THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
January 22, 2015
Guest: Elizabeth Douglass
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC ANCHOR: From the west, that is ALL IN for this evening.
The "RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend.
HAYES: You bet.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for staying with us this hour.
President Obama went to another red state today after his State of the
Union address to the new Republican majority Congress. After his big
speech making clear that he is not planning on backing down for the last
two years of his term, Republican Congress be damned. After that speech on
Tuesday night, President Obama basically, opened the hatch on the lion`s
den and jumped right in.
The president from the State of the Union first went to red state Idaho
yesterday where he lost presidential elections by good margins twice.
Idaho is not about to turn blue, but there was President Obama yesterday
speaking at Boise State. Then today the president went from red state
Idaho to a redder state, Kansas. President spoke today at the University
of Kansas before a crowd of about 7,000 people.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It`s good to be back in
I got -- I got deep roots in Kansas.
As you know, my mom was born in Wichita.
Her mom who grew up in Augusta.
Her father was from El Dorado.
So I`m -- I`m a Kansas guy.
I`m a Kansas guy. Now -- now that helped me in the caucus here in 2008.
It didn`t help me as much in the general election.
Coach Self won 10 straight, I lost two straight here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: "I lost two straight here." And the president laughs about that
and the crowd laughs about it, too. They know where they are, right?
And Kansas, specifically, is not just one of the reddest states in the
country, if not the reddest state. Kansas is also the home of the shadow
Republican Party. Kansas is also the home of the richest and most powerful
presence in all of Republican politics. Kansas is the home of the Kochs,
of Charles and David Koch. The 5th and 6th richest men on earth.
It`s home to the gigantic oil and chemical company that they inherited from
their dad, which is what made them the 5th and 6th riches men on earth.
And in American politics, it sometimes seems as though Charles and David
Koch are everywhere, but they do have a geographic center of the Koch
Universe and it is in Kansas. And President Obama picked a fascinating
week to turn up on the Kochs` home turf.
Every year the Kochs hold a big summit in the desert in California near
Palm Springs. The Kochs used to hold this summit in as much secrecy as
possible. Partly because these protesters show what happens when people
find out where the Kochs are holding secret meetings. But the Kochs also
like their privacy in part because keeping it all very hush-hush and very
secret, that was part of their strategy for raising money from other
extremely wealthy people who didn`t want to become as famous as the Kochs
are for their right-wing politics.
For years, the Kochs have specialized in raising and spending hundreds of
millions of dollars from donors who often don`t have to reveal their
identities. The Koch Conservative Funding Network has become a huge force
in American politics. Basically a shadow Republican Party and they`ve done
it by basically getting very, very, very rich conservative people not just
themselves but other rich people. Getting them to write very large checks
for political campaigning without having to worry that they would become
known for having done so.
That -- that part of the Kochs` operation, that part of who they are, in
terms of raising money from other rich people who don`t necessarily want to
be known for doing it. In the past few months, that part of Koch world has
notably and noticeably begun to change.
Check this out, last summer, ahead of the midterm elections the Koch
brothers unveiled a new super PAC that was different than what they have
done before. Quote, "For the first time the network`s donors would be
publicly identified if they gave to the super PAC." They made that change
last year and it turns out, it apparently didn`t really spook the donors.
The Koch brothers brought that part of their network out of the shadows and
the money kept flowing in.
And that seems to have started kind of a new chapter for the Koch brothers
and how they operate in politics. Sort of a new openness about what
they`re doing. So there`s Charles Koch sitting down for an interview with
the "Wichita Eagle" telling them what he`s going to be working on this year
in terms of his politics. There`s David Koch on TV telling Barbara Walters
that you`d be surprised, he`s actually quite liberal. Really.
The Kochs have started letting it be known which presidential hopefuls
they`re talking to for the 2016 raise. We`re allowed to know for example
that Rand Paul got a personal Koch brothers meeting. Ted Cruz got a
personal meeting. Chris Christie as well apparently he just loved to stop
by the office.
Rather than keeping it all under wraps like a state secret, the way they
used to before, this year Koch seems to be letting it known what they`re
doing. At least they letting it be known who exactly they`re meeting with.
They`ve also let it be known very frankly that they are not meeting with
Mitt Romney and they are not inviting Mitt Romney to this fancy summit
they`re having this weekend in California.
So this is part of the way the Kochs are operating now. It`s been a very
interesting thing to watch. There`s so many potential Republican
presidential candidates right now. One of the ways we`re all trying to
figure out, you know, whether or not they`re really going to make a run for
it, whether or not they`re going to be viable. One of the ways you could
sort of monitor that is to see how well they`re doing at courting the
outside-the-Republican-Party money train that is Charles and David Koch and
their network`s empire of conservative funders.
