All in with Chris Hayes, Transcript 2/1/2017
Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES
Date: February 1, 2017
Guest: Joaquin Castro; David Miliband; Sheldon Whitehouse, Ben Sasse, Tommy Vietor
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HARDBALL HOST: – in the Presidency live at American
University. “ALL IN” with Chris Hayes starts right now.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC ALL IN HOST: Tonight on ALL IN.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I would say if
you can, Mitch, go nuclear.
HAYES: As the President gives a nuclear directive to the senate on the
Supreme Court, the fallout over President Trump`s executive order on
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think the President`s been
very clear that his number one goal is not to target any one religion.
HAYES: Tonight, new evidence that this was not just about stopping bad
STEVE BANNON, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: 20 percent of the country is
immigrants. Is that not the beating heart of this problem?
HAYES: Then, the new White House explanation for the President`s first
military strike in which almost everything went wrong. And why the Trump
administration is suddenly threatening Iran.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As of today we are officially putting Iran on notice.
HAYES: Plus, our grass-roots protests about to stop the nomination of
Betsy DeVos. And on the first day of black history month, getting to know
TRUMP: Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who`s done an amazing
HAYES: When ALL IN starts right now.
Good evening from New York, I`m Chris Hayes, just over 13 months ago,
Donald Trump called for a “complete and total shutdown of Muslims entering
the United States.” Today according to the Trump administration, that has
nothing to do with its ban on travel to the U.S. of refugees and people
from seven Muslim majority countries. Here was White House press secretary
Sean Spicer earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SPICER: I think the President`s been clear that his number one goal is not
to target any one religion but places and areas where we believe that there
is an issue. That`s what the executive order was all about the other day.
He understands that it`s not a religious problem, it`s a radicalization
problem, that there`s a big difference between Islam the religion and
radical Islamic terrorist.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: First thing this morning, the President himself weighed in on
twitter. “Everybody`s arguing whether or not it is a ban. Call it what
you want, it is about keeping bad people with bad intentions out of
country.” We have yet to hear any reports of specific bad people the
travel ban has successfully kept out of the U.S. We`ll keep you posted if
we do. What we have heard are stories of students missing vital classes,
workers unable to get their jobs, patients cut off from medical treatment
and families separated.
Including the family of a little boy being treated for severe burns at a
hospital in Boston. An aid group brought him to the U.S. after a heater
exploded in the Iraqi refugee camp where he was sleeping. Now his parents
are stranded overseas just as their infant son faces another round of
surgery. Other sick children on their way here for medical treatment are
stuck now, too, according to the Washington Post including a nine-year-old
Somali child in Ethiopia with a congenital heart disease that cannot be
treated in a refugee camp. A one-year-old Sudanese boy with cancer and a
Somali boy with a severe intestinal disorder living in a camp that doesn`t
even have the colostomy bags he needs.
These are the people the ban is keeping out at the moment. If you pay
attention to the people behind it wildly reported to include Chief White
House Strategist Steve Bannon, it`s clear this is not actually about
keeping out violent people who wish to do us ill, it`s about laying the
ground work for dramatic reduction of Muslim immigration to the U.S. based
on the belief that Muslims are a kind of infectious disease determined to
infiltrate and sicken the country. Over the years, Bannon has revealed his
views on Islam in interviews and speeches and as the host of a radio show
for Breitbart where he was the former chairman. In one interview from
2010, he criticized George W. Bush for delivering a positive speech at a
mosque days after 9/11.
BANNON: Islam is a religion of peace. Islam is not a religion of peace.
Islam is a religion of submission. Islam means submission. I mean the
whole thing is just categorically – he is the - he is the - he is the
HAYES: On his radio show in 2015 Bannon asked Congressman Ryan Zinke, now
the President`s nominee for Interior Secretary, why this country should
admit refugees in the first place.
RYAN ZINKE, UNITED STATES CONGRESSMAN FROM MONTANA: Vetting is important
because we don`t know –
BANNON: Why - no, you only vet - stop - commander, you only vet if you`re
going to let them in. Why even let them in? If you agree to just change
the vetting process, right, you are buying into the assumption that we
should be taking - you know, Caroline May had a report on Breitbart
yesterday, two million immigrants from Muslim majority countries have come
to the United States since 9/11 – 2 million.
HAYES: Two million. He`s not talking there about specific individuals
with ties to terrorism or jihad or violence, just the raw number of Muslims
seems to be unacceptable. Less than a year ago, Bannon had Stephen Miller,
now senior policy adviser to the White House on his radio show. They
shared concerns not just in letting in refugees but about immigration as a
BANNON: And now you got all the engineering schools are full of people
from south Asia and east Asia. And it`s not that people have any problem
with those folks learning but they come here to take these jobs. Isn`t the
beating heart of this problem right now, the real beating heart of it, of
what we`ve got to get sorted here is not illegal immigration, as horrific
as that is, and it`s horrific. Don`t we have a problem we`ve looked the
other way on this legal immigration that`s kind of overwhelmed the country?
