'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Thursday, July 24th, 2014
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THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
July 24, 2014
Guest: Robin Konrad
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks.
And thanks to you at home for joining us thus hour.
In 1934, this man, Joseph Everett Thompson was sworn in as the
sheriff of Daviess County in Kentucky. Daviess County is where Owensboro,
Kentucky, is. And unfortunately for Sheriff Thompson, he died a little
more than two years after he was sworn in as county sheriff.
Now, to replace him, the county planned to hold an election to pick a
new sheriff, but in the meantime, they need somebody interim. They needed
somebody to fill the now suddenly vacant job of the county sheriff when the
And a local judge decided that the most expedient thing to do would
just to ask the dead sheriff`s widow if she would fill in for him after his
death. Her name was Florence Shoemaker Thompson. She was asked if she
would fill in and become the sheriff in her husband`s absence. She said
yes. She was sworn in in Daviess County the day after her husband`s
And as unusual as it was at the time, in the 1930s, to have a woman
sheriff in the United States, the reason Florence Shoemaker Thompson became
nationally famous as a local county sheriff in Kentucky at the time is
because while she was sheriff of that county, she had to carry out a
hanging. Just a few weeks after she was sworn in, an African-American man
named Rainey Bethea was sentenced to die in Daviess County, Kentucky, after
he was convicted of raping and murdering a local white woman.
He did not protest his innocence, although he did fight his sentence.
He tried to avoid the death sentence, but the county did convict him and
they were determined to hang him and Sheriff Florence Shoemaker Thompson
thereby became the first woman in the United States to be given the task of
carrying out an execution.
Hundreds of reporters and photographers from all over the country
descended on Owensboro to cover the hanging, a hanging that`s going to be
conducted by a woman, right?
But Sheriff Thompson had secretly arranged to actually not hang the
guy, herself. She had agreed with an ex-police officer, a male former
police officer from Louisville, Kentucky, that unbeknownst to everybody who
was turning up to see the hanging, he actually would be the one to pull the
trigger to open the trap door to actually kill the guy.
And they knew they were going to get a lot of people turning out for
this execution. They moved it from the courthouse to an empty lot in town,
20,000 people showed up to watch that hanging. As did the cop who had
agreed to serve as the executioner so the woman sheriff wouldn`t have to do
But reports from the time indicate that that cop who agreed to
actually be the one to pull the trigger there, he turned up too drunk to
actually do the job. The convicted prisoner was prepared for the hanging.
They had him up on the gallows. They reportedly screamed at the cop twice
that it was time to do it, he should do it, he should pull the trigger,
operate the trap door and kill the guy.
But the cop from Louisville either wouldn`t do it or he couldn`t do
it. He was maybe too drunk to be able to perform his duty and eventually
somebody else crammed up there on the gallows triggered the trap door and
the hanging was finally done.
The photos and the articles and the headlines from that hanging ran
all over the country. "The New York Daily News" ran this collage of
pictures showing the huge crowd of 20,000 people. You can see the headline
up there at the very top, "Dropped through trap to eternity provides
populace with Roman holiday." That`s August 1936.
You can tell from the tune of the coverage that it`s essentially
chastising us as a country for treating an execution, even this one with
scandalous truth of a woman sheriff and everything. Essentially, it`s sort
of a chastising tone that we as a country were treating an execution as an
entertainment, a Roman holiday, like the Romans turning out to see the
Christians fed to the lions.
But that hanging in Owensboro, Kentucky, in august 1936, that was the
last legal public execution in the country -- the last legal execution that
was held before a crowd in the public square. We never did it again like
that after that time.
Thereafter, when Americans did turn out in large groups to see people
killed in public, we didn`t call it a formal execution. We didn`t call it
a state hanging. People did turn out to see public executions after this
but they weren`t official ones. They were lynch mobs.
When the state does these things officially, we no longer conduct
them out in an empty lot somewhere so tens of thousands of people can crowd
in. We don`t put executions out in public the way we used to. It has been
75 years since we last did that when we last did it in Owensboro, Kentucky.
But executions now still are public proceedings, right? They`re an
act of government. Legally, they can`t be secret. The public has a right
to know. There have to be witnesses.
Theoretically, at least, it`s all a transparent process. You see
that in really granular ways. So, like yesterday in Arizona, efforts of
prison officials to kill a man at the Arizona state prison complex started
to go wrong. Not long after they started the process of killing him. The
expected 10 or 15 minutes, what everybody was expecting for the execution,
it stretched on and on -- 20 minutes, 30 minutes, 40 minutes, 50 minutes.
