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'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

Read the transcript to the Wednesday show

March 19, 2014

Guests: Robert Hager, Daniel Rose, David Rohde, Alec Macgillis; John Nichols; Liz Plank

ARI MELBER, GUEST HOST: The FBI is on the case of the missing plane,
Russian troops are near the Ukrainian border and President Obama is on
offense as ACA heads towards that final buzzer.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are 12 days in and there has not even been a
sign of this plane.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So little to go on.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Investigators are also still unsure who
programmed the turn west.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The plane`s westward turn away from Beijing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s preprogrammed in the cockpit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Before the last automated data burst, before the
co-pilot`s final verbal transmission.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bottom line, that means the turn was

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who programmed it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now, the focus of the investigation is the

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So little to go on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Someone recently deleted a file from the pilot`s
home flight simulator.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This raises all kinds of red flags.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The FBI is assisting in the analysis.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is really no such thing as a deleted file.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Forensic work to retrieve this data is ongoing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Time is running out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Heart-wrenching scene this morning in Malaysia.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To find the black boxes and the answers those
families are demanding.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Furious relatives accused Malaysian authorities
of withholding information.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The lack of clear answers is taking an obvious
emotional toll.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Frustration has turned to fury.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Please help me bring my son
back. I just want to see my son.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lack of evidence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Plenty of rumors out there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of crazy theories.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The facts are sparse.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nothing really adds up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot that we have left to learn.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Complete mystery at this point.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A mammoth unprecedented dilemma in aviation


MELBER: Good evening to you. I am Ari Melber, in for Lawrence

The president of the United States is pledging to devote every
resource possible to help solve the mystery of Malaysia Airlines Flight


resource that we have available at the disposal of the search process.
There`s been close cooperation with the Malaysian government. And so, not
just NTSB, but FBI, you know, anybody who typically deals with anything
related to our aviation system is available.


MELBER: U.S. officials are also taking on a greater role in the
investigation. After failing to find anything on the computers and flight
simulator on the pilot and co-pilot`s homes, Malaysia police have turned
that over to FBI. One is hoping FBI forensic technology may be able to
retrieve deleted data from the pilot`s flight simulator. We know some data
was deleted on February 3rd and investigators don`t know who deleted or why
or if it could provide any clues.

Meanwhile, officials from Thailand, Japan, India, Indonesia and South
Korea are now saying Malaysian officials aren`t doing enough to organize
this search. A common concern is that some ships and aircraft are stuck
waiting for instructions instead of searching.

Authorities are also weighing in on the details of the flight path.
12:41 a.m., it should have been still on course and bound for Beijing.
Forty minutes later, the plane transponder loses contact. NBC News can
report the preprogrammed turn taken to the west was likely a smooth 20
degrees turn, not a sharp U-turn as some thought. Federal sources also
tell us they don`t believe the plane claimed to 40,000 feet and then fell
back down.

Officials say satellite data indicating that altitude change was
unreliable. Today, the search area also became somewhat more focused.
Officials had said the plane`s last location was the South China Sea.
Malaysia`s military spotted it on radar headed into the Andaman Sea. And
now data shows it was heading south over the Indian Ocean.

Now, that is where Australian authorities are looking. Today, they
narrowed the search area down even a little bit further.

Here`s a look at the search site off Perth, Australia. And here`s
exactly where the priority zone is designed by experts at least from
Australia, Indonesia and the U.S. That is smaller than before. You can
see the difference here in size. It`s about 177,000 square miles, roughly
the size of Colorado.

Again today, however, for family members of the missing, this ongoing
mystery led emotions to understandably boil over in Kuala Lumpur.
Relatives were begging the officials and even the media for any kind of

One woman says her son was on the flight and had to be carried away
from reporters by Malaysian officials.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Please help me bring my son
back. I just want to see my son. So many days have passed and nobody from
the government has come to see me.



MELBER: A very tough and difficult scene there.

For more, we`re going to bring in CNBC senior correspondent Eunice
Yoon. She joins us live from Beijing.

Tell us, you know, for our viewers here, they`re looking at you.
Tomorrow morning in Beijing, what is in the morning papers? And what are
you learning?

EUNICE YOON, CNBC SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we`re learning is
that the Malaysian defense minister did acknowledge that emotions are
running high for the families and he said his government was going to be
sending a high level delegation of officials from civil aviation, from the
air force, as well as other diplomats to help debrief some of the families

Now, the main issue the families here in Beijing as well as in Kuala
Lumpur have had is that they feel that the Malaysians haven`t been
forthcoming enough with information. Some have even been suggesting that
the Malaysians have been purposefully obfuscating. And that was the tone
of the briefing that we had yesterday, which actually stretched out into an
hour and a half, because families kept challenging the authorities and
demanding answers to their questions.

