THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
July 15, 2013
Guests: Ben Jealous, John Stanton
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: And thanks to you at home for joining us this
Nearly two years ago, a prisoner in Texas made a request to the prison
where he lived. It was a request for what his last meal should be before
he is going to be executed.
The man said that this was what he wanted to be his last meal. Two
chicken fried steaks, each with gravy and sliced onions. Also a bacon
cheeseburger, but he wanted it to be a triple with three hamburger patties
in addition to the bacon. Also, an omelet that had cheese and more ground
beef in it and tomatoes and onions and bell peppers and jalapeno peppers.
He also wanted a bowl of fried okra with ketchup on the side.
He wanted a pound of barbecue, barbecued meat of some kind, presumably
pork or beef or something. A pound of barbecue with half a loaf of white
bread to eat the barbecue with. Remember, this is Texas. Also, he wanted
He also wanted a whole pizza. He requested a meat lover`s pizza,
which as far as I can tell is a Pizza Hut branded pizza that has pepperoni
and ham and more ground beef and bacon and sausage on it.
He also requested a pint of blue bell ice cream, vanilla flavor, and
he asked for a slab of peanut fudge with crushed peanuts on top. He then
also asked for three root beers to wash it all down.
That was his requested last meal before he was executed by the state
of Texas. He requested the meal. The prison obtained the meal for him.
And then he said he was not hungry and did not eat any of it.
And that was why Texas got rid of the practice of granting prisoners
their chosen final meal before their execution, because of what Lawrence
Russell Brewer did for his last meal before Texas killed him.
Just before his execution, Lawrence Brewer, the same guy, told KHOU in
Houston that he had no regrets, the crime for which he was being executed,
he would do it all over again tomorrow.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAWRENCE RUSSELL BREWER: As far as any regrets, no, I`m still -- I
had no regrets. No, I would do it all over again, to tell you the truth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I`d do it all over again to tell you the truth. What he did
not regret, what he said he would do all over again, to tell you the truth,
was the murder in 1998 in jasper, Texas, of 49-year-old James Byrd Jr. Mr.
Byrd accepted a ride from three young men, one of whom you saw speaking
from prison there a moment ago before he was executed, Lawrence Russell
Brewer. Also Shawn Barry and John King.
Those three young men picked up Mr. Byrd in Jasper, Texas, in a June
day in 1998. Instead of giving him a ride where he wanted to go, they beat
him nearly to death. They tortured him. They urinated on him. They used
a chain to tie him to the rear bumper of their pickup truck.
They put the chain around his ankles and they started driving with him
dragging behind the truck on this country road. He was alive when they
tied him to the truck then they drove down that road for three miles. And
that was how James Byrd Jr. died in Jasper, Texas. The forensic evidence,
you see it circled there in spray paint and marked there on the side of the
road. The forensic evidence of James Byrd`s death stretched for three
miles down that road.
Now, the men who killed James Byrd were covered in white supremacist
and neo-Nazi tattoos, including one of the suspects having a tattoo that
showed a black man lynched hanging from a tree, as well as Nazi tattoos.
That defendant, John King, wrote a jailhouse letter to his co-
defendant, Lawrence Brewer, a letter that was intercepted by prison
authorities. It read in part, "Regardless of the outcome of this, we have
made history. Death before dishonor. Sieg heil!"
Lawrence Brewer had given himself the title exulted Cyclops in a white
James Byrd died in Jasper, Texas, in June 1998.
Four months after James Byrd died, two young men named Aaron McKinney
and Russell Henderson went to the fireside lounge in downtown Laramie,
Wyoming. And in that bar they picked up a 21-year-old college student
named Matthew. They drove him out of town in their pickup truck. They
tied him to the fence in a middle of a field and tortured him to death.
Eighteen hours after he was left there, he was found by a passing
cyclist who initially thought he was a scare crow. But he was a young man
in a coma by then who would never regain consciousness and who died in the
hospital five days later.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: It was a gruesome discovery at this fence late Wednesday
afternoon as the sun was setting, two bicyclists approached and at first
they said they looked like a scar scarecrow had been tied to the fence.
The lifeless body of 21-year-old Matthew Shepard, a University of Wyoming
freshman, a gay man, barely alive tonight, in a coma, brain damage, and on
It was 1:00 a.m. Wednesday morning, Shepard, a small man, was
allegedly beaten with the butt of a pistol, burned with cigarette butts and
finally tied spread eagle to the fence left to die.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was part of NBC`s "Nightly News" coverage back in
October of 1998. Again, that happened four months after the murder of
James Byrd in Texas.
It would take more than a decade after that, but in 2009, more than 10
years after those two predatory pact murders, it would take until 2009 for
President Obama to sign into law the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr.
Hate Crime Prevention Act.
