'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Friday, November 7th, 2014
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Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: November 7, 2014
Guest: Stan Greenberg, Alan Vinegrad
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR: Tonight -- and, yes, we do a thing at the end
of the show on Friday night that we jokingly call the Friday night news
dump here. But that`s not what I mean. Tonight, there was an actual
Friday night news dump from Washington that we didn`t expect. And that is
very, very big news.
Tonight, the White House put out their official announcement at 6:07 p.m.
on a Friday, naming President Obama`s choice to succeed Eric Holder as
Attorney General of the United States. Eric Holder has of course been a
very consequential Attorney General over this past six years. He was a
historic choice for A.G. He is our nation`s first-ever African American
Attorney General. Well, the nominee who President Obama has chosen to
succeed him will also be a history-making choice if she is confirmed for
But the fact that we did have a big, national election this week in which
the Republicans took control of the Senate, that does raise some
interesting question as to whether the president`s new nominee for the
attorney general will be confirmed for the job.
So we`ve got that story coming up tonight. There`s some interesting
wrinkles there. We are going to have a report on that late-breaking news.
It`s also going to be the subject tonight on the interview.
Also tonight, that we`ve got an incredible corruption story coming up out
of the Deep South. It involves a really, really, really good local
journalist and the better part of a billion dollars in a corruption case in
a very poor state. That amazing story is coming up later on in the show
tonight and more.
But we start tonight in Colorado. The top of the ticket, headline results
in Colorado elections this week were, of course, that Colorado Democratic
Senator Mark Udall. He lost his seat to a Republican Congressman named
Colorado`s Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper, however, he was able to
hang on to his seat despite the fact that the NRA made him public enemy
number one. Republicans really thought they were going to win that seats
but Hickenlooper held on.
Just below those top of tickets races, though, there has been this very
interesting question, as to whether or not the Colorado state government,
the Colorado Legislature would also be taking over by the Republican Party.
Democrats had control on both chambers of the Colorado Legislature heading
into this election. And, as of right now, they still don`t know who`s
going to be controlling the Senate after this election.
In Adam Country, Colorado, there`s something like 800 votes between the two
candidates for the Senate race there. And there are several thousand
ballots left to count. So whoever wins in that Senate race in Adams
County, Colorado, that will determine which party controls the Colorado
In the Colorado House, they only decided late this afternoon who would be
in control. Late this afternoon, enough results came in from the last
outstanding House races in Colorado that the Republican Party there finally
conceded that they will not be able to take over the House from the
Democrats there, even though they really wanted. Democrats will keep
control in the House.
But I should tell you. Among the newly-elected Republicans who will be
keeping the Democrats company in much larger numbers than they did before
in Colorado is this guy. His name is Gordon Klingenschmitt. Gordon
Klingenschmitt has been a long-time Internet preacher. But now he`s going
to be a Republican State Lawmaker in Colorado which will give him a whole
new platform for what he has become famous for already. Which of course
are his eloquent YouTube exorcism of the demons that he says lurk inside
President Barack Obama.
STATE REP. GORDON KLINGENSCHMITT (R), COLORADO: Wanted to discerns the
spirit here and there is a spirit of hiding, a spirit of secrecy that is
just really law breaking and law laciness and they`re doing all these
secretly behind the scenes and we are exposing that as really it`s got its
roots in as satanic evil spirit of violation of tyranny, ultimately,
because here`s what Jesus warned in Luke chapter 12. They`re not going to
keep their secrets from us. We`re going to expose them as soon as we see
There is nothing covered up that will not be revealed, nothing hidden that
will not be known, what you said in the dark, Mr. Obama, will be heard in
the light. What you whispered in secret rooms, we`re going to proclaim
that on housetops.
Father in heaven, we pray against the domestic enemies in constitution
against this demon of tyranny who is using the White House occupant that
demonic spirit is oppressing us. Father, we command it to leave. We pray
that you will help the president repent.
MADDOW: Newly elected Republican State Representative Gordon
Klingenschmitt of Colorado, performing an exorcism of the demons inhabiting
The reason it says Dr. Chaps there, can you see that in the bottom there?
You see there in sort of squish, it says Dr. Chaps. The reason it says
there at the bottom of his Internet TV Show is because even though his name
is Republican State Representative Elect Gordon Klingenschmitt, he prefers
that you call him Dr. Chaps.
We learned today that Dr. Chaps will not be up for any committee
chairmanships or anything like that in the Colorado State House because his
Republican Party did not get control of that chamber. He did kind a like
it but didn`t get control of the House is still up for grabs. The House is
not up grabs although the Senate still is.