Some of them now have said they`re going to be organizing a committee
with representatives of up to 30 people in order to try to really negotiate
with the Malaysians and to speak with one unified voice -- Ari.

MELBER: All right. Eunice Yoon, live in Beijing, thank you so much.
And stay safe out there.

Now, for more on the investigation here, let`s bring in Daniel Rose, a
military-trained pilot and aviation attorney, and a partner at Kreindler &
Kreindler, and Robert Hager, retired NBC News aviation correspondent, who
is back with us.

Welcome to you both, gentlemen.



MELBER: Good evening.

Robert, I want to start with you. First of all, when we have this
sort of clock, ticking clock situation here, specifically authorities
saying that the batteries that are in this underwater pingers could run out
in, say, 19 days. That`s just an estimate.

But as you`ve discussed, some of these things sometimes are resolved
sooner. Now, we see that is a real hard deadline.

HAGER: Oh, yes. Sometimes the pinger will last a little longer, too.
Sometimes it goes maybe six or seven days beyond that. And there have been
cases where, you know, they found the black boxes long after the pingers
had run out.

So, in that Air France accident, which was five years ago, it took two
years to find the -- to really locate the flight data recorders, but they
got them up, and from very deep, from 2 1/2 miles down. So, there have
been other cases.

They found a little cargo door off Honolulu. A key -- they were
looking for it, because it caused the accident, and they searched for
almost -- they found it three miles down. And it took them a year and a
half to find it.

But that`s very unusual. I sense they`re not going to find this.

MELBER: Well, right. This is one piece of a larger puzzle.
Obviously anything they could find with or without data, Daniel, would be

And yet at the same time, when we report that they`re looking at some
of the deleted data that forensic specialists can sometimes still extract,
which everyone knows at home, you think something is deleted, it`s not
always deleted. But in all seriousness, Daniel, is that going to yield
anything in your experience with these kinds of investigations?

ROHDE: You know, I wouldn`t bet the investigation on just retrieving
some deleted files. Of course, it could be a gold mine. But, you know, it
strikes me as odd that he would have the computer in the wide open space in
his own house if he was that deliberate and that scheming about it. Why
not have it somewhere in a man cave or something like that.

MELBER: To the point that the co-pilot having the simulator having
the simulator may not be a big deal.

ROHDE: Right. And I think that`s really the problem with the
deliberate-type motives. You don`t see the end game. You don`t see a
suicide note. You don`t see a collaboration with any kind of terrorist
organization. You don`t see any terrorist organization taking credit.

So, even though the timeline may be trending towards a deliberate type
of act, once you get to the end game, you`re left kind of empty because
there`s nobody taking credit for it.

So I think you really have to go back and take another look at the
systems and a malfunction possibility.

MELBER: Right. And that`s both the frustration and the fascination
in a search like this. And then you have the different governments trying
to weigh in. We played some of that sound, of course, from the president.

Robert, I want you to listen also what Jay Carney said here. Each day
he is being pressed by the White House press corps on this. And he said,
look, I don`t have a lot to offer you. He mentioned the FBI is involved.

Take a listen.


investigation. The NTSB and the FAA are the primary interlocutors with the
Malaysian government. But the FBI is also assisting in the investigation.
We are working closely with the Malaysians and the other international
partners in this effort to find out what happened to the plane and why it

But I have no update on the course of the investigation. It remains
the case that we are not yet in position to draw conclusions to what


MELBER: Behind the scenes, we know that the FBI and the other folks
working on this are increasingly frustrated with the level of cooperation,
the level of engagement they can get into on the ground here.

HAGER: Yes, I think it`s getting somewhat better, at least the
cooperation. And that`s -- I mean, the poster child is this deal where the
FBI is going to look at those computer drives. But on the other hand, I
mean, there could be all the cooperation in the world, and if you haven`t
got anything to work with, there`s nothing for the U.S. experts to get
their fingers into.

MELBER: Right.

HAGER: So, that`s the frustration.

MELBER: And, Daniel, you know how it is, having worked with some of
these past investigations and the litigation that comes about. And the
family frustrations and one of the things that happens is people do seize
on any shred of a rumor. And sometimes on what we commonly call conspiracy

You your thoughts on one of them, I want to mention, which was the
idea that somehow the plane could have been remotely hacked. I want to put
up what NBC -- cybersecurity experts said that was, quote, "extremely,
extremely farfetched, knowing what we know about airplane, it`s very

Your thoughts?

ROHDE: Yes. I think that`s pretty much accepted in the industry. I
mean, it`s interesting that Boeing came out actually last year with what`s
called a service bulletin, a warning to operators that hacking could occur
onboard, but it, you know, it would at worst be limited to something like
the flight management computer, which ultimately can be overridden by the

If a flight crew sees the plane is doing something completely out of
the ordinary, then they would just take over the aircraft.

