THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
October 7, 2014
Guest: Jon Erpenbach, Elizabeth Warren
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
We`ve got a big show tonight. There`s lots of news, including about this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh my god.
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MADDOW: That`s just incredible footage, something that just happened in
Louisiana. It`s got a very uncomfortable connection unfortunately to this,
which just happened today in Canada. So we`ve got that story coming up
Also, tonight, we`ve got Elizabeth Warren here live for the interview.
That`s coming up in just a few minutes. So we got a big show. There`s
lots going on. But we`re starting tonight with breaking news on a national
The Federal Bureau of Investigation, the FBI, has taken the unusual step
today of asking the American public for help about ISIS. Specifically, the
FBI is asking for help in trying to identify this man.
This is a propaganda video that was released by the terror group ISIS a
couple of weeks ago. And the individual that you were looking at right
here, in the video. You can see he`s wearing some military-style
camouflaged fatigues. He`s also wearing a black mask.
This man is believed by U.S. security officials to be a North American.
They think he`s an American citizen, possibly a Canadian citizen, who
traveled overseas to join the fight with ISIS and then appeared in this
I should tell you that as a general rule, we here at MSNBC and at NBC News,
we do not typically play extended clips from propaganda videos but in this
case there is a specific reason to. The U.S. government tonight has taken
the unusual step of reposting just under a two-minute long section of that
It`s a video that`s almost an hour in length. That was released by ISIS a
couple of weeks ago. The FBI has excerpted a portion that`s just under two
minutes long and they posted it on the FBI Web site and asked Americans to
watch it, specifically because they`re trying to gather tips from the
American public about who that masked man is.
Yes, he`s wearing a mask. But they believe between his body language and
the shape of his face that you can see through that mask and the voice and
the way in which he speaks, somebody may know who he is or may know a way
to figure it out.
So to that end, we`re going to play just a short clip from that video.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are here in the 17th Division Military Base just
outside the city of al-Raqqa. And we`re here with the soldiers of Bashar.
And you can see them now digging their own graves in the very place where
they were stationed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Again, that`s a portion of the ISIS propaganda video that was
posted online at the FBI Web site tonight. Later on in the portion of the
video that the FBI posted, they don`t show it graphically, but they show
enough to indicate that the man, this man speaking there with the North
American accent goes on to participate in the murder of some of those who
are reputed to be Syrian government soldiers who you see behind him, you
saw introducing there in that clip.
And as you can hear in the clip, the gentleman in -- speaking here, does
appear to have an American accent, at least a North American accent. U.S.
officials tell NBC News it could be a Canadian accent. At this point, they
don`t know who he is or where he is from. But they think there`s enough to
identify him in this clip that they`re seeking any information they can get
from the public.
The FBI tonight also released this wanted poster, which shows the same man,
again seeking information from the American public about the man in that
video. The FBI is hoping that somebody out there might recognize him
either through his voice or his appearance. They`re asking anybody with
information to call the FBI toll-free tip line or submit information on the
FBI`s Web site.
This weekend, the director of the FBI, James Comey, he addressed the threat
posed by Americans traveling overseas to join the fight with ISIS. He told
CBS News that the FBI knows of about a dozen or so Americans that are
fighting with ISIS in Syria. They`ve asked -- the FBI is asking the
American public to tell the FBI any information they have about any
American who is planning to travel to Syria to fight with ISIS who may have
traveled there already. Any information -- they say no bit of information
is too small.
But, again, tonight, they have expanded on that specifically towards this
one target. They apparently believe that this is one of those dozen or so
Americans or at least North Americans who have joined the fight with ISIS.
Again he is seen participating in killing people in this propaganda video.
The FBI has been analyzing this particular piece of tape apparently for
weeks now. But again the breaking news tonight is that -- as part of their
investigation, they`ve taken the remarkable step of reaching out to the
American public specifically on their Web site in the hopes that somebody
can identify him.
Joining us now is NBC News justice correspondent Pete Williams.
Pete, thanks very much for helping us with this. I appreciate your time
PETE WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: You bet.
MADDOW: How unusual is it for the FBI to take a case like this to the
public? Obviously, we all know about the "Ten Most Wanted List" and things
like that. But specifically on a counterterrorism case like this, how
unusual is it for the FBI to say we think that -- best information might
come from Americans we have no contact with at this point.
WILLIAMS: Well, you know, I think you have to put this in perspective.
The simple answer to your question is, it is unusual. It`s not the first
time The FBI has asked for help in identifying suspected terrorists
overseas. You may recall that the FBI posted pictures from the
surveillance cameras in the Benghazi attack to see if people recognize any
of the pictures there.
