'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Wednesday, August 17th, 2013
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THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
April 17, 2013
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
Guests: Patricia Maisch, Chris Murphy
CHRIS HAYES, "ALL IN" HOST: That is "ALL IN" this evening. THE
RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, thank you very much.
MADDOW: Thank you.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour on a day
when honestly any one in about five different big, national, leave-the-news
stories would have every network newscast to itself were it not for all the
other big national lead-the-news stories that are also breaking today, that
are also vying for that top of the news position.
The national Republican Party today abandoned Mark Sanford, who used
to be the governor of South Carolina and was a presidential hopeful at one
point. Today, his party abandoned his effort to get back into office in
Congress. Now, on a typical news today, that kind of politics story might
very well lead the national news, but not on a day like today.
Today, we got arrests and a confession and at least an implicit
explanation in the murder of those two prosecutors in Kaufman County,
Texas. The assistant D.A. killed in January, the D.A. himself, and his
wife killed in March, as of today, finally, we know who did it. Or at
least who has confessed, and it is not what people expected to hear in this
case. On a normal news day, that kind of thing might lead the national
But also today, the White House announced that it, too, has received a
letter in the mail that`s tested positive for the poison ricin. This comes
one day after a Republican senator from Mississippi received a letter
yesterday. The late breaking news is a Mississippi man is under arrest for
sending both of those letters. We know what the letter said, we know who
is in custody, we are now just waiting for the final lab results on what
exactly was in those letters.
In the midst of that worry over letters like that today, there were
several other suspicious letter or package incidents reported in a number
of other places in the country, including one letter that shut down Carl
Levin`s home state office in Saginaw, Michigan. Another incident involving
white powder in an envelope in Wisconsin, that has been cleared now, but at
one point in the afternoon that led to a quarantine order at that health
center with dozens of people being quarantined on site.
And again, any of those stories might be front-page news and beyond on
any normal news day. Today`s anything but a normal news day.
Today`s also, of course, the day we have been waiting for, for 124
days now. Today is the day that the U.S. Senate decided on the appropriate
national response to the elementary school massacre of 20 first graders at
Newtown, Connecticut. Today, the U.S. Senate decided that the appropriate
national response to that massacre should be nothing. They want to do
nothing in response to that, and so they filibustered. This is huge news.
The president speaking on the matter from the White House not long
after the vote, one of the most powerful and angry speeches that Barack
Obama has ever given as president of the United States. Newtown families
and Tucson survivors standing with the president at the White House when he
made those remarks. Many of them today were looking on in the Senate as
the background checks bill was filibustered.
There`s a lot to explain what happened there in that story and what
happens next. This is, clearly, the biggest policy story in this
president`s second term thus far, by far it is.
But also in the midst of all of this, still today, the country is
riveted to the continuing news out of Boston, after the bombing of the
Boston marathon two days ago. The first thing you need to know what
happened today in the news about Boston is some of what you may have heard
today out of Boston was flat-out wrong.
JOHN KING, CNN: And again, I have a Boston source, Fran Townsend, our
national security contributor, has a second source, saying, in fact, an
arrest has been made in this investigation that we`re speaking on the early
afternoon hours on Wednesday. Here`s what Fran`s source said, federal law
enforcement source said, arrest has been made based on two different videos
showing images of the suspect.
I was told the video enhancement showed a dark-skinned male placing
the package at the second explosion site and backing away.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: An arrest has been made, a dark-skinned male placing the
package and backing away. Everybody freak out, and, of course, everybody
did kind of freak out much of the afternoon with that information.
FOX News reported a suspect is in custody in the Boston marathon
bombing. "Associated Press" reporting that a suspect is in custody. The
hometown "Boston Globe" breaking the news on Twitter, quote, "Breaking,
arrest in Boston marathon bombing" and the link, you can see the link
there, see the way the link spells out, it says, "refresh equals true." In
this case, untrue.
We at the show have been glued to the "Boston Globe`s" Web site this
week. They are doing stupendous work, but when the big headline says
"marathon bomb suspect in custody" and it`s next to the little headline
saying there is no bombing suspect in custody, what you have is not an
evolving story, what you have is a mess.
You have faulty reporting on a really important matter driving a
frenetic news cycle all day today, and the pushback from law enforcement
was plain and a little bit pointed.
From the Boston Police Department, "Despite reports to the contrary,
there has not been an arrest in the marathon attack."
