The Las Vegas Sun,” host of “Face-to-Face with Jon Ralston, and once again, the guy left to explain to the nation what the H-E double hockey sticks is going on in Nevada politics which we couldn‘t do tell without you, Jon. Thank you so much for joining us.
RALSTON: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: Again, the breaking political news tonight, Nevada Republican Senator John Ensign steps down unexpectedly, one year, 10 months, and five days after first admitting to an extramarital affair with an employee, which started a whole cascade of further difficult revelations for the family values senator. Jon Ralston just reporting on our air moments ago that the senator‘s resignation follows a vote—a reported vote in the Senate behind doors that would have subjected Nevada Senator John Ensign to public hearings on those ethics charges that he had been facing for many, many months in the Senate.
Again, Nevada‘s Republican governor will be appointing a temporary replacement for Senator Ensign. It is likely to be Dean Heller. That may give the Republican Party a leg up on holding on to that Senate seat in next year‘s elections, and I hope you will forgive me for just saying leg up. I didn‘t mean it like that. We‘ll be right back.
MADDOW: Still ahead, the military has created a training video about implementing “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” repeal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let‘s review real quick that it has been repealed. And gay, lesbian and bisexual, GLB persons can now process for enlistment as long as they are qualified. I know for some of you, this will be a large hurdle to overcome.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Has been repealed and gay.
He‘s right. This is a large hurdle. What is that thing talking in that video and can this be real? We have sort of a weird answer to that question.
More ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: When Timothy McVeigh bombed the Alfred P. Murray Federal Building in Oklahoma City 16 years ago this week, one of the reasons he chose that building for his attack was because of the high number of federal agencies that had offices in that building. It wasn‘t all federal agencies. There was, of course, also a daycare center there.
But Mr. McVeigh later explained that he was specifically trying to kill federal employees when he chose that building. Though, of course, he said he did not mind the thought of other casualties as well.
One of the federal employees who survived the Murray building blast at Oklahoma City was an ATF agent named Luke Franey. Mr. Franey was inside the building when the bomb went off. He lived. He was able to crawl out of the rubble. He later testified at Timothy McVeigh‘s trial.
Mr. Franey still works for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. And today, he was the ATF‘s representative at a press conference for another attempted bombing which was, thankfully, unsuccessful. That incident now is, however, prompting questions about whether it may have been a politically motivated act.
Yesterday afternoon, employees the Southwest Plaza Mall in Littleton, Colorado, discovered a small fire that had broken out in the hallway near the mall‘s food court. When firefighters extinguished the blaze, they also found an unexploded pipe bomb, as well as two propane tanks at site of the fire. It‘s still unclear whether the fire was intended to detonate those explosives, but ultimately, those explosives did not go off, thankfully.
The mall, which typically has about 10,000 people inside at that hour, was evacuated as bomb squads were brought in. Today, the FBI released this photo of a man they are calling a person of interest in the case. He was spotted on this surveillance tape inside the mall near where the explosives were discovered.
Part of the reason this plot is attracting national attention tonight is because of some coincidences and similarities between this incident and other mass casualty or attempted mass casualty attacks in the United States. This pipe bomb in Colorado today was discovered 12 years to the day after the worst high school gun massacre in U.S. history, the attacks at Columbine High School. The shopping mall where the bomb was found yesterday is less than two miles from Columbine High School. While all of the victims of that massacre were killed by gunfire, authorities at Columbine did discover a propane tank in the school‘s cafeteria with unexploded pipe bombs attached to it.
Now, regardless of whether or not this latest incident is linked to Columbine or to any anniversary or to anything else of any symbolic significance, this attempted bombing also comes relatively closely on the heels of the attempted bombing on Martin Luther King Day this past January in Spokane, Washington. Police there found a backpack bomb along a parade route. It was rigged to explode. But it never did. Authorities now have a suspect in custody in that case.
