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'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Thursday, April 8th

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

Guest: Charles Swift, Jeff Sharlet, Travers Mackel            

KEITH OLBERMANN, “COUNTDOWN” HOST:  And now, to discuss why Senator

Tom Coburn will ever regret calling her emotional—ladies and gentlemen,

here with ice running through her veins, Ms. Rachel Maddow.

Good evening, Rachel.             

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Keith, I‘m simultaneously so hysterical about,

you know, everything, but also very distracted because I‘m trying to follow

you on Twitter right now and I can‘t get through the traffic.

OLBERMANN:  Wow.  Well, good luck to you, Luddite.

MADDOW:  Thank you.  Thank you, Keith.

And thanks to you at home for tuning in tonight.  We‘re coming to you

tonight from Orlando, Florida.

And we can report some new outrage over C Street tonight.  The outrage

is coming from C Street.  We will try to figure out how that‘s possible.

Senator Tom “C Street” Coburn has declared himself a hero for cutting

people off of their unemployment benefits.  He‘s also declared me emotional

for calling him out on it.  A very sober analysis of all that is

forthcoming provided I can hold it together.

And our geekiest “Moment of Geek” ever is going to happen on this


That is all ahead this forthcoming hour.

But, we begin with President Obama making history in Prague, signing

on to a landmark agreement with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to

dramatically cut both countries‘ nuclear arsenals.  The treaty the two

presidents signed today commits both us and Russia to cutting the number of

nuclear warheads by a third.  It‘s the biggest nuclear arms treaty in a


For President Obama, it‘s also a major component of what he appears to

want to be his signature foreign policy accomplishment, the reduction of

the nuclear threat to both the United States and the world.  The Cold War

is over, the threat now is nuclear terrorism and rogue states, and

recognizing and neutralizing that threat has been Barack Obama‘s passion

since his time in the Senate.  Now, as president, he is prioritizing it.

Meanwhile, as the president was taking on that heavy task on the world

stage today, the opposition party back here at home has tried to figure out

who will lead them in the next election against President Obama.  Today was

day one of the Southern Republican Leadership Conference; this year being

held in New Orleans.  It‘s an all weekend long affair running through

Sunday.  It‘s being billed as the most prominent Republican event until the

2012 convention.

Addressing the event on opening night were former Republican House

Speaker Newt Gingrich and pressure group founder and daughter of a former

vice president, Liz Cheney.  Before the weekend‘s over, attendees will get

a chance to hear speeches from almost every Republican who‘s ever been

mentioned even once about maybe running for the Republican nomination in

2012, including Sarah Palin, and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, and Texas

Governor Rick “Gee your hair smells terrific” Perry, Texas Congressman Ron

Paul, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty—lots of them.

Of course, RNC Chairman Michael Steele is also scheduled to speak. 

Everybody is very much looking forward to that.

And, also, of course, there‘s a Sean Hannity book-signing.  It

wouldn‘t be complete without it.

But while the foreign policy work of the presidency and the political

work of those who would hope to take over the presidency in the next

election precedes a pace, today‘s headlines are a reminder that news does

not always fit well on to the political axis.

Last night, if you watched the second edition of this show, which airs

at 11:00 p.m. Eastern Time, you would have seen a very different show than

our first run, which aired at 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time.  And that‘s because

at roughly 10:00, as soon as we finished the first edition of our show,

news broke of a disturbance on board a plane bound from Washington, D.C. to


For that first hour or so after the news broke, the story had a lot of

worrying components.  Early reporting was that a man from Qatar, a diplomat

from Qatar‘s embassy in Washington have reportedly tried to light an

explosive device from inside the plane‘s bathroom while it was in the air

and that man was subdued by at least one U.S. air marshal.

Now, before midnight, most of that have been dialed back.  And we were

left with a much less dramatic, much less dire portrait of what had

actually happened onboard that plane.  The diplomat from Qatar had not been

trying to light an explosive device.  He didn‘t have an explosive device. 

There was no explosive device on the plane.

He was, however, apparently smoking in the plane‘s bathroom.  He

subsequently was involved in some sort of confrontation with a U.S. air

marshal on board of plane.  That resulted in the scene we saw last night. 

The plane, having been escorted to the ground by F-16 fighter jets,

sequestered on the runway, surrounded by emergency vehicles at Denver

International Airport.

By the time today‘s news cycle came around, the story was not only not

as worrying anymore, it was almost the subject of ridicule.


HARRY SMITH, CBS NEWS:  When all is said and done, authorities look at

this as just a phenomenal act of stupidity?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, I think that‘s a good way to put it, Harry. 

I talked to a number of top officials last night, nobody was laughing at

this joke.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It‘s unclear whether or not he was joking or if

there was a possible language barrier.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That‘s—by the way, that‘s an unfortunate

language barrier if, in fact, that was the case.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  And even more unfortunate joke.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Smoking on a plane.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG, TV HOST:  -- that people like me undeterred from

smoking in the bathroom, and then, you know, when I open the door and I

say, he, he, he, my foot was hot, and they‘ve, you know?