MELBER: Right. And it`s almost -- when I hear about it, to some
degree, the discussion or interest in hacking or one sort of silver bullet
explanation goes more to part of the human psychology of this, which is
people want a reason. If there`s some simple or external reason, that
somehow feels more satisfying than what we have on our hands, which
obviously is a pretty complicated mystery still at this point and still has
families and many others are concerned about it.

Robert Hager and Daniel Rose, thank you very much for your time

HAGER: My pleasure.

MELBER: Appreciate it.

Coming up, what President Obama had to say about military action in
Ukraine, another big story.

And also ahead, a Republican has now decided to tell some of the truth
about his party`s hunt for nonexistent voter fraud.

And then, we take a closer look at the relationship between Chris
Christie and Port Authority chairman David Samson.

Stay with us.



acted out of weakness, not out of strength. The Ukrainian people said we
had enough corruption. We want a different path. They`re on course for
elections. And Mr. Putin decided that he didn`t want Ukrainians to make
their own decisions about their own future.


MELBER: President Obama answering a question there about military
action over the crisis in Ukraine. That was today with the NBC station in
San Diego.

And Vice President Joe Biden meanwhile met with Eastern European
allies and he called Vladimir Putin`s actions in Crimea and Ukraine a dark
path. That`s next.


MELBER: Russian troops came and asked us to leave, which we did.
That is what a Ukrainian naval officer said after an incident today when
suspected Russian special ops forces -- these were masked Russian speaking
troops, dressed mostly in black -- well, they seized Ukrainian military
bases in Crimea. Russian troops continue to mass along the eastern border
of Ukraine.

Tonight, as NBC News reports, it is the kind of build-up that has made
the region tense, which is one reason why Vice President Biden invoked
NATO`s founding purpose, collective defense in Lithuania today.


clear. We stand resolutely with our Baltic allies in support of Ukrainian
people and against Russian aggression. As long as Russia continues on this
dark path, they will face increasing political and economic isolation.

President Obama wanted me to come personally to make it clear which
you already know, under Article 5 of the NATO Treaty, we will respond. We
will respond against any aggression of a NATO ally.


MELBER: Lithuania is, of course, a member of NATO, Ukraine is not.

Yet while Biden referred a united defense for those NATO countries,
today, President Obama made explicit what has always been implicit here.
The U.S. isn`t going to use force to depend Ukraine, period.


INTERVIEWER: Is a military option on the table?

OBAMA: No. Look, obviously, you know, we do not need to trigger an
actual war with Russia. The Ukrainians don`t want that. Nobody would want

But what we can do is stand up for principle, stand by the Ukrainian
people. One of the most important things we can do right now is have
Congress pass a piece of legislation that`s working its way through the
Senate and the House that would allow us to give some critical aid and
assistance to Ukraine right now, at a time when they have an economic
crisis to go along with this political crisis.


MELBER: Joining me now, "The Atlantic`s" Steve Clemons and "Reuters`"
David Rohde.

Welcome to you both.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s good to be with you.

MELBER: Steve, let`s start with a context here. There was a time
period not all that time ago. There was a lot of articles written about
NATO`s irrelevance. It doesn`t feel irrelevant today.

STEVE CLEMONS, THE ATLANTIC: Well, it may not irrelevant, but it`s
sort of interesting that NATO seems to be able to get its act together and
acting in far out of area operations that are far from the borders there,
but something that`s right next to Russia and right on its borders is much
more complicated for them.

When Joe Biden is out there basically trying to calm the jitters, even
among NATO member nations because there`s just, you know, a real concern
that swept the region that the Russian bear is on the prowl, and it`s not
certain where that appetite stops and starts, that NATO coming together and
the use of military force is something that people wonder whether the
United States will really be there or not.

MELBER: Right. And, David, take a thereon a little bit more sound to
President Obama today on this. Take a listen.


OBAMA: We are not going to be getting into a military excursion in
Ukraine. Might doesn`t make right. And we are going to continue to
ratchet up the pressure on Russia as it continues down its current course.
There`s a better path, but I think even the Ukrainians would acknowledge
that for us to engage Russia militarily would not be appropriate and
wouldn`t be good for Ukraine either.


MELBER: What is the foreign policy strategy here? Because we`ve
heard more assertive talk from this president earlier in this crisis.

DAVID ROHDE, REUTERS: From the beginning the administration has been
trying to have an off-ramp for Putin to kind of deescalate and end this
crisis. But it isn`t really happening.

I spoke to a senior American official in Ukraine yesterday, and I said
what do you think is going to happen next? Do you think he would possibly
move into eastern Ukraine? Would Putin go in there? And he said, I`m not
making any predictions at this point.