The unfortunate fact is that it can be done now because terror
organizations are better at producing videos that can be excerpted.
WILLIAMS: I mean, in a sense the way to think about this is the FBI taking
an ISIS propaganda tool, videos in English, and now trying to use the tool
against the terror group by saying, hey, do you recognize this man?
Now in this 55-minute long video, there`s actually two American voices.
There`s the picture and the voice of the man that you`ve been showing. But
the video is also narrated in English. So there`s actually a second person
on there. The FBI apparently didn`t feel there was much to be gained by
simply playing the audio of the narrator because that just didn`t give
people enough to go on.
But in the excerpt that they posted on their Web site, which I guess we
should say is FBI.gov, www.fbi.gov, they do show extended excerpts from
this video. And they also on that Web site say we`re not only asking for
tips on who this guy is, but we`re also asking for help from the public in
identifying anyone else in America that people suspect might be planning to
go overseas to commit jihad or have recently come back.
It`s a reflection, I think, of the fact that more of these videos are out
there and ISIS produces all of its materials or virtually all of them in
English specifically to appeal to Westerners and, especially Americans.
But it`s also a reflection of the fact that this is one of the FBI`s
biggest concerns about people who go join up ISIS and then come back to the
MADDOW: In the FBI press release about this today, they noted that an ISIS
fighter with a British accent was seen in previous propaganda videos that
got so much attention because unfortunately they showed the beheading of
hostages and they note that it has been reported that the identity of that
British-accented ISIS fighter may be known to British authorities. That he
may have been identified.
There`s been some American officials who have indicated that American
officials may know who that British accented fighter is, as well. Is there
any indication that knowing who these guys are helps fight ISIS in any way?
Or at least helps track down any risk that they may pose back to their home
WILLIAMS: Two points about that. One is the FBI director himself has told
us that both he and the U.S. are confident that they know who that British
man is. But, secondly, if they can figure out who these people are, even
if they can`t get at them in Syria or Iraq or where ever they are, A, it
may help them track them down using all the methods that you can probably
conjure up in your own mind that needn`t be any further explained here.
But, secondly, if they have some comforts in knowing who they are, they can
try to figure out who they might be in contact with in the U.S. They can
try to talk to their friends and relatives. What was it that radicalized
them. Why did they go there? Are they in touch? Do they intend to come
Any piece of information that they can get about the people that have gone
to Syria to join with this groups will be extremely valuable, they say.
MADDOW: NBC News justice correspondent Pete Williams. Pete, thank you for
helping us understand this tonight. I really appreciate it.
MADDOW: Again, the breaking news tonight that the FBI has posted on its
Web site just under a two-minute section of a longer ISIS propaganda video.
The overall video is about 55 minutes long. They posted a shorter segment
of it that highlights an individual who appears to be speaking in a North
American, either American or Canadian accent. He sort of transitions
between fluent Arabic and what is very clearly fluent English.
They`re asking for the public at large to watch that tape, see if you see
anything that you recognize or you might know who that is. They say no tip
is too small.
It is interesting the point that Pete Williams made there, though, that
there are -- appear to be two American accents or at least North American
accents on that same ISIS video. One of them, somebody who just appears as
a narrator. And then the other one is the clip that was focused on in the
FBI Web site tonight where you can both see the person wearing a mask and
hear his voice at the same time.
The FBI choosing to focusing on that -- choosing to focus on that second
man, presumably because they believe something about the combination of
hearing his voice and seeing him at the same time may make it possible for
somebody to identify him.
It does -- given the technical sophistication of these ISIS propaganda
videos, it does raise the question as to whether or not his voice has been
electronically altered in terms of the way we hear it on that video which
of course would interfere with the ability to identify him. But the fact
that the FBI is coming direct to the public on this is a remarkable new
development in this fight against ISIS.
All right. We`ve got lots more ahead tonight, including Senator Elizabeth
Warren here for the interview. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Well, this is moving fast. Watch how fast this is going. As of
this weekend, this was where same-sex marriage was legal in this country.
It was legal in D.C. plus these 19 states. Then, yesterday morning, when
the Supreme Court turned down a whole bunch of appeals all at once, that
decision instantly added five more states to the list of places where same-
sex marriage is legal. So yesterday we went from those 19 initial states
and we added Oklahoma, Virginia, Indiana, Utah and Wisconsin.