MADDOW:  It was almost a punch line today—which was pretty much

warranted by the way the news turned after those initial scary reports.

Then there were further new developments today.  We learned why this

diplomat from Qatar was going to Denver in the first place.  He was going

to Denver to meet with a man named Ali al-Marri.  Mr. al-Marri is also from


Who is al-Marri?  Why is this name ringing a bell?  It‘s because Mr. 

al-Marri was arrested in 2001.  He was ultimately declared by the United

States to be an enemy combatant.  He was held without charges for more than

five years before eventually being moved into the criminal justice system

and pleading guilty to terrorism charges last year.

Mr. al-Marri is now being held at the supermax prison in Florence,

Colorado.  Now, the Qatari diplomat from last night‘s “smoking in the

bathroom” incident was scheduled to meet with Mr. al-Marri in prison at

11:00 a.m. today.  Now, there‘s no reason to suspect that meeting was

anything other than what it was billed as.

If you are an American arrested and imprisoned overseas, under the

Geneva Conventions, officials from an American consulate get to visit you. 

And, likewise, if you are a foreigner citizen arrested and jailed in the

U.S., consular officials from your country get to visit you here.

Mr. al-Marri, specifically, has been getting visits from Qatari

consular officials since the middle of last year.  Nevertheless, cue the

political freak-out in four, three, two—yes.

Joining us now is Charles Swift.  Mr. Swift is a former judge advocate

general and lieutenant commander in the United States Navy.  He represented

Salim Hamdan in a historic U.S. Supreme Court case, Hamdan versus Rumsfeld.

Thank you so much for being here.  Appreciate your time tonight, sir.

CHARLES SWIFT, RET. NAVY LAWYER:  Yes, I‘m really glad to join you,


MADDOW:  In terms of what I said about the consular visits, as I

mentioned, this Qatari diplomat on his way to visit Mr. al-Marri at the

supermax prison in Colorado.  Do all foreign-born prisoners in this country

have the right to consular visits?  Is that true everywhere?

SWIFT:  That is true.  You got one thing wrong—you have the wrong

treaty.  It‘s not the Geneva Conventions.  It‘s the Vienna Convention on

Consular Relations that permits the visits.  But it‘s also the treaty

that‘s been signed by the United States and ratified by the Senate.

And, yes, all foreign nationals.  It‘s not foreign-born.  It‘s whether

you‘re a citizen of a foreign country.

MADDOW:  Do you agree with my characterization—although, I

apologize for mentioning the wrong convention—do you agree with the

characterization that they are essentially normal regular and routine, this

is not something that should jump out as any sort of red flag because he

was getting these visits?

SWIFT:  It‘s absolutely normal.  And the right has been absolutely

recognized by the Supreme Court in several fairly historic cases in the

last decade.  And those visits go on around the United States every day. 

They also go on around the world where we visit our citizens with our

consular officers.

MADDOW:  One Republican congressman today suggested that Qatar pay the

United States back for the trouble that was caused by the actions of this

diplomat on this plane and the reaction to him.  How are these things

normally handled?  Is there an accepted protocol, an international

protocol, for dealing with incidents like this?

SWIFT:  Presuming, and I would assume he does, have diplomatic

immunity, normally there‘s not a payback.  What happened is the individual

is recalled to their country.  Qatar is embarrassed.  He goes home.

But under diplomatic relations around the world, we give—our

diplomats receive immunity from prosecution, and we give that same benefit

to the diplomats that come to the United States.  That‘s what happens.

MADDOW:  Despite the rather routine nature of these arrangements as

you‘re describing it, today—just this afternoon, we‘re already seeing

some sort of pundit quackery, trying to cast the diplomatic visit itself as

a red flag.  Do you—do you think that there is a distance between the

politics and justice issues here?  Because broadly speaking, even people

involved in politics don‘t really understand how detainees are treated, how

prisoners are treated, how the justice system works.

SWIFT:  And, yes, absolutely.  And this crank-up of fear and other

parts prevent the system from working.  And it‘s been going on now since

President Obama took office, is that this constant quackery on things that

are very routine and the law and handling of situations which have all been

handled properly, is spun out of control.  And it makes it impossible to do

your job if the law and the methodologies in which we operate are

constantly under attack.  And we‘re not under attack, mind you, the

procedures are under attack.

MADDOW:  In terms of those procedures that you think are sort of

unjustly under attack, would you include among them reading Miranda rights,

for example, to people who are under arrest?  I expect that we‘re going to

get people attacking the idea of consular visits some time soon—what

else would you put on that list?

SWIFT:  Handling a criminal case in a criminal court, in federal

court, trying terrorists in federal criminal courts when we‘ve been

extraordinarily successful; the intelligent methodologies that work. 

