updated 3/11/2014 11:40:23 AM ET 2014-03-11T15:40:23

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
March 10, 2014

Guest: Andrea Bernstein


CHRIS HAYES, "ALL IN" HOST: That is "ALL IN" this evening.

And THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.

Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, man.

And thanks to you at home for staying with us the next hour.

We`ve got a big show tonight.

So, Richard Engel is going to be here live in just a couple of
minutes.

We`ve got new reporting out of east Texas that you will not see
anywhere else coming up on the show tonight.

We`ve got new news out of Florida and out of Michigan, both stories
that are likely to have nationwide political consequences.

There`s a lot to get to this hour. It`s good to be back into a
really, really busy news cycle.

But we`re starting the show tonight with an unexpected and still
unexplained strange development in the New Jersey bridge scandal and Chris
Christie administration and the investigations into that scandal.

Before today, we`ve known that the New Jersey legislature was
obviously investigating the bridge scandal. Now, theirs is not a criminal
investigation. It`s the legislature investigating. They do have subpoena
power, but they have no ability to themselves, bring criminal charges
against anyone if any criminal behavior is uncovered by their inquiry. So
that`s the state-level investigation by the legislature.

Before today, we also knew about two federal criminal investigations
by the federal prosecutor for the state of New Jersey. First, that U.S.
attorney, Paul Fishman, confirmed that he`s investigating the bridge
scandal, itself, whether any federal laws were violated when access lanes
on to the world`s busiest bridge were essentially used as a weapon to
punish the town of Fort Lee, New Jersey, for some yet unexplained reason.
So, that was one federal criminal investigation into that issue.

And there`s a second federal criminal investigation confirmed by the
same U.S. attorney. And that investigation is into allegations from the
mayor of Hoboken, New Jersey. The Hoboken mayor claims she was pressured
by members of the Christie administration, high-ranking members including
the lieutenant governor, to approve a private development deal in her town.
She says she was threatened that if she didn`t approve that private
development deal, the city of Hoboken would not receive its share of
funding for recovery from Hurricane Sandy.

Now, the Christie administration vigorously denies those claims from
the mayor of Hoboken, but we know that an investigation is under way. We
know that FBI agents and staffers from the federal prosecutors office, from
the U.S. attorney and New Jersey have been doing interviews and reviewing
documents and otherwise investigating those explosive allegation about the
allocation of funding from recovery of that storm.

So, before today, those were the two federal criminal investigations
that we knew were under way of the Christie administration. The bridge
lane shutdown, itself, and the Hoboken allegations concerning Sandy
funding.

Today, though, number three? This afternoon, late this afternoon,
"The Wall Street Journal" broke news a third federal criminal inquiry
appears to be under way. According to "The Journal`s" reporting, that new
federal criminal inquiry was open in a new jurisdiction.

The other two federal criminal inquiries has been run out of the
office of the U.S. attorney for the state of New Jersey, but the new
subpoena apparently indicating a new line of inquiry was not issued by the
U.S. attorney in New Jersey. It was issued by the U.S. attorney in the
southern district of New York, the federal prosecutor in Manhattan, Preet
Bharara.

"The Journal" was first to report today that Mr. Bharara`s -- the U.S.
attorney in Manhattan, his office had sent a subpoena on Friday to Governor
Chris Christie`s top appointee at the Port Authority, a man who remains at
his job as chairman of the Port Authority, David Samson. "The Journal"
reported and NBC News later confirmed the subpoena for documents from David
Samson was part of a new federal criminal investigation into potential
conflicts of interest between Mr. Samson`s private business interests and
his actions as chairman of the Port Authority.

It has been extensively reported since the scandal broke open that
David Samson, a key political ally of Chris Christie, the chairman of Chris
Christie`s transition team, himself is a former attorney general for the
state of New Jersey. It has been extensively reported since this scandal
broke that David Samson has cast votes or otherwise taken official action
as chairman of the Port Authority that appear to have benefited his private
law firm`s clients. And thus indirectly at least benefited his own
financial bottom line.

So, a second federal prosecutor, this one in New York, opening what
appears to be a new inquiry into David Samson and subpoenaing documents
from him in the inquiry that was first reported this afternoon. But then,
then, within a couple hours of "The Wall Street Journal" posting its story,
the story got turned on its head when reporter Shawn Boburg at "The Bergen
Record" first reported that Manhattan`s U.S. attorney`s office, yes, they
had issued that subpoena on Friday then they took it back. Then, today,
according to Mr. Boburg`s reporting, they withdrew their subpoena.

Hmm? Issuing the subpoena, then taking it back? Hmm?

We`re going to get more clarity on that with our guest in just a
moment. It`s been a really strange day of reporting and dramatic
developments in this story.

While all this stuff was going on with whether or not there`s a third
inquiry and a new U.S. attorney involved, meanwhile, everybody is prepping
for tomorrow which is going to be a really big day in this story.