The FBI went a step further. Quote, "Over the past day and a half,
there have been a number of press reports based on information from
unofficial sources that have been inaccurate. Since these sources, excuse
me, since these stories often have unintended consequences, we ask media,
particularly at this early stage of the investigation, to exercise caution
and attempt to verify information through appropriate official channels
So, no suspect in custody today in the Boston marathon bombing. There
was no arrest. That did not happen.
That doesn`t mean there wasn`t real news from the investigation today.
We do know the investigators have been carefully going through a large
amount of visual evidence from the scene, pictures and video, right? They
say they are looking for people who might have been carrying large black
nylon backpacks or duffel bags.
NBC news confirmed investigators are seeking at least one person who
was seen on security video from a department store near the finish line.
NBC reporting tonight that the man was seen leaving the bag that he was
carrying near the site of the second explosion.
Among the evidence they are considering is this photo from NBC`s
Boston affiliate WHDH. You can see the spot shadow there. The photo
appears to show a bag sitting on the curb, this is an hour or so before the
explosions. And after the explosions, the bag is gone.
Now, any number of things could explain why the bag is gone. Is this
a clue? Is this a signal, or is this noise? We do not yet know.
Investigators are beginning to piece together crucial information
about the bombs themselves. Metal containers and in one instance a
pressure cooker stuffed with bits of metal intended to become flying
shrapnel. Today, investigators say they found a lid of a pressure cooker
on the roof that was near the blast.
This evening, NBC`s Michael Isikoff and Carl Sears report that new
information is available about what was used to ignite the bomb. They say
it was the kind of battery that you typically find in little remote-
controlled cars made in China and sold by the many thousands.
Investigators have also recovered a circuit board used to wire the
NBC is being told by investigators in Boston now they do have solid
leads in terms of trying to find out who did this.
So, it seems like there was real progress in the investigation today,
including some very specific information about some physical evidence that,
of course, will be tracked down as best as possible.
But overall, if you were following the news out of Boston today, it
was really quite chaotic. Reporters gathered at a federal courthouse in
Boston for an FBI briefing and it was confusing, was a suspect in custody
and being brought to the courthouse for some reason?
When it became clear that nobody was in custody but those reports were
still out there lingering and people were wondering -- well, if there`s
smoke is there fire here, maybe did law enforcement have some other
information to share, in the middle of that scrum and reporters and people
just collected at the courthouse, the courthouse ended up getting cleared
itself and it was not apparent for awhile why they did that.
Authorities later said it was a bomb threat that caused the evacuation
of the courthouse and the surrounding area and a bomb threat is always
scary, perhaps more so right now. But while that was going on today at the
federal courthouse in Boston, while all the media was gathered there
wondering if these inaccurate reports were going to turn out to maybe be
accurate, while this was happening today, it added to the media-generated
Joining us now is NBC News justice correspondent Pete Williams, who I
should tell you, is in the same building I am in but is at another camera
because he needs to be close to his desk phone.
It truly is that kind of day in the news, Pete. Thank you very much
for being here.
PETE WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: You bet.
MADDOW: What do we know about what authorities have been able to find
from combing through the pictures and videos in the two days since the
WILLIAMS: Well, I think you`ve summarized it well. The Holy Grail
for them was to see someone setting down a heavy backpack or duffel bag, a
black nylon bag, that they believe this relatively heavy bomb was carried
in. They think it weighed about 20 pounds, setting it down at the scene of
one or the other of the bombings, and then getting away.
And they believe they have found a picture like that, first from the
store surveillance camera that you noted, but they since have been able to
triangulate that or get other views of it from other pictures and
recordings that people who are in the area have sent them. People who have
sent them pictures not knowing what exactly was to be found on them.
So, they see a face, they just don`t know who that face is. They are
trying to figure out that person. They want to find that person and talk
to them and find out what their story is.
Another possible lead here is the fact that the person was in the
pictures talking on a cell phone. So, that gives them a second avenue to
pursue here. They can get all the cell phone records for the hundreds and
hundreds of people who are in the area at the time using their cell phones
and see if that can give them an additional source of information to find
out who this person was.
So, that`s their most promising avenue right now.
MADDOW: Pete, in terms of the physical forensics of the explosives
themselves, are we yet able to say whether it was definitively one pressure
cooker bomb, whether both bombs were of the same type, are we able to be
any more definitive in the way we describe those explosives?
