Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: January 6, 2015
Guest: Carol Rosenberg, Mike Valerio
RACHEL MADDOW, THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW, HOST: Thanks, too, at home for
joining us this hour. So, the first day of school is always awkward.
Always. In 8th grade, I regret to say, I decided to start the year with a
perm. What could possibly go wrong? There`s always something wrong with
the first day of school. But, today, in Washington, the first day of
school was truly one of the strangest day ones I have ever seen or heard
of, and I`ve had some weird (ph) ones.
There were things that happened today that were -- that were shocking,
visually shocking. There were things that happened today that were
historically unprecedented. There were also things that happened today
that we`re not totally new. You could have predicted them at least
formerly. You could have seen them coming, but somehow, today, when they
happened, they were just way more than anyone expected.
I`ve got to say, I thought this show was going to be a totally different
show today when I came to work until I saw what happened today in
Washington and then we threw the whole run (ph) out the window because days
like this are why people who love politics love politics.
Today was amazing in Washington. All right. Just to start off, let`s take
Joe Biden. Vice President Joe Biden served for something like 35 years in
the United States. He loves the United States Senate. But, as vice
president now, he has an important official role on the first day of any
new Senate because the vice president is also, technically, the president
of the senate, and so it is Joe Biden`s job now to swear in all of the
senators on the first day of school.
Vice president Joe Biden loves this day. Vice President Joe Biden,
perhaps, lives for this day. But if you`re a senator waiting to get sworn
in to a new Senate, it`s Joe Biden`s world and you are just visiting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hi, good to see. Nice
to meet you. Dick?
RICHARD DURBIN, SENATOR OF THE UNITED STATES: Vice President?
BIDEN: How are you, pal (ph)?
R. DURBIN: Thanks for swearing at me.
BIDEN: I tell you what, easy to swear at you.
R. DURBIN: This is my sister-in-law, Lorraine Durbin (ph).
LORRAINE DURBIN, SISTER-IN-LAW OF RICHARD DURBIN: Hi. Glad to meet you.
BIDEN: Hello, Lorraine. How are you?
DURBIN: Mother of 10.
BIDEN: Good to see you.
L. DUBIN: I`m a mother of 10. That`s right.
BIDEN: My mother would say no purgatory for you dear (ph), straight to
BIDEN. straight to heaven.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Straight to heaven. It was basically that -- times of thousand
for Joe Biden today. Here for example was Joe Biden greeting the incoming
Senate Majority leader, Mitch McConnell, as well as his family.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ADDISON MITCHELL MCCONNELL, SENATOR OF THE UNITED STATES: My daughter,
BIDEN: Elly, how are you? It`s pleasant to see you.
M. MCCONNELL: My daughter, Porter.
PORTER MCCONNELL: Porter.
BIDEN: Porter, how are you?
P. MCCONNELL: Fine.
M. MCCONNELL: My son, (inaudible).
BIDEN: Hey, Thom (ph), how are you? Who`s this?
THOM (ph): My son.
BIDEN: How are you? You`re doing OK?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t know.
BIDEN: He said, "Grandpa, can I talk to a Democrat?"
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Not just the senators and their families though. It was also the
Senate staffers who were treated to the full Biden today. Watch this.
This was Joe Biden greeting Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and a few of
his staff members.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Vice President, Caroline O`Neil (ph).
BIDEN: Hi, Caroline O`Neil (ph). I`m Jean Kennedy`s (ph) son.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello. Good to see you.
BIDEN: How are you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I knew this would happen.
BIDEN: All right. I tell you man, I`m in the (inaudible).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No you`re not sleeping (ph).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Can you see? Next one, this next one was amazing. This was Joe
Biden today greeting -- oh this is amazing -- greeting incoming Republican
Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa. You have heard of her, right? It was big deal
but she won an eye (ph) with us here. Her name is Joni Ernst. Watch.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: Oh, Gail.
JONI ERNST, SENATOR OF THE UNITED STATES: Mr. Vice President, Joni. My
husband is Gail
BIDEN: Joni. Hey, Gail.
J. ERNST: Yeah.
BIDEN: I mean Joni.
G. ERNST: Hi.
BIDEN: It`s getting late.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Gail, I mean, Joni. OK, Joni. Senator, woman, Gail. The
Senator`s husband, man. It`s getting late.
Now, watch this next one very closely. Specifically, watch the vice
president`s mouth very closely. This is Joe Biden approaching the next
group of people for the next swearing in and did you see that little white
That was -- wait do we have it? Yes. That was his mint popping out of --
wait, here we go. Ready? Oh, yeah, slo-mo. That was his mint popping out
of his mouth. Watch it in real-time. Listen. Feast yourself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: Hi, Ken (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you so much.
