Skip navigation

'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Tuesday, March 17th, 2015

Read the transcript to the Tuesday show

Date: March 17, 2015
Guest: Lynn Sweet, Barbara Boxer

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you, my


MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.

Today was a day of lots of late breaking news, particularly from

In Israel, polls closed at 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time in the U.S., 10:00
p.m. local time in Israel, and the whole world is waiting to see the fate
of Israel`s prime minister and whether or not he would be reelected in
these elections today or whether the country of Israel would instead take a
great leap to the left by rejecting Prime Minister Netanyahu and his party.

They have a parliamentary system in Israel so the election results are
not going to be a black and white/yes or no question any time soon. At
this point, the exit polls from today`s election in Israel show the two
major parties got roughly equal numbers of votes and roughly equal number
of seats in parliament. So, they were likely have to be lots of wrangling
over the next days and weeks before we know exactly who is going to govern
Israel and in what form of coalition.

So, that story broke late this afternoon with polls closing. It
continues to develop tonight and will continue to develop into tomorrow and

We also got late word tonight from the Secret Service, just a few
minutes ago actually, that a letter that arrived recently at the White
House has tested positive for signs of cyanide. Nobody is said to be in
danger from the letter, it is now undergoing further testing, but again we
do have that testing result from the Secret Service, just within the last
few minutes and we`re going to have more on that story in just a moment.

It has been a very busy day in the news and a lot of things as yet
unresolved. But in the midst of some of that breaking news today, there
was also a shocking development here at home in politics, when a really
high profile member of the United States Congress today suddenly resigned
without warning and without much of an explanation.

In 2007, one of the profoundly steady hands of American politics
announced that he wouldn`t be running for office again. His name was Ray
LaHood, and he`d served as a Republican member of Congress for more than a
decade at that point.

Ray LaHood was reelected from a safe district for Republicans in
Peoria, Illinois. Ray LaHood was steady enough and centrist enough and not
to put too fine a point on it, but boring enough, just noncontroversial
enough that President Obama ending up picking him to be his transportation
secretary after Ray LaHood finished his time in Congress. Even though he
was a Republican, he became part of President Obama`s cabinet.

The exit of Ray LaHood from his congressional seat in electoral terms,
it was no real problem for the Republican Party in Illinois. That district
is really reliably red, for one thing, and Illinois Republicans had a boy
wonder ready to step up and take that seat.

Aaron Schock, he`d already won a seat in the Illinois Statehouse when
he was just 23 years old. The state had never had a younger lawmaker than
Aaron Schock. Aaron Schock was this young, super ambitious, attractive,
well-spoken, aggressive guy. Did I mention he was young?

And at the time that young Mr. Schock was readying his run for Ray
LaHood`s old seat from that safe Republican district, Republicans in
Congress at the time were trying to remake themselves in the image of a
youthful party. House Republicans, Eric Cantor and Kevin McCarthy and Paul
Ryan, they launched this Republican Young Guns campaign in 2007.

Aaron Schock was his own much younger gun, right? He was reelected to
Congress, to Congress, to United States Congress, when he was only 27.
Even though that year that he got elected, 2008, that was the year when
Republicans got beaten badly. They lost the White House that year, they
lost ground in the Senate, they lost ground in the House.

But in 2008, Republicans did get from Illinois this new boy wonder,
Aaron Schock, the first member of Congress born in the 1980s.

So, when Aaron Schock came up from Peoria to Congress, he was already
kind of a star. I don`t know why exactly the Beltway press has such love
for stories about members of Congress exercising, but the Beltway press
really loves to do stories about the workout routines of members of
Congress, especially love bipartisan stories about members of Congress
doing their workouts.

This bipartisan story about members of Congress working out appeared
last summer filed under fashion. Here we have Congressman Aaron Schock
enjoying his bipartisan workout with Democratic freshman Tulsi Gabbard of
Hawaii, an Iraq war vet. These two freshmen members of Congress both very
attractive, very young, a bipartisan duo in the gym. They`re the new
generation in Congress.

Right now in the background of this photo, see the guy in the red t-
shirt, sort of out of focus? That`s Congressman Kevin McCarthy. He really
was supposed to be the Young Gun guy. He started the Young Guns not that
long ago.

No offense to Congressman McCarthy, but when you`re the paunchy guy in
the background of the picture, and this guy in the baseball hat is the guy
in the foreground -- you guy in the red shirt, you can`t be the young gun
anymore. New guy is obviously the young gun. Now, that is young.