Instead, we argue for a lawless regime that has absolutely no history of

being effective.  And all of that comes out each time when one of these

situations happens.  And we make a mountain out of a mole hill.  And I

think—while it was stupid to smoke in a bathroom, what happens

afterwards is extraordinarily absurd.

MADDOW:  Charles Swift is a former judge advocate general attorney and

lieutenant commander in the United States Navy, represented Salim Hamdan in

a landmark Supreme Court case, Hamdan versus Rumsfeld—Mr. Swift, thank

you very much for your time tonight.  I really appreciate it.

SWIFT:  You‘re very welcome.

MADDOW:  If you were a congressman paying way below market rent for a

swanky D.C. apartment, and you were paying that way below market rent

because your rent was subsidized by a secretive religious group—would

you step up and defend your insultingly low rent and claim you‘re being

victimized by anybody asking you about it?  You might—and in one case,

you just did.  We‘ll have details next with our friend Jeff Sharlet.

Please stay tuned.


MADDOW:  In the world according to Senator Tom Coburn, he is a

courageous hero for cutting off benefits for unemployed people and I have

made him out to be a demon, just because I‘m so emotional, I can‘t keep

myself from making hysterical accusations based purely on emotion.  The

cold, uninflected, unfeeling truth about all of that and more—coming up.


MADDOW:  As we‘ve reported, the ethics watchdog group CREW recently

filed a complaint with the Senate Ethics Committee and the Office of

Congressional Ethics against Republican Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas,

Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Jim DeMint of South Carolina, John Ensign of

Nevada; also Republican Congressman Zach Wamp of Tennessee and Jerry Moran

of Kansas; and Democratic Congressman Heath Shuler of North Carolina, Bart

Stupak of Michigan and Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania.

The allegation is that all of these men paid or are still paying below

market rates for their housing in Washington—reportedly $600 a month in

2002 and also, reportedly, $950 a month last year.

All these men live or have lived at C Street, a 12-bedroom, nine-

bathroom, $1.8 million town house with housekeeping services and meal

services available.  It‘s run by a secretive Christian organization that‘s

known as The Family.

Now, this ethics filing has led to a bunch of local press coverage in

these politicians‘ hometown newspapers.  And one of the targeted

congressmen is now lashing out.  Congressman Jerry Moran of Kansas is

quoted in the “Topeka Capital-Journal” today as telling a student who asked

him about C Street that any complaints about him living at C Street are

rooted in, quote, “a national effort to exclude matters of faith by public

servants.”  He added that, quote, “I don‘t think that my interest in

studying the Bible with other colleagues of mine in Congress ought to be

seen as anything but good, or at least personal.”

Agreed.  One‘s interest in studying anything, including the Bible, is

emphatically personal.  But no one‘s complaining about Jerry Moran‘s Bible

studying.  The complaint is about Jerry Moran‘s rent.  About the evidence

that he is an elected official, getting his rent subsidized, and he‘s not

reporting that subsidy either as income to the IRS or as a gift, like he‘s

supposed to to Congress.

It‘s not religion that is at issue here.  It is ethics and money.  And

the threat that‘s at the root of all the rules about ethics and money,

which, of course, is corruption.

Bible study away, Congressman.  Who‘s paying your rent?

In his own defense, Congressman Moran also tried to downplay his

living circumstances, telling the “Capital-Journal,” quote, “I have a small

bedroom and a bath I share with other people.”  He also says his rent is

market based, not subsidized, and he says he brought his own bed with him

to C Street.

As to the merit of his claim that he is paying what anyone else living

in a 12-bedroom, nine bathroom town house close to Capitol Hill with

housekeeping services and meal services would pay—as to the merit of

that claim, let‘s turn to someone who has actually been inside the house on

C Street, Jeff Sharlet.  He‘s author of “The Family: The Secret

Fundamentalism at the Heart o American Power.”

Jeff, it‘s nice to see you again.  Thanks for joining us.

JEFF SHARLET, AUTHOR, “THE FAMILY”:  Hi, Rachel.  Good to talk to you.

MADDOW:  I assume that you haven‘t been, and I haven‘t been, neither

of us have been in Representative Moran‘s bedroom.  But from what you have

been—what you‘ve seen and what you‘ve been able to report about the

facilities at C Street, do you believe that he and these other members of

Congress were really paying market based rent?

SHARLET:  Oh, absolutely not.  It‘s a beautiful place.  And, in fact,

you go in, there‘s—as you mentioned, there‘s maid service, there‘s a

cook.  They‘re hosting diplomatic meetings there.  And, you know, they‘re

not bringing in ambassadors from around the world to sit on Jerry Moran‘s

box spring.  It‘s a luxury place.

And the fact is, they know that.  If you go back in 2002, Louis

Sheldon, a Christian right leader, said, a lot of congressmen don‘t have

$1,500 to pay for rent, so, C Street does that for them.  For those who are

members of the Fellowship, it provides this subsidized housing.

