THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
March 24, 2014
Guest: Ryan Grim
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: You hit it much better than you ever hit
CHRIS HAYES, "ALL IN" HOST: I couldn`t resist patting myself on the
MADDOW: The shame that rains down on me as I blow through 10:00
every night. I suck.
HAYES: I know that shame.
MADDOW: Thanks, man. Appreciate it.
Thanks to you at home as well for joining us this hour.
When you are the president of the United States, there is no such
thing as an aside, right? Going off script, making even one little off the
cuff remark can be a dangerous thing if you`re the president of the United
States. In the sense that you`re basically guaranteed that somebody,
somewhere in the world, is going to take what you said very seriously, even
if it was your mildest, most sarcastic parenthetical phrase.
Case in point: President Obama addressing a group of students in
Waukesha, Wisconsin, in January. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A lot of young people
no longer see the trades and skilled manufacturing as a viable career, but
I promise you, folks can make a lot more potentially with skilled
manufacturing or trades than they might with an art history degree.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I`m just going to cut in here for a second to say it is
painfully obvious that the president knew immediately, as soon as he said
that, that he had just made America`s art historians very angry. And he
right away tried to fix it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Folks can make a lot more potentially with skilled
manufacturing or trades than they might with an art history degree.
Now, nothing wrong with an art history degree. I love art history.
I don`t want to get a bunch of e-mails from everybody.
I`m just saying you can make a really good living and have a great
career without getting a four-year college education as long as you get the
skills and the training that you need.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: You can see him react knowing what he`s done. But indeed,
as soon as President Obama made that very self-conscious joke about our
history majors and he cringed as soon as he said it and tried to walk it
back immediately, indeed, the reason he cringes, because he knew what was
about to happen would in fact happen.
He felt the swift raft of the art historians and people who love them
as soon as he got off the podium. The College Art Association tweeted,
"President Obama dissed art history today." "Art history majors now just a
punch line for the president."
It`s President Obama versus the gentlest foes you can imagine.
One of those gentle foes is professor Ann Collins Johns who teaches
late medieval and early Renaissance Italian art at the University of Texas
at UT-Austin. After the president made the remarks in Waukesha, Wisconsin,
about art history majors, this professor at UT e-mailed the White House to
tell President Obama what she thought about his comments. She said she
wasn`t writing to express her outrage, she just wanted to explain to
President Obama what it is that art historians do very well.
How art history teaches students how to think and read and write
critically and that those are crucial skills both for life and also for the
modern job market. Well, the professor clicked "submit" on her message.
She sent it from the White House web page. And then a few weeks later, she
got an unexpected response.
Look. Handwritten letter. "Ann", the president writes, "Let me
apologize for my off the cuff remarks. Art history was one of my favorite
subjects in high school and it has helped me take in a great deal of joy in
my life that I might otherwise have missed. Please pass on my apology for
the glib remark to the entire department. Sincerely, Barack Obama."
Professor Collins Johns seems to have accepted the president`s
apology. She also said she kind of felt guilty for having wasted his time.
But if President Obama had yet to redeem himself in the eyes of any
other art historians who were still carrying a grudge about that joke in
January in Waukesha, Wisconsin, President Obama may have gone some distance
toward full redemption with the art historians of the world today. When he
visited a renowned museum of Dutch art in Amsterdam, the Rijksmuseum.
President gave a press conference today standing in front of this
work of art by Rembrandt. It`s called "The Night Watch." It was painted
in 1642. It`s the Rijksmuseum`s signature piece. It`s just lovely to look
at. Just like this.
But when you see it in context, oh, when you see it in context,
instead of just in a book or otherwise sort of disembodied the way we just
showed it a second ago, when you actually see the size of it, you see how
freaking impressive it actually is.
I mean, part of the impact of this piece, right, is that it is
enormous. It`s 12 feet by more than 14 feet. And it served today as the
gigantic and impressive backdrop for the president`s press conference today
President Obama is in the Netherlands today officially for a long
planned nuclear security summit. This is the third nuclear security summit
of its kind that`s happened since he has been president. The goal of these
summits is to bring together world leaders, 53 world leaders gathered in
The Hague today, to agree to secure loose nuclear material around the
world. The idea is to cut off access to nuclear material from terrorists
or terrorist groups or anybody else who might try to buy it in the black
This idea, this issue as a priority as something that president of
the United States should be devoting his time to, this is something that
President Obama promised when he was a candidate and he started working on
as soon as he was elected. It was a signature issue of his when he was in
the United States Senate.