Tomorrow, Bridget Anne Kelly, who`s seen here today in exclusive NBC
News footage, Bridget Anne Kelly who was the deputy chief of staff to Chris
Christie when she sent that e-mail that said "time for some traffic
problems in Fort Lee," Bridget Anne Kelly who has not been seen and made no
public statements other than through her lawyer since the scandal broke,
she is expected in person, in court, tomorrow, along with Governor
Christie`s former campaign manager, Bill Stepien.

Both Bill Stepien and Bridget Kelly invoked Fifth Amendment rights to
argue they should not have to hand over documents to the legislature for
their investigation. Tomorrow, those Fifth Amendment claims will be tested
in court and they`ll both be there in person. Start time is 10:00 a.m.

And that will be fascinating for those two key figures in this
scandal, right? It will be fascinate in terms of how Bill Stepien and
Bridget Kelly make their case. The legal question, the strategic question
of whether they really will be able to avoid telling what they know in this
scandal.

But this hearing tomorrow is also going to determine to a significant
extent a big, broader question about whether or not the legislature gets to
keep doing its job, whether or not that investigative committee in the
legislature gets to keep investigating in a way that will keep turning up
new stuff about this scandal.

Honestly, who knows what`s going on between the federal prosecutors,
all right? Apparently jockeying to run their criminal investigations here.
We likely will not have the whole story of what`s going on with the federal
prosecutors unless and until there`s an indictment unsealed, if that ever
is going to happen.

But the legislature investigating? So far, that`s how we know
everything that we know about this scandal. If tomorrow, the court says
that Bill Stepien and Bridget Kelly don`t have to turn over documents to
the legislature, they don`t need to cooperate with the investigative
committee in the legislature, those subpoenas can`t compel them to turn
stuff over, seems like that will effectively neuter the legislature`s
ability to keep investigating. High-stakes stuff.

Joining us now to sort this out is Andrea Bernstein. She`s senior
editor, investigative journalist for WNYC.

Ms. Bernstein, it`s nice to see. Thanks for being here.

ANDREA BERNSTEIN, WNYC: It`s nice to see you again.

MADDOW: So, let me ask you about this issue of David Samson and
federal prosecutors. I know you reported for WNYC tonight that essentially
the subpoena was first issued by the Manhattan U.S. attorney and then was
essentially transferred over to New Jersey. To the U.S. attorney in New
Jersey who`s handling other aspects of that case.

Is that -- am I saying that right? And what does that mean?

BERNSTEIN: Well, we don`t exactly know why the Manhattan U.S.
attorney issued the subpoena. The Port Authority offices are in Manhattan
and New York City, so they would have jurisdiction and that`s where the
votes happen and that`s where Samson has his office and the official
actions take place.

But what was clear when all the dots settled, the subject matter
looking into potential conflicts of interest by the chair of the Port
Authority of New York and New Jersey is now being investigated and that`s a
big new chapter because it`s a subject area that so far as we know hasn`t
been under scrutiny before but now is and a potential problem for Chris
Christie who may someday have to defend all of this which is separate from
bridge-gate.

MADDOW: In the Hoboken allegations, which are also separate from
bridge-gate, did sort of approach this subject matter --

BERNSTEIN: Right, right.

MADDOW: -- in the sense that the private development that the mayor
of Hoboken says she was asked to favor was a private development that was
being done by David Samson`s clients.

BERNSTEIN: Right, and that the Port Authority had funded a study that
benefited that developer. When I saw that, I thought, wow, that`s odd.
And as I began digging into it, I saw that there were many other cases
where there were private clients of David Samson`s law firm, Wolff &
Samson, who somehow benefited from action that he took as the head of the
Port Authority.

MADDOW: Why do you say that Chris Christie, Governor Chris Christie
of New Jersey will have to answer for that if those answers in that
reporting is borne out in a sense that may invoke federal criminal inquiry?

BERNSTEIN: Well, a couple of reasons. I mean, a number of -- the
people who organized the lane closures are no longer working for Governor
Chris Christie. David Samson is still on the job.

And just as recently as a week and a half ago, Christie said he
strongly and firmly stood behind David Samson. This was in the wake of a
number of newspaper editorial boards calling on him to resign. He`s a
very, very close confidant of Governor Christie`s. And this is Christie
saying this even after we and a number of news organizations have reported
on these potential conflicts of interest.

MADDOW: He`s also a powerful figure in his own right in New Jersey as
far as I understand, a former attorney general in New Jersey. He has this
very connected law firm that`s financially done very well, particularly
under the Christie administration as you at WNYC has reported. And the
thing that I think hasn`t seemed all that understandable for people who are
new to this cast of character through this scandal is why governor Christie
would stand by him even as he was throwing David Wildstein and Bill Baroni
and other allies under the bus? Is David Samson too big to fail?