Is that not the beating heart of this this problem?
STEPHEN MILLER, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR POLICY ADVISER: Well, yes, and it`s
mind-boggling. It`s important to understand that historically speaking,
immigration is supposed to be interrupted with periods of assimilation and
HAYES: More recently in an off-the-record briefing to reporters an
anonymous senior administration official gave a revealing rationale with
the travel ban, one that`s consistent with Bannon`s stated world view.
“You could argue that if you admit 50 people who aren`t themselves
terrorists but maybe who have sympathetic attitudes towards terrorists who
- or believe there`s an appropriate place for terrorism, that creates an
environment where it`s easy to radicalize people, to spread radical views
and ideologies and ultimately to inculcate terrorism.” In other words,
they`re all sympathetic to terrorism so keep them all out.
Tonight, Reuters is reporting based on five anonymous sources briefed on
the matter that the Trump administration wants to revamp and rename a U.S.
government program designed to counter all violent ideologies so that it
focuses solely on Islamist extremism and meaning the program would no
longer focus on, say, Nazis and White supremacists who embrace violence.
Joining me now, republican strategist Steve Schmidt and MSNBC Contributor.
Steve, what do you make of the world view of Bannon and Miller specifically
as it sort of forms itself into policy as we see expressed in the executive
STEVE SCHMIDT, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it`s an absolutely radical world
view, Chris, and it`s a departure from the bipartisan consensus that
existed from Harry Truman through Barack Obama that the centrality
importance of the United States as the anchor nation in a liberal global
pluralistic world order that was built after the catastrophe of the second
world war where 80 million people were killed. And Steve Bannon is hostile
to that global order. David Petraeus was testifying today on Capitol Hill
and he talked about the necessity of preserving that global order, that
it`s not self-sustaining, that it maintains itself through American
commitment. And so the notion that you saw with President Trump saying
things like “Mexico has beaten us to a pulp”, it`s an absurdity. Of
course, when you give consideration to those words. But when you look at
the inaugural address, the American carnage speech, the speech where he
talks about the international alliances costing America. There`s no
country in the world that has benefitted more from that liberal global
order that prevailed in the cold war, that`s lifted a billion people out of
abject poverty than the United States. And so we need to understand how
radical the thinking is, how outside norms it is of national security
experts in both parties on a 70 plus year basis.
HAYES: Well, and that`s the thing about the executive order to me is, you
know, there are policy processes that happen. If you say to yourself, we
have a - we have a problem we want to solve and the problem is we want to
make sure that anyone let into the country is not coming into the country
with the intent to do harm. Which I think is a goal that unanimously
supported, right? If someone wants to come into the U.S.
SCHMIDT: 100 percent, of course.
HAYES: If someone wants to come into the U.S. to carry out an attack, we
don`t want them to come into the country.
SCHMIDT: That`s right.
HAYES: But if you look at that executive order and you got something like
10 sections and only two of them are actually about vetting. Which are
actually the non-controversial parts, right? Because what they`re trying
to do is something much broader than that.
SCHMIDT: Look, this executive order couldn`t have been more incompetently
announced than it was authored by a pack of monkeys. Just extraordinary.
There`s no awareness at the Justice Department, the joint terrific task
force, the Department of Homeland Security, all of the mechanisms by which
information is funneled to the President of the United States for decision
making, carefully vetted, carefully vetted by the office of legal-council
at the Department of Justice. The job of the White House chief of staff is
not to stand in the oval office clapping behind the President as he signs
ill-conceived orders. It`s to control - to control the flow of information
into the oval office and to direct decision the making out to the various
government agencies on the back end. It`s just extraordinary incompetence
that cause chaos across the country, unsettled our allies and caused
enormous confusion unnecessary.
HAYES: All right. Steve Schmidt, thanks for your time tonight.
SCHMIDT: You bet. Good to be with you Chris.
HAYES: I`m joined now by Congressman Joaquin Castro of Texas. And
Congressman, I want to begin with something which you said about the
executive order. I read the headline here from Buzzfeed. Congressman says
“Trump could be impeached if he overstepped - if he overstepped authority
on travel ban.”
That doesn`t scan to me, you can - the President can issue an executive
order that the courts strike down. It doesn`t mean he`s committed an
impeachable offense, does it?