But wait, there`s more. Put the last list back up there. Because of the
way the Supreme Court decided yesterday, because they decided by letting
lower court rulings stand, those lower court rulings also mean that same-
sex marriage is legal in all of the other states that those lower courts
have jurisdiction in. So yesterday we started with 19 states and they
directly added five more. But now these other six states, which are under
the same jurisdictions -- same jurisdiction of those lower courts, these
six are now also in the process of legalizing same-sex marriage at the same
time. So you can also add Colorado, Kansas, North Carolina, South
Carolina, West Virginia and Wyoming.
Oh, but, wait, there`s more. Because today, another one of those courts
that`s one level below the Supreme Court, the Federal Appeals court, ruled
that state bans against same-sex marriage are unconstitutional. It was the
Ninth Circuit Court which covers a whole bunch of states in the western
United States so we put back up the score card there.
Today`s ruling from the Ninth Circuit directly overthrew the anti-gay
marriage ban in two more states. So they directly legalized same-sex
marriage in Idaho and Nevada. But the ruling will also apply to all the
other states in that circuit as well which currently ban gay marriage,
which means that in addition to Idaho and Nevada being added today, you can
also add these three more. Montana, Alaska, Arizona.
This ruling today in the Ninth Circuit, unless the Supreme Court takes it
up, which they won`t, will also legalize same-sex marriage in Alaska,
Arizona and Montana.
I told you this is happening fast.
What this means is that in the course of 36 hours, we have gone from being
a country where same-sex marriage is legal in 19 states in the District of
Columbia, to being a country where equal marriage rights are either legal
or in the process of inexorably becoming legal in very short order in --
oh, almost the whole country. 35 states plus D.C. States that represent
65 percent of the population.
Wow, that was fast. It`s now easier to count the number of states where
marriage rights are not equal. Than it is to count all of the other -- to
count it all the other way. And it all happened in 36 hours.
Republicans like Ted Cruz in Texas and Bobby Jindal in Louisiana and Mike
Lee in Utah and Mary Fallon in Oklahoma, and Tom Tilson, North Carolina,
they`re all mashing their teeth about this. Pledging to fight to the end
to stop this terrible outbreak of marriage rights. But after decades of
fighting about this, in the blink of an eye, this is what`s happened in 36
hours. It`s all happening, all at once. We`re still waiting on one
pending court ruling on the bans in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee.
But, honestly, if you`re waiting with bated breath for that result, it`s
because you`re not paying attention to the movement of history right now.
So on that issue, on that one part of the law about our rights in this
country, the courts are just racing ahead right now. It`s happening all
over the country, even where you wouldn`t expect it and it`s just happening
That is true for gay rights right now. It is not true for all of our
rights right now. For all of our contested rights in this country. And
maybe we should have seen this coming last summer. You know, the Edie
Windsor ruling of the Supreme Court last summer which led to this cascade
of pro-gay rights decisions ever since, including the ones today.
The Edie Windsor decision was on June 26th of last year. The day before
that, June 25th last year, the day before the big gay rights ruling, that
same Supreme Court took a sledgehammer to voting rights in this country.
They struck down the heart of the voting rights amendment which had passed
50 years ago in the throes of massive civil rights mobilization in this
country against voting rights discrimination. The five Republican
appointed conservative justices in the majority on that case argued that
discrimination in voting rights was a thing of the past.
It was something we no longer needed federal protections against states
discriminating in the way they let people vote. And that was sort of a
lovely, feel good fairy tale that they spun out in their majority ruling.
We used to have a problem with that. We don`t have it anymore.
The idea that voting rights in this country are a settled thing, no longer
contested territory, is very obviously bullpucky. But the Supreme Court
ruled otherwise. I mean, since 2010, since the last big midterm election
in which Republicans won control of state governments all across the
country, 18 different Republican-controlled states have changed the law in
those states to make it harder to vote.
The conservatives on the Supreme Court explain that, we don`t need to worry
about voting rights being restricted anymore. That was all in the past.
And they explained that at the exact moment that voting rights are being
restricted more than at any other time in the last couple of generations.
Don`t worry about it. So they gutted voting rights on a Tuesday, and then
the next day, Wednesday, they had their big gay rights decision.
It was a very confusing time. But now, more than a year later, we are
still reaping the whirlwind of that very confusing time in American rights
because right now, as we`ve got this lightning progress from the Supreme
Court and the lower federal courts on marriage rights, as that`s just
steaming across the country, at the exact same time that`s happening, we`re
now one-month out from the next really important national midterm elections
four weeks from today.
And just as fast as gay rights are expanding voting rights are taking a
beating right now.
Take for example the great state of Wisconsin. Wisconsin is a state that
has never had a documented case of voter fraud by way of impersonation. A
voter pretending to be someone else in order to vote in that person`s name.