More than an hour after they had injected the guy, the guy still was
not dead. He was still gasping. His stomach was reportedly visibly
convulsing. He was making loud sucking sounds. More than an hour into
their efforts to kill him, more than an hour and a half into their efforts
to kill him.
And in the middle of that, his lawyers called a federal judge to try
to get this bungled execution stopped while the guy was lying there on the
gurney sucking air more than an hour into his attempted execution. At one
point, the lawyers got Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy on the phone.
Justice Kennedy reportedly declined to stop the execution. They also got
another federal judge, a federal district court judge from Arizona on the
And in that conversation, because this is a public matter, there was
a court reporter on the phone writing down everything that happened in that
conversation. This is a public proceeding. This is something being done
with taxpayer money as a matter of public policy. We are supposed to know
And so even though that was just a phone call, it didn`t happen in
any courtroom, we have the transcript today of that conversation between
the lawyers and the judge from when the man was on the gurney and they were
trying to kill him and it was more than an hour into him not dying. We
have the transcript.
So, the judge says to the man`s attorney, Robin Konrad, Ms. Konrad,
she responds, "I just filed a motion for an emergency stay of execution.
Mr. Woods` execution started at 1:52. He was being sedated at 1:57. Since
that time he`s been gasping, snorting, unable to breathe and not dying.
And we`re asking, our motion asks for you to issue an emergency stay and
order the Department of Corrections to start life-saving techniques as
required under their protocol."
And then the judge responds on this phone call. "OK. I`ve been
pulled out of a meeting. We will do everything we can to deal with the
urgency it demands and I have a court reporter here. We are on the
And then the judge says, "I want to make an attempt right now to
obtain participation of an attorney for the state. Who would that be?"
And the prisoner`s attorney suggests she might want to be talking to
an attorney named Jeff Zick who works for the state. They have the
"Do you have phone numbers for these people?" the judge says. "The
reality is I`ll take anybody we can reach right now but we should start
with the most appropriate person."
The lawyer and the judge then discuss what might be the phone number
for this attorney who works for the state of Arizona. The judge explains
he doesn`t know how to do conference calling on his phone and then the
lawyer for the man who`s strapped to the gurney gasping for breath says she
knows how to do conference call on her phone so they can do it through her
Then, the judge says, "No, my staff here figured out to do the
conference call." They put her on hold. They get the attorney for the
state conferenced in. The attorney for the state then turns up in the
He says, "Hello." The judge says, "Mr. Zick, this is Judge Wake
calling." "Hi, Judge Wake." "I need to put you on a conference call with
Robin Konrad." "I`m sorry," the lawyer says, "let me step out of my
They deal with the logistics of which phone the lawyers on, where he
can talk. Again, this is while this man is on the gurney gasping and not
dying, more than and hour into them trying to kill him. And while that is
happening, the judge explains, "Mr. Zick, Ms. Konrad advises me that Mr.
Wood has not yet expired and this has been going on for, what, nearly and
hour and a half."
And they go back and forth in this conversation. We`ve got the
transcript. They go back and forth about what`s happened thus far, how
long the guy has been not dying on the gurney since they injected him.
They talk about what the protocol is for the state if they have any
procedures for trying to stop the execution to maybe try to bring him back.
And who would make that decision? Would it be the governor? Would
it be the warder? Would it be the director of corrections? Does anybody
know how this works?
And then the lawyer for the state, he`s assistant attorney general,
he interjects with this information he had fed to him from the prison. He
tells the judge, and again, we have the transcript. "I am told Mr. Wood is
effectively brain dead and that this reaction you`re seeing, this is the
type of reaction one gets if they`re taken off life support. The brain
stem is working but there`s no brain activity."
The judge responds, "Well, tell me briefly how it is? Is he? Do you
have leads or probes necessary to determine his brain state?" "Repeat
that, judge, I`m sorry?"
"Do you have leads or probes connected to determine his brain state?"
"I don`t believe there are leads connected on the head, but I`m not sure,
but I know the individual who told me this information is medically
Then, the judge says, "What I`m wondering is what the basis is for
the conclusion that he`s effectively brain dead." The lawyer responds,
"It`s because of the medical training and all I know is that`s the
information that was given to me. I can certainly find that out."
And the judge says, "Well, if there are not monitors connected to
him, if it`s a visual observation, that`s very concerning as not being
adequate. Tell me, what is the current status and what is the anticipated
course of action from this minute forward?"
