'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Thursday, April 18th, 2013
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THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
April 18, 2013
Guests: Don Borelli, Pia Carusone
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Chris, thank you for that report on that, I`ve
been following Mike Elk forever. I`m glad you had him on. We`re going to
have much more on what happened in West, Texas.
CHRIS HAYES, "ALL IN" HOST: Excellent. I`m going to go watch.
MADDOW: Appreciate it. Thanks, man.
And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour.
This is a remote controlled car. Most remote controlled cars like
most everyday electronics that we use, they run on conventional batteries.
So plug an AAA battery into the handset, plug another a couple of AAA
batteries into the car itself, and you`re off and running doing monster
truck stuff at micro size.
If you happen to get a $30 remote controlled car in your Christmas
stocking like I did this year, a couple AAA or AA batteries does the trick.
But if you`re really into remote-controlled cars. If you`re a remote
control vehicle hobbyist, that might not be enough. You might instead use
a battery that looks like this.
This is C size nickel metal hydride battery. It is made specifically
for things like remote controlled toys and it`s marketed to have a, quote,
"very long cycle life and a rapid battery charge-up." This particular
battery is a rechargeable battery that can last more than a week when it is
fully charged. This is apparently the kind of thing you look for if you
want a more high-performance experience with your remote control vehicle
than what you would get with the battery you pick up at the supermarket
This particular specialty battery, as you can see, is made by a
company that`s called Tenergy. Tenergy is a sort of high end battery
company that`s based in northern California. And although there`s nothing
magic about these batteries they sell, they`re also not ubiquitous, they`re
a little more expensive, they`re a little more specialized, therefore and a
little harder to find.
Tenergy doesn`t wholesale battery like this to big box stores like
Walmart or Best Buy. They sell them to specialty battery stores and to
hobby stores. And that sort of limited availability gets to be an
important thing. It gets to be possibly a thing of national importance,
when you consider that this is one of the pictures that the FBI is
circulating of one of the two devices that exploded near the finish line of
the Boston marathon on Monday.
One of those devices included a specifically made Tenergy battery.
Specifically made in the sense it`s not a ubiquitous supermarket battery.
At Tenergy battery, you can really only buy that sort of thing in select
hobby stores or online.
Tenergy said this week they were appalled one of their batteries was
used in this bombing. The company`s vice president saying, quote, "The
main use for these is for toys, to bring people joy and to see it used in
this way is horrifying." The company says they have reached out to the FBI
to assist in any way they can with the investigation, which presumably
could involve, providing the FBI with a list of which stores in the Boston
region they sell this particular battery to.
And today, NBC News has learned that the FBI has been canvassing hobby
stores in the Boston area to see whether any of the electrical components
used in the bombing were purchased there, specifically those Tenergy
batteries and other potential components. That one little detail about the
battery is just one of the ways in which the investigation into what
happened at the Boston marathon on Monday is now becoming more and more
Today, the FBI unveiled what we sort of expected would be pictures of
people that investigators wanted to talk with. What we expected to be an
appeal to the public for help in identifying so-called persons of interest
who the FBI wanted to interview. But when they called their press
conference this afternoon, they were much more direct than that.
The FBI did not say something this afternoon like we would like to
talk to these folks. The FBI this afternoon came right out and said
suspects. They said these are our main suspects, in the bombing of the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD DESLAURIERS, FBI SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: Today, we are
enlisting the public`s help to identify the two suspects. After a very
detailed analysis, of photo, video, and other evidence, we are releasing
photos of these two suspects.
They are identified as suspect one and suspect two. They appear to be
associated. Suspect one is wearing a dark hat. Suspect two is wearing a
Suspect two set down a backpack at the site of the second explosion
just in front of the Forum restaurant. We strongly encourage those who
were at the Forum restaurant who have not contacted us yet to do so.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: In addition to those pictures that you just saw being
released there today, the FBI also released this surveillance video showing
the two suspects moving through the crowd at the marathon on Monday.
NBC`s Pete Williams reports these two individuals will also now appear
on official FBI wanted posters.
The FBI had a choice about how they were going to talk about these
individuals today, and it is a choice that is -- that at least has to be
inflected by our recent history of misidentifying suspects in high-profile
domestic attacks -- in attacks like the anthrax attacks after 9/11 and the
Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta in 1996. The names and faces that appeared
in the press early on in those investigations did not end up being the
individuals who were ultimately held responsible for those crimes.