Also look at his guns. I mean -- Aaron Schock was the boy wonder that
Republicans had been hoping for. This attractive, fit, new kid on the

Honestly, in substantive terms, he did not do all that much as a
member of Congress. He was not known for passing any particularly big or
meaningful bills. He`s not associated with any particular causes. But he
was, you know, young and fit and a great face for the party. He was able
to parlay it into tons and tons of media appearances and also his own
Republican Generation Y PAC, and also a famous star-turned, yes, that`s
him, on a cover of men`s health.

Congressman, really? He was handsome Aaron Schock. The young buck
from Peoria, with a very, very well done Instagram account and the
unavoidable shirtlessness every time you turn around. Aaron Schock was it.

And yes, sure, maybe he decided he would read a magazine called
"Washington Life" in Congress ostentatiously, literally on the floor of the
House while Kathleen Sebelius was testifying about Medicare cost before his
committee. Medicare costs are boring. This magazine is awesome.

Aaron Schock could get away with stuff like that, right? He was
Republican boy wonder.

But there was always another thing about Aaron Schock from the very
beginning of his career. When Aaron Schock was first running for Congress
back in 2008, that November 2008 election got close, local press in
Illinois started running stories about something he had years before even
that, when he was barely out of his teens.

Look at this. False dates on documents raise questions for Schock.

It turns Aaron Schock`s parents had been the victims of a financial
scam and there was a trial about that scam that had swindled Aaron Schock`s
parents. Aaron Schock`s dad testified in that trial that his son had
signed off on back-dated documents. The date was off by more than a year.
Aaron Schock was a public notary and he signed off on those misdated
documents anyway. His dad testified at trial that his son did that.

And at the time, the "Peoria Star Journal" noted that what Aaron
Schock had done, putting false dates on those documents that he then
notarized, that could be considered a crime. That report appeared less
than a month before the election that sent him to Congress. It was just a
little embarrassment on his way to becoming a young Republican star in

You know, he went on to Congress. That mini-scandal back in Peoria
did not turned out to be a big problem for him. But it might have been a
first sign, because this did become a big problem.

February of this year, a "Washington Post" style reporter named Ben
Terris stopped by Congressman Aaron Schock`s new office on Capitol Hill.
Reporter Ben Terris described the anteroom of the congressman`s office this
way, quote, "bright red walls, a gold-colored wall sconce with black
candles, a federal style bull`s eye mirror with an eagle perched on top.

The receptionist said the decor was based on "Downton Abbey." And
then his interior designer popped out of a doorway inside the office and
introduced herself and showed this reporter the congressman`s private
office also with a dramatic red motif with very memorable furnishings, like
a dripping crystal chandelier, massive arrangements of pheasant feathers.

When the congressman`s staff realized that they had a reporter taking
a tour and snapping pictures about what the office looked like, they asked
the reporter to delete the photos from his phone. All of which would be
embarrassing enough for young Congressman Aaron Schock, both the scale of
the design, asking the reporter to get rid of the pictures.

But then, the congressman`s staff hit real trouble, possibly as they
tried to make this "Downton Abbey" office thing not seem like such a big
deal. The congressman`s staff said that the designer had offered her
services for free. She had volunteered her time. That detail, that
explanation that the work had been donated to Aaron Schock, well, that`s a
gift then, right? That`s a donation. That led to allegations that
Congressman Schock was violating the rules about accepting gifts as a
member of Congress.

That little Beltway style report about Congressman Aaron Schock`s new
office was meant to be a human interest thing, right? But this mention
that the designer had worked for free, it just started as a very fast, very
ultimately destructive cascade of terrible news for Aaron Schock. I mean,
first, we got that allegation about the "Downton Abbey" office. Then came
allegations that he might have taken private plane rides that violated
House rules, then "The A.P." cross referenced his fancy Instagram account
with those plane rides to show him how him jetting around the concerts and

And then, "BuzzFeed" pointed out the presidential knockoff lectern
that the congressman like to use for appearances, that cost him thousands
of dollars. Then, we learned that Congressman Schock`s staffers had gone
on a taxpayer-funded trip to New York where they had, quote, "few official

What started as one off hand comment about the decorating of his
office in this ostentatious way turned into a full-blown mess for Aaron
Schock. Boy wonder`s cape was unraveling really fast.

And Congressman Schock dealt with it as best he could. He paid back a
lot of stuff, paid $40,000 for the office redesign. He got rid of some
staffers. He hired some lawyers. He got a new PR team. He hired new
accountants to look over his books and make sure he was doing things right.

He held a press conference back home, and told everybody back home in
his district that knew this didn`t look good, but he was going to do better
in the future.