And when President Obama signed that into law and spoke about what
that law meant, he stood with Dennis and Judy, the parents of Matthew
Shepard, you can see to the president`s right on the left side of your
screen there, and also Betty and Louvon, who are the sisters of James Byrd,
on the right side of your screen there.
He stood with them while the president explained this law.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Imagine the mindset of
someone who would kidnap a young man and beat him to within an inch of his
life, tie him to a fence and leave him for dead. It`s hard for any of us
to imagine the twisted mentality of those who would offer a neighbor a ride
home, attack him, chain him to the back of a truck and drag him for miles
until he finally died. But we sense where such rule cruelty begins, the
moment we fail to see in another our common humanity.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was 2009. That was the first year President Obama was
in office. And that bill was one of the signature achievements of his
See, that bill had been fought for, for a long time, but the previous
president, George W. Bush, killed an earlier version of the hate crimes law
named for James Byrd and Matthew Shepard. He killed it by threatening to
veto it. President Obama signed it.
And the basic idea is to assert that there is a national interest
beyond the standard interest we all have against crime. There is a
national interest in American minority groups not being terrorized by
violence that is meant to harm not only direct victim, but to menace and
intimidate the minority group that they belong to.
Furthermore, the idea of a federal hate crimes statute is to provide
resources, prosecutory resources and investigatory resources to local
authorities to make sure crimes like this get prosecuted and that they get
And lastly, a federal hate crimes statute can be used to bring cases
directly -- for the federal government to bring cases directly in crimes
that otherwise would be handled at the state or local level. The Justice
Department can try these crimes, and that is what the Justice Department is
deciding right now about the Trayvon Martin case in Florida after the
acquittal this weekend of the man who shot Trayvon Martin, George
One of the changes in that law that is named for James Byrd and
Matthew Shepard is that it used to be that the feds could only get involved
on civil rights grounds like this if the victim was participating in an
activity that was considered to be federally protected when he or she was
attacked. It was a weird jurisdictional quirk in the law that meant unless
you were voting or something, trying to vote, going to school or some other
specific thing that had been adjudicated, I something that the federal
government had a role in protecting, unless you were doing something like
that when you were attacked or killed, the law could not be applied to your
Well, James Byrd was walking down a country road when his attackers
found him. Matthew Shepard was at a bar when his attackers found him. But
under the law, that changed in 2009 in their names, that fact about each of
those cases would not be a brier to federal assistance with those cases.
It would not be a barrier to the federal opportunity, for the federal
government having an opportunity to step in, to bring a case if local
prosecutors had refused to do so on their own.
Because of that change in the law, so it no longer has to be a
federally protected activity that you`re doing when the crime happens,
because of that change in the law, the Justice Department can now decide
and is now deciding if it wants to bring a federal civil rights case,
likely a hate crimes case, to try to convict George Zimmerman, even though
that jury and that Florida state court found him not guilty.
The Justice Department has put out a statement saying, quote,
"Experienced federal prosecutors will determine whether the evidence
reveals a prosecutable violation of any of the limited federal criminal
civil rights statutes within our jurisdiction. And whether federal
prosecution is appropriate in accordance with department`s policy governing
successive federal prosecution following a state trial."
Successive federal prosecution after the state trial. A lot of the
commentary on this today assumes that this would be a radical step or an
unusual step for the U.S. Justice Department to take. You know, the
federal hate crimes statute named for Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, it is
not a dead letter. It gets used all the time.
Last month, a Seattle man pled guilty to a federal hate crime under
the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act. He pled
guilty for assaulting a Sikh taxi driver, prosecuted by a federal
prosecutor, guilty plea in that case. On the same day the FBI made that
announcement, they also announced a federal hate crimes indictment under
the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Act, for a group -- excuse me -- for two
people who attacked a gay couple on the street in Hillsborough, Oregon.
Just a week before that, four people in Kentucky were sentenced to
between eight years and 30 years in prison for luring a gay man into their
vehicle, driving him to a remote location and beating him nearly to death
before he escaped. Again, brought as a federal prosecution under the
Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
Nobody knows that the Justice Department is going to bring a federal
prosecution in this case, too. Really nobody knows. There aren`t even any
good educated guesses out there. Anybody who says they know what the
Justice Department is going to do here and isn`t actually the Justice
Department, is making it up.
But if the Justice Department did decide to act here, if they did
decide to bring charges in this case under that hate crimes law, it would
put the issue of race and specifically alleged racial motivation for the
killing at the very center of the case. That issue was central, of course,
to the national furor and the national discussion about this case, but it
was almost entirely absent as a formal legal issue in the formal legal
proceedings that just concluded in Seminole County.
Everything connected to race and the defendant`s state of mind that
was excluded from the state-level court proceedings would be at the center,
at the center, would be the heart of any federal court case on this issue
if there ever will be one.