JOAQIUN CASTRO, UNITED STATES CONGRESSMAN FROM TEXAS: No, and actually if
you read the text of that story it had actually not to do with the
substance of the order although I strongly disagree with what many consider
and I consider a ban on Muslim travel. It had to do with reports that
after the judge issued a stay on that order the President may have ordered
CBP and other federal agencies to ignore the judge`s order and to disobey
the order. In that case what I said is the congress should censure the
President and if he does it again then we need to consider removal at that
point because the courts represent our way of settling disputes peacefully
and if that is taken away from the people they`re left with essentially
chaos. So a President can`t just flout those judicial orders. He`s got to
HAYES: You know, you`re talking about the executive branch essentially
adhering to decisions made by the courts. Another place - a sort of locus
of independence would be the Department of Justice. Obviously you`re in
the House, you don`t get a vote on Jeff Sessions. But I do want to play
this sound for you. This is last year, Senator Jeff Sessions, the nominee
to be Attorney General, talking about the Muslim ban proposal in its
initial incarnation. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFF SESSIONS, UNITED STATES SENATOR FROM ALABAMA: He`s treading on
dangerous ground because Americans are so deeply committed to freedom of
religion. That is a major part of who we are but at the same time, we`re
in an age that`s very dangerous. It`s time for us to think this through
and the classical internal American religious principles I don`t think
apply, providing constitutional protections to persons - not citizens - who
want to come here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Are you confident that Senator Session cans play the role of a kind
of check on the White House. Can be fully independent should he be asked
to do things that are extra constitutional, unconstitutional or illegal?
CASTRO: No, I don`t. I think he`ll do whatever Donald Trump tells him to
do. And that`s why you`re going to see few if any democrats I believe
support his nomination. His words there are troubling. Any time the
United States government has targeted people based on their skin color or
religion, and not only has that been wrong but there is also a tendency of
a dragnet affect and we saw some of that even this weekend where green card
holders, people who have a legal right to be in the country were denied
entry into the United States. I saw a story today and looked like of a
citizen who also got caught up in that dragnet. That was the case when the
government decades ago did operation wetback which took many Mexican
nationals who had been allowed in to work but also took in American
citizens and deported them to Mexico. So these things tend not only to
affect their targets but also people who have a legal right to be here
HAYES: What are you hearing from your constituents at this moment,
congressman? Particularly I wonder after the - you use the word
impeachment or talk about the possibility that if there was a violation of
the sort of authority of our article three courts, that could possibly open
up to that. What are the feedback like from your constituents on that?
CASTRO: Well, everybody is obviously very concerned and nobody takes the
idea of removing a President or impeaching a President lightly and no one
should. It`s historically very significant and so it`s not a light hearted
thing. It`s not a whimsical thing. At the same time, I think most people
would agree that this President has behaved in an extraordinary manner.
And ignoring or flatly disobeying a court`s order is also very significant
and if you do it repeatedly you`re putting yourself in the impeachment
HAYES: All right. Congressman Joaquin Castro, I appreciate your time
tonight. Thank you very much.
CASTRO: Thank you.
HAYES: Joining me now, David Miliband, President and CEO of the
International Rescue Committee which operates refugee resettlement in 26
U.S. cities and former Foreign Secretary for the UK. I guess first is just
the basic question of how this order is affecting the work that you do with
DAVID MILIBAND, INTERNATIONAL RESCUE COMMITTEE CEO: So the refugee
resettlement numbers are being cut very significantly but we`re facing
immediately is families separated, people in desperate straits having got
their Visa, 60,000 would be refugees have been through the vetting system
which often is the toughest possible way of getting into the U.S. and then
now stuck in limbo.
HAYES: If the 60,000 that have already sort of made it through.
MILIBAND: Being through - that they`ve been identified, they`ve been
through the 21 steps of the refugee vetting system, then they`re stuck. If
they`re from Syria, they`ve been told there`s an indefinite ban on them.
And the interesting thing about what I see is that, yes we are a refugee
resettlement agency here in the U.S., we also work in 30 war torn
countries, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq in the middle east. The
great danger there is that you compound the human misery of these
individual stories with a propaganda gift to extremists who want to say you
can never trust the Americans to look after Muslims. That`s the great
HAYES: You know, when I read that story act the 18-month-old boy with
burns or Sudanese cancer victim, one-year-old, it did seem to me like a
ready-made for propaganda. They`ll said look, this is - this is what the
Americans think of the value of your life.
MILIBAND: Look, half of the Syrians due to come to the U.S. this year are
under the age of 14, we`re talking about an assault on some of the most
innocent and vulnerable people in the world, never mind people who have
been traumatized but an unspeakable war.
HAYES: What do you say to an American who says, A, I have my own problems,
I am barely keeping my head above water financially, things are tough here.
B, I`m worried about a terrorist attack and I am just not sure I trust the
competence of this government to protect me.
