Morning Maddow 11-25-2014

Fires burn in Ferguson after officer not indicted | Today Show

Morning Maddow

Here’s why Michael Brown was killed, according to Darren Wilson. (NY Magazine)

What’s next? Ferguson officer not out of the woods yet. (NBC News)

Missouri Governor orders additional guardsmen to Ferguson. (KSDK)

Congressional Black Caucus slams grand jury decision on Ferguson. (BuzzFeed)

Thousands rally across the U.S. after Ferguson decision. (AP)

Inside Sec. Hagel’s sudden firing. (Daily Beast)

Rep. Trey Gowdy reappointed to lead House Benghazi inquiry. (NY Times)

What are you reading this morning? Let us know in the comments, please.

Ted Cruz Wants To Fight Obama Over Immigration, But He Forgot About One Thing

The Huffington Post

WASHINGTON — 11-23-14 – Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is calling for congressional Republicans to fight back against President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration, saying they should refuse to confirm the president’s nominees until he reverses course.

“If the president announces executive amnesty, the new Senate majority leader who takes over in January should announce that the 114th Congress will not confirm a single nominee — executive or judicial — outside of vital national security positions, so long as the illegal amnesty persists,” Cruz wrote in a recent Politico Magazine op-ed.

There is obviously some political risk in Republicans pursuing such a strategy, given the presidential election in two years and a Senate landscape that looks more favorable for Democrats to regain control in that election.

But during an interview with Cruz on “Fox News Sunday,” host Chris Wallace pointed out another potential downside to blocking Obama’s nominations: Attorney General Eric Holder, a constant source of irritation for Republicans, would get to stay in his job longer. Holder announced in late September that he planned to retire, and earlier this month, Obama nominated Loretta Lynch, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, to take his place. Holder has stated that he will remain in his position until his successor’s nomination is confirmed by Congress.

“Are you saying that the Senate should refuse to confirm Loretta Lynch, the president’s new nominee for attorney general, and thereby leave Eric Holder, who you don’t like very much, in that position even longer?” asked Wallace.

Cruz largely avoided Wallace’s question, simply saying that Republicans “should use the constitutional checks and balances we have to rein in the executive.”

Wallace, however, persisted, and asked the question again. This time, Cruz still did not state directly that the Senate should block Lynch, but implied as much by saying that only positions of “vital national security” should get to the floor for a vote.

“In my view, the majority leader should decline to bring to the floor of the Senate any nomination other than vital national security positions,” the senator said. “Now, that is a serious and major step.”

In a prime-time address Thursday night, Obama announced that because Congress had failed to pass immigration reform, he would use his executive authority to bring deportation relief to 4 million or more undocumented immigrants.

The president’s executive action will protect undocumented parents whose children are U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents, as well as immigrants who came to America as children and others with long-standing ties to the country, from being deported.

Obama defended his actions in an interview with George Stephanopoulos, host of ABC’s “This Week,” that aired Sunday morning. “The history is that I have issued fewer executive actions than most of my predecessors, by a long shot,” he said. “The difference is the response of Congress, and specifically the response of some of the Republicans.”

“But if you ask historians, take a look at the track records of the modern presidency, I’ve actually been very restrained, and I’ve been very restrained with respect to immigration,” Obama added. “I bent over backwards and will continue to do everything I can to get Congress to work because that’s my preference.”

The Inside Story of Chuck Hagel’s Dismissal

President Obama called Chuck Hagel “no ordinary secretary of defense” during a news conference at which Mr. Hagel announced his resignation. Video by Associated Press on Publish Date November 24, 2014 | Photo by Stephen Crowley/The New York Times.

Political Wire

“Hagel’s resignation was decided last Thursday night, a Pentagon official tells The Daily Beast. The news only got out to a few people in the building, who described the next day at work as exceptionally awkward. Many Pentagon officials were surprised to learn Monday from a New York Times report that their boss was leaving. (An earlier announcement would have been impractical, as Obama had his plate full rolling out his controversial plan to begin overhauling the immigration system.)”

“So it was that a duty-bound Hagel, a man who had honorably served in the Vietnam War and still carries shrapnel in his chest from that conflict, was fired Monday morning on live television alongside President Obama and a clearly displeased Vice President Joe Biden.”

Darren Wilson Told Grand Jury That Michael Brown Looked Like A ‘Demon’


Darren Wilson | No Attribution

TPM LiveWire

St. Louis Public Radio published the full transcript of Wilson’s testimony Monday. The St. Louis County Prosecutor’s office released evidence from the grand jury proceedings after it was announced that no charges would be filed against Wilson.

From the outset, Wilson’s testimony painted Brown as an angry young man. The officer testified that when he first approached Brown and his friend to tell them to walk on the sidewalk instead of in the middle of the road, Brown responded “fuck what you have to say.”

“It was a very unusual and not expected response from a simple request,” Wilson told jurors.

According to Wilson’s account, the officer swung his car around to contain Brown and Johnson and opened his door a few inches before Brown slammed it shut.

Wilson said Brown then started swinging at him through the window of his police cruiser. He described feeling “small” when he gripped Brown’s arm to try to stop the blows.