The Kochs are still not going to let reporters into their donors` summit
this weekend in Palm Springs. But in this new era of slightly more
openness about what they are doing, they are for the first time going to
set up a live stream of the main event at their Palm Springs event. So
this is going to be sort of the closest thing we have yet had to a Koch
party 2016 primary debate. It`ll include Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and Ted
Cruz, all on stage together, from the Koch summit in Palm Springs this
weekend and they`re going to allow it to be live streamed.
So if you wanted to know what happened at those meetings, you used to have
to wait for somebody to leak incredibly low-fi audio from a cell phone they
smuggled in by lying about who they were, right? That`s not the case
anymore. The Kochs announcing essentially, you know, we know you know what
we`re doing, so we`re going to let you see at least some of it.
They`re coming a little less defensive about what they`re doing. They`re
happy to be seen doing what they do, kind of coming out of the shadows in
terms of being willing to be the parallel Republican Party.
The interesting change, surprising, I think and I think it`s probably
effective. I think this decision to be a little more open about what
they`re doing probably at least thus far this year has proved their
influence. For example, letting it be known that they`re talking to Chris
Christie and Rand Paul and Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, that is probably
boosting the standing of those candidates. And if they do like those
candidates, they have probably helped them just by letting it be known that
they are welcome in Koch world.
Conversely, it will probably really hurt Mitt Romney in terms of whether or
not he can seem viable to other Republican donors, but the Kochs are
letting it be known that they`re not going help him at all. That they are
not meeting with him, he`s not invited persona non grata. I mean, so we`ll
see. But it seems like coming out in that part of their political work is
probably going be a good move for them in terms of extending their
influence. But it`s interesting.
While that is all happening at one level of what the Koch brothers do,
there`s also a whole other way that Kochs operate in politics that is not
all coming out of the shadows and that still gets almost no attention.
But this is part of the campus at the University of Kansas. The same
campus where President Obama spoke today. You can see the big Koch sign
there. This is the student lounge in the business school at the University
of Kansas. The Kochs gives money to a lot of universities including
Kansas. This is the Center for Applied Economics inside Kansas` Business
School. It was founded with the donation from one of the Koch charities.
Now the man you see there is the center`s director, his name is Dr. Art
Hall. He`s an economist, he used to work for Koch Industries. But since
2004, he has worked at the University of Kansas. Teaching and running the
Koch funded Center for Applied Economics. Technically he`s an employee of
the university, his paycheck comes from the University of Kansas, but about
a quarter of that salary coming from this economic center.
You can also find lots of evidence of him making waves outside the
university. Making recommendations for Kansas` state economy and how it
should be run. Here, for example, is Dr. Hall advising the Kansas
legislature on what Kansas tax policy ought to be. Here`s some of his
testimony -- this is the Koch brothers again, but he`s also given public
testimony on energy. Right?
It`s one thing if oil and chemical company inheriting billionaires tell you
that your state ought to vote against wind power. Right? They run an oil
company. It`s one thing if those guys tell you that you ought to vote
against wind power, but when it says business professor at Kansas
University who tells you to vote against wind power, one -- well, maybe
that land with a little more half. Maybe that`s something you`d be a
little less suspicious of.
Well, with Dr. Hall, you can have that. Last year Dr. Art Hall told the
Kansas legislature that the state`s new standards calling for more wind
power could in fact be detrimental to the development of wind power. That
was the Kochs` position last year and it was Art Hall`s position too from
the University of Kansas and his Koch funded position there.
Professor Hall`s testimony got some attention last year in the local
papers, which pointed out his connection both to the university and to Koch
Industries. That testimony also got the attention of some students at the
University of Kansas.
Check this out. These are Students for a Sustainable Future. They are
student group and environmental group at K.U. Their president, Schuyler
Kraus, had been hearing about the Kochs` funding of colleges around the
country. And she decided maybe this group should try to learn a little
more about Art Hall, about the Koch funded center that he was running at
So the students filed an open records request. They asked for documents
and letters and e-mails having to do with Art Hall and the Kochs. And the
Kochs` involvement with their school. University of Kansas looked at their
request. They figured out how much time the staff would have to spend
fulfilling the request, answering the students. Right? And they told the
students, well, OK, we`ll answer your request but that`s going to cost you
$1800 because that`s how much staff time it`s going to cost.
