THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
March 13, 2014
Guests: Kathryn Higgins, Frank Holleman
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: I don`t, but I`m going to do my best to
explain why people are having such a hard time.
CHRIS HAYES, "ALL IN" HOST: That would also be helpful.
MADDOW: Yes. Thanks, man. I appreciate it.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
This morning, we did wake up to a big news story on this subject, what
looked like a really big breakthrough on the ongoing mystery of what
happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, the flight that disappeared over
the weekend while it was supposed to be en route from Kuala Lumpur in
Malaysia to Beijing in China.
This morning on the front page of "The Wall Street Journal", in very
big font, there was hope. "Missing Airplane Flew on For Hours. Engine
data suggests Malaysia flight was airborne long after radar disappearance,
U.S. investigators say."
The online version of that story was posted really early, as you can
see. That`s my pencil mark on my printout. I circled the time it was
published on my printout of the story. I noted that it was, in fact, very
early in the morning, 4:17 a.m. I got the news alert on this story well
before dawn today.
And usually, a newspaper will put out a big scoop if they can at that
kind of a time in the morning in order to front page it. To not only
prepare it for the front page of the physical edition for their paper but
also to make it known that this is the news of the day. As a scoop on this
huge story, this was a huge deal.
"The Wall Street Journal" broke the news this morning that, quote,
"Based on data automatically downloaded and sent to the ground from the
plane`s engines, based on that engine data, American investigators believe
that the Malaysia Airlines flight, quote, `stayed in the air for about four
hours past the time it reached its last confirmed location`."
So, two big breakthrough pieces of information in this bombshell "Wall
Street Journal" story today, right? Number one, American investigators
believe that that flight actually stayed in the air for hours past what we
had known before. And two, there`s a new source of data, specifically data
sent automatically to the ground from the plane`s engines.
So, as we understand it and as "The Journal" described it today, this
would not be data from the main transponder for the aircraft. Those
transponders provide altitude information and the speed of the aircraft and
the position heading and all that very specific stuff. "The Wall Street
Journal" was not reporting we had new transponder data like that. They
were reporting today very specifically that we had engine date to from the
A new source of information from long after the other potential
sources of information on that plane stopped sending out anything,
potentially a huge break in this case. Potentially a huge lead for finding
out what happened to the plane.
But that was a huge break in this case that only lasted about 12
hours. Just after 3:00 p.m. this afternoon, "The Wall Street Journal" took
it back, took the whole engine data development back. They said that their
early version of the story, the big front-page version, was incorrect in
the sense that American investigators, they said, actually did not have
access to engine data from the plane at all.
It`s heartbreaking, right? I mean, that`s what this story has been
like all along, somewhere between gut wrenching and heartbreaking. It has
been wrenching just to watch the story. Just to try to cover the story the
way it has unfolded.
Imagine what it must be like for the families of the passengers on
that plane. The way the story has gone. All these supposed new breaks in
the story, supposed new clues, new leads, new reasons for hope that it
raised and then dashed and then raised and then dashed over and over and
over again. That`s all that`s happened so far.
I mean, the first thing was the oil slick the day that the plane went
down. News reports saying Vietnamese military had spotted two oil slicks
in the south China sea. They believed those oil slicks were from the
missing plane. Within a couple of days, though, no, they got to those oil
slicks, they tested them. Those oil slicks did not contain jet fuel.
Those oil slicks are not related to the missing plane.
In those same few days, more clues. Two different objects, different
pieces of debris seen floating in the Gulf of Thailand and initially
offering, again, some hope, maybe they came from the plane. One object
looked like it could potentially be a life raft.
No, that turned out to be the lid of a large box. The other object
which some people at one point thought looked like a very specifically
identifiable part of a plane actually turned out to be a bunch of logs tied
together. They thought it was maybe the tail of the lost aircraft. That
was the initial hope, but no.
Last night you`ll remember we got the satellite images from the
Chinese government from the Chinese state science and technology
commission. These images, again, providing hope there was maybe a concrete
piece of new information in the story. These images showed what appeared
to be some three large pieces of something floating in the South China Sea
not far from the original flight path for the plane.
Well, the Malaysian government reacted to that by immediately saying
the release of those images was a mistake, had nothing to do with the
plane. It was unclear if they were right about that, but then today search
teams went to the spot identified in those photos and they said they
couldn`t find anything in the ocean south of Vietnam where those satellite
images had spotted something that was maybe something.
It wasn`t anything. The Chinese government also came out today to
confirm that the release of those satellite images was, in fact, a mistake.
Those images should not have been released in the first place.