The first loose nukes summit was held in 2010 in Washington. The
second one was held in 2012 in South Korea. These gatherings happen every
This one right now, again, is happening in the Netherlands. The next
one is planned for 2016 and that will be back in Washington.
Today, both Belgium and Italy announced that they had completed what
they called significant removal of highly enriched uranium and plutonium
from within their borders. That`s the kind of thing that gets announced at
these summits and agreed to.
Thanks to this priority of the president, these meetings and all
these summits and the work that`s happened in between them in order to make
sure that these countries don`t have nuclear material lying around where
anybody can get to it -- thanks to this work and this priority, in just the
last five years, the number of states that have nuclear weapons material
that could fuel a terrorist bomb has shrunk by more than a third. It
shrunk from 38 countries to 25 countries.
So that work, that priority of the president`s, that was the initial
reason that President Obama was in the Netherlands today standing in front
of that giant magnificent Rembrandt giving a press conference alongside the
Dutch prime minister.
Frankly, as important as that work is and as important as it is to
our president, right now overshadowing that work and all of those
accomplishments of these nuclear security summits thus far and all the work
that is yet to be done on the nuclear security issue, overshadowing all of
that right now is, of course, what`s going on with Russia, and Russia
taking over a part of Ukraine.
The Dutch prime minister today called Russia`s annexation of Crimea a
flagrant breach of international law. He said his government condemned
Russia`s actions in the strongest possible terms.
And then President Obama echoed those comments.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Europe and America are united in our support of the Ukrainian
government and the Ukrainian people. We`re united in imposing a cost on
Russia for its actions so far. I`ll be meeting with my fellow G7 leaders
later today, and we`ll continue to coordinate closely with the Netherlands
and our European partners as we go forward.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Did you catch what he said there? "I will be meeting with
my fellow G7 leaders today." Isn`t that supposed to be G8? Used to be.
The G7 used to be the group of the world`s eight leading industrialized
nations, and it was called the G8, group of eight.
The eighth member of that group, the most recent addition, was
Russia. Here`s all of them. There`s Putin circled there. This is all
those, the G8 leaders at the G8 meeting last year.
After what Russia just did in Ukraine, the White House said that
President Obama`s goal today in this overseas trip meeting with the world
leaders was basically to get Russia kicked out of the G8, to get them
kicked out of the exclusive group as punishment for having invaded another
And late this afternoon, that is exactly what happened. The G8
became the G7 again. Russia is out. The planned G8 summit in Sochi, in
Russia where they had the Olympics is going to be the June G7 summit in
Brussels. Russia just lost it and Russia is not invited to the other
Today`s statement expelling Russia from the G8, which is called The
Hague Declaration, it says, quote, "We the leaders of Canada, France,
Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States reaffirm
our support for Ukraine`s sovereignty. We strongly condemn Russia`s
illegal attempt to annex Crimea. We remain ready to intensify actions
including coordinated sectoral sanctions that will be an increasingly
significant impact on the Russian economy. We will not participate in the
planned Sochi summit."
And then, this is interesting. Crucially, "We have decided that G7,"
remember it`s not the G8 anymore, "G7 energy ministers will also meet now
to discuss ways to strengthen our collective energy security." Hmm.
Russia`s foreign minister responded to that statement today, Russia
being kicked out of the G8 by basically refusing to leave any club that
would not have his country. He rejected the notion of Russia being
expelled from the G8. He said, "Because the G8 is an informal group,
really nobody can be expelled from it."
In other words, Russia`s decided that this didn`t really happen. We
were never really part of it, anyway. It doesn`t even really exist.
Despite their effort, though, to laugh this all off, it`s clear that
sanctions focused on punishing the Russian economy and concerted push to
rid G8 countries and European countries of their dependence on Russian oil,
these are serious and potentially scary threats from Russia`s perspective.
I mean, as much as this conflict is about anything, it is about energy.
Russia is the number two net exporter of oil in the world, second only to
Saudi Arabia. And a big chunk of those exports go to Europe, to Germany,
to the Netherlands, to Italy. Germany in particular gets more than a third
of their oil and natural gas from Russia.
But even despite that dependence on Russian oil, the head of the
German government now says she supports an escalation of sanctions against
the country that provides her country with a third of its energy supply.
Meanwhile, in the disputed territory of Crimea, the Ukrainian government
seems to also be fighting its fight using energy, reporting today that the
Ukrainian government cut off the electricity supply to Crimea.
Crimea is not connected by land to Russia. It only connects to
mainland Ukraine by a tiny spit of land and across that tiny spit of land
is how they get a lot of their water and most of their electricity.
They`ve been experiencing widespread power outages today.