That $1800 may not be the most money in the world, but when you`re a bunch
of college students that`s a lot of burritos and beer, right? Students did
not have $1800 laying around but their teachers did. The Kansas chapter of
the American Association of University Professors they ponied up more than
half the money specifically so the students could get those records that
they had asked for.
And in November, the students got a first round of documents. They had
raised the money, they were going to get at least some of the information
they wanted. But that did not last long because Dr. Art Hall, the guy at
the heart of the student`s inquiry, he sued. He sued the university to
make them stop releasing those documents and he won. Professor Hall told
the court that records requests like this one from the students were,
quote, "sand in the gears of academic freedom."
Weeks after the university started releasing those documents a Kansas judge
ordered the university to stop releasing the documents, put a temporary
restraining orders on the university. Don`t let anymore of these documents
out. And of course it bears saying that there are real questions about
academic freedom, right, and whether college processors ought to be
shielded from open records requests.
We have seen real world instances where, for example, professors doing
climate research have been subjected to request for their e-mails and
records in a way that`s been clearly designed to, you know, make them think
twice about doing that climate science work. That`s the case that Dr. Hall
is making at K.U. That the students search for outside influence on his
testimony and his work, really that`s an attack on his academic liberty.
In -- in terms of his own work, he told us today that he has, quote,
"complete autonomy to choose the issues on which the center conducts
research and by extension complete autonomy to decide which issue merit
time and effort dedicated to public testimony."
Dr. Hall also told us that he`s getting help from the Koch`s with his legal
bills for his lawsuit.
Well, right now he`s winning his fight with help from the Kochs. The
students wanted the documents related to the Kochs. The university tells
us they believe the students were entitled to more records but the students
were not getting those records, not now.
So on the one hand, what we have here is a classic David and Goliath story,
right? With this college kids on one side and some of the worlds very
richest billionaires on the other side. But what we also have is a
question about the Kochs who do really increasingly operate as a parallel
Republican Party in our country. And who are now in some ways being more
open about their ideas and their influence and who they want to control
The Koch Foundations donate to hundreds of colleges and universities. The
list of schools as of this month runs to four pages, name after name, and
tiny pop school after school, right. The -- Charles Koch Foundation told
us today, quote, "Academic freedom and the free exchange of ideas are
cornerstones of our philanthropy. When we support of school`s initiative
is to expand opportunity and increase the diversity of ideas available on
Chances are there is a Koch funded center or professorship or program or
all three at the university very near you. And by law you may not be
allowed to find out much at all about that.
We reached out to the Kochs themselves for comment today, we did not hear
back. If we do we`ll you know. But this story out of Kansas, it does mark
this very curious moment in our politics. The Koch brothers are lifting
the curtain on one part of what they`re doing, with their new transparency
about which candidates they are talking to, with their new live stream from
their formerly top secret summit.
The Kochs are becoming more open politically. But at the same time they
are in a fight to shut down access for a group of students in Kansas just
trying to figure out what they`re doing to influence their education and
what their university presumably stands for in the public domain.
I think President Obama was looking in part for a friendly audience in a
red state when he spoke today at those students university. But he was
also in Kochville when he gave that speech today, what timing.
Joining us now is Nic Confessore, political reporter for the "New York
Nic, thanks for being here, really appreciate you.
So you`ve been on the campaign finance beat for a long time, which sounds
boring but ends up being the most interesting thing in politics. I think
that the Koch brothers and their network, they seem to be making a
substantive change in terms of being more public about what they are doing.
What do you make of it?
NICHOLAS CONFESSORE, THE NEW YORK TIMES POLITICAL REPORTER: The Kochs
regard, coverage and scrutiny in the press as a taxed. And part of this is
a realization that they are paying that tax anyway. Everyone is paying
attention, everyone cares who they give money to, everyone covers their
events in the press corps. And so partly this is the savvy decision to
say, you know what, let`s own some of our coverage. Let`s control some of
this debate a bit.
If we`re going to have three candidates for 2016 appearing in a room before
400 people is not what a private event any more. Let`s live stream it.
MADDOW: Is there -- do you understand for having covered them, what they
view the tradeoff is? Of letting us see more of what do they`re doing. Do
-- what do they think they`re losing by doing that? Obviously, they fought
tooth and nail to keep everything as secret as possible for years up until
CONFESSORE: You know, I think, again, for this particular event, right,
that there -- that there`s not a huge downside risk to them of having this
gone in the air, having -- you know, (INAUDIBLE) of it circulating around.
And it takes some of the pressure off I think. Because there is so much
attention paid to these conferences they have now. You have people
sneaking in and trying to record things on secret microphones.