Joining us now is Benjamin Jealous. He is president and CEO of the
NAACP, which is advocating for the Justice Department to take up federal
charges in this case. The NAACP is having its annual convention in south
Florida this week.
Mr. Jealous, Ben, thanks very much for being with us tonight.
BENJAMIN JEALOUS, NAACP PRESIDENT: Thank you, Rachel. It`s great to
MADDOW: So, your organization is asking DOJ to file civil rights
charges against Mr. Zimmerman in this case. What kind of feedback have you
had from your call for that? How are people responding to that as an idea?
JEALOUS: First of all, the country has responded in a way that`s just
incredible. We have almost 1 million signatures just since the verdict,
and that includes the fact that our servers were down for over 12 hours
because they were, the traffic, the volume was too much for them to handle.
At one point, we were getting about 100 signatures per second. And
this just tells, and these are people of all colors from across the country
who just believed our country can do better than what happened in Sanford.
And who believe that the U.S. DOJ has a role to play in protecting all our
children. From people who would track them and taunt them and confront
them and kill them on the street, and ultimately choose to engage because
of their color.
And there`s a lot of disturbing information. Let`s not forget witness
number 9. George Zimmerman`s own cousin who just a few days after this
killing called the cops and said, I think he did this because of race. And
let`s not forget about the boys who live in that neighborhood. Boys of
color who say they felt like he targeted them because of their race.
And let`s not forget him saying that, you know, these people, these
punks always get away with this. And then looking and seeing that he had
called the police dozens and dozens and dozens of times disproportionately
about young men of color that he thought were suspect.
And the reality is that there was no reason to think that Trayvon
Martin was doing anything other than what he was doing, which was walking
down the street with a can of soda and a bag of Skittles, can of iced tea
and a bag of Skittles, and trying get away from a man who he thought was
That man kept tracking him. Got out of the car, taunted him. He
ultimately pulled out a gun he had intentionally purchased because it
didn`t have a safety, and shot him through the heart.
We believe in this country, you do that to one of our boys of any
color, that you deserve to be held accountable.
MADDOW: Ben, the issues that you`re raising there, the factual issues
and the witness statements that you`re raising there, a lot of them were
not covered in great detail in the Seminole County courthouse, in terms of
the proceedings that ended on Saturday with that verdict.
Do you think that if federal prosecutors did bring a federal case
against Mr. Zimmerman that there is sufficient, I guess sufficient direct
evidence to bring charges here under the kinds of narrow concerns that you
need to be able to prove under hate crimes law? I mean, the hate crimes
statute is fairly narrowly drawn.
JEALOUS: Well, it`s fairly narrowly drawn. What it says, is, look,
you have to show race was a factor and bodily harm was done. Yes, we
believe there`s enough evidence to satisfy that standard.
And the reality is that, you know, the issue has been kind of muddled
because we have a judge who seems to be a wonderful person in a bunch of
ways but we think made a very -- she made a very serious choice to exclude
any discussion of racial profiling. And the reality is, is, look, we don`t
permit our officers to use race as grounds for suspicion and kill somebody
after they taunt and confront them and not be held accountable. And we
shouldn`t let citizens not be held accountable for doing that, either.
MADDOW: Ben, let me ask you in terms of response to the verdict,
obviously, there`s been spontaneous reaction across the country. A lot of
well-organized reaction, too. But people just turning out in the streets
and expressing themselves in reaction to this verdict.
I know that you`ve been in touch with the Martin family. And I just
want to ask you how they are doing following this verdict, if you can tell
us, and how they feel about the way the country has responded.
JEALOUS: You know, I think it would be better to let their lawyers
speak for them. I`ve been in touch with their lawyers. We`ve actually
given them great space. We are here in Orlando, but they`re back home in
And, you know, from what we understood, they were exhausted. They
wanted time to go to church and to heal as a family. And we`ve respected
But I think, you know, all of us, certainly all of us who have
children can really I think empathize with what they must be going through.
You know, I -- when I heard the verdict, I picked up my young son, Jack,
and I just held him and listened to him breathe and there was a moment as I
was just kind of swirling in the aftermath of this decision that I just --
it just occurred to me that Tracy Martin will never be able to hold his
son, Trayvon, in his arms again and just hear him breathe.
And that`s because George Zimmerman tracked him, taunted him,
disregarded the request of police to stay in his car and engaged him and
killed him. And, you know, again, there`s enough evidence here, evidence
the judge excluded, suggesting that race may have factored in, including
the testimony of his own cousin of -- George Zimmerman`s own cousin to
suggest that, yes, charges should be brought. Now, once charges are
brought, justice system will run its course.
We from the beginning urged people to put their faith in the justice
system. But you can`t put, you know -- you can`t say put your faith in the
justice system but stop with a comma. No, you`ve got to let it run to the
end on the sentence.