“When I grabbed him, the only way I can describe it is I felt like a five-year-old holding onto Hulk Hogan,” he testified.

Wilson explained to jurors that in order to keep shielding his face from Brown’s punches, the only option available for him to defend himself was to pull out his gun. The officer struggled with Brown before he was able to fire the weapon, shattering glass from the police cruiser’s door panel.

After that first shot went off, Wilson testified that Brown stepped back and “looked up at me and had the most intense aggressive face. The only way I can describe it, it looks like a demon, that’s how angry he looked.”

Wilson again describes Brown as angry when confronted outside the police cruiser. He testified that after briefly chasing Brown and his friend, Brown turned around to look at him and “made like a grunting, aggravated sound” before running at him. That’s when Wilson said he started shooting again.

“At this point it looked like he was almost bulking up to run through the shots, like it was making him mad that I’m shooting at him,” he told jurors. “And the face that he had was looking straight through me, like I wasn’t even there, I wasn’t even anything in his way.”

Wilson’s lawyers said Monday in a statement that their client “followed the law” in the deadly confrontation with Brown.

Read Wilson’s testimony here, beginning at page 195.

10 things you need to know today: November 25, 2014

A police car is set alight in Ferguson.

A police car is set alight in Ferguson | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The Week

Protests erupt in Ferguson after grand jury decision, Chuck Hagel resigns as defense secretary, and more

1. Violence follows Ferguson grand jury decision against indicting police officer
Violence erupted in Ferguson, Missouri, after a grand jury decided late Monday not to file chargesagainst a white police officer, Darren Wilson, who shot and killed unarmed black teenager Michael Brown on Aug. 9. At least two police cars and six buildings were set on fire, and protesters, who had been demanding that Wilson be put on trial, blocked Interstate 44. Protesters in Ferguson and around the country have called the killing as an example of police brutality against African Americans. [The Washington Post]


2. Hagel resigns as defense secretary
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel resigned on Monday under pressure from the White House. President Obama heaped praise on Hagel, who was the lone Republican on his national security team, saying he had been critical to leading the military “through a significant period of transition” as the U.S. withdrew from Iraq and prepared to leave Afghanistan. Administration aides said, however, that Obama decided that he needed someone with different skills in the job to handle the rising threat posed by the Islamist militant group Islamic State. [The New York Times]


3. Iran nuclear negotiations extended as deadline arrives with no deal
World leaders and Iran agreed to extend negotiations over Tehran’s nuclear program for seven months on Monday as a midnight deadline arrived without a deal. Significant gaps remained between Iran and negotiators from six nations, including the U.S., that are trying to limit Iran’s nuclear activities to prevent it from developing a nuclear weapon — something Iran denies it is trying to do. Secretary of State John Kerry said progress has been made and this is “not the time to get up and walk away.” [The Guardian]


4. Head of troubled Phoenix veterans’ hospital fired
The director of a Phoenix veterans’ hospital, Sharon Helman, was fired on Monday nearly seven months after being placed on leave during an investigation into allegations that 40 veterans had died while awaiting care at the facility. The hospital was at the center of a national scandal over wait times and the alleged falsification of records to cover them up. A Veterans Affairs Department investigation found that workers at the Phoenix hospital falsified waiting lists as veterans faced chronic delays. [The Associated Press]


5. Oklahoma students protest handling of rape and bullying allegations
Hundreds of Oklahoma high-school students staged a walkout on Monday to protest administrators’ response to the alleged bullying of three students who reported being raped by the same student. The teenagers and their families say Norman High School administrators did not do enough after receiving reports of the alleged rapes and bullying. Police are investigating the allegations but haven’t charged anyone. The local schools superintendent said administrators aim to respond quickly to reports of rape and bullying. [CNN]


6. California man who spent 34 years in prison freed after conviction overturned
Sixty-nine-year-old Michael Hanline, who was convicted of murder in 1980, was freed on Monday after Ventura County, California, prosecutors told a judge they were no longer sure he was guilty of killing Ventura resident J.T. McGarry. The development came after the California Innocence Project reexamined the evidence in the case. Testing showed that DNA found at the crime scene did not match Hanline or his alleged accomplice. Prosecutors will decide by February whether they want a new trial. [The Associated Press]


7. Snowstorm threatens Thanksgiving travel on the East Coast
Weather forecasters are warning that a storm could disrupt Thanksgiving travel with a barrage of snow and ice from the Northeast south to Georgia on Wednesday, the busiest day of the holiday week on highways and at airports. AAA said that 41 million Americans will be traveling this Thanksgiving, the most in seven years, and millions of them are in for a mess. The New York area, parts of which are digging out of last week’s massive snowstorm, could get up to another 10 inches of snow. [NBC News]


8. Ukraine’s president promises moves toward forming a new government
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said Monday that his country this week would launch steps toward forming a new government. The U.S. and other Western countries have been critical of Poroshenko’s failure to get a coalition in place following October parliamentary elections, apparently due to a conflict between Poroshenko and Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk over key appointments. The new parliament is scheduled to hold its first session on Thursday, as a tense truce with pro-Russian separatists holds despite sporadic violence. [Reuters]