BERNSTEIN: And some reporting we`ve done suggests that there are even
some Christie advisers that have wondered why the governor has been so
staunchly beside him.

But this is somebody that he`s known for at least a decade. They were
both prosecutors together. Governor Christie has said they endured death
threats together and that nothing brings you together like a death threat.

David Samson is one of the few Christie advisers who will travel with
him, for example, to meetings of the Republican Governors Association, who
will fundraise for him, who`s very, very part of this very tight inner
circle. Not necessarily true of some of these other bridge-gate figures.
He`s been called a father figure to Christie. So, it`s hard when somebody
is like that to cut them loose.

On the other hand, in the wake of all these revolutions emerging about
did he take official action that benefited private clients? A number of
questions have been raised about why the governor is standing beside him so
closely.

MADDOW: And if this federal criminal investigation is now under way
and a full-scale way to David Samson on those matters, can he continue to
serve as chairman of the Port Authority before that -- while that
investigation is happening? We`ll see.

Andrea Bernstein, senior editor for WNYC. Your reporting on the
Samson side of this story in particular has been must-read stuff. Thank
you for being here.

BERNSTEIN: Thank you so much for having me.

MADDOW: All right. Lots still to come tonight, including Richard
Engel here live.

A Republican candidate for Congress getting trashed by the National
Republican Party.

New reporting tonight from Texas and from Michigan.

We`ve got a lot to come tonight. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Weather, as in snow or rain or sunny skies. Weather, the
word weather is spelled W-E-A-T-H-E-R. Weather. A noun, mostly.

But there`s a lesser known weather that is spelled without an "a."
Just W-E-T-H-E-R, and a wether spelled without the "a," that kind of wether
is a sheep, specifically a male sheep who has been castrated. Sorry.

So, we have this noun, weather with an "a" and another noun, wether
without the "a" and without key working body parts.

But the castrated sheep wether plays a role in an essential political
metaphor, because the castrated sheep whether is the whether in the word
bellwether. The word bellwether refers to the act of placing a bell on the
neck of a male sheep who had that procedure. And in that sheep, the bell-
wearing wether is tasked with leading the flock around, so the shepherd
doesn`t have to do all the work himself.

The wether is an older, well-trained sheep not prone to run off after
the hot new ewe on the block, of course. So, shepherds put a bell on the
bellwether, expecting that that sheep could be led around wherever the
shepherd needed the flock to go and the rest of the flock would probably
follow the bellwether. When his bell rings, the other sheep follow. He`s
a good boy.

So, that`s what the bellwether means. What happens here is likely to
happen elsewhere thereafter.

And so, now, here`s the part about Florida. Tomorrow, either
Democrats or Republicans are going to be celebrating a special
congressional election result as a bellwether, depending who likes the
result. As surely as mud season follows snow season, this time tomorrow
night, the winner of tomorrow`s election in Florida is going to be
declaring that all the other races in the country this year are going to
turn out like Florida`s did.

This is a special election, Florida`s 13th congressional district. It
will fill Republican Congressman Bill Young`s seat. He held that seat for
more than four decades before he passed away last October.

The race pits Democrat Alex Sink, who almost beat Rick Scott to become
Florida governor in 2010, pits her against a Republican candidate named
David Jolly. He`s a lobbyist and former staffer for Congressman Young.

Millions of outside dollars have been funneled into this race. At
this juncture, polls indicate a super close contest. Maybe the Democratic
candidate is holding on to a narrow lead.

But here`s the really weird thing about how this is going. Over the
past week, a half dozen Republicans, a half dozen national Republicans went
to the folks at Politico.com to essentially throw the Republican candidate
in tomorrow`s race, David Jolly, to throw him under a bus that has not yet
even arrived. Quote, "Over the past week, a half dozen Washington
Republicans have described Jolly`s campaign against Democrat Alex Sink as a
Keystone Cops operation, marked by inept fund-raising, top advisers
stationed hundreds of miles away from the district and state capital. The
sources would only speak on a condition of anonymity."

Not only did they throw their candidate under the bus, they included
nice details like this that would seem rather irrelevant to the story but
they wanted "Politico" printed them. Quote, "The poor optics of a just
divorced 41-year-old candidate accompanied on the campaign trail by a
girlfriend 14 years his junior."

Republicans in Washington are feeding details to the Beltway press
about their own candidate? Dude hasn`t even lost yet. The election isn`t
even until tomorrow. What happens if he wins, right?

I mean, publicly, it`s going to be our good friend and strong
Republican David Jolly is a shining example of Republican values, blah,
blah, Obamacare, whatever. But meanwhile, they`ve been trashing him like
this ahead of his election night?

Just as publicly Republicans claim to be working around the clock to
elect him as their next candidate. But there`s no mistaking what has
happened in the day before this contest. Republicans have turned on their
own candidate evidently in the expectation that he loses.