And, actually, a lot of states are still unsettled in terms of individual
races and party control state legislative chambers in Alaska, there`s still
no clear winner in the Governor`s race.
Sean Parnell, the incumbent Republican Governor is behind by a few thousand
votes so far in Alaska against the ticket that is running against him.
Which is an independent and a Democrat running together against him. NBC
is not called the winner in Alaska Governor`s race nobody has conceded that
Same deal, actually, in the Alaska Senate race where it`s the incumbent
Democratic Senator Mark Begich, she`s behind by few thousand votes. He is
not conceding though, he says he`s going to wait for the last few thousand
votes to come in particularly from the flump world part of Alaska that
haven`t been counted yet.
A huge storm, stronger than super storm -- super storm Sandy and about the
size of Alaska itself, is due to hit the Aleutian Islands in Alaska
sometime this weekend. This is -- if this is as big a storm as they think
it might be, it could have really wide-ranging implications in a state
where they`re still counting among lots other things. So that`s worth
keeping an eye on this weekend.
The Virginia Senate Race, between the incumbent Democrat Mark Warner and
Republican challenger Ed Gillespie, that race was finally settled today
when Ed Gillespie announced that he would not be asking for a recount. He
conceded the race today to incumbent Democrat Mark Warner.
So all-in-all, in terms of the Senate, that leaves Alaska, Mark Begich and
Louisiana Mary Landrieu, of the last two Senate races in the country that
are not decided. That Mary Landrieu, Louisiana race, we knew on election
night would be going to a runoff because neither candidate got 50 percent
of the vote. Mary Landrieu is going to be defending her seat against the
Republican challenger named Bill Cassidy in a Louisiana runoff on December
Now, Mary Landrieu is projecting all kinds of confident about that runoff.
She has one state wide runoffs for that senate seat, twice before. But the
odds are considered to be pretty strongly stacked against her this year.
She is the last remaining Democrat in a statewide office in Louisiana. And
now the Democratic Senate campaign committee has actually pulled all of its
money out of the Mary Landrieu runoff. They preserved almost $2 million in
TV airtime for that runoff election. But, now, they have released those
reservations and Mary Landrieu is currently going to be on her own to try
to save her seat.
So, yes, there`s this -- this two outstanding and interesting senate races
still to be fought out, still to be called in Alaska and Louisiana. This
also about a half dozen house races that are still outstanding as well.
But regardless of what happens on those races the overall picture in terms
of who`s in control, it`s settled in Washington. And such today we had,
the great bipartisan awkwardness of the ceremonial herb crusted sea bass at
the White House.
Herb crusted sea bass was the main course of President Obama`s lunch with
Congressional Leaders from both parties today. The press isn`t allowed to
stick around and actually watch them put their napkins on their lap and
actually eat the sea bass, but you do get the sense from watching the first
part, where they do allow the press on to look at them for a minute.. You
do get the sense that this is the kind of lunch where people spend a lot of
time not talking, right. Awkwardly looking down and poking at their sea
It`s like the worst kind of dinner party where they don`t let you is e sit
with the person you came with, even though that`s obviously is the person
you like the best because that`s why you came with them. So it`s like,
they do this sometimes like in a dinner party or a wedding they forcibly
break you up so you can`t sit next to your spouse or your partner, right.
In this case they did it for this lunch today. This awkward by part of
you`re sitting. They did the Republican and Democrat, Republican and
Democrat, Republican and Democrat. You know how those conversations go.
Anybody watching any good TV lately? How`s your family? So far, House
Speaker John Boehner ended up getting sat next to President Obama.
Neither, Speaker Boehner nor President Obama seems all they are happy about
But still, this was a big, you know, ornate display of very unhappy good
with. This was the day to, if you didn`t feel happy, to at least say happy
things, to at least say nice things, and they did.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I want to thank the
leadership for both the House and the Senate for being here for this lunch,
post-election. As I said the other night obviously, Republicans had a good
night. I congratulated both Mitch McConnell as well as Speaker Boehner for
running a very strong campaigns.
As also said the day after the election, what we`ve seen now for number of
cycles is the American people just want to see work done here in
Washington. I think they`re frustrated by the gridlock. They`d liked see
more cooperation and think all of us have a responsibility, me in
particular, to try to make it happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Me in particular? Very conciliatory words today from President
Obama. Let`s work together. Let`s get things done. I, in particular,
looking forward to cooperating with the new Republican Leadership in
Congress. Very conciliatory words.
And then they eat their fish.
And these things are awkward right at the best of times. But I cannot
imagine how awkward it must be for Speaker Boehner to have to sit there,
next to President Obama in front of the press, right, accepting the
congratulations from the president, hearing the president say how much he`s
looking forward to working together and how much they can get done together
and how much he wants to cooperate with them. You know, there you are,
everybody is making nice and then the press leaves and the door closes and
then it`s time to really talk. To really talk about maybe what you`ve been
saying since the election.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: He is going to poison the well.