REP. AARON SCHOCK (R), ILLINOIS: I know that when I take a trip and I
post photos online, it can create the misimpression of being out of touch
or an image that is not worthy to my constituents. I tried to balance
being a young congressman and doing things differently and more open with
maintaining a level of seriousness. I listened to the feedback from folks
in my district, and the team of professionals that I mentioned earlier. I
believe you have to earn the trust every day of the voters you represent,
and that`s exactly what I intend to do.


MADDOW: You have to earn the trust every day.

Congressman Schock would make a new start of it. That was just the
other day in his home district in Peoria. He said he heard the voters, he
was going to get this right.

For all that, that cascade of headlines, you know, it was
embarrassing, it didn`t necessarily have to be more than that, more than
embarrassing until now. Reporters seem to have been on to another story
about Congressman Schock.

Yesterday, Lynn Sweet of "The Chicago Sun Times" reported that
Congressman Schock had used campaign money to pay for mileage on an SUV
that he owned. Now, the paper said he billed taxpayers for the mileage in
his SUV, and then this afternoon, "Politico" reporter Jake Sherman tweeted
that Congressman Schock was resigning, that he was leaving his office, and
that he was doing it, quote, "after `Politico` questioned his mileage

"Politico" went on to report that Congressman Schock had gotten
reimbursed for more miles than the SUV in question had even been driven.
So, in effect, he had been paid to drive miles in that truck that had never
been put on the odometer. "Politico" is clearly taking at least an
implicit victory lap over this.

But here is the question in his written resignation today.
Congressman Schock didn`t say why he stepped down. He cited only the
constant questions over the last six weeks. He said they had, quote,
"proven a great distraction that has made it too difficult for me to serve
the voters who elected me."

But what was it. Congressman Aaron Schock resigned. Announced he is
leaving office, resigning effective March 31st. And we still really don`t
know why.

Was it something worse about this last story, about the mileage?
Having to do with allegedly getting cash? All right, is there something
worse about that story than like the free decorating in the earlier
stories? Was it just a cumulative affect of all of those stories? The six
weeks of questions? Or was there some, you know, 50th shoe about to drop?
That he thought was going to be harder to survive than everything else he
has so far made it through?

That he want to get out of Congress before something else was going to
happen that he knew was coming down the road. Why is Congressman Schock
leaving for real and what happens now.

Joining us now is Lynn Sweet, the Washington, D.C. bureau chief of
"The Chicago Sun Times". She has covered Aaron Schock since he was elected
to Congress in 2008.

Lynn, appreciate your time tonight. Thanks for being here.


MADDOW: Why do you believe or from your reporting, what do you think
is indicated about why he resigned today? I can`t tell what`s the worst
thing that he`s been accused of. There has been a lot over these last few

SWEET: Well, there is mounting number of serious legal questions that
he is facing, including questions that I have that his team knew about the
mileage, too. The same stuff that "Politico" was covering, they knew I had
the same information. But what I think really was going on here is that he
knew that not only were there stories in the pipeline he knew about, but I
think his team figured there was also stories in the pipeline that they
didn`t yet know about.

He also kind of knew, Rachel, that it was the end of the road for him
no matter what. He craved celebrity and a jet set lifestyle. That was
ending. He had his serious legal problems which he hopes to downplay by
quitting and paying back some of the money as certain things become
apparent, not everything but some.

And I think he also is losing support locally, almost every local
newspaper and columnist was writing very scathing editorials about him.

So, the life he loving in Congress was over. And I wouldn`t under
estimate that either. And I would emphasize that even though he can leave
Congress and can end the investigations from the Office of Congressional
Ethics, one that was likely to happen from the House Ethics Committee, this
does not automatically erase anything the Justice Department might feel
like doing or a lesser regulatory agency, the Federal Election Committee.

MADDOW: Is there any indication that the DOJ or the FEC have started
any sort of investigation into him? And would we know if they had?

SWEET: Well, FEC is -- it does slaps on the hand, nothing serious in
the case of all of these questions about how he used campaign and taxpayer
money. They might take it on, by quitting Congress, he makes himself less
of a target. No one has reported yet that the Department of Justice opened
any kind of inquiry.

MADDOW: Lynn, one last question here in terms of thinking about his
trajectory in Illinois and getting to Congress. I mean, is this the sort
of thing that was foreshadowing about? Is this -- were there shadows like
this that followed him earlier in his career. It did feel like for those
of us who know him as sort of celebrity young congressman, like once that
Downton office thing happens, the cascade that followed, it just felt like
a side that had been held back, it was so many different things that were
reported so quickly, as soon as that initial dam broke.