And why is that? Because of the bellwether phenomenon. They want to
be able to blame an allegedly totally flawed outlier candidate rather than
concede that there`s anything about this race tomorrow that might be a
bellwether for what else is going to happen in the country this year.

The tactics of the Republicans in this election have been to go all in
against Obamacare. They have tried to make the entire election in this
district a referendum on Obamacare. Well, if the pro-Obamacare candidate
wins and their candidate loses, that`s going to be a big problem for them
in an election year.

On the other hand, Democrats would be happy to call it a bellwether if
it`s a referendum on health reform if their candidate wins.

Knew it all along. Just wait until November. This will fail for you
Republicans everywhere.

Now we wait for the results. This time tomorrow, we`ll have results
in terms of what happened there. But to see the Republicans throwing their
own candidate under the bus ahead of people even heading to the polls at
7:00 a.m. tomorrow shows you that they are very worried about this result
and they`re trying to contain its political implications.

We shall see. Watch this space.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: We`ve got some exclusive reporting coming up tonight. Some
big news out of a small town between big city Texas and rural southwest
Louisiana. But, first, we`ve got Richard Engel joining us live in studio.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: You ever wondered where bungee-jumping came from? It was not
invented by people who made giant bungee cords. Nobody came up with the
idea of doing this by looking down at a tie-down thing you use to keep your
cooler shut when you put it in the back of your truck.

No, the idea of doing is having bungee cords tied around your ankles
as you leap from a sickening height, that idea came from this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The tiny south Pacific island of Pentecost is home
to what may be the most dangerous test of faith in the world. Every year,
village elders design a ritual designed to secure the gods` favor. In a
spectacular and frightening called land diving, young men and boys, some
just 5 years old, literally risk their necks. Only two fragile vines save
them from crashing into the ground.

It`s the ancient precursor of bungee jumping, but here, it`s
considered a sacrifice for the survival of the community.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Those are the brave young men of Pentecost Island, which is
located in the nation of Vanuatu. Out there in the middle of the ocean,
halfway between Hawaii and Australia, these guys for centuries have been
bungee-jumping without bungee cords, appeasing the gods and showing thanks
for the year`s yam harvest.

Vanuatu is one of the smallest nations on earth. But for all that
Vanuatu has to offer in terms of culture and fishing and non-bungee cord
bungee-jumping and a very lush coconut crop, in political terms, Vanuatu is
remarkably unstable. The country went through, for example, four prime
ministers just in the first six months of 2011.

But one of the ways that tiny fascinating Vanuatu came up to punch
above their weight on the world stage, to make the most of the fact they
are their own country even if they`re small, one thing they`ve come up with
is that they`ve essentially decided to market their diplomatic relations to
whoever wants to pay for them.

What are the things an actual country can do that nobody else can do
is have international relations. Sounds dirty and it sometimes is. If you
would like to have international relations of some kind with Vanuatu, open
your checkbook and swivel your wrist. They`re open to almost anything for
a price.

For example, the ongoing and very tense standoff between China and
Taiwan -- Taiwan in some ways wanting to be an independent nation. China
insisting Taiwan will never be independent, that it will always be part of
China.

Well, in 2004, Vanuatu decided they were going to recognize the
independent nation of Taiwan. They opened up diplomatic relations with the
capital of Taiwan, with Taipei. And, China, of course, was furious. But
Taiwan reportedly paid Vanuatu about $30 million for that recognition.

And it`s no small thing to make China, all of places, mad at you.
But, hey, you know what, $30 million is $30 million. If you`re the kind of
country that cycles through prime ministers every few hours, that also sort
of gives you a way to un-burn your bridges in cases like this, because yes,
Vanuatu made China mad at them, but when the prime minister who made that
decision got thrown out of office, just a month later, Vanuatu reversed its
policy, thus, making up with China, but still hopefully pocketing that old
hard Taiwanese cash.

Whatever you think of a country diplomatically prostituting itself
like this, it`s one way to make money and opportunities like this do arise
from time to time. Four years after the China/Taiwan deal, cha-ching,
Russia was trying to create two new countries inside the nation of Georgia.

You`ll remember that Vladimir Putin in 2008 invaded Georgia. Russia
and Georgia went to war for about a week. There are pro-Russia local
governments n these two places inside Georgia, in Abkhazia in the west, and
in the South Ossetia in the east.

After that war, Russia decided to recognize each of those places as
their own country. Of course, you don`t just become your own country by
saying that you are. Ask Taiwan. If you want to be your own country, then
other countries have to see you that way, too. That is why Taiwan was will
to pay Vanuatu, right, and why Russia has the same issue when it comes to
these two countries it wanted to create inside Georgia.

So, they wanted -- Russia wanted to create these two countries, so
Russia recognized them. And then they said, OK, South Ossetia, you
recognize Abkhazia. Abkhazia, you recognize South Ossetia. OK, we all
agree you`re countries.