When you play with matches, you take the risk of burning self. And he`s
going to burn himself, if he continues to go down this path.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Speaker Boehner talking yesterday about President Obama with a
very complicated metaphor involving poison, a path, matches, burning and
somewhat (inaudible) as well. If you like the fire metaphors, more than
you like the drowning metaphors, that is the post elections specialty that
turns out of Reince Priebus, the Chairman of the Republican Party.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REINCE PRIEBUS, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: The president is
just throwing a barrel of kerosene on a fire if he signs the executive
amnesty order. But he didn`t deliver when he had an opportunity. Then he
went forward and threatened executive amnesty, which is, in our mind, a
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Nuclear, kerosene, barrel fire, poison, burning matches, well
path, in a well. In a well.
Since the Republicans did so well in the elections on Tuesday night, the
"Beltway Press" has been chat, chat, chatting about the Republicans
visceral hatred for President Obama just can`t be their reason for living
anymore. Now that they are taking control of Congress in Washington,
surely, the Republicans will be looking for ways to work constructively
with the president to find areas of mutual agreement, substantive policy
matters that matter to the American people.
Are you kidding -- this is what the "Beltway" is saying. They`re going to
be working on governing. Now that the Republicans have control, they can`t
just be interested going after President Obama anymore. The "Beltway"
keeps telling themselves this fairytale about Republicans and how
Republicans must feel now. But listen to them actually talk to each other.
Like go to Republican Ville and listen to what people are saying, that`s
not at all how its sounds when you`re there.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: There is going to be a fire storm on
Capitol Hill. You`re going to see calls for impeachment. I don`t mean
that necessary they`ll do but because --
MEGYN KELLY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Some of the other things that people are
suggesting such as possible impeachment of the president for what many
would consider lawless action if he goes too far. Some would suggest if he
goes too far he should be impeached.
How big would the action have to be? What would he have to do to make it
an impeachable offense, you know? That would so offend the Republican,
they would take the political paralyze step of impeaching him.
Is President Obama trying to bait the Republicans into impeaching him?
MADDOW: Kumbaya, my Lord.
Attention "Sunday Morning", the "Beltway Press" has decided that these
elections this woke mean everybody`s going to be singing "Kumbaya". The
Republicans must feel super constructive now. They must be ready to put
this stop Obama agenda behind to them.
You should have taken it as a hint when the Republican Party press
conference the morning after the election was done in front of a giant red
screen that said stop Obama. That`s what they mean when Republicans talk
to each other, which is what FOX News is for, what they`re talking about
this week is not freaking constructive policymaking. It`s when do we
impeach the president? When do we get to start? That is where Republicans
are right now and their politics. And you can see it on the FOX News
channel. You can also see it in the polling.
Stan Greenberg Perm, Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, they`ve released new
national poll on the subject today. Look, among all voters, Sophists,
Democrats and Independent or Republicans, everybody, ask this question, for
what you`ve heard about President Barack Obama, do you think that the new
Congress should begin an impeachment investigation of Obama? Or is there
no reason to consider impeaching him?
You ask everybody all together and everybody all together says that`s
crazy. There`s no reason to begin impeaching President Obama. That`s
what`s happens 69-24. No. That`s nuts. That`s what happens when you ask
everybody all together.
But now, look when you ask just Republicans. Republicans, yes, actually.
Yes.Yes. The new Congress should start impeaching President Obama. And if
you ask just tea party Republicans, just the subset of the Republican party
which is super-served by their representatives in Congress, if you ask just
tea partiers, wow, they are ready to start impeaching President Obama by a
two to one margin.
A lot of things are still unsettled from the election this week. The
Republican Party seeing the destruction of President Obama as their reason
for leaving, that is not unsettled, that is settled, that is clear as a
bell in a well with some poison on fire. It`s a conflagration.
Joining us now is Stan Greenberg, the pollsters who conducted that poll on
impeachment. He was also President Bill Clinton campaign pollsters.
STAN GREENBERG, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: Thank you.
Mr. Greenberg, thank you for being here tonight. It`s nice to see you.
GREENBERG: Same thing. I`m delighted to be here on this perfect day to
talk about this really important data.
MADDOW: Can I ask you?
MADDOW: When you look at this data now on impeachment, does it look the
same to you as it did the last time Republicans impeached a Democratic
GREENBERG: You know, my advantage point on this was as the -- as a spouse
of a member of Congress, my wife is Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro; we went to
civility conference in Hershey, Pennsylvania. And my partner was Bob Barr.