MILIBAND: Well the only good thing about this controversy is that we can
explain to Americans that there - it`s legitimate to say you want a good
vetting system but there is a very, very tough vetting system, biometric
testing, interviews of individuals. The refugee has to prove that they`re
going to be - become a patriotic and productive citizen. And remember, in
our program, we run an employment program for refugees, 80 percent of them
are in work, paying taxes, actually employing people often within six
months of arrival and there`s another point as well. Which is America
depends on the global system that has been set up over the last 70 years.
Your earlier discussion that put this in a historical context, the Atlantic
charter signs in 1941, the 75 year period since then 76 years has been
essentially a period not just where America has been a donor to the global
order, it`s been a beneficiary. And interestingly enough, when JFK set up
USA, the international aid agency in 1961, he said “it befits America and
benefits America to give aid abroad because it`s a way of promoting global
stability.” And remember this final point, the vast bulk of refugees are
not in western countries. The vast bulk of refugees, 86 percent, are in
poor and lower and middle income countries. Like in Lebanon, is a country
of six million people, it`s got 1.3 million Syrian refugees over all. And
Jordan, your second-closest ally -
HAYES: Yes, this would be like 50 million refugees showing up in the U.S.
MILIBAND: Yes. I mean, Jordan in percentage.
HAYES: Right. Yes.
MILIBAND: Jordan is the second-closest ally of the U.S. in the middle
east. It`s got 650,000 registered refugees. It`s got 650,000 government
as unregistered refugees and a population of 7.3 million. I mean, that is
- it`s like the whole of the UK coming to America in the space of five
years and so the great bulk of the load is being born by the Kenyas of this
world, the Ethiopias, the Ugandas, the Jordans and Lebanons of this world,
not the European countries or the U.S.
HAYES: You`re a foreign minister. Did you ever think you would see the
day when the UK pulled out of the EU and the United States had elected a
man basically on the promise to essentially do away with the entire set of
institutions that side into it had international realm?
MILIBAND: No. It`s actually worse than that. I was involved in the
Lisbon treaty which drafted the arrangements for countries to leave the
European Union. Never in my wildest resolve - this was a big demand that
the EU - it shouldn`t be a one-way street.
MILIBAND: Never in my wildest dreams did imagine the UK would be taking
advantage of the exit door and the feeling that I have is that this is this
is going to be a very long-running saga for the UK which I obviously I`m
very fearful of.
HAYES: All right. David Miliband, great pleasure to have you here.
MILIBAND: Thanks a lot. Very much.
HAYES: Up next, is the grass-roots resistance to Donald Trump about to
stop Betsy Devos from becoming Education Secretary. Things are on a knife
edge. Next, Senator Sheldon White House on a daily protests swarming
offices and streets around the country.
HAYES: President Donald Trump`s nominee for Education Secretary is now
perilously close to defeat in her confirmation battle. Betsy Devos can be
assured of two no votes from republican senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska,
Susan Collins of Maine. Senator Murkowski sited thousands of constituents
she have heard from recent days. These two GOP defections means that with
a united front from democratic senators, the republican 52 percent majority
in the senate cannot afford to lose another vote. The kind of public
pressure being brought to bear is not limited to republicans. When Senator
Sheldon Whitehouse democratic realignment recently held a town hall
meeting, more than a thousand protesters showed up outside and the senator
addressed why he voted for Mike Pompeo who is now confirmed as President
Trump`s CIA director.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWD (chanting): Obstruct! Obstruct! Obstruct!
SHELDON WHITEHOUSE, UNITED STATES SENATOR FROM RHODE ISLAND: Why did I
vote for Pompeo?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No appeasement.
WHITEHOUSE: I believe that it was in our national security interest to get
people who are not Trump people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Joining me now, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a member of the Senate
Judiciary Committee. And I want to talk about Gorsuch and nominees but
first I want to ask you about that moment. Because have you ever had that
experience? Have you ever had thousands of constituents showing up asking
about a single vote?
WHITEHOUSE: It was a little bit like the tea party rallies the summer of
the affordable care act. This was a bigger crowd. It brought together -
it wasn`t about a single vote. This very crowd that have gathered in
reaction to the refugee ban and it was a lot of people who I knew, it`s a
lot people who I worked with for years, it`s a lot of people who care about
progressive causes and they had - a lot of them had gone to the women`s
march. And I was actually thrilled that a group could gather so quickly
just after the women`s march had happened to show that you know, this is
not a flash in the pan. We are not going away. And Rhode islanders are
boisterous, we don`t hesitate to raise our voices, we gesture with our
hands. We are - that was totally fine and part of our civic conversation
so it was great.
HAYES: So there`s a message being sent that I`m seeing everywhere. It`s
almost unanimous and it`s across interestingly the ideological spectrum.
This is from the sort of - well let`s call the base of the democratic party
across the very sort of lefty folks to sort of more centristy folks and
their ideology which is no democratic votes for Gorsuch. I don`t care -
I`m channeling what they`re saying. I don`t care what his qualifications
are, who he is, perfectly nice guy, great jurist, doesn`t matter, the seat
is illegitimately open ergo there should be no democratic vote. What do
you think of that?