CONFESSORE: And I think the calculation is probably if you let in a little
bit of air into this room, it`s not so bad, it will demystify some of it.
And the truth is this big donor conferences are often pretty humdrum.
MADDOW: Well, you know, one of the -- one of the things that I have
appreciated about your reporting, and then I think is very hard to get your
head around, if you just sort keep track of the headlines on this staff, is
how to understand the magnitude of the money.
MADDOW: And how to understand the relationship of the Kochs and their
money and the money that they can sort of direct through their networks, as
a part of the overall pool of money that`s involved in conservative and
MADDOW: If, for example, Mitt Romney, who very plainly wants to make a
third run for the presidency, if he is being boxed out by that network, not
invited to the Koch events, not being put on the list of approved
candidates for those donors to channel their funds to.
CONFESSORE: Right. Right.
MADDOW: Does that effectively count him out as a financial contender for
CONFESSORE: I don`t think so, we`re at that point yet. The donor base and
Republican politics for big donors, for fundraisers, who raise money from
friends and colleagues and family for candidates, that`s thousands of
people and the top group is a couple of hundred people. And most of them
are not part of this group.
What is interesting about the Koch network of donors is that these are
people who are mostly not part of the traditional Republican network. So
it`s an added value, it`s an extra set of people you can get on your team
if you are Republican, and you can`t necessarily have them if you`re a
traditional Republican. What we see them doing here is inviting the rising
stars of the 2016 class, the next generation people, and saying look, we
think these guys are worth paying attention to. So that could bring you a
lot more money that you might not otherwise have access to at all.
MADDOW: So it really is a parallel universe.
MADDOW: Rather than a subset of the existing universe.
CONFESSORE: It`s a bit of overlap but it`s mostly a parallel universe.
MADDOW: Yes. I think that those -- for those universes are going to be
converging more and more in overtime. And we`ll see if the 2016 is like --
CONFESSORE: That`s right and part of the point of this event I think and
having this view public is to say look, we`re here, we`re important, this
is an important stop in the invisible primary for president and if you`re
not here it is a bad thing.
Nic Confessore, political reporter for the "The New York Times." Thanks
for helping us understand. Appreciate it.
CONFESSORE: Any time.
MADDOW: All right. We got lots more ahead tonight, including a lot of
people in very public places saying a word over and over and over again
that should not never be said that many times in public. You know exactly
what I`m talking about. The evidence is coming.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Due to mature subject matter, viewer discretion is
MADDOW: Here is the thing, there should be a rule. It`s footballs. Stop
saying balls, balls, balls, balls. Like it`s like -- the number of times
the word balls has been said on TV like the innuendos is like -- it`s just
footballs, it`s football staff.
BILL BELICHICK, NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS FOOTBALL COACH: The balls we practice
with are as bad as they can be. Wet, sticky, cold, slippery.
TOM BRADY, NEW ENGLAND QUARTERBACK: And they also know that how I like the
balls. You know, you go through that process of breaking the balls in, and
then getting comfortable with them, of course, you know, I choose the balls
that I want.
BELICHICK: Any time the players complain about the quality of the balls --
BRADY: I`m not squeezing the balls, I`m not -- you know, I don`t -- that`s
not part of my process.
BELICHICK: Each team has an opportunity to prepare the balls.
BRADY: I don`t want anyone touching the balls after that, I don`t want
anyone rubbing them. To me those balls are perfect.
BELICHICK: The balls --
BRADY: You know I like them the way I like them. Everybody has a
preference, some guys like them round and some guys like them thin, some
guys like them tacky, some guys like them brand new, some guys like old
balls, I mean, they`re all different.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Before the 2010 election, Alabama`s state legislature had been
controlled by the Democratic Party for 136 years. But in 2010, Republicans
knew they were going to have a good year overall and they hatched a plan to
use the momentum of that big Republican year, and also a complicated
sketchy national fundraising scheme. They hatched a plan basically to take
over Alabama politics in 2010 and it worked.
The Alabama Republican chairman who orchestrated the whole thing, he wrote
this book about it, "Storming the State House," and in 2010, for the first
time since 1874, Republicans took control in Alabama. They took the
Alabama legislature. And the author of that book, the guy who orchestrated
the whole takeover, they elected him speaker of the House and then they
indicted him on 23 felony corruption counts.