And upon leaving the conference, he, then, proceeded to introduce the first
impeachment resolution. And so I`ve seen these moments in the past where
they get together and Kumbaya and say yes we`re going to be working
together. That`s not their agenda and it`s central to who they are.
MADDOW: In terms of the way that Republicans talk to one another about
this, I feel like in watching conservative media, watching FOX News, I see
them telling each other this would be an unpopular thing to do. This is
something that we know wouldn`t have paid political dividends for us. But,
yet, there is this -- this drive for it. Do you -- can you tell us what
makes the difference to them as long as they want to do it?
GREENBERG: Remember when, you know, when they proceeded down this path in
the House under Newt Gingrich 1998, when they had very disappointing
results in the election such that Newt Gingrich, you know had to resign,
you know as speaker. But, nonetheless, they proceeded to go forward with
the impeachment leading to the -- to the trial, despite the fact that the
voters had rejected it very concretely. They pay, already paid a political
price for it. And yet, they proceeded to go forward, you know.
And, you know, it was at that point they begin to realize that the politics
within the Republican Party, which obviously began under Newt Gingrich,
which I think reached a whole new level, is that the politics within the
Republican Party which is very much grounded in GOP conservative Hartland,
Evangelical, Tea party, South Appalachian, the most rural part of the
In those places, they are talking to each other like FOX News in which
impeachment seems like a reasonable thing. Why wouldn`t you be thinking
about impeachment given what you`re saying he is doing in threatening the
So we put this question in this -- in this survey -- this -- you know, this
election night survey that we conducted. I was actually surprised that a
majority of Republicans would say yes as time to begin this process and
much more for Tea party. But that`s the echo chamber they`re in. You
know, it`s a bigger than FOX News and really is a big part of the country
where they, you know, rule -- where they have almost total control in these
20 states. And there this is -- this is they don`t pay a price there for
MADDOW: Stan Greenberg, political strategist polling adviser, thanks for
helping us understand this results. I appreciate you being here. Thank
GREENBERG: Thank you.
MADDOW: You know, In that point actually, about what happened after
Clinton did well in that election and then he came back with a lame duck in
pursued impeachment anyway, you think about what`s going on right now in
Internal Republican politics. The next thing that`s going to happen in the
Republican Party that`s important to Republicans is the 2016 Presidential
primary, where they`ve got to prove, they`ve got to convince the
candidates, they have to convince Republican primary voters to vote for
them. That is something for which impeachment is probably a very appealing
Just my guess. Lots more ahead tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Two really big things happened today in Washington. Two big
potentialities were for fluted today.
One is that the Supreme Court is going to think again about whether to kill
Obamacare. The Supreme Court said today that they`ll take up a new
challenge to the affordable care acts. The case is basically over a
drafting error almost a typo in terms of how the law was written. But now
that the court has decided to take this case, if they decide in favor of
anti-Obamacare plaintiffs, that ruling could, in a stroke, take away health
care coverage for over five million people in 36 states. The court agreed
today to hear the case, the oral argument will happens in a few months and
then the court will rule by June.
So that`s one big thing that landed on the political radar today.
The other big thing that happened today is the news that the White House,
this was exploded today, there was news that the White House had all but
confirmed the identity of their nominee to replace Eric Holder as attorney
Today, rumors swirled all day that the president`s nominee would be this
woman. Her name is Loretta Lynch. She`s the U.S. Attorney from Eastern
District of New York which means she oversees Federal Prosecutors in
Brooklyn, Staten Island and Long Island. So her name circulated
unofficially all day today, lot`s of news organization reporting that she
was the pick.
But it was interesting. The White House, all day, wouldn`t confirm any of
the reporting. They said that there is no official word. They said the
President would not even make a final decision, let alone an announcement
until after he returned from his trip from Asia next week.
But then, all of the sudden, late tonight, that changed. After 6:00 p.m.,
tonight, on a Friday night, the White House announced that yes, in fact,
all that reporting was correct. Loretta Lynch is the President`s nominee
for Attorney General. President Obama will make the official announcement
in person at the White House, tomorrow.
And so now, there`s the Washington politics of it all. I mean, especially
since we did have the giant national election in which Republican won
control of the U.S. Senate which is the body that confirms high level
nominees for jobs like attorney general. As a U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch,
has been confirmed by the Senate twice already. She was confirmed in 2000
and she was confirmed again in 2010. Both times it was by acclimation or
no votes against her, such a really faith factor in her favor, in terms of
being confirmed as attorney general.
Then there`s this other thing. One of the prosecutions that she has led as
a U.S. attorney for a large portion of New York City, is the case that
recently lead to a 21-count felony indictment against a their serving
Congressman. A Staten Island Republican Congressman named Michael Grim.