WILLIAMS: You know, they still are not saying for sure, the latest
bulletin I saw is they are holding back on saying the second one was a
pressure cooker bomb. It seems like they`ll get that answer pretty
And the interesting thing is you see these pictures here is that the
bomb pieces were not blown to bits. They were seriously deformed, but the
pieces are quite large. And this is another indicator that the explosive
was probably smokeless powder or gun powder, which is in the order of
explosives, a relatively low energy one. If it had been a higher explosive
like plastic explosive, or what the terrorists like to use overseas, TATP
or dynamite, you`d have seen the pieces blown into smaller pieces.
So, that`s another plus for investigators in that they can see these
relatively large pieces, chase down exactly the kind of pressure cooker,
batteries, wires, and see where that leads. Now, you know, some -- these
things may be easier said than done. The battery, for example, is made by
a Chinese company, but as you noted earlier, they are common. They are all
over the United States. The wire you can see the name on there is made in
You put all these things together, though, they point in another
direction. Now, these circuits on the ground, they are trying to decide
what they were, were they pieces of an electronic timer or were they pieces
of some kind of remote receiver, and I think that`s what they are trying to
MADDOW: Pete, do we know yet why there may have been such confusion
today whether there had been an arrest and somebody in custody, it,
obviously, turned not to be true. But for a long time this afternoon it
wasn`t just news outlets seeming to make it up, they were at least saying,
they were citing law enforcement sources telling them that an arrest had
Do we have any insight into why that happened or whether it was just
WILLIAMS: I don`t know. I`m sure these people -- you know, they are
good journalists. I`m sure they were told this by sources, I just can`t
say how heavily vetted it was.
My guess is, and this is strictly a guess, probably, this is an
educated guess, I should say, maybe they initially thought they knew who
these people in the pictures were, maybe they were checking out more than
one person. Maybe they did go talk to somebody or a witness and that was
misinterpreted as, oh, they are about to arrest someone, oh, they`ve
arrested someone. That`s just a guess, though.
MADDOW: The FBI`s statement refuting those inaccurate reports today,
this is part of the reason I asked, warned wrong information like this
often has unintended consequences. The way they worded it meant they think
this has unintended consequences that could be disruptive to the
Are you hearing from any sources that this sort of misinformation and
the kind of scrum and confusion that happened today actually is any sort of
impediment to law enforcement getting their work done?
WILLIAMS: Well, it`s something of a -- several of them told me today
is something of a disruption, because they sort of have to stop and drop
everything and try to figure out what`s going on. You know, it doesn`t
disrupt everybody. Somebody out there looking for small pieces of
something probably doesn`t have to stop to worry about it, but it is
something that people have to stop and attend to and try to figure out
what`s going on.
So, my guess is that`s probably what they are talking about.
MADDOW: NBC News justice correspondent Pete Williams.
Pete, thank you for your valuable time tonight.
WILLIAMS: You bet.
MADDOW: And thank you for not jumping on the bandwagon today when
everybody else did. It was very helpful to have you here. Thank you.
All right. I can also tell you tomorrow in Boston President Obama is
going to be in Boston, and we now know that he`s going to be there with the
first lady, both President Obama and Michelle Obama are going to be
together at an interfaith service for victims of the Boston marathon
attack. It`s at the Cathedral of Holy Cross in Boston starting at 11:00
a.m. tomorrow. We can confirm they are going to be there, the both of
We will be right back.
MADDOW: So, much more news tonight from Boston and from Washington on
the bombing case, and on the possibly ricin-loaded envelope sent to
government officials, including President Obama. There was also the vote
on new gun regulations today, an extraordinary vote today in the Senate and
an extra extraordinary response from the president of the United States.
If you have not yet heard how the president reacted to that vote today
in the Senate, you will want to stay tuned.
MADDOW: On last night`s show we reported on a letter sent to
Republican Senator Roger Wicker. It was a letter that tested positive in
preliminary tests for the poison that`s called ricin. After testing
positive in a field test on site, that letter has now been sent to a
military lab in Maryland.
Field tests for ricin are, apparently, somewhat notorious for false
positives, which is why the more advanced lab testing is now needed.
In addition to that letter to Senator Wicker yesterday, we now know a
basically identical letter was also sent to the White House, to President
Obama. It also has tested positive for ricin and is awaiting confirming
tests from the lab.
Now, both letters appear to be written by the same person, both
postmarked April 8th, both sent from Memphis, Tennessee, both said, "To see
a wrong and not expose it is to become a silent partner to its continuance.
I am KC and I approve this message."
Well, tonight, we can report that officials have arrested who is
accused of mailing these letters and part of his initials are, in fact, KC.