Earlier this week, there was another, what felt to be a huge break in
the case. In this case, it was reporting. Reporting about something said
by the head of the Malaysian military.
He was quoted in a newspaper saying that the Malaysian military had
evidence that this plane had veered sharply off course. It had turned
left. They picked up the plane on radar, he said, sharply west of its
planned flight path.
Why would the plane veer so sharply off its flight path? Who knows,
But it did give some indication that something dramatic might have
happened in the cockpit to get those pilots to turn the plane so incredibly
off course. And also, of course, perhaps it offered a new place to look
for evidence of the plane.
Again, though, within a day of that reporting, hopes dashed. First,
the Malaysian government said, yes, that might be the Malaysian military
talking, but that`s not what we understand to be the case at all. That was
the Malaysian government there seemingly refuting the Malaysian military.
Then, the general who, himself, had been quoted in the Malaysian
press, he explained that the paper must have misunderstood him. That`s not
what he meant to say at all. He said, in fact, the Malaysian military had
no evidence of where that specific plane was after it went missing. He
said they did see a radar blip of some kind west of the plane`s flight
path, but they have no reason to believe it was specifically that missing
plane. Could have been anything. They don`t know what it was.
This time, though, that initial lead, that initial word that there
might have been something on radar that can`t be accounted for west of the
flight path, that one has at least led to some further course of
investigation for what that`s worth. "The New York Times" reporting today
that several American agencies are looking at radar data from the Malaysian
military. No word yet they have found anything, but they are looking and
having some data set to look at is at least something.
And also, on that "Wall Street Journal" story today, the paper did
retract the part about this new data coming from the engines of the plane,
but I should tell you that "The Wall Street Journal" did not retract their
story entirely. This is really interesting.
They are standing by the part of their story that says American
sources close to the investigation are telling "The Wall Street Journal"
that there are reasons to believe that there`s some other source of
electronic data from the plane that gives reason to believe that plane did
continue to fly. It did stay in the air after the plane lost contact in
that 1:00 a.m. hour on Saturday morning. "The Wall Street Journal" is
sticking by its part of the story that the plane continued to fly after it
was ostensibly lost and continued to fly potentially for as many as five
Again, "The Journal" retracted part of the explanation for that in
terms of what kinds of data -- what kinds of data gives that indication to
investigators, but they`re sticking with that overall story.
The Malaysian transportation minister today said "The Journal`s" story
is not true. A Malaysian transportation minister says there`s no reason to
believe that plane kept flying. At this point, frankly, a statement from
Malaysian government official just like a statement from any one news
agency doesn`t really settle anything, given the utter lack of clarity that
these officials and journalistic accounts have demonstrated so far.
With the skepticism, the healthy skepticism and shyness about
conclusive statements that this story has earned in spades, is there any
real reason to be hopeful at all about the likelihood of finding evidence
about what happened to this plane? Being as skeptical as possible about
data that isn`t real data, can we say that there is any real data? Is it
feasible this sort of half scoop from "The Wall Street Journal" might
actually pan out and be useful information?
And if according to "The New York Times", several American agencies
are reviewing that Malaysian military radar data about something pinging on
radar west of where that plane was supposed to be going, empirically
without rank speculation, can we say the kind of data American agencies
apparently are reviewing, that kind of radar data available to a military
like that, is that the kind of data that might conceivably yield a yes or
no question as to whether or not it was that plane? What does that data
constitute? What is that data that they`re looking at? What might it
mean? How specific could anybody looking at that data get?
With a story like this, we`re into a week on this story now.
Speculation hurts more than it helps, particularly for the people who are
hoping for news of their loved ones. Without speculating, what is
empirically possible to know at this point?
Joining us now is Kathy Higgins. She`s a former member of the NTSB,
the National Transportation Safety Board. She`s taken part in a number of
crash investigations, including the 2009 U.S. Airways water landing on the
Miss Higgins, thanks very much for being here. I appreciate your
KATHRYN HIGGINS, FORMER NTSB MEMBER: Sure. Happy to be with you.
MADDOW: Let me ask you if any of the way I explained those
developments today strikes you as either irresponsible or wrong. Or does
that seem like a good summary of where we`re at?
HIGGINS: No, I think as in most investigations, there are a lot of
theories and a lot of speculation in the beginning, but as more experts
begin to look at it and put their minds to it, we can begin to sort
through. And again, there`s not much to work with here, but I think that
the data that we`re hearing about, we have reason to believe is real data,
coming from different sources and we`ve got very talented people from the
NTSB, from the FAA, from other governments who are working on this now, and
it just takes time.
