All In with Chris Hayes, Transcript 1/2/2017
Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES
Date: January 2, 2017
Guest: Evan McMullin, Michael McFaul, Kenneth Vogel, Howard Dean, Sarah
Isgur Flores, Christina Greer, David Cay Johnston
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being
with us. “ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Tonight on ALL IN.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know a lot about
hacking, and hacking is a very hard thing to prove.
MELBER: 18 days until inauguration.
TRUMP: I also know things that other people don`t know.
MELBER: What does the President-elect know and when will he know it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What does he know, Sean?
SEAN SPICER, INCOMING WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: You know, we`ll wait
until Tuesday or Wednesday.
MELBER: New reports Russia hacked the U.S. electricity grid and why Trump
is still unconvinced. Then, party like it`s 1989. Conflicts of interest
and the guest list at Trump`s New Year`s gala.
TRUMP: And again, I want to thank my members.
MELBER: And the story of the Trump biographer booted off the golf course.
Plus, the democrats` new plan to fight Trump nominations. And Bruce
Springsteen talks politics and why he`s really seeing darkness on the edge
BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN, AMERICAN SINGER-SONGWRITER: I`ve felt disgust before
but never, never the kind of fear that you feel now.
MELBER: ALL IN starts now.
MELBER: Good evening from New York. I`m Ari Melber in for Chris Hayes.
There are 18 days until Donald Trump becomes President. And it`s clear he
will enter office with a diplomatic crisis on his hands. Washington
ringing in the new year with fewer Russian diplomats around – payback for
Russia`s interference in the 2016 election. While President Obama cast the
sanctions as a direct response to Russian hacking of the emails, there are
brand-new revelations of other Russian hacks that went beyond that now
infamous email effort. And into something more physical. New reports of
hacks that could impact America`s electricity grid. The Washington Post
reporting a U.S. utility company, Burlington Electric, found Russian
affiliated hacking codes penetrating their computer hardware.
Thankfully, their computer was not connected to the utility grid systems.
A foreign intrusion that could impact America`s electricity and affect
public safety would be obviously significant for any president. Add in the
plots to impact America`s democratic system and you would expect a new
president to strike a posture of strength, if not outright, indignation
against this adversary, which is what makes Donald Trump`s responses so
bizarre thus far. He continues to question whether U.S. intelligence is
correct about Russia`s guilt, and then he`s publicly undercutting the
current president`s sanctions by welcoming Russia`s response to them.
Trump wrote, quote, “Great move on delay by V. Putin. I always knew he was
very smart.” That was after Putin said that any diplomatic response to the
sanctions would wait until Trump takes office. And this weekend, Trump
reiterated that the U.S. Intel could be wrong adding that he knows a lot
about hacking and is privy to some special information here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: It`s a pretty serious charge and I want them to be sure. And if
you look at the weapons of mass destruction, that was a disaster. And they
were wrong. And so, I want them to be sure. I think it`s unfair if they
don`t know, and I know a lot about hacking, and hacking is a very hard
thing to prove, so it could be somebody else. And I also know things that
other people don`t know, and so they cannot be sure of the situation.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you know that other people don`t know?
TRUMP: You`ll find out on Tuesday or Wednesday
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That`s tomorrow or the next day. Trump`s spokesperson Sean
Spicer, though, later clarifying Trump won`t be revealing – he won`t be
revealing anything privileged tomorrow or Wednesday. And then, Spicer was
deflecting on Russia`s role by arguing that maybe election interference is
more of an issue for Hillary Clinton than Vladimir Putin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SPICER: Why aren`t we talking about the influence – other influences on
the election? Why aren`t we talking about Hillary Clinton get debate
questions ahead of time? That`s a pretty valid attempt to influence an
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Spicer is citing an email there that showed a democratic operative
on CNN appeared to share debate questions in advance with Clinton, an email
that was revealed by the underlying Russian hack. Now, Trump`s aides would
apparently prefer to take shots at Hillary Clinton than address the foreign
policy dilemmas they`re facing right now. It`s easy to see why. It`s
pretty easy to blame your competitor for everything. That is, of course,
what 2016 was all about. But 2016 is over. This is 2017. It`s not a
test. And it`s about to get much more difficult for Donald Trump.
Joining me now former CIA Operations Officer and a 2016 Independent
Presidential Candidate, Evan McMullin. What do you think of what we`re
seeing here and this apparently bizarre inability to deal with what might
be negative information about Russia separate from what you do about it by
the Trump administration incoming?
EVAN MCMULLIN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL INDEPENDENT CANDIDATE: Well, I think we
have to ask ourselves, the entire country, why is Donald Trump and his team
working so hard to protect Russia in the situation? It`s clear that Russia
worked to undermine our democracy, to influence our election. The Intel
com-the Intel community came out unanimously in October and said this is
what Russia is doing. But you don`t need to be an intelligence officer to
know that. Russia is doing the same thing here in our country that it`s
done in Europe and it is still doing in Europe and Germany, for example.