And in our country, that includes state-level options and federal-
level options as well. We need to let it run its course. We need to
encourage DOJ to stay engaged. And, yes, we believe, after looking at
this, there is enough to meet the bar that race was a factor and bodily
injury was done.
MADDOW: Benjamin Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP -- someone
I`ve known for a long time and who I am encouraged to see in such a crucial
leadership role at a time we really need it as a country -- Ben, thank you.
Continued good luck to you.
JEALOUS: Thank you, Rachel. Appreciate you.
MADDOW: All right. What happened in streets all over the country in
response to the verdict and some of the whackadoo conspiracy theories about
who organized those actions, coming up. Plus, a lot more.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: The city of Sanford, Florida, population 54,000, has never
seen anything like the George Zimmerman trial in terms of the international
attention, the unrelenting media coverage. So, in anticipation of a
verdict, and the outpouring of emotion and interest in this case, the
entire Sanford, Florida, Police Department has been on standby for over six
weeks since before the trial even began.
The police chief suspended all vacations and suspended all furloughs.
Police officers were given special training to prepare for when a verdict
was announced. A special command center was set up in case things got out
of control. But that is not what happened.
Saturday night when the court announced that a jury had found Mr.
Zimmerman not guilty of second-degree murder or manslaughter in the death
of Trayvon Martin, instead the city of Sanford looked like this. Outside
the courthouse, there was a strong reaction to be sure, but the gathering
was just as assuredly peaceful -- vocal, but peaceful.
Same goes for yesterday. The day after the verdict was announced.
There were multiple protests in Sanford, Florida, including a rally in
front of the courthouse where the trial took place and a noon day prayer at
churches across the city.
On Saturday night on the other side of the country, protesters took to
the streets in San Francisco and in Oakland. There were some reports of
vandalism in Oakland. One person was arrested, but by in large, the
protests were peaceful.
Then, yesterday, yesterday was a big day for organized protests all
over the country.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If he wouldn`t have followed Trayvon, we
wouldn`t be here today.
REPORTER: They also say this is about more than the death of Trayvon
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We see (INAUDIBLE) each and every day in the
city of St. Louis.
REPORTER: Those participants throwing Skittles up in the air. The
gesture meant to send a message, mainly to federal prosecutors. Protesters
are hoping gatherings like this will keep pressure on the Justice
REPORTER: Hundreds of people took to the streets of Atlanta tonight
to protest the not guilty verdict in the George Zimmerman trial.
TV ANCHOR: More than a dozen people took to the streets in Dallas to
protest this verdict. They were holding signs saying, "No justice, no
REPORTER: It`s about more than guilt or innocence at this gathering,
but what the case, again, exposes. A deep racial divide alive and well in
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: So there are more than two dozen organized protests around
the country including in Los Angeles where people gathered in front of the
CNN building in Hollywood. Police officers in riot gear were called in to
disperse the crowd there. About a half dozen people were arrested. Some
protesters blocked a major freeway for about 25 minutes in Los Angeles.
In New York City, protesters gathered during the day at Union Square
and then again in the evening in Times Square. About a dozen people were
In Newark, New Jersey, hundreds of people braved 95-degree heat to
wave signs high above their heads and chant "no justice, no peace." They
marched to the frat courthouse. This was outside the Justice Department.
A few people with a lit sign, "Justice for Trayvon."
In Chicago, hundreds of people gathered for a moment of silence.
Before the verdict, there was a fairly concerted effort, I should say, to
terrify the country about what kind of horrible reaction there would be to
the verdict. There was a verdict, indeed, this weekend. And people
responded with demonstration. And they were almost entirely peaceful,
emotional protests all around the country.
Last year after young Trayvon Martin was killed, but before charges
were filed against George Zimmerman, there were massive, massive protests
in Sanford, Florida. Across the country, people were shocked and
scandalized by the teenager`s death, but Sanford was the epicenter. And
sometimes when big protests like that happen, especially big repeated
protests like that happen, the Justice Department, they dispatch a special
unit called the community relations service to go meet with law enforcement
in all parties and help monitor protests to try to make sure everyone on
both sides behaves peacefully.
That happens around the protests connected with the Trayvon
Martin/George Zimmerman case. And last week, the conservative
organization, Judicial Watch, decided that that, itself, was a scandal,
that the protests were not real, that the protests had been drummed up in a
conspiracy by the Obama administration. Look, "Documents obtained by
Judicial Watch detail role of Justice Department in organizing Trayvon
Martin protests." Also this one, "DOJ sends secret, quote, `peacekeepers`
where Trayvon Martin was killed."
See, the protests weren`t real. People weren`t actually upset. It
was all organized by President Obama, for something.