Yesterday‘s incident in Colorado also comes less than a year after the attempted bombing in Times Square by a Pakistani American named Faisal Shahzad. Like this attempted bombing in Colorado, the Times Square plot also involved explosive materials placed side by side with propane tanks. Shahzad pled guilty in that case and was later sentenced to life in prison.
Tonight, the pipe bomb and the propane tanks involved in this latest attempted bombing in Colorado are heading to the FBI lab in Quantico, Virginia, while authorities in Colorado search for their person of interest.
Joining us now live from the scene of the attempted bombing in Jefferson County, Colorado, is NBC News correspondent Miguel Almaguer.
Miguel, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Appreciate your time.
MIGUEL ALMAGUER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Sure thing, Rachel. No problem.
MADDOW: I understand that authorities there say they do have a person of interest in this case. What can you tell us about what they know about him?
ALMAGUER: Well, first, we should point out that person of interest has not been named a suspect, and authorities have made that clear. Nonetheless, they have released three photos.
The last photo released just a few hours ago, it shows the suspect coming up—or excuse me, the person of interest coming up an escalator. He‘s wearing a striped shirt. He has on a hat and he‘s holding a plastic bag. It‘s pretty similar to the other two photos that were released just a few hours before that late Wednesday evening.
Investigators say this is maybe their best lead to who this person of interest may be. He hasn‘t been named a suspect because investigators say he simply came in and exited the mall through an unusual entrance, one that the public didn‘t take often, and so, for that reason, they want to talk to him, Rachel. And so, they have named him a person of interest. They are circulating his photo, hoping that that will generate some leads. And although this photo has been available for about 24 hours now, still no identification of that man.
MADDOW: Miguel, in terms of the physical evidence here and what firefighters discovered when they responded to that fire, has there been anything significant learned about the pipe bomb or the propane tanks or anything else that might indicate the—I guess the severity of a potential explosion had this thing worked as intended?
ALMAGUER: Well, investigators are keeping most of the details close to the vest. They don‘t want to release too much information, because they are still looking for eyewitnesses to step forward, and they said they don‘t want to give out too much information to steer witnesses in one direction or the other.
We do know that that fire broke out at the mall behind me at around 11:30 in the afternoon. Firefighters quickly put it out. It was a small fire. And they quickly realized they were dealing with some suspicious devices.
They first recognized two propane tanks, and then realized that there was a pipe bomb. That pipe bomb apparently fell apart relatively quickly. Investigators didn‘t have to detonate it, and they said there was no chance it was going to explode.
They believed that the two propane tanks were actually bought at a nearby Target that actually shares the same parking lot with this mall here just across the way, just out of camera sight here. So, they say at this point, at least a local affiliate is reporting that investigators believe that those propane tanks were bought just a few hundred yards away from the mall behind me, Rachel.
MADDOW: Miguel, one of the reasons that this has attracted some national concern and interest is because this, of course, took place on the 12th anniversary of the Columbine massacre, very near to where the Columbine massacre happened. Are you getting any sense here of how that may be playing into this investigation at all?
ALMAGUER: Yes, there certainly has been some heightened concern. Immediately after the bomb threat, all of the local schools went into lockdown. And today, this afternoon, a gentleman had walked into a local elementary to apparently use the rest room. School officials noticed that they hadn‘t recognized this man. They immediately put the school on a lockout, which means no one can enter or exit the building, except for one entrance. That lockout then spread to the entire school district.
It‘s a clear sign that the school district and many other officials are taking the threats here very seriously. Some of this community a little bit concerned about the incident that happened here yesterday and whether it could be connected to the Columbine anniversary. So, certainly, some people with some frayed nerves, Rachel.
MADDOW: NBC News correspondent Miguel Almaguer, live tonight in Jefferson County, Colorado—Miguel, thanks for helping us understand this. I really appreciate it.
ALMAGUER: My pleasure.
MADDOW: Still ahead: the Wisconsin recall battles where ladies drink free. Did you hear about this today? Did you hear this tape? The audio is astonishing. It‘s coming up.