That`s the kind of voter fraud that conceivably would be put off, deterred,
stopped by voter ID. Never one of those in Wisconsin.
Nevertheless, once Republicans got control of the state legislature, and
when the governorship there, they passed a new law in 2011 that blocks you
from voting in Wisconsin unless you have an ID. Unless you bring specific
documentation with you to vote which hundreds of thousands of Wisconsin
residents do not have.
Just to get a sense of the scale of what they`re doing, look at this. When
Scott Walker won elections as Wisconsin`s Republican governor in 2010 he
won by about 125,000 votes. The estimates prepared for the courts as to
how many legal Wisconsin voters don`t have the kind of ID you`d need to
show to be able to vote in Wisconsin anymore. The range they`ve identified
is, at the low end, about 160,000. At the high end, about 370,000.
He only won by 125,000 votes.
You think it might make a difference if you drop that many people out of
the electorate in Wisconsin? I mean, most of the people without ID, let`s
be honest, are people who are poor, people who have relatively transients
lives, people who are disproportionately from minority populations.
They`re much more likely to be Democratic voters. You take somewhere
between 160,00 and 370,00 of those voters out of the electorate, no
Democrat will ever win in Wisconsin again. At least not statewide.
So that`s what Wisconsin Republicans passed in 2011. One of the most
draconian voter ID laws in the country. And for obvious reasons, it was
quickly blocked by the courts. All year this year, it`s been blocked by
the courts including when election officials in Wisconsin started sending
out thousands and thousands and thousands of absentee ballots.
For people who are planning on voting absentee in Wisconsin, they`ve
already been sent their ballots. And those ballots say nothing about this
voter ID requirement because it had been on hold for years in the courts.
And then things got totally nuts. Because even though the absentee ballots
had already been sent out, so the election is effectively already under
way, people are already voting, a federal appeals court decided they would
jump in in the middle of the election and tell Wisconsin that they can
start enforcing that law right now in the middle of the election after
people have already started voting.
So, now, in Wisconsin, they`re trying to track down all the absentee ballot
folks who`ve already received their ballots to tell them actually, the
rules for voting in this election are different than they`ve ever been
before for a major election and the rules are different from what it says
on your ballot information that you got in the mail. So they`re trying to
track down all those people who`ve already been sent their ballots.
And then there`s the people who haven`t just received their absentee
ballots in the mail, they`ve already voted. They`ve already filled out
their ballots and sent it back. And those people believe, you might think
reasonably, that their voting is done and their vote will count. Their
civic duty has been discharged.
But actually because they impose these new rules after the voting started,
because the court decided to jump in after things were already underway,
actually those people`s vote is not going to count unless election
officials can find those people who`ve already voted. Get in touch with
them, explain to them that they need to get in touch with their own country
clerk and provide that clerk with photocopies of this identification
paperwork that the voter may or may not have, that they`ve never had to
show before in order to vote and they were not told they would have to show
this time before they already voted.
That chaos is underway right now in Wisconsin. And to make things all the
more crystal clear in case they are not already, the Scott Walker
administration in Wisconsin says it has set aside precisely zero dollars to
help sort this all out. The state government has decided that no money
will be directed to state agencies to help voters understand the new law,
comply with the new law, to help state workers help voters comply with the
new law, or to even let anybody know that this change has happened in the
middle of the election.
This sort of good government group inside Wisconsin is called the
Government Accountability Board. They asked the legislature if they could
please have half a million dollars to run an ad campaign between now and
November 4th, letting everybody know about these new rules that had never
been used before in a major election. The Republican controlled state
legislature initially scheduled a hearing to say they considered that
request. That hearing was due to happen today. Bud then they cancelled
So -- excuse me. New rule. Hundreds of thousands of people do not have
what they need in order to vote anymore. Nobody in the state has ever had
to vote this way before in a major election. People have already started
voting without complying with that new rule and they`re sort of trying to
track those folks down or their votes won`t count.
There`s no money to reach any of those people. There`s no money to educate
anybody in the state. And no plans to let anybody in the state know that
anything has changed between now and Election Day.
What could possibly go wrong? But if you`re starting to feel like this
maybe is not going wrong and actually it`s going exactly as they want it to
go, that`s because you`ve been paying attention to recent history. I mean,
it was Wisconsin in 2011 where there was the big recall effort against
Scott Walker and other Republican legislators. And remember that the
conservative group AFP, the Koch brothers funded Americans for Prosperity
group. In Wisconsin that year, they sent out mailers with absentee ballot
applications ahead of those recall votes.