An escalation of this conflict that involves countries cutting off
other countries from oil and gas, that would be a big deal. That would
have big economic consequences, not just in the immediate effect but in
terms of the knock-on effect. But it is an eventuality that European
leaders seem to be preparing for.
Also, if Vladimir Putin decides to invade another sovereign country,
decides to invade more of Ukraine, he has said he does not intend to
because said quite a few things in recent days that haven`t ended up being
true. Or even if he refuses to un-occupy the one he`s already invaded, are
the United States and other world leaders willing to do anything further in
terms of continuing to put pressure on Russia`s economy? Would there be an
effort to sanction Russian oil and gas companies? Will there be an
international effort to stop Russian oil and gas companies from being able
to sell their wares around the world?
So far, President Obama has announced targeted sanctions and travel
bans against 27 Russian individuals and one Russian bank. As president, he
can take unilateral action that way. He can issue sanctions. He can
punish Russia without the help of Congress.
But in order to spend money on this conflict, in order to aid, for
example, the fledgling Ukrainian government, to show America`s support for
Ukraine financially, President Obama can`t do that side of it on his own.
For that he needs Congress.
And tonight, Congress did act. The U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly
tonight to begin the process to advance to billion dollar package of aid to
So, what happens next here? What is the next step in this conflict
economically? What is the president willing to do? And how far is
Congress willing to go in order to help him?
Joining us now is Ryan Grim. He`s Washington bureau chief for "The
Mr. Grim, thank you very much for being here. It`s nice to see you.
RYAN GRIM, THE HUFFINGTON POST: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: I know you were on capitol hill today when the Senate voted
on advancing that bill about Ukraine. What struck you as significant about
the vote or the way it went down today?
GRIM: Well, the Republicans who voted to move forward pretty
universally did not express their support for voting on final passage of
the bill. So, in other words, it looks like an overwhelming victory. That
doesn`t mean in a couple days when it comes up that it`s going to cruise
They`re quite opposed to a provision that the White House wants in
there, that would allow reforms at the IMF. Basically, it would allow the
$6 3 billion pool of money to be moved from an emergency kind of crisis
fund into the general fund. We agreed to do this four years ago, but we`ve
never implemented it because we agree to do things all the time we don`t
implement because we have this thing called the United States Senate.
And so, they`re saying that this is not the right time to do it.
Now, there has never been a right time to do it over the past four years.
The argument is that the IMF, in order to be effective in Ukraine and
for our billion dollars to be effective in Ukraine, needs this flexibility
to have access to this $63 billion. But the Tea Party hates anything that
smacks of foreigners, and so it is themed to be dead on arrival over on the
house side. So the entire thing is getting caught up over this IMF reform
MADDOW: So we`re seeing, I mean, increasingly -- I don`t want to
call it necessarily belligerent, but at least increasingly sharply worded
criticisms not just of Russia but after the West, the United States`
inability to push Vladimir Putin around. Conservative critique of what`s
happening now with Russia is the United States isn`t doing enough.
But you`re saying that the reason we might not be able to do anything
through Congress is because of objections to an accounting change with the
GRIM: That`s right. And it gets even more bizarre than that. A lot
of the Republicans are saying, OK, look, we will cave on this IMF thing if
you give us a provision on the IRS that says the IRS has to back off its
investigation of dark money groups.
In other words, this is an international situation that we have going
on. Russian troops are literally marching around in places the United
States and Europe don`t want them marching around. And Congress is hung up
over stopping the IRS from enforcing the law on these dark money groups.
The law says these 501c4s cannot spend this amount of money on political
activity and Republicans are worried that the IRS is going to enforce the
MADDOW: So the -- in the Senate, at least so far, the objection is,
no, an arcane accounting change at the International Monetary Fund is
enough to stop us from doing anything about what we keep calling World War
III and comparing to Hitler? Or take your choice, the other option is that
if unless you leave the Koch brothers and Karl Rove alone, we will not do
anything about something we`re calling World War III and akin to Hitler.
GRIM: It`s quite a remarkable state of affairs. I mean --
MADDOW: I almost can`t believe that this is real. I mean, it`s part
of the reason I wanted to talk to you because I know you saw it happen. I
can`t actually believe this is what`s going on. I`m sorry.
GRIM: Yes, and most people don`t -- most of the Republicans don`t
want to say out loud that this is the situation. Talk to Ted Cruz and he
said, absolutely, this is a terrible thing if you allow the -- you know,
this IMF provision to go through. He went so far as to say it would
strengthen Russia`s hand within the IMF.