MADDOW: When last we checked in on the great Republican overreach of 2011, which was last night, because this is what American red versus blue politics is all about now, when last we checked in on the great state of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin-wide fury over Governor Scott Walker and the Republicans‘ union-stripping efforts there, we report last night that groups opposed to what the governor and the Republicans had done had turned in petitions to put the recall of four of Wisconsin‘s Republican state senators on the ballot.
Those four districts, those four Senate districts, are shown here. In terms of a map that they are on, the bluer the map here, the more that district shifted toward the Democrat side in last month‘s special statewide election as compared with how that district voted back in November. All those districts as you can see pretty darn blue.
Update today, one more Republican state senator facing a recall. If the number of signatures turned in proves adequate to cut the mustard, that would be Senator Alberta Darling in the eighth district, which is just down there—you can see there in the lower right, just north of Milwaukee.
But the more exciting development today is that now, it is not just Republican senators facing potential recalls. Now, finally, after promising it for a long time, Republicans and conservative groups have turned in signatures to try to recall Democratic state senators, three of them, all Democrats, all of whom will be on the ballot in districts that, as you can see here, are voting even bluer than they were before since November.
So, to be honest, there‘s not exactly panic on the Democratic side of the great Wisconsin Senate recall fight of 2011. In fact, the Democrats are crowing about how the fact that the recall effort against them doesn‘t really demonstrate any anti-Democratic sentiment in the state. They say that the Republicans hired out-of-state paid signature gatherers, that some Wisconsinites were deceived into signing petitions they thought would actually support a Democratic senator rather than target him for recall.
But then there‘s the booze thing. Amanda Terkel of “Huffington Post” posts audio today documenting another one of the Democrats‘ claims that recall petitions against the Democratic senators were collected in part by people who offered free shots of booze to people who would sign the petition against the Democrats.
There‘s audio. Listen.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I never know, what am I—
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is that for?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I never know, what am I—
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is that?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. So, you‘re going to get us one, two, three, four, five shot—
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That‘s right.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- if we sign this?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I‘ll give you—I‘m buying.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is this?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If we all sign this, the recall petition, we all can do—
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What are we recalling?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It‘s all political stuff. We don‘t know what it is.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: Is that legal? Apparently? Maybe?
But regardless, Wisconsin state Democrats say if you‘re having to pay people with liquor to sign your recall petitions, maybe that does not reflect an organic political enthusiasm for that recall cause. Who knows if the Democrats are right in their confidence here—the proof will be in the pudding when the state tries to verify all those signatures on those petitions, and, of course, when the recall elections ultimately do come up for a vote, if they do.
In the meantime, though, now we know what it sounds like to get paid in liquor for political behavior. Wisconsin, if you did not exist at this point, we would be inventing you. We would.
MADDOW: On February 23rd on this program, we reported on a death threat—a death threat that had been sent to the doctor in south central Kansas who was trying to become the first abortion provider in that part of the country since Dr. George Tiller was murdered by an anti-abortion extremist in 2009.
This death threat said in part, quote, “If Dr. Tiller could speak from hell, he would tell you what a soulless existence you are purposefully considering all in the name of greed. Thousands of people are already looking into your background, not just in Wichita but from all over the U.S. They will know your habits and routines. They know where you shop, who your friends are, what you drive, where you live.
You will be checking under your car every day because maybe today is the day someone places an explosive under it. We will not let this abomination continue without doing everything we can to stop it.”
After that death threat became public, the federal Department of Justice announced two weeks ago that they have filed a civil complaint against the woman who wrote the threat and sent it to the doctor. The first step legally was that Justice Department lawyers asked the federal judge for a preliminary order to keep the woman who sent the threat away from the doctor she threatened—to keep a physical distance between them.
The hearing on that request just happened this week. I‘ll tell you what was decided at the hearing in just one moment. But one of the amazing things about the radical and violent—or at least pro-violence anti-abortion movement ending up back in court again because of another threat to another doctor is that them being in court has the effect of shining a light on who they are. And in this specific case, it has shined a light on the connections between these people, this network of people, who commit politically motivated murder or who attempt to do that, or who promote doing that.