I guess I would say we all need to be patient. As impatient as we
are, and certainly the families are, to have news of their loved ones.
It`s going to take a long time to work our way through this.
MADDOW: I think those of us who are outsiders to this technology, who
are just sort of consumers of air travel, don`t know the ins and outs of
it. We think of radar as omniscient. We think of radar as something that
covers every corner of the globe, and that`s why it`s so hard to imagine a
777 airliner disappearing. We assume they`re being tracked all the time.
Does it make sense to you that there might be an unexplained radar
blip west of that flight path that it would make sense to be looking into
HIGGINS: I think that`s right. I think we don`t -- I don`t know
specifically the area of coverage, but there certainly are areas over the
oceans where we don`t have radar coverage. You know, the pilots are flying
the plane. That`s what we expect. And they are not necessarily in touch
with their air traffic control.
As we know, this plane signed off from Malaysian air traffic control,
and were not picked up by anyone else. So there are other obviously
sources, satellite information -- who knows what else is out there where we
might get good data.
But even in accidents where we know where the plane went down, we`ve
heard a lot about the Air France crash. I remember with TWA-800, it`s
still very hard to pinpoint things exactly even when you`re seeing debris
and to recover the wreckage. It just takes time.
And here we don`t have the benefit yet of either seeing the wreckage
or having the air traffic control information that would be helpful or
having any visual sighting of anything at this point.
MADDOW: In terms of the kinds of electronic data that a plane like
this would be emitting, we`re all trying to understand the different types
of signals essentially that a plane would put out under the normal course
of operation or indeed under emergency circumstances and whether or not --
how we should interpret, for example, this "Wall Street Journal" data today
about specifically the transponders that were giving out information on
those engines. Does it make sense to you that we wouldn`t exactly know
what types of electronic data were emitted by this aircraft or when those
should have been picked up if the plane was still aloft?
HIGGINS: Well, again, I`m not a technology expert, but we do know the
transponders stopped running. Why they stopped running, we don`t know.
There`s, again, speculation which I think is premature whether they
were turned off accidentally or deliberately. Or whether there was an
electronic failure of some kind that might have also disrupted their
transmission. Those are the things that we will hopefully learn assuming
we can find the wreckage, find the plane, and recover the black boxes, the
data recorder and the voice recorder. Those recorders are essential to
figuring out the pieces of this puzzle.
MADDOW: Kathy Higgins, former member of the NTSB, former member of
the NTSB, thank you very much for helping I know the work you`ve done at
the NTSB is very data-driven and it`s hard to talk about stuff without
data. But thanks for helping us understand the realm of possibility.
HIGGINS: Happy to be part of it. Thank you.
MADDOW: Thank you.
All right. There`s some late breaking news tonight about President
Obama and an unexpected move from the White House tonight on immigration
policy. This is big news that broke just in the last few minutes. Again,
new news -- executive action by the president on immigration that had not
Stay with us. I`ll have the details for you in just a second.
MADDOW: Breaking news tonight out of Washington. This appears to be
a big deal. President Obama tonight has ordered a review of U.S.
deportation policy, to see if enforcement of that policy, in the words of
"The A.P.", see if enforcement of deportation policies can be done more
The Obama administration, of course, has deported immigrants at the
highest rate of any U.S. presidential administration. And as the president
and congressional Democrats push for a wholesale reform of immigration
policies, President Obama has still been under heavy pressure from
immigration advocates to moderate the high pace of deportations under his
This is a separate question from comprehensive immigration reform
that`s currently stalled in the House of Representatives. This action
tonight is on the enforcement of deportation policy, but President Obama
tonight, again, breaking news, has ordered a new review to see if the
deportation policy can be administered in a more humane way.
We`ll await details on what exactly that means. Watch this space.
MADDOW: There is a pattern here and not a difficult one to figure
The summer of 2008, George W. Bush was president, Russia decided it
wanted to invade Georgia. First sign they were going to go was Russian
military exercises right near the Russian border with Georgia. So, that
conveniently massed Russian troops on the border supposedly for an exercise
but then those were the troops that crossed the border and invaded Georgia.
That was 2008.
This year, Russia decided to invade a part of Ukraine called Crimea.
Again, first sign they were going to do it for real? Russian military
exercises. Don`t worry, they`re just exercises. Right near the Russian
border with Crimea.
Those troops were supposedly there for exercises but then, hey, look,
Crimea is filling up with Russian troops. It`s not hard to figure out this
But now, they`re doing it again. Russian troops, what appears to be
at minimum 10,000 Russian troops, are now massing on another border. And
this time, it is not Crimea, which they already invaded and appear poised
to try to formally annex into the Russian federation within next week.