WHITEHOUSE: Well I think there`s a lot of justifiable frustration that
President Obama who people had a lot of respect and affection for was
denied the prerogative of the Presidency for months and months and months
by just rank unprecedented republican obstruction and I understand that
very, very well. I think the issue with Gorsuch is going to be the fact
that he will be a swing vote to deliver a five-person majority back to the
republicans in the Supreme Court and the last time they had a five-person
republican majority, they abused it.
They used it to just make a barrage, five to four decisions that were all
directed like a compass towards true north, towards corporate special
interests republican election advantage and right wing social policy. And
it became predictable. And if the court is going to be the Supreme Court
of the United States, it has to stop behaving that way. Judicial
conservatives are a very different thing than politically conservative
activists. And if Mr. Gorsuch is going to be a judicial conservative,
that`s one thing. But if he`s going to go back to being the fifth vote in
a group of five politically conservative activists who were seeking to jam
special interest benefits and conservative social policy down America`s
throats, we`re going to have a real problem with that. And I think a lot
of our caucus will come together on that problem irrespective of the
support that we`re feeling from the outside.
HAYES: So what I`m hearing from you - I just want to be clear on this.
You are - you have made - not - you have not made a decision in advance. I
mean, the thing that happened with Merrick Garland, of course, the
republicans just said we`re not even going to touch the merits of Merrick
Garland, right? Their premise was I don`t want to talk about what kind of
justice he`s going to be, I don`t care. We`re blocking him as a group.
What I`m hearing from you is, you are going to consider - you are not doing
that. Essentially you are going to consider and come to a conclusion.
WHITEHOUSE: Well, bear in mind that the republicans did that in the
majority in the senate when they control what comes up and what does not
come up. Chuck Schumer does not control that. There is no way we can
prevent hearings from taking place on Mr. Gorsuch. What we can do is focus
on making sure that he does not rebuild the five-man activist block on the
Supreme Court that brought us decisions as disgraceful as citizens united.
And I think there, we have very strong support not just from our base but
from 80 percent of Americans who loathe the citizens united decision and
very strong support within the caucus that this should be a court again and
not a rampaging group of five rather belligerent conservative policy
activists who throw President aside, who throw originalism aside, who throw
all these judicially conservative doctrines aside as long as it gets them
to those three goals. The corporate special interests, the republican
election advantage and the right wing social policy.
HAYES: All right. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse with some of that judiciary
committee, thank you for your time, appreciate it sir.
WHITEHOUSE: Thank you.
HAYES: Coming up, the Trump administration announced today they are
putting Iran quote “on notice.” What that means next.
MICHAEL FLYNN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: President Trump has severely
criticized the various agreements reached between Iran and the Obama
administration as well as the United Nations as being weak and ineffective.
Instead of being thankful to the United States in these agreements, Iran is
now feeling emboldened. As of today, we are officially putting Iran on
notice. Thank you.
HAYES: Donald Trump`s National Security Advisor Michael Flynn made an
appearance on the White House briefing room today to announce that the
White House is, and I quote here “putting Iran on notice” due to a recent
ballistic missile test as well as an attack on a Saudi worship perpetrated
by Houthi militants who are allied with Iranian government. Now Flynn who
recently deleted his inflammatory twitter account did not explain what
“putting Iran on notice” meant. On a follow-up briefing, National Security
council officials said Flynn`s words were designed to get Iran`s attention,
they did not rule out military action. The Trump administration has in
fact already taken military action taken elsewhere in the world. Though
astonished something little has a main event. On Sunday, a navy seal and
an American girl were killed in a U.S. military raid in Yemen, a raid where
one official said quote “almost everything went wrong.”
We`ll talk about that raid, which resulted in the death of Navy SEAL Ryan
Owens and eight-year-old Nawar al-Awlaki (ph) next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: With respect to Yemen, I think
it`s hard to ever say something was successful when you lose a life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: President Trump today traveled to Dover Air Force Base for the
return of the remains of Navy SEAL Ryan Owens killed Sunday in the first
military raid carried out under the new president. NC News Pentagon
Correspondent Hans Nichols brings us the story.
HANS NICHOLS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: NBC has learned from a senior
military official that the pre-dawn raid in south central Yemen went wrong
almost from the beginning leaving a
Navy SEAL dead.
The target? Not high-value terrorists, but hard drives loaded with al
Qaeda documents and potential terrorist plots. The operation months in
preparation, but the squad from SEAL Team 6 unexpectedly encountered small
arms fire. Four SEALs were wounded, one fatally.
Chief Petty Officer William Ryan Owens, a father of three from Peoria,
Illinois. An MV-22 Osprey involved in the mission made a hard landing.