It really is a movement. These folks know each other. They are not alone.
And here‘s how that looks this week, with this federal court case. The anti-abortion activist accused of writing the threatening letter is named Angel Dillard. Ms. Dillard has not denied writing the letter. Angel Dillard‘s attorney in this hearing was a man named Donald McKinney. It‘s him on the left outside the courthouse with Angel Dillard yesterday.
Don McKinney participated in the Summer of Mercy protests against Dr. Tiller in 1991. Do you remember Kansas‘s radical anti-abortion attorney general Phill Kline? Phill Kline is currently in the midst of ethics proceedings that could result in his disbarment over the way he pursued charges against Dr. Tiller. We went to Kansas to cover that earlier this year, you might remember.
As one of Phill Kline‘s final and most controversial acts as attorney general, he hired the same lawyer, Don McKinney, to be a special prosecutor specifically to go after Tiller. The same doctor who that lawyer had protested against back in the day.
Mr. McKinney, again that‘s him on the left there, Mr. McKinney was controversial not just for having protested against Dr. Tiller at the Summer of Mercy—he was controversial and it was a controversial thing for Phill Kline to make him a special prosecutor because McKinney has hosted as a house guest on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of those protests a member of the Army of God—this man. Someone who had signed the defensive action statements put out by the Army of God, the statements that demand the murder of abortion providers and declare them morally justified.
You can still see those “Kill a Doctor for Christ” manifestos online in the dark corners of the abortion Internet where all the people who have murdered doctors have tribute pages to them and are celebrated as heroes. Here‘s one for Paul Hill.
The first time that somebody shot and tried to kill Dr. Tiller in 1993, the assailant was Shelley Shannon. Shelley Shannon was almost a member of the Army of God. The Army of God guy we showed you earlier was linked to the lawyer in this current case, he specifically praised Shelley Shannon and her attempt on Dr. Tiller‘s life. He called her a hero.
Well, Shelley Shannon was in prison for shooting and trying to kill Dr. Tiller. One of her frequent prison visitors was Scott Roeder. During the time that Scott Roeder was visiting Shelley Shannon in prison, he too came to think of himself as a member of the Army of God, and it was Scott Roeder, who after stacking (ph) Dr. Tiller and gluing the doors of another clinic shut and after protesting against Dr. Tiller and against abortion for years, and after corresponding frequently with the woman who worked at Operation Rescue in Kansas who had once been convicted of conspiring to bomb a clinic, it was Scott Roeder, Army of God, right—Scott Roeder who finally did what the army of god urges people to do and calls justified. Scott Roeder in 2009 finally killed Dr. Tiller, shot him to death in Dr.
And even though I knew all of that before and I still do occasionally sleep, although it doesn‘t always look like it, here‘s the reason I did not sleep last night—since Scott Roeder has been imprisoned for murdering Dr. Tiller, someone who has contacted him enough to have struck up a jailhouse friendship with him is the author of our death threat, Angel Dillard.
After Dr. Tiller‘s murder, Angel Diller said this to the “Associated Press” about Scott Roeder and what he did. Quote, “Quite honestly, as soon as I heard about it, I realized that he was able to accomplish what those of us in the pro-life movement had not been able to accomplish—we put millions of man hours in, protested, millions of dollars, attempts at legislation, and we were butting our heads up against the wall. We were not getting anywhere.
With one move—meaning the murder Roeder was able to accomplish what we had not been able to do. So, he followed his convictions and I admire that.”
So, while Shelley Shannon is in jail for trying to kill Dr. Tiller, Scott Roeder makes friends with her and ultimately decides she was on to something. Eventually, he goes on to murder Dr. Tiller himself. Then, when Scott Roeder is in prison for that, for succeeding in killing Dr. Tiller, Angel Dillard makes friends with him in jail, and she says she admires what Roeder did in murdering a doctor for providing abortions.