That is funding groups like white supremacist groups, white nationalist
groups, using internet trolls from – that they employ in Russia,
supporting their cable network here in America. It`s RT America. Doing
all of these things to support Donald Trump and to undermine American`s
faith in democracy. You don`t need to be an intelligence officer to know
this. And then on top of all of that, you have the hacks. So this is a
playbook they`ve deployed before. We`re seeing it here in America. We`ve
got to climb the learning curve as Americans on this real quick because as
we see these, these efforts are not stopping. Russia continues to
undermine our democracy.
MELBER: And so, when you look at Donald Trump trying to thread the needle
or basically do the typical campaign talk right, between blaming Hillary or
saying oh you know I got special info, I`ve got a couple more days, you
know, the clock is running out on your ability to do this when you`re
actually going to be President.
MCMULLIN: Absolutely, it is. And we need better leadership, frankly. We
need to see better leadership from Donald Trump. I don`t think we`re going
to see it, but I`m forever hopeful that somehow we`ll see a change. But
this claim that he has information, that he, quote, knows things that
others don`t know, I find that highly, I`m highly skeptical that that`s
true. In fact I think it`s absolutely not true. But let`s take a look at
what he is doing and why.
MELBER: You have a really nice way of saying that he`s full of B.S.
MCMULLIN: You`re right.
MELBER: Yeah, well, but, and you`re saying it as respectfully as you can.
What do you think your former colleagues here in the intelligence agencies
are thinking though when Donald Trump seems to use every time this issue
arises to sort of get into their biggest embarrassment on Iraq and sort of
cast doubt about the entire integrity or the competence of the entire
MCMULLIN: Well, he - of course, they`re unhappy about that, but I think
that speaks to a much deeper source of tension between the intelligence
community and Donald Trump. That is that Donald Trump wants to align our
country, his administration, with the very country that is attacking our
democracy, the intelligence community and the national security community
in general warned against him, warned against this policy approach during
the election, and that`s not going to change. There`s a very deep source
of tension there. But Donald Trump continues to attack the media. He
attacks the intelligence community. He attacks any other source of
information because that`s what authoritarians do. And as I`ve said for
the last several months, Donald Trump is somebody who has authoritarian
MELBER: Well, you said– I just want to pause in the point you`re making.
You think this is bigger than the Russia debate which is one piece of it.
You think that unlike basically most other incoming Presidents, he doesn`t
want to give any informational deference to the intelligence community
because their ability to call it as they see it is a threat in his mind to
his own power?
MCMULLIN: Absolutely it is. This is, this is, how authoritarians operate
this is why they attack the media, this is why they attack other sources of
power. This is why they try to undermine democratic norms and democratic
systems. This is part of the playbook. So this is what happens. Donald
Trump gets painted into a corner because the media, because the
intelligence community and so many others can see that Russia is attacking
our democracy. And he refuses to acknowledge it. And so he denies it,
says we should move on. And ultimately he says because there`s no other
way, I`ve got information that you don`t have. But I`m not going to tell
you for a few days.
So what happens? Then we in the media talk about it for a few days,
repeating his claim to know things that no one else does, half of America
believes it. Half of us don`t. But to his audience, you know, they
believe it. And we`ve carried that message in the media. So he has won,
and he`s playing us by doing this.
MCMULLIN: Now, what we have to do is call him out when he does reveal
whatever he knows that other people don`t know allegedly, we`ve got to ask,
OK where did that information come from?
MELBER: Well, and you said half of America, I think we have to fact check
that, I believe it`s about 46 percent.
MCMULLIN: Sure. Right.
MELBER: Evan Mcmullin, thank you very much for joining. I would say Happy
New Year, but you didn`t leave me feeling that happy. Up next, Michael
McFaul former U.S. Ambassador to Russia. First, Mr. Ambassador, your
response to what I was just discussing with Evan and your view of where
intelligence and diplomacy meet here.
MICHAEL MCFAUL, FORMER US AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: Well, intelligence is a
major part of diplomacy, it`s a major part of our developing a foreign
policy. In a few weeks President Trump is going to be working with these
very people that he`s saying very distrustful things about. And I want to
remind your viewers that the vast, vast majority of the people that work in
the intelligence community are not political appointees.
MCFAUL: They`re professionals that will be there on January 20th working
for President Trump. and diplomacy meet here.
MELBER: Mr. Ambassador, when we look at the sanctions that are currently
being deployed against Russia, when Trump comes in, do they just continue
automatically? What does it take for him to change them?