BIDEN: Thank you. Oh, my mint.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Oh, my mint. There is nothing, you know, nefarious about any of
this or nothing cynical or bad about this. This is just pure, unbridled,
unscripted politician joy from a politician who was very happy to be where
he was doing what he was supposed to be doing. This was Vice President Joe
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: We, Irish (ph), have an expression.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
BIDEN: A son`s a son until he gets a wife. A daughter is a daughter for
the rest of her life.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: True.
BIDEN: Hi, Ken (ph). Hey man. Good to see you, Jess (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible)
BIDEN: How are you?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh.
BIDEN: Oh, you got some eyes, kid. You know what they say about
granddaughters? You know, one night, around 12-1/2, you tuck this
beautiful little butterfly in bed and then the next morning, there`s a
snake in bed.
Oh, man, this is boring, boring, boring and is boring, boring, boring. How
are you doing? How are you doing?
UNIDENTIFIED KID: Thank you.
BIDEN: Good. Are you happy? Good. Can I borrow your hat?
You need somebody to negotiate big (inaudible) when you call me on the
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think no.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, man.
BIDEN: Good to see man. OK. What a great family (ph). I know.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: oh.
BIDEN: I like kids better than people (ph).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I like kids better than people. What was the -- you tuck your
daughter into bed, a little beautiful butterfly, the next morning, there`s
a snake in the bed? I have no idea. I have no idea. Vice President Joe
Biden today, proving that loving politics is in part about loving our
country and loving governance and loving the good fight over governance
especially when it is well fought. You know, it`s also -- loving politics
is about all those noble things. But part of loving politics is just about
loving that politics is a pageant that is often acted out by some truly,
truly excellent characters that you enjoy watching interact with other
people in the world.
Vice President Joe Biden having the time of his life today swearing in the
new Senate, the White House even put out a mini-video of him today
explaining just how much he does love days like this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: The single most important legislative body in the world. And it is
an enormous honor. I served there for a long time. And I consider it -- I
consider myself a senate man and so it`s good to be going back and it`s
good to be able to perform this function.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was put out by the White House today after Joe Biden`s most
joyous day ever on Capitol Hill.
Now because this was the weirdest first day of school maybe ever, you might
have noticed one thing was missing from Capitol Hill today on very, very
big day as Republicans took over control of the Senate from the Democrats.
What was missing on this big day was one of the main players here, maybe
one of the top two main players.
The one who was missing was the leader of the Democrats. Harry Reid was
nowhere to be seen today and that`s because Harry Reid, now, looks like
this. Check that out.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYING)
MADDOW: He is seriously banged up. Senator Reid was apparently working out
over the holiday break using a resistance band and the resistance band
snapped while he was using it. It broke bones in his face and his ribs,
really banged him up and so because of those injuries, Harry Reid was not
back at the Senate for the first day of school today on doctor`s orders but
because this was the weirdest first day of school, look at this. Look.
Harry Reid released a video of himself looking like a train wreck, with a
bandaged eye and everything speaking from home in his little pilly sweater
at his -- a right bloody eye, bloody face, bloody swollen hands. Harry
Reid, cheerily explaining in this visually shocking video today why he had
to be absent and how sorry he was to miss day one of the new Congress.
Get well soon, Senate Minority leader, Harry Reid. Seriously, get well
soon. You look like you need to. That`s kind of just what today was like.
And that was just on -- on the Senate side. On the House side, if possible
today was even weirder and more amazing and heading into today, people kind
of knew that -- that something was brewing particularly on the political
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You tell your congressman, you vote for Louie Gohmert,
I`m done with the Republican Party. Not a dime. Not a phone call. Not a
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you vote for.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you got to vote -- yeah, if you -- no, if you vote
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Boehner.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: . Boehner, you`re done. I want you to vote for Louie
Gohmert, but you make it very clear, you vote for Boehner, I`m done with
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shut the switch board down. Tell everybody you know in
the Freedom Movement. Everybody you know.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Especially the new guys.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:, Louie Gohmert. Call them now. Call them, call them,
call them, call them, call them. Tell the DOP you`re done with them.
You`re done with them. If they leave Boehner in.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was yesterday on Conservative Talk Radio. The right (ph)
making the case that Boehner should be deposed as speaker and the man to
save the Republican Party after John Boehner is thrown out on his ear will
be Louie Gohmert. That`s who they want to deposed Louie -- yes, you are
thinking of the same Louie Gohmert that I am.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LOUIE GOHMERT, REPUBLICAN U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: We`re gonna borrow more
money from the Chinese to possibly give them money back to create habitats
for wild dogs and cats that are rare. There`s no assurance that if we did
that, that was -- we wouldn`t end up with moo-goo dog pan or moo-goo cat
The attorney general failed to answer my question.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gentleman with this pan.