And then she sends a letter to the new doctor who would take Dr. Tiller‘s place, as south central Kansas‘s next abortion provider. She sends a letter that directly references Dr. Tiller who has already been killed and tells the new doctor, “someone will put a bomb under your car one day,” and then goes on to say, “We will not let this abomination continue without doing everything we can to stop it.”
So, when lawyers for the Justice Department asked a federal judge in Wichita this week to issue a preliminary order to keep this woman who wrote this threat away from this doctor, this woman who befriended Dr. Tiller‘s murderer and said she admired him for doing it, and then she wrote to the doctor who would replace Dr. Tiller saying there would be explosives under his car someday, the judge said no. The judge said, and I quote, “I don‘t think this letter constitutes a true threat.”
Joining us now is Kathryn Spillar, with the Feminist Majority Foundation.
Ms. Spillar, thank you very much for joining us. I appreciate your time.
KATHY SPILLAR, FEMINIST MAJORITY FOUNDATION: Thank you.
MADDOW: I know that you know the facts of this case very well. Is anything that I said about that strike you as confused or wrong, or did I lay it out in the way that you understand it?
SPILLAR: I think you laid it out perfectly—perfectly—which is why the judge‘s decision yesterday in this case is so baffling to us. It was such a clear violation of FACE, the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, to have made this threat. And yet, the judge did not see it as a true threat.
MADDOW: The woman who wrote this death threat, her attorney argued at the hearing that it wasn‘t directly a threat that Angel Dillard would kill the doctor. He described it as a warning to the doctor that other people might kill her. “A,” does that make sense to you, and, “B,” how would something like that be handled under the FACE law, the federal law, that applies here?
SPILLAR: Well, in fact, she used the word “we.” We will not tolerate this abomination. We will do everything feasible to stop you.
So, clearly, she put herself in that camp. And the way that you evaluate a true threat under FACE is very clear. Congress laid it out very succinctly. It is how the threat is perceived by the person who receives the threat.
Is the language clear in the threat? And, Rachel, you have read parts of the letter. I think anyone would reasonably understand what was meant by those words—about a bomb under a car, about we know where you live.
The second part of that is the context in which the letter was received or the threat was made. And clearly, in Wichita, the context is very certain. Dr. Tiller was murdered less than two years ago, by many—by an individual who this person has been in touch with, at the network of extremists has said that we‘re going to keep Wichita abortion free, and they clearly are willing to use a bullet to do that.
But it‘s interesting. Under the FACE law, this context is very important, but the Department of Justice doesn‘t even have to prove that this individual has the ability to carry out the threat. It is simply that the threat was made with the intent of intimidating Dr. Means. And Dr. Means was clearly intimidated by this threat.
MADDOW: This was a preliminary decision by this judge. We do not know how this judge is going to rule in this case ultimately. We don‘t know how this case is going to play out.
But, broadly speaking, as somebody who‘s been involved in this field are a long time and studied a lot of the radical edge of this movement, how important do you think it is for the Department of Justice to have brought this case?
SPILLAR: Oh, it‘s critically important. The extremists must know that their every action is being scrutinized, and that when the Department of Justice and the U.S. attorney believe that a threat has been made or an illegal act has been committed, that they will be prosecuted to the extent of the law. We‘re very hopeful, obviously, that this decision will ultimately be repealed or that in the further hearings for a permanent injunction, that a permanent injunction will indeed be issued.
There‘s just no question. Even in the judge‘s mind, he said that Dillard clearly meant to intimidate Dr. Means.
So, we applaud the Department of Justice for taking these cases. We think that ultimately they will prevail and that indeed these kinds of threes won‘t be tolerated.
What worries us, Rachel, is that in the interim, the extremists will look at this decision and be emboldened by it, and will get even more extreme in some of the threats that they‘re making. And doctors everywhere across this country already are facing intolerable levels of threats and violence.
So, we do hope that on further hearing, that we‘ll reach a different decision.
MADDOW: Kathy, to that point, I mentioned this in the introduction, what made me not sleep about this is feeling like I am seeing a pattern here. It feels like there is a scary pattern here. And I know that Feminist Majority Foundation does a lot of work studying, as I said, the sort of violent edge of the radical anti-abortion movement.
