THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
July 28, 2014
Guest: David Nakamura, Rosalind Helderman
CHRIS HAYES, "ALL IN" HOST: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: That was the best on-set debate I have
seen on cable news for a really, really long time. That was awesome.
HAYES: Thanks very much.
MADDOW: Well done, good guests, good host. That was great.
All right. Thanks to you at home as well for joining us for the next
If you or someone know drives a Jeep, especially if it`s a fancy new
model Jeep Cherokee, the ones with the sort of fierce buck tooth front end
that I really like -- there`s a pretty good chance if you know somebody who
owns one of these sweet new Jeep Cherokees, there`s a good chance it was
built here, at the Toledo assembly complex, which is on Chrysler Drive in
This plant is more than 300 acres. That campus is 300 acres. The
floor space is more than 3.5 million square feet.
But you know what? If all of the things that you know and believe in
the world are things you know and believe because you saw them in American
political ads, that plant should not exist.
That plant does exist. It`s doing great. They`re making Jeep
Cherokees at that plant right now this very second. They`re making so many
of them, they`re operating even with a third shift. So, they`re making
them at night, they`re making them right now.
But toward the end of the last presidential election campaign in this
country, one of the signs things were getting desperate and weird in that
campaign, when the Republican nominee for president, Mitt Romney, went to
Ohio, he went to the football stadium at Defiance High School, about an
hour outside Toledo, about an hour from that plant and he said something
totally untrue about that plant and the Jeeps that were being made there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I saw a story today
that one of the great manufacturers in this state, Jeep, now owned by the
Italians, is thinking of moving all production to China.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: He`s an hour outside Toledo, where thousands of people are
employed at this huge plant making Jeeps. And Mitt Romney gets up there
right before the election and he says, you know what, all Jeep production
is being shut down in the United States of America. We`re not going to
make Jeeps in this country anymore. It`s all moving to China.
And this is not some esoteric trade statement, right? Everybody
understandably freaks out. I mean, thousands of people work for Chrysler
in Ohio making Jeeps. There were probably people in the audience hearing
him that night who worked at that plant and Mitt Romney gives this speech
in Ohio, he says all the Jeep plants in America are shutting down. He
shocks the Ohio press by saying this. He then makes a TV out of it when he
doubles down on it.
And the thing is, it was completely made up. I mean, the Ohio press,
naturally, tried to follow up on this bombshell news from Mitt Romney, so
they went and asked Chrysler, hey, Mitt Romney says you`re shutting down
all Jeep production in the United States. You`re moving it all to china.
Is that true? If so, why are we learning it from this guy, Mitt Romney,
and not learning it from you?
Here`s Chrysler`s response: "Jeep production will not be moved from
the United States to China." And then, again, reiterating, quote, "Jeep
has no intention of shifting production of its Jeep models out of North
America to China."
But Mitt Romney would not take it back. I mean, he gave this speech.
He`s now running ads about it, reiterating the claim. Finally, Chrysler
kind of loses its mind about the whole thing and has their spokesman tell
the press, quote, "We have clearly entered some parallel universe. At this
stage, we are looking at Hubbell telescope-like distances between campaign
ads and reality."
That Jeep plant in Ohio that Mitt Romney said was about to close down
the Italians were going to shut it down and move it to China, that plant
not only stayed open but this past march they added 1,000 more jobs. That
all happened at a kind of weird time in the campaign.
The stuff about the Jeep plant closing down, that wasn`t really
closing down, that was at the same time the Romney campaign had sent out
former Senator Norm Coleman to go tell people, tell audiences around the
country that Mitt Romney had no interest in overturning Roe versus Wade.
At the same time, Mitt Romney, himself, was telling people that if he had
the chance to, he would be delighted to overturn Roe versus Wade. He
actually used the word "delighted" which somehow made it a more awkward
thing for a campaign surrogate to have to lie about.
That was also the time in the campaign when the Romney folks started
re-airing something from earlier in the campaign. Something that it sort
of felt like first time around it had hurt them. It had been debunked and
debunked and debunked a million times over to the point where it actually
felt like this provably false thing they had earlier campaigned on was
hurting them because it was so obviously untrue. It led to this narrative
that the Romney campaign and Mr. Romney, himself, just couldn`t be trusted
that they didn`t tell the truth.
In the sort of desperation of the late summer of the presidential
campaign, in August of the campaign year that year, the Romney campaign
went back to their famously debunked ads about welfare. These first
surfaced around the time that the political class was fixated in Washington
on how badly Mitt Romney needed to win basically all white voters in the
In August, the "National Journal`s" Ron Brownstein did the math on
turnout and demographics and voter registration and he came up with this
bombshell conclusion. He found that if white people were going to make up
the same proportion of the electorate in 2012 as they had in the previous
election, Mitt Romney was going to have to win 61 percent of the votes of
all white people voting in the election, 61 percent.