Those mailers conveniently told voters that they should send back their
absentee ballot applications on a date that was two days after the election
was over. The AFP later said it was all an honest mistake. In 2012, the
hard-fought presidential election in Wisconsin, black and Latino sections
of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, right before the election mysteriously got 85 of
these very scary billboards, anonymously posted by some, quote, "private
The billboards again just in poor and minority neighborhoods threatening 3
1/2 years in prison and a $10,000 fine if you vote wrong in Wisconsin.
Are you sure it`s worth the risk? You could go to jail.
And now before this year`s elections. Actually right in the middle of this
year`s elections. It`s the federal appeals court changing the rules about
who`s allowed to vote in this election in Wisconsin. Changing the rules at
the very last minute. Actually for thousands of people, they`re changing
the rules in the middle of the election after the ballots have already been
sent out and lots of people have already voted. Or at least they think
they voted but who knows if their votes will count.
Not sure really. Nobody is quite sure how this will work. Or if it will
work. And there`s no state plan to even pretend to try to make it work.
5:00 p.m. Eastern Time today was the deadline for the state of Wisconsin to
tell the Supreme Court of the United States why the Supreme Court should
not weigh in here to try to stop this mess. On the appeals court, the --
the lower court, the five judges who all voted to intervene and institute
this new law and change the rules in the middle of game in Wisconsin, all
of those five justices who made this happen were all judges who were
appointed by Republicans.
The one justice on the Supreme Court who tonight is decided whether or not
she will stop what they`ve done in Wisconsin. That one, Supreme Court
justice was not appointed by a Republican. She is Elena Kagan. And she
was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Obama.
So obviously nobody knows what Elena Kagan or the Supreme Court are going
to do here. But Wisconsin is just the worst of a whole bunch of states
this year where nobody actually knows. This close to the election. What
it`s going to take to be allowed to vote in this year`s midterms.
We`re at such a weird legal moment right now as a country. I mean, on some
issues affecting our basic rights, there is clear dramatic rapid progress.
Everything going in one direction. But then on other issues like, say, on
voting. Four weeks before this hugely important election. Right now, in
lots of places in our country, it is just chaos, judicially imposed chaos.
Joining us now is Democratic state Senator John Erpenbach of Wisconsin. A
veteran of many of these recent fights in Wisconsin.
Senator Erpenbach, it`s nice to see you again. Thank you for being back
STATE SEN. JON ERPENBACH (D), WISCONSIN: My pleasure.
MADDOW: So an emergency motion asking to stay yesterday`s decision has
been filed, asking for a review en banc. Where do you -- where do you
understand things stand right now in terms of whether they`re going to try
to implement this new law all of a sudden in the middle of this election or
whether Wisconsin is going to get a reprieve here.
ERPENBACH: Well, I personally, Rachel, am hoping we obviously get a
reprieve on the law. It`s very confusing right now. A lot of people are
very upset about this. What we need to do, though, is take up how angry we
are about the whole process and turn it into action which we hopefully will
talk about in a little bit. But you`re right. It`s before a Supreme Court
justice. We`ll see what she has to say. Hopefully, she will, basically,
tell Wisconsin to sit this one out. Just go ahead and vote the way you
normally would vote.
You know, there are people who voted in August on our primaries who
wouldn`t be able to vote in the general election coming up in about 28
days, simply because they do not have an ID when a couple of months ago you
didn`t need one to vote.
MADDOW: So, I mean, some people have already, obviously, as you said, some
people voted in the primary, can`t, under the new law, vote in the general
election. Some people have already voted in the general election, but they
didn`t vote according to the new rules.
I mean, as people are talking about the election, do you get the sense that
the new rules are a factor in terms of whether or not people are deciding
if they`re going to vote, deciding if they`re going to get involved. Is
there a confusion on the ground on a day-to-day way.
ERPENBACH: There`s confusion over what ID would count, what ID wouldn`t
count because they need supporting documentation with an ID. We got a call
to our Senate office this past week that`s from a mom trying to get an ID
for her son who can go out and go vote now. The only time she can get an
ID is on a Saturday. The only office she can get in Wisconsin is actually
in Milwaukee, about 90 miles away from where she lives.
Obviously that`s very frustrating and very confusing. And for some people
they`ll probably just going to say the heck with it and stay home. But our
job, my job, as an elected official, is to make sure that people understand
that this is possible to do. Obviously, people are very upset and outraged
about this but we can take that anger and turn it toward the polls and make
sure that we get enough people poll watching and protecting voters` rights
the day of the election throughout the state of Wisconsin. But needless to
say, it`s really confusing right now and frustrating in Wisconsin.