His name is Mike Hubbard. And in October while he was still serving as
speaker of the House he was hit with nearly two dozen felony ethics
charges. He was arrested, he was charged. It was two weeks before the
November election. In that November election with the 23 felony charges
pending against him, he was handily reelected to his seat in the Alabama
House and then his fellow Republicans in the Alabama House reelected him
And so here`s his mug shot. There are headlines in the Alabama papers all
the time basically every day about his impending trial, and that was
defending himself against these 23 felony corruption charges. But
meanwhile he continues to serve as basically the most powerful public
official in the state of Alabama while under indictment. Alabama doesn`t
much seem to mind, but it is an awkward thing.
And he`s not the only one. Just a couple of weeks before Alabama Speaker
of the House Mike Hubbard was indicted and fingerprinted, had his mug shot
taken at Alabama, just a few weeks before that, two states over in South
Carolina they, too, are arrested their speaker of the House. Happened in
September, was South Carolina`s Republican House Speaker Bobby Harrell, he
was indicted on nine felony corruption charges.
Now at least he had the decency to resign once he pled guilty. Pleading
guilty saved him from six years in prisons instead got probation he had to
pay a fine. But he did also have to give up that sweet, sweet job as
speaker of the South Carolina House.
And it`s not just in the south where this is a problem. The great state of
Massachusetts where I live, not that long ago. Massachusetts had a
spectacular run with House Speakers in which three of them in a row were
not just charged, but convicted of felonies.
Three in a row. Come on now. But now it`s happened again. And this one
might have ripple effects for at least one democratic politician who I
think wants to be taken seriously as a potential contender for the White
House some day.
This time the House Speaker who has been hit with multiple felony
corruption charges is from the great state of New York. And I know what
you`re thinking, New York? There`s someone in state government in New York
who isn`t already in prison or out on bail?
I know the list of state senators and people from the state assembly who
are in jail or who have pled guilty, or who are under indictment, or who
have been censured, or thrown out in the assembly of the Senate because of
their various crimes, it is literally almost too many to list.
What we`re scrolling through here is just a sprinkling from a handy robes,
gallery of members of the state assembly and state senate and their
criminal actions, which is published today by "The New York Times." But
the guy who they arrested today, he`s a little different than all the rest
of those other guys because he is the guy who`s in charge.
A lot of people say that he is not just the guy in charge of the state
assembly as speaker. A lot of people consider this guy to be the guy who
basically runs the state of New York, and who has run the state of New York
for 20 years now. He`s a Democrat, his name is Sheldon Silver, he`s been
in the state assembly since 1974. He`s been speaker of the state assembly
When people talk about how -- how things are done in New York state, for a
generation now, people have said that New York makes all its deals, all its
policy, all its laws by a New York system they call three guys in a room.
One of those three guys in the room is whoever is governor at the time.
One of those three guys in the room is whatever schmoe is running the state
Senate for a minute before he goes to prison.
But for 20 years now, the constant, the third guy in the room, the guy who
runs everything forever, even as everybody else cycles in and out of the
place, that has been, for a generation now, Sheldon Silver. And today they
arrested Sheldon Silver and they held him with five felony corruption
And the criminal complaint filed today, federal prosecutors alleged that he
basically had a no work job at a law firm or two which paid him millions of
dollars. The complaint says he used his position as the most powerful man
in New York to tell people with business before the state that they ought
to use certain law firms and then he would get kick back for having sent
that business to those firms.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PREET BHARARA, U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT, NEW YORK: For many years,
New Yorkers have also asked the question what exactly does Speaker Silver
do to earn his substantial outside income. Well, the head scratching can
come to an end on that score, too, because we answer that question today as
well. He does nothing. As alleged Speaker Silver never did any actual
legal work. He simply sat back and collected millions of dollars by
cashing in on his public office and his political influence.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney, a federal prosecutor who brought
this case today, he made clear that this arrest of the House Speaker, this
indictment today, derived from an investigation that was started by a New
York State Ethics Commission. The ethics commission was set up to restore
public trust in the profoundly corrupt government of New York state. That
commission was formed after the last big wave of arrests of New York state
lawmakers. They founded this commission to make everybody feel better
about New York ethics by investigating what they are.
That ethics commission was disbanded suddenly last spring by New York
Governor Andrew Cuomo. Sheldon Silver really wanted that ethics commission
to go away. New York Governor Cuomo made it go away without much
explanation. The U.S. attorney then seized that commission`s files and
pledged to continue that commission`s work, even though Cuomo had shut the
whole thing down.
And now, that investigation continued by the federal prosecutor has
resulted in the arrest and in five felony charges against the most powerful
man in New York politics, Democratic House Speaker Sheldon Silver.