Given that history, given the fact that news organizations like "The
New York post" showing an eagerness and shamelessness about publishing jump
to conclusion statements about the suspects in the Boston bombing,
information that is wrong -- and we`ll have more on that in a minute --
given that history, what`s going on right now with this intense interest
and the media being rather irresponsible about some of these matters, the
FBI could`ve played it safer than they did today. They could have labeled
these individuals as persons of interest.
But they did not do that. They went the whole hog and they are
calling them suspects. They are calling them wanted.
Is that surprising? Do we know enough about how the FBI works to know
if that is an important decision that they made? Does it indicate more
about the investigation than law enforcement is saying explicitly? And
what happens next?
Joining us now is Don Borelli. Don Borelli is a 25-year veteran of
the FBI who once served as assistant special agent in charge of the New
York Joint Terrorism Task Force. Mr. Borelli is now chief operating
officer of the Soufan Group, which is a strategic consultancy.
Mr. Borelli, thank you for being here. It`s nice to have you back.
DON BORELLI, SOUFAN GROUP: Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: How important is it? And what does it mean for the FBI to
call these two men not persons of interest or people they want to talk to,
but to call them suspects? That`s a term of art, is it not?
BORELLI: Well, I think so. You`re actually right on that.
The -- there has to be a high degree of confidence that these
individuals are likely involved in this plot to plant the bombs.
Otherwise, I think you would have seen softer language and I`m sure there
was a lot of discussion on whether to release these photographs. And
basically now, you`re not accusing them, per se, but you`ve certainly put
the public on this worldwide manhunt to find these guys.
So, there has to be a high degree of confidence before you`re going to
walk out on that limb.
MADDOW: We are told the FBI is already getting names called in, in
response to their call for public leads. As you say, this is now a
worldwide manhunt for these two men who they have identified.
What are the next steps that will help them figure out if these calls
they`re getting are credible? How do they decide what leads to chase and
how do they chase them?
BORELLI: Well, what they`ll do is they`ll start off by running the
names of -- in all the databases that are available to the FBI and local
law enforcement. So they`ll start a triage process. From there, they`ll
try to get further identification. For example, dates of birth, addresses,
things of that nature that will be more positive identifiers.
They may try to support those with other kind of records. For
example, if they get an address, they may look at utility records to see if
that matches up, or vehicle records, phone records, all these things.
I mean, it`s a multiple layered approach. It`s not going to be just
one person calling in on an 800 number. That`s the start but then there
will be a lot of legwork that goes into it before they finally figure out,
is this something that needs to be elevated to the next level or is it
going to wash out?
MADDOW: Looking at the video that has been playing on a loop ever
since the FBI released it, in your experience, what details in this
surveillance video are investigators looking at to try to identify the two
men? What could be helpful in those pictures?
BORELLI: Well, it`s going to be difficult. From what I`ve seen just
in that small loop, and I imagine there`s a lot more details than has been
released, one of the things that strikes me, these guys seem pretty calm.
Seem to not be looking over their shoulder. They don`t seem to be overly
And to me, that`s not a great sign. You know, I hope I`m wrong in
that. When I see somebody acting that calm and collected, it suggests they
might have had -- and I say might, I want to couch this -- some type of
But, again, that is just an observation from a few seconds of video
clip. I wouldn`t want to make that bold statement without seeing a lot
MADDOW: It seems like it`s that -- what you just suggested might be
possible. It also might be possible it it`s not them and the reason they
don`t look nervous is because they`re not the guys.
BORELLI: Exactly. I mean, you know, finding the guys is the first
step. You then have to link them to the bombs. That`s why all of the
other avenues of investigation are not sitting still while we`re just
taking telephone calls, you know, on the tip line for possible look-alikes.
You mentioned the battery. This is going to be a huge piece of the
investigation, if they can figure out where, you know, who purchase those
batteries and try to narrow down the scope from there. And, really, all
other physical evidence, going back to some of the things we were talking
about on day one.
Even the mangled backpack, chances are, you know, they may be able to
figure out the make and manufacturer and then work backwards on the
backpack to see where was that purchased?
I know in my experience, when we found a number of backpacks in
Najibullah Zazi, we able to take and track those to the manufacturer and
figure out who ultimately they sold those and then follow that trail there.
So, there there`s a lot of avenues of investigation that will continue to
be pursued. Including one of the photographs I believe showed an
individual talking on a cell phone. So, that`s a whole other avenue of the
investigation to look at information trapped in that cell phone tower and
try to narrow it down from there.