And they proceed. The lawyer for the state saying basically
everything`s going fine here. There`s a medical professional overseeing
this. He says, quote, "We`re pretty sure he`s" -- this is not a quote. He
says basically we`re pretty sure he`s brain dead, I can`t tell you how we
know that but basically we think he is and I trust the people on site who
believe that he is.
The judge basically seems like he`s not necessarily believing that,
right? The judge says seeing it doesn`t sound like enough for me. The
attorney for the man who`s lying on the gurney then says that they want the
state to step in and stop what they`ve been doing now for more than an hour
and a half, since what they`ve been doing doesn`t appear to be killing him
and it`s been a long time.
Ultimately, 13 minutes into this phone call, while the execution is
going on, the judge explains, "I`m considering right now based on what`s
presented to me whether the execution should be suspended." He says, "I do
intend to resolve this matter with extreme urgency, in light of the nature
of the matter, and the inability to deliberate at any length."
And they argue about it, discuss the protocol, try to get more
information. And then 26 minutes into this amazing call, there`s an
interruption. "I just, I just, I`m sorry, Judge." And the judge says, "Go
ahead." And the lawyer says, "I just learned that the IV team leader has
confirmed Mr. Wood`s death."
The judge says, "All right. Let me finish my thought. Because it`s
my responsibility." And the judge, in the transcript continues to explain
his final legal reasoning in this matter which obviously is now moot in
this individual case. The now dead prisoner`s attorney thanks the judge
for doing his best under the circumstances.
The judge responds, "No, not at all. It`s my responsibility. I have
attempted to deal with it as rapidly as humanly possible. Anything
further, Mr. Zick?" "No, your honor." "All right, I`m going to have the
court reporter type this up, type up this transcript and file it so it`s
publicly available. Proceeding concluded."
The confusion over who could have stopped the execution if they
wanted to, what the method is for stopping an execution that`s already
under way, how much of one drug the prisoner received, if it was within the
law for him to receive more of the drug since the process already started.
All of that confusion was basically totally unclear, right? During the
nearly two-hour-long process of the execution, and it`s unclear during the
half an hour that they were on the phone trying to decide what to do next.
And that confusion is in part because killing prisoners may be an act
of public policy carried out with taxpayer money by people working for the
government, but killing prisoners is a bit of an ad hoc system in Arizona
right now. Of the last three prisoners that Arizona has killed since
October, all three of them were killed by three different sets of drugs.
In October, they killed one guy with a one drug protocol. Two weeks
later, they killed another guy with a three-drug combination. None of
which involved the one drug they had just used on somebody else two weeks
And now, yesterday was the third prisoner they`ve killed since
October and it was yet another novel combination, this time two drugs, two
drugs that Arizona had never used before. So in one state, there`s been
three prisoners, three different ways of killing them.
And that kind of chaos, which is not just in Arizona, but it is in
Arizona, that kind of chaos is in part because of the availability of the
drugs that states like to use or that states want to try to use to carry
out these killings. As we have moved the process of killing people from
the gallows in the square, right, as we have moved it to be an indoor
thing, it has remained, constitutionally must remain a public process.
But it`s not supposed to be a Roman holiday anymore, right? It`s not
supposed to be for our mass entertainment in the streets anymore. It`s
supposed to be a much more sober, quiet process. We keep trying to find
quieter and quieter ways of killing people.
So, instead of hanging, they went to the electric chair. Instead of
the electric chair, they tried the gas chamber. Instead of the gas
chamber, they tried the lethal injection idea. Move toward things that are
painless, quiet, with lethal injection, maybe something that`s sort of
medical, professional, and clean.
And constitutionally, legally, we have to let people see this
process. We will never be a country that carries out its executions in
secret. Constitutionally, we can`t.
But if people are going to see it, if we as Americans are allowed, at
least through the media, to witness this stuff, we have gone through great
lengths to make it not so much a spectacle anymore, not like it used to be
in the bad old days.
What we really are the only country in the whole world that tries to
it this way. There`s very new countries left in the world that officially
have legal killing of prisoners by the government. In all of Europe,
there`s only one nation left. It`s the nation of Belarus, the former
Soviet state, now dictatorship that`s sort of a satellite of Russia at this
And in Belarus, it`s one place in Europe where they still do kill
prisoners legally and their method of killing prisoners in Belarus is that
they shoot them. They shoot them in the head. Interestingly, though, in
Belarus when they do it, they do it completely in secret. In Belarus, of
you`re convicted of a capital crime, you are not told the date on which you
will be executed. It`s never publicly announced. Your family, your
attorneys, nobody is ever told when or where exactly you are going to be
But then once they have killed you, they hide your body. They only
notify the family, the lawyers, anybody else once the death sentence has
already been carried out. Once you`re already dead. And then they
secretly bury your body and they don`t tell anybody where it is.