And maybe Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York, maybe he is going to run
for president some day, but let it be known nationwide that there is a
mega-aggressive federal prosecutor in New York who is busy locking up New
York state politicians one after the other, one by one, up and down the
state, and he is making no secret about his feelings about Governor Andrew
And today, that prosecutor arrested and indicted his biggest fish yet, the
closest thing New York has to a permanent political power.
In the past five months, this is the third House speaker arrested and
indicted on felony charges in our country. It`s almost enough to make you
think politics has become a very dirty business.
MADDOW: Occasionally on this show, we do a segment called "And now here is
a thing." Basically, the idea is that no real comment is necessary. You
should just know that here is a thing that happened. Behold.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SUBTITLE: And now, here`s a thing.
Senator Harry Reid is back at work after an accident he had while
exercising. He broke bones in his face and several ribs.
SEN. HARRY REID (D), NEVADA: What`s that? How are my ribs? They`re so
meaningless it`s hard to believe.
SUBTITLE: "My ribs? They`re so meaningless it`s hard to believe."
And that is a thing that happened.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: My ribs are so meaningless, it`s hard to believe. Poems by
Senator Harry Reid. Meaningless?
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Spare a thought, if you can, for a place called Williston, North
Dakota. Williston is a little city in western North Dakota. It`s about an
hour drive from the Canadian border.
And I don`t know how your week is going, but they`re in the middle of a
really, really bad week. First, on Saturday afternoon, an oil pipeline
burst west of Williston, in Glendive, Montana. We talked about this on the
show last night. It was a 12-inch oil pipeline that burst underneath the
Yellowstone River. It dumped tens of thousands of gallons of oil into the
Yellowstone River, it cut off the city of Glendive, Montana from clean
Last night on the show, we spoke to the mayor of Glendive, where the
residents have been forced to rely on trucked in emergency bottled water
because their drinking supply has been contaminated. He told us that his
residents were hanging in there, but they`re bracing for the possibility
that it could take weeks to clean up all of the oil that was spilled into
the Yellowstone River in their town.
That river, of course, though, is not a static body of water, no river is.
Even with a bunch of ice on top of that river right now for the winter,
that river flows from Montana into North Dakota.
When that spill happened in Yellowstone River in Glendive, Montana, in
eastern Montana over the weekend, Williston, North Dakota, a few dozen
miles downstream from that spill in North Dakota, they started bracing for
problems there, too.
Officials in Williston started testing their own water supply after the
spill upstream in Montana. They started looking for the same trace
elements of crude oil that were turning up in the water in Glendive.
Happily all signs were pointing to the Williston water, at least so far,
being OK, despite that spill upstream.
But then, new news -- news came this morning that Williston did not just
have a problem upstream in Montana. Williston, North Dakota was also
facing another spill, another totally unrelated pipeline spill just north
of the city of Williston. And this time, when officials announced that
there had been yet another pipeline still, this time it wasn`t a few tens
of thousands gallons, this time it was a spill of 3 million gallons, nearly
3 million gallons of a toxic drilling byproduct, a chemical-laden brine
that spilled right into another public waterway that leads right towards
Williston drinking water supply.
This toxic brine is sort of a saltwater petroleum mix. Earlier this month,
it turns out a pipeline carrying that brine had ruptured in an area north
of Williston. The pipeline company informed the state of the pipeline
leak, all the way back on January 6th. But it was not until today that we
learned that not only was there a spill, but surprise, it is apparently the
single largest spill of it`s kind in state history, and this is a state
that has had a lot of spills.
It`s not yet known when exactly the spill started or how long it went on
for before it was detected, but they`re saying 3 million gallons. And the
solution being employed at this point to try to clean it all up, the
solution is almost impossible to believe.
The main body of water that this brine spilled into it is called Black Tail
Creek. State officials say Black Tail Creek will now be, quote, "fully
drained". That is part of the initial clean up, that is the solution.
Hey, we got a serious spill into the creek. Wow, let`s get rid of the
creek. The pipeline company, I kid you not, has brought in giant vacuum
trucks to suck all of the water out of the creek which as you might imagine
not the easiest process.
A spokesman for the company telling the local press today, quote, "the
problem is that the creek bed is kind of being replenished with water, so
we extract, it fills, we extract, it fills". Yes, the creek, it turns out,
isn`t some water feature that somebody artificially added to the landscape
because they thought it was cute. It`s there because there is supposed to
be a creek there. Vacuuming it up will probably isn`t going to disappear
But that`s apparently what they`re trying as the solution. They`re trying
to disappear the creek.