His name apparently is Paul Kevin Curtis, and he is from Corinth,
Mississippi, just north of Tupelo, Mississippi. We do not know anything
about him yet or the evidence against him other than the fact he has been
In terms of what was in the letters, what substance was in the
letters, federal officials tell NBC news tonight that initial lab tests of
the letters -- so this is the lab test, not the field test -- the initial
follow lab test of the letters were inclusive. There apparently was some
level of ricin measured in the lab tests, but the exact potency is as yet
unclear, they say that more tests are needed.
Joining us now to help us understand what this means is Michael
Leiter. He`s the former director of the National Counterterrorism Center.
He`s an NBC news national security analyst.
Mr. Leiter, thank you for joining us again tonight. Nice to have you
MICHAEL LEITER, NBC NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Good to be here,
So, we know that the letters to President Obama and Senator Wicker, at
least we`re told, contained some amount of ricin. They say they do not
know the potency of it.
How significant does that seem to you?
LEITER: Honestly, until we get the final results probably tomorrow
morning, I would still not read much into it. These were tested twice in
the field, first the automatic detector was set off, the field test, that
was set off.
And all those show is if there`s an element of castor beans and
anybody can get castor beans and they can be matched up. The lab test
shows whether those castor beams in the mesh have been processed so it is
actually the protein, the toxic protein, of ricin. And you have to figure
out how much ricin there is, how potent it is. That is still inconclusive.
So, until we get to tomorrow morning, we really still can`t say
whether or not there`s ricin there, versus just elements of castor beans.
MADDOW: I know from reading enough about it, they are what you make
ricin out of. I know it`s something considered to be one of the poisons
that you can do without a large-scale lab, that you can make on your own.
But to make ricin that could do somebody some harm, is it pretty hard to
LEITER: It`s a lot easier than most things. It`s certainly a lot
easier than anthrax, which actually takes having to get the toxic form of
anthrax and process that and get it down to a very granular level so it can
be inhaled. Ricin`s easier, but again, easy to take a castor bean, mash it
up, get some remnants of it.
It`s a lot -- it`s at least a bit harder to really grind it up, get an
element that would either be ingested or inhaled and then actually be
So, people with no training can do it. It`s just not clear whether
this individual who apparently had no training was successful in doing it.
MADDOW: OK, we will be watching for more details out of Mississippi,
obviously, on what this guy was like, what he was trying to do, and also
what he gets charged with, if anything.
In the Boston investigation, given today`s developments, we`re hearing
from Pete Williams that investigators have been able to identify somebody
who they think left a parcel which may have been the bomb on site at the
parade -- at the grounds of the end of the marathon near the finish line
there, they`ve identified what they think is that person doing that thing
from a couple different angles.
What does that make you think in terms of where we`re at in the life
span of an investigation like this? Is this a crucial development?
LEITER: I think, actually, every step up to today has been crucial.
Each previous step is required to get to the next step. So, the first
piece was, obviously, identifying the bomb sites, getting those small
remnants, so then you know what to look for on the video. Then we had what
appears to be a very successful collection of that video, and then you know
what to look for, because you know you had the black bags or backpacks.
And from that you now have the ability to identify a suspect.
And as Pete also mentioned, now you can go back in time, effectively,
and see potentially where that suspect came from, how did he get there, was
there more than one suspect. So, this is a really crucial step. There are
lots of previous crucial steps, and I think going forward, and I think the
reason why lots of officials today really put the brakes on the media
speculating was there can still be a lot of steps here, and identifying one
person doesn`t mean you`ve identified the cell.
And you could have a misidentification, there are still many things
that have to go on before this is brought to a successful conclusion.
MADDOW: Michael Leiter, former director of the National
Counterterrorism Center, NBC News national security analyst -- thank you
again for your time tonight. It is really helpful to have you here.
LEITER: Thanks very much.
MADDOW: The FBI had been planning to do a press briefing at roughly
5:00 this afternoon, and they pushed it back to say it was going to be
roughly 8:00 this evening, and then they pushed it back and now said it`s
going to be some time tomorrow. We will see if it happens then. But today
it was bated breath waiting to see if we were going to get more concrete
details from Boston law enforcement.
At this point, it is a smarter idea to follow the news than it is to
All right, it is rare to see any president, any public figure, really,
just let themselves be seen as openly disgusted. The country today saw
that from President Obama earlier this evening in the Rose Garden. That`s
MADDOW: There was a striking sight today in Washington as the vice
president of the United States, Joe Biden, did something that vice
presidents have every right to do, but vice presidents almost never do it.
Vice president today decided that he would preside over the U.S. Senate.
