'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Monday, June 8th, 2015
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Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: June 8, 2015
Guest: Jesse McKinley, Dave Helling
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: And thanks to you at home for joining us
this hour. I have a little frog in my throat today. I apologize.
It should make the show slightly more suspenseful than usual -- than
usual -- more suspenseful than usual, too. But if my voice drops out, we
will go to a series of very dramatic, unplanned commercials and try to get
back together with a cough drop or something.
But we start in 2006, April 5th, 2006. This is central Louisiana.
This is dash cam video from a police car.
It says on the dash cam, you see that it was 113 degrees that day. I
don`t think that`s right. It was a hot day, but I don`t think that`s
right. It was a hot day, but I don`t think that hot.
What`s happening is that the police officer there on the left has
just been advised a couple of hours earlier that a nearby maximum security
federal prison had had an escape. So this police officer in the video and
every other police officer is looking for the escapee from the federal
prison, and they come across this guy in the white tank top there, they
come across him jogging along a railroad track.
The guy is carrying no ID. He vaguely at least matches the physical
description of the man who has just escaped from the federal prison nearby,
and this encounter between the police officer and that man who was jogging
by the railroad track, it lasts for ten minutes.
You might think it`s stressful encounter, right, for the officer
looking for the escapee and for this guy who he stopped. In this case,
though, this interaction wasn`t stressful at all.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
POLICE: What is your address?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do not have an address. I`m at a hotel. We`re
working on housing and stuff like that, like roofing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For my brother.
POLICE: All right. What it is, we have an escapee.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh. (EXPLETIVE DELETED)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s a prison here?
POLICE: Does the suspect wear glasses?
Nothing about glasses. Can you find out? I`m out with a white male
on the tracks.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I guarantee you, I`m not --
POLICE: You know the bad thing about it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What`s that?
POLICE: You`re matching up to him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That sucks, doesn`t it?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Yes, that sucks. The guy that the police officer was
speaking to was the escapee from the federal prison. The cop did stop him
that day, the day of the escape, he did talk to him for about ten minutes.
The guy did recognize the police officer -- the police officer did
recognize that the guy matched the escape convict`s description, but they
talked for about ten minutes and he let the guy go. That says something
remarkable about the cop in that situation.
But unless you think that the cop was, you know, the only one to
blame here, it should be noted that the guy he was dealing with was really,
really good at escaping all sorts of law enforcement situations. That guy
who was jogging along the railroad tracks that day, he had escaped from
federal prison that day. He escaped from maximum security federal prison.
But that was the third time that he had escaped from prison or jail.
The first time was in Minot, North Dakota, in 1988. He had been
arrested on suspicion of murder. He was in a room with three detectives,
they had handcuffed him to a chair, but he had a tube of lip balm in his
pocket. He somehow, with his hands handcuffed and the three detectives in
the room with him but not playing very close attention. He reached into
his pocket, got the lip balm out, used it to grease up his wrists, slips
out of the handcuffs and then run of the room with three detectives chasing
him, and he got away.
That was the first time. He ran five blocks. He stole a car. Drove
until the car stalled out and hid in an apartment building in Minot, North
A long article in "The New Yorker" said that it was actually a
reporter from "The Minot Daily News" who saw him sneaking into the
apartment building after his escape that day. That reporter called the
police, told them where the guy was. When the police got to the apartment,
the guy climbed out of the window and landed in a tree. It was only
because he could not hold on that he fell and they were able to take him
back into custody. But he had escaped from that county jail.
His next stop, and his next escape was from the North Dakota state
prison. That happened in 1992. In that case he somehow got himself into a
ventilation duct at the state prison in North Dakota. He wiggled his way
free to the outside. In that case, they did not catch him right away. He
was on the lam for 10 months before they found him again. But they did
eventually find him.
And then the next place he locked up from and then escaped was the
federal prison in Pollock, Louisiana, the maximum security federal security
prison. Having escaped from two other facilities already by the time that
the feds had him, (a), they must have prepared to watch for him to be an
escapee, and (b), he must have been casing the joint immediately. He must
have been casing the joint the whole time before he figured out how he was
going to get out of that federal prison, too.
The way he escaped from that federal prison was intrepid. He got
himself a job at one of the prison industries at that facility, which was
repairing and sewing mail bags for the U.S. Postal Service. Somehow in the
course of doing that prison job, he figured out a way to mail himself out
of the prison. He sealed himself up in one of those mail bags and he
basically got himself mailed to freedom. Got into a mail bag and mailed
himself out of prison, to a nearby warehouse, then he busted out of the
mail bag, got himself an energy drink somewhere and took off jogging down
the railroad tracks on the way to his 10-minute-long hilarious encounter
with Officer Barney Fife (ph).