And in the meantime, residents of nearby Williston are waiting to find out
if that spill upstream in Montana has ruined their drinking water supply,
or if this latest second spill right in their backyard is the thing that`s
ruining their drinking water supply.
In terms of determining what caused that spill in eastern Montana, the one
in Glendive, Montana, along the Yellowstone River, there is also a
development on that story tonight as well tonight, too. The pipeline that
burst underneath the Yellowstone River, that was operated by a company
called Bridger Pipeline. We`ve asked them to come on the show, we`d still
love them to come be here.
There`s been no official determination yet by either the company or by the
state of Montana about what exactly was the cause of that pipeline break
underneath the river. But the Website "Inside Climate News" is reporting
tonight that that specific pipeline was built using faulty welding
techniques that date back in the `50s. They`re reporting that more than a
third of the pipeline steel segments were welded together in the early
1950s using a welding technique that is widely considered to be vulnerable
to cracking overtime.
Do you remember that ExxonMobil pipeline that burst underneath an Arkansas
neighborhood in 2013? Remember that one? It sent crude oil pouring
through backyards and streets that essentially destroyed an entire
neighborhood that hadn`t even known the pipeline was there before it
bursts. It turns out, the pipeline involved in that spill was also built
using the same faulty welding techniques that date back to the middle of
the 20th century, the same technique that`s were reportedly were used in
the pipeline that just burst open, for as yet unexplained reasons
underneath the Yellowstone River, just upstream from Williston.
And, again, it`s not clear what caused this latest pipeline rupture in
Mondays, but that 1950s era lousy welding technique, that is now being
raised again as a possible culprit. Where else are pipelines with those
kind of welds?
Joining us now is Elizabeth Douglass. She`s an energy reporter with
Pulitzer Prize-winning news group, "Inside Climate News".
Ms. Douglass, thanks very much for being with us tonight.
ELIZABETH DOUGLASS, INSIDE CLIMATE NEWS: Thanks a lot, Rachel.
MADDOW: What should we understand about how many pipelines across the U.S.
currently use this type of 1950s welding, which has been highlighted as
potentially problematic here?
DOUGLASS: Well, I think it`s about a third that carry hazardous liquids.
Hazardous liquids are oil, gasoline, diesel, and things like that. And
they -- about a third of them have been built using that kind of process.
MADDOW: In terms of the pipeline ruptures that we have seen, obviously,
every one is different. But when you look at them carrying hazardous
liquids, as you say, around the country -- should we see the risk of
pipeline ruptures as being related to age? So new ones therefore won`t
have problems? Is it related to technological failures in the way they`re
built? Is it related to basic monitoring and maintenance that`s not being
done properly? What`s the problem with all these pipelines that are
splitting open all over the country?
DOUGLASS: There is a number of problems, I think you can put it in three
categories. There is regulatory problems, and there is market trends that
are causing problems, and then, there are unknowns -- having to do with
metallurgy and the chemical reactions of steel in the ground or in water.
So, if we take the top one, government regulation, there really aren`t
enough inspectors to go around and make sure all of these pipelines are
being watched as closely as they need to be, and are being tested and
checked with internal cameras and sensors and so forth. And so, there
aren`t enough regulators.
And underneath that, the regulation that is the primary way of assuring us
that the pipelines are safe is really a very big judgment call by pipeline
companies. It has a fancy name, it is integrity management. And that
means that every pipeline company decides what is good for their specific
pipe. They decide what the risks are and then they decide to fix them
according to that.
MADDOW: When you talk about the regulatory environment, can we say there
are things we know to be good practices in terms of maintaining the safety
of these pipelines that the industry isn`t doing? Are there things that
they know would be effective in terms of maintaining safety that aren`t
widely done in the industry?
DOUGLASS: Well, it depends on what the problem is with the pipeline. The
problem with the pipeline that we`re talking about is very prone to
cracking and very tiny minute cracks that then can grow overtime. So,
there are ways that you operate the pipeline in order to reduce the chances
of those pipe -- cracks growing while you`re using the pipeline.
One is that you try not to make the pressure go in big cycles, of big delta
between the highest pressure that liquid is moving through and the lowest
pressure. So, that`s one of the things, it`s partly the way you operate
MADDOW: Elizabeth Douglass, energy reporter with "Inside Climate News",
that does really, really good work on this subject -- thanks for helping us
understand it. I appreciate you being here.
DOUGLASS: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right.