MCFAUL: Yes, they do continue. And so, it will be incumbent upon him to
be proactive to change them. If he chooses to do so. And in doing so, I
think he`ll have to explain to the American people and to his own
administration, I want to keep emphasizing that, these people are going to
be working for him come January 20th, why he is reversing it. And you
know, maybe there, there will be an argument. I look forward to the, the
new intelligence that he allegedly has. Maybe there`s some reason for it
but right now, I think that would be a very difficult thing for him to do
without explaining his actions.
MELBER: You mentioned the intelligence he claims to have. What would he
have? Either he has something that is from the intelligence community and
we spend about $17 billion a year trying to get the best possible, or he
has it from some other nonpublic source, would that be a Russian source, or
what other source would there be for special Intel that is not within the
cache of what they already have within our 17 agencies?
MCFAUL: You know, to be honest, I have no idea. I hear that. It
disappoints me. I wish he would spend a little more time learning about
our intelligence and learning, you know, do a deep dive in – counter
espionage and maybe understand these things better. Maybe he has some
source from somebody who provided Wikileaks with the data. That`s a
conspiracy floating out there on twitter and facebook, but i guess we`ll
just have to wait until Tuesday to find out.
MELBER: What do you think about his wider habit here of saying “we don`t
know”, “we don`t know, things we as a government or we as a country do
know? I mean, why is that so important to him rhetorically or politically
and does it remind you of anything you`ve seen abroad in the way some
leaders sometimes seem to prefer the conspiracy theories of the street to
what`s actually knowable?
MCFAUL: Well, he`s denying it because he`s worried that it affects the
legitimacy of his election. And of course if–more people believed that
the Russians influenced our election, that would delegitimate his electoral
victory. But I think that`s the wrong strategy for him. He`s been
elected. The Electoral College has spoken. Everybody is preparing for him
to be sworn in. I think it actually would help him to put this behind us
if he acknowledged the facts. I mean, I personally think we need a
bipartisan independent commission so that we get all the facts and all the
facts, by the way, of how the Obama administration handled this
intelligence challenge during the election. And so that it could be
wrapped up. Everybody knows the facts. And then we get on with doing the
things we need to do to prepare for the next election cycle. Because the
Russians have tremendous capability. It`s going to be will be better in
2020. Other actors are going to have capabilities in 2020. We need to
defend ourselves, not pretending that we weren`t attacked.
MELBER: Right. The other big nuclear story here is North Korea as a-as a
aspirational power. Here is what Donald Trump wrote on Twitter. North
Korea just stated it`s in the final stages of developing a nuclear weapon
capable of reaching parts of the U.S. “It won`t happen!” How does that
sort of declarative statement compare to the actual bipartisan process over
two administrations to have some kind of constraint of their ambition?
MCFAUL: I work here at Stanford with George Shultz, the former Secretary
Of State for Ronald Reagan, and he always talks about never make a threat
unless you`re ready to deliver on it. And what troubles me about that
tweet is he`s now made a declaratory statement about policy. And I, I just
don`t know if he`s done the homework to actually know if he could implement
the threat that he`s just put out.
MELBER: Wow. Well put and thank you for your time, Ambassador Michael
McFaul. As always, appreciate it.
MCFAUL: Thanks for having me.
MELBER: Still ahead, Donald Trump continuing to conduct business as usual.
His private resort was selling hundreds of thousands of dollars in tickets
this weekend. That was for the New Year`s Eve party with the President-
elect. We`ll explain what`s wrong with that after the break.
MELBER: He was repeatedly accused of conflicts of interest over his former
employer, Halliburton Oil, which got lucrative contracts in Iraq. Imagine
though if Cheney had not stepped down from his job as Halliburton CEO
before taking office. It would have been technically legal. Presidents
and Vice presidents are not formally required to commit any day job. It
would have caused all kinds of problems but technically Dick Cheney could
have served at the White House and remained CEO of an oil company. He
didn`t. And that has many people literally longing for Dick Cheney`s
approach to conflicts of interest right about now. Because so far, Donald
Trump refuses to divest at all from the Trump organization and he`s not
even stepping back from business activities that would literally be really
easy to skip.
Take a look at this weekend, for example, when Trump headlined the New
Year`s Eve party at his Mar-a-Lago Resort. And this is not just his
private vacation home, which he would have every understandable right to go
visit, this is a business. It charges $100,000 for annual membership fees
– excuse me, a one-time membership and another $14,000 in annual dues –
hard to keep track of because it`s so expensive. And Trump says the whole
thing is worth over $50 million. Some of the value coming from selling the
tickets to the big events, like New Year`s Eve festivities. Tickets for
the Mar-a-Lago party, take a look, started at $500 a pop, according to
Trump`s government spokesperson told reporters beforehand that the event
was sold out, 800 attendees. And while the private club does not reveal
its financials, those tickets alone would land somewhere north of $400,000
in revenue for Mar-a-Lago. Now, let`s pause on that figure because there
is something very abnormal here that many people want to normalize. That
$400,000 which Trump banked in one night is the amount the president earns
in a year. It`s not chump change. It`s real money. And as Trump tweets
and tries to distract his way through this transition, it`s the money he`s
making in this basic situation, mixing his roles as President-elect and as
head of a private company, at the very – at the very least, he risks the
appearance of mixing government work meant to be in the public interest
with his family business.