MADDOW: State Senator Jon Erpenbach of Wisconsin, thanks for helping us
understand this. I knew this was sort of happening at a surface level when
I started looking into those legal briefs today. I could not believe how
many people this affects in your state. It`s just a remarkable story.
Thanks, Senator. Nice to see you.
ERPENBACH: My pleasure. Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. Senator Elizabeth Warren is going to be here for the
interview straight ahead.
And there`s this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh my god.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Yes, another disaster in an American town involving trains hauling
hazardous materials. We`ve got more on that story including some
incredible context. Stay with us.
MADDOW: In 2011, Senate Republicans blocked from our next guest from an
appointment to run the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The next year
she was elected to be their colleague as a senator from Massachusetts. Now
she`s crisscrossing the country trying to get as many of her Republican
Senate colleagues as possible defeated at the polls this fall.
The take-no-guts senator from Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren, the senator
who liberals everywhere desperately want to run for president.
Elizabeth Warren joins us next tonight for the interview. Stay with us.
MADDOW: So the interview tonight is the Democratic United States senator
with more national name recognition than almost anyone else in Congress.
She has been in office as a senator for less than two years. But if you
are running for Senate in West Virginia this year, if you are running for
Senate in Oregon this year, if you are running in Minnesota this year, or
let`s say you`re running in Colorado this year, or let`s say you`re running
for Senate in Michigan, or if you`re running for Senate in Kentucky.
Yes, if you`re looking to unseat the top Republican in the Senate, Mitch
McConnell, by beating him in his home state of Kentucky, then the sitting
U.S. senator you are calling on to help you make the case is the same
senator they`re calling on in all those other states, too. Red states and
blue states. Across the country they`re all calling on Elizabeth Warren,
the senator for not very long now from Massachusetts.
She is the Democratic senator who has put the spine in the exclamation
point back in the Democratic Party`s message of so many issues particularly
those around money and the middle class. Four weeks out from the midterm
elections right now, she is the most in demand Democratic campaigner across
the country, which makes this as good a time as any to check in with her
and how she thinks Democrats are doing and whether she think Democratic
voters are going to surprise everybody by actually showing up to vote in
significant numbers four weeks from tonight.
Joining us now for the interview is Senator Elizabeth Warren of
Senator Warren, it`s great to see you. Thanks very much for joining us
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Thanks. It`s good to be here.
MADDOW: So the conventional wisdom in Washington is that the president`s
party always loses hugely in the midterms and in midterm elections,
regardless of this president, Democrats don`t have enthusiasm, Democratic
voters don`t like to show up.
Do you think that common wisdom is warranted this year from what you`ve
seen around the country?
WARREN: No, I don`t.
WARREN: You know, I think people understand that elections are important
and this is an election about whose side you stand on. And it comes up in
very, very specific ways. Minimum wage.
Folks who work at minimum wage haven`t had a raise in seven years. And
this is a big difference between Democrats and Republicans. Democrats
believe that no one, no one should work full time and still live in
poverty. And that`s why we`re out there fighting against to raise the
minimum wage. And something that Republicans filibustered.
Student loans. Democrats believe the United States government should not
be making a profit off the backs of our kids. That is fundamentally wrong
when they`re trying to get an education. And yet, when we tried to pass a
bill to reduce the interest rate on student loans, the Republicans
filibustered it in the United States Senate.
Equal pay for equal work. I cannot believe we still have to be talking
about this in 2014. Democrats think that a woman should not be fired for
asking what the guy down the hall is making for doing the same job. And
yet in about half the jobs in America that can happen today. The Democrats
want to change that and say you can`t be fired just for asking. The
Republicans filibustered it.
And I`ve got to give you one more. The Democrats believe that it is not
your employer`s business what kind of birth control you use. And yet, when
we want to move forward on a bill that says exactly that, the Republicans
So these are pretty clear choices. They`re choices that really define who
we are as a country. And whether or not this government runs for those
who`ve already made it big. You know, protecting tax loopholes for
millionaires and billionaires. Or whether or not this is a government that
really works for working people, for people who have to make it at the
minimum wage, for people who need not 77 cents on the dollar, but need
equal pay for equal work. For people who are trying to deal with students
I think that`s really what`s at stake in this 2014 election. And I think
we get out there and make our case. That`s what our candidates did.
People here, we go to the polls, that`s what democracy is all about.
MADDOW: You know, you raised the issue of minimum wage first. And
obviously, that`s something that the Democrats and the president have
championed. But it`s on the ballot in a really specific way, in Arkansas,
Alaska, and Nebraska, South Dakota.
Do you think that that may expand the electorate in those races? Some of
those races have particularly top of the ticket, you know, hot elections as
well. But those voters are going to be voting on the minimum wage. Do you
think that will make more people turn out?