This new conspiracy theory has been a big deal in some dank corners of
the Internet and in some dank corners of TV. You`ll never guess where on
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TV ANCHOR: The Department of Justice is now responding after a
government watchdog group obtained documents that they claim show that an
arm of the DOJ was involved in helping to organize anti-George Zimmerman
protests last year.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: By their own admission, they went down to organize
a protest. And the protests were for the prosecution of Mr. Zimmerman, in
support of Mr. Martin. And that`s fine.
The Department of Justice going down there in a very, supposedly
secretive organization, they would show up at these meetings with the DOJ
jackets and hats on, looking more like storm troopers than facilitators and
peacekeepers. They were promoting the protests against Zimmerman. This is
a promotion of a protest. It`s not being neutral. It`s promoting one side
of a controversy, and in a racially charged way.
These Department of Justice employees go down there, they`re helping
organize marches. The documents that we have, the press reports show that
supporters of the Martin family were clear in that they perceive justice to
be there for them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So says FOX News world on that subject.
In the real world, the Department of Justice sent officials to meet
with protesters and city officials and law enforcement to try to keep all
the protests peaceful. And if they were supposed to be there in secret,
then they probably wouldn`t have worn the t-shirts that said DOJ on them
when they went to all these public meetings.
So, yes, the protests about the verdict have been basically peaceful
and emotional demonstrations. Yes, the Justice Department helped plan to
keep protests peaceful. And, yes, FOX News is going to be outraged about
all of that, all the time, even if in this case it`s outrage with logically
seemed to be sort of self-canceling, right?
MADDOW: Just 11 days after he was sworn into office, January 27th,
2010, Virginia`s brand spanking new governor, Bob McDonnell, got a gig on
the main stage. He was chosen by the national Republican Party to give the
party`s official response to the president`s State of the Union address.
Those were very heady times.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. BOB MCDONNELL (R), VIRGINIA: It`s not easy to follow the
president of the United States. My 18-year-old twin boys have added
pressure to me tonight by giving me exactly 10 minutes to finish before
they leave to go watch "SportsCenter."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The governor responded to the very real pressure of that
post-State of the Union assignment by delivering an unremarkable official-
looking 12-minute speech that was notable mostly for not being a disaster.
Like some of the other State of the Union responses have been recently.
Well, tonight, governor ultrasound is under way, way more pressure
than he was even back then. It`s the kind of pressure now that maybe makes
you look for another job. What it sounds like when he and his state really
do get rattled by the pressure is coming up.
MADDOW: Before she came to Washington, Elizabeth Warren taught law
school. Specifically, she studied and taught at the law and economic lives
of ordinary American families. She wrote readable, popular books about how
the system was stacked in favor of people who were already rich. And the
system left ordinary families going broke.
She did not become Elizabeth Warren force in Washington until the
Great Recession, and the worst of the panic, she was appointed to be the
leading watchdog for the $700 billion bank bailout, and she was rather
ruthless at it. So, that was part one.
Part two of Elizabeth Warren versus Wall Street begins here in July
2010 with the passage of Wall Street reform. That reform started to rein
in the banks. It also created a new federal agency called the Consumer
Financial Protection Bureau, which in theory protects middle class and
working class American families. Regular plain Jane consumers from the
predatory fine print that Wall Street uses to scam people.
Elizabeth Warren seemed like an obvious bet to lead that watchdog
agency and she did the work in Washington to get the agency going. But
Elizabeth Warren did not get picked to run the agency. Two years ago this
week, with Elizabeth Warren standing by on his right, President Obama
announced that he was instead picking the guy on his left. Ohio Attorney
General Richard Cordray.
It was a mild political earthquake at the time. Elizabeth Warren not
getting the job of running the agency that she created. Of course, now, we
know why. Elizabeth Warren instead went on to get a better job in
Last year, she ran for Senate against Wall Street`s favorite senator.
She ran against Scott Brown of Massachusetts. She ousted the incumbent
Scott Brown, so Scott Brown could take a job working for a law firm that
has lots of big Wall Street clients, naturally.
But now, Elizabeth Warren is in the Senate. As senator, she`s gone on
to become a powerhouse in the Senate Banking Committee.
Meanwhile, the other guy in this story, Richard Cordray has been
running that consumer watchdog agency. He has been doing the job that the
president picked him to do, even though two years later still has not been
confirmed for the job, because Republicans in the Senate are blocking his
Senate Republicans interestingly say they actually have no objections
to Richard Cordray, the guy. They just hate his job. They just hate this
new agency that he`s supposed to be running, nipping at Wall Street`s
They say they will continue to oppose any nomination to lead that
agency, no matter who it is. They do not care what the nominee is. It
could probably be Scott Brown for all they care. They`re just saying no to
the idea that anybody will be allowed to run that agency.
They think if they can keep the agency from getting a confirmed
director, they can keep the agency from doing its job -- which, of course,
is defined by law. But, you know, easier to block one guy than try to
change the law, right?