Now according to reports, attendees at the New Year`s Eve party included
music producer Quincy Jones, actor Sylvester Stallone, and Fabio, who needs
no introduction. And did any foreign government officials buy their way
into the party or any lobbyists? We just don`t know because this was a
private event on private property. The most secretive kind of event the
president can even attend. If the money were going to the RNC, for
example, instead of the Trump organization, every attendee`s name would be
public under federal law. If this were even a White House reception, every
attendees name would be public under federal law. Now, we do know Trump`s
business partner from Dubai attended the party. Cell phone video showed
Trump giving him a shout out during his speech and a spokesman for the
transition says quote, “They had no formal meetings or professional
discussions. Their interactions were social.”
That may be true. There may have been only one business partner in
attendance, or may not be true. We will never know and as long as Donald
Trump keeps spending his time generating revenue for his companies, he will
continue raising questions and conflicts that could cast a cloud over his
presidency and, more importantly, over the independence of his
For more, I`m joined by Ken Vogel, Chief Investigative Reporter for
Politico who has been on the story. Ken, the money here, why does it
matter if the President-elect is at this event generating this revenue?
KENNETH VOGEL, CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER FOR POLITICO: Well, it
certainly creates the appearance, Ari, that what he is doing is essentially
selling access to himself. Sure, this club Mar-a-Lago has had these types
of events before at a major holidays, on New Year`s, on Christmas, on
Thanksgiving. But what it hasn`t had is a featured guest who, by the way,
happens to be the President-elect of the United States of America. So, the
way that they explain this is just business as usual. This is the way Mar-
a-Lago conducts business. That seems sort of a (INAUDIBLE) explanation
given the circumstances. And forget about the money that Trump receives
from this and would have received whether he was President-elect or not.
The specter that he is essentially allowing anyone who has the money to
either buy a membership or the access to someone who has a membership who
can pay for a ticket to something like this, creates appearance of forget
about the possible business partners who were in there or the celebrities,
it`s the people who want to get access to Trump. I mean, $525 to get
access to the President-elect of the United States is an amazing deal for
any potential foreign business person or a person who wants to do business
with the United States Government, special interests, lobbyists. You could
just imagine going down the line the types of people over whom this would
be an amazing deal.
MELBER: Well, look at the – Ken, look at the contrast here. He ran a
campaign saying because he has money and a business he won`t be beholden to
these interests. That was a big selling point for him. And a lot of
people believed it, naively or not, saying, “Well, he does have money so he
will fundraise less.” And there`s a truth to that. But that truth seems
to be dwarfed by what was on display this weekend which is the business
actually makes him more beholden than campaign money and, as we`ve been
saying, is less traceable, less transparent.
VOGEL: And it`s also much trickier for him to extricate himself or for
there to be transparency around. So, let`s say, given the benefit of the
doubt and saying he goes to the extreme end of divestiture, of trying to
distance himself from his businesses. Well, he`s still going to vacation
at Mar-a-Lago, even if he has Mar-a-Lago in a blind trust or he doesn`t
really know whether his businesses – his portfolio includes Mar-a-Lago, he
still knows someone is paying money to this entity that is so closely
associated with him that may or may not be in his portfolio, that may or
may not be in the blind trust that his kids may or may not oversee, and
here they are sitting on the couch or the patio for dinner with the
President-elect of the United States. It`s just a very complicated
situation. That cannot be easily extricate, can`t easily extricate himself
MELBER: So, let`s stipulate that that`s what people who care about good
governance, ethics performers, a lot of journalists and people who think
about these kind of issues, that`s what they`re concerned about. Let`s put
that to the side then and then look at the actual Trump team`s response.
What are we learning about where they`re at? Because this is a guy who
said he was going to hold a big announcement to clean this up. Things were
going to change. The kids are going to be in charge. Said all this stuff,
and then when you looked at his actions, not the tweets, not the
announcements, or the announcements he never gave, the action is them doing
this and then saying, “Hey, what`s the matter? This is just business as
usual.” Does that tell you there`s something wrong if they think “business
as usual” is okay when he`s the President-elect?
VOGEL: I mean, it`s a little bit of a sign of where their head is at as
they try to grapple with this incredibly complicated situation where they
try to put to rest these concerns about conflicts of interest and try to
find a sustainable system going forward for separating himself from his
businesses. In a way, it`s just I cannot – for the life of me figure out
how it can be done in a way that will satisfy sort of the good government
concerns that I think are validly being raised in this another situations.