So, there`s a lot of different investigative angles being pursued
MADDOW: Don Borelli, former of the FBI, now chief operating officer
of the Soufan Group, thanks for helping us understand what this
investigation is like.
BORELLI: Thank you.
MADDOW: I really appreciate it, Don. Thank you.
MADDOW: One of the things that came up earlier during the FBI
conference in Boston was another huge media failure that took place on this
subject again today. After yesterday afternoon, all that wrong reporting
from CNN and others that there was a suspect in custody, that somebody had
been arrested, that was not true at all.
After that disaster yesterday, this morning, we all woke up to this
being the big front page headline and picture in a tabloid called the "New
York Post". "Bag men feds seek these two pictured at Boston marathon."
"The New York Post" splashed across its front page this picture of the
gentleman on the left with the backpack and the white jacket, and the
gentleman on the right in the blue jacket. I should note, in case this
seems confusing, that "The Post" did not blur out these guys faces we did,
to put this on the air tonight, because those two guys who "The Post" all
but accused on their front page, of perpetrating Monday`s bombing the "bag
These guys had nothing to do with it. But "The New York Post" put
them on the front page and called them the "bag men" anyway. And the FBI
addressed the fact that these men had nothing to do with the bombing at
today`s press conference.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: There are pictures today in the newspaper all over the
country, including the "New York Post", that identify two men as potential
suspects. I`m just wondering what it does to your investigation when
things like this get out and these guys are wrongfully --
DESLAURIERS: I think I addressed that. Thank you. I think I
addressed that question in my statement saying the only photos that should
be officially relied upon in this investigation are those you see before
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: In other words, these guys who "The New York Post" put on
their front page aren`t the guys. "The New York Post" published a little
minor update later in the day, showing the guys` picture again. Again,
they didn`t blur out the faces we are. We are blurring out the faces here.
They published this update, two men probed in Boston marathon bombings
cleared by investigators.
But "The Post" has so far not apologized for what they did. And every
print edition of that paper today all but names and pictures, those two
young men as the suspects. They are not the suspects.
ABC News managed to track one of them down today. He is only 17 years
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everywhere I go, I just don`t want to look at
people because when they look at me, they`re going to be like, you just did
this. How could you do that? Why would you even do that? If you look at
it, it wasn`t me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: This disaster today from the "New York Post" comes right
after the exact same paper also did this -- inaccurately claiming there was
a suspect in the bombing who they said confidently was a Saudi national.
That was not true either. And "The New York Post" has not apologized for
that either. Apparently they just do not care.
The president and first lady spent the day in Boston today, meeting
with volunteers and first responders, people who are among the first to
arrive on scene after the bombing on Monday. The president and first lady
met with some injured in the attack, people who are still recovering at
local hospitals in Boston. The president also spoke today at an interfaith
service at Boston`s Cathedral of the Holy Cross.
The governor of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick, spoke at that service
today. The mayor of Boston, Tom Menino, spoke at that service today. He
had to push himself out of a wheelchair to stand to be able to do it. He`s
recovering from a broken leg.
But it was President Obama himself who brought the whole crowd to its
feet today, a crowd that included some of the families of victims from an
emotional and rousing speech.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`m here today on
behalf of the American people with a simple message: Every one of us has
been touched by this attack on your beloved city. Every one of us stands
Because, after all, it`s our beloved city, too. Boston may be your
hometown, but we claim it, too.
I know this because there`s a piece of Boston in me. You welcomed me
as a young law student across the river; welcomed Michelle, too.
You welcomed -- you welcomed me during a convention when I was still a
state senator and very few people could pronounce my name right.
Like you, Michelle and I have walked these streets. Like you, we know
these neighborhoods. And like you, in this moment of grief, we join you in
saying -- "Boston, you`re my home." For millions of us, what happened on
Monday is personal.
Our prayers are with the injured -- so many wounded, some gravely.
From their beds, some are surely watching us gather here today. And if you
are, know this: As you begin this long journey of recovery, your city is
with you. Your commonwealth is with you. Your country is with you. We
will all be with you as you learn to stand and walk and, yes, run again.
Of that I have no doubt. You will run again. You will run again.
Our faith in each other, our love for each other, our love for
country, our common creed that cuts across whatever superficial differences
there may be -- that is our power. That`s our strength.
That`s why a bomb can`t beat us. That`s why we don`t hunker down.
That`s why we don`t cower in fear. We carry on.
We race. We strive. We build, and we work, and we love -- and we
raise our kids to do the same. And we come together to celebrate life, and
to walk our cities, and to cheer for our teams.