That means he would need to get a higher proportion of the white vote
than John McCain did in 2008, higher proportion of the white vote than
George W. Bush got in either 2004 or in 2000. Bob Dole did not win the
election the year that he ran, but he did pretty well with white people.
Mitt Romney would need to beat the bob dole share of the vote with white
people by 15 points. He`d need to win more of the white vote than Poppy
Bush did either time he ran when he lost or upon.
He`d need a higher proportion of the white vote than any Republican
candidate elected in the last 28 years -- 61 percent of all white people
had to vote for Mitt Romney for him to win. This freaked out Washington
basically and freaked out the Romney campaign. It turns out rightfully so.
That analysis said that Mitt Romney would need to get 61 percent of the
white vote in order to win the presidency.
Ultimately, he didn`t get 61 percent. He got 59 percent of the white
vote and he did lose the presidency. He lost the election. And two years
ago in August, when this prescient analysis first came out, the Romney
campaign responded by taking a sort of jarring turn toward race issues,
toward the sort of coded racial campaign tactics that are awkward for
anybody but were particularly awkward with them. It`s an awkward thing to
try to juice white turnout because everybody can tell what you`re doing.
That was the time in the campaign when Mitt Romney took a brief turn
into making birther jokes. Do you remember that? Remember when Mitt
Romney did that for a little while? This was him talking in Michigan in
front of a mostly white crowd.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: I love being home in this place where Ann and I were raised,
where both of us were born. Ann was born in Henry Ford Hospital. I was
born at Harper Hospital.
No one`s ever asked to see my birth certificate. They know this is
the place we were born and raised.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Yes, yes. I get it. You definitely look like an American
president, if you know what I mean.
Nobody`s ever asked you for your birth certificate, huh? Says the
man whose father was born in Mexico. Not an issue, though, for him, if you
know what I mean. If you know why I mean. Yes. Not subtle.
But if you are trying to get your share of the white vote up to 61
percent, sometimes you have to be unsubtle and sometimes you have to be
awkward. And that was the same time when Mitt Romney first started running
what became known at least around my office, in which I sit alone, as his
aggrieved white worker ads. He and his campaign made up a particularly
insidious lie about the Obama administration. And they hoped it would
resonate with very specific voters for very obvious reasons.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NARRATOR: In 1996, President Clinton and a bipartisan Congress
helped end welfare as we know it, by requiring work for welfare. But on
July 12th, President Obama quietly announced a plan to gut welfare reform
by dropping work requirements.
Under Obama`s plan, he wouldn`t have to work and wouldn`t have to
train for a job. They just send you your welfare check. And welfare to
work goes back to being plain old welfare. Mitt Romney will restore the
work requirement because it works.
ROMNEY: I`m Mitt Romney, and I approve this message.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The aggrieved white worker ads. He`s Mitt Romney and these
are the aggrieved white workers, featuring in the Romney ad about welfare.
And that ad, the central allegation in that ad was not just wrong, it
was the opposite of the truth. It was one of those moments in the campaign
when everybody who looked at that ad and that central assertion in the ad
agreed that what Mitt Romney was saying is something that didn`t happen.
This allegation about taking away the work requirements from welfare, it`s
just not true. The Obama administration had never dropped the work
requirements from welfare.
To the contrary, they said yes to a group of Republican governors and
Democratic governors who had asked for flexibility in administering welfare
funds at the state level. The White House agreed to give the states this
leeway on the condition that the work requirement would not be weakened.
That`s what they did. States could change up the welfare rules as long as
they moved more people off of welfare and on to work, not fewer.
So, the Romney campaign was running their aggrieved white worker ads,
alleging the opposite of something that President Obama did, right?
They`re saying President Obama doesn`t want you to work. He wants to send
you a check. He`s a welfare president, not the work president.
Are you working? President Obama wants to steal your money and give
it to lazy welfare recipients. That`s the claim. Wow.
The Romney campaign needed 61 percent of the white vote. And they
loved that welfare ad. No matter how untrue it was. And that late August,
they were running a dozen ads in total. Most of the ads they were running
were on the welfare issue, which they made up. They were running more ads
on that than health care, more than the economy, more than the single ad
they ran introducing Paul Ryan as their vice presidential nominee. They
did the welfare thing more than anything at that time. They loved this
welfare ad though it was completely false.
I mean, when Mitt Romney had been governor of Massachusetts, he had
been one of the governors who signed on to the letter to the White House
asking for that flexibility on welfare. He`d been one of the guys. I
mean, when that letter came out, that turned the debunking on this thing up
to stun. I mean, not only were they describing the opposite of what really
happened, but Mitt Romney was personally involved in it. And there`s his
signature in black and white.