MADDOW:  When we talked to Senator Coburn‘s office about this last

week, his spokesman defended the C Street rent situation for Senator Coburn

by saying, “He hasn‘t received subsidized rent.  He pays more than $10,000

a year for a room and bathroom only.”

Now, $10,000 a year works out to like 830 bucks a month, which is

still incredibly cheap for a room in a fancy town house with meals and

housekeeping.  But other people who lived at C Street or who live there now

keep saying this, “It‘s just this room.  I just have this one room there.”

Is it your understanding that they have access to all the common space

of this giant mansion, too?

SHARLET:  Yes.  There‘s a big, beautiful—big screen TV down in the

main common space.  There‘s a beautiful dining room which is used for

hosting formal banquets.  There‘s a lovely breakfast nook that is also sort

of a conference room.  There‘s a beautiful kitchen.

It‘s really a space that almost doubles as a conference center.  And

also doubles, frankly, as a hangout.  For Washington Congressman Zach Wamp,

a longtime resident said, this is the place to hang out, to talk policy, to

watch sports.  It‘s a great place.

I recently spoke to a young woman who—a young evangelical woman

thought she was going to do an internship in Washington, found herself

recruited into C Street and turning down sheets for John Ensign, and she

said, it really sort of galled her that it wasn‘t just those congressmen. 

It was also people like Oliver North hanging around, and she was expected

to be at their beck and call.

MADDOW:  And just to be clear, people who think they‘re getting sort

of internships are the people who are providing essentially maid services

at no cost to the members of Congress for maintaining these facilities that

they live in.

SHARLET:  Sure.  And there‘s men who are part of The Family who live

at the house where I lived for a while called Ivan Walt, who brought over

when I went over there.  I was expected to be—I was told that my job was

to be there as a servant for these congressmen.

So, you know, whether Tom Coburn is paying $800 or twice that, that‘s

the best bargain in Washington.

MADDOW:  Finally, Jeff, any—briefly, any reaction from anybody in

The Family that you can report as to this complaint by CREW, the complaint

to the IRS by these clergy members in Ohio who are upset about The Family

and C Street‘s tax status and ethical status of these members of Congress

living there?

SHARLET:  Yes, a very puzzling reaction.  I managed to get Tim Coe,

one of the leaders of the organization on the phone today, I wanted to talk

to him about the Ohio pastors‘ complaint.  I told I wanted to get his

perspective and represent him fairly.  His first response was he didn‘t

know them from Adam, and then he acknowledged that he had, in fact, try to

talk with them despite the fact the Fellowship Foundation‘s official

response is they have nothing to do with C Street.

And then he said that he had decided that they were crazy because they

expected him to apparently abide by some standard of transparency, to allow

a reporter in the room for that conversation—and he said, that‘s just

crazy, that he should be expected to be publicly accountable.

MADDOW:  While he‘s subsidizing the rent of members of Congress.

Jeff Sharlet, author of “The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the

Heart of American Power”—thank you so much for your time, and your just

invaluable reporting on this, Jeff.  Really appreciate it.

SHARLET:  Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW:  So, yesterday one of the leading C Streeters, Senator Tom

Coburn of Oklahoma, went after me out of the blue and accused me of being

overly emotional.  And, of course, he‘s right.  I am a hysterically flighty

girl, and I couldn‘t even finish my segment about him last night.  I had a

good cry.  I have a pint of Haagen-Dazs, and now, I think, maybe I‘m ready

to talk about Senator Coburn.  I will try to hold it together.  That‘s

next.  No promises on the crying thing.


MADDOW:  Across the country tonight, hundreds of thousands of

Americans who are out of work will be going to bed lying awake, wondering

how to put food on the table and take care of themselves and their

families.  How to pay the mortgage or the rent, now that they‘re not only

unemployed but their unemployment benefits have been unexpectedly cut.

Paying unemployment benefits isn‘t just a nice thing to do.  It‘s one

of the single most economically stimulative things that government can

spend money on.  And with a horribly high unemployment rate and an economy

still in need of stimulus, and a lot of people and families in desperate

need right now, keeping unemployment benefits going is a no-brainer. 

Democrats have pledged to extend unemployment benefits.

Even top Republicans have pledged that their party is in favor of

extending unemployment benefits.  But it turns out they‘re really not. 

Republican Senator Jim Bunning single-handedly stopped the extension of

unemployment benefits last month—at one point yelling on the floor of

the Senate, tough—that ends in “it” and starts with shh.

Now, unemployment benefits are being blocked by another single

Republican senator.  It‘s Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.  For close to three weeks

now, Mr. Coburn has objected to the Senate passing and extension of

unemployment benefits.  And he has done so with the ostensibly principled

basis that these benefits are not explicitly paid for.


SEN. TOM COBURN ®, OKLAHOMA:  I‘m going to stand up every time—we

must pay for it rather than charge it to our children.


MADDOW:  We must pay for it rather than charge it to our children. 