Well, now, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says he`s not going to
wait any longer. Today, he demanded Richard Cordray and six other
presidential nominees start getting votes in the senate tomorrow or else
the Democrats will change the rules in the Senate so the Republicans can`t
block this stuff anymore -- so the Republicans just cannot block
nominations from the minority anymore.
In Washington terms, if that happened, that would be a very big deal.
That`s the thing they call "nuclear option". And it`s Harry Reid`s finger
on the button.
Tonight, the Senate is just finishing up a meeting in the august old
Senate chamber. They met in the old Senate chamber tonight in way they
almost never do. Republicans and Democrats met together there, all 100 of
them in a chamber that crucially has no C-Span cameras in it.
In this meeting of 100, they are reportedly trying to find a solution
to this standoff over nominees. Maybe they`re going to find a solution and
maybe they will not.
On the Senate floor today before this big meeting tonight, Elizabeth
Warren said she was still new in Washington but she couldn`t understand why
Senate would accept a political stalemate that -- as she put it -- not in
more government or in less government, but just in bad government. Then
she made one more argument for the agency she created, and for the
nomination of the person chosen by President Obama to run it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: So, let me be clear to
those who think this filibuster will shut down the work of the new agency.
Let me be crystal clear. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is the
law, and it`s here to stay. Do your dirtiest in obstructing the
confirmation of the new director, but the agency will keep on doing what it
does best, fighting for the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Joining us now from Washington is John Stanton. He`s
Washington bureau chief at "BuzzFeed."
John, thanks for being here tonight. It`s good to see you.
JOHN STANTON, BUZZFEED: It`s good to see you.
MADDOW: So, we hear this meeting in the old Senate chamber is
wrapping up. Do we have early reports of what might have happened? What
the stakes are in there?
STANTON: Yes, it sounds like not much happened. There`s a lot of
talk. The older senators have been around a long time. The ones who are
least comfortable with the idea of changing the rules spoke first.
Senator Rand Paul came out and said there is no deal tonight. He said
they could, in theory, have a deal some time between now and tomorrow when
they have these cloture votes that are supposed to be scheduled, but he
didn`t seem particularly optimistic. He`s one of the bellwethers on the
Republican side. You know, he`s sort of a fan of using the rules to block
stuff and filibusters. So, if he`s been unwilling to say there`s a deal, I
think it`s pretty bleak right now.
MADDOW: So, John, in terms of what is going to happen over the next
24 hours, Harry Reid said today when he was asked specifically about it,
listen, you`ve got these seven nominees. Are you saying that unless all
seven of them get confirmed, I`m going to push the button? And he said,
yes, I mean, all seven. You can`t do one, two, three, four, five or six.
We want all seven of them or it`s over.
Does it seem like there`s wiggle room there? Is he going to be as
firm about this as he`s saying he will be?
STANTON: Well, Harry Reid also oftentimes said he`s going to keep the
members in overnight and he`s going to keep them in over vacations and he
doesn`t always do that. If he can get a deal, there`s a possibility he
will allow a certain number of them to go now and others to go later. You
know, the problem, though, is right now, neither he nor Mitch McConnell
seem to be in much of a mood to talk to each other. Both sides have become
very, very polarized. He has a lot of pressure particularly from some of
the newer members like Senator Warren, Jeff Merkley and others to make
these changes, which a lot of Democrats have been looking for over the last
And, you knows, once he gets his hackles up, Harry Reid doesn`t sort
of calm down very easily. So it`s going to be a tough place to find any
kind of a deal.
MADDOW: The only, the only word that we have heard thus far since
this meeting just wrapped a moment ago is that Harry Reid is just saying
there`s been no breakthrough, which presumably means full steam ahead, I`m
getting rid of the rules. If he does change the rules, if 51 Democrats
vote to change the rules tomorrow so they can`t filibuster presidential
nominees anymore -- is that something that could be reversed as easily as
it could be done? Would this start sort of a snowball where all the rules
start changing frequently now?
STANTON: Well, that depends. You know, in the `70s, they changed the
rules sort of this on basis, and it outraged people and outraged senators
enough that they actually went in and essentially erased the history out of
the congressional record, and then changed the rules sort of through the
That does not appear like that that is a likely outcome if they do
change rules. It does create a precedent that Harry Reid could use or
Mitch McConnell if he becomes majority leader to change other rules on
judicial nominations, on legislation. And it also more fundamentally will
really poison the well on everything else. There are hundreds of things
that go on in the Senate every single day that require what they call
unanimous consent where they don`t have to have a vote on it.
Whether it`s to allow committees to meet or decide what time they`re
going to meet the next morning. Republicans can then filibuster all of
those things and they can force 60-vote votes and debate and cloture time
and everything else.