Ted Cruz is a smart person. He, you know, he knows that Russia has
basically zero control over what the IMF is going to do with Ukraine. But
that`s the kind of thing he`ll say, and I bet that`s the kind of thing you
would see get picked up by Tea Party groups and they`ll start e-mailing it
around to each other saying, look, you know, Obama is trying to surrender
the IMF to Russia. We can`t allow this to happen.
And so, this is the situation we`re in. So, you know, what the House
Republicans say to the Senate is, yes, OK, maybe it`s crazy, but the only
way we can get this IMF thing through is if you give us this IRS thing,
too. Sorry, that`s just the way works, we have a crazy caucus to deal
with. This is the way we have to get it through. It`s just bananas.
MADDOW: Wow. So, if you want to know how the United States can
respond to this situation, we can do things the president can do, but
anything positive that needs to be done that has dollars attach to help
Ukraine or the rest of it, it goes into the comment section at blog posts
on "World Net Daily" about black helicopters and there it dies. Amazing
Ryan Grim, "Huffington Post" Washington bureau chief -- thank you
very much for your time tonight, Ryan.
GRIM: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. Lots to come tonight including New Jersey
Governor Chris Christie basically announcing he has cleared himself. That
was good for him. But also a lot more to come out of Texas, Galveston Bay,
tonight, and plenty more.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: The largest oil refinery in the United States of America is
Saudi Arabian. It`s called the Motiva Refinery. It`s operated by the
Saudi oil company Aramco and also by Royal Dutch Shell which is a company
that is British and Dutch.
But even with that Benetton ad heritage, this international refinery,
the biggest one we have in this country, is located right here in Port
Arthur, Texas. The dot on the right side of your screen.
The second largest refinery in United States of America is located an
hour west of Port Arthur, down I-10 in Baytown, Texas. If you plot the
driving distance between the first and second largest refineries in the
nation, Google Maps helpfully points out all the wildlife refuges you pass
along the way.
The second largest refinery in the country, the one in Baytown, that
one is operated by ExxonMobil, which technically is an American company but
tends to operate like it`s bigger than any one country including this one.
Well, today, Exxon is marking an important anniversary for the
company. Today is the 25th anniversary of one of Exxon`s thousand-foot-
long oil tankers hitting a reef in the Prince Williams sound in Alaska.
The Exxon Valdez disaster 25 years ago today fouled 1,300 miles of Alaska
coastline, some of the greatest fishing waters on earth, fouled it more
than 10 million gallons of toxic crude oil.
Well, twenty-five years later, the otter numbers are still down in
that part of Alaska. The herring fishery never came back there. And along
that coastline today, you can still find oil. Here`s "The Anchorage Daily
News" today marking the anniversary of the spill. Quote, "Pick up a stone
on a rocky beach, dig a little, and it`s possible to still find pockets of
Exxon Valdez oil at Prince William sound."
A marine biologist for NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration tells the paper, quote, "I think the big surprise for all of
us who have worked on this thing for the last 25 years has been the
continued presence of relatively fresh oil." For its part, Exxon is
marking 25 years since the Valdez disaster by denying that there is any
continuing problem at the site of the spill. Exxon senior media relations
adviser tells the "Anchorage Daily News" today, quote, "The sound," meaning
Prince William sound, "is thriving environmentally. We`ve had a very
solid, complete recovery," so says Exxon. That`s in Alaska.
In Texas today, Exxon on this 25th anniversary of the Valdez
disaster, Exxon in Texas today also had to partially shut down its second
largest oil refinery in the country, the one in Baytown, Texas, because of
another terrible oil spill. This one`s in the Houston shipping channel.
It`s on the way to that Baytown refinery.
On Saturday at midday, there was a collision between an oil tanker
and a barge that was being towed by a Houston-based company called Kirby
Inland Marine. The tow boat that crashed has been involved in a string of
20 accidents and other incidents reported to the coast guard over the last
12 years, including two other accidents that occurred when that boat was
pushing barges containing asphalt or oil like it was on Saturday. It`s
according to the "Houston Chronicle" reviewing government records.
Well, that company that owns the towboat and now partially sunken
barge says that they will pay for all the cleanup costs associated with
this new oil disaster in Galveston, but the Coast Guard is on scene. They
have hundreds of people in dozens of boats trying to clean up this heavy,
gunky, marine fuel oil. The conditions are windy and choppy. They`re not
doing a good job containing the oil so far.
As of this morning, the oil had already spread about 12 miles into
Galveston Bay. By sun up tomorrow, we should have a better idea of how far
it`s gone in another 24 hours.