GOHMERT: . about what was.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: .. Gentleman -- gentleman.
GOHMERT: . that has.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Chairman.
GOHMERT: . exposures (ph) on my asparagus.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: On my asparagus that is the Republican (inaudible) was putting
forth to topple the Republican House speaker John Boehner when John Boehner
had to be formally elected on the first day of class today in Washington
and yes, because today was that kind of day, it wasn`t just something that
existed purely on Talk Radio. The Republicans actually did go through the
process of running Louie Gohmert against John Boehner for speaker today
which involved at one point, a very difficult process of figuring out
exactly how to pronounce Louie Gohmert -- Louie Gohmert -- go on, you can
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are there additional nominations?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Madam Clerk, I have a nomination.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You may proceed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I present for the election of Office of Speaker of the
House of Representatives for the 114th Congress, the name of Judge Louie
Gohmert, a representative from the Great State of Texas. Madam Clerk Judge
Gohmert -- Judge Gohmert proudly serves the First District of Texas.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Judge Gohmert -- Judge Gohmert nominate Louie -- Louie -- Louie
Gohmert nominated today by his fellow Republican to oust speaker John
Boehner, as were Congressman Ted Yoho of Florida. One Republican nominated
Colin Powell to be the new speaker of the House. One Republican nominated
Senator Rand Paul to be speaker of the House.
Congressman Jim Jordan got a nomination. Congressman Daniel Webster got a
nomination. One Republican member of Congress voted present, rather than
vote for anyone, others just didn`t show up. In the end, the last time
this many members of Congress voted against the major party`s nominee to be
speaker was the year 1816. John Boehner`s opponent in his own pockets
needed 30 votes against them to topple him as speaker today. They got 25.
And so yeah, they didn`t -- they didn`t make it. This was -- this was
insult rather than injury. But, still, the most decent against the speaker
since before the Civil War but that`s -- that`s just the kind of day it
And, meanwhile, turning in the back ground while this historic revolt was
mounted against the speaker of the House, there`s the fact that there has
been no revolt whatsoever, not a single Republican member of Congress
putting their name to a single objection to this member of Congress
ascending to the leadership of the House.
The congressman in question, Steve Scalise is the one on the left here.
The one on the right is ex-Ku Klux Klan leader in neo-Nazi, David Duke,
who`s white -- rights organization. Congressman Scalise now admits to
speaking before in 2002 when he was an elected Louisiana Republican State
The reason a leadership job has opened up at the top in the Republican
Congress is because Eric Cantor, former House Majority leader for the
Republicans, he was ousted by his own party in a primary this past year.
Eric Cantor is the highest ranking Jewish Republican ever in Congress, and
when he was forced out, he was the only Jewish Republican in either the
House or the Senate.
But Eric Cantor was forced out of Congress which is what opened up a spot
in the leadership which the Republicans have now decided to fill with a guy
who is now only now starting to apologize for his past association with a
virulently anti-Semitic neo-Nazi household name called David Duke. But
even as there was this revolt against John Boehner today for speaker, there
has not been there has not been a peep of revolt among Republicans against
Steve Scalise holding their number 3 leadership job.
Democratic Congressman John Lewis, the legendary Civil Rights leader is
calling for Steven Scalise to at least apologize to Congress as he assumes
this leadership job after the David Duke stuff, but Republicans are
apparently just hoping that they keep quiet about it for long enough, they
will blow over. Happy first day of school.
Meanwhile, David Duke himself, the former Klan leader is continuing to say
that he will name names of other members of Congress who have also suck
(ph) him out in the past. We did get a call back from David Duke after our
queries to him yesterday when we queried him about who else in Congress
might be on his list. We are now following up on some leads. I`m sure
other news organizations are as well to make for a nice start to the new
Congress after a fittingly bizarre first day.
Substantively (ph), the new Republican Congress at its first order of
business would be to pass a bill forcing the construction of the Keystone
oil pipeline. On that matter, the White House today on day one of the new
Congress and President Obama will veto that bill if they pass it.
So, the Republicans first declared efforts will be futile, and they`ll know
it before they even start. Their second announced priority is to change an
ObamaCare rule about how many hours constitute a full-time work week.
That`s their second announced priority after Keystone, but right now says
they are against the Republican Party, political right, now says they`re
against the Republicans trying to do that bill, as well.
So, all systems go. I guess their number one priority will be vetoed.