That is the hill that Senator Coburn is planting his flag on right now.

Yesterday, he told “The Hill” newspaper that he would object not just

to unemployment benefits, but to every future spending measure that isn‘t,

in his words, paid for—which is neat and which would be totally

principled—that if were not for Senator Coburn‘s history of voting for

plenty of things that aren‘t paid for.  In 2005, for example, Mr. Coburn

had no problem voting in favor of an emergency war supplemental bill that

directed $82 billion unpaid for dollars toward the ongoing wars in Iraq and


Perhaps sensing the hypocrisy in that, Senator Coburn has more

recently tried to explain away that vote by saying, well, he was new to the

Senate then at that time.


COBURN:  Well, that was—I think, it was the first year I was here. 

But go look at who hadn‘t.  I‘ve not—I‘ve not voted for one since,

because it wasn‘t paid for.


MADDOW:  I‘ve not voted for one since.  Not voted for one since.

Except for that other one he voted for.  Mr. Coburn also voted for the

emergency war supplemental bill in 2006, which is also a multibillion

dollar bill that was not paid for.

See?  There it is.  Coburn, R-Oklahoma.  “Yea.”

Senator Coburn also voted for the bank bailout, despite a lack of

spending offsets for that.  He voted for tax cuts that just got tacked on

to the deficit without offsets.  He has done this a lot.

Earlier this year when the Senate voted on instituting pay-as-

you-go rules, the concept that he says he supports of not spending without

offsetting the spending except in emergencies, Senator “Everything must be

paid for” Coburn voted “no” on that.  “Senator “Everything must be paid

for” voted “no” on the legislation that was required stuff to be paid for. 

So when Sen. Coburn says he is blocking unemployment benefits or blocking

funding for wounded veterans caregivers like he did last year, or anything

else that he now says he‘s going to block, not because he wants to block

those things but because of his unyielding principle that he won‘t vote for

anything that isn‘t paid for, when he says that, he doesn‘t really mean it. 

He‘s voted for plenty that wasn‘t paid for.  But the senator has

not let that hypocritical record get in the way of feeling great about

himself for standing on his fake principles. 

He told “The Hill” newspaper about himself yesterday, quote, “The

easiest thing in the world is to pass this bill unpaid for.  But consider

the millions of Americans whose financial futures would be damaged versus

the relatively small amount of people who will be affected by this delay. 

Now, you tell me which vote takes the most courage.” 

Here‘s a hint.  If you‘re complimenting yourself on your own

courage, something else might be at work here other than just your sheer,

selfless humble bravery.  Last summer, you may recall, his house mate at

the C Street, Sen. John Ensign, admitted to having an extramarital affair

with his staffer‘s wife who was also his staffer. 

You may also recall that Sen. Coburn got wrapped up right in the

middle of that whole thing because of allegations that he secretly helped

negotiate a cash payoff, essentially hush money to be paid by John Ensign

to the mistress and her family. 

At the time, Mr. Coburn categorically denied doing any such

thing.  He told reporters, quote, “I never made any assessment of paying

anybody anything.  Those are untruths.  Those are absolute untruths.” 

That was Mr. Coburn‘s official line until he finally decided to

come clean to the “New York Times” a few months later, acknowledging to the

“Times” in October that he was, in fact, Mr. Ensign‘s affair intermediary

despite his earlier vehement, self-righteous categorical denials of that. 

Sen. Coburn was in fact the personal negotiator for Sen. Ensign

in the hush money discussions with the mistress‘ lawyer.  In fact, Mr. 

Coburn is the one who personally rejected an $8.5 million settlement

request from the mistress‘ lawyer describing it as “ridiculous.” 

Despite being up to his eyeballs in the classy, classy details of

this deal by a married sitting senator to pay off his secret mistress who

he was still sleeping with at the time, Sen. Coburn also found it in his

heart to cast himself again as the upstanding heroic man of virtue who no

one should dare question about his involvement in what he definitely was

involved in. 

He told reporters in July, quote, “I was counseling Sen. Ensign

as a physician and as an ordained deacon.  That is privileged communication

that I will never reveal to anybody.  Not to the Ethics Committee.  Not to

a court of law.  Not to anybody.” 

It‘s heroic, right?  Tom Coburn providing mistress payoff

haggling services in his capacity as a deacon.  In his capacity as

physician, Tom Coburn providing obstetrical and gynecological advice to

John Ensign, bravely refusing to disclose anything on those conversations.

Actually, Sen. Coburn about-faced on that, too.  He happened to

tell the “New York times” how stupid John Ensign had been and how Sen. 

Ensign‘s judgment had been impaired by his arrogance.  So much for never

disclosing anything to anybody. 

Totally regardless of the Ensign affair, Mr. Coburn‘s time living

at C Street has also put him at the center of an ethics and IRS complaint

concerning that house.  It alleges that C Street residents like Sen. Coburn

have been receiving way below market value, subsidized rent for a long time


Instead of paying about $4,000 a month, which seems to be the

going rate for the kinds of digs and kinds of services that C Street

residents receive, they‘ve only reportedly been paying $950 a month. 