Once again, the state of the art response from the world`s most
profitable industry is boom. That`s boom, you can see there, lying on the
beach. That`s boom doing just its usual great job of keeping oil off the
Here you can see boom doing just as good a job protecting shore
birds. There`s miles and miles of supposedly protected shore bird habitat
all along this part of Galveston Bay and Texas coast. The spill itself
happened just two miles from the Bolivar Flats Audubon refuge. Tens of
thousands of birds use the wetlands as stopping off points on their spring
So, the wildlife consequences here could be just devastating.
Potentially, also, the economic consequences. The Houston shipping channel
was closed after the crash on Saturday. This 52 -mile-long channel is one
of the busiest commercial shipping channels in the whole country.
The intersection, the actual intersection where the spill happened
has about 11,000 ships passing through it every month. And a lot of those
ships are supplying the refineries there. These huge refineries in that
part of the country, those refineries rely on daily deliveries, constant
shipments in and out in order to keep running.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: You have about 30 boats and close to 400 people working to
contain and clean up this oil. We`re talking about 168,000 gallons of
bunker fuel oil that`s in the water, all of it leaking from a partially
Now, this fuel is thick. It`s sludge-like. It does not evaporate
And containing this spill is proving very tricky. You`ve got the
heavy winds as well as choppy surf moving this oil farther out into the
gulf. So far, you have about 69,000 feet of containment boom that`s been
deployed into the water with more of that boom at the ready.
This spill has the potential to wreak economic havoc on our area.
The ship channel is closed. And as it stands right now, you have nearly 80
vessels stacked up waiting to either leave or come into the area. You also
have several refineries that are along the ship channel that depend on
daily shipments by vessels to maintain operations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Some of the local coverage from local channel 2 in Houston,
the NBC affiliate there. This is a disaster any way you look at it. The
whole Galveston area, the tourist beaches already been hit with oil in
Galveston today. For the native wildlife, for all the migratory birds, for
the fishing industry, local fishermen already say today they`re throwing
back fish they`re catching that are coated with oil.
Potentially, though, this is also an economic disaster for all of us.
If the refineries there at this choke point, for our oil-dependent economy,
if that choke point stays choked and that shipping channel stays shut,
we`re all going to feel this disaster sooner rather than later.
Today is 25 years since the Exxon Valdez disaster. We`re
commemorating it in Texas tonight in a way that is so appropriate, it is
MADDOW: Vice President Joe Biden is an in demand speaker at
political events around the country in part because the man does not mince
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It`s close to
barbaric. I mean, think about this. No, I really mean this. Imagine,
imagine 20 years from now as Americans look back and say, how in the hell
could that have ever been allowed?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: What Vice President Joe Biden was talking about there, and
what was happening halfway across the country at the moment that he was
saying that which absolutely proved his point turns out to be a kind of
incredible story. And that story is coming up.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: We`re going through an internal
investigation. All of this stuff will come out over an appropriate period
of time and I`m not going to give into the hysteria of questions that are
given by folks who have information, today, that I didn`t have at the time
that you`re talking about why didn`t I ask certain questions? I mean, I
didn`t ask the questions because I didn`t think they needed to be asked.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey vowed to the public in
February that everything that should be known about the Fort Lee traffic
jam scandal would be known, in his words, "over an appropriate period of
Well, the appropriate period of time apparently began today when
somebody leaked to "The New York Times" that there is, quote, "no evidence
that Governor Christie was involved in the plotting or directing of the
lane closings on the George Washington Bridge."
Now, if you are Governor Chris Christie, that is a pretty awesome
thing to have somehow leaked to "The New York Times," right?
But it`s also a great place to put a big glowing giant asterisk, or
in the case of "The New York Times" front page today, at least the second
part of the headline that comes after the comma. "Inquiry is said to clear
Christie, but that`s his lawyers` verdict."
What made the front page of "The Times" today is the leaked result,
at least reportedly, the leaked result of an internal investigation that
Governor Christie ordered of his own administration. After the scandal
broke open in January, about a staffer in Governor Christie`s office
reportedly ordering the shutdown of access lanes on to the world`s busiest
bridge as a means of punishing one town in New Jersey for some as yet
unexplained political punishment, well, Governor Christie reportedly called
up his close friend, a friend who is also a veteran of the George W. Bush
Justice Department. Her name is Debra Wong Yang. She`s also a U.S.
attorney at the same time Chris Christie was. She`s publicly described
herself as a close friend of the governor. WNYC reports tonight that she
was also a contributor to the fund to pay for Governor Christie`s second
inauguration which happened around the same time this scandal broke open.
And tonight, "The Bergen Record" is reporting that her daughter was
an unpaid intern in Chris Christie`s office in 2011. So, they`re close.