Three more U.S. troops were injured, the Osprey abandoned and then
Pentagon officials put the number of dead militants at 14, despite
conflicting local reports on the numbers of non-combatants that were
killed. Among those reported dead, 8-year-old Nawar al-Awlaki, the
daughter of Anwar al-Awlaki, the influential New Mexico-born al Qaeda
leader who himself was
killed in a U.S. strike five years ago.
Her grandfather telling NBC News that he identified his granddaughter`s
body in a photo taken from the scene.
HAYES: Joining me now, the National Security Council spokesperson under
President Obama – and I should say CENTCOM has now said that there were,
it appears, noncombatant which lines up with local reports that perhaps
women and children were in that raid.
How does – what is the decision-making process like to do a raid like
TOMMY VIETOR, FRM. SPOKESPERSON CENTCOM: You know, there`s probably a
series of meetings in the situation room with your homeland security
adviser, your counter-terrorism team, the chairman of the joint chiefs of
staff. I mean, you have to weigh the risk of these things, Chris. And,
you know, if you`re running an operation like this deep into Yemeni
territory and to an al Qaeda filled village, there`s a considerable risk to
our special operators.
If you remember, the bin Laden operation, I mean, if not for the incredible
ability a crashing helicopter, that could have gone very badly.
HAYES: There is a sense in which the one of the sort of things that this
president had done that he`s passing over is the expansion of these kind
of targeted raids or strikes through JSOC, right. Targeting individuals,
targeting individual compounds, in this case the target wasn`t a person it
was hard drives.
Do you stay up at night having been part of the expansion of that power
thinking about how it will be wielded by the new president?
VIETOR: You know, look, Chris, I stay up at night thinking about what
Trump may do in a lot of different areas. I think the difference here is
that President Obama put considerable thought and time and attention into
figuring out every way possible to reduce civilian casualties. And it
doesn`t sound like whether the intentions were good – the best of
intentions here, the outcome didn`t allow for that. And any time an 8-
year-old is killed, it is an absolute tragedy. It does not matter who her
was, it should never happen. So, I think this should be investigated.
I think that…
HAYES: Tommy, I should note that under President Obama, her brother, who
was an American citizen, was also killed.
VIETOR: I was the White House at the time, Chris, and that`s – that is
something I think about because he was a child and I don`t think any 16-
year-old should be a combatant in a war.
HAYES: Let me ask you this, the Iran put on notice from General Flynn
today. CENTCOM then later says that they don`t have any information that
they`re putting our forces on different posture.
There`s reports that General Mattis lowered down the sort of rhetoric of
At someone who was at the nexus of the decision making process in the last
administration, what do you make of that?
VIETOR: It seems like a lot of bluster. I mean, it`s very easy to trot
out the National Security Adviser and issue an edict like that and tell
Iran they`re on notice. But what are you going to do if they create
hostile actions in the Persian Gulf or do something that forces a response?
I mean, they really need to think through these things.
I don`t think bluster and talk like that is helpful, especially in the
midst of this Muslim ban where you`ve alienated the entire Middle East. It
seems like, you know, there`s a lot going on here
that`s going to exacerbate tensions in the region, and not fix it.
HAYES: All right, Tommy Vietor, thanks for your time tonight. Appreciate
HAYES: Still to come, should Democrats follow the Republican strategy and
unilaterally oppose President Trump`s Supreme Court pick? I`ll talk
Republican Senator Ben Sasse about that ahead.
Plus, a history lesson from the president. That`s tonight`s Thing One,
Thing Two starting right after this break.
HAYES: Thing One tonight, President Donald Trump held what was billed as a
listening session at the White House this morning to kick off black history
month. And there were a few odd things about it. For one, every person
who President Trump brought in to ostensibly listen to was either a Trump
surrogate or a current member of the Trump administration or worked for
Trump during his campaign or transition.
But perhaps the strangest thing was what Trump said during this listening
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I`m very proud now that we have a museum on the national mall where
people can learn about Reverend King, so many other things. Frederick
Douglassis an example of somebody who`s done an amazing job and is being
recognized more and more I notice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: If you had trouble following exactly what the president was saying
about Frederick Douglass, don`t worry, Press Secretary Sean Spicer cleared
it all up later in the afternoon. That`s Thing Two in 60 seconds.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who`s done an amazing
job and is being recognized more and more I notice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: That remark left a lot of people wondering what President Trump
meant by saying Frederick Douglass, one of the most important and
consequential African-American leaders in U.S. history is now, quote,
“being recognized more and more.”