A spokesman for Sen. Coburn confirming to us that he pays not

much more than $10,000 per year, which would be about $833 per month. 

Senator‘s spokesman‘s statement to us is that he pays more than $10,000 a


Now, perhaps as a result of all of our questions about this, Sen. 

Coburn has now gone out of the blue after me, gone after the way that I

have talked about him and these problems on this show. 

Mr. Coburn told the Web site “The Daily Caller,” quote, “Look at

Rachel Maddow.  She comes at me on the basis of emotion.  She demonizes me. 

I don‘t want conservatives to win on the basis of emotion.  If we lower

ourselves to the level they operate on, we hurt ourselves and our


He does have a point.  I am notoriously, historically histrionic. 

He is so calm, so cool.  So even keeled. 


SEN. TOM COBURN (R-OK):  I can‘t tell you how worried I am about what

this bill is going to do to my senior patients.  I have a message for you. 

You‘re going to die sooner.  What the American people ought to pray is that

somebody can‘t make the vote tonight.  That‘s what they ought to pray. 


MADDOW:  I have been known to burst into tears randomly just for fun. 

But Sen. Coburn is the guy who is urging people to pray that a fellow

senator might die or at least be incapacitated ahead of the health reform

vote last summer - last December. 

Before that, we heard him telling seniors that they‘re going to

die if health reform passes.  During the Senate confirmation hearing for

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts in 2005, Sen. Coburn, who again

now accuses me of being too emotional, managed to pick his head up from the

crossword puzzle that he was ostentatiously working on during the hearing,

long enough to give this assessment of our current politics. 


COBURN:  When I ponder our country and its greatness, its weaknesses,

its potential, my heart aches for less divisiveness.  Less polarization. 

Less finger-pointing.  Less bitterness.  Less mindless partisanship.  Which

at times sounds almost hateful to the ear of Americans. 


MADDOW:  Noble sentiment.  Hard to take from the guy who prays for

fellow senators to die ahead of votes and tells seniors they‘re going to

die because of health reform. 

Senator, I understand you are an emotional guy.  I don‘t begrudge

you that.  I actually sort of admire that.  But I think you might be

projecting here.  I don‘t feel at all emotional about you. 

I just want to know how you can stop people‘s desperately needed

unemployment benefits by claiming a moral high ground principle of not

voting for things that aren‘t paid for when you voted for plenty of things

that aren‘t paid for. 

I want to know, senator, who pays your rent.  If you just live in

this humble one bedroom and one bathroom, I want to know what room you were

sitting in at C Street when you were John Ensign‘s financial negotiator for

secretly paying off his mistress. 

It‘s not personal, senator.  I feel no emotion about it.  I am

reporting on your record.  And this is what that feels like.


MADDOW:  A man in Texas has been indicted and charged with possession

of an illegal firearm or destructive device.  The destructive device in

this case was allegedly a bomb.  His name is Larry Eugene North.  He‘s

suspected of planting 36 explosive devices in mailboxes in east Texas, the

last ten of which were pipe bombs. 

Now, thankfully, no one was injured in any of these incidents. 

According to the Justice Department, quote, “On the morning of April 7th,

2010, Mr. North was observed placing such a device in a collection mailbox

leading to his subsequent arrest.  Following his arrest, a search of Mr. 

North‘s vehicle revealed an additional destructive device.” 

An agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and

Explosive told the Associate Press today that Mr. North was motivated by

some unspecified anger toward the federal government which may have had to

do with a court case. 

For the record, his arrest follows the arrests of people who have

been threatening House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Patty Murray and House

Republican Whip Eric Cantor, not to mention the arrest of nine members of

the Michigan Hutaree militia, who allegedly plotted to kill a law

enforcement officer and wage war on the U.S. Government. 

At the request of his attorneys, the judge in Mr. North‘s case

has ordered a psychiatric evaluation.  We will stay on this story for you.


MADDOW:  Tonight‘s “Moment of Geek” is so geeky that even geeks are

likely to say, “Dude, that‘s some geeky geekiness.”  We will actually be

discussing the periodic table of elements.  The periodic table.  The

periodic table, yes!  The periodic table, yes!  It‘s coming up.


MADDOW:  Less than a week after Hurricane Katrina struck the city of

New Orleans on Sunday morning, September 4th, 2005, an NBC news camera crew

was on a bridge over the industrial canal when they heard a commotion on

the next bridge over. 

Here‘s what NBC‘s cameras caught that day.  Police officers in a

rental truck not marked as a police vehicle, firing their weapons at

something, impossible to tell what from that news crew‘s vantage point. 

Within hours, New Orleans police were giving their version of

events.  They said police had confronted a gang of armed men, that the men

had shot at the police first and the police had returned fire. 