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
POLICE: Put yourself in my position.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, yes, but I`m not --
POLICE: I know. I`m not throwing you against --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think that I am a prison escapee?
POLICE: Hey, you won`t believe when guys do. I mean, they`ve got
years and years to think about how they`re going to do it.
Now, when I crossed the track I saw you running and I said, well, how
lucky can I be?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, nope. Nope. I`m not no prison escapee.
POLICE: You would have done run by now. You know that yourself.
You would have done run by now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: No, he didn`t run. That would be too obvious. Instead, he
stood there, speaking in an accent that was not at all his own, making
small talk, friendly small talk with the cop for about ten minutes and the
cop let him go, told him to be careful, warned him he might get stopped
That was in 2006. That guy who escaped from all the facilities and
that federal prison that day, his name is Richard Lee McNair.
After he got away from Minot County Jail, and after he got away from
North Dakota State Penitentiary and after he got from that federal maximum
security prison from Louisiana, and after he got away from that cop
detaining him by the railroad tracks, he did stay out for a while. He did
live free for another year and a half after that dash cam video was shot.
They eventually caught up to him 18 months after he broke out of the prison
in Louisiana. They caught up with him 18 months later. He was in Canada.
I have no idea how he got from Central Louisiana up to northern New
Brunswick. But that`s where he caught him in 2007. They caught him
because the homemade tint job he did on the windows of the vehicle that he
had stolen, the stint job was so hoopty that that the New Brunswick cops
thought that was reason enough to pull him over and check to see who this
guy was in the hoopty paint job car.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Richard Lee McNair has a long history as an accomplished
escape artist. He made his way out of a U.S. penitentiary last year by
hiding himself inside a package of mailbags and mailing himself to freedom.
He`s been on the run ever since until yesterday.
Police here in Campbellton spotted a suspicious van driving around
the city, and what tipped them off was the fact that all the windows on the
van were tinted black. They asked the van to pull over. They asked the
driver to step out. It turns out it was Richard Lee McNair.
He escaped on foot and run for 400 meters before police caught up
with him and the rest of him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: This guy was an amazing escape artist. Richard Lee McNair.
I mean, terrible guy, right, convicted murder, but he escaped everywhere
they locked him up. He got away 400 meters running from the Canadian cops
in the end. He would escape and get caught. Escape and get caught.
Escape and get caught.
And that`s the thing here, though. No matter how good that you are
at escaping, and no matter how amazing the escape, no matter how much skill
or luck or audacity or violence goes into the escape, these guys that
escape, they always get caught.
In 2009, it was a prison in Michigan City, Indiana, three prisoners
tunneled all the way out of cell block and underneath the prison yard.
They got out. They lasted a few days before all three of them were
In 2008, it was in Curry County, New Mexico. Eight guys escaped all
at once in Curry County. Eight of them, they shimmied up pipes inside the
prison walls and popped out through the roof. Eight guys all at once and
all of them upon eventually recaptured.
In 1999, it was a rare escape from death row, four prisoners escaped
from death row at the Louisiana state pen. They smuggled in hack saw
blades and hacked through the bars of their doors and cells. Those guys
didn`t make it off the prison grounds before recaptured.
Even the amazing, famous daring helicopter rescues -- the helicopter
escapes, those guys. Those guys get caught too. This one was a year ago
today. Remember, this one in Quebec? Helicopter landed on the prison
grounds, picked these guys up the prison yard and flew away. That was in
Quebec a year ago today. Those guys got caught and within a couple of
weeks they were back in the prison where they escaped using that
The last escape in New York state was in 2003 from a maximum security
prison in Elmira, New York. Two convicted murderers from that prison and
just an incredibly complex plot. They got sledge hammers and other tools
to bust holes in the ceilings of their cells. Then, they made the amazing
dummies. These realistic looking dummies and they propped the dummies in
their bed, so it looked like they were sleeping in their bed when the
correction officers came to check on them during the night.
They shimmied up and out of the prison through the ventilation shaft
in Elmira in 2003. They still had to get over the walls of the prison
after they got out of the ventilation shaft, though. For that, they used
torn bed sheets that they fashioned into a rope. But because of the makeup
of that facility and because of what they had to do to get out, the rope
they made with bed sheets was 61 feet long. That was amazing, right?
That must have taken them months or years to plan that escape in
Elmira, New York, in 2003. But even with all of that planning and
complexity, and the success that they got out, they were both back in
custody within two days. They get caught.
As much thought and effort and cunning goes into your average maximum
security prison escape, it seems like it`s not a long term victory. These
guys get caught.