He decided to be there physically in person to preside over the Senate as
the Senate voted on gun reform legislation.
This is something that Vice President Biden has worked on very
closely. He has spent the last four months pushing for gun reform
legislation. And today, he watched those efforts fall in the face of
Republicans and a handful of red-state Democrats filibustered all
proposed gun reforms today. They even filibustered the expansion of
background checks that had been proposed by a bipartisan pair of senators
that both have A-ratings from the NRA. After the vice president announced
the defeat of that background check bill, I want you to watch what happens
next on the Senate floor.
We`ve got the tape. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: On this vote, the
ayes are 54, the nays are 46. Under the previous order requiring 60 votes
to the adoption of this amendment, the amendment is not agreed to.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President --
SPECTATOR: Shame on you!
BIDEN: There will be order in the Senate. The gallery will refrain
from any demonstration or comments.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The person who yelled "shame on you" from the Senate viewing
gallery today was this woman, Patricia Maisch. The name Patricia Maisch
sounds familiar to you, or face looks familiar to you is because Patricia
Maisch helped stop the shooter in Tucson, Arizona, the one that wounded
Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and killed six others. It was Patricia Maisch
who grabbed the magazine out of the shooter`s hand as he was trying to
reload the weapon and that prevented him from inflicting any more carnage
and he was subdued.
That same Patricia Maisch was inside the Senate chamber today
registering her vocal disappointment as the gun reform legislation was
filibustered into defeat, at least into defeat for now.
Patricia Maisch, thank you very much for being here. Appreciate your
PATRICIA MAISCH, TUCSON SHOOTING SURVIVOR: Thank you. It`s an honor
to be here.
MADDOW: Did you know you were going to exclaim like that?
MAISCH: I actually hoped I wouldn`t have reacted in that way. I was
just so angry after working Monday and Tuesday and part of today talking to
senators about our experiences and how the Second Amendment can be
preserved, as well as have this public health and safety issue taken care
of, or attempted to stem the tide of violence with guns.
MADDOW: I know that you were part of meetings with senators and their
staffs. You`ve been here all week long doing that. When you were in those
meetings, and I guess now reflecting back on what happened today with the
filibuster, could you tell if you were having an impact? What did it feel
like in terms of getting a reaction from these folks you were meeting with?
MAISCH: We didn`t actually meet with senators except that we did
encounter Jeff Flake in the hallway and I stopped to talk to him.
MADDOW: Your senator.
MAISCH: Senator Kelly (INAUDIBLE) from New Hampshire, I can`t
remember how to say her last name. We did speak with them --
MADDOW: Kelly Ayotte.
MAISCH: Ayotte, I`m sorry.
MADDOW: That`s OK.
MAISCH: I didn`t get a good feeling from Jeff Flake, but I hoped we
had changed his heart, but, obviously, we didn`t.
The other senators we spoke with, they are pretty noncommittal, the
verbiage is -- well, we don`t know how the senator is going to vote. So,
we didn`t know where it was going to go today. We were hopeful that we
would get a successful bill, but, obviously, we didn`t. And it just made
me really angry. I feel like those senators that voted no have no soul
after the shootings in Newtown and Aurora and Tucson, at the Sikh temple,
at Columbine, at Virginia Tech. This should have been a problem taken care
of years ago.
MADDOW: We`re going to play in just a moment some of the response
from President Obama in the Rose Garden today. It`s an unusual thing, the
president deciding to respond to that filibuster right after it happened in
that very emotional way that he responded with a lot of survivors at the
mass shootings standing with him as he did it.
We`re going to play that sound in just a moment, but I want to ask you
about what he said substantively. He said this is round one, that we are
eventually going to get this right, it may not happen today, but this is
going to happen.
I heard that today from a lot of people who have been very active in
Do you feel that way?
MAISCH: I really feel that way, and here`s how I put it. I don`t
think we lost today. I think we were denied justice in a way. The
majority of Americans feel that sensible gun laws are important and
background checks are their number one result also. Our senators need to
look for, work for, and a-plus rating from their constituents and stop
pandering to get an A-plus rating from the NRA, the gun lobby, and the gun
manufacturers and their money.
MADDOW: Patricia Maisch, I will tell you I only knew you were here in
Washington this week because of you yelling in the Senate gallery today,
whether or not you intended to do it, I`m glad you were able to come over
here today. I know you spent a couple hours being detained. And it must
not have been a great day. Thank you.
MAISCH: They were kind and gentle.
MADDOW: Oh, good. I`m glad to hear you. Thank you for being here
and thank you for grabbing the damn magazine from the kid that day.