When the Sox and Celtics and Patriots or Bruins are champions again --
to the chagrin of New York and Chicago fans -- the crowds will gather and
watch a parade go down Boylston Street.
And this time next year, on the third Monday in April, the world will
return to this great American city to run harder than ever, and to cheer
even louder, for the 118th Boston Marathon. Bet on it.
MADDOW: That was President Obama today in Boston. Again, further
information about the two men who the FBI are now calling suspects in the
Boston bombing can be found at FBI.gov. We also have links to all the
relevant pictures and video at our Web site, Maddowblog.com.
The FBI continues to ask for any and all information saying no detail
is too small. If you have information to share, they ask you call 1-800-
CALL-FBI. If you call from your cell phone and don`t have those numbers on
your phone anymore, I`ve handily transcribed them for you. It`s 1800-225-
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Aside from today`s obviously dramatic revelation of pictures
and video of two men described as suspects in the Boston marathon bombing.
It was also what seems to represent a some what dramatic shift in law
enforcement`s overall understanding of the case. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DESLAURIERS: Within the last day or so, through that careful process,
we initially developed a single person of interest. Not knowing if the
individual was acting alone or in concert with others, we obviously worked
with extreme purpose to make that determination. Indeed, through that
process, the FBI developed a second suspect. Today, we are listing the
public`s help to identify the two suspects.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The two suspects. The FBI does not believe that a lone wolf
committed this crime. That is new, as of today.
Does that suggest anything to investigators beyond changing the
numerical nature of their manhunt? What, if anything, do two suspects
opposed to one suspect, what does that change about law enforcement`s
approach to this crime overall?
Joining us now is Michael. He`s a former director of the National
Counterterrorism Center. He`s an NBC News national security analyst and he
works as senior counselor to a security company called Palantir
Mr. Leiter, thank you for being here.
MICHAEL LEITER, NBC NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Good to be here,
MADDOW: From a counterterrorism perspective and from manhunt
perspective, what seems significant to you, if anything, about having two
suspects instead of one?
LEITER: A couple things. And one thing I would start with is, even
though they are now looking for two, they`re also not assuming it is only
two. In the same that they didn`t assume it was only two. They`re going
to focus on these two, but they`re also going to go into this saying there
could be three, there could be four, they just don`t know that.
LEITER: But this will help in a couple ways. One, it suggests
there`s probably communications between these two. If they can figure out
how they were communicating, they can help build that case and they might
be able to localize where they are. Two people used cell phones, used
emails, all those things.
Second, it does raise the possibility that there is a little more
capability here. Obviously, two people can do more things than one. They
may have gone in different directions now. So, it simply -- it complicates
things for them, but in some ways, it also gives them some additional
avenues to find these two and build a case against them.
MADDOW: Does it -- I`ll tell you, just personally, my initial
reaction watching the press conference and saying, hmm, two suspects was
oh, this must be some ideologically motivated terrorism in the basics sense
of we understand terrorism crime. But then the next thing I thought was,
you know what? Columbine.
MADDOW: Columbine was two guys and I don`t know what those guys`
motive was, halfway between crazy and nonsense. And that doesn`t -- you
know, maybe we should call that terrorism but we don`t.
Is there anything about it being two people rather than one that
should lead us to think about it as a more ideologically driven thing? Or
is it still just not known?
LEITER: Well, I have to say that as an investigator they care about
ideology, because the ideology might give them a sense of, how these guys
might operate in the future, to have to protect against other attacks. But
I honestly think they`re less focused on ideology rather than finding them.
LEITER: So, a little bit of -- in the process, they want to know why
this happened. They want to know why it happened. But, first, they want
to know how it happened where it happened. And I do think there is a
slightly greater chance, again I`m not sure it matters from an
investigative point, that it is ideological with two. But you`ve already
cited the case with Columbine, it doesn`t have to be.
MADDOW: What do you read into the fact that the suspects -- what if
anything do you read into the fact that the suspects did what they did in
an era in which people`s movements in public are so widely recorded? I
mean, I`m struck by suspect number two, our friend in the white hat there,
wearing his hat backwards, which: A, is so old school as to be not even in
school anymore. But, also, he`s not hiding his face. If you have the bill
in front of your face you`re disguising your face. This is blatantly not
Is there any way to tell the difference between brazen and stupid?
LEITER: No. And we`ve been pretty lucky so far over the past 12
years, that most of our terrorists have been stupid. And they`ve been
stupid both in their ability to execute and how they try to escape law
enforcement. In this case, they actually weren`t stupid to some extent.