Their number two, they maybe don`t want anymore. The right wing media
wants the aspersions on my asparagus guy more than they want their own
leadership. They are fine with the David Duke guy being in their
Harry Reid is making videos that are not safe for children cheerfully
explaining his broken ribs and terrible injuries and, honestly, I`ve got to
say, I mean, it all kind, it feels OK. Oh, my mint. At least feels OK,
today, if what you like is a little surprise in every box.
Politics is always a little bit fun. Politics is rarely as much fun as it
MADDOW: You know how in cheesy legal TV dramas, there`s always a big
dramatic moment where the courtroom door swings open and there`s a big gasp
inside the courtroom because somebody walks in who nobody expected to be
there? There was a real life moment kind of like that today during the
sentencing of former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell on multiple felony
corruption charges today.
The one person who no one expected to be there turned up for that
sentencing and that story is next. Stay with us.
MADDOW: This is W.T. Sampson High School. The mascot? The pirates. It`s and
a smaller elementary school nearby -- mascot, the sharks. Those two schools
make up the Sampson`s School System which has been around since 1931. These
two school buildings were built in the 1970s and 1980s. And as you might
expect, they are now a little worse for wear. They need new air
conditioning systems and electrical upgrades and emergency system upgrades.
They need an updated kitchen, new bathrooms, insulation. They need
retrofitting for standards that have changed a bit in the past four
decades. Instead of doing all that though, the Sampson School System has
decided to build one big new school to replace both W.T. Sampson High and
the elementary. This new school houses up to 275 students and is expected
to cost $65 million.
Wait? $65 million for 275 kids? That`s kind of nuts, right? That`s like a
quarter million dollars per kid. That`s more than five times per kid what
it costs to build a typical school. Why would it be so expensive in this
Well, for one thing, all the materials have to be purchased outside the
country where the W.T. Sampson High School is located. All the materials
for this have to be brought in by barge as do the people who will construct
the school. Those workers have to stay there for the duration of the
construction so they have to be housed and fed and entertained and all the
rest of it.
Oh, and all of this has to be done through government contracts that have
to be approved by Congress because W.T. Sampson High School and its
replacements slated for completion in 2018 is located in Guantanamo Bay
Naval Station in Cuba. Just down the road from Sampson High is Guantanamo
Bay and its detention facility. And as military personnel and civilian
contractors continue cycling through that naval base and sending their kids
to the Sampson school system, the number of people held at the Guantanamo
Detention Center, meanwhile, is dropping fast.
In the past two months alone, over 20 prisoners were transferred to other
countries from Guantanamo bringing the 2014 total to nearly 30. That leaves
127 prisoners at Guantanamo with the Pentagon now saying it`s going to
release more in coming weeks. As the number of prisoners falls, and now,
seems to be falling rapidly, the cost per prisoner at keeping Guantanamo
open is rising fast.
By the end of last year, it was costing about $3 million per prisoner per
year at Guantanamo. Today, the New York Times reported what they say is the
Obama administration`s big plan for what to do with Guantanamo before
President Obama leaves office. Congress may not let President Obama close
that prison. But apparently, the administration has figured out some way to
ship out another 40 to 60 prisoners between now and the time President
Obama leaves office. That would get the prisoner down to a total of 60 to
80 guys that would bring the per-prisoner to per-year cost to something
like $5.5 million per guy per year forever or at least as long as the
Congress insists that those prisoners have to be held at that one specific
super expensive decrepit prison that we maintain for dubious legal reasons
on the island of Cuba, which does not want it there.
There are a couple of weird things going on here though which still defy
any easy explanation and that I`m sort of surprised aren`t getting more
attention. First of all, there`s this guy. This is Cliff Sloan who
President Obama put at the State Department to expedite the process of
getting prisoners out of Guantanamo. He is the guidance overseeing this
huge hurry up in prisoners being shipped out of the prison. Until a few
days ago, that is, when he left.
One thing that remains a total mystery is why he`s leaving now, now that
the pace of prisoners leaving is faster than ever and now that the
administration is planning on sending dozens more prisoners home and
apparently pretty soon. Why is he leaving now? He just published this op-ed
in the New York Times saying, "The road to closing Guantanamo is clear and
well-lit." But he is leaving his job of trying to close it. With -- as yet,
no real explanation of why and with no one in place to replace him in the
administration. What`s going on there? I mean to have this huge policy
change, moving really fast all of a sudden and to have the man in charge of
it leaving right where it all starts happening, I don`t understand.
The other weird thing going on here though concerns these guys, Congress.