So clearly the president is trying to deescalate things and at the
same time, you know, the vice president is trying to assure NATO allies. A
key difference here is that Ukraine is not part of NATO.

MELBER: Right.

ROHDE: That`s why the president is saying this.

But what if he does something in Lithuania? What if he does provoke
NATO? And there is an agreement under many treaties and the core of the
alliance is defending each other.

MELBER: Yes. I mean, Steve, walk us through that. Because again,
people feel like well, there`s a lot of talk, there`s a lot of bluster,
there`s an American sort of political critique of the president that he
should bluster or talk even tougher -- whatever that means -- very little
if you`re not going to back it up.

CLEMONS: This is very complicated. I have been arguing for some time
that Vladimir Putin is in a way seen by some inside Russia, and maybe he
sees himself this way as sort of the Ronald Reagan in Russia. Meaning,
somebody who`s coming, it`s morning in Moscow, we`re ascendant, we`ve got
money and power, we deserve respect. The recognition of Kosovo and the way
the United States did it was humiliating, and we`re going to go back and
show that we`re able to dictate, not just follow the dictates of the United
States and the West, but do something very differently.

So, the domestic political dimensions of what Putin is doing are very,
very important to understand.

Secondly, we didn`t -- there was not a path way for inclusion
eventually of Russia into NATO, which meant at the time that decision was
made, Russia was a basket case.

Today, Russia has power. It has money and resources and it has an
appetite to do things differently. That meant eventually, we were going to
have to confront its aspirations particularly regionally.

If you`re a NATO member, you`re sitting pretty well. That`s what Joe
Biden is saying today. If you`re not in NATO, you may face the fact that
we may sanction individuals around Putin, we may try to ratchet up the
pressure, but those states could be in trouble because if you`re not
willing to go beyond that level and the president just made it very clear
he`s not, you`re using other sort of browbeating mechanisms and potentially
financial mechanisms, but you`re not really within the alliance.

Putin`s game may be to just continue to embarrass the West and to try
to make us look impotent. And that`s disastrous because there`s lots of
opportunity for mistake.

MELBER: So, but, David, on that point, one argument would be that an
inept or at least overly assertive rhetorical U.S. policy has made us a
hand maiden in that embarrassment. That if you want to have a realist sort
of Scowcroft or Kissinger approach here, what you say is, here are my
lines, and what you do over here, particular an area that basically used to
be yours, was part of your country, and Khrushchev gave it back.

There`s been some complexity there, but this is not exactly undisputed
turf, so to speak, that we should have had a clearer line elsewhere and let
them do what they`re going to do.

ROHDE: Well, but this is a problem. I think there really hasn`t been
a real clear American strategy since the collapse of the Soviet Union in
1991 and since Putin`s rise in 2000. George W. Bush was expanding NATO.
He wanted Ukraine and Georgia to be part of NATO. Obama sort of stepped
back from that.

In terms of the rhetoric, they`re trying not to bait Putin. You know,
he`s playing the nationalists at home and so, you don`t want to provoke him
and sort of force him to go into Ukraine. But you do need to, I hate to
say it, and the president`s trying to avoid it, you know, have a red line.

You know, Biden is saying the red line is NATO members. And so, this
is the trap. And it`s very difficult to know how to respond to Putin, how
do you look tough enough but not weak at the same time.

MELBER: Well, and that goes to whether you care about treaties and
commitments at all. If NATO is the red line in this context, it`s only the
floor, because to go beneath that would really be destabilizing, right? I
mean, the whole discussion about who should be in it goes to whether you
want to have a collective defense.

I think the more realist part of the American foreign policy, you saw
in Syria, with the lack of appetite is people would say, I`m glad Ukraine
is not in NATO because we wouldn`t want to be having that fight right now.
I think the Obama administration would say on the other hand if you have a
strong NATO, maybe they wouldn`t be in Crimea in the first place. That`s
why I think this is a hard one to judge.

We are out of time, but we will I think be talking about this again.

Steve Clemons and David Rohde, thank you, gentlemen.

CLEMONS: Thank you.

ROHDE: Thank you.

MELBER: Coming up, we have a Republican who is finally telling the
truth about rampant voter fraud.

But, first, why the relationship between Chris Christie and David
Samson may be a bigger problem for Chris Christie than he realized?



RADIO HOST: Do you still stand by Samson as your appointee?

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Strongly, firmly.


MELBER: That was Governor Chris Christie last month, backing up the
man he chose to chair the port authority, David Samson.

In the spotlight tonight, team Christie and the problems at the Port
Authority. Today in Jersey City, protesters lined up outside a Port
Authority board meeting demanding that David Samson resign. He remains one
of the most powerful players in New Jersey politics and when you think
about it, New Jersey business.