But they did not care. They tried it anyway. Sure, it was false,
but maybe it would energize enough white people to get out and vote
Republican anyway. It was an ugly time in the presidential campaign.
And today, it`s back. In "USA Today", Republican House Speaker John
Boehner has just run an op-ed explaining why he and House Republicans are
filing a lawsuit against President Obama. The speaker says in his op-ed,
"President Obama has overstepped his constitutional authority. I believe
the president`s actions in a number of areas exceed his constitutional
authority, including waiving the work requirements in welfare."
He never waived the work requirements in welfare. Ever. He did the
opposite. And what he did was at the request of Republican governors,
This has been totally litigated, totally debunked. The Romney
campaign tried it, didn`t work. But the Republicans are apparently going
back to this stuff now. They`re going back to this stuff from the bad old
days of national campaigning against President Obama when they were trying
to maximize the aggrieved white vote, right? Trying to tap into, or this
case make up things for white voters to be aggrieved about this president.
That was the whole idea behind the welfare claim in the first place
for Mitt Romney, that was the whole idea of Newt Gingrich`s main
contribution to the presidential campaign that year against President Obama
which was Newt Gingrich calling President Obama the food stamps president.
That was subtle.
There was the point in the campaign where we got Rick Santorum
talking about bla people, remember that? Where Rick Santorum definitely
was not talking about black people being given other people`s money, he was
talking about bla people being given other people`s money. Remember?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICK SANTORUM (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I`ve looked at
all the economic plans, but President Obama wants to do, his economic plan
is to make more people dependent upon the government. I don`t want to make
bla people`s lives better by giving them somebody else`s money. I want to
give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money and provide for
themselves and their families.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: These bla people sound terrible. Who are these moocher bla
people, Rick Santorum? Who do you mean?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANTORUM: I`ve looked at that quote. In fact, I looked at the
video, and I don`t -- in fact, I`m pretty confident I didn`t say black.
What I think I started to say a word, and sort of blah, sort of mumbled it
and changed my thought. But I don`t recall saying black. I was starting
to say one word and I sort of came up with a different word and moved on,
and it sounded like black.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Sounded like black, but -- the blah, the blah. Let me
reiterate. The bla people.
Those were the bad old days of Republicans trying to maximize the
white vote against President Obama. Maximize white voters` grievances
against President Obama. I have to say, in reality, those were -- I can
say those were the bad old days, but that was just the latest round of
That was two years ago. They roll out stuff like this periodically
whenever they`re strategizing against the president and think that white
people are the key to how they can succeed. It is now happening again with
them bringing back out the welfare lie to justify why they are suing
But suing President Obama is kind of the main thing on their plate
right now. This is the House Republicans` work schedule from now until the
election. You can see July is in the upper left hand corner there. This
is the last week of July. This week they`re finishing up the only
significant block of work they`re doing, not just between now and the
election but between now and the end of the year.
This month is the only time they`ve actually worked part of four
consecutive weeks in one month. When they two home on Thursday of this
week, this is their work plan for August. Look, there`s no work days in
it. Then, the no working continues all the way through the first week of
September. They work a grand total of 10 days in the entire month of
September. Then in October, they work a grand total of two days. And then
there`s nothing at all until after the lection.
America, this is the best reason to run for Congress. This is the
world`s greatest work schedule.
So, they`re about to leave for a full month plus a week, plus a
little bit more. And we`re going to talk this hour about what conceivably
might get done in Congress before they leave this week for the whole rest
of the summer. But we know from beltway reporting and from the House
Republicans` own statements that the only thing they see as a must-pass
bill before they leave is their bill to authorize suing the president, and
historically unprecedented lawsuit, unprecedented lawsuit against the
president. And maybe they will pass some other stuff, but apparently this
is their only must-do.
And honestly, big picture, there has been some stuff getting done in
Washington over this summer. We spent a lot of time on the show earlier
this summer and in the late spring talking about the oil trains that keep
blowing up all over north America, these apparently unsafe rail cars
shipping really volatile oil particularly from the North Dakota oil fields
then derailing and crashing and blowing up all over the place.
The Transportation Department did announce new rules including a
timetable for getting the rail cars off the rails. It`s a timetable that`s
even more aggressive than the plans Canada did after their terrible oil
train explosion in Quebec last year.
So, some things are happening. The thing about the new rail cars,
that just happened. It`s in its public comment period now, but the
Department of Transportation has acted aggressively.
The U.S. Sentencing Commission which was created by Congress but is
not Congress, they`re a nonpartisan sort of technocratic group that looks
at sentencing policies. They`re getting something done. They voted
unanimously to basically reset prison sentences for drug crimes. Federal
prison sentences for drug crimes have already been changed for anybody
who`s sentenced now, sentenced today.