WARREN: You know, I certainly hope so. But do understand me on this. I
want people to turn out. I believe in democracy. I believe in giving
people access to voting. I want to expand the access to voting, I want to
protect voting rights. Because I think that when people get a chance to
hear what the issues are about and get a chance to vote, we truly will move
this country in the right direction. But voting is where it starts.
People have to have access to the ballot box. That`s key.
MADDOW: I have -- I beg your pardon, I just had a coughing fit because
obviously I`ve been smote by God for saying something wrong. So I`m not
crying because I`ve been moved to tears, I`m crying because I`m coughing.
Forgive me, Senator.
WARREN: That`s all right.
MADDOW: On the issue of Senator Mitch McConnell, in particular.
MADDOW: Senator McConnell has a really tough race against Alison Lundergan
WARREN: I sure hope so.
MADDOW: A lot of -- a lot of people were saying, well, Elizabeth Warren
going to Kentucky? Is she too liberal for the Kentucky electorate? Will
that actually make Alison Grimes look more liberal than she actually is in
trying to run essentially a centrist campaign against Mitch McConnell? How
do you feel about that criticism?
WARREN: You know, Alison Grimes and I do not agree on every issue. And
that`s how it should be. She`s a strong and independent woman. And look,
I have my own views on many things. But on key issues, on key issues about
fighting for working families, on key issues about giving people a fighting
chance to build something in their lives, Alison Grimes is really out
I`ll tell the key one on this. It`s about student loans. You know the --
right now, there`s $1.2 trillion in outstanding student loan debt. There
are 40 million Americans trying to deal with student loans. And you know,
you can reduce your interest rate by refinancing on your home mortgage, on
your business loans even on your car loan. But there`s no way right now to
do that on student loans, on these federally guaranteed student loans.
And just to pick one little slice, the student loans that went out between
2007 and 2012 -- that`s slice because we happen to have a lot of detailed
data on it -- are right now on target after you adjust for the cost of the
administration, the cost of the bad debt losses, the cost of the funds,
that slice of loans is on target to produce $66 billion in profit for the
United States government.
Now what we want to do is reduce the interest rate on student loans. And
that`s what Alison Grimes wants to do. She says, let`s bring down that
interest rate on student loans.
Do you know who killed that bill? Mitch McConnell. He`s the one who led
the fight. He said no, no, no. We can`t reduce the interest rate on
student loans because to do that, we have to find a way to pay for it. And
the way we suggested to pay for it is how about stitching up some of the
tax loopholes so that millionaires and billionaires pay at least as much in
taxes as middle class families.
Mitch McConnell said flatly no and led the fight to kill the student loan
bill. So for me, there`s the clear choice. Alison Grimes says she`s going
to fight for people who are trying to get an education, doesn`t believe we
should put an extra tax on their backs. And Mitch McConnell says no, it`s
far more important to protect tax loopholes for billionaires than it is to
try to help our students.
Those are the kinds of choices that are in front of people for the 2014
races. I think that Alison is going to make a good, strong, tough case in
Kentucky, and I hope she beats Mitch McConnell with it.
MADDOW: Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, making the case by
proving it right here, why it is that people want you around the country
campaigning for them in what`s going to be a very tough election.
Thanks for helping us understand your take on it, ma`am. I appreciate it.
WARREN: Thank you.
MADDOW: And I apologize for having a coughing fit in the middle of that.
You know, I`ve been fighting this cold all week. I`ve been fighting for
like eight days, really, it has to burst forth on TV while I`m talking to
Elizabeth Warren? Yes, of course it does.
In Wisconsin, Senator Warren is going to be campaigning this weekend for
Mary Burke who is facing against -- facing off against Republican Governor
Scott Walker. He`s fighting his re-election effort there. So she`s
involved in a lot of Senate races but she`s going to be in Wisconsin with
Mary Burke this weekend, too, in that very important governor`s race.
All right, we`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Today, at about 7:30 a.m. local time, a freight train derailed in
Saskatchewan in Canada. The train was carrying a number of hazardous
materials, including hydrochloric acid, caustic soda and petroleum
Now the train originated in Winnipeg. It was heading west bound into
Saskatchewan but it derailed. There was a huge explosion that followed, a
massive fire that came from the petroleum distillate that spilled on the
tracks. That train was pulling 100 cars, 26 of the 100 cars derailed.
People living in the nearby town of Claire were evacuated. People with
farms in the area were also asked to leave.
It`s unclear what caused the derailment, but the Transportation Safety
Board there has dispatched an investigative team.