But right now, we`re in that fraught interregnum between the time
when two maximum security prisoners were discovered missing from their
cells at 5:30 Saturday morning, we`re between that time and everybody
expects is the news of their inevitable capture somewhere in upstate New
York or maybe across the border in Canada. One of the two men that escaped
is David Sweat. He`s 35 years old, serving life without parole for the
2002 killing of a deputy sheriff, a man who he shot 22 times and ran over,
reportedly while the deputy was still alive.
The other escapee is Richard Matt, that`s serving life for
dismembering a man in Buffalo, New York. After that murder and before he
was arrested, Richard Matt fled to Mexico. While he was in Mexico, he
killed another man there. He was arrested in Mexico, served nine years in
a Mexican prison for that killing before being extradited back to the U.S.
to face trial for the earlier murder in Buffalo.
But this guy, Richard Matt, he too has a history. Not just an
incredibly violent criminal history, he has a history of fleeing before he
could be arrested in that original murder trial. He also has a history of
In 1986, the same guy, Richard Matt, he was in jail in Erie County,
New York, on forgery charges. He escaped from that Erie County Jail. He
got out of the cell when a guard mistakenly popped the electronic lock on
his cell door. He then scaled a nine-foot-tall brick and metal wall that
was topped with razor wire. And then he climbed an eight-foot tall wire
gate. He got cut up in the process, but he got out. He spent five days at
large before he was captured again. But now, he is out again.
And now this massive manhunt is under way around the Clinton
correctional facility 25 miles south of the Canadian border up in the
Adirondacks. The focus is on figuring out how these two murderers were
able to escape from Clinton and how they got power pools, which they use to
saw through their cell walls and allowed them to get out of the cell block
and into a steam pipe that led into a nearby neighborhood where they popped
out in the middle of the street through a manhole cover.
The focus in Dannemora now is figuring out how they got out. And
there`s also the rather pressing question of whether or not they had help.
There are some reports that a female employee who worked inside might have
been involved somehow in the escape efforts.
So, figuring out how they did it, figuring how it happened, figuring
out how to stop it from happening again, whether there`s some a huge
security breach on staff at that maximum security prison, that`s job one,
right? Actually, no, that`s job two. Because tonight these two convicted
murderers are still on the loose. They were discovered missing Saturday
morning. They`re still out there now.
So, job one is finding them. If past is prologue, they will be
found, it`s just a question of when.
Joining us now from just outside the Clinton Correctional Facility
where these two prisoners escaped this weekend is Jesse McKinley. He`s a
reporter with "The New York Times."
Mr. McKinley, thank you very much for your time tonight.
JESSE MCKINLEY, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Of course, thank you.
MADDOW: What can you tell us about the status of the investigation
and specifically the search -- how they`re trying to find these guys and
how it`s going?
MCKINLEY: Well, I mean it`s ongoing. There`s been rumors flying all
day that places they have been seen, about a half an hour ago, in fact,
just about a block from here. There`s a number of law enforcement agents
that entered a house and a barn. There`s a helicopter in the air overhead.
They don`t seem to have found anything.
You know, it`s one of the situations where apparently the police have
received over 300 leads. They`re trying to track these down. But, you
know, that`s a pain-staking process and sorting the weed from the chaff I
think is taking a little while.
At the same time, there`s investigation ongoing inside of the prison
behind me as to how exactly these guys did this.
MADDOW: There have been some reports today that there`s at least the
possibility that somebody who worked inside of the prison might have helped
them in some way. Can you put any more meat on those bones in terms of
whether or not that allegation seems credible?
MCKINLEY: Yes, we were able -- at "The Times", we were able to
confirm that today, that there is an investigation of a female employee who
may have had a relationship, it`s not clear what kind of relationship, with
one of the inmates, Richard Matt. Beyond that, there`s not a lot of
details. There`s some talks that she may work in the laundry room of the
In a maximum security prison behind me, you`re talking several
thousand prisoners. But you`re also talking about an enormous number of
support staff. You know, you got people that do the laundry and janitorial
services and vocational training, and all sorts of things that go into a
prison of this size.
So, there`s a lot of interaction between the prisoners and civilians.
In this case, the investigators at least feel that perhaps one of these
relationships went too far and that perhaps she may have facilitated the
MADDOW: In terms of the way that they got out, we have seen a lot of
frankly up close pictures of the means by which they got out of their cells
and the steam pipe that they went through. Is it clear to authorities
right now what kinds of tools they needed and what kinds of tools they used
and how they would have been able to get access to those kinds of tools
from that cell block?
MCKINLEY: If it`s clear, they`re not making it clear to us.