Even though, thanks to Loretta Lynch`s office Congressman Grim really does
have 20 felony charges pending against him. Staten Island just re-elected
him. He`s indicted. They re-elected him. He`s going back to Washington.
And that becomes a whole new level of awkward now that the U.S. Attorney
who is prosecuting this Republican Congressman is about to be nominated for
Attorney General of the United States.
Hold that thought.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: My hope is that even if as we enter into a new Congress, the
previous Congress has the opportunity still to make progress on a whole
bunch of fronts. And I`m confident we can get that done. So thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: President Obama today addressing reporters during that bipartisan
meeting with Congressional Leaders at the White House. You saw the
president there starting to ignore and then just batting away these
questions about whether he had made this decision on who he wanted to be
the next Attorney General of the United States.
Just a few hours later though, the White House did make it official,
announcing that the president intense to nominate the U.S. Attorney from
the Eastern District of New York. Her name is Loretta Lynch.
President Obama will announce in person tomorrow at the White House
that she is his choice to become the new attorney general of the United
States succeeding Eric Holder, again, that announcement due tomorrow at the
White House. The White House put on statement tonight that it will happen
tomorrow at about 11:00 a.m.
Joining us now is Alan Vinegrad. He is a former U.S. attorney for
the Eastern District of New York. He is a long-time colleague, friend and
assistant to Loretta Lynch. Mr. Vinegrad, thank you very much for joining
ALAN VINEGRAD, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY FOR EASTERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: Good
MADDOW: Did you know this was coming?
VINEGRAD: I was hoping it was coming.
MADDOW: It was very rare to get -- taken from U.S. attorney, federal
prosecutor to attorney general. That hasn`t happened in decades.
VINEGRAD: Only the second time in history. The last time was 1817.
MADDOW: There you go. I was almost, well, yes --
VINEGRAD: Almost two.
MADDOW: Almost two. So in terms of Loretta Lynch`s biography, I mean, we
know the basics. We know about her storied educational background, her
legal career. How would you describe her to a country that is now going to
try to figure out what she`d be like as attorney general?
VINEGRAD: I think she`ll be a terrific attorney general. She has a whole
package of skills you`d want. She`s smart. She has great judgment. She`s
fair. She`s very sophisticated. She`s very level headed.
She`s been a great leader of one of the largest U.S. attorney`s
offices in the country twice now. And she`s obviously committed to the
cause of justice. She`s served in the department for 15 years. So to me,
she`s got what we want.
MADDOW: In terms of what the attorney general does, and sort of remit, of
that very, very important job, obviously, part of it is overseeing the
Department of Justice. Part of it is setting political priorities in the
area of justice for the country in carrying out the president`s policy
views in that area.
What have been her priorities as a U.S. attorney? Obviously it`s
about prosecuting cases, but you oversee a huge number of lawyers, a ton of
power. It`s a big jurisdiction.
MADDOW: How would you describe her priorities?
VINEGRAD: I think her priorities mirror those of the Justice Department,
generally. I wouldn`t call them political priorities. I call them law
enforcement priorities. And I`m talking about areas like terrorism, health
care fraud, corruption, organized crime, cybercrime.
These are some of the areas where I think the Eastern District has
been most active under her tenure in the last few years, and I think that`s
consistent with the Department of Justice as a whole.
MADDOW: The other thing that happens with attorneys general, it`s sort of
be the subtitle under that job title is the lightning rod particularly in
MADDOW: Attorneys general tend to be the focus of a lot of very, very
VINEGRAD: Especially with the Republican Congress.
MADDOW: How does she deal with criticism and with political attacks?
VINEGRAD: So, you know, I think she`s probably one of the most even-
tempered people, not just lawyers, I`ve ever worked with. I`ve known her
for almost 25 years. I don`t think I`ve ever seen her lose her temper.
Once, when I think she was frustrated on a particular issue. She sort of
like, you know, took her fists and sort of down-pounded the chair a little
MADDOW: At that volume?
VINEGRAD: Basically. And that`s about as bad as it gets with her and
that`s true in terms of her, sort of outward, you know, appearance in terms
of dealing with the public or press conferences and the like. That`s also
the way she carries herself with her colleagues and subordinates in the
She`s very calm, cool and collected, even under pressure, even on
high profile situations. To me, that`s also qualities that you want in an
MADDOW: Alan Vinegrad, former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of
New York long-time friend and colleague of Loretta Lynch who we now know is
the president`s nominee for U.S. attorney general.