This sort of accident is becoming kind of a habit, a bad habit. In
November, in Alabama, these rail cars derailed and blew up, caused an
explosion that led to the release of 750,000 gallons of crude oil. In
December, a mile-long oil train derailed and exploded in Castleton, North
Dakota, just outside Fargo. That derailment and that huge explosion forced
the evacuation of two-thirds of that town.
This spring, it happened in Lynchburg, Virginia, another oil train
derailed. Its tanker cars exploded. They leaked their flaming toxic
contents into the James River in Lynchburg. But this one today, it
happened in Canada, not in the U.S. And although Canadian and U.S. rail
are pretty well integrated, particularly when it comes to this huge new
number of oil trains, a big derailment and explosion like this one in
Canada today, it hits a lot of still very raw nerves, because of the huge
Canadian disaster last summer in Quebec.
An oil train derailment in Quebec that killed 47 people and the huge
explosion that wiped out nearly half the center of that town. That
disaster spurred the Canadian government to take action. They passed new
reforms, including facing out older model tank cars that are commonly used
to transport crude oil. Since today`s derailment shows accidents do
happen, so making the cars safer might be the thing that saves us all.
This is Louisiana. About 120 miles east of Shreveport. There was a
village there called Mer Rouge. And on Sunday, this weekend, at about
11:00 a.m. this happened in Mer Rouge.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What`s that?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. What town are we in? Holy mother -- oh, my god.
Tell me he got out. Just tell me he got out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That crash happened when a transport truck got stuck on the
tracks. It happens. The driver of the truck did escape from his truck cab
in time. He was not hurt. The train engineer and conductor were both
injured in that crash. Two engines and 17 cars out of that 87-car train
derailed in Mer Rouge on Sunday.
That train that was involved in that crash, it was not carrying crude oil.
It was carrying pressurized argon gas, because that gas could have exploded
in its tanker cars, about 50 houses in the area were evacuated.
The mayor of Mer Rouge told local reporters after the crash, quote, "We`re
lucky it was not one of our oil trains that we get 10 times a day. If it
had been an oil train, we would have had a fire and then we would have had
That`s what the mayor had to say. Thank God it wasn`t one of our 10 times
a day oil trains. The police chief he said that train derailments in that
area are very commonplace. They`re becoming the norm.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, this is Mer Rouge. We`re pretty much notable for
our train crashes. This would be the third or fourth one in the last two
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Earlier this summer, the U.S. Transportation Department announced
new rules for oil trains, giving the oil by rail industry up to two years
to phase out the old, dangerous oil cars and replace them with safer ones
that are less likely to blow up in a derailment. Last week, the oil by
rail industry said they`re going to fight that new rule. They said that
what they want is seven years to phase out the old dangerous cars.
They want to keep the old cars as they are, for seven more years. Because,
you know, what`s the rush? Everything`s going fine, as is.
MADDOW: OK. "Best New Thing in the World." It`s not actually new, but I
think that we are the first ones to find it.
When the Supreme Court made their surprise decision yesterday to let stand
all those gay marriage rulings from lower courts, we kept hearing that Ruth
Bader Ginsburg, Justice Ginsburg, had given fair warning a month ago that
the court might do this. And so we went back into the news archives from
last month and it`s true.
Last month at the University of Minnesota, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was
interviewed on stage as part of a guest lecture series, and during that
event, Justice Ginsburg basically foretold that the Supreme Court might do
this. They might leave same-sex marriage up to the lower courts to decide,
unless those lower courts suddenly started deciding ways that contradicted
each other and the Supreme Court had to weigh in.
In the midst of that interview about this very important matter that ended
up coming before the court and being decided in this big, surprising way
yesterday. In the midst of that, the moderator interviewing Ruth Bader
Ginsburg sort of praised her for her social media presence and how much
people love her.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of you, after this lecture, should go out and look
at the blog, the notorious --
RUTH BADER GINSBURG, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: Tumblr.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tumblr.
(LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The moderator there is praising her for being a social media rock
star, says, after this lecture, you should go out and look at the blog that
has been created for her which is called "Notorious RBG." Notorious Ruth
Bader Ginsburg. Ruth Bader Ginsburg in that moment, all 81 years of her,
corrects the moderator and says, actually, it`s not a blog, it`s a Tumblr.
So, yes, there is a blog out there, that is praising Ruth Bader Ginsburg as
"Notorious RBG," but if you don`t know the difference between a blog and a
Tumblr, that`s because you are not as hip and with it as 81-year-old
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
That`s the "Best New Thing in the World Today."
That does it for us today. Thank you very much for being with us. And
stay tuned for "THE LAST WORD."
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