That question was posed to White House is press secretary Sean Spicer this
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Today he made the comment about Frederick Douglass being
recognized more and more. Do you have any idea what specifically he was
SPICER: Well, I think there`s contribution – I think he wantsto highlight
that he has made and I think through a lot of the actions and – and
statements he`s going to make I
think the contributions that Frederick Douglass will become more and more.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: In case you didn`t fully catch it on Spicer`s explanation, let me
just read the actual verbat, “well, I think there`s contribution – I think
he wants to highlight the contributions that he has made and I think
through a lot of the actions and statements that he`s going to make I think
the contributions of Frederick Douglass will become more and more.”
Will become more and more. OK.
HAYES: This morning, Senate Republicans on the finance committee suspended
the rules and approved Donald Trump`s nominees for Secretary of Treasury
and Secretary of Health and Human
Services without a single Democrat even present.
Democrats, you see, were boycotting the hearings on Steve Mnuchin and Tom
Price asking for
more information on both men after reports that Price misrepresented to the
committee the offer he received to buy discounted stock in a biomedical
firm and reports that Mnuchin misrepresented to the same committee his
former company`s use of so-called robosigning on home foreclosures.
But in a surprise move this morning, Republicans sent Price and Mnuchin to
the full senate without a singling Democrat voting. Such a bypass of
senate rules and procedures is significant and perhaps offers a glimpse of
what to expect with President Trump`s Supreme Court nominee.
I`ll ask Republican Senator Ben Sasse about that after this quick break.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Yes. If we end up with the same gridlock that they`ve had in
Washington for the last – longer than eight years, in all fairness to
President Obama, a lot longer than eight years, but if we end up with that
gridlock I would say if you can, Mitch, go nuclear.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Joining me now is Senator Ben Sasse, a Republican from Nebraska.
And senator, I saw you last night at the event announcing Judge Gorsuch for
the position. And I want to start with this question, which is a question
that a lot of Democrats are asking, and I want to get your response, which
is basically why should Democrats do anything to confirm this individual
given how Merrick Garland was treated?
SEN. BEN SASSE, (R) NEBRASKA: Well, I mean I think you could have infinite
debates about the Biden rule and the Schumer rule and the so-called first
term year rule and the eighth year, last year of a lame duck second term
presidency rule. I don`t know about all that.
Here`s what I know. There`s a vacancy on the Supreme Court and this is a
guy who is the kind of judge that every American should be applauding
regardless of who you supported for president, regardless of your policy
preferences. He`s the kind of person who should be a judge because he
knows what a judge is.
HAYES: But let me just say this, again, like I know you don`t want to look
to the past, but the last clause you just said “this is someone who
everyone should be supporting because he knows what a judge is,” those
identical statements could have been said about Merrick Garland, in fact,
were said, in
fact, were said by Judge Gorsuch at one point who decried the terrible
treatment he was getting when he was in the appellate nomination process.
But that didn`t matter at all for Merrick Garland who enjoyed a similarly
SASSE: Well, here`s what I know. I hear what you`re saying, Chris, but I
also know that Washington is filled with people who literally talk like
we`re in a Middle Eastern blood feud and there`s always somebody who before
did something before did something before did something before and it`s
turtles all the way down, but fundamentally this is the kind of guy who
should be on the court. The president just ran for office. He had his
list of 21. It was pretty darn transparent. Obviously the president and I
have had differences on a lot of issues. But he had his list of 21. And
nominated somebody off that list of 21 and I`ve been reading the guy`s –
Judge Gorsuch`s opinions over the course of the last three weeks and
frankly I can`t find his policy views on anything.
When I`m reading these opinions, I assume late at night when he takes off
his robe, when he gets back home in front of ESPN or MSNBC or whatever he
watches when he unwinds, when he takes off his robe, I`m sure he has policy
preferences and personal views, but I don`t know what they are, and frankly
I don`t care because that`s not a judge`s job.
He`s the kind of guy we all ought to be applauding.
HAYES: Right. So, let`s say stipulating – I think the blood feud idea is
– there`s something sort of profound in that, right? Because there is a
kind of race to the institutional bottom where we`re
watching happen and part of it is because politics is a sort – it`s a game
played back and forth, right, so
you guys are going up against each other and you adapt based on what the
other side does over and over.
If it is the case the lesson from that game for Democrats is we`re not
giving a vote here should
Mitch McConnell go ahead and exercise the nuclear option and get rid of the
SASSE: So, before we talk about the last part, let`s unpack really the
important stuff you said in the first part which is honestly I`m not
playing any kind of a game. I know there are a bunch of people here who do
view this as a game, but to be real frank I`d much rather live in Nebraska
– I do live in Nebraska, but I`d rather be in Nebraska than in Washington,
HAYES; Careful there, senator. Fine senators have gone down to the ash
heap of history for not living in their home state, but continue.