Who else can they get to say you`re a country? Somebody call Vanuatu.
It was 2011 by the time Russia was shopping around the world for micro-
countries that it might be able to persuade to recognize these two fake new
countries that it had invented inside Georgia. Vanuatu at least for a
while was sort of happy to go along with the Russians` plan.

We don`t exactly know what Russia paid to them or what Russia offered
to pay to them, but in May 2011, Vanuatu`s foreign minister announced his
nation was prepared to recognize the independent nation of Abkhazia. They
were ready to have their roving ambassador travel to Abkhazia and all the
rest of it.

A few days later, Vanuatu`s ambassador to the United Nations, though,
said, no, that`s not true. We don`t recognize this Abkhazia thing as an
independent nation. No, that was all a misunderstanding.

Then, a few days after that, Vanuatu`s foreign minister insisted in
this rather remarkable YouTube video that, yes, there had been a
misunderstanding but are were totally going to recognize Abkhazia. Aren`t
we? Are we doing that?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As minister of foreign affairs, I wish to reaffirm
Vanuatu`s recognition of the republic of Abkhazia. Vanuatu conducts an
open foreign policy and is amongst other members of the international
community in eradicating colonialism from the face of the Earth. I wish to
take this opportunity to also apologize for miscommunication between our
ministry of foreign affairs and the U.N. representation in New York. This
was due to my absence in the multilateral mission abroad in Seoul, South
Korea.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: I`m sorry. I was away. We got our wires crossed.

So, the foreign minister said, yes, you know, we do recognize that
country. Then the U.N. ambassador said, no, we don`t recognize the
country. The foreign minister came back with the YouTube clip and said we
recognize the country. A few months after that was posted on YouTube, the
Vanuatu government came out and said, no, no, we don`t recognize Abkhazia.

This whole thing was just an absolute mess. After the Vanuatu
government came out a few months later and said, on second thought, we do
recognize Abkhazia, then Vanuatu`s U.N. ambassador gave an interview for
Radio for Europe and he said, you know what, I have no idea whether we
recognize them or not. I have no clue.

Finally, last summer, the Vanuatu prime minister at the moment made it
official and said, no, we`re not recognizing the country that Russia was
trying to make up inside of Georgia.

I have no idea if Abkhazians have a thing for bungee-jumping, you
know, if they were psyche to be able to exploit this unique diplomatic
relations between their nations to go see where-bungee jumping was born.

But the whole Vanuatu thing was a complete mess and then it was over.
It was confusing while it was happening.

Ultimately, it was humiliating for Russia. It was humiliating for
Russia to try and fail to win the affections of this teeny, tiny little
nation.

Russia was more successful, though, with an even teenier nation,
second smallest nation on earth called Nauru. Nauru reportedly got $50
million from Russia in recognizing both Abkhazia and South Ossetia. It`s
believed that the same sort of deal was worked out for Nicaragua, although
we don`t know exactly how much Nicaragua got for agreeing to recognize
those countries.

It seems like the country that got the best deal for selling off its
diplomatic relations for these little countries that Russia wanted to
create, it seems like the country that probably got the best deal was
Venezuela, which has reported to have cashed its recognition of those two
countries inside Georgia for a cool $2 billion in Russian military aid.

Think about this from Russia`s perspective, though. Russia had to go
all around the world, spend $2 billion-plus, lobbying teeny, tiny or
otherwise dependent little countries to please side with them against the
rest of the world, please side with Russia`s unilateral declaration that
these little places inside Georgia were new countries.

What do they have to show for it after having to do all that? Well,
this is the list. Here are the countries that agree with Russia that those
two places inside Georgia are independent countries.

Here`s a list of countries that disagree. Oh, right. The rest of the
world.

So, yes, even if the birthplace of bungee jumping had stayed onboard,
the last time that Russia invaded some place and tried to turn it into new
countries, it was just a humiliation for Russia. It was hugely
embarrassing.

And they apparently this year will not make that same mistake again.
On Sunday of this week, Russia is having the Crimea peninsula in Ukraine
vote not on becoming an independent nation but on becoming part of Russia.
If Crimea were to vote on becoming an independent nation, well, then,
you`re back to the Vanuatu problem. That would give every other country in
the world a chance to express their opinion by whether or not they
recognize it as an independent nation, whether or not they send an
ambassador, whether or not they allow that vote to allow that nation to
join the United Nations, whether they set up embassies, whether they open
up trade relations. All of these other things you have to do if another
country come into an existence and would be just like what happened in
Georgia.

But instead, if Russia just takes Crimea into its own territory, takes
Crimea into the existing nation of Russia, then Russia does something that
is arguably even more inflammatory to the international community, just
unilaterally annexing new territory. But it`s an action that saves them
from the Vanuatu-style international humiliation they just went through a
few years ago.