Lots of ties.
And when Governor Christie was looking for someone to hire to
investigate what happened in his administration around the bridge scandal
and whether he did anything wrong, he called his old friend, Debra Wong
Yang. She set it up at her law firm at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.
The Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher review is the one that has not yet been
publicly released but leaks to "The Times" describe it as totally
exonerating the governor.
The Gibson, Dunn partner heading the investigation calls it a
comprehensive and exhaustive look at the scandal.
For the record, he may call it comprehensive and exhaustive, but I
should tell you, it did not include the investigators from the review
speaking with Bridget Kelly, the Christie deputy chief of staff who
apparently ordered the lane closures, David Wildstein, who apparently
carried out the lane closures, Bill Baroni, appears to have led the cover-
up effort about the lane closures, or even Mark Sokolich, the mayor of Fort
Lee, New Jersey, who reportedly was the target of the lane closure scheme
in the first place.
They didn`t talk to any of those folks. But still, it`s being
described as comprehensive and exhaustive.
And according to anonymous leaks in today`s "New York Times", it`s
described as totally exonerating the governor, after being paid more than a
million New Jersey taxpayer dollars in a contract awarded by the governor.
Joining us now is Steve Kornacki, host of the very excellent "UP WITH
STEVE KORNACKI", weekends on MSNBC.
Steve, thanks very much for being here.
STEVE KORNACKI, UP WITH STEVE KORNACKI: You`re welcome. Thanks.
MADDOW: Nobody expected Governor Christie`s internal review to do
anything other than exonerate him, I think.
MADDOW: Is there anything that we have learned about this review
about its importance or relevant context that we didn`t know before?
KORNACKI: I don`t think so. We didn`t learn when exactly it`s
coming out, which would be a useful piece of information. They`ve been
saying for a while now, soon, and the new report today says, soon. So, we
didn`t even learn that.
I think the two relevant things to look for here, there`s no
indication of what`s in the report about this, is does this report offer
some kind of, like, unified theory of, OK, here was the motive, here`s how
it was carried out, why it was carried out, who exactly knew? And does the
report implicate anybody who`s not previously come up in all this? Is
there a new scapegoat? Is there someone else for Christie to point to and
say, this person failed in their job? I`m going to disassociate myself
from this person.
There`s two things to look for in this report when it comes, but
there`s no indication that "The New York Times" even saw the report.
KORNACKI: So, they don`t know what`s in it. There`s no indication
that they got an explicit description of the contents of the report.
There`s broad assertions here in this story. I don`t think we learned
anything new today. We`re just going to have to wait until we see the
MADDOW: What "The New York Times" front paged is what somebody wants
them to print about the report without seeing the report, themselves.
KORNACKI: Yes and here`s the thing -- I mean, look, this is
speculation. You call around Trenton today and the suspicion, at least,
there`s an effort here by the Christie camp to sort of roll this out in two
phases. The first phase is headline. Christie exonerated. Christie
report, you know, exonerates Christie, whatever the headline is.
So, the people are focused on that as the bottom line. Then, when
you roll out this dense, bulky report that`s going to have all these
details and names and dates --
MADDOW: It sounds like old news.
KORNACKI: Right. And also, they don`t want people to lose sight of
their bottom-line conclusion when they get this thick document and want
people focusing on as they reading it, OK, this exonerates Christie.
That`s the working theory of the talk around Trenton.
MADDOW: What`s interesting is to see the Christie campaign, today,
or sorry, the governor`s office today push out a very long, breathless
press release about this information crediting "The New York Times" for
this incredible insightful look at how not guilty Governor Christie is when
Governor Christie`s office has been excoriating "The New York Times" sort
of above all other news outlets for the way they`ve covered this in the
KORNACKI: Right. I mean, here`s the thing: we -- so we say nobody
who`s followed this at all expected the Christie internal investigation
would do anything other than say Chris Christie had no knowledge, no
involvement. That may actually be true. We don`t know. That may end up
being the case.
But nobody was looking at this as the definitive answer on whether
Christie was involved, wasn`t involved, had knowledge, didn`t have
And that`s what the U.S. attorney is for, that`s what the legislative
investigative committee is for. Potentially, that`s what the inspector
general at the Port Authority is for.
You have three independent investigations that are now playing out.
You mentioned all of these people who didn`t agree to be interviewed by the
Christie`s internal investigation team, they didn`t agree because they said
it would be inappropriate to meet with Chris Christie`s lawyers while the
attorney from New Jersey is actively looking into this, many cases
presumably interviewing these people.