SASSE: I want to be clear, I live in Nebraska. I have got three little
kids and I commute every week with which ever kid my wife is sick of they
become my date for the week. She banishes somebody from the home, and they
come with me Monday to Friday. And I don`t think Washington is the center
of the world and frankly I don`t think any healthy person should think that
Capitol Hill is the center of the world.
And so this isn`t a game to me, I`m worried about passing on an experiment
in ordered liberty
and self-governance to the next generation.
And I hear what you`re saying that for a lot of people it`s an iterative
game of there was this chess move in that year and there was this chess
move and now we know how to bloody up a pawn or a bishop. I don`t care
about any of that.
I care about the fact that we have a crisis of public trust. We have a
crisis of civic catechesis (ph) and we have three branches of government.
We don`t have one, we don`t have four, we don`t have 73. We have a
legislature, an executive and a judiciary, and right now year over year –
let`s say presidential term over presidential term for 80 years maybe
Washington has seen a consolidation of power and policy making in the
executive branch. And we should see a recovery of legislative policy
making, because we`re the people the voters can hire and fire.
The executive branch`s job should be to execute the laws safely passed and
the judiciary has another job, not a super legislative one.
HAYES: So, let me segue to that because I think that`s a really profound
and interesting point. We have seen the succession of executive orders
from the president of the United States, that is part of the kind of
executive prerogative and some of them seem squarely within the Article II
powers of the
executive, some of them seem outside of that.
You were critical of the immigration executive order. Are you concerned
that we are seeing the executive in the early days of the Trump
administration reach out past what its constitutional power
SASSE: It`s a great and fair question, but I want to answer it in the
broader scope, so I don`t
want to start with the 12 days, and I won`t be history nerd for long I
promise. But we here in the middle of 100 year consolidation of executive
branch power. Republican Teddy Roosevelt, Democrat Woodrow Wilson, both
had a theory that the executive branch should have more power and the
legislature is responsive to the people and people are too stupid and
voters can`t understand so we should haven`t big debates in front of the
voters because legislators are always going to be people who can`t possibly
understand what experts in the executive branch should and could.
And so we`ve seen consolidation, consolidation, consolidation. Republicans
always want to say, well, look, Obama did it worse than before. Democrats
have been saying for a long time George W. Bush did it worse than before.
The reality is there has been a successive consolidation of power for a
really long time.
I think that a moment like this should be a time that frankly if Democrats
wanted to go and read
a lot of Gorsuch`s opinions, I think a lot would say, wow, Donald Trump
nominated a guy who believes in a third branch of government that should
check the other two, including the second branch?
People who are concerned about Donald Trump and any president who might
have concerns about any voter and any sort of thoughtful citizen who might
have concerns about the consolidation of power and the executive branch
should like a guy like Gorsuch who believes his job is to defend and uphold
the constitution of limited government.
HAYES: So, let me just – so here`s the final thought on that, right. And
I think that the big task, right, for Gorsuch from this sort of rule of law
perspective is precisely this question of can he be the kind of
institutional and constitutional check on the executive? But part of what
we`ve seen is as we talk about that trajectory, the history, a huge part of
playing the role is that partisan alignments have sort of supervened over
these institutional ones.
So, it`s – there`s fidelity to your party over fidelity to the legislative
branch. And to bring it back to Garland, I think a lot of people felt like
that`s what happened with Garland. Ultimately, that was our team says
we`re not giving this guy a vote so that we can preserve it for our party
as opposed to we will play the constitutionally prescribed role of advising
SASSE: Well, the legislature didn`t consent. So you`re right that there
was a decision not to consent, but your broader point is surely true which
is the founders envisioned a world where when you serve in the legislature
you don`t have partisan lenses as the first thing you think about, you
should think about jealously guarding your prerogatives of your branch. I
think I`m the third most conservative guy in the Senate by voting record,
but I`m not very partisan.
When I think about the parts of my identity that matter as a dad a and
father and a Husker
football fan, and serving as a legislator for a time, I don`t start with
party loyalty anywhere in that top eight or ten, and it would be great if
the Senate were again the greatest deliberative body in the world.
It`s a fanciful excuse that we claim to be right now. And if you look at
CSPAN 2 most of the time, there`s one person in there talking to nobody
except their own base through a television camera with talking points.
It`s a shame. Se should do better than that.
And one of the ways you can do that, frankly, is by using this moment to
reaffirm civics for our kids about what the job of a judge is. In fact,
not just my kids but Beyonce`s twins as well. There`s all sorts of news in
pop culture today. Everybody ought to be teaching their kids about what
constitutional system is about.
HAYES: That`s a great time trajectory, does Judge Gorsuch get a vote
before the due date? Senator Ben Sasse, Nebraska, thanks for joining us.
I appreciate your time.
SASSE: Thanks, Chris.
HAYES: That is All In for this evening. The Rachel Maddow Show starts
right now. Good evening, Rachel.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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