That is because despite all of the controversy, he still heads up an
agency with an $8.2 billion budget. That`s real money. The Port Authority
spends more cash than many entire states, more than Maine and New Mexico
and Vermont.

But Samson is less accountable than most governors in charge of those
kind of budgets. And as the NBC affiliate WNYC reported today, he simply
just decided to bow out of this board meeting.


REPORTER: The focus this day was on Chairman David Samson, a Christie
appointee, who after months of conflict of interest allegations, did
something publicly no one could remember in this agency.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will now excuse myself, not join in today`s
public discussion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: After verbally announcing conflict,
Samson then proceed to leave the room, missing the entire meeting.


MELBER: Federal prosecutors have subpoenaed the port authority for
records on David Samson. And as "the New York Times" reported, they are
seeking contracts on two bridge projects worth $2.8 billion that he voted
to award to construction companies with some ties to his law firm. The
interest in Mr. Samson, a close political ally of Mr. Christie represents a
significant widening of the bridge scandal the "Times" reported. Samson`s
notable connections don`t end there.

Hoboken mayor, Dawn Zimmer, charged in January the Christie
administration told her to approve a project linked to Samson`s law firm if
she wanted to receive hurricane Sandy relief money. You may remember that
because MSNBC`s Steve Kornacki was the first to report it.

If Samson does end up resigning, he would be the third Christie
appointee to do so. Following the lead of David Wildstein and Bill Baroni.

Joining us now to talk about all of this is Alec Macgillis, staff
writer for the "New Republic." Welcome.


MELBER: You covered this story a lot, David Samson, why is he so
important and how is he lasting?

MACGILLIS: I don`t know how he`s lasting. It`s really remarkable. I
mean, we now know that he`s got these federal subpoenas looking into his
activities. You`ve got this executive director of the port authority who
is appointed by New York saying that Samson no longer has the quote "moral
authority to be the chairman." It is remarkable that he still there.

The reason that it is so significant that is now brought endowed to
him is that he is a very, very close confidant of governor Christie. And
it`s really suggest that the investigation in to what started as Bridgegate
is going much broader now into this whole kind of culture of
transactionalism (ph), you could call it, around the port authority and the
governor`s office.

MELBER: Right. And as I mentioned here in the lead, it really cannot
be overstated. This is a budget, it is larger than some entire states`
annual spending. This is a hugely powerful thing here, this port authority
and the bridges and airports that it deals with.

And look, despite recuesing himself from today`s meeting, I want to
mention "the New York times" editorial board pointed out that when it came
to contracts connected to these kind of clients, Samson lobbied hard for
the boards to choose them. Like gangbusters, they wrote, one source said.
And he didn`t recues himself from those discussions or vote and commented
afterward that the occasion was joyous and happy.

I should mention loyal "last word" viewers will remember Lawrence
O`Donnell saying that that kind of joy and happiness is something only
lobbyists can really relate to. The idea of both having a personal
financial stake in it, getting that payback, and then basically misleading,
or at least not being straight with these own colleagues he`s on the board
with and then today, we see a different tact when he steps out. How do you
square that?

MACGILLIS: Boy, it`s very hard to square. The episode I found most
interesting was actually not mentioned in that very good recent "Times"
story was something that goes back to the Hoboken situation where the port
authority paid for a study into how Hoboken should develop these parcells
of -- these very key parcells of land in Hoboken.

Lo and behold, the study came back and said that these parcells that
should be developed are the ones that were owned by the Rockefeller
development company, which is a client of David Samson at his big private
practice. I mean, the overlap is just very, very blatant.

MELBER: It`s blatant and when you look again at the kind of money on
the table, it`s remarkable that you have a state here that allows people to
basically keep their full-time job doing all this other stuff when it
represents both specific and kind of just an entire situational conflict of
interest. Let me ask you, why don`t you think more people in New Jersey,
in politics, separate from these investigations have made reforming this a
central part of their pressure on Chris Christie right now.

MACGILLIS: That`s a very good question. I mean, so much of this
really does revolve around the port authority. It`s the port authority
that, of course, closed those lanes to begin with. I think part of it is
just that we -- it`s such a vast body that`s gotten -- that has so little
transparency, it overlaps between the two states. So, you don`t really
focus on it. You don`t vote for people on it.

One -- I also want to point out -- bring this back to Christie. And
the reason I think this is so crucial, the Samson link is so crucial, is
that they have a very interesting history together. David Samson is one of
the six people who got a very lucrative contract from U.S. attorney Chris
Christie back in 2007. Chris Christie had brought a case against a bunch
of medical device companies for fraudulent billing. Instead of prosecuting
them, they agreed to pay a huge fine and to accept a monitor.