As the -- I`m just pointing at nothing. Imagine, Congress. As the pace of
prisoners being sent home from Guantanamo has really picked up and there
have been all of these dozens of transfers all of a sudden, Congress hasn`t
really made much of a peep at all. Congress hasn`t been complaining about
all of these prisoners who have rapidly been sent out of Guantanamo in
Has Congress just not noticed that it`s happening? Do they -- do they not
know what to say about this issue that they used to crow about so much. Are
they softening their resistance to emptying Guantanamo out and closing it?
And even if they had been quiet so far about this, now, the new reporting
says the administration is about to start freeing dozens more prisoners
from there, in pretty short order. Is Congress going to pipe up about that
Also, if you work at Guantanamo or if you`re one of the dozens of men
serving indefinite time there, what`s it like there now -- now that lots
and lots of people are finally starting to get out all of a sudden after
all of these years of nothing.
Joining us now is Carol Rosenberg, reporter for the Miami Herald. She has
been covering Guantanamo in a heroic effort since January 2002. Our
colleagues in the press have given her the title of Dean of the Guantanamo
Press Corps. She`s basically our nation`s institutional memory of that
facility. Carol, it`s great to see you. Thank you very much for being here.
CAROL ROSENBERG, REPORTER MIAMI HERALD: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: I have to ask -- first of all, if I said anything that you can
either correct or the things that doesn`t comport with your understanding
of what`s going on with these releases and the politics around them right
ROSENBERG: Well, I know that Guantanamo reporters shouldn`t be saying these
things, but I don`t know why Cliff Sloan is leaving. It came as a surprise
to me. I.
MADDOW: In terms of -- sorry. Go ahead finish.
ROSENBERG: I think that it`s a hard job and I any he`s coming to the end of
his surge. I think there`s one or two more transfers and if one were to bow
out, this might be the time.
MADDOW: In terms of those expected transfers, one of the things that Cliff
Sloan explained in this op-ed is that it hasn`t been as hard as people
might think to find other countries and the world who are willing to take
Guantanamo prisoners. He`s basically saying that if you push on those
diplomatic doors, you will find them to be open. Do you have any
expectation about how many people are sort of in the pipeline to go
sometime soon or what the list of countries is that`s willing to take them?
ROSENBERG: Well, we know Estonia is going the take one. They said they
would back in November. And there`s one other country, and I`m not sure
that I know which one is e it is, and I don`t think it`s going to be a
large scale transfer.
MADDOW: When the New York Times reported today that the administration`s
goal is to get down to a total of 60 to 80 prisoners that would still mean
getting dozens of them out of there. I mean part of the question that I
have about that is, you know, what are going to be the logistics of that?
What`s going to be the timing? Is there going to be an American political
backlash about that? We also have to wonder how that resonates at
Guantanamo among, not just the prisoners there, but the people who work
there and people who are involved in the legal defense there and the
military commissions to imagine this institution shrinking so fast if that
really is the plan in coming weeks and months. I wonder what kind of impact
ROSENBERG: Well, I think that attorneys for the Yemenis who are
predominantly the people who are cleared to go are hopeful that they will
find countries for them. I think there`s an understanding that the Yemenis
are not going home. And I think in terms of the guard force, the detention
center shrinks in terms of detainees, but the job stays the same. You know,
they don`t shrink, Rachel. There are still about 2,000 staff down there,
mostly U.S. soldiers but also contractors.
MADDOW: Well, that goes to this -- the financial issue and therefore the
political situation. I mean if the Obama administration is planning to get
the prisoner numbers a lot lower, that means the ratio, the per prisoner
cost will keep going higher and higher and higher. I mean if you`ve got
down to 60 people in that prison and you still got 2,000 U.S. service
members and contractors down there servicing them and a facility that`s
getting increasingly decrepit as Congress won`t fund any upgrades to it, I
mean -- I guess, does that logistically become such a concern that there
has to be a political solution to it?
ROSENBERG: Congress doesn`t seem to mind to pay the bill. It is huge
numbers in terms of the per prisoner cost, but it`s still a small prison.
And in terms of the need for 2,000 guards and soldiers, I`m just not sure.
They`ve never been able to justify those numbers. They`ve never been able
to explain why they have to have such a large staff down there.
MADDOW: Carol Rosenberg, a reporter for the Miami Herald covering
Guantanamo for many years. Carol, thank you as always for your reporting. I
have told you this before, but I`ll tell you again. It is a great service
to our country and thanks for being here tonight. It`s nice to see you.
ROSENBERG: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: When Rob Blagojevich went to prison in 2011 for trying to auction
off Barack Obama`s old U.S. Senate seat to the highest bidder, the
sentencing guideline in his corruption case said he should get 30 years to
life in prison. Rob Blagojevich actually got a sentence of 14 years.