In talking to people who know those cuts, interestingly enough, if
you look at the photograph, you can see the way the cuts go along the wall,
the cell block wall, as well as with the pipes that they crawled through, I
talked to a couple of guys who said it was probably some sort of grinder,
metal grinder which was used to kind of make those very precise cut. This
was not a sloppy job. They knew what they were doing when they were making
As to how they got the equipment, that`s a major ongoing point of the
investigation. There is -- it`s a huge facility behind me, and there was a
lot of construction going on in that facility at the time. There were
construction crews, independent construction crews coming and going. So
there`s some theory that perhaps one of these contractors was either in on
it, or kind of haphazardly left a piece of equipment behind that was then
used to cut these holes.
MADDOW: Jesse McKinley, reporter with "The New York Times" outside
the Clinton Correctional facility in Dannemora, New York -- thanks for
helping us understand this. It`s really helpful to have you here. Thanks.
MCKINLEY: Absolutely, thank you.
MADDOW: It`s interesting. You know, yes, there have been maximum
security escapes before, but there aren`t so many that that there`s a
protocol as to what happened here, right? I mea, the town of Dannemora has
a smaller population than the prisoner population at that very large, very
old prison up there by the Adirondacks and up against the Canadian border.
To see the scale of the mobilization to find these guys is just -- I mean,
it`s an impressive response. Until they find them, it won`t be impressive
But again, if past is any prologue on these things, these guys will
be found. We don`t know how long they have been on the lam, they`ll be out
a couple of days, but they will be found if history is any guide here.
All right. Lots more ahead tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: A cardinal rule of presidential campaigning was violated
this weekend. It`s a rule about not putting funny stuff on top of your
head when you are running for president.
If we have noted this rule once, we have noted this rule a million
times. Don`t put stuff on your head. Don`t do this. Don`t do this.
Don`t do this. Just don`t do it.
It`s been a rule for a long time for a reason. It`s important. That
rule was violated this weekend very badly.
Details coming up.
MADDOW: There`s one candidate in the presidential race this year who
has held elected office as a Democrat, as an independent and as a
There`s only one person in this race who has held office as all three
of those things. He`s also the only candidate who has served the public as
a mayor and as a governor and as a U.S. senator -- same guy. He is Lincoln
Chafee, the first ever American presidential candidate from the great state
of Rhode Island.
He`s most recently the governor of Rhode Island. He`s running as a
Democrat for president this year, and I am here to tell you, he is going to
be my guest here tomorrow night for the interview. Very much looking
forward to that conversation.
I`m hoping for the chance to interview was many of the 2016 hopefuls
as I can this year. On the Democratic side, that means Bernie Sanders,
check. Linc Chafee, that`s tomorrow. Martin O`Malley, I have high hopes
for getting him on the show sometime soon.
As for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, I once saw her in
Washington and said hello, literally that`s all I said. Hello. But other
than that, I`ve never spoken to any Clinton, Bill, Hillary, or Chelsea --
or Socks or Buddy or any of the other pets, but I live in hope. I think
this could be the year.
I live and hope that we`ll be able to get all the Democratic
candidates on the show during this campaign this year. You`re all welcome.
I`m notorious for not being interrupty unless you really deserve it.
Please, come on. Come one. Come all. Happy to have you.
On the Republican side, it`s going to be a tougher road to hoe to try
to get all those candidates, in part because there`s so many freaking of
them. The next formal -- right, there`s only so many shows in a year.
The next formal announcement on the Republican side of the race is
set to be a week from today. Jeb Bush is going to make the presidential
announcement on Monday next week, followed by Donald Trump making his
announcement Tuesday next week, followed by Bobby Jindal making his
announcement the following Wednesday.
We also got to add one new dotted line to the list of contenders and
would-be contenders, as former Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker said that he
would be making his announcement, quote, "early next month." He told ABC
News that after the Wisconsin state budget is finished at the end of this
month, his presidential announcement will come soon thereafter. So, at
least we know to expect news from Scott Walker.
This weekend, I had actually thought for a hot minute that maybe
Scott Walker wouldn`t run for president, because Scott Walker this weekend
flat out violated the "I`m running for president" rule about not putting
funny-looking things on your head.
Come on, Scott Walker. This is Scott Walker this weekend at an Iowa
event. He apparently has his own motorcycle, but this was a rented one.
He rented one for this Iowa event this weekend. He could have also rented
a different kind of helmet, with a dark visor or something that didn`t make
him look like a cross between Dukakis and a tank and Charlie Brown. But he
didn`t. He went with the snow globe look.
You know, Maybe Scott Walker`s OK here, maybe we`re in a new era
where candidates in funny get-ups rule is broken beyond repair and it
doesn`t apply anymore after New Jersey Governor Chris Christie wowed
everyone last week at Yankee Stadium in his get-up.