Is this the pattern that you see among people who are moved ultimately beyond extremism to violent extremism? That they get in touch with people who have committed violent acts, that they lionize that acts, that they start to think of themselves as part of a movement that promotes violence?
SPILLAR: There has not been a single murder of a doctor in this country by an individual who was a lone wolf. In every single case, the person who actually committed the murder has been an active participant in a network of extremists who promote the murder of doctors, who advocate the murder of doctors, who many of them themselves have committed violence.
And the interesting thing too, Rachel, is that many of those who go on to murder start with threats. Or they start with gluing the locks of clinics, or they start with simple acts of vandalism. And so, the importance of going immediately and challenging a threat, to interrupt this pattern of ultimately leading to violence is what is so critical about the Department of Justice action.
MADDOW: Kathryn Spillar, executive vice president of the Feminist Majority Foundation—thank you very much for helping us to understand this tonight. I really appreciate it.
SPILLAR: Thank you.
MADDOW: If you are a regular viewer of the show, “Real Time with Bill Maher,” then you saw former Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele and our own beloved Ed Schultz have an animated conversation about Medicare and other stuff last Friday night. Tonight on “THE ED SHOW,” I am so happy to tell you—I can hardly contain myself—the special guest is Michael Steele. Seriously. That‘s right after this show at 10:00 Eastern. We‘ll be right back.
MADDOW: In a night rich with breaking news, I have further breaking news. This breaking so recently that I have to look at my computer to tell it to you than rather reading it on paper.
“The Seattle Times” is now reporting that an alleged white supremacist who was arrested and already in custody in conjunction with the Spokane bomb plot from Martin Luther King Day attempted bombing, the backpack bomb, federal hate crimes charges have now been added to the list of charges that that suspect is facing. Again, this just reported by “The Seattle Times.” We‘ll bring you further detail as we get it.
We‘ll be right back.
MADDOW: I‘m going to tell you this thing exists—and as I describe it to you, you are not going to believe me that it exists like low-carb bread or tasty vodka. But I‘m going to prove to you that it does exist, so bear with me.
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is facing two kinds of criminal charges right now, first, fraud charges related to his giant business empire. The second set of charges Mr. Berlusconi faces are for child prostitution—allegations that he paid for sex with an underage prostitute.
Last week, the prime minister did admit to giving the girl the equivalent of $87,000, but said in his defense that it was to save the girl from a life of prostitution. Not to pay for that prostitution himself. So, that is the situation with Mr. Berlusconi.
Here in the U.S., a conservative family values congressman has just done a spoken word pseudo-music video thing. In this music video thing, the conservative congressman expresses admiration for Mr. Berlusconi and says he hopes the prime minister is not brought down by these charges. Again the charges are that a 74-year-old man paid to have sex with an under age girl.
Stay with me here.
While Republican Congressman Thaddeus McCotter is saying he hopes Mr. Berlusconi is not brought down by these child prostitution charges, the congressman is playing a guitar, specifically he is playing the refrain from the Rolling Stones song “Satisfaction” while he laughs that it‘s clear Mr. Berlusconi got his satisfaction with the child prostitute, I guess? Is this true? Does this really exist?
Yes. This really exists. “Talking Points Memo” posted this today after it went up at the conservative Web site “Human Events” a few days ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There‘s a lot of talk going now with the Berlusconi trial coming up, you know, a great ally of the U.S. It‘d be a shame to see such an ardent supporter of the democratic process down in flames. What are your thoughts?
REP. THADDEUS MCCOTER ®, MICHIGAN: I can‘t play that because evidently he‘s found satisfaction by all accounts, but we would hope that as an ally of the United States, someone who‘s been very emotional about his love for the United States, that such a fine leader is not undone by a scandal such as this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: This is apparently a themed series with Congressman McCotter.
The theme is like jamming to the news.