MAISCH: Thank you for having me. It was my pleasure.
MADDOW: We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: On this vote, the
ayes are 54, the nays are 46. Under the previous order requiring 60 votes
to the adoption of this amendment, the amendment is not agreed to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: After the United States Senate today decided that the
national response to the massacre of first graders in Newtown, Connecticut,
should be nothing, after they voted to filibuster even the bipartisan
background check measure that`s supported by 90 percent of Americans, after
that happened today, President Obama did something new. The president
almost never responds to specific legislation that`s getting voted down,
much less responding right after that legislation is voted down, much less
making that response in the Rose Garden of the White House in a formal set
But today, the president responded in the Rose Garden even while other
votes for still happening on subsequent measures on gun reform.
The president was joined at the podium by family members of kids who
were killed at Newtown and other survivors of gun massacres. It was a
remarkable sight. It was a remarkable sight in particular to see the
father of one of the little boys who was killed at Newtown standing himself
at the presidential podium with the presidential seal on it and everything
making his case, making his family`s case to the nation before the
president got to make his.
Watch this. I`ve never really seen anything like this.
MARK BARDEN, FATHER OF SANDY HOOK ELEMENTARY VICTIM: Two weeks ago,
12 of us from Newtown came to meet with U.S. senators and have a
conversation about how to bring commonsense solutions to the issues of gun
violence. We came with a sense of hope, optimistic that real conversation
could begin that would ultimately save the lives of so many Americans.
We will return home now disappointed, but not defeated. We return
home with a determination that change will happen, maybe not today, but it
will happen. It will happen soon.
We have always known this would be a long road, and we don`t have the
luxury of turning back.
We will not be defeated. We are not defeated, and we will not be
defeated. We are here now. We will always be here, because we have no
other choice. We are not going away. And every day, as more people are
killed in this country because of gun violence, our determination grows
I`d like to end by repeating the words with which the Sandy Hook
Promise begins: Our hearts are broken. Our spirit is not.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`m going to speak
plainly and honestly about what happened here, because the American people
are trying to figure out how can something have 90 percent support and not
Who are we here to represent?
I`ve heard folks say that having the families of victims lobby for
this legislation was somehow misplaced. "A prop," somebody called them.
"Emotional blackmail," some outlets said.
Are they serious? Do we really think thousands of families whose
lives have been shattered by gun violence don`t have a right to weigh in on
this issue? Do we think their emotions, their loss is not relevant to this
So all in all, this was a pretty shameful day for Washington. But
this effort is not over. And I see this as just round one.
When Newtown happened, I met with these families and I spoke to the
community, and I said, something must be different right now. We`re going
to have to change. And that`s what the whole country said. Everybody
talked about how we were going to change something, to make sure this
didn`t happen, again. Just like everybody talked about how we needed to do
something after Aurora. Everybody talked about we need to change something
Now, and I`m assuming that the emotions that we`ve all felt since
Newtown, the emotions that we`ve all felt since Tucson and Aurora and
Chicago, the pain we share with these families and families all across the
country who have lost a loved one to gun violence, I`m assuming that`s not
a temporary thing. I`m assuming our expressions of grief and our
commitment to do something different to prevent these things from happening
are not empty words.
I believe we`re going to be able to get this done. Sooner or later,
we are going to get this right. The memories of these children demand it.
And so do the American people.
MADDOW: Joining us now is United States Senator Chris Murphy of
Connecticut, who`s been consumed with this issue for obvious reasons.
Senator Murphy, thanks for being here.
SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D), CONNECTICUT: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: Hearing the president say sooner or later we`re going to get
this right, the president saying this is round one, do you feel that way?
MURPHY: I absolutely feel that way. You know, one of the mothers at
the funeral of her daughter said that she can`t be hurt any more, because
she`s felt the deepest hurt that any mother ever could, so as bad a day as
this is, these families are not going away. I mean, their lives have been
transformed, my life has been transformed, and I could feel in the last
couple weeks the balance tipping. I thought we were going to get this
thing passed today. I`m angry that we didn`t.
But something happened in these last three months. The capital in the
last two weeks was flooded with the families from the victims of Newtown
and Tucson and Aurora, and the NRA had their folks up there, but for the
first time they felt they were outmanned. And after this vote, something
different`s going to happen, there`s a political infrastructure now built
around gun reform that never existed before.
The NRA raised a lot of money. But you know what? Gabby Giffords
group raised twice as much as the NRA.