So, that`s the ball game here. Whatever this report ends up saying,
it`s interesting. It will be interesting if they throw anybody else under
the bus, interesting if they offer their explanation of what happened.
MADDOW: Or any further documents or supporting information
explaining what happened since they`ve still never explained it.
KORNACKI: Right. But even if they do that, the real ball game here
is what the U.S. attorney does and if the investigative committee from the
legislature actually gets its hands on these documents Bridget Kelly is
fighting to hold back.
There are independent authorities here that are going to weigh in on
this. This is not the be all and end all.
MADDOW: What do you make of the legislature responding to this
report in "The Times" saying, hey, sounds like they got access to a lot of
information you never handed over to the legislature. We`d love to see
KORNACKI: Yes, there`s that and the other thing they`re also
pointing out look who wasn`t interviewed. They`re in the battle right now
to get the documents from Bridget Kelly, from Bill Stepien, that obviously
were not provided to this investigation. And even in they fail in that,
it`s pending in the courts now, the U.S. attorney is going to have no
What the U.S. attorney wants to see, who the U.S. attorney wants to
talk to, he will see and he will talk to, and I really that`s what the ball
game is on this race.
MADDOW: Fascinating. It`s amazing stuff. And the taxpayers of New
Jersey, you should know tonight that this internal report that they`re
leaking as exonerating the governor, you just paid $1 million for this. It
was taxpayer funded all along the way, which, you know, frankly is kind of
its own scandal.
Steve Kornacki, host of the sensational "UP WITH STEVE KORNACKI",
weekend mornings here on MSNBC. Steve, thank you.
KORNACKI: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: Folks, it`s a lot of progress in a relatively short time
after this fight`s begun, but guess what? There`s so much more to be done.
My grandkids, my children, and their kids are going to be shocked. It
shocked the conscience that this very moment in American history in some
states, an employer can fire you just because of who you are or who you
love. It`s close to barbaric.
I mean, think about this. No, I really mean this. Imagine, imagine
20 years from now as Americans look back and say, how in the hell could
that have ever been allowed?
BIDEN: The country`s moved on. The American people have moved on.
It`s time for the Congress to move on and pass ENDA. Past ENDA now. Not
BIDEN: If you think about it, it`s outrageous we`re even debating
this subject. I really mean it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I think one of the reasons that Vice President Joe Biden is
a very sought after speaker around the country is because he speaks bluntly
and specifically I think it matters that he is not above a little mild
swearing from time to time in order to make a point.
That clip was from the vice president speaking this weekend at a
human rights campaign event in California saying that human rights issues,
gay rights issues in particular, are advancing so fast now that in 20
years, people will look back and say, how in the H-E-double hockey sticks
could have ever have been allowed?
Now, that said, at the very moment that the vice president was making
those very well-received remarks in California, halfway across the country
in another state, things were getting if not worse then at least a little
more confusing on that very specific civil rights issue.
On Friday, after close of business hours in the state of Michigan, a
federal judge struck down the state`s ban on same-sex marriage.
Republican-dominated state government in Michigan had fought vigorously to
defend that ban in court including spending $40,000 in taxpayer money on
expect witnesses for the trial, expert witnesses the judge in the case
described as described as largely or entirely unbelievable witnesses who
espoused fringe beliefs. But taxpayer money paid for them.
Now, a lot of federal judges have struck down a lot of state marriage
bans in the last few weeks and months. But unlike most of those states, in
Michigan on Friday this federal judge`s ruling went into immediate effect.
It wasn`t stayed pending the state`s appeal. And so technically, as soon
as that ruling was issued on Friday night, it was legal for same-sex
couples to get married in Michigan.
The practical problem was that you can only get a marriage license in
Michigan from a county clerk and by the time the ruling came down on Friday
night, all of the clerk`s offices in the state were already closed down.
Also, county clerk`s offices in Michigan typically are not open on the
That said, there is not typically this much demand for county clerk
services on weekends like there was this weekend. This is footage from
early Saturday morning in Washtenaw County in Michigan where couples lined
up to get their marriage licenses.
And because of this kind of sudden interest from couples who had
unexpectedly just been given the right to marry effective the night before,
because of that demand, clerks in four Michigan counties decided to open
for business on Saturday, even though they are usually closed on the
And hundreds and hundreds of people in Michigan lined up and crowded
the lobbies and paid their marriage license fees, and clergy came out from
all over the state, ready to get people married right then, right there,
including in one county people getting married all at once, all in a big
group, just so it could be done faster.