So, even if they change this rule, that doesn`t necessarily mean that
these people are going to get votes quickly. They can come as a lot of
headaches. They can slow things down if they want to. You know, there has
certainly been some talk amongst Republicans about doing that.
MADDOW: John Stanton, Washington bureau chief for "BuzzFeed" raising
the prospect of things getting worse in the Congress -- when that`s really
hard to imagine. I have a feeling we`re about to see it all go.
John, thanks very much. Appreciate it.
STANTON: Any time.
MADDOW: To be clear, in terms of this vote, you`ve heard all of this
rending of garments and upset over the last few years when the Republicans
have been in minority in the Senate, about them requiring 60 votes to do
everything, right? Though the majority is 50 votes, they require 60 votes
to do everything.
What Harry Reid is wants to change the voting thresholds for nominees.
So, not lifetime appointments like judges, not legislation like passing the
DREAM Act or whatever, but specifically for presidential nominees, that`s
what he`s firing at. That`s what the Republicans are saying they will set
themselves on fire effectively if he changes.
This is going to be fascinating to watch over the next 24 hours.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Being the governor of Virginia has its perks. Its legal,
above-board, on the books, "go right ahead, governor, you`re entitled to
these perks" perks.
For example, this 2,000 square foot beach house at Camp Pendleton,
built in Virginia, as a state rifle range in 1912. The overall site has
100 buildings, including classrooms, and barracks, and dining halls, and
maintenance garages and a chapel. But the official gubernatorial beach
cottage, the property you see here, it was built in 1915. It`s owned by
the state of Virginia and it is the official vacation home for the first
family, which if you`re measuring just the perks, might be one reason it
might be better to be a coastal governor than an inland governor if you had
No offense meant to the landlocked.
So, there`s Bob McDonnell is governor of a coastal state that has an
official governor`s beach house. So, as he`s been dealing with the
expanding scandal that surrounds his time as governor, at least this week,
he can take a vacation, a legal vacation with his family for free at
Virginia`s awesome gubernatorial beach cottage -- finally, a getaway for
the governor that even seems legal.
The bad news for Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, of course, is while
that he`s relaxing in a hammock, or playing scrabble, or whatever he does
on vacation, back in not on vacation land in Virginia, he`s being pilloried
by newspapers around the state. It started in earnest last week with one
in "The Washington Post." An editorial that included this blistering shot.
Quote, "Mr. McDonnell`s head spinning hypocrisy stained his reputation and
shredded the bonds of trust that any governor must maintain with the public
if he wishes to be effective and credible."
The editorial slammed Governor McDonnell for touting the virtues of
public sector austerity while his personal life was a counterexample of
profligacy, irresponsibility and entitlement.
"The Post" is talking about the governor`s relationship, of course,
with the CEO of a troubled Virginia company from who he accepted over
$140,000 in cash, plus expensive gifts. He then held a launch party at the
governor`s mansion for a magic tobacco pill made by the CEO`s company. And
he set up meetings for the CEO with Virginia`s health officials. The
governor`s wife also traveled around the country touting the virtues of the
company`s magic pill.
"The Washington Post" has so far come down just shy of asking for bob
McDonnell`s resignation, but they call what he has been up to, quote, "The
state`s most toxic scandal in years." Saying, "The governor may hope to
continue stonewalling and ride out this scandal. If so, he`s piling a
fresh miscalculation atop older misjudgments."
So, that was "The Washington Post." Ow.
You want to hear what 245 sounds like in a Roanoke accent? The
"Roanoke Times" in Virginia is demanding that Governor McDonnell, quote,
"must clear the air. As the water around him gets deeper, Governor
McDonnell cannot wait for a lifeboat to rescue him from a swirling cesspool
Get this. Look at this line. "No amount of Lysol can contain the
stink emanating from capitol square this week and Virginians shouldn`t be
asked to hold their noses any longer. Only lawmakers can clean up the
system and restore public confidence after this season of scandal."
In Charlottesville, Virginia, it`s the "Daily Progress" newspaper
who`s calling the fiasco with the governor now a nightmare. "A nightmare
now being lived out of the state`s highest office." Quote, "Governor
McDonnell is a man under siege. Every day`s another in a seamless stretch
of ethical horrors. He talks the talk of a man of conviction but walks the
walk of one whose inner compass is shattered." That`s "The Daily Progress"
In Richmond, the state capital, it`s the "Times Dispatch" newspaper.
Quote, "The drip, drip, drip of embarrassing stories resembles a flood.
Virginians ask, what`s next?"