SWEET: Well, part of it was that he did report his spending and that
made it possible to put together the stories. You had multiple news
organizations, including "The Sun Times" looking at him.

But, of course, as you mentioned the beginning of this, just think if
it wasn`t for the "Downton Abbey" story by "The Washington Post", it
wouldn`t have raised questions that were important enough that people did
start looking, which I think shows that, you know, the press has this
watchdog function and in this case, you know, the watchdogs were able to
and in short time produced stories that show that Aaron Schock had
extremely, to say the least, questionable use of his campaign and taxpayer

And I just, for people listening, there are things maybe symbolic like
bad taste if you don`t like his red office, but it did lead to his whole
kind of dealing with his taxpayer and government money, coming under a
microscope that might otherwise not have happened.

MADDOW: Lynn Sweet, Washington, D.C. bureau chief for "The Chicago
Sun-Times", a leader on this story -- Lynn, thank you for helping us out.
I appreciate it.

SWEET: Hey, thank you so much.

MADDOW: Thanks.

All right. There`s much more ahead, including some more news on that
breaking news that we just learned in the last hour from the Secret Service
about a letter sent to the White House about a letter that tested positive
for cyanide.

Plus, Senator Barbara Boxer is here tonight for the interview.

Please stay with us.


MADDOW: There`s breaking news to report tonight. NBC News has
confirmed this evening that a letter sent to the White House has tested
positive for cyanide. This news is just breaking late tonight. We don`t
have a lot of details yet, but what we can tell you is that this letter was
received at the mail screening facility yesterday.

The Secret Service is telling NBC News tonight that the letter
initially tested negative when it was first screened, but subsequent
chemical testing performed on the letter today did come back positive for

Now, this news was first reported by the web site "The Intercept."
Their reporting is that the return address on the suspect`s envelope is
associated with a man who`s been known to the Secret Service for some time,
perhaps dating back to the 1990s.

They report that this man has sent suspicious packages to the White
House in the past. He is believed to be behind this letter as well.
Again, that`s reporting tonight from "The Intercept", that the Secret
Service tells NBC News that this letter has tested positive for cyanide and
a sample from the letter has been transported to another facility to
confirm those testing results.

We`ll bring you more details on this story as it develops. This, of
course, has also been a big day for the agency at the center of that story,
the Secret Service.

We`ve got more on that news ahead. Please stay with us.


MADDOW: About ten miles outside of Washington, D.C., there is a place
called Beltsville, Maryland. If you find yourself flying over Beltsville
one day and you happen to have a really great set of binoculars, you might
look down on Beltsville and see something that roughly resembles the White
House, sort of. It`s not actually the White House. It`s a fake White
House they have set up at the Secret Service`s training center in
Beltsville, Maryland.

Beltsville is this big sprawling complex. They`ve got everything from
a fake Marine One, and a fake Air Force One. It`s actually half of a fake
Air Force One.

They have a fake village where the Secret Service can practice
tactical maneuvers, and a fake White House that is apparently not that good
of a fake White House.

The Secret Service director told Congress today that the Secret
Service wants a new fake White House to train on, something that`s a little
bit more of an exact replica of the actual building and the actual White
House grounds.


JOSEPH CLANCY, SECRET SERVICE DIRECTOR: We don`t have the bushes, we
don`t have the fountains, and don`t get a realistic look at the White
House. Even our K9, they`re responding on hard surfaces rather than grass.


MADDOW: The Secret Service director was already scheduled to testify
today about the agency`s budget before we got the latest round of bombshell
reporting from "The Washington Post" about a pair of senior Secret Service
agents who allegedly drove their government vehicle onto the White House
grounds on March 4th and hit a temporary barrier after they`ve been out for
a night of drinking at a nearby Washington bar.

Even though uniformed Secret Service officers on the scene wanted to
arrest those senior agents and said they believed those agents might be
drunk, a supervisor at the White House grounds reportedly ordered the
uniformed officers to not arrest the agents and ordered that they not be
breathalyzed and instead that they should just be sent home.

Joseph Clancy has only officially been director of the Secret Service
for about a month now, but he got grilled today about this latest incident.
He got grilled about in particular about why he, as a director of the
Secret Service, wasn`t even informed about this until five days after it

And in the midst of that discussion, there was one remarkable moment
when Director Clancy talked about how his agency has issues. Specifically,
they have issues with alcohol. Watch this.


CLANCY: There is an element within our agency that does cope with the
stresses that many of you mentioned today by using alcohol. There is no
question. We have that element.

We also have other elements that are in our agency that go to a
different route. Some go to exercise, some go to religion. Some go to
their family to cope with these stresses. But we do have an element that
goes to alcohol. We`ve got to find a way to help some of these people that
are going towards alcohol to solve their problems as a coping mechanism.