9. Ohio teens sentenced to community service for cruel Ice Bucket Challenge prank
A juvenile court magistrate on Monday ordered three Ohio teens to perform 100 to 200 hours of community service and write apology letters for dumping urine, tobacco, and spit on an autistic classmate in an “Ice Bucket Challenge” prank. During the hearing, an attorney read a message from the 15-year-old victim to his attackers in which he said, “Why would you do that to me? I trusted you guys. How dare you?” The case became public after the victim’s mother found a video of the Aug. 18 incident on his cellphone. [New York Daily News]


10. FAA readies tough rules on flying commercial drones
The Federal Aviation Administration is preparing to place extensive restrictions on the use of commercial drones for such purposes as farming, construction, and filmmaking in the U.S., The Wall Street Journal reported Monday. Operators are expected to be required to obtain a piloting license, and their flights will be limited to below 400 feet, and only in daylight hours. If enacted, the long-awaited rules could disrupt projects by Amazon and Google to use drones, because they have been looking at directing drones using algorithms — not pilots. [The Wall Street Journal,Business Insider]

NO INDICTMENT: Ferguson Officer Darren Wilson Not Indicted In Michael Brown Shooting


In this Feb. 11, 2014, image from video, Police Officer Darren Wilson attends a city council meeting in Ferguson. Wilson escaped indictment by a grand jury. (AP Photo/City of Ferguson, File) | ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Huffington Post

A grand jury has decided not to indict Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson for killing 18-year-old Michael Brown, St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch announced Monday.

The Aug. 9 death of Brown, who was unarmed, sparked massive demonstrations in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson and a national conversation on race and law enforcement. Activists had predicted a new wave of demonstrations if Wilson was not indicted — not only in Ferguson, but in the greater St. Louis region and in other cities across the country.

McCulloch’s office had said he would release full transcripts of the grand jury proceedings if the panel decided not to indict the police officer. McCulloch’s office took an unusual approach to the grand jury process by simply presenting the panel with all the evidence but not recommending any specific charges against Wilson.

Witnesses to Brown’s shooting who have publicly spoken about their recollectionslargely told the same story about the events that led to his death.

It is well established that Brown and his friend Dorian Johnson were walking in the middle of a quiet residential street near the home of Brown’s grandmother when Wilson confronted them shortly after noon on Saturday, Aug. 9. The witnesses who spoke publicly said there was an initial confrontation between Brown and Wilson through the window of his police SUV — some said they thought Wilson was trying to pull Brown in, while Wilson has reportedly said that Brown reached for his weapon.

Wilson reportedly fired one shot out the window, and witnesses claim that Brown took off running. Wilson emerged from the vehicle, and Brown at some point turned around. Many witnesses who have spoken publicly said that Brown looked like he was trying to surrender and put his hands in the air as Wilson shot the final fatal rounds. Wilson reportedly contends that Brown was headed back toward him.

The Washington Post, meanwhile, reported that seven or eight witnesses largely backed up Wilson’s account of the shooting in testimony before the grand jury. Those witnesses, like most of the people in Ferguson, are African-American.

When Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson released Wilson’s name on Aug. 15, the police department simultaneously released a video that appeared to show Brown stealing cigars from a convenience store not long before the shooting and shoving a clerk when he was confronted. Jackson has since said that Wilson was not aware that Brown had been involved in any alleged robbery when the officer spotted him on the street.

Grand jury reaches decision in case of Ferguson officer

A police officer secures an area around the Buzz Westfall Justice Center in Clayton, Missouri, on November 24, 2014. (Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)

The Washington Post

A grand jury has reached a decision on whether to indict Darren Wilson, the white Ferguson, Mo. police officer whose fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager sparked days of turbulent protests, sources close to the process said.

Sources said that press conferences are being prepared by the county prosecutors’ office and the Missouri governor. Those press conferences will likely come later today.

The announcement gave no indication of whether Wilson, 28, will face state charges in the August shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, which triggered a frank conversation about race and police interaction with African-Americans.

(Timeline of events after the death of Michael Brown)

The grand jury’s decision is the latest turn in a case marked in the national consciousness by the stunning images of protesters looting stores and police wearing riot gear and deploying tear gas in the days after Brown’s death. Details of the grand jury’s deliberations have leaked out in recent weeks, angering the Brown family and protesters who saw it as a signal there would be no charges filed.

Althought a parallel federal civil rights investigation of the shooting is continuing, federal investigators have all but concluded they don’t have a case against Wilson, law enforcement officials have said. Federal investigators are also conducting a broader probe of the Ferguson Police Department.

If Wilson is not charged, government officials are bracing for protests in the St. Louis area and nationwide. They have discussed emergency plans in the event of a violent reaction, while protest and community leaders have mapped out their response in the hopes of avoiding the unrest that exploded after Brown was killed.

This story is developing as we speak.  Please check back for updates.

Update:  There has been several changes to when the grand jury decision will be released.  The latest time is slated for 9:00 p.m. (MSNBC)