But still, you know, you guys, you don`t have to do this. Somebody
loves you, right? Somebody in your lives, someone in your family, somebody
on your campaign, somebody should tell you do not give the world the
opportunity to take pictures of you like this, not when you are running for
One more point though, on the Democratic side at the ledger, and it
concerns Bernie Sanders, specifically the relationship between Bernie
Sanders and Hillary Clinton. This was the scene in Keene, New Hampshire,
on Saturday, where a crowd of almost a thousand people crammed into a tiny
local rec hall to see -- to hear Bernie Sanders speak.
The local newspaper, "The Sentinel" source said the crowd was loud
and large and enthusiastic, with every seat filled, a folks standing in the
aisle, thousand people turned out in Keene. This is not the first time
this kind of thing has happened with Bernie Sanders.
Over the past couple of weeks, Senator Sanders has attracted sold-out
crowds in Vermont when he announced and in New Hampshire, and in Iowa, and
in Minnesota, and with all of the positive press, those sold-out crowds are
earning Senator Sanders, Hillary Clinton`s campaign is now showcasing its
own enthusiastic crowds.
Today, the Hillary Clinton campaign sent out this e-mail blast with a
whole big, long series of photos from Hillary Clinton campaign events all
over the country. Fayetteville, ArKansas, and Phoenix, Arizona, and
Springfield, Missouri, and Salt Lake City, Utah. Hillary for president
events happening all across the country. They want it to be known they`re
running in all 50 states. They`re organizing in those states already.
People are turning out to volunteer and get involved in her campaign in
every state in the country.
And yes, she`s running basically all alone in the national polls.
She`s so far out ahead. She`s the prohibitive favorite to win the
nomination on the Democratic side.
But what`s going on with Bernie Sanders is also a real thing. I
mean, there is Bernie Sanders at that packed event in Keene, New Hampshire,
this weekend, telling the crowd that -- he told the crowd, I`ve got a
secret. That secret is that we`re going win New Hampshire. He is saying
that I am going to win the New Hampshire primary.
There`s a headline out of this weekend and saying that Clinton ekes
out a win in Wisconsin Democrats poll. Ekes out a win, what? Two hundred
and fifty-two votes. What does that mean? Hillary Clinton 49 percent,
Bernie Sanders, 41 percent, in the straw poll this weekend. Democratic
Party delegates in Wisconsin.
Listen, honestly, in the national polls, she`s ahead by dozens of
points. Right? I`m sure the Clinton campaign still not at all worried
about securing the Democratic nomination for the presidency.
But Senator Bernie Sanders` role in the race is clearly going to be a
lot more fun this year, than if he were just some peanut gallery candidate
confined to the margins, right? He`s making the race on the Democratic
side more fun than we thought it would be and less predictable than anybody
thought it would be. And that frankly is good for everyone in the process,
including Hillary Clinton, but particularly liberals in the Democratic
And now, let`s see what Linc Chafee can do in this show tomorrow.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: The first ever cover of TV guide featured the child of Desi
Arnaz and Lucille Ball, Desi Jr. Doesn`t it look like he`s floating in a
sea of 1950`s margarine?
Three decades later, the family owners of TV guide sold their
publication for $3 billion, billion with a B.
Today, the heir to that TV guide fortune, does this. Look. Osprey
cam. And hummingbird cam. And African watering hole cam. And puffin cam.
Last month, explore.org added, walrus cam, live from Alaska. I will
warn you, if you start watching the walrus cam, you may eventually require
an intervention. I did today.
Alaska can be a strangely hypnotic place, but we have some truly,
truly strange Alaska coming up. A double dose of it -- some good, some
Stay with us. It`s really good. That`s ahead.
MADDOW: Sometimes, the states get kooky and we have 50 of them,
right? So, even just statistically speaking, it`s not that surprising that
some states sometimes go a little nuts.
So, for example, Louisiana legislators voted last year that they
would keep on the books that states law against sodomy, right? It`s
actually illegal to ban sodomy in the country and has been for a long time
now. But Louisiana legislature, they like their sodomy laws, so they
decided to keep it regardless of the Supreme Court and the Constitution and
Another example is a big long explanatory segment on the show about
why it is that in Utah, in bars in Utah, they used to have to serve you
your liquor in little tiny nip size bottles you had to open yourself like
you were on an airplane instead of letting somebody to pour the booze for
you. Utah doesn`t do that anymore, but they still have some amazingly
arcane laws about who is allowed to touch liquor and who is allowed to see
other people touching liquor.