Things have changed here and I think the president`s right, this is
round up and a lot of these family members told me they were coming back
MURPHY: They were going back to their hotel room and they were coming
back tomorrow. This thing is not done for them.
MADDOW: What do you think gets worked on next? What do you want to
work on next?
MURPHY: Well, I mean, there`s two ways to go here.
One, the senators that voted the wrong way are going to hear the fury
of their constituents. Like there`s never been a bigger disconnect than we
have today. Ninety percent of the American public wants something and the
rules of the Senate don`t allow that. There`s going to be a tempest out
there in certain states.
The second thing we`ll do is continue to try to work with some of
these senators. I mean, I hope some of these people are sincere, they want
to get to yes. And if they do, we`ll continue to work with them to try to
get there. This thing is sitting on the calendar.
The third option is one I don`t want to get to, the third is another
shooting happens and another 10 or 20 or 30 people die and then we`ll come
back and do something. I just hope that`s not the way we get to yes.
MADDOW: Is there a way to take portions -- even if you only talk
about background checks, we just narrow it down to that -- is there a way
to more narrowly target that to try to do it a la carte instead of on the
menu? Is there a way to do it that way?
MURPHY: This was a narrow compromise to begin with. I mean, you were
exempting under this compromise any gun show that sold under 75 guns.
And what happened today it wasn`t just the background checks bill that
failed, the ban on gun trafficking, illegal gun trafficking, somebody walks
into a store, buys a mess load of guns legally and goes out on the streets
and sells them illegally, that failed by a filibuster vote today.
So, you know, listen, I guess I appreciate the honesty of the
Republican caucus. They`ve just made it clear they are just kind of gun
control Darwinists at this point. They just think that we should give a
bunch of guns to the good guys and the bad guys and let them shoot it out
and hope the good guys win. That`s their agenda and a lot of that was made
MADDOW: In terms of the Washington connection to what happened in
your state, you talk about the political infrastructure having changed, the
families` commitment to staying in this, I can see when I talk to them and
hear it from you when you`ve been working with them. What do you think is
the most effective thing that can be built in terms of infrastructure or
has it already been built and does it just need to be employed?
MURPHY: Well, the families are going to keep on coming down. I don`t
know how you look the Bardens in the face and tell them you are going to
vote against them. I don`t know how you listen to the story of that sweet
young boy and the 19 others. But hopefully that emotion over time will
begin to have some ripple effects.
Ultimately, I think it`s the political infrastructure that`s being
built because I`ve got to assume a bunch of these votes today were people
who knew what the right thing to do was but still believe in this mythology
around the NRA, which is not true, right? The NRA loses more races than
But if we build a parallel infrastructure, if we build on what Gabby
Giffords has done, and Mike Bloomberg, and we bring that to the 2014
elections, then maybe we change the calculus here.
MADDOW: Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, you and I have talked
about this a few times now since this process started. I don`t know if
this helps you here at all, but your ability to communicate about these
issues in a layman`s terms in a way that moves people has been on a curve
that looks exponential since the start of this progress. You are very
effective advocate for these causes. I`m sorry that you lost today, I know
it was so important to you.
MURPHY: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thanks, sir.
MURPHY: All right.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: A remarkably busy news day getting busier this hour. I have
breaking news to report. The reports of what is described as a major
explosion at a burning fertilizer plant just north of Waco, Texas. This
appears to have happened about an hour ago. It seems that the plant was
already on fire when the explosion happened. A number of injuries have
been reported and several buildings are said to be on fire and may be
damaged or destroyed.
There were also reports that people were trapped at a nearby nursing
home and apartment building that may have been damaged by the explosion.
So, a developing situation. Again, this is a fertilizer plant near
Waco, Texas. At this hour. We`re keeping a close eye on it.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: There has been an arrest and a confession today in the
murders of those two prosecutors in Kaufman County, Texas.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LT. JUSTIN LEWIS, KAUFMAN COUNTY SHERIFF`S DEPT.: We`ve announced an
arrest has been made in connection with the shooting deaths of Mike
McClelland, Cynthia McClelland and Mark Hasse.
Kim Lene Williams, 46, of Kaufman, has been arrested and charged with
the offense of capital murder for her part in the deaths of Mr. and Mrs.
McClelland and Mr. Hasse.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Kaufman County district attorney Mike McClelland and his wife
Cynthia were shot to death in their home, March 30th. This murders coming
roughly eight weeks after the assistant district attorney for the same
county, Mark Hasse, was shot multiple times and killed in the parking lot
of the county courthouse.