If she is confirmed, she`d be the first ever African-American woman
in that job succeeding the first ever African-American men in that job and
Eric Holder have no idea what the confirmation process will be like or what
the political response will be. But the pride that you can feel over this
choice in New York is almost palpable.
MADDOW: Yes, Alan Vinegrad, thanks for being here. Appreciate it.
VINEGRAD: Good to be here.
MADDOW: Thank you. All right, we`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: We have got a mind-bending story coming up next. It`s an American
corruption story that is so massive. It approaches like the scale of an
African dictator "Kleptocracy" story. It`s a story of incredible
corruption. It`s just starting to break.
And, even more than that, it is the story of some amazing journalism
that led to that story starting to break open right now. This is an
amazing story and it`s next. Please stay with us.
MADDOW: This is a hell of a story. All right, not many journalists win
genius awards. The genius award technically is called the McArthur
Fellowship. You can`t apply for one. Nobody really knows who does the
nominating or the deciding. The McArthur Foundation just calls you up and
says you have been picked.
When you get picked, if you get a genius award, you get an award of
several hundred thousand dollars paid out not at once but over time. The
idea is to give you time and freedom to do whatever it is that you have
proved to be so extraordinary at doing that you are recognized for this
The genius award has recently been given to, you know, chemist and
cartoonist and economists and community organizers. Not many journalists
win genius awards. But this one did. His name is Jerry Mitchell. He is a
long time reporter in the great state of Mississippi, works for the Jackson
Jerry Mitchel started to be thought of as maybe a little bit of a
genius. When he started tracking down cold cases in Mississippi, really
cold cases. His reporting helps them to prison the man who murdered civil
right leader, Medgar Evers in Jackson, Mississippi, decades after that
killing took place.
He helped put in prison this imperial wizard of Klux Klan for a fire
bombing in Mississippi decades after the Klan has been thought that they`ve
gotten away with it.
In 1963, the Klan bombed a church in Birmingham, Alabama on a Sunday
morning, killing four little girls. Forty years after that bombing, Jerry
Mitchell`s reporting helped send another Klansman to prison for that crime,
even though the Klansman had moved away from Alabama and seem to be
forgotten as a suspect.
In 2006, Jerry Mitchell was named a finalist for the Pulitzer for
covering those cases from the civil rights era and then three years after
that, reporter, Jerry Mitchell got that phone call from the McArthur folks.
At the time, his newspaper had been going through layoffs. He`d
been pulled away from his investigative work, but he got that genius award
and that genius award bought Jerry Michelle time, freedom and attention and
And what that translated to in his career in journalism was that it
basically earned him the right to work on big, long term stuff, stuff that
needed lots of lead time. The kinds of stories that might take months of
investigating and tons of sources, the stuff you can`t do with two phone
calls and a rough draft.
But now look at what that work has turned up. Jerry Mitchell spent
the last year taking a really deep dive into a very unforgiving subject,
Mississippi prisons, no surprise are terrible places.
Jerry Mitchell spent the past year plus investigating what goes on
behind prison walls in that state investigating the beatings and stabbings
and gangster guards and families are being made to pay protection money to
keep their loved ones safe in prison and drugs and smuggling, all of this
very dark stuff.
But one thing, Jerry Mitchell noticed, as he went about his work,
was not just that the situation inside the prison system was, but it`s also
sort of weird. There seemed to be something strange about what was going
And it seemed to have to do with the guy at the very top of the
system. The guy who has been at the top of that system longer than anyone
of state history, something was just off.
Here`s an example of what was off. Back in 2012, a federal judge
ruled in a lawsuit that one specific Mississippi prison was, quote, "a
cesspool of unconstitutional and inhuman acts and conditions," 2012.
The very next year, that same prison got a perfect score, a perfect,
100 percent rating from the American Corrections Association. You know
what? It turns out the head of the American Corrections Association, which
gave this cesspool of Mississippi prison a perfect, 100 percent school?
The head of the American Corrections Association was also the head
of the Mississippi Prisons System. Commissioner Christopher Epps said at
the time, quote, "Achieving 100 percent of standards is very difficult. I
am extremely proud."
Jerry Mitchell reported on stuff like that for the "Clarion-Ledger"
and the commissioner pushed back against Jerry Mitchell and against this
paper for printing those stories.