So, the states do weird things. The one we`ve been keeping an eye
for the past few days is in North Carolina, where Republicans in the state
are trying to pass a law that would let local officials go back to denying
marriage licenses to interracial couples if they wanted to, like they used
People who were actually denied a marriage license in North Carolina
because they were a black-white couple, they`re been screaming bloody
murder about North Carolina going back to that system where local officials
got to decide who was allowed to get married or not, based on their own
But despite that history, North Carolina Republicans seem dead set on
passing this law. The legislature actually passed it already. The
governor vetoed it. They`re now just one more vote away from overriding
the governor`s veto and putting this thing into law.
We have been watching over the past few days, and it was in the
docket in the North Carolina legislature twice last week. It was on the
docket again tonight. They did not take it up tonight before they gaveled
the session closed, but it`s back on the docket tomorrow.
Hard to believe that North Carolina might take this plunge, but they
seem like they`re about to do it. So, North Carolina local officials will
be able to say, no, I won`t marry you because you`re a Jew and your would-
be husband is not a Jewish, and I think that`s against my religious
beliefs. Or you`re black and you`re white, and I think that`s against my
Amazingly, that plan change in the law in North Carolina is still on
deck. We`ll keep watching it.
But even as we keep on watching that, there`s a new contender that at
least catches North Carolina and maybe surpasses it.
This is Kansas Governor Sam Brownback. He`s best known as Kansas
governor for blowing up that state`s finances, creating a huge seemingly
uncloseable budget deficit of hundreds of millions of dollars. The state
keeps getting its credit rating downgraded. This weekend, they faced
furloughing the state employees.
School districts literally had to shut down early in Kansas this year
because they ran out of money and couldn`t keep the public schools open
through the end of the school year.
In the midst of that crisis, that Sam Brownback created, which
started as a fiscal crisis, has now devolved to become every kind of crisis
in Kansas government. In the midst of all that, Republican Governor Sam
Brownback of Kansas has still found time to be shocking and very ambitious
in a whole new way. Sam Brownback just signed a law in Kansas that tells
the judges in the Kansas state court system how he wants them to rule on a
There`s a case before the Kansas courts, and this new bill Sam
Brownback just signed said unless the courts rule the way he wants them to
in that case, he will abolish the Kansas court system. He will completely
defund the whole Kansas judiciary unless they rule the way he wants them to
in this one case.
Now, we mentioned this legislation in this show a couple of weeks
ago, when the bill was just moving in the legislature. I was so shocked to
hear that it existed. I mentioned it as part of our, outrage-o-meter
segment, like, do you believe that some legislators somewhere is even
considering something this outrageous.
Never in my wild dreams would I think it would pass and become law.
But it just passed and Sam Brownback freaking signed it. It`s law. It
became law, because Kansas, I guess, because Sam Brownback. Amazing.
If you rule this way on this court case, I will defund the entire
court system. Enjoy your judicial independence. It`s amazing.
Between that and the way that Kansas Republicans blew up their own
state`s economy, the unlikely state of Kansas right now is in contention I
believe to be the most radical state government in the country. But oh
wait, there`s more. Because Sam Brownback took it one step further today.
Now, Hillary Clinton last week made news when she said all states
should follow Oregon`s lead. And just automatically register everybody to
vote. People should be able to opt out if they don`t want to be registered
to vote. But by default, as a citizen, everybody should just be
She also wants more early voting, at least 20 days of early voting in
every state. And people like early voting, right? Automatic voter
registration would be a much simpler system than what we got now. It would
put millions more people on the rolls who are eligible legal voters.
Republican presidential candidates including Scott Walker from
Wisconsin and Rick Perry from Texas and John Kasich from Ohio, and Chris
Christie from New Jersey, they have all since reacted to that news by
saying it would be absurd to make voting that easy.
Chris Christie told reporters, quote, "She just wants an opportunity
to commit greater acts of voter fraud around the country."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
INTERVIEWER: Hillary Clinton mentioned you and said you and other
Republicans are trying to make it harder for people to vote. What`s your
reaction to that?
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: She doesn`t know what she`s
talking about. In New Jersey, we have early voting that are available to
people. I don`t want to expand and increase the opportunities for fraud.
Maybe that`s what Mrs. Clinton wants to do, I don`t know. But the fact is
that folks in New Jersey have plenty opportunity to vote, maybe she took
some questions in some places and learned some things, maybe she wouldn`t
make such ridiculous statements.
INTERVIEWER: She said it`s fear mongering, this idea there`s a lot
of election fraud going on.
CHRISTIE: She`s never been to New Jersey, I guess.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: You know, it`s true that Chris Christie`s New Jersey is
known for having a ton of corruption among its politicians. New Jersey is
not actually known for widespread voter fraud. No state is.