There`s some reports from Belarus that suggest that families, when
they find out after the fact that their family member has been killed by
the state, shot to death inside a prison, family members then drive around
the capital city of Minsk in Belarus looking for fresh graves trying to
figure out if they can find where their loved one has been secretly buried
by the state because the state didn`t tell them. They didn`t know the
execution was coming. That`s the only country left in Europe that still
kills prisoners and that`s how they do it.
Here, of course, it`s all public. And we don`t just shoot people
But last night, after this two-hour-long gasping marathon process,
the brother-in-law of one of the victims, one of the murder victims of this
prisoner who was killed, was asked about the lethal injection yesterday in
Arizona and how long it took and what he thought of the process.
His response in part was this. "Why didn`t we give him a bullet?
Why didn`t we give him some Drano?"
In the legal wrangling over this case, before Arizona killed this man
last night over this long process, one federal appeals judge in California
made a similar argument in language that was almost as florid as that
victim`s family member.
Federal Judge Alex Kozinski wrote in the Ninth Circuit, "Whatever
happens to this particular prisoner, Joseph Wood, the attacks will not stop
and for a simple reason", he wrote, "The enterprise is flawed. Using drugs
meant for individuals with medical needs to carry out executions is a
misguided effort to mask the brutality of executions by making them look
serene and peaceful, but executions are in fact nothing like that. They`re
brutal, savage events and nothing the state tries to do can mask that
reality nor should it.
If we as a society want to carry out executions, we should be willing
to face the fact the state is committing a horrendous brutality on our
behalf. If some states wish to continue to carry out the death penalty,
they must turn away from this misguided path and return to more primitive
and foolproof methods of execution.
The guillotine is probably best but seems inconsistent with our
national ethos and electric chair, hanging and the gas chamber are each
subject to occasional mishaps."
"The firing squad," he writes, "strikes me as the most promising.
Eight or 10 large caliber rifle bullets fired at close range can inflict
massive damage causing instant death every time." "Sure, firing squads" he
writes, this is amazing, "Firing squads can be messy", he writes.
"Sure, firing squads can be messy, but if we`re willing to carry out
executions, we should not shield ourselves from the reality that we`re
shedding human blood. If we as a society cannot handle the splatter of
execution carried out by a firing squad, we shouldn`t be carrying out
executions at all."
And no one else in the world does what we do. In Belarus, they do
shoot people but they do it in secret. They go so far as to hide the
bodies. We used to execute people publicly enjoying the splatter as a
Roman holiday, a form basically of mass sport and entertainment.
But we`re so embarrassed ourselves in the florid public enjoyment of
that spectacle that we have since tried to hide it away over the last 75
years. We have invented this pseudo-medical disguise for what we`re doing.
But the medical profession is no longer all that psyched to go along
with their role in this disguise. I mean, if we want to keep doing this,
there are few models around the world of other places that are still trying
to do it. There`s no normal way to do it and we do it in a way that nobody
else even tries.
And our Constitution will not allow us to do it in secret, leaving
families to hunt through fresh graves hoping one of those fresh graves
might hold the secret dead, right? Our Constitution won`t let us do that.
But if we can`t Belarus, the other examples around the world when
they do it, they do it like we used to. They do it in the public square.
They rent a stadium. They don`t call it something that it`s not.
We have been congratulating ourselves for a long time on being less
barbaric when the few countries left that cut off heads or hang people in
the public square, in Saudi Arabia, or Iran, or Afghanistan under the
But yesterday in Arizona, they took two hours to kill the guy.
Arizona today said they think it was fairly normal. They don`t think there
was anything wrong with the process. Two hours.
Is that really less barbaric than the gallows used to be in the
public square? Is it really less barbaric now just because there were
fewer people in the room in Arizona last night?
MADDOW: This is Gary Locke. He`s former governor of Washington
state. He was our nation`s most recent ambassador to China before Max
Baucus took over that job.
Before he was ambassador to China, Gary Locke was the U.S. secretary
of commerce. He had that job for most of president Obama`s first term.
Right before Gary Locke stepped down as commerce secretary in order
to go become ambassador to China, a commerce issue came up of some
international delicacy. American states that liked using a particular drug
to kill prisoners found that they couldn`t get that drug anymore. Sodium
thiopental, it was used to kill prisoners for years but prisons started to
The U.S. manufacturer of the drug stopped making it in January 2011.