But the sentencing commission voted to apply those changes
retroactively to people who are already in prison. It`s going to have a
really big effect on federal prisons and frankly on issues of justice and
fairness in this country. They voted unanimously to do that and unless
Congress acts to screw that up, that will go into effect next year.
So the oil trains things got done. The sentencing commission thing
which is going to have a huge impact, that got done. President Obama also
moved on his own to ban federal contractors from firing people on the basis
of sexual orientation or gender identity. That discrimination protection
applies to millions of people. The president was able to do that on his
So, it`s not like nothing`s been going on this summer. Some big
stuff, consequential big policy stuff has happened in Washington this
summer, and it`s been happening in Washington over the past couple of weeks
and months, and the problem is that none of it is happening in Congress.
And Congress, as we tick tock, tick tock down to the last couple of
days, they`re going to be there for the whole rest of the summer and the
last sustained period of time that they`re going to be there at work for
the whole rest of the year, as Congress finishes now, having done nothing,
having done less than any other Congress in the modern history of Congress.
They appear to mostly be motivated right now with their own efforts and
their own desire to tell the president that he should stop doing stuff,
And there`s their lawsuit. There was this rally outside the White
House today. People who want immigration reform holding, in effect, a big
cheerful rally telling the president to go big on immigration, telling the
president to act unilaterally to reform the immigration system.
As that was happening outside the White House today, Republican
Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III was insisting inside Congress
that if Congress is going to do anything at all on immigration, on the
spike at kids at the border, caring for those kids, money for border
control, let alone immigration policy, he insisted if Congress is going to
do anything at all, anything Congress passes, he says, must also include
language prohibiting President Obama from issuing more executive actions on
Quote, "No member, House or Senate, Democrat or Republican, should
support any bill with respect to the border crisis that does not include
language explicitly prohibiting the administration from taking such action.
Congress must foreclose authority of these unlawful actions before
congressional funding is granted."
That`s what happened today in Congress on the border and immigration.
We probably aren`t going to do anything, but if we do do something, it`s
going to ensure that you do nothing, too. Ta-da!
In a normal Congress, in a normal democracy, what the two sides are
supposed to fight about, what the two sides are supposed to disagree about
and then fight about through politics is policy. What we have right now
instead is a Congress that is not actually proposing policy on immigration
and lots of other issues. They don`t necessarily have policy that they
want. What they are proposing is that President Obama can`t have one,
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. STEVE SCALISE (R), LOUISIANA: Ultimately what we want to do is
see the president follow the laws, but the president took an oath to
faithfully execute the laws of this land, and he`s not.
We`ve made it clear, we`re going to put options on the table to allow
-- to allow the House to take legal action against the president when he
overreaches his authority.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: When Eric Cantor, the number two House Republican, was
beaten in his Republican primary earlier this summer, the number two, the
number two was out, so the number three guy, Kevin McCarthy, moved up to
replace Eric Cantor. Republican Congressman Steve Scalise is the new
number three guy who moved in to replace Kevin McCarthy who moved up to
replace Eric Cantor.
And this weekend, it was Republican Congressman Steve Scalise`s job
to talk about how House Republicans are to bring a historically
unprecedented lawsuit against President Obama.
Joining us now is David Nakamura. He`s White House reporter for "The
Mr. Nakamura, thanks very much for being with us. I appreciate your
DAVID NAKAMURA, THE WASHINGTON POST: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, what does Congress have to do legislatively in order for
this House lawsuit to go ahead? Do they need to pass a bill to make it
NAKAMURA: They do. I think they`re voting on Thursday on this, and
it looks very likely this is going to go forward very easily. As you have
been saying, this is something that`s really galvanized Republicans and
obviously excited conservatives and excited their base.
But, you know, I covered the White House. And it`s something
President Obama is talking about, himself. He brings it up when he goes
and talks around the country where he`s talking to sort of ordinary
residents and people and saying, why does the Congress want -- why do the
House Republicans want to bring a lawsuit against me? It`s because of sort
of acting where I can because they`re not helping. Why can`t they join me?
So, I think the White House looking at this as something that`s going
to backfire on Republicans, going to go too far, and the White House is OK
to talk about it. They really think ordinary people around the country do
not want to talk about this, do not want to talk about Benghazi.
They want to talk about getting things done. They want to talk about
pocketbook issues and the president is talking about even though they`re
small scale, all those executive actions that he`s taking in.
MADDOW: In terms of what`s going to happen between now and the end
of this week, when Congress leaves for really a quite remarkable vacation,
they`re going to be gone for a month plus a week, plus some more. It is
interesting to me that they`re essentially treating the lawsuit bill, the
bill to authorize the lawsuit, as must-pass legislation. Is there anything
else of any substantive significance that really is must-pass? Not
something they want to pass or they`ll try to get to, but they will
definitely get done before they leave?