One of the leading voices on the right who has been trying for years
to create the impression that there is a ton of voter fraud is the
secretary of state in Sam Brownback`s Kansas. His name is Chris Kobach.
Chris Kobach has authored and promoted some of the strictest voting
restrictions in the country, not just in Kansas but around the country, all
based on the premise that there is massive voter fraud, that elections are
being stolen all the time with huge amounts of voter fraud.
His explanation of why our prisons are not full to bursting with
voter impersonators and multiple voters, his explanation for that has been
that local prosecutors just won`t prosecute people for voter fraud, even
though there`s a ton of it, because they`re all in on the conspiracy or
something. Chris Kobach in Kansas and around the country has championed
voting restrictions because he says he knows that there`s tons and tons of
voter fraud, he just can`t get local prosecutors to actually arrest people
and charge them and put them on trial for the things he knows people are
Well, today, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback fixed that problem for
him. Sam Brownback today signed a new Kansas law that will let the
crusading secretary of state in Kansas just bring those prosecutions
himself. Chris Kobach has not been able to persuade real prosecutors to
bring these voter fraud cases, which he said he knows all about.
So, now, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback said he can bring them
himself. He can be the prosecutor. He can end the run-around that whole
part of the judicial process, which would be the most radical thing being
done in a U.S. state right now, if it weren`t for Sam Brownback threatening
to eliminate his state`s whole judicial system unless Kansas judges rule
the way he wants them to on one specific case. I mean, either way, Sam
Brownback right now gets the record, but his only competition is himself.
Joining us now is Dave Helling, political reporter for "The Kansas
It`s nice to see you, Dave. Thanks very much for being here.
DAVE HELLING, THE KANSAS CITY STAR: Great to be here, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, I think that outsiders, or at least one outsider over
here, kind of marvels at the changes under Governor Brownback. Both their
ambition, but also really just their radicalness. How does it feel in
Kansas, how is this being received in Kansas?
HELLING: Well, many, many moderate Kansas Republicans are aghast,
Rachel, at what`s going on in this state. You`re right, we may compete
with North Carolina or South Carolina for the most conservative state in
the country, maybe Louisiana.
But there`s no question Kansas has moved the farthest from the center
right, where it was for decades, to this very, very far right, very
conservative posture led by Governor Brownback and Chris Kobach and others.
You see that in the legislature, which is wrestling even as we speak with
the tax and spending package. The bills the governor signed with the
courts that you talked about, the election law, all reflect a very
conservative tilt by this legislature.
Remember, Kansas made national headlines for limiting welfare
recipients to $25 a day at the ATM machine. Now, they`ve changed that
because they realize it might violate federal law. It`s part of a pattern
in this state to be very, very conservative and today was just the latest
example of that.
MADDOW: The thing that is striking to me, is that it`s not just that
it`s conservative. It`s -- I mean, for lack of a better phrase, it`s
whacky. I mean, this idea of defunding the whole judiciary, defunding the
whole court system, unless the judges rule in a specific way on a specific
case, I mean, I don`t -- maybe that`s conservative because it`s being done
by conservative politicians. It does seem like just a very radical, even
revolutionary take towards state government.
HELLING: But it`s meant to send a signal. It`s not just about this
particular case. The legislature is trying to send the Supreme Court a
signal that it should not rule against the legislature, when it comes to
the funding for the state`s schools. That`s at the crux of the budget
crisis in the state of Kansas.
The Supreme Court has been very, very aggressive in telling
lawmakers, you have to spend more on schools in this state. The
legislature doesn`t want to do that. This bill is a signal to say, if you
want a constitutional crisis, we will give you that.
The Kobach election bill is about sending a signal. It`s not about
voter fraud, as you suggest. It`s about voter suppression, at least
Democrats believe that. It`s about sending a signal to voters that if you
think you might not be registered properly, you should stay away from the
polls because you might get prosecuted by Chris Kobach, the guess here is
that he`ll pick a couple of cases, send that message to the voters and
we`ll see how it affects turn-out.
It`s very much about message sending, Rachel. That`s very much a
part of what the Republican Party has become, not only in Kansas, but
across the country. But we`re seeing it play out here.
MADDOW: Wow, it`s amazing. Kansas has a very deep history of
radicalism, but in the 21st century and the 20th century, they were seen as
a real pragmatic, if conservative place, now it`s something entirely
different. It`s a radical transformation.
Dave Helling, political reporter for "The Kansas City Star", it`s
great to have you here tonight. Thank you.
HELLING: You bet, you bet.
MADDOW: All right. Ahead, we`ve got two visions of Alaska. One is
adorable. The other, I think, is diabolical.
Please stay with us.