The British government banned it from being exported to the United States
from Britain because they knew what we were doing with it.
An Indian company for a time was still willing to send it to the
United States and they did send it to a few prisons. But that didn`t last
for long. The Indian government figured out what was going on and they put
a stop to that as well because of what we are using that drug for. The
execution chambers were running dry so Gary Locke, U.S. secretary of
commerce, called up the German secretary of commerce and asked his German
counterpart for help.
Hey, Germany, do you guys have any sodium thiopental you could help
us with? You know what we use it for, right? Quote, "I noted the request
and declined," the German minister said and then the German minister went
further and actually banned any German and from sending this drug to the
United States. And then by later that year, the whole European Union
banned sending that drug to the United States for any purpose. Since
everybody knew that the U.S. was using that drug to kill people.
Since then, the manufacturers of a substitute drug called
pentobarbital, they`ve also restricted the sale of that drug in the United
States because they know what we are using it for.
When Missouri announced plans to use another substitute for that
substitute, a drug called Propofol. When Missouri said they were going to
use Propofol to kill people, the manufacturers of that drug said if you do
that, Missouri, we will ban our drug from being used anywhere in the United
States for anything, and since that drug has other uses that are medically
appropriate that aren`t just for killing people, Missouri backed off. They
didn`t want to get the whole drug banned from the United States for all
purposes, so they took it back.
Then, the state of Indiana announced plans to use another substitute
for the substitute. Indiana suggested they would use a drug called
Brevital. They announced that this year. They`d used a drug called
Brevital to kill people. The manufacturers of Brevital immediately then
moved to ban the sale of that drug to any prison in the United States or to
anyone who would resell it to any prison in the United States.
And that has left another substitute for the substitute for the
substitute for the substitute, a drug called Midazolam. It`s not an
anesthetic. It`s just a sedative.
It`s a sedative that has now been used in three consecutive
executions that have received wide attention for being botched basically.
Nobody likes that word, but three executions that took way longer than
anybody expected -- the prisoner appearing to gasp and snort air and in
some cases writhe and choke or start to try to speak, when they were
supposed to be unconscious.
There was one of those in January in Ohio. There was one of those in
April in Oklahoma. There was one of those last night in Arizona. All of
There are two companies that manufacturer Midazolam. They`re both
based in Illinois. One of those two companies says they do not want their
drug, they do not want their Midazolam to be used by prisons to kill
people, although it is not at all clear that the company is actually yet
put in place real restrictions to stop that from happening.
It`s possible to that. We`ve seen it happen with other drugs. They
say don`t want it used. It`s not clear that they`ve actually stopped their
drug from going into prisons. That`s one of the two. That`s company
called Sagent. S-A-G-E-N-T.
There`s a second company, also in Illinois. It`s called Akorn, and
they`re fine with that drug used to kill people in experimental measures
all over the country now, at least three of which have been botched to
point of getting national headlines.
This other company called Akorn, they appear to have no policy about
the death penalty at all. The company is called Akorn, spelled with a K,
A-K-O-R-N. They too are based in Illinois, and it was the drug that they
manufacture that was used in the execution last night in Arizona that took
nearly two hours to kill the man.
Joining us is Robin Konrad. She`s one of Joseph Wood`s lawyers.
Some of her words I was reading in the transcript in the frantic
conversation with the judge while the execution was taking place.
Robin Konrad, thank you for beings with us.
ROBIN KONRAD, ATTORNEY: Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: You were the attorney appealing last night. I know your
client died before a ruling was rendered.
What were you hoping to happen in that conversation? What did you
want from that federal judge? What could he have done?
KONRAD: We wanted the federal judge to stay the execution. We got
word after an hour that Mr. Wood was gasping. The execution had not been
This was unusual. This was an experimental drug combination and we
were concerned. So, we went to the federal court and asked for a stay of
execution and asked that the Department of Corrections use life-saving
MADDOW: Obviously, the judge was in the process of turning you down
on that request when the word came through that your client had died. I
understand there was also an effort to contact the United States Supreme
Court during the course of the execution.
Can you explain what happened there?
KONRAD: Yes, we actually went to every court possible. We contacted
the Arizona Supreme Court and the United States Supreme Court and went to
the federal district court judge who had heard Mr. Wood`s case when we
asked for a preliminary injunction. And we were seeking a court that could
hear the request for the stay as soon as possible. And the federal
district judge was the court that heard the motion first.