NAKAMURA: That`s a big one. The one they`re going to put a lot of
attention on. There is today a development, looks likely there might be
some sort of agreement, bipartisan, bicameral, on the Veteran
Administration, how to reform that. Obviously, the Republicans rightly so
enacted a political price from President Obama who fired Eric Shinseki when
it became public there were long delays for veteran care.
There looks like now, there could be a plan, there`s a lot of
confidence right now in Congress this actually could go forward on a
veterans bill that would sort of spend $17 billion to speed up processing
time, allow veterans to go outside the system if they don`t get care and
allow those employees who don`t act properly to be fired more quickly, more
That`s something I think Republicans are looking at. We need to
support this. We`ve got that political price already. And this is thing
that we can do to support veterans, which is going to play well certainly
among their base.
Other than that, though, the lawsuit is the biggest and most exciting
for Republicans. Obviously, there`s a crisis on the border and Republicans
are wrestling in their own caucus right now with how to address that. The
president put the big plan out there. The Senate is having trouble getting
Democrats on to the amount they want to spend. But the Republicans are
really sort of -- they scaled way back on the amount they want to spend to
just $1 billion, well under what President Obama said is need and they also
want to change the 2008 law that provides more protection to these minors
which has been very controversial among human rights group, immigrant
The White House has sort of tacitly supported something like that,
but they`re not out there aggressively doing so. And Democrats may not go
along with it. I think that will be a big signal whether John Boehner can
get that through the House this week and look like they`re attacking what
everybody agrees is a humanitarian crisis of these kids.
MADDOW: I know I should not ask you this because of what your job
is. You can shut me down if I shouldn`t. But my sense is, from the way
you have described it, is you don`t think it is likely they`ll be able to
pass something on the border that will actually become law even if they
could pass it through the House. Am I right in surmising that?
NAKAMURA: You`re absolutely right. I`ve been focused a lot on this.
It doesn`t look likely it`s going to happen before recess. In September,
they`re going to have to deal with spending bills and it`s really unlikely
they`re going to have enough time.
That`s a big problem. I don`t know what the White House sort of plan
"B" is. They`re running out of money at border patrol and ICE for internal
enforcement and that could be a real problem as these kids continue to come
and need services.
MADDOW: David Nakamura, White House reporter for "The Washington
Post." Very clarifying. Thanks very much. I appreciate it.
NAKAMURA: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: We`re going to have much more on the issue he was just
talking about in terms of a possible deal on the V.A. That`s coming up.
Plus, day one of what is turning out to be an amazing criminal trial
on the edge of politics in Virginia.
Stay with us. Lots ahead.
MADDOW: So, Friday night on this show, Senator Bernie Sanders of
Vermont told us that despite reports of fighting within the conference
committee, in charge of merging the House bill and Senate bill in order to
pass something for the V.A., he told us that him and House Veterans Affairs
Committee Chairman Jeff Miller were planning to work through the weekend to
try to reach a compromise.
It turns out that bit of overtime may have paid off. Today, Senator
Sanders and Congressman Jeff Miller announced that they have reached some
sort of deal. The proposed $17 billion legislation contains many of the
same provisions that were passed by both Houses of Congress six weeks ago,
including a provision to allow veterans who live far from a V.A. facility,
or can`t get a timely appointment at their local one, to go to a private
doctor for care instead. The legislation would also let the V.A. hire more
So, why didn`t this happen six weeks ago when the Senate passed their
bill with 93 votes and everybody said it could two to the president`s desk
basically in this form? Who knows? Six weeks` delay for the sake of six
weeks` delay apparently.
Tom Tarantino, chief policy officer of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans
of America, he said today about the deal, quote, "It`s about time they`re
doing their jobs. Still, though, you don`t get a medal for doing your
And to be clear, that job is nowhere near done yet. Congressman Jeff
Miller says he expects members of the conference committee to sign off on
this legislation tonight. But if that happens tonight, it still then has
to be filed in the House because it still requires a full vote in both the
House and in the Senate before it can go to the president`s desk.
And all of that needs to happen before all of Congress skips town on
Thursday. So, yes, progress, but still. Tick tock.
MADDOW: Aaron Burr was vice president of the United States. He was
the third V.P. we ever had. The reason everybody remembers Aaron Burr is,
of course, because of the duel. He was a former vice president and in a
duel, he shot the former Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton. They both
shot at each other but Burr`s was the shot that actually hit Hamilton and
that`s how Alexander Hamilton died. That was 1804.
Aaron Burr survived the duel, but then a couple years later, he was
arrested for treason. They arrested him in Alabama. He was accused of
plotting with Spain to take over some of the territory that Spain
controlled here and then use it to create an independent republic, separate
from the United States.