He said Mississippi prisons had gotten perfect scores before he
became president of this trade group handing out the perfect scores. We`re
always perfect. But, still, that was the kind of thing that was weird,
The commissioner getting an award from himself for this very, very
troubled prison, and Jerry Mitchell kept digging. And I`m not sure even he
had an inkling of how huge this story was about to get.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: First in six, the state`s prison facing bribery and
money laundering charges.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Inaudible) Tammy Esmik is live at the Federal Court
House with this corrections correction tape. Tammy?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, that`s right, Ladies. This is a huge
investigation. Everyone from the FBI, the IRS, the state auditor`s office,
that`s just to name a few. Now, all are accusing the former head of the
state prison system and a former lawmaker of a huge bribery conspiracy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And our commissioner, Christopher Epps is quiet on
bribery and conspiracy charges.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At this point, we just got the indictment. It`s an
extensive document. We really have no comment and the commissioner is not
going to make any comment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The federal prosecutors just unsealed an indictment months in the
making against Commissioner Christopher Epps in the Mississippi Department
of Corrections, dozens of federal felony charges. Federal prosecutors say
he`s been collecting bribes and kickbacks from a local businessman, who has
ties to companies that were given contracts to run parts of the prison
The scale of this thing is actually epic. All told, the companies
that are allegedly involved in this game have taken in close to a billion,
billion with a "b," dollars, a billion dollars in Mississippi. That comes
out to almost $200 for each person in Mississippi.
The indictment alleges the commissioner got his share in increments
of several thousand dollars at a time. According to prosecutors, the
commissioner told the businessman guy after one contract, quote, "I got us
$12,000 a month," which they then allegedly divided evenly after accounting
for the taxes that the businessman would owe on his part of it. So I guess
that part would be legal because he`d pay the taxes on his half.
Prosecutors said the commissioner shoot the businessman down for a
condo on the Mississippi coast. They say the commissioner than shoot him
down again for a larger, more expensive condo, a couple of towns over.
Mostly, though, as you read through these 49 felony counts, you get
the sense that the commissioner seems to have preferred cash. So much cash
that he couldn`t figure out how to keep anybody from noticing that he was
awash in bills.
Look at this, this is from count one of the indictment and we mapped
it out as best we could. Look, quote, "On July 30th, 2009, the
commissioner deposited $9,000 cash at the Regions branch bank in Fluid,
Mississippi at 2:16 p.m., 15 minutes later, he deposited $9,000 cash at the
Bank Plus in Fluid.
And 22 minutes after that, he deposited $9,000 cash at Region`s Bank
in Jackson and then he deposited, quote, "$9,000 cash" at the Mississippi
Public Employees Credit Union in Jackson.
Honey, I`ll be back in an hour. I have to go stash $36,000 in cash
at four different banks. Commissioner Epps resigned on Wednesday from his
as the state prison`s commissioner and as the president of the trade group
that gave himself the perfect score.
He and the businessman guy pleaded not guilty yesterday. The
commissioner now faces 368 years in prison. And I believe that would be
federal prison, not Mississippi Cesspool Prison.
The governor of Mississippi today announced a full review of prison
contracts in the state now that nearly a billion taxpayer dollars are
alleged to be tangled up in this scheme with the bribes and the kickbacks.
And there`s a lot of questions to answer about this 49-count
indictment, which includes not just the commissioner, who allegedly took
all the bribes and the kickbacks, but this businessman who`s a former judge
and former legislator who is charged with paying him all the brides and the
kickbacks in order to get the business from the prison system.
But this huge, huge federal corruption case is almost an x marks the
spot, where a local reporter, right, the celebrated genius reporter, Jerry
Mitchell decided he would spend his new found freedom to dig with his
considerable talent and his effort even though nobody wants to hear about
something like poorly-run prisons in a poor state.
We do not expect much from prisons anywhere in this country. We can
at least expect that the people in charge of them will watch out for more
than their beachfront condominiums and their Mercedes-Benz sedans and their
bank accounts all over town.
Fortunately for all of us, as long as we`ve got good local press
where we live, we can still expect good local journalists, good local
journalists, sometimes genius local journalists to stay on a story like
this one wherever it leads and however long it takes. For that, we thank
you. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Happy Friday. So much has happened in the news this week. It`s a
kind of week that can be a challenge to keep it all straight, which is why
we`re about to do this. It`s time to dump this week`s news all over one of
our faithful viewers. Producer Nick Tutz is here tonight to make the
introduction. Hello, Nick. Snazzy.
NICK TUTZ, SHOW PRODUCER: I do what I can.
MADDOW: You didn`t wear that all day.
TUTZ: No, I did not. I changed because I`m on camera.
MADDOW: All right, who is about to play tonight?
TUTZ: Tonight, we have Laura Anne Ayres from Zurich, Switzerland. She was
actually born in Texas and now lives in Switzerland. She is an opera
singer. She is a fan of the Alphorn. And she`s ready for the show so
MADDOW: Laura Anne, nice to meet you.
LAURA ANNE AYRES: Nice to meet you, too.
MADDOW: What`s an Alphorn?