A very different story emerged later.  The people on the

Danzinger Bridge that day were unarmed.  They were crossing the bridge

apparently to try to find food and a safe place to stay as their city


But a police call came in saying that officers were being shot at

on that bridge.  They weren‘t, but seven officers responded to that call. 

And when the smoke cleared, two civilians were dead and four wounded.  None

of the victims were armed. 

Yesterday, one of the seven officers there at the bridge pled

guilty to helping cover up those shootings.  He is the third officer in the

past month and a half to plead guilty to covering up what happened with

those shootings that day on the bridge, a cover-up that involved a planted

gun, phony witnesses, falsified police reports and lying to a state grand

jury that convened to investigate the case. 

In the course of entering his guilty plea, prosecutors revealed

that Officer Michael Hunter‘s - they revealed Officer Michael Hunter‘s

chilling account of what happened after the police began firing. 

According to the account, quote, “Defendant Hunter saw several

civilians who appeared to be unarmed, injured and subdued.  Sergeant A

suddenly leaned over the concrete barrier, held out his assault rifle and

in a sweeping motion fired repeatedly at the civilians lying wounded on the


The indictment also describes what happened when Officer Hunter

and Sergeant A drove to the other side of the bridge in pursuit of three

men who were running away from the scene.  One of the men was a severely

mentally disabled man named Ronald Madison. 

Officer Hunter‘s account continues as follows, “Officer A,

without warning, fired a shotgun at Ronald Madison‘s back as Madison ran

away.  As Ronald Madison lay dying on the pavement, Sergeant A ran down the

bridge toward Ronald and asked an officer if Ronald was one of them.  When

the officer applied in the affirmative, Sergeant A began kicking or

stomping Ronald Madison repeatedly with his foot.” 

Ronald Madison was 40 years old.  He later died, as did 19-year-

old James Brissette.  Four other people, all unarmed, were wounded on the

bridge that day.  Murder charges were brought in this case initially.  They

were dropped in 2008.  There is now some speculation that those murder

charges may resurface. 

Travers Mackel has been covering the story of the Danzinger

Bridge shooting since 2005.  He‘s an investigative reporter with NBC‘s New

Orleans affiliate, WDSU.  He‘s also a New Orleans native.  Mr. Mackel,

thank you very much for joining us. 


for having me, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  What‘s the broad context of what was happening on the bridge

that day?  How many people were on the bridge that day?  What do we know

about what they were doing? 

MACKEL:  Well, it seems right now that they were just trying to get

out of New Orleans.  We all know that New Orleans was under water.  You

know, conditions were not good.  Times were dire.  This is when

communication was completely cut off. 

This is just a couple of days after the storm.  It‘s believed now

that these people were just looking for a dry place, a safe place to go,

possibly air lift or a ride out of the city of New Orleans. 

It was painted in a different light in these police reports.  In

the police reports, officers initially said that the people on the bridge

were armed and were firing at them. 

Now, defense attorneys for the police officers involved in this

still stand by that story.  They stand by the fact that these officers had

to retaliate because they were fired at first. 

But as you just pointed out, several officers have now flipped

and are working with the government saying that they falsified their report

and that a lot of what happened on that bridge was made up to protect these

officers who are, in their own words, out of line. 

MADDOW:  Well, what was the source of the reported police call that

officers were being shot at on that bridge?  Has that ever been cleared up? 

And has it ever been proven that officers were ever shot at? 

MACKEL:  You know, it‘s unknown at that point.  Obviously defense

attorneys for the officers - they were known as the Danzinger seven,

because these seven officers responded to the call on the bridge. 

Michael Hunter has since pleaded guilty.  The other six officers

remain and maintain that they are innocent and did nothing wrong.  But as

for the police call, there is still a lot of questions on this how this

call came in. 

It came in as officers in as officers in jeopardy - shots fired. 

So officers - I know you‘ve been showing the video - jumped into that

rented truck.  You know, remember, police cars were flooded.  Officers

didn‘t have a lot of easy ways to get around the City of New Orleans. 

They were commandeering anything they could get that was still

drivable.  They jumped in that moving van and headed out to the Danzinger

Bridge, and from that video, started shooting.  They say they were fired at


But like I said, police reports say they were fired at first. 

But now, the court documents that have recently been revealed prove a

different story and tell a different story, as these officers are now

starting to plead guilty and work with the government in saying - admitting

that they falsified the police reports and that these civilians were, in

fact, unarmed. 

MADDOW:  And Travis, it‘s not just that the story is changing, it is

that we are learning about this cover-up.  And it was an elaborate cover-

up.  I mean, planting evidence, falsified reports, fake witnesses being


With so much effort put into this cover-up effort, why did it

fall apart?  How did it start to fall apart? 

MACKEL:  You know, the feds started looking at it.  I think they

started squeezing a lot of people.  They thought that the story didn‘t make

sense for about two years following Katrina.  And they really started

asking some hard, difficult questions.