They made the bombs work.
They are being stupid or they were stupid in trying to evade law
MADDOW: Is it important that there has been no credible claim of
responsibility? It seems like there`s maybe some nonsense claims of
responsibility online, but nothing that anybody takes seriously.
LEITER: I think it is. And the reason is important. I think most of
us were moving this way anyway. Without claim of responsibility from an
international organization, this was always looking -- this was starting to
look more and more like a domestic group or domestic individual.
What we still don`t know if it was a domestic homegrown in the sense
of anarchist, anti-government or inspired by al Qaeda. Again, I think from
an investigative point, it doesn`t matter all that much but this is
obviously something they are trying to figure out. And looking at the
communications and other things, will help them understand that.
MADDOW: And the possibility that it is domestic but it`s also a
nonsense crime. It`s a crime that has no discernable motive or none we
care about looms as well.
Michael Leiter, former director of any National Counterterrorism
Center, now Palantir Technologies, thank you for being here.
LEITER: Good to be here.
MADDOW: You`re working long hours these days.
All right. Still ahead, Gabby Giffords chief of staff is here tonight
for the interview.
And then the background on the massive explosion in Texas, in McLennan
County today. We`ve got some important background on that story, and
MADDOW: Whatever it was you felt when the U.S. Senate voted not to
expand background checks for people trying to buy guns, whatever you felt,
you can bet your rent money that it pales to what former Arizona
Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords felt. And I`m not speculating about this.
I know this because she put it down in print.
This is how Gabby Giffords felt about the Senate vote on the Manchin-
Toomey amendment yesterday. And the words practically cinch your eyeballs
when you read them. They are so full of furious disgust.
I read some of that op-ed on the air here last night as soon as it
crossed the wire to show up in this morning`s "New York Times." And as
soon as I got off the wire, I posted a link to the op-ed on Twitter. It`s
the last thing I did before I left the office.
Just my link to that, just that one way of getting to that op-ed
online last night got 13,000 hits and counting.
Gabby Giffords chief of staff is here for the interview tonight,
somebody I`ve been looking forward to talking to a long time. That`s
MADDOW: In World War -- excuse me -- in World War II, lots of
factories that have been making civilian products were effectively
commandeered for the war effort, right? They were reconfigured to stop
making consumer products, and instead start making things that would help
the military fight and win the war.
When World War II was over, those factories mostly went back to what
they had been doing, but not all of them. One element of post-World War II
geo-strategy from the Truman White House was that some of what had been
manufactured for the war effort should keep being manufactured after the
war for purposes of the peace or at least for maintaining the peace in a
way that would help our side of the burgeoning Cold War against the Soviet
Union. So, specifically, the explosive ammonium nitrate, that had been
manufactured during wartime for use in bombs.
But Truman decided that even after the war was over, those high levels
of ammonium nitrate production should be kept up in peacetime because if
you are not using ammonium nitrate for bombs, the other great use for
ammonium nitrate is a very effective fertilizer. We would keep using it
after the war, we would ship it to our allies around the world to use as
fertilizer. They would be happy to get this fertilizer from us, they would
feed their people and they would not be tempted to fall into the sphere of
the Soviet Union instead of our sphere because we were keeping them so
And so it was that as of 1947, the United States with the world`s
supplier of explosive ammonium nitrate for use as fertilizer. And a French
freighter ship called the Grandcamp, a French freighter, ended up sitting
in Galveston Bay, a Texas City, loaded down with more than 2,000 tons of
ammonium nitrate we were going to ship on that freighter over to our ally,
On board, a sailor tossed a cigarette below decks.
Ammonium was manufactured as an explosive during the war. It was
treated as such by the military. But after the war, it was treated as
fertilizer by civilians who didn`t know better, who might not have known it
was explosive. And so, this sailor threw a cigarette below deck and a fire
started on that ship sitting in Galveston Bay.
And all of the city came to see the fire burning onboard that ship,
thousands of people crowding to the harbor and then the ship exploded in a
blast that the great Texas journalist Bill Minutaglio`s book about the
explosion characterizes kind of along the lines of Nagasaki, between 600
and 800 people were killed instantly, 5,000 people were injured. Nearby
airplanes were knocked out of the sky. Texas City, Texas, was nearly wiped
off the map.
We have a picture of the shaft from the Grandcamp`s engine which ended
up way inland clear across the railroad tracks. The 3,000-pound anchor
from the ship was thrown across the city. That explosion was the largest
industrial accident ever in the history of the United States and it
happened 66 years ago this week.