In 1807, they hauled Aaron Burr up to Richmond, Virginia, to try him
for treason on the creating the new country charges. They tried him in the
U.S. circuit court in Richmond, Virginia. Ultimately, Aaron Burr was
acquitted of treason but the proceedings took months. It was very
dramatic. Aaron Burr would have been executed if he was convicted. It was
a huge trial at the federal court in Richmond, Virginia. That was 1807.
Sixty years after that, 1867, that same federal court in Richmond
came up with another trial that was just as spectacular. It was the
arraignment of the former president of the Confederate States of America,
Jefferson Davis. They first tried to pin the assassination of President
Lincoln on him but they settled for trying him for treason. The initial
imprisonment and arraignment of Jefferson Davis on treason charges took
place in Richmond, Virginia.
And the jury in that trial was the very first racially integrated
jury in Virginia history. Look at that -- seven black men and five white
men. The first integrated jury in Virginia. Ultimately, that integrated
jury never had to reach a verdict because the charges against Jefferson
Davis were dropped.
So, the federal court in Richmond, Virginia, has seen its share of
drama, right? Of high-stakes, hive profile proceedings involving very
But today, the Aaron Burr trial and the Jefferson Davis trial are
being cited by the local press in Virginia in their crime news section as
the relevant local precedence for the level of spectacle that people are
expecting from the federal courthouse in Richmond today. From the new
trial that began at that courthouse today.
Former Governor Bob McDonnell of Virginia and his wife facing
basically life in prison if they`re convicted on all the 14 felony counts
they were charged with in January. It`s a big raft of charges, but
basically the allegation is corruption, that they conspired to enrich
themselves in exchange for committing official acts.
The case concerns a Virginia businessman named Johnny Williams who
was pushing a couple of tobacco-related supplements. While serving as
governor of Virginia, the indictment says Bob McDonnell asked the state
health secretary to meet with that businessman and discuss his products.
That meeting then happened.
Governor McDonnell also asked the state health secretary to arrange
another meeting at the executive mansion with somebody from the state
health department and that businessman, again, to discuss his products. At
the governor`s mansion, Governor McDonnell hosted and spoke at a launch
party for one of the businessman`s new products. At a dinner in Richmond,
Governor McDonnell reportedly attended that dinner and it was aimed at
persuading doctors to recommend another one of the businessman`s products.
The governor spoke in favor of the product at the event and approved the
company then using photos of him as governor speaking at their events.
The governor`s wife spoke at at least four similar promotional events
for the businessman and his supplements all around the country. At a
meeting with one of his own cabinet secretaries, Governor McDonnell
allegedly pulled a bottle of the businessman`s supplement out of his pocket
and told that cabinet official he was meeting with that she should meet
with the businessman and his company.
Why did the governor and his wife do all that stuff for this one
businessman and his wacky tobacky non-FDA approved supplements? Maybe it
was out of the kindness of their hearts, maybe it was out of the
development interests for the state of the Virginia, that this businessman
somehow represented. Maybe it`s because the governor is a Pisces. I
actually don`t know if he`s a Pisces.
Maybe because the same businessman gave Governor McDonnell and his
wife a catered chicken dinner for the governor`s daughter`s wedding,
$10,000 for the wedding of the governor`s other daughter, round-trip air
travel for the governor`s daughters for a bachelorette party, a four-day
vacation to Cape Cod, including a chartered yacht, golf, private cottage at
the resort, and private jet travel to and from, a three-day vacation at the
multimillion lake house, including a boat rented for their use during the
stay, and $190,000 white Ferrari for Governor McDonnell to drive while
there and on his way home.
Shopping sprees for the first lady in New York City, including one in
April 2011, where the bill was allegedly $10,999 at the Oscar de la Renta
store, $5,695 at Louis Vuitton, and over $2,600 at Bergdorf Goodman. Nice.
More than $7,000 in golf. Greens fees. Golf equipment. Food and
drink consumed on the golf course at an exclusive golf resort to which the
governor and his sons did not belong, but where they played frequently and
enjoyed themselves on the tab of that businessman.
How about also a $6,500 Rolex watch for Mr. McDonnell inscribed, "The
71st governor of Virginia"? Also, I should not leave out a $50,000 check
made out to Maureen McDonnell, first lady. Another $70,000 in checks made
out to the real estate company that Bob McDonnell operated with his sister.
Should I go on?
So, there was definitely quid and definitely quo. The McDonnell
defense is the two sides of the ledger are totally unrelated. There was no
quid pro quo.
But the trial started in Richmond today. They picked their jury all
in one day. The list of exhibits the prosecution plans to offer is an
amazing thing. Apparently, for example, we may at this trial get to see
not just pictures of the Oscar de la Renta sweater, but also the actual
sweater, also the actual golf clubs, also the actual famous engraved Rolex
and, quote, "photos of Robert McDonnell driving Johnny Williams` Ferrari."