When William Jefferson got busted for the blocks of cash wrapped up in
aluminum foil that he had in his freezer and all those corruption charges
in 2009, the sentencing guideline said that he should get 27 to 33 years in
prison. He actually got 13 years.
When Ray Nagin, the mayor of New Orleans, got done for corruption last
year, the sentencing guidelines in his case said he should get 20 years in
prison. At least Ray Nagin actually got 10 years.
When Congressman Rick Renzi got convicted on multiple corruption charges in
2013, his sentencing guidelines said Rick Renzi should do eight to 10
years. Rick Renzi actually got three years and so he`ll be out pretty
So it`s not like politicians usually get the book thrown at them. Judges
have discretion on how to sentence people and how much to deviate from the
guidelines. And in the case of public corruption, honestly judges, at
least from recent history, tend to pretty go -- tend pretty much to go low,
to go on the low side or even lower than anybody`s expecting.
Still, though, despite that recent history, it was still a bit of a shock
in the courtroom today when Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell was sentenced
in a Richmond, Virginia, courtroom to two years in prison. There are no
cameras in the courtroom but the federal prosecutor who brought the case
and who had argued for Bob McDonnell to get 10 to 12 and a half years in
prison for his crimes, that prosecutor was described by one reporter as
leaving the courtroom, quote, "with his face twisted in anger."
That 10 to 12 and a half year recommendation was what the Federal Probation
Office had said Bob McDonnell should get in this case.
The judge, today, widely respected appointee of President Ronald Reagan.
He reduced those sentencing guidelines at today`s sentencing hearing to be
just six to eight years. And then when it came time to hand down the
sentence, he undercut even that range. He sent Bob McDonnell off for just
24 months in the federal pen.
The public downfall of Bob McDonnell started in March 2013 with this
bombshell article in the "Washington Post." It`s a weird article
explaining just who had mysteriously paid for the governor`s daughter`s
wedding. That story led to one revelation after another. Most of which
were first printed in the "Washington Post."
And those revelations ultimately led to Governor McDonnell and his wife
being indicted on multiple felonies this past January. Just 10 days after
he left office as governor of Virginia.
At a time now when many people thought Bob McDonnell would be prepping his
2016 presidential campaign, Governor McDonnell will instead be reporting to
federal custody to be booked into federal prison. He`s due there on
February 9th. A week and a half after that, his wife, Maureen, will face
sentencing for her multiple felony convictions in this case, as well.
Joining us now is Mike Valerio. He`s a political reporter with NBC 12 in
Richmond, Virginia. He has been covering the McDonnell proceedings since
they began nearly a year ago.
Mike, thanks very much for joining us today. It`s good to have you here.
MIKE VALERIO, NBC 12 POLITICAL REPORTER: Thanks for having me, Rachel.
MADDOW: Can you just tell us broadly your impressions of what it was like
in the courtroom today both before and after the sentence was handed down?
VALERIO: Rachel, I have to tell you, it was a complete 180 from what we
saw in September when Governor McDonnell was stunned that he was convicted
on 11 counts of corruption in that federal courtroom. Today quite the
I`d have to tell you, the most dramatic moment happened when Governor Doug
Wilder, former Governor Doug Wilder took the stand as a character witness.
This is the first black governor ever elected in the United States and he
crosses a generational line as well as party lines to say that, "Governor
McDonnell is one of the most honorable people I have ever met. Judge, do
not throw the book at him. Please give him community service or a sentence
around three or four years."
At that point, the prosecution comes back on the stand and with cross-
examination says, well, Governor Wilder, isn`t it true that when you`re
governor, that does not give you the license to take bribes. Governor
Wilder says, yes, that`s certainly true. And the prosecution fires back
and says, and it`s certainly true that there needs to be justice in this
case for all of Virginia.
The fireworks fly when Governor Wilder shoots back and shoots down the
government saying, what justice is there in this case when your star
witness, Johnny Williams, who`s accused of starting these bribes, is at
home in Florida? Essentially with zero jail time under the terms of the
sweetheart deal. He`s not going to prison. There will be no justice in
MADDOW: At that point what I had read happened, again there`s no cameras
in the courtroom, although you re-enacting it is pretty close to -- pretty
great in terms of understanding it.
But what I read happened at that moment is that supporters of Governor
McDonnell in the courtroom at that point where he says, yes, basically the
bribee, the guy offering the bribes, he ought to be the one going to jail,
that the courtroom burst out in applause.
VALERIO: It was nothing like I had ever seen before. A multitude of
people try to rise up out of their seats and cheer for the former governor
because you remember back in September this was a huge blow to him and his
family. He had his hand on his face saying oh, my goodness, I can`t
believe this as soon as he was convicted on those 11 counts.