This time, the Russian troops are massing along the main eastern border of
Ever since Russia moved into Crimea two weeks ago, the world has been
watching and worrying that was just a prelude to Russia invading the rest
of Ukraine as well.
As recently as yesterday, a deputy minister in Russia was denying
reports from Ukraine there were Russian troops massing in eastern Ukraine
or across the border. But today, the Russians went ahead and admitted it.
Their defense ministry releasing a statement, describing what they`re
calling intensive training exercises for Russian troops in attack
helicopters and artillery units.
If Shakespeare is right and past is prologue, then Vladimir Putin`s
history of how he behaves when he`s about to invade another country makes
this feel like Vladimir Putin is about to invade another country,
specifically eastern Ukraine, maybe even imminently.
That is certainly how it was received today in Europe where today
German Chancellor Angela Merkel basically flipped her lid in a speech
before her own parliament. Angela Merkel is usually pretty softly spoken
when it comes to President Putin and relations with Russia more broadly.
But today, she sounded off.
Quote, "If Russia continues on its course," she said, "it will not
only be a catastrophe for Ukraine. We also as neighbors of Russia would
see as a threat and it would not only change the European Union`s
relationship with Russia, no, this would also cause massive damage to
Russia, economically and politically."
Germany -- Germany of all nations threatening massive damage to Russia
if Russian troops cross that border.
But, again, it looks right now like Russia is about to cross that
border. We will know for sure if and when it happens, of course. But with
thousands of Russian troops massing on the eastern border as we speak right
now, again, if past is prologue, it does not look good.
Joining us now on the phone is Andrea Mitchell. She`s NBC News chief
foreign affairs correspondent, the host of "ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS" here
Andrea, I have to ask, if it`s fair to say that this does look like a
real escalation in the region?
ANDREA MITCHELL, ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS (via telephone): It sure
does. Rachel, this is really serious. A senior official traveling with
John Kerry who`s now flying off, he just took off about an hour ago to head
to London for one more meeting with the Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov.
He said, this senior official said they`re very concerned about it.
They`ve had no transparency, no explanation from the Russians at all. And
they want to know what`s going on. This is probably going to be the first
question that Kerry asks Lavrov.
He has said that he would not -- last week he would not be meeting
with Lavrov unless he and Putin explained what`s going on. They didn`t.
They`ve gotten some answers back. The answers are the same answers they`ve
gotten a week ago in both Paris and Rome. And now, they want to know
what`s going on. They`re very concerned.
MADDOW: In terms of the comments today from German Chancellor Angela
Merkel, obviously, Germany is a leading member of the European Union. The
United States and European Union have been pretty well allied on these
issues especially in the last few days.
So, in one sense, it`s not strange to hear a European leader saying,
hey, back off, do not invade eastern Ukraine. On the other hand, to hear
this from Angela Merkel, herself, who`s been a little softly, softly when
it comes to Putin in history, did that strike you as remarkably strong
words from her?
MITCHELL: It does. And you picked up on that because this is a
change in tone from Merkel. Up until now, Merkel was saying she was the
good cop. And Kerry and certainly Obama were more the bad cops.
Although we noted that President Obama was more often saying, hey,
there`s an off ramp, we want to let him get off and get out of this box.
And Kerry was a little bit tougher. There was a little dissidence there.
Carrots and sticks, perhaps.
But now, Merkel is fully onboard apparently because there`s a lot of
concerns that the Europeans were soft, especially Germany, which relies so
heavily on natural gas that comes on a pipeline ironically from Ukraine
And today, Kerry told the Senate and the House that there will be
sanctions on Monday if this referendum goes through. They don`t think they
can stop the referendum. They can`t really stop the de facto annexation.
Now, what they`re concerned about is Putin who is surrounded by three
or four former KGB -- if you can be a former KGB, I don`t think you can --
guys that were his colleagues, pals in the `70s and `80s back in Leningrad.
These are the guys who are advising him. The foreign minister is not.
The economic advisers are not, the National Security Council.
He`s been in Sochi meeting with all these people today but he`s really
listening to this small cadre of people who believe, as he does, that
national interest of Russia is at stake and they`re going to proceed with
the referendum where you cannot vote against annexation or de facto
annexation. The only options are -- yes, Russia, or yes back to the 1991
constitution which is a slower walk to Russia.
So, there`s no way to say yet.
MADDOW: And this is right up on the border of the European Union.