I wonder if that means they`re learning.

Joining us now is NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel,
who has been reporting from Ukraine recently.

Richard, it`s great to see you. Thank you for being here.

RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: I love that you
blurred the videos, because, you know, they dive off the towers naked
except for wearing gourds.

MADDOW: Yes. There`s gourds, leaf action, but I didn`t feel
confident that --

ENGEL: This is the only time I think there`s been any broadcast on
any television network where you`re talking about Vanuatu and Abkhazia in
the same sentence.

MADDOW: But it ends up being, I think, part of the calculation that
Russia must be making here. This referendum -- I think everybody knew
there was going to be some sort of referendum staged in Crimea in terms of
how to try to normalize the Russian invasion. Did you know or should we
have expected it would be to annex them into the Russian federation?

ENGEL: I think you`re on to something here. Can I take a step back?

MADDOW: Yes, please.

ENGEL: People have been saying now, that, oh, Putin`s crazy, not
acting rationally, he`s an insane man who wants to grab power.

He`s not insane at all. He`s someone who follows the same pattern,
has had success with it and tries to replicate it is not insane. He has
done this several times before, in South Ossetia, in Abkhazia. You send in
irregulars. You send in people who are loyal to Russia into those places,
to Abkhazia and South Ossetia, you have them put facts on the ground. You
push out the local forces and then you create little states that are really
Russian states and try to get the world to recognize it.

He`s done that successfully in the past. Nobody kicked up a fuss when
he did it for Abkhazia. Not a real fuss. Nobody kicked up a fuss when he
did it in South Ossetia.

MADDOW: Was it particularly successful on the world stage, but it got
him what he needed to get.

ENGEL: He controls those territories. Those territories are still --
we say they`re part of Georgia. Georgian troops cannot go into Abkhazia or
South Ossetia or they will be fought and repealed.

MADDOW: Profoundly upsetting and destabilizing and embarrassing in
its own terms for Georgia, which is a rival state.

ENGEL: But -- so he`s done this in the past and had success. There`s
also Transnistria, third one. So, this would be number four doing the
exact same model.

But this time as you rightly say, they`re preparing to go even
further. Instead of creating some false little state that they`d then have
to go shop around the world and get the world`s tiny island nations to
recognize, tomorrow, the Duma is voting whether it will accept an outright
annexation and that is a much more aggressive step.

MADDOW: Wow. In terms of what is going to happen next, obviously the
Crimean referendum, there`s the vote in the Duma and then there`s Crimean
referendum this weekend. There`s noise that Russia is making, at least
looking toward eastern Ukraine has well.

ENGEL: This is what I think you need to understand. So Crimea, I
hate to say it, is in a bad place right now. It would end up becoming part
of Russia or at least at its minimum state, it becomes a fake independent
state that is really a Russian state. Maximum, it`s part of Russia.

The question is, does Putin stop there? Does Russia stop there?

So, if you look at a map, this is, obviously, Crimea. This area along
the Russian border is sympathetic to Russia, and if we have another map
that shows how this country voted in previous elections. And in previous
elections, candidates that were favorable to Russia were more -- no, that`s
not the map. The other map. One more. That shows --

MADDOW: There we go.

ENGEL: -- the divide. So, the red area along the line I drew, the
part of the country that is poor-Russia, that is sympathetic to Russia,
that has voted for pro-Russian candidates. So, if Crimea, the little piece
in the bottom, becomes annexed, what happens to the rest?

MADDOW: Yes.

ENGEL: Already, there have been noises coming out of the foreign
ministry, certainly in the Russian media that the Russian speaking and
Russian sympathetic populations in this green belt are in danger, that they
are being harassed, that they`re being attacked, that they`re being
threatened by the yellow part.

MADDOW: Right.

ENGEL: By the Ukrainian nationals.

MADDOW: Is that propaganda or is there evidence?

ENGEL: I think a lot of it is propaganda.

There are fascists and extremists and there are certain people in
Ukraine who don`t want to see that, you know, Crimea or other parts of the
country go away. But I think it would be pretty easy to either create a
provocation or to take advantage of a provocation and see Russia advance
further.

That`s really what I think the United States is trying to do with all
the sanctions, with all the next moves.

Many people I`ve spoken to think Crimea may be a lost cause at this
stage and you have to put these sanctions in place and take a -- draw a
line in the sand so that the rest of the country doesn`t go.

MADDOW: But, obviously these places are more diverse than we`re
showing in a two-color map. There are Ukrainian speaking populations
inside Crimea and, obviously, throughout eastern Ukraine. There`s the
Muslim Tatars population in Crimea and throughout eastern Ukraine.

I mean, how are the minorities that aren`t Russian-leaning and
Russian-supporting going to deal with Russian incursions here?

ENGEL: Well, let`s pull up the map of Crimea again.