MELBER: Well, and complexity has become a little bit of a dodge for them.
There are parts that are complex, in other words, you can`t just legally
force someone into having a fire sale, right, and potentially costing them
a lot of money. That`s not typically how a disillusion would work. That
is – that is actually complex. What`s not complex is making the decision
to not sell yourself for $500 access and tickets. That`s not complex.
That`s simple. If you wanted to skip the party, you could skip the party.
If you wanted to donate the funds that New Year`s to charity, you could
donate the funds. There`s a million simple ways to do that, they chose
none of those and then they counterattacked and told people, “Hey, don`t be
mad. It`s business as usual.” That`s my final thought. Ken Vogel, I
appreciate you giving us yours.
VOGEL: Yeah, I mean it`s not just the excuse that this is the way it`s
always been done. They went further in our story where we reveal that the
tickets are being sold for $525 for members-(INAUDIBLE)
MELBER: All right, Ken, thank you very much for your time and happy to
hear your last thought while we look at the eagle. No better image.
Coming up, we showed you the clip, and maybe you noticed the guy holding
the eagle statue. If you`re wondering what it is about, we actually have
the answer right after a quick break.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Regulations are going off, we`re going to get rid of Obamacare.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That footage of President-elect Donald Trump`s New Year`s Eve
party at his Mar-a-Lago resort, might have you wondering who`s the
enthusiastic gentleman over there to Mr. Trump`s right and what is the deal
with that eagle statue being held by another gentleman to Trump`s left.
And don`t they have something they could put this thing on so that poor guy
doesn`t have to just cradle it the whole time? And gosh, when you`re
seeing someone give a stump speech, you don`t even know how long it`s going
to go, you`re just holding it. Well, the answer, courtesy of a Facebook
post from the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences, is the man at the
right is Joseph D. Cinque, President of the American Academy of Hospitality
Sciences, and the eagle is bronze, a bronze eagle awarded by the Academy
and there is more.
Trump has actually been honored before by this same academy and its
president. Last May, Trump was the presumptive republican nominee and the
hospitality academy gave an award to Trump`s Scottish golf course, you see
there, as the best golf course worldwide. Which prompted this Yahoo! News
headline, quote, “How a convicted felon nicknamed `Joey No Socks` covered
Donald Trump in stars.” That article explained that over the past decade,
Trump has received many similar awards from that same man including five
and six-star ratings for Trump properties and the Chicago Tribune reported
on it thusly quote, “The organization is run by Joseph Cinque, a long time
Trump acquaintance who goes by the nickname `Joey No Socks` and has a
felony conviction for possessing stolen property.
And perhaps most importantly, this eagle was far more cooperative than this
eagle, you may remember from that Time Magazine shoot in 2015. It`s a live
eagle. What do you expect? Look at it - look at him go. America. Up
next, David Cay Johnston is here on the President-elect and his evolving
relationship with corporate welfare.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look, everything that he does right now he gets – he
speaks with the head of Sprint, gets 5,000 jobs moved from abroad. And
everyone starts to mock, well all those jobs were already announced. They
weren`t. The sales jobs had been previously announced, these jobs are
coming from abroad to America. And instead of trying to mock him or
undermine him, it`s time that people started giving him credit for actually
getting things done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Getting things done. President-elect Donald Trump`s incoming
press secretary Sean
Spicer there insisting those 5,000 jobs Donald Trump said Sprint was
bringing back to the U.S. are new. They are not. They are part of a
holistic deal previously announced by Sprint`s parent company SoftBank.
But American corporations are now facing pressure to go along with Donald
Trump`s jobs claims.
The New York Times slamming it in a new editorial that has called, quote,
why corporations are helping Donald Trump lie about jobs.
The piece explains why it`s so messy for the government, through President-
elect Trump to try to leverage companies in this manner, quote, “it`s easy
to see why SoftBank and Sprint might want
to help Mr. Trump take credit for creating jobs, SoftBank`s chief executive
wants the Department of Justice`s antitrust division and the Federal
Communications Commission to allow a merger between Sprint and T-Mobile,
quote, Mr. San sees a new opening for his deal in Mr. Trump who has
surrounded himself with people who have sided with large telecommunications
companies and regulatory debates and have argued against tough antitrust
The Times explains why this should be objectionable to conservatives and
liberals alike, since it is, quote, crony capitalism with potentially
Joining me now, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist David Cay
Johnston, a columnist with The Daily Beast and the author of the making of
I`d like to start by just walking through how this works. It appears that
Donald Trump will have some private communication with a company and then
he will take the lead in the announcement, separate from what would
normally happen in corporate communications, right, whether that`s to the
public or to shareholders would be some formal business announcement.
You have a lot of expertise here. So, explain how it works.