And with those comments today from the German Chancellor, it sounds like
the European Union and the United States government, at least are speaking
in one strong voice right now in terms of saying don`t do this. We`ll see
what happens if they do.
Andrea Mitchell, NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent, host of
"ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS", noon Eastern here on MSNBC -- Andrea, thank you
very much. It`s nice it have you with us tonight.
MITCHELL: Thank you very much. Good to be with you.
MADDOW: All right. Progress to report, progress, maybe in North
Carolina of all places. Emphasis on the maybe, though.
That story`s coming up. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Chutzpah. You know what chutzpah is, right?
The question of who has a legitimate claim on that word, the word
chutzpah, that came up this week in a court in New Jersey, a court hearing
on the issue of the bridge scandal of all things.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL CRITCHLEY, ATTORNEY FOR BRIDGET ANNE KELLY: This is coming on
the eve of St. Patrick`s Day, which is about six days away. And me being
Irish, there`s a word to describe my response to Mr. Schar`s criticism.
That`s a lot of chutzpah. It takes a lot of chutzpah --
JUDGE: You`ve got your ethnicities mixed up there --
CRITCHLEY: I know there`s another ethnic group that claims that word.
But to go back to the dictionary, they`ll say surely, that`s a word that
comes from the Celts.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Chutzpah is actually an Irish word. No, it`s not.
Although Bridget Anne Kelly`s lawyer is such a good lawyer he might
make you think chutzpah is Irish for something, for a second.
For the debunking of less obvious and more consequential bunk, we do
have to go to Debunktion Junction together. We`ve got a really good
Debunktion Junction tonight that`s coming up at the end of the show.
Please stay with us.
MADDOW: This is the Wateree River in South Carolina. It`s a river
that actually has two names. Where it starts in the Blue Ridge Mountains
in North Carolina, they call it the Catawba River. But when it gets to
South Carolina, it changes names. In South Carolina, they call it the
It`s a beautiful river. It has faced real trouble, though, because
along its course in South Carolina is this big coal-burning power plant.
When coal gets burned at a power plant, what`s left over is something
called coal ash. That`s the residue. And that plant stored 2 million tons
of that residue, of that toxic coal ash, alongside that beautiful river, in
these big giant lagoons.
This is another coal ash lagoon. Actually this is a coal ash lagoon
nightmare. Kingston, Tennessee, Christmas week 2008. A billion gallons of
coal ash spilling out covering hundreds of acres contaminating the rivers,
contaminating a big piece of Tennessee. That was the largest coal ash
spill in U.S. history.
And after that spill, after seeing what it looked like when the worst
possible outcome actually happened, environmental groups sued to prevent
that kind of spill from happening in South Carolina. The Southern
Environmental Law center sued the power company in South Carolina that
owned those coal ash lagoons. They sued and said you`ve got it clean this
You know what? It worked. That lawsuit worked. In 2012, the power
company agreed to clean up, clean up all that coal ash in South Carolina
threatening all the rivers.
The company agreed to move all of the coal ash by the year 2020 which,
yes, is still a long time off, but they are doing it and, in fact, they`re
doing it ahead of schedule. The company`s already moved hundreds of
thousands of tons to coal ash -- of coal ash to safe storage away from
South Carolina rivers. Yay, South Carolina.
The rivers of South Carolina are in the middle of a success story
there, but across the border in North Carolina, different utility,
different power company. There, it`s Duke Energy which has 32 coal ash
pits in 14 different sites across the state.
This same group that fixed the problem in South Carolina decided that
they would also try to fix the problem in North Carolina. But that`s when
scandal struck in North Carolina.
You may have heard about this, him. Governor Pat McCrory`s
administration effectively blocking that group lawsuits last year, one
after the other and eventually, they blocked them from suing over any of
Duke Energy`s coal ash dumps anywhere in the whole state saying in effect,
no, no, no, you can`t sue them, we`ll handle this. We`ll negotiate this
quietly with Duke.
It bears mentioning that Governor McCrory spent nearly 30 years
working for Duke Energy before we became governor. In those quiet
negotiations, his administration offered to settle two lawsuits with duke
for a total of $99,000 and no promise that duke would clean up the coal
And that might have been the end of it in North Carolina, except for
what happened along the Dan River. Last month on Super Bowl Sunday, a Duke
Energy coal ash dump in Eden, North Carolina, broke loose, went gushing
into the Dan River coating that river bottom for 70 miles with a ribbon of
sludge and toxins like arsenic, it was the third largest coal ash spill in
our nation`s history.