A lot of things didn‘t add up.  And you know, we should point

out, Rachel, that two other officers, Mike Lohman and Jeff Lehrman have

pleaded guilty.  They were not on the bridge. 

They pled guilty for conspiring after the fact, as you said,

making up witnesses, planting the gun, having late night meetings to get

officers‘ stories straight so they could tell federal prosecutors and state

prosecutors the same story and make it seem like everything was aboveboard

and it seem like these officers were doing their jobs, protecting their

lives with what these officers say was not the case, these three officers

who have since pled guilty. 

So there are still a lot of questions.  But the case started to

fall apart when federal prosecutors really started digging into this. 

MADDOW:  Travers, briefly, one last question about this.  I understand

that one of the victims‘ - brother of the man who was killed - the 40-year-

old man who was killed, a man named Lance Madison was actually arrested by

New Orleans police in connection with this shooting.  What happened in his


MACKEL:  Those charges have been dropped.  He was initially arrested

at the scene for attempted murder of police officers.  And in fact, that

turned out not to be true.  Those charges were later dropped. 

It turns out that his brother was the mentally handicapped man

who unfortunately was killed that day on the bridge.  And it seemed like

they were just trying to get help in getting out of the city of New

Orleans.  But those charges against Mr. Madison have since been dropped. 

And you know, we should point out, you know, you touched on the

fact that powers of the city of New Orleans handling this - you know, I

think a lot of people are shocked and distraught in the City of New


They have can‘t believe that this is going on.  And you know, New

Orleans is a city that sometimes has some distrust in its police

department.  This only lends itself to that.  They have 1,500 police

officers, the bulk of them good law-abiding cops. 

And it‘s unfortunate when things like this go down.  You know, it

gives a black eye most people in the City of New Orleans feel to the entire

Police Department. 

Travers Mackel, investigative reporter with NBC‘s New Orleans

affiliate, WDSU.  Travers, thank you very much for your reporting on this. 

Appreciate your time. 

Coming up you on “COUNTDOWN,” Keith finally and properly joins

Twitter.  And he asks my friend John Hodgman to help him figure it out.

Next on this show, a “Moment of Geek.”  Please stay with us. 


MADDOW:  Tonight‘s “Moment of Geek” is about this - in case it‘s not

totally clear to you what that is, it is a tattoo of the periodic table of

elements, the iconic chart that hangs in every high school science lab and

that gets a private place on flyleaf of every science textbook. 

There is the famous Tom Lehrer song about the periodic table

which Xeni Jardin found last week hidden inside the iPad version of the

periodic table. 


Tom Lehrer may have to add another verse or two to that song

because a whole lot of new elements have been discovered since he wrote

that in 1959.  But this guy with the tattoo of the periodic table clearly

got that since 1959.  And even he may be headed back to the tattoo parlor

for an addition some time soon because a new potential addition to the

periodic table has just been heralded by the Joint Institute for Nuclear

Research in Russia. 

A joint team of American and Russian scientists say they‘ve

created a new element over a five-month period.  They managed to create six

atoms of it using a particle accelerator to smash an atom of calcium into

atom of berkelium. 

Now, here‘s the part that‘s both super geeky and super simple. 

Calcium has an atomic number of 20.  Twenty protons there in its nucleus. 

Berkelium has an atomic number of 97.  You smash them together - you smash

20 into 97 and what do you get?  117. 

The new element has an atomic number of 117.  And for now, it‘s

actually just being called element 117.  Actually, in kind of fake Latin

for 117, for 1-1-7, they‘re calling it ununseptium, which of course, cannot


What happens next is that if another lab (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

replicates their success at creating this thing, ununseptium will become a

real element and finally get to move to its square on the periodic table

forever.  And then they won‘t have to call it ununseptium anymore. 

Researchers will get to give it a real name.  For scientists,

getting to name an element is beyond the Nobel Prize.  You‘re part of

history.  You are on the flyleaf.  You‘re on the tattoo. 

The “New York Times” tried to get some of the researchers who

were involved in creating element 117 to speculate about what they might

name it if their research is confirmed.  None of them would say anything

about it. 

One researcher, a chemist named Dawn Shaughnessy, told “The

Times,” quote, “We‘d never discuss names because it‘s sort of like bad

karma.  It‘s like talking about a no-hitter during the no-hitter.  We‘ve

never spoken of it aloud.”

Of course, we never want to jinx it either, but I‘m just saying that

right now, this element is being called 117, simply the number of atomic of

117.  I‘m just saying.

There is a P.S. 117, Public School 117 in Jamaica Queens, pre-K

through sixth grade.  Wouldn‘t it still be sort of label scientifically

kosher to keep 117 in the name to name it after the school to get a whole

lot of little American kids psyched about physics and smashing atoms

together?  Come on, P.S. 117-ium, anyone?  Come on.  P.S. 117-ium.

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

“COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts right now.  Have a great night. 




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