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, this is a con job plain and
simple, Ari, this is a con job. And the numbers we`re talking about are
In the case of Sprint, it`s Japanese honor, the reportedly the wealthiest
man in Japan, has had
a plan in place for some time, and he also is going to want something from
Donald Trump. Remember he tried to merge Sprint with T-Mobile and the
Justice Department said no for antitrust reasons. You can agree or
disagree with that, but he cleraly wants to do that and other actions in
the future. And so what he`s doing is buttering up Donald Trump. And this
is another variation of what we`re seeing with various people manipulating
Trump as we`ve seen with Vladimir Putin.
On the other side, if you`re the CEO of a big company, of course, you`re
going to do everything you can to let Donald Trump take credit because you
don`t want him to use any of his enormous powers to make trouble for your
shareholders. In fact, you essentially now have a fiduciary duty to kiss
the president`s ring.
MELBER: When you say fiduciary duty, you are referring to the legal
obligation these corporate executives have to actually maximize profits…
JOHNSTON: To their shareholders.
MELBER: …to their shareholders, right. Their legal duty actually is to
the company, but as a practical matter, yes, it`s to the shareholders. And
they`re not going to do anything, no matter what Trump does, to put in
jeopardy their position, the company`s position, and so Donald Trump is now
in a position to basically extract from these people things that may or
may not be good judgment.
You know, Ari, I`m old enough to remember when Republicans actually thought
business should make its own decisions without government interference.
MELBER: Wait a minute.
JOHNSTON: That was only six months ago.
MELBER: You used the word extraction. I mean, at a certain point the
outlines of what you`re describing sound like a shakedown, but instead of
getting something very valuable for the country, the main shakedown is to
get something that is rhetorically, or PR valuable for Donald Trump.
JOHNSTON: Absolutely. And let`s not lose sight of the fact that these are
in Donald – in Trumpian terms small potatoes. We`re about to get the
government`s announcement for December on jobs. It`s probably going to
show 82 consecutive months of jobs growth, the old record was 52. We`re
close to 16 million private sector jobs under this administration. Very
few Americans know that, but
everybody has heard about the 730 jobs that Trump inflated to 1,1000 in
Ohio, and very few people
know that was a deal that violated Trump`s own position in the campaign
when he said corporate welfare, interest-free loans and other tax favors
didn`t create jobs, now he`s the champion of them.
Donald is an absolute corporate chameleon on these issues and whatever
makes Trump look good no matter what it costs companies – companies better
line up and pay attention.
MELBER: All right, corporate chameleon. Say that ten times fast.
David Cay Johnston, thank you for joining me tonight.
JOHNSTON: Thank you, Ari.
MELBER: Still ahead, the Democrats plan to stall some of Donald Trump`s
most controversial nominations. Who are they targeting? That`s coming up.
And tonight`s Thing One and Thing Two starts right after this break.
MELBER: Thing One tonight, 36 years ago in Tempe, Arizona, Bruce
Springsteen made what are believed to be his first publicly recorded
comments about politics.
Now it was November 5, 1980, in other words, one day after Ronald Reagan
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN, SINGER: I don`t know what you guys think about happened
last night, but I think it`s pretty frightening. There will be a lot of
people depending on you coming up. So, here we go.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Now decades later, Springsteen would become an advocate for
President Obama campaigning both in 2008 and 2012, and he campaigned for
Hillary Clinton this year.
But if he was frightened by Reagan`s election all the way back in 1980, how
is the boss
feeling about Donald Trump`s victory? Those brand new comments, they are
Thing Two in 60 seconds.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SPRINGSTEEN: Let`s all do our part so we can look back on 2016 and say we
stood with Hillary Clinton on the right side of history, that`s why I`m
standing here with you tonight for the dream
of a better America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That was Bruce Springsteen campaigning for Hillary Clinton on the
eve of the election. In a new interview for the WTF podcast with comedian
Mark Marin out today Springsteen spoke candidly about why Trump and this
new era scares him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK MARIN, COMEDIAN: Are you scared now?
SPRINGSTEEN: Yeah. Yeah. Of course. How could you not be.
MARIN: Right. Have you felt this fear before?
SPRINGSTEEN: I`ve felt disgust before.
SPRINGSTEEN: But never the kind of fear that you feel now.
SPRINGSTEEN: It`s as simple as the fear of – is someone simply competent
do this particular job?
SPRINGSTEEN: Forget about where they are ideologically.
SPRINGSTEEN: Do they have the pure competence to be put in a position of
MARIN: And what`s your biggest fear of it as we enter it?
SPRINGSTEEN: I suppose would be that a lot of the worst things and the
worst aspects of what he appealed to comes to fruition. When you let that
genie out of the bottle – bigotry, racism – when you let those things out
of the bottle…
SPRINGSTEEN: …intolerance. They don`t go back in the bottle that
easily, if they go back in at all.