MADDOW: I know you are representing other prisoners on death row in
Arizona right now. At least that`s my understanding. How do you
anticipate that last night`s events may affect the cases of other prisoners
who are looking at an execution date in Arizona?
KONRAD: Well, it certainly will have an impact on the pending case,
which is before the same district court judge, and that court indicated
that the events that occurred during Mr. Wood`s bungled execution will have
an impact and will need time in order to see how it will affect the case.
MADDOW: I have to ask you, as somebody who`s doing death penalty
litigation, I guess your personal opinion on these matters is not
necessarily relevant to your role as an advocate, but is something
materially unfixable about what`s going on in Arizona in terms of the way
they are killing people or is what`s happening now basically a glitch in
the system that Arizona is sort of between protocols, that they haven`t
experimented enough to figure out the right way to kill people, but there
is some right way to kill people that the state could do properly?
How do you view this overall?
KONRAD: I think the problem is we don`t know, and there needs to be
transparency which has not happened in Arizona. So, we requested
information about the drugs, about the choice of drugs that the Department
of Corrections was using for the first time in Mr. Wood`s execution and we
requested information about the qualifications of the IV team. None of
that is provided to the public, and that is a huge concern in knowing if
there is a way that an execution can be carried out humanely and consistent
with the Constitution.
MADDOW: And in our name, as a matter of public policy, done with
taxpayer dollars. Robin Konrad, attorney for Joseph Wood -- I know that
your client has died but this fight continues. Please keep us apprised.
Thanks for being with us.
KONRAD: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. There`s much more news to come. Just to close,
one loop from last night`s coverage on this story, we reported there was
some question as to whether or not the local medical examiner would take
blood and tissue samples from that killed prisoner as a federal court had
Those tissue samples and blood samples were taken from the man who
was killed, but not within the timeframe that was suggested or actually
ordered by the federal court. They took those samples this morning.
Again, in a sort of pseudo-legal response to the court`s order. It
is an ad hoc process and a chaotic one in Arizona as it is around the
More to come. Stay with us.
MADDOW: We`ve just got in some new footage that you should see.
Tonight, in the West Bank, there are huge protests. Thousands of
Palestinians staging a rather massive protest of the Israeli invasion and
bombardment of Gaza. Israeli border police and soldiers clashed with these
protesters in the West Bank tonight.
Reports tonight are that two Palestinian men were killed in these
protests. Dozens of other protesters were injured.
To be clear, this is not happening in Gaza. This is just north of
Jerusalem. This is on the other side of Israel from Gaza in the West Bank.
I think we`ve got a map that we can show for context.
The West Bank as you can see here, we`ve got the two areas marked in
red. The West Bank is physically discontinuous with Gaza where the war has
been raging between Israel and Hamas for the past 17 days.
These massive protests tonight are in the West Bank but they are
about what`s going on in Gaza. Today at least 16 people were killed.
Dozens of people were wounded by an apparent air strike on a school that
was being used by the United Nations as a shelter for civilians who were
trying to flee the violence in Gaza, looking for somewhere safe to stay.
Sixteen killed and dozens wounded there including many children.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that attack took place while
the U.N. was trying to arrange for a pause in the fighting, temporary truce
-- in part because the U.N. wanted to evacuate them from the school and
move them to somewhere safer.
Secretary of State John Kerry is in Cairo tonight where he`s
continuing his efforts to try and negotiate a cease-fire between Israel and
Hamas. Mr. Kerry told reporters tonight that today, shelling of the U.N.
shelter underscores the work he`s trying to do to get a cease-fire.
It`s been a constant cycle of fighting between Israel and Hamas for
the past several years in Gaza. 2009 was actually the last time the
fighting in Gaza was as heavy as it is right now. And it`s an interesting
historical parallel because that time the war went on for 22 days.
Right now, we`re at 17 days in this round of fighting. Back in 2009,
in that 22-day war, concerns not just about the huge loss of life, but
about shortages of food and medicine and water and just horribly
deteriorating conditions for the people who lived in Gaza, back in 2009,
those concerns led Israel to agree in the middle of that war to establish
what they called a humanitarian corridor.
For three hours a day, most days, Israel and Hamas called a temporary
humanitarian truce and the fighting would mostly stop, specifically so
civilians who lived in the war zone for those three hours a day -- they
could move around, they could get water, they could get food, they could
try to get to shelter or do whatever else they need to try to save their
Israel and Hamas agreed to that in 2009, and it was a meager excuse
for a real cease-fire, but it was done on purely humanitarian grounds. And
there is a history of them agreeing to that. Those temporary humanitarian
daily three-hour truces, those did happen during the past fierce fighting
between Israel and Hamas, and it probably did save lives. Could that
happen again in the absence of a real cease-fire?