AYRES: Well, it`s a special instrument that comes from Switzerland.
You`ve probably seen it a few times. It`s wooden and very long.
MADDOW: It looks like a cross between a shofar thing and a pipe?
MADDOW: Got it. All right, may I ask how do you watch us from
AYRES: OK, well, I only listen to the podcast. I listen obsessively every
MADDOW: Wow. Thank you for doing that. And welcome. I`m now going to
ask you three questions and you know the deal. If you get two or more of
them correct, you will win -- Nick, what is the prize?
TUTZ: We have one of our RACHEL MADDOW SHOW mini-drink mixers.
MADDOW: That`s right. You can use it for all sorts of Swiss things if
that`s appropriate. All right, we also now need to bring in the
disembodied voice of Steve Bennan, the kind of Maddow blog, who yields
tremendous power over your faith in this game. Laura Anne, Steve. Steve,
STEVE BENNAN: Good evening, Laura Anne.
AYRES: Hi, Steve.
MADDOW: The way this works is I will ask you questions, Steve will tell
you whether or not you got them right. If you get two of them right, we`ll
give you that cheap thing that Nick just showed you. Ready for your first
MADDOW: OK, this is exciting. On Monday`s show, which was the day before
the election, we talked about the likelihood of President Obama having to
face a Republican controlled House and a Republican controlled Senate and
therefore we talked about the likelihood that he might start breaking out
his until now extremely dusty rarely used veto pen.
How many times has President Obama vetoed legislation since he has
been president? Is it 11 times, four times, two times, or never?
AYRES: Two times?
MADDOW: Steve, did Laura Anne get that right?
BENNAN: Let`s check the segment from Monday`s show.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Heading into tomorrow`s elections, President Obama so far in this
presidency has only vetoed two pieces of legislation. It`s only happened
twice so far in this entire presidency.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BENNAN: So the correct answer is C, and Laura Anne is one for one.
MADDOW: Well done. Also I repeat myself a lot. All right, here`s
question two. On Wednesday, we learned that Chevron, the giant oil
corporation didn`t have that great of an election, at least at the local
Chevron spent millions of dollars to try to elect their own chosen
candidates in the town of Richmond, California, where Chevron has a really
big refinery. But the Chevron candidates all lost.
We also learned that I am very immature because I loved the name of
the new mayor of Richmond, California, the one who Chevron bet against.
What is the name of the new mayor elect of Richmond, California. It`s
multiple choice. Is the new mayor`s name Mayor Butt, Mayor Doody, Mayor
Snot or Mayor Fart?
AYRES: The correct answer is A.
MADDOW: Mayor Butt.
AYRES: And you might need to grow up.
MADDOW: Steve, do I have to grow up and is she correct?
BENNAN: Let`s check the segment from Wednesday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: If part of your mind is permanently 8 years old like mine is, the
fact that his name is Tom Butt is a constant source of delight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BENNAN: Yes, the Mayor Butt was elected this week. The answer is A, and
Laura Anne gets another one right.
MADDOW: Very good, excellent.
AYRES: The best was when you called it an asset.
MADDOW: I wrote it into the script. I was like, I can`t use, I`ll say it
MADDOW: All right, you have one last question. Yesterday`s show, we
learned that yet another state legislature flipped from Democratic control
to Republican control, but this one happened a day after the election.
When the results came in on election night, the particular state Senate was
tied half Republican, half Democrat.
But when on Wednesday, one Democratic state senator switched
parties, thus giving the Republicans of the Senate in his state. In which
state did this party-switching state senator give the Republicans control
of his state senate for the first time since the great depression? Was it
a, Kentucky, b, Tennessee, c, Indiana or d, West Virginia?
BENNAN: Let`s check the segment from last night`s show.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: A state senator in West Virginia, a Democrat, left the Democratic
Party and flipped his registration to Republican.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BENNAN: The correct answer is d, just like Laura Anne said.
MADDOW: Nick, did Laura Anne win the prize?
TUTZ: She did, congratulations.
MADDOW: You`re the first person who has gotten them all right. I think
you might be our first extra credit winner. Second, first? Well, anyway,
you got all three. You only needed two. If we do have a piece of Tom Butt
campaign swag around the office somewhere, we`ll mail you that as extra
credit along with your tiny shaker. Thank you for playing.
MADDOW: That was awesome.
AYRES: Thank you so much, guys.
MADDOW: Thank you. Happy Alphorn. If you think that you have what it
takes to survive the Friday night news dump, head over to maddowblog.com to
learn how to apply. You can win this cheap thing plus maybe something else
we find around the office.
Before you can do that, though, you do tonight have to go meet your
new cell mates. But I have heard they are extra nice to me.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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