And the ensuing rage about that disaster, "The Associated Press"
revealed what the McCrory administration had done to stop these coal ash
pits from getting fixed whenever environmentalists tried to fix them. It
was a really big embarrassment for Governor Duke Energy.
But now it looks like things might have changed in North Carolina.
This afternoon, at about 4:00 Eastern Time, North Carolina`s Environmental
Agency posted this letter from the CEO of Duke Energy. The letter is
addressed to the governor and North Carolina`s environmental secretary and
it kind of says, OK, you win. We`re going to clean it up.
Duke says in this letter they`re going to start the process of moving
the rest of their coal ash away from the Dan River and they say they`ll
speed up plans to close their ash ponds at three other sites and they say
they will figure out what to do about all their other coal ash dumps across
the state eventually.
So, that sign of change number one, but then check this out. After
Duke wrote that letter outlining their plan to go so much further toward
cleaning this stuff up than they`ve gone before, the McCrory administration
responded by saying essentially, hey, that`s still not far enough. The
environmental secretary saying, quote, "Duke Energy`s response is in
inadequate. This department is moving forward immediately with mechanisms
to enforce stringent timelines for fulfillment and Duke Energy`s
obligations to protect public health and the environment."
If the boss of Duke Energy is, in fact, saying they`re going to start
cleaning this up and the McCrory administration saying you`ve got to do
more and do it faster -- might that be, maybe real change in North Carolina
finally? Might that be something that starts to finally look like finally
fixing this mess?
And yes, maybe it took 39,000 tons of coal ash dumped into the Dan
River and took big ad buys like these running against pat McCrory on TV
station around the state, saying that he`s got coal ash on his hands. And
maybe it took federal criminal grand jury subpoenas to 18 different people
in the McCrory administration asking them about their communication and
their exchange of things of value with people at Duke Energy. Yes, a lot
of leverage, but are we now looking at a day when it seems like that
leverage was enough?
Did the Southern Environmental Law Center actually start to win
something here? Or is this Duke Energy and the McCrory administration
doing another song and dance?
Joining us now is Frank Holleman, senior attorney with the Southern
Environmental Law Center.
Mr. Holleman, thank you very much for being with us. I appreciate you
being here tonight.
FRANK HOLLEMAN, SOUTHERN ENVIRONMENTAL LAW CENTER: And thank you,
Rachel, for having us.
MADDOW: What do you make of this new letter from Duke Energy? At one
level it seems like you`re starting to win in North Carolina. Does it feel
that way to you?
HOLLEMAN: Well, it sounds like a really good first step that they
have said they`ll clean up at least two sites, but, of course, we have 14
communities across North Carolina and another one in South Carolina where
they have not made a commitment.
Now, what we`re concerned about, really, is the words sound good, but
we need definitive obligations in writing to be sure that Duke Energy will
live up to its word and that it will carry out that same intent for all of
the communities in North Carolina and South Carolina that are threatened by
its coal ash storage.
MADDOW: Do you expect the McCrory administration would ever require
that of Duke without the leverage that you provided, for example, on South
Carolina, of that lawsuit?
HOLLEMAN: Well, I think it`s clear they have taken action when we
have pushed them to do it. And they have taken action when the federal
grand jury being convened has forced them to do it and they`ve taken action
when the media forced them to do it.
But what we really want is a cleanup. And for whatever reason, for
whatever motivation, as long as they do it, that`s what we want for the
people and clean water of North Carolina.
MADDOW: I know you started trying to sue Duke Energy last year just
as Governor McCrory was taking office. Have you seen a change in the way
that North Carolina handles this kind of safety stuff since he took over as
HOLLEMAN: Well, we actually started even before he became governor.
And what we have seen during this time period is that every time we try to
take action, unfortunately, the state agency would step in to try to
frustrate our actions.
But now, with the heightened public attention, with the terrible spill
at Dan River, and with this federal criminal grand jury, we think it
appears the state`s attitude has begun to change.
MADDOW: I`m hearing trust but verify. Be optimistic but be cautious.
Well, a distance has been traveled and it`s largely due to the ball that
you started rolling.
Frank Holleman, senior attorney with Southern Environmental Law
Center, has had some real victories in South Carolina and I think starting
to win in North Carolina. Thank you for your time tonight, sir.
Congratulations on this much thus far.
HOLLEMAN: Thank you. Thank you, Rachel, very much.
MADDOW: All right. Coming up tonight, we have another installment of
Debunktion Junction. Ever seen us do the Debunktion Junction thing? It`s
where the train comes on at the beginning and I go ho-hoot.