The woman arrested in the case today is being held on $10 million
bond, which means she`s not going anywhere. She`s reportedly confessed to
a role in all three murders, although she says it was not her, her husband
who actually pulled the trigger.
Her husband is this man, Eric Williams. He is a former justice of the
peace from the same county of the murdered prosecutors. His name surfaced
immediately in connection to the murders but it is connections to the
prosecutors who were killed. They both played a role in prosecuting him,
costing him his job as a public official when he was convicted of stealing
computer equipment from the county`s IT department.
Within hours of the D.A. and his wife being found dead, police went to
visit Eric Williams. They decided then not arrest him but they reportedly
swabbed his hands for gunpowder residue and they looked at his cell phone.
We know that happened or at least we`re told that that happened
because Eric Williams told us so in a bizarre interview he did with the NBC
affiliate in Dallas, Ft. Worth. This interview happened April 2nd. It`s
the only news outlet we know that he has spoken with.
He would only let the news crew interview him with the cell phone
camera and not the camera and crew that they had on scene. But he did talk
to our Dallas affiliate. He said he was cooperating with police and that
he did not do it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC WILLIAMS: I`ve cooperated with law enforcement. I certainly
wish them the best in bringing justice for this just incredibly egregious
REPORTER: Anything you`d like to tell the community or somebody who
might think, you know, this Eric Williams guy, you know, has an ax grid and
this Eric Williams guy might have done this? What would you say?
WILLIAMS: I would say, ask someone who actually knows me from the
past and they`ll tell you that that`s not me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That interview was conducted April 2nd by NBC Channel 5 in
Dallas, Ft. Worth. That man`s wife was arrested today in the Kaufman
County prosecutors after a confession in which she implicated herself and
her husband in the murders.
Her husband, the former justice of the peace, is also now in custody.
He`s charged thus far with making terroristic threats -- but police say we
will learn more at a press conference early tomorrow afternoon.
The second murder of a prosecutor and his wife in Kaufman County
happened just days after the prison`s chief from the state of Colorado was
also shot to death in his home. A man believed to have committed that
Colorado murder was killed in Texas two days after that killing. He was
fleeing police. He was only about 100 miles from Kaufman County when he
That suspect was linked to white supremacist prison gangs in Colorado.
The Kaufman County D.A.`s office was linked to white supremacist prison
gangs in Texas. The D.A.`s office had played a role in prosecuting those
members of those gangs.
Those connections led to speculation and investigation as to whether
the Colorado killing and Kaufman County killings were connected. Were they
connected to the prison gangs? Were they connected to each other, or both?
Now, as I say, we will know more tomorrow after that press conference.
But today`s arrests make it seem like what happened in Kaufman County had
no connection to gangs, no connection to prisons, and no connection to
Colorado. It was essentially revenge by a disgraced former public
official. We will know more at that press conference tomorrow and you
should watch this space.
I do just want to tell you, I have a moment left but I want to tell
you about something that just crossed, which is that in "The New York
Times" tomorrow, Gabby Giffords has an op-ed about the vote that happened
today in the United States Senate that is blistering.
"Senators say they fear the NRA and the gun lobby, but I think that
fear must be nothing compared to the fear the first graders in Sandy Hook
Elementary School felt as their life ended in a hail of bullets. The fear
that those children must feel every time they remember their teachers
stacking them into closets and bathrooms, whispering that they loved them
so that that love would be the last thing they heard if the gunman found
Some of the senators who voted against the background checks have met
with grieving parents whose children were murdered at Sandy Hook in
Newtown. Some of the senators who voted no have also looked into my eyes
as I talked about my experience being shot in the head at point blank range
in suburban Tucson two years ago and expressed sympathy for the 18 other
people shot besides, six of who died.
These senators have heard from their constituents who polls show
overwhelmingly favor expanding background checks and still these senators
decided to do nothing."
"Speaking is physically difficult for me," Gabby Giffords says, "but
my feelings are clear, I`m furious. I will not rest until we have righted
the wrong the senators have done and until we have changed our laws."
She goes on to say, "I am asking every reasonable American to help me
tell the truth that the cowardice these senators demonstrated. I`m asking
for more mothers to stop these lawmakers at the grocery store and tell them
you`ve lost my vote. I`m asking for activists to unsubscribing from these
senators` e-mail lists and stop giving them money. I`m asking citizens to
go to their offices and say, you have disappointed me and there will be
consequences." And it goes on from there.
Tomorrow`s "New York Times", Gabby Giffords. Wow.
Now it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL," reporting
tonight from Boston. Have a great night.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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