Again, that was the fertilizer, ammonium nitrate. That`s the same
fertilizer Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh mixed with fuel oil to
create his bomb that blew up the federal building 18 years ago tomorrow in
Oklahoma City. But the Galveston Bay blast, it should be noted just for
context, was about 300 times the size of the bomb in Oklahoma City. We
know fertilizer can be dangerous. We know it is often made from
potentially explosive materials.
In the city of West in Texas, the fertilizer plant there that exploded
last night had permits for two 12,000 gallon tanks of anhydrous ammonia,
which is a gas that`s kept in liquid form under high pressure. It can
ignite at very high temperatures. It`s used in making ammonium nitrate
The chief deputy sheriff who explained today how the situation inside
that plant was still dangerous said he believe there was ammonium nitrate
itself at the facility as well, not just its component parts. That plant
is located 1,000 feet from a school. It`s located 600 feet from a nursing
home. A 50 unit apartment complex is even closer than that or it was
closer than that. Now, it`s mostly destroyed.
Search and rescue efforts continue right now in the city of West,
Texas, beyond the city that was out-right destroyed by this huge explosion,
half the remaining population of the town has been evacuated for fear of
toxic plumes. The explosion at West Fertilizer measured as a 2.1 magnitude
In 2006, West Fertilizer was fined $2,300 by the EPA for not
implementing a risk management plan. They self-reported there was very
little risk at their facility.
In the past five years, there were only six total workplace safety
inspections of fertilizer facilities in Texas, and the plant that just blew
up at West was not one of them. They had no automatic shutoff system.
They had no firewall. They had no alarms. They said they did not need
This plant burned brush and pallets on site in February leading the
school next door to them to call 911 and evacuate all the kids. That plant
stuffed with all that ammonia and ammonium nitrate had never bothered to
tell the West Intermediate School, which is 1,000 feet away, that they were
going to do that controlled burn and so, the school evacuated and called
The West Intermediate School right next to the plant is now destroyed
along with most buildings within a half mile radius of that plant.
Search and rescue efforts continue at this hour. The mayor of West
tells "The Dallas Morning News" that they have found 8 to 10 people who
have died in this explosion thus far, after going through 80 percent of the
devastated areas. He says they expect to find more bodies once they search
the fertilizer plant, once they get through the rest of this disaster zone.
MADDOW: Federal law says if you are a felon, you are not supposed to
be able to buy a gun. If you have a severe mental illness, forgive the
phrasing but I`m quoting here, if a judge has declared you to be mentally
defective, you are not supposed to be able to buy a gun in the United
States of America. That`s the law.
Of course, you can`t tell by looking at someone if a judge has
declared that person to be mentally defective. You cannot tell by looking
at a person if they are a convicted felon. But if you are either of those
things, the law says you cannot buy a gun.
Here is how we check to see if you are a felon or if you are
adjudicated mentally ill before you buy a gun in this country.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN: The crew went north to Kingsport, Tennessee, for
a Saturday morning local gun show held in a hotel convention center. It
was a Smith & Wesson MP .45 caliber semi-automatic that first caught our
producer`s eye. Asking price, $625.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s not brand spanking new but --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cash and carry?
SAVIDGE: But it`s early and the team opts to keep looking. Ten to 20
minutes later, they circle back to the same table, negotiating for the same
SAVIDGE: It`s a deal. No background check. It`s not needed for a
private sale. But the seller is legally required to check ID like a
driver`s license, to make sure the buyer is not from out-of-state. In this
case, no identification asked for, no paperwork, not even a question like,
what are you going to do with it?
In fact, neither the seller nor buyer even used a first name.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That`s a CNN reporter named Martin Savidge, who did a recent
undercover reporting at gun shows buying three semiautomatic handguns with
extra ammunition magazines and AR-15 assault rifle with an expended
capacity 30-round magazine. For all of those guns, he paid about 2,800
bucks, without filling out a single form, all cash, all without any
paperwork whatsoever, all without exchanging names of the person the gun
was bought from.
Needless to say they never asked if he was a felon or adjudicated
mentally ill, let alone actually check a database to see if that was the
In this undercover report, the purchase of the same previously banned
weapon that was used to kill those first graders at Sandy Hook, that same
weapon, Bushmaster, with a 30-round extend magazine, that purchase took 70
seconds. No paperwork, no names, no questions, no receipt, no background
And that is how we enforce the federal law in this country that says
no one can sell you a weapon if you are a felon or seriously mentally ill.