MADDOW: This hearing today was supposed to be about the Secret
Service budget. It did not really end up being about the Secret Service
budget. It ended up being about the need for a new fake White House, and
the problem of drunken Secret Service agents, and how to cope with the
problem of alcohol as an institutional problem for the Secret Service, and
a lot more besides.

And on the one hand, it is nice to hear that they`re working on their
problems. On the other happened, given what this agency is responsible
for, it is fairly terrifying to hear the details of what some of their
problems are.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you tell them things?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And apart from Iraq.

AL ASSAD: When we do something in our country, on our territory, we
don`t ask anyone, we don`t tell anyone. We just do it.


MADDOW: We don`t ask anyone, we don`t tell anyone, we just do it.

Syrian President Bashar al Assad in an interview with the BBC last
month. The BBC in that interview, they were pressing him about U.S.
aircraft flying in Syrian airspace as the U.S. has led this coalition
effort that has launched nearly 3,000 airstrikes already against ISIS
targets in Syria and in Iraq.

Syria as a country has considerable air defenses, so it was worth
asking whether U.S. aircraft should be seen as at risk when they fly these
missions over Syria.

Well, now, a U.S. aircraft has gone down in Syria. The government is
claiming they shot down an American Predator drone over Syria and not for
from the Turkish border.

Syrian state TV has been broadcasting footage today of what they
claimed is the wreckage site. You can see people trying to load some of
the wreckage into a truck, other people showing off burnt parts of what
they claim is this aircraft.

The considerable silver lining here is that there is no pilot or crew
on a Predator aircraft like this. After these images were shown on Syrian
TV all day, tonight, the Pentagon released a statement confirming that the
aircraft was an MQ-1 Predator drone that they lost contact with it over
Syria today. But they are not confirming that the Predator was shot down.

Quote, "At this time, we have no information to corroborate press
reports that the aircraft was shot down. We are looking into the incident
and will provide more details when available."

We are now eight months into this war that has never been fully
debated or voted on or authorized by the Congress. Now that the first U.S.
aircraft has gone down in this war, there are some questions that need to
be at least asked if not answered, right?

I mean, first, obviously, was it shot down? If it was shot down, does
that mean we should expect them to shoot down more U.S. drones?

How dangerous is it for the U.S. for its drones to be shot down and
recovered by the Syrian government, or conceivably by ISIS or the other
militant groups fighting in Syria. When they get one of our drones, what
do they get that could help them or potentially hurt our military?

And it is one thing to lose a drone. It`s another thing to lose a
pilot, or to lose a pilot and a crew. Does losing this predator drone
today in Syria inform the question of how much risk our pilots are at as we
head into the eighth month of this undeclared air war including more than
2,700 bombing missions already?

Joining us now is NBC News military analyst, Colonel Jack Jacobs.

Colonel Jack, thanks for being here.


MADDOW: What are we hearing tonight? What do you believe tonight
about whether it was shot down or whether it was some mechanical --

JACOBS: Well, they`re not talking -- they`re not talking because they
want to get their story straight. Everybody has drones, the services have
drones, the Defense Department has drones, the CIA has drones. It`s not
entirely clear whether was a drone that was armed and was an attack drone,
or instead it was doing surveillance.

And I think they want to get their story straight before they tell
anybody anything. So, it`s probably going to be at least 24 hours before
we hear anything.

MADDOW: In terms of the value of this, as a piece of crashed and
salvaged equipment, is it -- is there a difference in terms of its
potential value to the Syrian forces or anybody else who might recover
something like this? If there was surveillance versus armed?

JACOBS: Thankfully, no, there is no difference. All of the codes
change. The frequencies that are used change. I can`t envision either
ISIS or Syria who have their hands full at the moment trying to reverse-
engineer drones. I don`t think any of the information on the drone is
going to be usable to them. And we change things all of the time to make
sure it`s not.

MADDOW: Drones fly definitely than piloted aircraft do. Should we
take comfort in that that if this was shot down that it doesn`t tell us
whether or not our pilots are at more risk than we`ve seen this?

JACOBS: Yes, I think so. I think it is a good way to look at it.
Drones are slow, they`re much less expensive, even though they are
expensive, they`re much less expansive. They have good lauder time. They
can hang around for a long, long time.

Our manned aircraft on the other hand are very expensive, but they`re
extremely lethal. They are very fast. They can detect when enemy radar
has locked on, when enemy bullets or missiles headed their way, and they
can counteract many dozens of targets all at the same time, and they shoot
from over the horizon, way out of harm`s way.