MELBER: Right.

MACGILLIS: Someone who is going to come watch them. One of the six
contracts to monitor this companies is contracts from very lucrative. This
one was $10 million. That went to David Samson. So Chris Christie,
already at that point, before he was governor, was building this very close
bond with David Samson through this very lucrative contract.

MELBER: Yes. It`s a close link and one you mentioned has a lot of
money behind it. I should mention in fairness to Mr. Samson, he is a
former attorney general of the state, and that is a common practice to give
monitoring awards. But I think the larger context you raise, as we`ve been
discussing is really how much money was swirling and without the
transparency and accountability.

Alec Macgillis of the "New Republic," thanks for your time tonight.

MACGILLIS: Thank you.

MELBER: And coming up, a Republican finally tells the truth about his
party and voter fraud. Stay with us.


MELBER: It`s hard to market public policy to millennials, just ask
pajama boy. That`s not only because young people tend to vote less than
older Americans which is always been true. But today young people consume
media pretty differently than everybody else and they`re skeptical of
phonies. If you want to make a political ad for young people, it better be
savvy and authentic.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I shouldn`t have to check my bank account before I
fill up my car but so much of my paycheck ends up going to gas and we
haven`t even talked about my heating bill at home. So when it comes to
energy policy for this country, I`m for everything, solar, wind, shale gas,
oil, whatever.


MELBER: He was going to say he`s what? He is a shale gas salesman?
Is he an energy activist? Is he a green hedge libertarian? I`m going to
tell you what he is, that is coming up.

But first, we have an important report on a Republican politician in
the heartland who has had enough that is calling out his colleagues for
hyping nonexistent voter fraud and trying to stop people from voting.


MELBER: Wisconsin residents are waiting to see if a new GOP plan to
curb voting access will actually become law. Although in a twist tonight,
one Republican is speaking out against it. Last week, the Wisconsin Senate
passed a bill to crack down on early morning hours. It passed by one vote
with all Democrats opposed. The house there is expected to send it to
governor Scott Walker, the state`s Republican leader.

Wisconsin is also a state where the GOP passed a controversial voter
id law, which is facing some legal challenges. One Republican lawmaker who
backed that bill says he`s finally had enough. The State Senator Dale
Schultz was the only Republican to vote with Democrats against a new
restriction on early voting.

And that`s not all. In a new interview with the progressive Madison
radio show, he basically sounded exhausted with the fact-free anti-voting
agenda taking hold of so many parts of the GOP.


STATE REP. DALE SCHULTZ (R), WISCONSIN: I don`t see how you can claim
to be improving things by actually reducing hour, as illogical as that
sounds. I`m not willing to defend them anymore. I`m just not and I am
embarrassed by this. I just see it as plain wrong. It is all predicated
on some belief that there is massive fraud irregularities, something my
colleagues have been hot on the trail of for the last three years and have
failed miserably at demonstrates.


MELBER: Schultz is right about the facts on that failure. The
branding center at NYU law school found that in one Wisconsin election in
2004, there were only seven instances of voter fraud out of three million
votes. Schultz is retiring this year and that means the failure is also
partly his. A failure to speak out when it might have threatened his job.

Joining us now is Wisconsin resident and correspondent for "the
Nation" John Nichols.

I know that Wisconsin resident is one of the highest titles you could


MELBER: You know this senator. Tell us about him.

NICHOLS: Well dale Schultz is pretty remarkable guy. He`s more than
30 years in the Senate. And he`s always been a Republican, a pretty
conservative Republican. He was the leader of the Senate briefly. And
he`s not a guy who picks fights. In fact, he comes slow to them.

MELBER: It`s interesting, you were saying there for a moment that,
you know, he should have spoken out sooner.

NICHOLS: The truth of the matter is I think he`s, like, a lot of
conservative Republicans, right up to judge Richard Posner who recently
wrote a book. He was the U.S. federal court of appeals judge who wrote one
of the key rulings on voter ID. Last year he put a book out and he said,
you know, boy increasingly, it`s starting to look like these laws are more
about suppression than about dealing with fraud.

MELBER: You mentioned that. Let me read because we pulled that and
it`s very much relevant. Judge Posner said that even though he riled for,
basically upholding the constitutionality voter ID in Indiana case, he then
wrote it`s now clear some photo ID requirements are more of a quote "means
of voter suppression rather than a fraud prevention."

A conservative Reagan appointee, as you mentioned, John, and he
basically was led here by what he considered the overwhelming evidence of
the lack of any voter fraud.