That`s how we enforce it.
The vote yesterday in the Senate against the Manchin-Toomey bill was a
bill to take one baby step toward actually enforcing the federal law that
says felons and those seriously mentally ill people can`t buy guns. We do
not enforce that law right now in this country, because cash and carry, no
questions asked guns sales are legal at gun shows. The Manchin-Toomey bill
would have just said that purchases like this would still be legal, they
can still happen, but the buyer has to have a background check, just like
they do in a gun store.
Why do we bother having background checks at gun stores if we do not
have them at gun shows or for people who sell guns online? Why even bother
with background checks at all if we say you only have to have them at one
place that you can buy guns?
That was the great victory for the NRA yesterday, keeping the loophole
open so crazy people and felons have somewhere to buy guns without anybody
asking questions. That`s what won yesterday. Ninety percent of the
country is against the NRA on this, but the NRA won.
And so, what`s next? The president last night said, I see this as
just round one. He said, I believe we`re going to be able to get this done
sooner or later. He said, we are going to get this right.
And last night, former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords of Arizona wrote a
scathing op-ed that was published in "The New York Times" this morning.
She said, "The senators who voted against background checks for online
and gun show sales and those who voted against checks to screen out would-
be gun buyers with mental illness failed to do their job. They looked at
these most benign and practical of solutions offered by moderates from each
party and then they looked over their shoulder at the powerful shadowy gun
lobby and brought shame on themselves and our government itself by choosing
to do nothing."
She said, "Speaking is physically difficult for me but my feelings are
clear. I`m furious. I will not rest until we have righted the wrong these
senators have done."
And she is not kidding. Her gun reform group Americans for
Responsible Solutions will start running ads as soon as this weekend,
thanking the senators who voted yet and lambasting the senators who voted
no on something that 90 percent of the public wants done but that the
Senate decided not to do.
Joining us now for the interview Pia Carusone. She`s executive
director of Americans for Responsible Solutions. Before that, she was
chief of staff to then-Congresswoman Gabby Giffords.
Ms. Carusone, thanks very much for being here.
PIA CARUSONE, FMR. REP. GIFFORDS CHIEF OF STAFF: Thanks for having
MADDOW: If 90 percent of the public supporting something isn`t enough
to get it through Congress, what does? I mean, would 95 support make a
difference? Would 100 percent support make a difference?
CARUSONE: Yes, I don`t know. I mean, we`ve been talking about that.
You know, if the public opinion polling isn`t enough reason, despite what I
think is the right thing to do, it`s a good policy, and I think a lot of
these senators feel that in their heart, at least the polling should have I
think brought them there.
So many of them are worried about their re-election and their legacies
and sort of, you know -- their favorables at home that we felt this would
have done it but apparently not.
MADDOW: If public opinion doesn`t move it, what do you think the
other levers are that affect senators` votes on these things and are those
CARUSONE: Yes. I mean, I think just the general outrage that we`re
seeing today and I think that`s not going to go away. I think there`s
really two things at play. I mean, most people, you know, your segment
there, they think that this is reasonable. When they think about a
background check before buying a gun, that is not extreme, it doesn`t
threaten your Second Amendment rights, and for most people, it seems like a
pretty common sense thing to do.
So I think there is some anger over there. But on top of that, it`s
sort of just general disregard for the will of the people that happened
yesterday that is actually sort of rare. I mean, most of the issues
debated in our public policy sphere are more closely contested.
And this really wasn`t. There was nothing complicated or difficult
about yesterday`s vote but yet they couldn`t do it.
MADDOW: Americans for Responsible Solutions has not existed for a
long time. The NRA has been around for a long time. How do you plan to
work from here on out to change the minds of or defeat the senators who
have been against you on this?
CARUSONE: I mean -- so we`re certainly regrouping a bit but the
current plan is, as you said, we`re running ads immediately, thanking
Senators Landrieu, Hagan, Collins and McCain for starters and we`ll look at
a few more, and then also talking to the constituents of the senators that
voted no. So we`re going to start that immediately.
And as Gabby said in that op-ed, if we can`t make our community safer
with the Congress we have today, then we`re going to do everything we can
to change our Congress.
The second thing is, you know, although on the federal level we had,
you know, certainly a setback yesterday, at the state level there is a lot
happening. Mark was in Delaware yesterday, testifying at the state senate
there. They passed a background checks today, universal background checks,
13-8. The governors signed into law.