Oh, please, it`s not quite Aaron Burr being tried for treason.
But what got under way in Richmond, Virginia, today, is a spectacle.
Ever since "The Washington Post" broke the story of this scandal last
March, the revelations had never really stopped. Including today, when in
their latest reporting on the start of the trial, "The Washington Post"
broke new news, today, about how even while they were on their way out of
office in Virginia, with this federal indictment coming down on them, the
first lady of the great state of Virginia was still pushing her luck --
trying, reportedly, to take home with her several important small boxes of
I`ll have that for you in a moment.
MADDOW: This is from "The Washington Post" today. This is amazing.
"In their final days in the governor`s mansion, Governor McDonnell
was consumed with completing his final budget, highlighting the
accomplishments of his administration and girding for the indictment that
by then seemed inevitable.
Maureen McDonnell, though, was pressing to enjoy the final perks of
office. According to several state employees familiar with her requests,
she pushed to stay at the executive mansion as long as possible, even
asking for access to the historic home after her husband ceded office to
the new governor, Terry McAuliffe on January 11th. She reasoned that her
husband hat been elected to a four-year term and had not taken office until
January 16th, four years earlier. So they should be allowed to stay five
In the end, the couple departed the mansion only on the morning of
Terry McAuliffe`s inauguration, breaking a recent tradition in which first
families have vacated the premises days in advance to allow state employees
time to prepare for the new occupants.
And now, get this -- about a month before the McDonnells` exit, the
first lady also stunned members of the mansion`s advisory council when she
asked if she could have keepsakes, four shoeboxes full of Christmas
ornaments, one from each year that the family occupied the mansion. That`s
according to two people directly involved with the council.
The Citizens Advisory Council for furnishing and interpreting the
executive mansion had raised the money to buy the ornaments and had donated
them to the mansion, making them state property. They offered to let her
pay for them. She declined.
Remarkable reporting from "The Washington Post," which, of course, is
the paper that first broke the news of the Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell
corruption scandal. They first broke that news last March. The governor
and his wife were charged 10 days after the governor left office this past
January, charged with a 14-count felony indictment. They`re facing decades
if not life in prison if convicted, and their trial started in Richmond,
Joining us is Rosalind Helderman, who broke the story on "The
Washington Post" more than a year ago, and has been covering it
comprehensively ever since.
Ms. Helderman, thank you very much for being with us.
ROSALIND HELDERMAN, THE WASHINGTON POST: Thanks so much for having
MADDOW: So, I know opening statements will probably begin tomorrow
morning. They did jury selection today. But I have to ask you about this
anecdote in "The Post`s" reporting and your reporting today about the last
days of the McDonnell administration. She wanted to stay a few extra days
and take some state property home with her?
HELDERMAN: That`s exactly what our reporting shows. It`s really
somewhat hard to believe given that in that timeframe, everyone knew that
this reporting had been going on for months and months. Everyone knew that
this was a problem for them, the desire to get free things, the desire to
sort of get as much out of being first lady as possible. It`s kind of hard
to believe that went on, but it did.
MADDOW: The indictment says that on the day Governor McDonnell was
driving the Ferrari, the day he got back from the lake house vacation that
he didn`t pay for and drove Johnny Williams` Ferrari home, the indictment
says that day the governor called the state health secretary and asked him
to take a meeting with Johnny Williams.
I mean, in terms of the defense here, it`s amazing to me that, the
timing. Is the defense going to deny that that happened? Did they dispute
that those are the facts or are they just going to maintain that the timing
was a coincidence, that those two things are just not connected.
HELDERMAN: You know, we don`t yet know what they`re going to say
about the timing which does seem troublesome.
We know one thing they`re going to say is that the things that the
governor did for this man, Johnny Williams, were not official acts. They
were basically normal political courtesies of the kinds that go on in
politics all the time. He asked his health secretary to take a meeting.
He didn`t say anything needed to come of the meeting. He didn`t say that
state government needed to give the man`s company money of any kind.
He hosted an event. He went to an event. They`re going to say this
is the kind of stuff that goes on in politics with campaign donors, at
least, all the time. You take a meeting from someone who`s been supportive
as long as you don`t pressure your staff to actually do anything for the
MADDOW: One of the things that seemed like it may complicate that
part of the strategy is the allegation in the indictment that one of the
things Governor McDonnell did was give explicit permission to this guy`s
company that they could use pictures of Governor McDonnell speaking at one
of their events. It was for a supplement that was an anti-smoking thing,
something called CigRX.
He went to their event in Virginia. He spoke at the event. It was
designed to promote the product. He allowed the company to use the image
of the governor promoting the product in their official materials.