Then in the "Staunton, Virginia News Leader", they say they are losing
faith in McDonnell. Quote, "His rising star has fallen with alarming sad
speed. And for what? Has he really become Virginia`s first governor to
endure parallel state and federal investigations just so he can drive big
donor Johnny Williams` Ferrari from Smith Mountain Lake to the executive
mansion, wearing a Williams purchased Rolex and get assistance paying for
his daughter`s weddings a and get loans to pay mortgages he couldn`t cover
If the reporting on the scandal is correct, "The News Leader" says,
quote, "Bob McDonnell`s political career is in shambles because he wants
nice things. This is not the bob McDonnell many of us thought we knew.
Even if McDonnell keeps his office and does not face charges in the end,
any truth in the allegations against him reveals a serious disconnect with
ethical reality. For now at least," they say, "we have lost faith in the
governor. In the end we hope he proves to be more like the man we thought
So this is what Bob McDonnell is missing in his state`s newspapers
while he`s away on his beach vacation right now. It`s even terrible inside
the beltway press where anonymous, quote, "downcast McDonnell allies" are
privately expressing their doubts to politico.com that the governor will be
able to serve out his term.
An unnamed senior Virginia Republican saying this is a, quote,
"colossal fall from grace." There`s disappointment and outrage all around,
right? Browse the Virginia paper editorials any day sometime soon. It
will curl your hair, some of this stuff. Even Larry Sabato, the dean of
Virginia electoral politics, is piling on, saying what McDonnell took while
he was in office is, quote, "unprecedented and not the norm and he
shouldn`t be trying to pass it off as business as usual."
So, A, bob McDonnell`s ears are burning, even if he is at the beach
and using sunscreen. And, B, naturally Virginia is abound right now with
rumors of the next thing that`s going to happen in this case.
Will Bob McDonnell resign? Is he negotiating his exit? Does he even
make it to the end of his vacation? Tick-tock. Watch this space.
MADDOW: It has begun in Virginia. One of the Virginia facilities
that provides abortions to Virginia women has had to shut its doors due to
the state`s TRAP law. The Virginia facility that does more abortions than
any other in the state has become the latest casualty of the trap law
strategy. Before the new anti-abortion TRAP law designed to close clinics,
there were 20 facilities where Virginia women could go for abortion
services. Now there are 19, and of those 19 another 15 are considered to
be in jeopardy of closing as well because of this new Republican-passed
So, in Virginia, which is about 200 miles tall and about 430 miles
wide, this new TRAP law is designed to leave women with access to just four
clinics across the state. The first of 20 has just closed.
In Texas, where Republican state legislators pushed through new
abortion restrictions on Friday, 37 of the 42 facilities providing abortion
services in the state are expected to shut down once Republican Governor
Rick Perry signs the bill into law. The law will require facilities to
retrofit themselves essentially into mini hospitals. Changes designed to
be so expensive that it will be impossible for most of the clinics to stay
Facilities that can pay for all those upgrades in Texas will still
have to clear another hurdle that is designed to be impossible to clear.
All doctors working at clinics that provide abortions will have to have
admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, many of which are increasingly
reluctant to provide those privileges.
A few facilities operating in south Texas on the Rio Grande Valley
near the U.S.-Mexico border, local officials say the restrictions will
create a perfect storm they expect to lead to the closure of all abortion-
providing facilities in that whole huge area of the state. Health care
providers in the Rio Grande Valley are predicting that many of the
thousands of women who seek abortion services there every year will instead
start going to Mexico, to illegally buy an abortion pill to try to figure
out how to personally induce what they`re calling self-abortion.
Those pills are less effective and potentially more dangerous when
taken without medical supervision, of course. Before Texas Republican
passed their new anti-abortion pill, the pills were legal and available
from Texas clinics, along with medical supervision. But now, well.
Republican Governor Rick Perry, who`s about to sign the bill into law,
denies that the new law will force all 37 of 42 clinics to close. But
while Texas waits for his signature, abortion providers in the state are
starting to tell local newspapers that they promise to somehow find a way
to continue providing services to Texas women once the clinic all start
closing. Whether that means, quote, "under the cover of a mesquite tree or
on a shrimp boat or going to Mexico."
In North Carolina last week, Republican state legislators there passed
a bill that`s expected to shut down 15 of the 16 facilities left in the
state. When he was running for office, North Carolina`s Republican
Governor Pat McCrory promised he would not sign any new anti-abortion laws
if he were elected governor. Now, he says, well, he thinks he`d veto the
Senate version of the anti-abortion bill but he`s pretty sure he would sign
the House version -- despite the promise that he would sign no bills
restricting access to abortion.
Today, though, is Monday. Monday in North Carolina is protest day,
where hundreds come out to protest the Republican legislature`s policy
agenda. And today, protesters in North Carolina demanded that Governor
McCrory veto either of the new anti-abortion bills expected to close 15 of
the 16 clinics in the state. With the vast majority of the state`s
abortion facilities on the line, the stakes are high and rising.
Now, it is time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL."
Thanks for being with us tonight.
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