Why faster? What`s the hurry? Well, the hurry was because that
outbreak of equal rights in Michigan this weekend, it only lasted a few
hours. That window where the state`s marriage ban was struck down and all
Michigan couples could get married, that window opened effectively at 8:00
a.m., when the first county clerk`s office opened up on Saturday.
But it closed just a few hours later on the same day, when the
Republican state attorney general of Michigan got another federal court to
wade in and put a hold on that ruling pending the state`s appeal. So it
was just a few hours. But hundreds of people got married.
And now what becomes of those marriages? Those hundreds of marriages
which were signed, sealed, delivered in that crucial few hours on Saturday.
Well so, far the Republican Governor Rick Snyder, his state
government is not saying if those marriages are legal in Michigan. They`re
also not saying those marriages are illegal. They`re just leaving those
families in limbo, including one very well-organized Michigan couple who
managed to file their joint federal tax return as a married couple during
that few hours. That few-hour window of equal rights on Saturday before
the window came crashing down.
What happens next is this federal court will hear the issue of the
stay on Wednesday, the day after tomorrow, but as of right now, and this is
interesting, the federal government and all the other states in the country
have a decision to make about those Michigan marriages. Because the
government of the state of Michigan may be confused as to whether or not
these couples that got legally married on Saturday are actually legally
married. But should the rest of us be?
When a similar situation happened in Utah in December and 1,300
couples got married there before their equal rights window lows closed in
that state, the federal government made a bold decision in that Utah case.
When the Attorney General Eric Holder announced that even though the state
of Utah was denying its own citizens marriages, the federal government
would recognize those Utah marriages as legal.
Will the federal government now do the same thing for these hundreds
of couples who just got married in Michigan?
The Justice Department so far says that it is reviewing the matter.
That`s going to be an important decision both for the lives of these
families in Michigan and also for what happens next in this fight. Watch
VOICE: Very interesting.
MADDOW: "Moment of Geek" tonight concerning a recent heist by a
public official in the town of Ridgewood, New Jersey. Thomas Rica was the
public works inspector in Ridgewood. He pled guilty last week to four
counts of third-degree theft, admitting that he stole at least $460,000
from the town.
Specifically, though, and this is the geek part of it, he stole those
$460,000 from the town in quarters. Over the course of 25 months, he stole
quarters from Ridgewood`s meter collection room. Meter as in parking
meter. He stole almost half a million dollars in people`s parking money.
Which, OK, is sad and corrupt and pitiful. But B, is also kind of amazing.
I mean, physically, how did he do this?
First of all, $460,000 -- $460,600 equals a little over 1.8 million
quarters. The 1.8 million quarters in total are said to have been pilfered
over a period of 25 months. If we assume conservatively that Mr. Rica took
two weeks` vacation and he worked a five-day week that would mean there
were approximately 520 total workdays in his stealing zone and that would
mean on average Mr. Rica would have walked off with 3,543 quarters every
day he was at work -- 3,500 quarters a day. How -- what does that look
Well, if you poured that many quarters into a big pile, they would
look like this times ten. You can play a lot of Pac-Man with 3,500
quarters a day. But he`s stealing 3,500 of them a day maybe he`s rolling
them? Maybe stealing rolls of quarters? That`s how he did it?
Even in roles of 40 quarters, 3,500 quarters a day is still a hard
thing to hide. I mean, could you put them all in your pockets? You could
put them all in your pockets. Here`s us trying. But look what you look
like. Hey, thunder thighs. Right?
Also, 3,500 quarters in your pockets makes it very hard to walk.
It`s not a very nice thing to do to your pants every day for 520 days.
People would notice you if you looked like this at work every day.
The bright side of this crime, though, is fitness. A quarter weighs
about an 80th of a pound, 3,500 of them weighs about 44 pounds in total.
Figure takes the poor guy from Ridgewood 90 seconds a day to haul the
quarters out to his car, another 90 seconds to get them from the car or
into the bank, wherever he keeps them. That makes it a total of 15 minutes
of walking with 44 pounds of quarters by our corrupt public works inspector
If you go to the laborers health and safety fund, that amount of
exertion would burn roughly 91 extra calories per week. Over the course of
25 months, that`s roughly an extra 9,500 calories that he burned in this
theft. Not to mention the muscle work in his legs.
Former Ridgewood, New Jersey public works inspector must have calves
like cantaloupes at this point. He also represents the very narrow
intersection in the Venn diagram of public corruption and physical fitness.
Mr. Rica will serve five years` probation. His plea deal stipulates
that he must pay back all the money he stole from the town parking meters.
In the end, crime does not pay. But it can be very slimming if you steal
from all the right places in all the right ways.
That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow night.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD."
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