To have the tide of this case or sentencing proceeding turn in his favor at
that moment was something really extraordinary.
MADDOW: Mike, let me also ask you about this moment that happens before
the judge handed the sentence and before all of those character witnesses
took the stand today on behalf of Governor McDonnell asking for leniency in
his behalf. And it was the surprise moment when Governor McDonnell`s wife,
Maureen, arrived at the courtroom, the one thing everybody agreed on, all
observers agreed on heading into today is that she would not be seen. She
would not be here. They had been known to not be living together.
His defense was essentially to blame her and to say that their marriage was
irremovably broken. It must have been a big surprise when she arrived
VALERIO: Huge surprise. You could hear a pin drop in that courtroom as
soon as Maureen McDonnell made her appearance, flanked by her sons, Bobby
and Sean. Both now at graduate school. It was a surprise to see them as
well. But the whole family united. Even their oldest daughter, Jeannine,
was there who, in her letter to the judge, accused a mother of being
This is no question, Rachel, a fractured family. But to see them together,
making the statement after the "throw Maureen McDonnell under the bus"
strategy that seemed to backfire with this jury back in the fall, it was
unbelievable to see Maureen McDonnell make an appearance. And then after
the sentence comes down of just two years for Governor McDonnell in a
federal prison, he turns around and gives his wife a quick peck on the
That is something that we never saw during trial. If anything he gave her
a cold reception if there ever was one.
VALERIO: Just a day before the verdict was handed down.
VALERIO: We`re all extremely shocked to see that happen.
MADDOW: Amazing. And of course the final act in this will be her
sentencing just a week and a half after he`s due to report to federal
VALERIO: Absolutely. Yes.
MADDOW: Mike Valerio, political reporter, NBC 12, at Richmond, Virginia.
Mike, thanks very much for being here. Appreciate it.
VALERIO: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right, speaking of excellent local journalism, there`s some
further local journalism of the heroic variety coming up in our next story.
This is a story that will make you very proud of our nation`s First
Amendment. But it should also make you want to buy a beer for the next
great local reporter you meet down at your local pub. Please stay with us.
This is a good one.
MADDOW: We have some breaking news tonight out of El Paso, Texas. At
about 5:00 Eastern today we got in the first initial reports of an active
shooter situation at an army hospital and veteran`s clinic at Fort Bliss in
El Paso, Texas. That facility went on lockdown today for about an hour
while authorities search for this reported shooter.
Well, just minutes ago, the commanding general at Fort Bliss confirmed that
there was an active shooter situation. It is now resolved. There was one
casualty at the medical center, one person was killed. In addition to the
shooter who committed suicide.
Now in terms of understanding the larger circumstances of what happened
here or potentially any motive, Major General Stephen Twitty says that the
FBI is taking the lead in this investigation.
Again, this is a developing story. But what we`re told is one dead in
addition to the shooter killing himself at Fort Bliss.
We`ll update you as we learn more.
MADDOW: I`m very sorry. I have a correction tonight from our opening
segment. At the start of the show I reported that in today`s mini revolt
against Republican John Boehner being re-elected as speaker, the votes not
for Boehner included from a Republican member of Congress who voted instead
for Colin Powell.
One of our viewers who happens to be a Republican staffer -- hey, I see you
out there -- pointed out that it was not a Republican member of Congress
but a Democrat who actually cast that vote for Colin Powell today.
I totally missed that. But it was Democratic Congressman Jim Cooper of
Tennessee who says he wanted Colin Powell to be the speaker of the House.
I regret that error very much. I stand corrected and I thank you and I
know you, Republicans, are watching. I know you are.
MADDOW: This is such a doozy. I`ll tell you how it ends. The moral of
the story is that you can`t keep a lid on it. As much as you might not
want people to hear the bad news, if they have a right to hear the bad
news, they`re going to hear the bad news. And you trying to keep it under
wraps is only going to make it worse for you. OK?
Case in point. Behold Kirby Delauter. Kirby Delauter is a county
commissioner in Frederick County, Maryland. That`s an elected position, he
is an elected public official. Recently the local paper, the "Frederick
News Post," posted this fairly innocuous little article about how county
commissioners were adjusting to some changes being made in county
In a one-sentence aside, the paper noted that Commissioner Kirby Delauter
had reportedly complained that the county commissioners no longer had
enough reserved parking spaces.
That reference in that article apparently made Kirby Delauter a very angry
man. And you don`t want to see Kirby Delauter when he`s angry.