I mean, there was noise yesterday from the Hamas side that Hamas
might be willing to do something like that again in this round of fighting
in order to evacuate wounded people and get basic relief supplies to
civilians. They did not make a commitment toward that, but they did make
some gestures in that direction.
If the two sides were able to agree to do that again, to temporary
daily humanitarian truces like they did back in 2009, like the U.N.
attempted this round of fighting in order to evacuate wounded people and
get basic relief supplies to civilians. They did not make a commitment
toward that, but they did make some gestures in that direction. If the two
sides were able to agree to do that again, to temporary daily humanitarian
truces like they did back in 2009, like the U.N. attempted and failed to
get today, that could be possible. That would be a step forward.
And that is worth crossing your fingers over right now as the on
conflict appears to be spreading. It`s worth hoping if that could be
agreed to, this maybe could be a first tiny toehold toward a grander plan
to stop the overall fighting to actually end this war.
MADDOW: Ever have that anxiety dream, you`re back in school? I have
this anxiety dream like three times a week.
You`re back in school. It`s the last day of school. You have not
done any of the coursework. You`ve not done any of the reading. You`ve
not, in fact, attended any of the classes and know nothing about the
subject matter but finals are today and now naturally you will fail and you
will not graduate.
I have that dream three times a week, but that in real life is sort
of happening right now in the U.S. Capitol. It`s finals week at the
Capitol, and nobody has apparently done the work and the panic is starting
and some of it happened on tape today, and that is next.
MADDOW: So, Congress does nothing anymore. Really, nothing.
But sometimes every once in a while, something happens in Congress,
on tape, on C-Span, that kind of makes you happy that they`re still there
even if they`re doing nothing. And that happened today in everyone`s vote
for the most boringly named committee in Congress, the House Committee on
It`s like if you said you majored in homeroom or something. House
Rules Committee. It`s the world`s most boring word salad.
But that committee is really powerful. They`re the gatekeeper for
every single piece of legislation that goes to the House floor.
And because Republicans control the House, Republicans also make up
the majority for that powerful but very boring sounding committee.
And today, that committee met. They wanted to decide whether they
should send a bill that would authorize the lawsuit that they want to file
against President Obama and, of course, the Republicans decided, yes, we
should vote on that, yes, we should totally be suing the president.
And, of course, the Democrats don`t want that. But the Democrats are
outnumbered. The Democrats knew they were going to lose this.
But the Democrats decided today they were going to lose it in the
most constructive and entertaining way possible. They decided to go
amendment crazy and force Republicans to go on the record again, again, and
again and again today in ways that the Republicans did not want to do.
Here`s Democratic Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, the first amendment
she offered. This explains it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. LOUISE SLAUGHTER (D), NEW YORK: My amendment is very simple. I
move the committee adopt my amendment number 1 which will require that
every week the House general counsel discloses how much money has been
spent on the lawsuit.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ms. Foxx, no. Mr. Bishop. Mr. Cole.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Cole, no.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Woodall, no.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Nugent, no.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Webster?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Webster, no.
Mr. Burgess? Mr. Burgess, no.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If the gentleman will please restate the vote.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Four yeas, seven nays.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much. The amendment is not agreed
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, Democrats make the Republicans vote that the public will
not get a weekly notice of how much taxpayer money the Republicans are
spending on suing President Obama. No, no, no, no, no, no. All Republican
nos. The taxpayer shouldn`t know that.
OK. How about this one? Will Republicans agree that at least we
shouldn`t spend taxpayer money for this lawsuit hiring law firms that
employ lobbyists? Can we at least agree to that you guys?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SLAUGHTER: I have an amendment number 2A. I move the committee
adopt my amendment which would prohibit the hiring of any law firms or
consultants who lobby Congress, because if they lobby Congress for a
living, Congress should not also be paying them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Those in favor of Slaughter amendment signify by
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Those oppose no.
SLAUGHTER: Nos have it. Nos have it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Republicans would not agree on the lobbyists amendment. So,
your money will be paying law firms who employ lobbyists to sue President
Obama. And you can`t know how much of your money it`s taking to do that.
By this point, Louise Slaughter is obviously having fun. So, here is
her next idea. Will Republicans agree that we shouldn`t pay law firms to
sue the president if those law firms are making money from Obamacare?