We do Debunktion Junctions every once in a while when we seem like
there`s a critical mass of bunk in the news cycle that needs to be
debunked, stuff that people might think is true that isn`t -- or people --
things that people think aren`t true that actually are.
Tonight`s Debunktion Junction I think is the greatest one we`ve ever
done in the history of that, hoot-hoot, whole idea. It`s coming up.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: So, C-Span at about 5:45 this afternoon Eastern Time, all of
a sudden, C-Span this afternoon got really, really good.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DAN KILDEE (D), MICHIGAN: Committee Chairman Darrell Issa gave a
statement then posed ten questions to former Internal Revenue Service
official Lois Lerner who stated that she was invoking her Fifth Amendment
right not to testify. Whereas ranking member Cummings protested
immediately stating, quote, "Mr. Chairman, you cannot run a committee like
this. You just cannot --"
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gentleman will suspend. Chair is going to ask for
the decorum of the House that members not display their iPads. It`s a
violation of the House rules.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Which rules?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s a violation of the house rules. Regular
order would be putting the iPads down.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Which rules? Regular order would be putting the iPads -- I
mean, my own point of order here, I think there were a few other brands of
things held up there other than just iPads.
Still, though, the reason for this remarkable scene today in the
House, the reason these members of Congress were holding up tablets and
phones and one poor guy with a piece of paper, the reason they were holding
these up was to show everyone one specific photo. This photo of Republican
Congressman Darrell Issa last week in his capacity as chairman of the House
Oversight Committee, Darrell Issa drawing his fingers across his neck
giving the old "shut it down, cut it off" sign to the audio guy apparently
during an official committee hearing.
He made that gesture. He did that. He drew his fingers across his
throat that way in order to tell the audio guy to cut off the microphone of
the top Democrat on the committee who you can see on the left side of this
picture. He said to cut him off while he was speaking.
That happened at the end of Chairman Issa`s 11 gazillionth hearing
into the IRS controversy which started off looking like a scandal when it
looked like only conservative group, only Tea Party groups had been singled
out by the IRS for special scrutiny.
That sort of fell apart as a scandal everywhere except on FOX News and
in Darrell Issa`s mind when it turned out the IRS had not only targeted
conservative groups, they targeted liberal groups as well. But still,
Congressman Issa is still scandalized and convening hearings on the matter.
That`s what was under way last week when this unprecedented cut his mike
This is how it looked like.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DARRELL ISSA (R), CALIFORNIA: I have no expectation Ms. Lerner
will cooperate with this committee, and therefore we stand adjourned.
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: I have a statement. I have a
procedural question, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman, I have a procedural
question. But, first, I`d like to use my time to make some brief points.
For the past year, this central Republican accusation in this
ISSA: We`re adjourned. Close it down.
CUMMINGS: -- directed by on behalf of the White House. Before our --
ISSA: Thank you.
CUMMINGS: -- effectively and lied about it during the election year,
end of quote.
ISSA: Mr. Cummings.
CUMMINGS: He continued this theme on -- if you will sit down and
allow me to ask the question, I am a member of the Congress of the United
States of America. I am tired of this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Good feelings do not runneth over between Congressman Elijah
Cummings and Congressman Darrell Issa, obviously. That fact has been
illustrated over many months and many hearings of the House Oversight
Committee of which Darrell Issa is the chairman and Elijah Cummings is the
Now, Chairman Darrell Issa did end up apologizing to Congressman
Cummings for cutting him off, but only after a motion to censure Darrell
Issa for his conduct in that moment had been floated in the House.
Well, it became clear today that House Democrats are not accepting the
apology. And so 5:45 p.m. today, C-Span was filled with this rather
remarkable spectacle of House Democrats wielding their iPads, wielding
their phones showing that cut him off moment and calling for an official
condemnation of Congressman Darrell Issa`s behavior.
MADDOW: Hoot-hoot! Debunktion Junction, what`s my junction?
President Obama did this week that was qualitatively unprecedented in
terms of degrading the dignity of the White House. Is that true or is that
ABC News reporter Jim Avila at the White House press briefing this
week was clearly making that claim.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIM AVILA, ABC NEWS: How much discussion was there at the White House
about the dignity of the office (INAUDIBLE), the dignity of the office
might be lost? This is an interview like no other probably ever done by a
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: No other president has ever done anything like this. Why did
President Obama decide to degrade the dignity of the office in this
What ABC news is so upset by is the fact that President Obama showed
up on "Between Two Ferns." It was basically a stunt to get young people to
hear him talk about healthcare.gov, so they`d go to the Web site and maybe
sign up for health insurance. As a stunt, it worked. Traffic at
Healthcare.gov was up 40 percent the day that "Between Two Ferns" got
posted, and the "Between Two Ferns" Web site became the number one referral
site on the entire Internet for sending people to Healthcare.gov.