So, when we fly manned missions in this area, we do so at a great
distant from the target area, putting our guys far less at risk, which is
one reason why we use drones to a great extent, and not manned aircraft.

MADDOW: Colonel Jack Jacobs, NBC News military analyst, incredibly
clarifying and helpful. Thank you so much.

JACOBS: You`re very welcome.

MADDOW: Appreciate it.

All right. Straight ahead, we`ve got a lot still to come tonight,
including the interview tonight. Senator Barbara boxer is here.

Please stay with us.


MADDOW: Ahoy! A scoop, a scoop about a mistake. There is lots of
ways to screw up in public life and the law, and I`m not just talking about
Aaron Schock.

Consider if you will today`s most pitiful headline courtesy of "The
Bismarck Tribune" in Bismarck, North Dakota. "Man fails to rob Loaf N
Jug." "The Bismarck Police Department is looking for a man who failed
Tuesday to rob the Loaf `N Jug on East Rosser Avenue."

The store employee told police that between 4:30 and 4:40 a.m., an
apparently intoxicated man holding a folding knife walked into the story
with his sweatshirt over his head to conceal his face. The man demanded
money, but the clerk told him he was unable to get him any. The man then
demanded cigarettes, but he did not receive those either. The man then
left the store empty-handed.

Man fails to rob the Loaf `N Jug, today`s excellent reminder that
there are lots of ways to screw up in public life and the law. But
tonight`s scoop, which is next, is one of the rarest species of doing that.

Tonight`s scoop is a mistake in which the perpetrator has been caught
because they accidentally signed their name to what they were doing.
Signed their name, at least the Loaf `N Jug guy had the good sense to pull
his sweatshirt over his face. Not these next guys. That`s next.



fuel efficiency standards, and if I`m able to make appliances more
efficient, and to double the production of clean energy, if I`m able to do
all of those things, we will still have a heck of a problem, but we will
make enough progress that the next president and next generations can start
building on it and you start getting some momentum.

VICE NEWS: Which is rational, sane, is a great answer. However --


VICE NEWS: -- you have people, for example, Senator Inhofe who is
throwing snowballs, who`s saying it is the greatest hoax perpetrated on the
American public is that we can do anything about climate change, or that
it`s even real.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator from Oklahoma?

SEN. JAMES INHOFE (R), OKLAHOMA: We keep hearing that 2014 has been
the warmest year on record. I ask the chair, you know what this is? It`s
a snowball and it`s from outside here. So, it`s very cold, very
unseasonable. So, Mr. President, catch this.

VICE NEWS: Throwing a snowball would be funny --


VICE NEWS: -- if it weren`t for the fact that he is chairman of the
Senate Committee on the environment.

OBAMA: That`s disturbing.


MADDOW: President Obama in an interview with Vice News this week
saying it is disturbing that Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma is in charge
of the environment in the U.S. Senate.

The chair of the environmental committee in the Senate when the
Democrats were in control was, of course, Barbara Boxer of California. But
now, it is James Inhofe who believes among other things that the fact that
it has snowed this winter means that clearly the whole climate change thing
is a hoax, disproven by the existence of snow.

Well, tomorrow, Senator Snowball gets to oversee the unveiling of a
huge new thing. It`s the first update to the nation`s rules on toxic
chemicals in 39 years. And ahead of tomorrow`s big unveiling of that new
law, "The San Francisco Chronicle" has just reported on a draft of the new
law that has been circulated ahead of tomorrow`s hearing and there is a
mistake in the draft that has provided one of those "Oh my God" moment
about American politics.

Everybody has their suspension and their cynicism and they`re, you
know, back and forth sniping about the way stuff happens in our politics.
Only once in a blue moon do you get a mistake, a screw up that all of a
sudden makes it totally clear what`s going on.

So, this is from the "San Francisco Chronicle": In recent days, a
draft of the bill was circulated by one senator`s office ahead of the
hearing. The draft bill is in a form of a Microsoft Word document. And
once reporters of "The Chronicle" got a hold of that Microsoft Word
document that was circulating as a draft of the bill, those reporters took
the radical digital forensic step of right-clicking on the documents on
their desktop and looking at the properties of who created that document.

And as listed on that document, the company that created this draft
bill of the new rules about toxic chemicals, the company that created it is
listed as the American Chemistry Council, the leading trade organization
and lobbyist for the chemical industry. You guys wrote this?

Senator Barbara Boxer who again used to be the head of the environment
committee before it got taken over by Senator Inhofe told "The Chronicle",
quote, "Call me old-fashioned, but a bill to protect the public from
harmful chemicals should not be written by chemical industry lobbyists."