NICHOLS: Well, I think that`s what`s happening with Dale Schultz.
And for Schultz it`s a fascinating thing. I think it`s important to
understand, there`s a legislator like this in just about every state. An
old school mainstream Republican who`s stuck with the party through a lot
of changes. And increasingly, you find them brisling at these sessions
like just what happened in Wisconsin where week after week, they were in
there passing draconian laws and people were literally standing up saying
this doesn`t make any sense and being rolled right over.

Shultz, I think, you`ve seen him on a number of issues start to stay,
this just doesn`t make sense. And remember, he represents a rural
constituency. One of the things they try to do on this -- the early voting
change that they did to collapse the number of hours available was to try
and pit rural versus urban.

MELBER: Right.

NICHOLS: And I think that Schultz actually found that very
discomforting because the fact of the matter is if you know rural folks,
there`s a lot of rural folks who get up before dawn to work on a farm and
are out there late at night. They could use a little early voting and late
as well.

MELBER: And the crackdown is reminiscent to what we` seen in places
like North Carolina. Do you think it is worse than the voter ID rules?

NICHOLS: I think it can be. Look, here`s the thing. On voter ID,
you know usually well in advance and you can start to organize around it.
When you collapse the early voting laws, effectively what you`re doing is
saying to somebody who`s got to get their kids off to school in the
morning, work all day maybe into the evening that you can`t vote on the

Well, that`s really taking away a lot of opportunity. And one this
that is very important here is there are communities that have traditions
of organizing for voting on the weekend.


NICHOLS: And so, there is awful lot of people who see this as a
targeted assault on particular communities.

MELBER: Yes. That`s a very good point. Appreciate the Wisconsin
wisdom as always.

John Nichols of "the Nation," thank you very much.

Meanwhile, President Obama made his bracket for the final four. And
he found a way to use March madness to implore young men to meet that big
Obamacare deadline. We have Ezra Klein and Liz Plank to talk turkey.
That`s next.



ELLEN DEGENERES, TV HOST: Michelle`s husband, are you there?


DEGENERES: Mr. President, Michelle said she`s out of town and she
wanted to know, did you make your bed this morning?

OBAMA: That would be no.


OBAMA: And, you know, when she is out of town, things get a little
slovenly around the house. Socks everywhere, shoes.


MELBER: President Obama will be on the Ellen show tomorrow, trying to
pitch Obamacare to young people before the big deadline hits. That`s next.
And we`re going to tell you about this guy.


MELBER: For basketball fans, March means madness and talking trash
about your bracket pick. Over at the White House, this March is all about
a different kind of offense taking a few final shots before the buzzer for
the deadline to enroll in the affordable care act.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because I work part time, the company I work for,
they don`t offer insurance. I`m healthy, but you never know what could
happen. The insurance allows me to have that safety net just in case I
were to hurt myself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello, basketball fans. I`m Roy Williams (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) here. We know what you are up to
right now. You`re filling out your brackets and getting ready to watch
nonstop basketball madness.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But we`ve got a different bracket we want you to
check out. It`s got the sweet 16 reasons you --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You should sign up for health insurance. Go to --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: /ACA bracket to vote and share it with your
friends today.


MELBER: Now? As part of this campaign today, President Obama also
released his picks for the NCAA tournament. And with 12 days to go until
the enrollment deadline, the administration is hoping young basketball fans
will crossover to its health care site and drive up the number of young
adult enrollees which right now sits at about 27 percent.

Joining me now is MSNBC policy analyst Ezra Klein who is building new
news site at Vox media and Liz Plank, executive social editor of a policy
mic (ph), a policy site, partly by and for millennials. Welcome to you



MELBER: Liz, let`s start with the politics and the outreach here from
between Two Ferns which got a lot of attention, a comedy site to what we
just showed. This obviously is a somewhat untraditional but very thought
out strategy to sort of meet young people where they are.

PLANK: Exactly. And I think if you want to know if this strategy is
really working, you should ask whoever was monitoring the numbers at the Web site the day President Obama appeared on Between Two
Ferns. I mean, it was insane. The traffic increased by 40 percent. The
social media referrals were by the millions. This is really unheard of.
This is really incredible.

And so, for him to go on "the Ellen Show" tomorrow. And you know, you
can think about what a five minute appearance on Between Two Ferns has
done. What a five-minute appearance on "the Ellen Show" can do. Clearly,
his strategies working really well with the demographic he`s working with.

MELBER: Right. And he`s clearly trying to reach people who aren`t
necessarily political junkies or even voters, but people that they want to
bring in to this program in some way.

Ezra, I want to go out to you and there people have been buzzing about
your site Vox. You actually have an explainer on the individual mandate
which is no surprise. let`s first take a look at a piece of that.