But was the cost too high? ABC News says no president has ever done
anything like this before. Also, the capital V, capital S, very serious
pundit, David Gergen, scolded the president even more directly in this
tweet. "Unimaginable that Truman, Ike, JFK, Reagan would appear on
`Between Two Ferns.` They carefully projected majesty of their office."
So, are David Gergen and ABC news correct that this appearance on a
comedy show was an encroachment on the dignity of the White House? Is that
true or is that false?
False. Of course it`s false.
David Gergen says it`s outrageous. Ike would never do a comedy show.
Behold, here is Ike doing a comedy show. President Eisenhower
appearing on the Colgate comedy hour in 1955, on an episode on that also
featured Abbot and Costello.
Ah, OK, maybe Ike did it, but surely Ronald Reagan would never do a
comedy show. What was the phrase? He was always carefully protecting the
majesty of the office. Reagan would never have done a comedy show.
Behold, here is Ronald Reagan doing a comedy show, as president taking
part in comedy birthday specials for both George Burns and Bob Hope.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to tell you, Mr. President, with all of the
travel and all of the work you have done, you look just great.
RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT: You look great, too.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I hope I look that good when I`m your age.
REAGAN: I hope I look that good when I`m your age.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: While we`re on the subject, consider that President George W.
Bush, he wasn`t above showing up on a Howie Mandel game show while he was
president, and good for him for doing it.
And if all of that kind of stuff makes you feel terrible about the
dignity of the presidency, first of all, you should probably lighten up.
Second of all, though, consider the example of Richard Nixon. Richard
Nixon on "Laugh In."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, no, I don`t think we could get Mr. Nixon to
standstill for a sock it to me.
RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT: Sock it to me?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Which makes you feel worse about the dignity of the
presidency? The way Richard Nixon told the sock it to me joke on "Laugh
In" or what else Richard Nixon did to the dignity of the office of the
Telling jokes are being part of comedy bits have generations of
precedent among American presidents, it really never has diminished the
office. Presidents have to work way, way harder for that distinction.
So, sorry, David Gergen, sorry, ABC News, you`re completely and
All right. Next up, true or false, in the Florida congressional
special election this week, the one where Republican David Jolly beat
Democrat Alex Sink, did legendary "Price is Right" host Bob Barker
unexpectedly bring spaying and neutering into politics? Is that true or
True. Yes. And it was kind of amazing.
This is the victory party for the guy who the congressional election.
It was an announced special guest. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOB BARKER: Hello, Pinellas County. I`m Bob Barker and I wish I
could be there with you folks tonight but I would like to say two things.
One, help control the pet population. Have your pets spayed or neutered.
Two, words that I have waited months to speak. Congressman David Jolly,
come on down!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: And then he did. That`s how he came out to the crowd. That
actually happened. Bob Barker introducing freshly elected Florida
Congressman David Jolly. That is a real thing that happened this week.
And now we know that in all circumstances, when Bob Barker introduces
you, even if the circumstances that you have just won a freaking seat in
the U.S. House of Representatives, even if that instance, you will come
second, my friend, and having your pet spayed or neutered will come first.
Congratulations to Congressman Jolly. I believe he was sworn in for
his job this afternoon.
Finally, Jan Brewer, governor of Arizona, has made the decision not to
be the governor of Arizona anymore. Like this "L.A. Times" headline says,
"Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has declined to seek re-election." Is that
true or is that false?
False. Technically. I don`t mean to be too picky or anything, but it
is in fact the case that Jan Brewer is not going to run for re-election as
Arizona governor. But that is not because she has made the decision to
decline to seek re-election. It`s because Jan Brewer is barred from doing
so by the Arizona constitution. That state`s constitution says governors
only get to serve two terms, including any part of one term.
Jan Brewer became governor in 2009 when Janet Napolitano left as
Arizona governor to instead go run the Department of Homeland Security.
Jan Brewer the final two years of Janet Napolitano`s term in office, so
that`s the first term or part of a term. Then Jan Brewer got re-elected to
a second term in 2010. That one, her second term, is now ending, and you
can only serve two terms.
So she can`t run for re-election. Which is the bottom line
implication of headlines like these but at least out the relevant detail
that it`s not like she had a choice in the matter. It`s the law.
Debunktion Junction, mission accomplished.
That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow night.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL."
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