SPRINGSTEEN: You know, whether it`s a rise in hate crimes, people feeling
they have license to speak and behave in ways that previously were
considered un-American and are un-American. That`s what he`s appealing to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: It`s no secret Donald Trump didn`t get along that well with House
Speaker Paul Ryan or Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell back during the
election. But a new report from The New York Post has some fresh ideas
into just how deep that divide could remain.
The Post reporting that President-elect Trump told Senate Minority Leader
Chuck Schumer he actually likes him, a Democrat, more than McConnell and
Ryan because the two Republican leaders, quote, wanted him to lose.
Now, The Post cites a source close to the Trump transition team for that
quote. And I spoke today to a congressional Democratic source who said
Democrats don`t dispute the quote.
Now, Schumer and Trump are both born and raised New Yorkers. Trump`s even
Schumer`s senate campaign in the past. But that`s about as far as it goes.
In fact, The Washington Post report says that Senate Democrats, led by
Schumer, are planning to contest at least eight of Trump`s nominees and
want to stretch their confirmation hearings all the way into March.
Those eight targeted nominees include Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson for Secretary
of State as well
as Senator Jeff Sessions, Trump`s controversial pick for attorney general.
Those two battles in early skirmishes already well under way. Democrats in
the Senate foreign relations committee reportedly saying they`re outraged
Tillerson will not release his full tax returns from the last three years
as many cabinet nominees do, although not always the Secretary of State
Now Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee, as well as progressive
groups, are accusing
Senator Sessions of omitting basically decades worth of his records about
his career from the information that he did provide pursuant to the
confirmation hearings. Now, given the fact that Republicans control the
senate, how much can Senate Democrats really do to stifle the nominations
to the Trump cabinet and what does the opposition look like in both houses
of congress once Trump
takes office? Well, I will ask some very special guests about that right
after the break.
MELBER: Welcome back.
Earlier in the broadcast we stated that music producer Quincy Jones
attended Trump`s New Year`s Eve party at Mar-a-Lago. While Donald Trump`s
spokesman, Sean Spicer, said Quincy Jones would attend, we want to correct
the record, Jones spokesperson explains he did not plan to attend and spent
New Year`s in Los Angeles.
Now, meanwhile, back in Capitol Hill, a fight brewing over a Trump nominee
who has been in this position before.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY, (D) MASSACHUSETTS: Mr. Sessions is a throwback to a
shameful era, which I know both black and white Americans thought was in
our past. It`s inconceivable to me that a person of this attitude is
qualified to be a U.S. attorney let alone a United States federal judge.
He is, I believe, a disgrace to the Justice Department and he should
withdraw his nomination and resign his position.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That was the late Senator Ted Kennedy speaking during the 1986
confirmation hearing for Jeff Sessions, then a nominee for a federal
judgeship. Now, Sessions was ultimately denied
that position by the Senate Judiciary Committee. It was a 10-8 vote. And
Senate Democrats are now looking to block up to eight of Trump`s cabinet
nominees. Senator Sessions widely considered one
of the most controversial.
Joining me tonight to discuss what this whole opposition fight will look
like in 2017 is Sarah Isgur Flores, a spokesperson for Jeff Session
confirmation, Howard Cean, former chair of the DNC and MSNBC political
analyst, and Christina Greer, associate professor of political science at
Christina, I`ll start with you. The Sessions nomination is controversial.
It also as a matter of the
historical record is somewhat unusual because he is the only nominee who
has been previously basically passed on by the Senate for a different
Your thoughts on him this time?
CHRISTINA GREER, FORDHAM UNIVERSITY: Well, keep in mind, his own
colleagues and his own members of his party deemed him to be too racist in
Reagan`s 1980s. And so when you have someone like the late Senator Ted
Kennedy essentially saying that he`s not only an embarrassment to the
profession and he should not be elevated to attorney general or to even a
judge, the writings of Senator Sessions are so deplorable, it`s not just
about black Americans in this country, it`s about how he feels about the
history, but also the future of this country.
So the fact that Donald Trump, in the 21st Century, in 2016, chose this
to me and to many others, black and white and other, sends a very distinct
message about the dog bark, not even a dog whistle, the dog bark that he`s
trying to send about his racialized platforms.
And so Senator Sessions is a horrible choice for this particular position,
especially as an attorney general who is supposed to uphold some of the
most important ideals of the constitution.
MELBER: Sarah, what is your response to that? And how does the senator
address that history from the first confirmation hearing?
SARAH ISGURFLORES, SESSIONS CONFIRMATION SPOKESMAN: Well, I mean, I think
it`s pretty clear that the leftist playbook at this point only has one
page, and it`s smear. I didn`t hear a lot of facts there. I heard a lot
of allegations. And I heard a lot of general statements about smearing
him. 30 years ago, Jeff Sesions was in a Senate hearing where the
Democrats practiced their playbook that they would use against Bork.