Senator Boxer announced this year that she`ll be retiring from the
U.S. Senate at the end of this term. The leading Democratic candidate in
California to replace her, to get that seat, is the current attorney
general of California, the state`s ambitious and aggressive and high
profile attorney, Kamala Harris.

Kamala Harris several days ago released a blistering letter about the
new bill saying, it would eviscerate California`s own rules on toxic

Because the federal law on chemicals hasn`t been updated since 1976,
lots of states in the meantime have set up their own safety regulations
around chemicals, including California. The new bill, arguably, would undo
that. I mean, if you think about something like the federal minimum wage,
that sets a floor, right? I mean, states or even cities are free to set a
higher nomination wage, but nobody can go lower than $7.25 an hour.

Federal minimum wage of $7.25 is low as anybody can go. States can do
better if they want to. And that`s how these things usually work.

With this chemical law, though, it`s the opposite. The new law
they`re going to unveil tomorrow would eventually overtime set federal
standards for hundreds of chemicals, but in the meantime, it would also
block any state who wanted to set their more stringent rules.

So, when it comes to regulating, you know, toxic junk like asbestos
and all the rest of it, this new law would tell a state like California
that they`re not allowed to have better safety regulations than any other
state or than the federal government as the federal government slowly gets
around to making new standards since the `70s on that.

But that is what`s getting unveiled tomorrow in Senator Inhofe`s

David Vitter from Louisiana, he`s the chief Republican negotiator on
this bill. The chief Democratic negotiator on this bill is Tom Udall of
New Mexico, who of the course of his career has generally been seen as a
great pro-environmental advocate.

Senator Udall has been in Congress since 1998. Suddenly, though, last
year for the first time, out of the blue, he started getting significant
campaign donations from the American Chemistry Council.

They also ran this ad supporting Tom Udall for reelection. It`s a
strange ad. It weirdly says at the end that New Mexico voters should call
Tom Udall to thank him for being so great -- brought to you by the American
Chemistry Council.

And now, it is Senator Udall`s office that has circulated this draft
of the chemical bill that is stamped in its properties on Microsoft Word as
having been written by somebody at the American Chemistry Council.

Senator Udall`s office told us tonight that this has been a big
misunderstanding. They told us that the American Chemistry Council did not
draft the bill. They said in the process of communicating with them and
other stakeholders about this bill, the American Chemistry Council must
have just saved some parts of the correspondence and then sent that saved
document back to Senator Udall`s office, and the somehow what the Chemistry
Council sent them ending getting circulated by Senator Udall as his draft
of the bill. Huh?

The American Chemistry Council for their part is also having trouble
explaining what happened here. A vice president for the group told "The
Chronicle", quote, "It doesn`t mean the original document was generated
here. Anybody could have put that digital signature in there. You could
change it."

Asked by "The Chronicle" if that meant that she was denying that the
American Chemistry Council wrote the draft of the bill, she said this,
quote, "I have no idea. There`s no way for anyone to tell."

In the meantime, the I.T. staff for the Senate sergeant-at-arms has
now told Senator Boxer`s staff, quote, "We can confidently say that the
document was created by a user with the American Chemistry Council. Their
name is specified as author and their organization is specified as American
Chemistry Council."

Oops, we left the lobbyist signature on the bill. It is the kind of
laugh-out-loud moment that doesn`t happen all that often in Washington.
When it does happen, though, it turns out to be a nice easy test of whether
or not Washington is still capable of being embarrassed. We will find out
tomorrow when this laugh-out-loud mistake makes its public debut under the
guiding visionary leadership of Senator Snowball.



INHOFE: I ask the chair, you know what this is? It`s a snowball.
And that`s just from outside here. So, it`s very, very cold out. Very

So here, Mr. President, catch this. Uh-huh.


MADDOW: That is the new Republican chair of the Senate Environment
and Public Works Committee, Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma.

Tomorrow, that committee will consider to revamp the nation`s laws on
toxic chemicals for the first time in nearly 40 years. That legislation is
highly contested, including among Senate Democrats.

Joining us now for the interview is Senator Barbara Boxer. She`s the
ranking member of the Environment Committee.

Senator, thank you so much for being here tonight.

SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA: Thanks so much for doing the

MADDOW: Well, let many ask you about the specific point that I just
made a moment ago about the American Chemistry Council turning up as the
apparent author, at least the Microsoft Word listed author in what appears
to be a draft of the bill circulated ahead of tomorrow`s hearing. Did you
and your staff first discover that? Were you the first people who figured
that out?