MADDOW: Behold, suburban Alaska.
OK. A moose and her two calves and a lawn sprinkler which makes them
all very happy. The lady who taped this video in her suburban Anchorage,
Alaska front yard told the local NBC affiliate in Anchorage that she saw
the moose and the calves in the neighborhood. She thought they looked hot,
so she turned on her sprinklers for them.
And it looks like they really, really, really appreciated it. If you
go to YouTube and you type in moose and sprinkler, you will find it wasn`t
just that one lady. This happens a lot.
Here`s a similar moose family enjoying a different sprinkler back in
2011. That`s my favorite kind too.
This moose from 2007, not cavorting, just enjoying the water with
stillness. Moose using technology. It`s like a moose bid day. Just
But you know what, there`s another side to wildlife and water in
Alaska, which is a horror movie, which is like a watch through your finger
kind of thing, in the same way that a horror movie is something that is
both terrible and something you can`t stop watching. It`s has just
happened. We have pictures.
That`s coming up. Stay with us.
MADDOW: So this is just a quick update so that you know this
happened today. It`s not getting a lot of attention because it`s being
done behind closed doors and nobody`s allowed to cover it. But you should
know this is going on.
"The Washington Post" bureau chief for Tehran, Jason Rezaian, was put
before an Iranian court again today. They arrested him last summer,
basically accused him of being a spy because he`s a journalist. He`s being
held in a notorious Iranian prison, ever since being arrested last summer.
He`s now having some kind of trial, but the courtroom is closed to
the public and to the press. His mother and his wife have gone to Tehran
to try to see him, to try to attend the proceedings, but they will not let
them into the courtroom.
His first day in court was a reading of the charges against him, that
was a few weeks ago. Today, all we know is that he was back in court. He
was in court for three hours, apparently. One Iranian news outlet reported
that he, quote, "defended himself in English" during the hearing and said
that his remarks were translated for the judge, but that`s all we know.
That`s all we`re allowed to know. Again, Jason Rezaian, again,
"Washington Post" bureau chief in Iran having a nightmare trial behind
closed doors in that country. No date set yet for his next hearing. No
actual defense being mounted for him. No allowed press coverage, no
information, no way to know whether it`s safe to hope that they`ll ever let
him out of there.
I wish I could tell you more about what`s going on this case, but all
we know right now by design. Keep him in your thoughts.
Watch this space.
MADDOW: So, we gave you something lovely out of Alaska just a few
minutes earlier ago in the show. A local moose family straight up
frolicking in a sprinkler, frolicking, dancing, cavorting, having a good
happy, moose family time. Baby moose playing in sprinklers. You`re
Thus fortified however, let us consider another thing happening in
Alaska right now. This is the Facebook page for the Alaska Department of
Fish and Game. It`s a great Alaska outdoors resource, for example, if you
did not feel ready for the opening of the dip net salmon fishery. If
you`re not sure what dip net fishing is, don`t worry, Alaska Fish and Game
has got covered for a four-part series on the subject. They also have
PSA`s. Make the right call, do not touch orphaned wildlife. Listen,
bucko, there`s probably animal parents around that you don`t see, you don`t
want to end up on the business end of a big wild mama something or rather
defending her babies.
Alaska Fish and Game is a wellspring of news you can use. Which is
why this new information from them is so important: quote, "This past week
the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Fairbanks received called about
Arctic lamprey found in strange locations.
Do you have nightmares? I have nightmares. I have nightmares about
It`s like an eel, but not an eel. Grows to about 15 inches. They
are born in fresh water and make their way to the ocean before returning to
fresh water to spawn. And now, we have reports of these fish falling from
the skies. It`s raining lampreys in Alaska. There of course four
different confirmed occurrences so far, go outside, find a lamprey in your
yard, sounds funny, not that big a deal, until you see their face.
Aah! Until you see them up close. This is their face. This is what
has been raining down from the skies in Alaska. This is the face of death
from above. I would rather a thousand sharks fall from the sky than one of
these oceanic, tapeworm, sucker heads splatting on your shirt collar from
above while you`re mowing the lawn. Look at it.
Apparently, it`s probably seagulls` fault. They pluck the lampreys
out of the water and fly away. And the lamprey wriggles too much or maybe
just turns around and looks at them with that terrified face and the gull,
reasonably, drops it, on your lawn. That`s probably why Arctic lampreys
have been turning up on people`s lawns.
With a face like that, though, probably is not going to get it done.
Pure nightmare fuel. Don`t look up little mooses. Don`t look up. Don`t
look up. It`s raining lampreys.
That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow. Sorry,
you`ll be up all night between now and then. But we`ll see you again then.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Good evening, Lawrence.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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