That -- that, to me, it seems like there`s -- I don`t understand if
that is going to be construed as a political courtesy. It would seem like
governors have to be pretty tightly controlling about the way their images
HELDERMAN: You know, that`s a really good point. We haven`t yet
heard from the defense in any kind of court filing or in any other way
about that particular incident that you cited. I think one thing they`re
likely to do that the defense today submitted a list of exhibits that
they`re going to put forward and a lot of them seem to be kind of pictures
and press releases that he did at other times.
I suspect they`re going to sort of say, look, a governor is supposed
to promote business, and, you know, a lot of companies use the governor`s
photo. He went to their event. He went to a ribbon cutting. They took
his picture. They used it in business promotion, that that`s nothing
MADDOW: I will say the exhibit list today on both sides, the defense
and prosecution said, was fascinating reading. I`m telling you, if they`re
going to unveil the Rolex, I`m going to be in the courtroom that day by
hook or crook.
Rosalind Helderman, "Washington Post" reporter covering the Bob
McDonnell corruption scandal from day one -- thanks very much for being
with us. Keep up the great work.
HELDERMAN: Thank you.
All right. Much more drama coming this time from the great state of
Kansas. That story`s next. Stay with us.
MADDOW: This is not quite a ransom note, more like a message in a
bottle, SOS. We found it on the Web site for this place in Kansas City,
Kansas. It`s called Aid for Women. It`s a clinic that does abortions.
It`s the only clinic that does abortions in Kansas City, Kansas.
And a few months ago in their Web site, they posted this. "We`re
being forced by Republicans to use our Web site resources to say untruthful
things about the state`s pro-life Web site in hopes you will visit their
Web site and change your mind away from having an abortion. We must have
this signage or go to jail.
Republicans also don`t believe that rape causes pregnancy, nor that
there can ever be too many children. They are stupid. Let`s vote them out
of office. However, here goes."
As the state of Kansas newly requires all abortion clinics to do, Aid
for Women on their website has to post this about the state`s official talk
you out of an abortion Web site. They have to say this. "The Kansas
Department of Health and Environment maintains a Web site containing
objective nonjudgmental scientifically accurate information about the
development of the unborn child, as well as video of sonogram images of the
unborn child at various stages of development, the Kansas Department of
Health and Environment`s Web site can be reached by clicking here."
And the clinic has made clear as day in context that they think that
is hooey. That they`ve had to put on their Web site, but by law, they have
to put it there so they posted it basically saying, here`s a load of hooey
that you shouldn`t believe, but they made us put it out.
The Kansas law requiring that link took effect in May. That`s when
Aid for Women have to adjust their website. Over this past weekend, Aid
for Women had to adjust their Web site again. Posting this, quote, "We
closed our doors July 26th, 2014, and are referring our abortion-seeking
patients to the remaining abortion clinics. I`m sorry for the trouble this
may cause you."
We talked to the clinic manager today as he was packing stuff away.
He said basically the fight had gone on so long and taken so much out of
the clinic that they just couldn`t continue. He said they`ve spent years
now dealing with endless protesters and also the state passing regulations
designed to make it harder for them to stay open.
He told us, quote, "We cannot seem to get some of these Gen Xers to
take it seriously and vote. Why am I only one fighting this?"
He told "The Associated Press" today this, "The generation of
patients whom we have helped need to step up an carry the torch instead of
assuming clinic workers will always fight their battle, the battle for the
right to have safe, legal, easily accessible birth control and abortions
and without having to travel to a few enlightened Democratic states" to get
At this clinic, the doctor who practiced there is in 70s, and is
reasonably ready to retire. They said they searched eight years for
somebody to replace that doctor, but it`s hard to recruit a doctor to a job
where simply going to work means facing down extremists and possibly
risking your life.
In 2009, a man named Scott Roeder shot and killed the doctor who
practiced in Wichita, Kansas. The night before, Scott Roeder vandalized
this particular clinic in Kansas City. He was caught in surveillance video
putting superglue in the locks twice, the week before that murder including
the night before he killed Dr. Tiller. He tried to close that clinic that
way before he closed a different clinic by killing its doctor the next day.
On the news that the clinic where he glued the locks had finally
given up, the antiabortion group Operation Rescue which Scott Roeder was
sort of linked to, they pronounced this as a great success in Kansas City.
They think they won there. Of course, they`re not winning everywhere. We
just got back from a production trip to New Orleans where we went to cover
the antiabortion siege in that city this summer. We ended up getting a
really up close and sort of harrowing view of some of the tactics being
used by these groups now.
We got this footage back from New Orleans today and brought it back
into the offices and started going through it for our reporting, it sort of
blew everybody`s minds here on the staff and that exclusive reporting and
footage is coming up on tomorrow`s show and I think you will not want to
miss it, so please plan to check that out.
That does it for us tonight. We`re going to see you again tomorrow
But now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD." Ari Melber sitting in for
Lawrence O`Donnell tonight.
Good evening, Ari.
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