This weekend, he posted this online attacking the local reporter who wrote
that piece for the "Frederick News Post." Look at this, shame on Bethany
Rodgers for an unauthorized use of my name and my reference in her article.
She contacted me by phone yesterday. I did not return her call and did not
authorize any use of my name in her article.
"Bethany, please understand, you need to know who you`re dealing with. You
could have earned my respect. Instead you`ve shown that you will sell your
soul for the liberal agenda at the `Frederick News Post.` Let me be clear,
do not contact me and do not use my name or reference me in any
unauthorized form in the future."
This is from an elected official who as far as I know has not trademarked
his name. But he is furious that a reporter reported on him as an elected
official and used his name without his expressed permission.
To her credit, the reporter responded to this elected official directly,
quoting here, "Wow. Well, just to answer a few of these accusations, first
of all, there`s no requirement to get a person`s authorization in order to
mention them in the paper, particularly if that person is an elected
official. It`s not just our right but our responsibility to report on
people like you who occupy positions of trust in our government and I make
no apologies for doing that."
She goes on in this vein. The guy then immediately responds, "Use my name
again unauthorized and you`ll be paying for an Attorney," with a capital A.
"Your rights stop where mine start."
So to be clear, this is an elected official in the state of Maryland
threatening to sue the local paper for reporting on his actions as an
elected official. Unless he expressly authorizes the use of his name.
Like he`s the "Happy Birthday Song" or something. Naturally, the local
paper responded in the only way they could possibly respond, they published
this editorial about this local official, Kirby Delauter, forbidding the
paper from using his name.
The headline of the editorial as you can see is "Kirby Delauter, Kirby
Delauter, Kirby Delauter, Kirby Delauter."
And then they go out of their way in the editorial to print his name 27
different times. None of them with authorization. And that`s not counting
the fictitious footnote which also was his name. The paper is also now
reporting on this local official threatening to sue them for covering him
as an elected official which has given their managing editor the
opportunity to say things like this in paper, in the paper, quote, "Kirby
Delauter can certainly decline to comment on any story, but to threaten to
sue a reporter for publishing his name is so ridiculously stupid that I`m
And now naturally because of all this, there`s a fake Kirby Delauter
Twitter account raging about how the liberal media shouldn`t be allowed to
use conservatives` names without permission. And now basically this guy is
a national laughingstock with his un-trademarked name all over the news.
Even outside the Frederick, Maryland, news, this guy is now the guy who
says that as an elected official, he has the right to decide whether or not
his name is used in the news.
Something similar, though, happened today in Portland, Maine, where the
always fearless "Portland Press Herald" decided that they were going to
flip a one-finger First Amendment salute to somebody else who was trying to
shut down news coverage of something that people have a right to know
In Portland, it concerns the case of a prominent local attorney who was
facing multiple felony charges stemming from a domestic violence case. The
court proceedings were not that remarkable. The man entered a plea in
conjunction with one of the charges which resulted in some of the other
charges being dismissed. But here`s the thing. Here`s why this is now a
The guy who was on trial somehow convinced the judge in his case that his
court case should be treated as a secret. He somehow persuaded the judge
to direct members of the media who were covering the story that they would
not be allowed to report on what was happening at the trial.
This is from the "Press Herald." Quote, "Judge Jeffrey Muskowitz told
members of the media as the hearing began what they could and could not
report. A reporter from the `Press Herald` protested the order and asked
for a time to contact legal counsel. The judge denied the request and said
the hearing would proceed without delay."
After consulting with their own attorney, the "Portland Press Herald"
decided to not comply with the order from the judge. And so the "Portland
Press Herald" published what actually happened in that courtroom because
you know what, it wasn`t some matter of national security, this guy`s case.
It wasn`t, you know, secret trip movements or something. It wasn`t
something involving a child or some other sensitive case around which there
might be case law saying you have the right not to be exposed in the press.
This was embarrassment. This was a normal criminal case in open court that
somebody decided to turn into a state secret because they found it
embarrassing. And in so doing, they turned what should have been a very
low key case into a much bigger story, because honestly, you can`t keep a
lid on it. Not with a brave press in this country. And thank God we have
a brave press.
If people have a right to know, people are going to know. And if you try
to keep them from knowing, it is only going to make it 10 times worse and
it`s going to make the story 10 times bigger and it`s going to make heroes
out of the folks who call your bluff like the "Frederick News Post" in
Maryland and the "Portland Press Herald" in Maine.
And that same principle is also now making heroes, I`m telling you, out of
a bunch of employees at your local mall who right now are having a epic and
visible and rather heroic fit of rage and defiance and blowing the whistle.
And that story is amazing. And it`s coming up on tomorrow`s show.
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