MADDOW: Yes.

ENGEL: So, Crimea -- you`re right, there`s not a black or white
narrative or in this case yellow and green narrative. Those were that was
a political map, that showed people`s leanings. Are they voting toward
Russia? Many of these people are also ethnic Russians and Russian
speakers.

But there are these other divisions. Crimea in particular has one.
Crimea has about 2 million people. About 30 percent of the population are
Muslim Tatars and they are sympathetic toward the new revolutionary
government in Kiev.

And how is this going to go?

MADDOW: When they become part of Russia and they`ve thought they are
Ukrainians.

ENGEL: So, what I worry about is provocations. You could have some
Muslim Tatars do some sort of attack or have an attack that`s blamed on
this community, then you have a pretext for Russia to advance further to
take further steps.

You could see Russian orthodox churches, for example, being attacked
in the east because they`re so split in that same blue/green map, there is
the Ukrainian orthodox and Russian orthodox church. They don`t always see
eye to eye.

MADDOW: Russia would use that as a provocation.

ENGEL: You can see if a couple Russian Orthodox churches start
burning down, that`s another provocation to go in.

There`s a lot of things that could go wrong. If there`s bloodshed,
then the Russians might say, you know what, we need two go further, we have
no choice. We`ve annexed the most important bit which is the Crimea, but
we need to go further in order to protect the Russians. And I think that`s
--

MADDOW: That`s a whole new question for the rest of the world, as to
how to stop.

ENGEL: Then we have a real incident.

MADDOW: NBC chief foreign correspondent and chief map-maker, Richard
Engel, thank you for being here. And thank you for bringing --

ENGEL: Vanuatu.

MADDOW: Vanuatu. I`ve got more of that bungee jumping footage if you
need it, man.

ENGEL: Good to see you.

MADDOW: See you soon.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: On tomorrow night`s show, we`re going to be reporting on
Michigan`s new rape insurance bill which is going into effect this week.
It is almost unbelievable story. We`ve got slated for tomorrow night`s
show.

But it is not as unbelievable as our next story tonight from east
Texas. This is an exclusive. It`s next.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Last week, we brought you a story from the end of these
United States. The southernmost part of Texas, the Rio Grande Valley, one
of the poorest places in the country, where in the last two weeks the only
two remaining reproductive health care clinics in the valley closed down,
leaving an area the size of Connecticut with zero access to abortion.

From the Rio Grande Valley, if you travel along the Gulf Coast curve
of Texas, north and then east, you end up in an equally remote and almost
equally poor part of east Texas that is the borderlands between Texas and
rural southwestern Louisiana. Just west of Louisiana`s Cajun Country on
the Gulf Coast, you`ll find the small city of Beaumont.

And in that small city of Beaumont, Texas, a long-standing
reproductive health care clinic there has been providing cancer screenings
and contraception and all sorts of reproductive health care, including
abortions, for the women of Beaumont and the women of east Texas and the
women of southwest Louisiana, who have seen the clinics in their state shut
down and who have been making their way across state lines to east Texas,
to Beaumont, to see the doctor there instead.

Beaumont is a mostly African-American city. It`s not a big place.
It`s not well off. It`s got over 20 percent of the population living under
the poverty line.

But it`s also a place where people come to for services from the whole
region. It can make more than six months to get an appointment with the
only low-income women`s health provider in the area. The whole women`s
health clinic in Beaumont is the only abortion provider for a 260-mile
stretch between Houston and Baton Rouge.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARVA SADLER, BEAUMONT CLINIC DIRECTOR: Such a small and rural
community, and it`s so family rooted. You`re talking 22 percent of women
who are living in poverty. That means they don`t have cars, they don`t
have the finances to make the travel 145 miles one way to Houston.

Many of the women in Beaumont have never been out -- many of the
residents of Beaumont have never been out of the city of Beaumont. And
making a trip to Houston for them is a huge deal.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You serve women in Texas?

SADLER: Actually, in Beaumont we serve quite a few women from
Louisiana because we sit right on the Texas-Louisiana border. So, about 30
percent of our patients come over the Louisiana border from Lake Charles
and other small towns there as well.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I understand you`re the only provider between --

SADLER: Between Houston and Baton Rouge. So, about a 260-mile
stretch of highway, we`re the only abortion clinic.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Marva Sadler was the director of the only clinic that
provided abortions in Beaumont, Texas. But her clinic, along with the last
two in the whole Rio Grande Valley, has just been legislated out of
existence by Texas state government.

The new Trap regulations for abortion providers that Texas Republicans
passed last year, that law they passed after the marathon filibuster by
Democratic senator, now candidate for governor, Wendy Davis, that new Texas
law said doctors couldn`t provide abortion in Texas anymore without having
admitting privileges at a local hospital, something it is nearly impossible
for doctors to get if they don`t already have them. Well, the two clinics
in the Rio Grande Valley that were forced to close last week, they had to
close because no doctors could get those admitting privileges.