It‘s not always about hoping those child prostitution charges don‘t stick. There‘s also this one where the Hepcat interviewer in the yellow tie and cuffed Dockers asks the congressman a question about Libya—while again Mr. McCotter is playing his air-brushed American flag guitar.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thaddeus McCotter hanging out in his office—you know, there‘s a lot of talk about Libya right now. What do you think?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: This is apparently the conceit of the video. He gets asked about Libya over the guitar playing during the question then Mr. McCotter stops playing the guitar in order to answer the question. So, it‘s like the bridge in the song sort of.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, there‘s a lot of talk about Libya right now. What do you think?
MCCOTTER: In all seriousness, with Mr. Gadhafi.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: He says what he thinks about Libya while not playing the guitar and at the end of saying what he thinks about Libya, he starts playing the guitar again. Watch this part.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCOTTER: I would hope that the clarity next time would be applied beforehand so we‘re not searching for clarity during the military mission.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: This exists. I did not make this up. And Silvio Berlusconi got his satisfaction.
I assume this means that Republican Congressman Thaddeus McCotter is not running for re-election next year. That‘s what I assume. It‘s the only way I can make sense of this. But stand by.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED CHARACTER: How is everyone doing on this fine Monday?
UNIDENTIFIED CHARACTER: I am all right, a little exhausted. I didn‘t sleep much this weekend.
UNIDENTIFIED CHARACTER: Good morning, Sarge. I am doing great. Let‘s gather up and go over the information on the repeal of “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” that the first sergeant and commander put out last Friday.
UNIDENTIFIED CHARACTER: Great idea. Let‘s waste more time discussing this subject that I have no interest in.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Hey, this also exists. Avatars can do finger quotes.
This appears to be a military training video, really super embarrassing military training video involving reject avatars from second life, about the implementation of the repeal of “don‘t ask, don‘t tell.”
We have been looking into what explains this video for the last few days because we were contacted by soldiers who were under the impression that this video is how the Army really is going to implement repeal, by making soldiers watch stuff like this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED CHARACTER: I know for some of you this will be a large hurdle to overcome. However, it is Army policy. I want to know what you guys are thinking. This goes against the way I was raised. No offense toward homosexuals. I just don‘t think that it‘s right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: See, it‘s the fake avatar station commander meeting with fake avatar staff Sergeant Tolerant and also fake avatar Sergeant Non-Tolerant.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED CHARACTER: Sergeant N.T., do you know how ignorant you sound?
UNIDENTIFIED CHARACTER: Hey, that‘s enough. That is why we are here. I wanted to know how you all feel about this new policy. As of today, the Army no longer wants us to be interested in each other‘s sexual orientation. The Army doesn‘t care as long as you perform your job in the highly professional military manner.
UNIDENTIFIED CHARACTER: I am onboard with this policy. I knew a guy that was discharged for being gay. He was a good soldier. Like you said, it is all about being professional.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Oh, Sergeant Non-Tolerant, why can‘t you be more like Staff Sergeant Tolerant?
It is true this training video with the astonishing avatar is online at a real Army Web site. But if you are one of the soldiers who contacted us, who is worried the U.S. Army is hanging its hopes for implementing the repeal of “don‘t ask, don‘t tell,” on making soldiers watch this thing, you can relax.
After a couple days of digging with the help of amazing, wonderful NBC News Pentagon producer Courtney Kube, we figured out that yes this video is real and was really created by someone in the Army for the Army‘s use but the Army did not accept it. It‘s not sanctioned for use by the Army training and doctrine command. We‘re told because of, quote, “poor production and content.”
So, anyone in the Army who‘s been told you have to watch this thing and that‘s how don‘t ask don‘t tell will be repealed, you might want to run this one back up the chain. And thanks for your service.
Stay tuned for “THE ED SHOW.”
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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Copyright 2011 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by
United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>
PASTE THE TRANSCRIPT HERE, LEAVE THE BELOW PART ALONE
WATCH 'THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW' WEEKDAYS AT 9:00 P.M. ON MSNBC.