We saw that happen in Colorado, in New York, Oregon is poised to do
it. I mean, this is happening at the state level if the federal government
can`t do it.
And then, third, just building this movement. There are, like I said,
three-and-a-half months old, but have a couple hundred thousand members so
far. We have raised millions of dollars and I think there is a sense of
really just, you know, a level of frustration that is coming towards us
that people just want to help. They`re just so sick of being told the NRA
is too powerful and they have too much influence.
MADDOW: In terms of translating those feelings into political action
when somebody becomes a member of Americans for Responsible Solutions, what
does that mean?
CARUSONE: Well, I mean, their name is listed now among a group of
people that want to see moderate gun policy in this country. One that does
protect our Second Amendment rights, doesn`t take your guns away, doesn`t
lead to registration but makes our community safer.
And that`s sort of what we`re up to. Mark and Gabby are gun owners
and westerners and there is nothing extreme about them.
So by joining us, you know, we`re able to submit names. So, you know,
you join us, give us your zip code, we`ll tell your member of Congress you
exist in the world and you want background checks.
So -- and then, you know, in the future as we do rallies and events,
just sort of generally part of our group and willing to add their voice to
MADDOW: You`re building a network of activists. It`s a network that
did not exist before this fight.
Pia Carusone, who`s the executive director of Gabrielle Giffords`
advocacy organization, Americans for Responsible Solutions -- thank you for
being here tonight. I`d be looking forward to talking to you for a long
CARUSONE: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: Thanks. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: America, meet John Goss. In 2010, President Obama appointed
to John Goss to a job nobody had before. His entire job is to make sure
these guys never make it into the great lakes. John Goss` title is Asian
Carp director. And as Asian Carp director, he is charged with making sure
this jumpy and invasive species of fish does not migrate from the rivers of
the Midwest into Lake Michigan and the rest of the Great Lakes.
Because these fish do not just jump into boats and jump around boats,
this fish make their way from waterway to waterway to waterway. First,
they got into the Mississippi and then because of flooding, they got into
the Missouri River and Illinois River and so on.
Whenever they reach a new waterway, Asian carp dominate and decimate
the native fish species by competing for food. They ended up destroying
the fishery. They could destroy the whole ecosystem. So, keeping Asian
carp out of the Great Lakes is not only an important job, it`s a hard job.
You can never be sure you are done with it.
Which is why today, on a landlocked part of the south side of Chicago,
something that seemed unrelated to the job of keeping Asian carp out of the
Great Lakes turned out to not be unrelated at all.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
MADDOW: Giant sinkhole which opened up and swallowed three cars this
morning in Chicago. That was the third of the three cars. One person was
hospitalized with minor injuries. The heavy rain and flooding the city of
Chicago has received in the last day, half a foot of it all at once, all of
that rain could be responsible for that sinkhole. It opened up after a
water main broke, a water main that was a cars iron pipe almost 100 years
It is thought the rain could have contributed to the breaking of that
pipe, which definitely contributed to that sinkhole. If your car was not
swallowed up by a sinkhole on the south side of this Chicago this morning,
if you made it as far as the highway, hoping to get to work, you may have
been greeted by this. Three different Chicagoland expressways closed down,
completely submerged, under water.
Overnight flooding also forced the city`s water department to open the
locks that separate the Chicago River from Lake Michigan. This is
something they haven`t done in almost two years. They try to avoid doing
this because it means allowing millions of gallons of sewage from the
Chicago into Lake Michigan, the area`s main source of drinking water.
It`s not clear when the city will be able to close the locks and stop
the sewage-ridden water from flowing into the lake, which, again, happens
to be water that people drink.
But that brings us back to these guys. Our friends, the jumping fish.
Two-and-a-half years ago, the Army Corps of Engineers finished construction
on barricades that run along a 13-mile stretch of the Des Plaines River.
Big electric fences to serve as the last line of defense during flooding to
keep Asian carp from migrating into a canal that runs directly into Lake
Tonight, with all of the flooding in and around Chicago, the fear is
that the river will soon crest above the height of those fences. Rendering
them useless and potentially sending Asian carp right into a waterway in
which there is no last line of defense.
And then what happens to the Great Lakes.
Forecasters say all of the rain in the Chicago area is ending tonight.
But what that means for the threat of the dreaded Asian carp invasion we
have been fighting so long and we now have an Asian carp for here in
Washington, on that we will have to keep you posted.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL". He`s again
in Boston tonight.
Have a great night.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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