BOXER: Well, when the bill came over from the senators, Senator Udall
and Vitter, there was a copy right there for us, and my staff said to me
this reads like it was written by the Chemistry Council.

And so, we thought, you know, maybe it was. I`m not kidding. And
they checked it out, and it was written by the American Chemistry Council.

And this is shocking, and people can run all over and say it wasn`t.
We know it was. It`s just right there.

But more important is just read the bill and you see what it does. It
does nothing to protect the people. And it takes a very weak task of law,
which now exists, which was so weak that it couldn`t even ban asbestos,
keeps the standard very, very weak to prove, and then it does something
else, it stops the states dead in their tracks, because the states had
filled a void, and not only my state, but the attorneys general for about
nine states and it`s growing every day, are saying what are you doing?
This is dangerous.

Because this bill, once it became law, which we`re going to make sure
it doesn`t, I pray and I hope and I work so it doesn`t become law,
basically says to the states, once we look at a chemical, you can`t do
anything about it.

And so, nobody would be protected, because what I wanted to tell you,
your report was right on target. I take issue with one thing, there is no
deadline to ban any chemical or regulate any chemical. There is a deadline
to study and complete a study in seven years of just 25 of 80,000
chemicals, over seven years. No deadlines to take action.

So, there`s nothing here. It is worse than current law that does not
need speaking. It`s 450 different health organizations, development
organizations that goes on, nurses, doctors -- they all say this is worse
than current law, Rachel.

MADDOW: There are some Democrats who are supporting this legislation.
Senator Udall, obviously, most notably on this. You do have this dispute
with him tonight. He`s denying the Chemistry Council allegations about the
authorship, as you referenced.

But if I think about Republicans supporting this and Democrats
dividing on this, it makes me wonder what would happen if this did get the
president`s desk. Do you believe the White House would sign this bill if
it passed the Senate?

BOXER: Well, I don`t -- I don`t see that happening, because this
president understands environmental injustice. And it`s hit so many
communities where you have these terrible, terrible things like chromium 6
and formaldehyde, benzene and all these things laying around in super fun
sites and the rest.

This president was the lead on regulating lead.

But here`s the point -- I do hope, some of my colleagues jumped on the
spill, and I understand why. They gave it a beautiful name. It`s named
after my beloved colleague, Frank Lautenberg.

And people jumped on it thinking it was fine. It has a beautiful
name. But it is a very ugly bill. And it is not going to help anybody.

So, I think when they see that the Chemistry Council wrote the bill,
that 450 groups, including the asbestos group, the breast cancer group, and
I could go on with, you know, so long. I have them at the hearing
tomorrow, all the groups that oppose it. It`s unprecedented. I think
maybe my colleagues will rethink it.

Look, the bill is a Udall-Vitter-Inhofe bill. I want to tell you
something, Rachel, the rating of Vitter by environmental groups is 5
percent. He votes against the environment 95 percent of the time. The
rating of Jim Inhofe is 5 percent. I don`t even know what I haven`t seen
any good votes out of them, but I guess they were good 5 percent of the

So the bottom line here is, this is a bad bill, written by the
Chemistry Council. It is a weak bill, and it pre-empts state action. It`s
very, very dangerous. It`s very, very serious, and it`s no laughing
matter. It is deadly serious.

MADDOW: Senator Barbara Boxer of California, thank you for helping us
understand your take on this tonight, ma`am. Appreciate it.

BOXER: Thank you.

MADDOW: All right. We`ve got a best new thing in the world coming up
next. Please stay with us.


MADDOW: All right. Best new thing in the world.

If you happen to be at Boston`s Logan Airport last night, across the
way from the women`s bathroom in terminal E, you were probably very
surprised to come upon this. That is the sound of the Dropkick Murphy`s
absolutely blowing the minds of Logan Airport travelers waiting for their
flight last night at Gate E-4.

With amps and mikes and drum kit all set up in freaking Terminal E at
Logan, local Boston legend Dropkick Murphy`s played a surprise show at the
airport last night as the band was waiting at their gate to get on a plane
to Dublin, Ireland. They started a European tour in Dublin for St.
Patrick`s Day today, but not before surprising everybody with this total
awesome thing at home in Boston. So cool. Best new thing in the world

Happy St. Patrick`s Day. I`m wearing green, I`m just doing it

That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow.

Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" with Ari Melber filling in for
Lawrence. Good evening, Ari.


<Copy: Content and programming copyright 2015 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Copyright 2015 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by
United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>

Rachel Maddow Show Section Front
Add Rachel Maddow Show headlines to your news reader:

Sponsored links

Resource guide