We now have a verb for it, Borking someone, it means smearing them without
any basis. The person who was a witness against Jeff Sessions under oath
later had to recant his testimony because the conversations he remembered
were disprovable later.
This idea that Ted Kennedy somehow in his statement should hold now – Ted
Kennedy has worked with Jeff Sessions, passed legislation with Jeff
Sessions, so has Dick Durbin. It`s why Joe Manchin said he`s going to vote
We have senators, Democrats and Republicans, up in 2018 who are only too
happy with the work that Jeff Sessions has done throughout his career. 20
years in the Senate. So, you know what, Democrats are going to do what
they`re going to do. They`re going to say what they always say. It didn`t
work in 2016 for Hillary Clinton, and it`s not going to work now. Jeff
Sessions will make a fantastic attorney general who will uphold the rule of
law, something that our previous attorney generals under this
administration have been sorely lacking.
Oh, by the way, Jeff Sessions confirmed – voted to confirm Eric Holder.
MELBER: Let me go, Christina, then Howard and back to Sarah.
GREER: So, Senator Sessions in 30 years has made a good choice in
upholding Eric Holder who he, and Loretta Lynch, maybe two of the greatest
attorney generals in the history of this nation.
But this is straight out of the Republican playbook in the sense that
Donald Trump is pulling out a whole bunch of has-beens and never-wases and
people who represent the worst part of American Democracy. They do not
believe in equality. We know that these people believe that he
consistently chooses believe in segregationist tactics. This is not a
FLORES: I`m sorry. That`s a lot of smear – where are the facts? Excuse
me, that is a lie. No facts.
GREER: …if we read, and we know that the president-elect does not like
to do so and he said so on record. But if we read, we know that this
particular individual has gone out of his way, the majority of his career,
to make sure that black Americans specifically are disenfranchised.
FLORES: That`s not true.
MELBER: All right, let me give Sarah a response, and then I want to bring
Governor Dean who are waiting his turn. Go ahead, Sarah.
FLORES: I don`t know how to respond to something when there`s no facts
there. No, he hasn`t.
MELBER: Governor Dean, go ahead?
HOWARD DEAN, FMR. DNC CHAIRMAN: There are some facts there in terms of the
quotes that you can actually get that Jeff Sessions has actually said.
I`m more interested in the process here. If Manchin has said that he`s
going to support Sessions, then you need four Republican – four – excuse
me, four Republican vote against him. And this is – they`ve targeted
eight, the Democrats in the Senate have targeted eight people. They`re
going to have to get at least three Republican votes, in this case four.
And the way to do that is to target the senators, the Republican senators
who have to run for reelection in 2018, and you`re not going to get all of
these eight. So I don`t want to make any predictions about, which ones you
are going to get, but you`re going to have to show to a significant number
of these senators` constituents that there`s going to be a penalty for
voting for some of the people they want to target.
And I think they will get one or two of them, but I certainly don`t think
they`re oging to get all eight of them.
MELBER: And governor, what do you think about – what do you think about
Rex Tillerson who seems to be the one where there is most motion, because
there`s so much controversy and questions about Russia and then he also has
some links there that the Trump folks argue are positive, because he`s been
a businessman in the region, other folks argue, question his impartiality.
DEAN: Well, I know very little about Rex Tillerson, so I don`t have a
particular comment about whether he should be the secretary of state or
not. But there will be an incredibly thorough vetting of these vocation,
there always is, no matter which side is doing the vetting. The senate is
badly divided, it didn`t used to be a body like the House, but it is now.
I can`t predict what`s going to happen. Somebody is going to find
something, or they are not going to find something in Rex Tillerson`s
resume that is going to be condemning.
If he doesn`t give documents like his full tax returns, that`s going to be
a problem. But again, the only way to stop the confirmations of any of
these folks is to find a constituency in the state of some senator that`s a
MELBER: Sarah and Christina, I have 20 seconds for each of you. Sarah
FLORES: Ari, nobody watching this show right now thinks that the Democrats
actually will stop these confirmations. This is about delay. This is
about playing politics with this. And nobody believes that if Hillary
Clinton had won this election, that the Democrats would be trying to delay
confirmations until March.
I don`t know why. I don`t think it will help them in 2018. I think
Republicans will win
MELBER: And Christina.
GREER: If Hillary Clinton had won, she would actually nominate people who
were legitimate and didn`t seek to dismantle the very offices they`re put
in charge of. Every single person that Donald Trump has put – has
nominated actually wants to roll back the clock, when we think about
energy, when we think about housing, when we think about the attorney
MELBER: Sarah, Howard, Christina, lively, informative, thank you all.
Good evening to you. I`m Ari Melber. That is ALL IN for this evening.
“THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” starts right now.
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