KLEIN: Starting this year, anyone who doesn`t have insurance for
longer than three months has to pay at least $95 or one percent of modified
adjusted gross income. That`s your income minus self tax deductions. You
can calculate it online. (INAUDIBLE) for short. The penalty is even
stiffer next year. So imagine your family may choose $80,000. If you go
without health insurance this year, it`s $800 through the government. Next
year, it`s $1,600. And the year after that, $2,000.

Now that`s less money than health insurance will usually cost you, but
you don`t get anything with that money. You don`t get to get to see a
doctor. You don`t get your hospital bills covered. And so people, even
young and healthy ones tend to buy insurance rather than paying the


MELBER: And so Ezra, part of the point that comes through there is
obviously there`s a stick later, but this week and this month we`re still
hearing all about the carrots, right? Walk us through the strategy.

KLEIN: Right. So I mean, this has been a tension in the
administration`s plan. They don`t want to talk too much about the
individual mandate because it is incredibly unpopular. But in the past, we
saw this in Massachusetts, but we also saw it in Medicare Part D where
there was a different kind of penalty.

What tends to make the younger and healthier folks sign up is not the
carrot but ultimately the stick. So, one thing the administration has to
kind of come to some sort of resolution on is how much to actually
emphasize the fact if you don`t sign up for health insurance by the end of
this month barring some -- a couple of hardship exemptions, you are going
to pay a penalty on your taxes this year. And it`s not a month from now or
two months, you can actually just sign up then and dodge the penalty
because we end the open enrollment. We end the sign up period for this
year on March 31st.

So, it`s a really, I think, fascinating question whether they`re ever
going to seriously emphasize a mandate or whether they`re kind of expecting
that media and word of mouth and other sort of communications outlets are
going to basically end up doing it on their behalf.

MELBER: Yes. I think that`s a great point. And it goes to the part
of this. That is always the most controversial, right, which is something
that conservatives, Liz, will often call social engineering. And that`s
part of this. It is not only the fine, it is also trying to socially
engineer even stigmatize what it would mean if you don`t comply with the
law. Although, this is tricky. And as Ezra mention, this is not pipe (ph)
for everywhere.

The Republicans are in on this youth conversation as well. I know you
wrote about this. Let`s take a look at a Republican ad that I can`t get
enough of of young people talking about their conservatism here.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I vote for an all of the above emergency policy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m a Republican.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m a Republican.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I believe in opportunity for all. And I am a


MELBER: This is part of a whole new series of ads Republicans are
doing. And that is great, they want to talk to young people. It feels a
little defensive to me, I don`t know.

PLANK: Ari, I tried really hard to find of the worst way to target a
young demographic, and I really can`t. This reads more as a parody than
anything else. Anyone that I`ve spoken to is sort of the part of the
demographic that they are trying to reach thinks it`s either really funny
or totally offensive.

We are not -- millenials are not all sort of whiny and apathetic about
really important issues. If you look at a lot of videos, you know, sort of
talking about how we don`t really care about the environment. We don`t
really care where the oil or where it comes from, about fracking, about the
social safety net or how much we tax corporation. These are issues that
actually are very important to us. Millennials are a very cause-driven
demographic and to target us with so much apathy is counterintuitive to us.

MELBER: Yes. And Ezra, I want to bring you in here. Some people
notice and I hope you don`t mind me saying this. But you, like me and Liz,
are somewhat young. So you`re a target of this republican ad.

KLEIN: I can`t believe you`re getting so personal, Ari.

MELBER: So, what do you think of this kind of ad and stitch it
together, if you will, with some aspects of the ACA. Because Democrats
have been arguing that one of the many parts of the plan that works for
millennials, of course, is staying on their parents` plan when they are
under 26 which effects about three million, give or take.

KLEIN: Yes. I was like this one are completely meaningless. This is
a web ad. Nobody ends up deciding their politic based on a web ad and they
don`t decide politics based on extremely bad web ads either.

The fight here, and the thing that Republicans have wanted to try to
benefit from is that there are tensions in the ACA around young people. On
the one hand, young people benefit more than any other group from the ACA
subsidy and this is very simple reason.

More young people are poor than any other age group, right? They have
jobs that are at lower level. They very rarely, compared to other age
groups, have health insurance. So young people have a lot more benefit
from the ACA.

At the same time, because the ACA and Obamacare limits the amount of
the discrimination, they can be done against older and sicker people.
Younger folks making more money and who are potentially getting health
insurance are often seeing their insurance premiums go up. So you got a
bunch of young people who are being helped dramatically and then some who
are being hurt by it.

MELBER: Right. And Ezra, they`re a blank slate on a lot of these
issues. So they are going to make up their minds with how it goes.

Ezra Klein and Liz Plank, we are out of time. thank you both for
joining me.

I`m Air Melber. I have been in for Lawrence O`Donnell. You can find
me on facebook which is where young people are,

"All right, In" with Chris Hayes up next.


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