So, there was a burst of kind of cinematic, maybe even melodramatic news
today. Did you ever watch "NCIS"? Everybody in the country watches "NCIS"
if you look at their ratings. But if you`ve ever watched "NCIS" and liked
it -- stay tuned. We`ve got sort of a crazy story especially for you,
coming up in just a minute.
MADDOW: The president of the United States sat down today for a round
robin series of interviews with three very high profile people. Brian
Williams, Scott Pelley, David Muir? Gwen Ifill, Judy Woodruff, Katie
Couric? Anyone you`ve heard of? Anyone you`ve heard of? Anyone you`ve
No. Oh, contraire. No, the White House made a very, very different
decision today about who the president should answer questions from. And
that story is just ahead.
MADDOW: President Obama sat down for three interviews today with some of
the most high profile people he has granted an interview to all year.
There are three YouTube stars who sat down and asked the president lots of
questions. They talked about Cuba and about North Korea. They talked
They talked about President Obama`s first wife. First wife?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GLOZELL GREEN, YOUTUBER/COMEDIAN: My mom said whenever you go to
somebody`s house. You have to give them something. Don`t come empty
So, I have for your first wife --
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My first --
GREEN: I mean, I mean --
OBAMA: Do you know something I don`t?
GREEN: Oh, for the first lady.
OBAMA: One for the first lady.
GREEN: And the first children.
OBAMA: And the first --
GREEN: All right. I`m just going to put this.
OBAMA: OK. Let me just take a look at these, though. They are very -- I
mean, it is impressive stuff. I`m going to see how it looks -- I`m going
to ask Michelle to try it on, maybe even tonight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: If anybody told me that green lipstick is what it took to get an
interview with this president, I would have done it. I swear I would have
done it. I`d still do it. Come on.
MADDOW: This is the director of the CIA, John Brennan.
Previous CIA director was retired General David Petraeus. General Petraeus
resigned from the CIA when it was discovered that while he was leading the
nation`s premier spy agency, he was also having a secret extramarital
affair. We`re waiting now to find out if General Petraeus will be
criminally charged with disclosing classified information to the woman he
was shtupping while he was head of the CIA. "The New York Times" has
reported that federal prosecutors investigating that alleged disclosure of
classified information, they have recommended that General Petraeus should
be indicted on those charges. As yet, there`s been no official word.
You may remember, though, how that whole scandal started. The reason that
affair came to light in the first place was because of a seemingly
unrelated investigation. A friend of General Petraeus approached the FBI
and asked them for help after she said she received stalker-ish,
threatening e-mails about her friendship with Petraeus.
It was only when FBI agents started investigating those threats that they
stumbled upon electronic evidence that General Petraeus had something going
on in his personal life that he`d been trying to conceal. They didn`t
start off looking for evidence that he was having affair, but that is what
they found and that is why he eventually quit.
Well, now, it has happened again. Only this time, it`s not the head of the
CIA. This time, it`s the head of the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay in
Cuba. And this time the original investigation was not about some
threatening e-mails or a stalker. This time the initial investigation was
about a body. A body found floating in the surf just off the coast of
Guantanamo station in Cuba.
Forty-two-year-old man was found dead floating the bay last Sunday. It was
an American, a former marine, who at the time of his death was a civilian
employee at that naval base. He worked at the commissary on the base.
The day before his body was found in the bay, he had been reported missing
by his wife, who also worked at the base. Well, U.S. officials now tell
multiple news organizations that in the course of the investigation of the
NCIS investigation into that man`s death, naval investigators discovered
evidence of an affair between the dead man`s wife and the commander of the
naval station at Guantanamo Bay.
Although adultery itself is a crime under the Uniform Code of Military
Justice, the commander has not been charged with anything. He has been
relieved of duty. He`s been reassigned within the Navy. On the record,
NCIS says this is an ongoing investigation. They`re not confirming
anything about what they found or where this investigation might be going.
But the "Associated Press" within the last 24 hours has published some
language about this case and investigation that made it sound like it`s
going in a very dark direction. "The A.P." wrote that U.S. officials say
the Guantanamo commander is under investigation in connection with the
death of the man who was found floating in Guantanamo Bay.
That language makes it sound like the Navy is investigate thing commander
for involvement in an alleged murder at Guantanamo. Now, nobody else is
using language like that in the reporting on the story. It`s entirely
possible that the "A.P." has gotten out a little over its skis in the way
they have written this up.
But even without alleged murder implications, this story is shocking and
sad and puzzling enough. A man is dead. The commander at Guantanamo naval
base is out. None of it has been explained thus far on the record. But
we`ll keep you posted as we learn more.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL."
Thanks for being with us tonight.
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