So, if the Republicans are going to use taxpayer money to sue
President Obama over Obamacare, surely we can`t have law firms that
themselves have a financial stake in the outcome being paid to do the work,
We can`t rid of that you guys. Don`t you hate Obamacare? Can`t we
agree to that? You guys want to get on the record on this one?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SLAUGHTER: Cannot hire a firm, and this one is the most important
part for me, we cannot hire a law firm with a financial stake in the
implementation of the ACA. Surely, an amendment like that should go
through here immediately like a hot knife through butter. It could be
anything in the world to be objectionable in this amendment to anyone.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Clerk, report the total.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Four yeas, seven nays.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The amendment is not agreed to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The hot knife would not go through the butter. The
amendment is not agreed to.
So, to recap, Republicans unanimously voted not to tell you how much
they`re spending to sue the president. To allow themselves to hire lawyers
whose firms lobby them and to allow that those lawyers might make money
from the thing they are suing the president over.
And they did it for the record, on the record over and over again
because the Democrats made them. Republicans decided themselves that they
wanted to sue the president in an election year.
But the people who seem to most love that the Republicans are suing
President Obama in an election year are the Democrats. It`s the Democrats
who want the Republicans to be talking about this all the time in great
detail about how they`re spending taxpayer money on law firms to sue
Republicans came up with the idea and but now, Democrats are trying
every day to make it front page news in Washington. It`s the Republicans
who seem to be getting shyer and shyer about it all the time.
Hold that thought.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Chair, I have an amendment at the desk,
amendment number four. Requiring disclosure of where the taxpayer money
paying for the lawsuit is coming from and which programs our office budgets
are being reduced to pay for it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Those in favor of the Polis amendment signify by
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The nos, the nos have it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The nos have it, the nos have it.
And the Democrats could not appear to be more delighted to keep the
Republicans talking and voting all day long about their lawsuit against
President Obama. Why did the Democrats make the Republicans vote on this
11 different times today with their amendment circuits, and why did the
Democrats appear to be the ones who are so happy about it?
Joining us now is our friend David Corn, Washington bureau chief for
David, it`s great to see you. Thanks for being here.
DAVID CORN, MOTHER JONES: Great to be with you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Am I imagining it, am I projecting when I see Democratic
glee over the Republican decision to sue the president?
CORN: Well, let me tell you about two e-mails I got tonight. The
first one was from a guy named Joe Biden. And the headline was, "I need
you". That came at 7:00 tonight. At 8:30, I got one from Nancy Pelosi.
And her email was headlined was "never", in capital letters, "never in U.S.
What was happening? These were e-mails from the Democratic
Congressional Campaign Committee which traces money for the house
Democratic candidates and they were hitting me up and lots of other people
for money based on this lawsuit.
In fact, when they first started doing this, when John Boehner first
announced that he was going to sue the president, that was the biggest,
most successful online fund-raising day in the history of the DCCC, or the
D triple-C as we say in Washington.
So nothing gets the base riled up more of the Democrats than talk of
suing the president. The only thing better, Rachel, would be if they
talked about impeachment. This stuff turns off those few voters left in
the middle and it gets the base, which every Democrat is worried about
being mobilized and motivated for 2014, really worked up because it reminds
them that these guys are nothing -- they`re about nothing except blocking
and destroying the presidency of Barack Obama.
MADDOW: Well, do you think that Democrats actually are not just
hoping that the Republicans are going to try to impeach President Obama,
but they`re sort of trying to maneuver them into it? Is that sort of what
they`re doing with the way they`re fighting the lawsuit?
CORN: I`m not sure they`re going that far, though I`ve talked to
people in the White House who have said nothing would make them happier
than to hear of talk about impeachment from the House Republicans and a lot
of people speculated that John Boehner`s doing a lawsuit to try to tamp
down the impeachment fever on the right, or within his own Tea Party
So, I don`t think they`re going to egg them on like dare them to
impeach, although the president gets close. I mean, but, you know, your
point at the beginning was right. There are a few days left here in the
legislative calendar. This is what John Boehner is doing.
The Republicans who hate frivolous lawsuits and Republicans who
always say that government should be more flexible for business, are now
suing the president for being flexible with business.
MADDOW: And the most amazing thing to watch is to see if the
Republicans cool to the idea when they realize how much money the Democrats
are raising off of it and how excited it makes the Democrats in Congress
and in the White House.
David Corn, Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones" -- thanks for
staying up late with us, David. It`s great to see you.
CORN: Good to be with you.
MADDOW: Nice to see you.
All right. That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again
But now lucky you, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE
Thanks for being with us tonight.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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