But that was just one part of Texas`s anti-abortion bill, the one that
went into effect in November. The clinics are now closing because of it.
They essentially have been trying to hold on, trying not to close, hoping
for a reprieve from the court for something else to allow them to stay
open. Those regulations went into effect in November. They`re still
closing clinics now.

But now, another set of regulations from that new law set to go into
effect over the next few months. The first set of regulations is basically
credited with shutting down 19 of the state`s 32 clinics. This next set of
regulations that`s due to go into effect in the next few months, it`s set
to close 13 more of the 19 clinics that remain in the state.

Those new regulations that are set to reduce Texas to a state where
there are only six clinics for the whole state, where there`s one
reproductive health clinic per every 2.2 million women in the state, those
new regulations don`t go after doctors directly. They go after the clinics
themselves. They basically establish that if you want to provide abortion
services in Texas, you have to upgrade your facilities to the standards
required for hospitals. Multimillion-dollar facility upgrades that aren`t
required for doctors providing any other kind of outpatient procedures like
vasectomies or oral surgery or colonoscopies. But they will be required
for doctors who do abortions.

Nobody is expecting the clinics to be able to do multimillion-dollar
makeovers into hospitals in time for the law`s deadlines. What everybody`s
expecting, or what the law is designed to do is that the clinics are going
to close down. And so, just as the last two abortion clinics in the Rio
Grande Valley were forced to close last week, so too now the last abortion
clinic in east Texas.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AMY HAGSTROM MILLER, WHOLE WOMEN`S HEALTH FOUNDER: In Beaumont and in
McAllen both, neither of these cities are cities where I`m going to be able
to afford to build an ambulatory surgical center. And that part of the law
is looming. It`s not far away. It`s just six months away that that`s
going to go into effect.

And so I have to be logical. I mean, it`s a business decision, and
it`s also a decision on behalf of my staff. I mean, how long am I going to
string them along?

Everybody knows we don`t have an ambulatory surgical center here in
McAllen. We don`t have one in Beaumont. We have perfectly adequate
wonderful doctor`s office kind of facilities but we can`t afford to build a
few million-dollar building in these little towns.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: As Texas Republicans` cascade of anti-abortion legislation
goes into effect, clinics are now closing one after the other, and the last
remaining providers are scrambling, some of them trying to find a facility
somewhere that meet the new regulations that they might be able to afford
to move into. Others are trying to raise funds to build new clinics from
scratch to hospital standards. That`s a process that could take years,
even if it`s successful.

Those efforts by necessity will be concentrated in the state`s large
cities, which means even in the best case scenario for these providers the
vast rural areas of the state of Texas are going to be left with no access
to abortion services whatsoever, and no access to lots of other kinds of
reproductive health care either.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SADLER: Unfortunately, we will stop doing -- we will close our doors
in Beaumont. And it`s devastating.

We`ll see a lot of women hurt. We`ll see a lot of women go through a
lot of turmoil. We`ll see families. We`ll just go make or break
unfortunately.

And it`s devastating that we have to walk away. It`s been hard.

I`m sorry. It`s -- it was a pleasure to serve a community who made it
very obvious that they needed us and that they appreciated us and that --
the stories of the women coming into that clinic, one thing about Beaumont
is that they`re very talkative and they`re very verbal. And so, from the
moment you make an appointment on the phone, you begin to develop a
relationship with that woman because she tells you her whole life story.

And, you know, it`s a good thing and it`s a bad thing, because it`s
hard to walk away from those stories knowing that they won`t have anybody.
So, it`s really hard. It`s really hard.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: On September 1st, the last stage of Texas`s legislation is
going to take effect. It`s expected to bring the number of clinics
servicing one of the most populous states in the country down to just six -
- six clinics serving 260,000 square miles and more than 13 million women.

As Republican-controlled states one by one legislate abortion access
out of existence, a new map of the United States is essentially starting to
take focus, one where abortion is legal and accessible and another where
huge swaths of this country have no access to what on paper are their
reproductive rights.

When people talk about the whole war on women thing, it is not a
beltway construct. It is the lived experience of Republican governance in
the states right now. If you think Texas women, when they`re down to six
states, are going to have escape routes to go to other states -- well, if
they go east they`re going to Bobby Jindal`s Louisiana, which as of right
now is considering this week, the state legislator considering the same
anti-abortion legislation that Texas passed last year that`s closing down
all of Texas`s clinics.

If you think they might escape north to Oklahoma, Republicans in the
legislature there are in the process of finalizing another raft of anti-
abortion legislation that is also intended to close clinics there. The
escape routes are ending as lock as the escape routes go to other red
states. The escape routes are starting to look like Mexico and that`s it.

That does it for us tonight. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".

Have a great night.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
BE UPDATED.
END

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