The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 1/3/2017
Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: January 3, 2017
Guest: Chuck Schumer, Bernie Sanders
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good evening, Ari. Exciting night. A lot of
news breaking tonight. It`s good to be here.
Thanks to you at home as well for joining this hour.
We have a big show tonight. In addition to lots of developing and breaking
news over the course of this evening, we`ve got a couple of really big live
interviews in store this hour. That is why I am here in Washington, D.C.
instead of our usual studio in New York. But it`s good to have you with
If you were her, would you go? Would you go to the inauguration?
Today, Hillary Clinton and former President Bill Clinton announced that
they will attend the inauguration of incoming President Donald Trump later
this month. I don`t know if they sought assurances from the new president
that he wouldn`t actually lock her up if she shows up in Washington for his
inauguration, but she will be there in person. If he wants to do his
traditional thing where he leads his supporters in the lock her up chant,
she will be there in person to hear it.
That was news today that the Clintons will both be there. We already knew
that former President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn will be there at
the inauguration as well. But before today, that was the only former
president we knew was coming. At the same time today that we learned Bill
and Hillary Clinton will be attending the inauguration, we also learned
that former President George W. Bush and his wife Laura, they, too, will
attend the Trump inauguration later this month. Both the George W. Bush
family and the Hillary Clinton family, both of those had been up in the air
before today. But now we know both the Clintons and the George W. Bushes
are going to be there.
We also have confirmation now that former President Bush, George H.W. Bush,
he and his wife Barbara will not be attending the Trump inauguration, and
you can read anything into that you want but honestly, the former president
is now 92, their decision not to go to the inauguration appears to be
nothing more than a health and age-based decision. It doesn`t appear to be
any coded political message.
On this date in 1972, on January 3rd, 1972, “New York” magazine ran an
article titled “New York`s most overrated people.” And George H.W. Bush
was living in New York at that time because he was the U.S. ambassador to
the United Nations, so he had to live in New York and George H.W. Bush in
that article, 1972, he made the sad list, “New York” magazine calling him
But George H.W. Bush, he responded to that in the world`s most perfect way
– he threw a party at the U.N. ambassador`s residence for everybody else
on the list. He invited the 10 most overrated men in New York and he threw
a party for them. And I`m sorry, but that is enough to make you like
George H.W. Bush whether or not you liked him as a president.
One of the other guys who made that list that year, the most overrated
list, was Gabe Pressman. Gabe Pressman was a TV reporter at the time at
WNBC. After that article came out calling him overrated, he got this note
from the U.N. ambassador at this time. He got this note from George H.W.
Bush inviting them to the party he was going to throw.
And the note from George H.W. Bush, to this reporter, it said, in terms of
being one of the most overrated men in New York City, it said, quote, “I
was lucky, but you earned it.”
And then he invited him to his house for the party, for all the people who
were considered to be overrated in New York City. Apparently, he also
invited the author of the article. God bless George H.W. Bush.
And God bless Gabe Pressman, the reporter. Gabe pressman is now also 92
years old and, I kid you not, he`s still reporting.
One of the privileges of working at NBC is that you occasionally still see
Gabe Pressman around the halls because he`s still at work. He`s one of
these guys who has been around since the dawn of TV reporting.
His first job as a reporter was in 1949. He has seen everything. He has
been everywhere. He has done everything. He has spoken to everyone.
And tonight, turns out, it is newly newsworthy to remember the moment in
Gabe Pressman`s long, long career when he was moderating a debate in a
particularly pungent, particularly consequential election. And in so
doing, in being the moderator of that debate, that meant he had to explain,
during the debate, on live television, the meaning of the word “putz.” And
he did it expertly and nobody laughed. There was one little laugh.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GABE PRESSMAN, JOURNALIST: The latest issue that you brought up,
Congressman, involves a Yiddish slang word that you, Senator D`Amato, used
to describe Congressman Schumer in a private meeting. We all agree on
that, right? The specific charge is that you called him a Putzhead.
And for those not familiar with Yiddish, I read an excerpt from the Rosten
dictionary of Yiddish, putz he says is, one, a term of contempt for a ass,
fool, or jerk, or two a term for a simpleton or yokel, an easy mark. It
literally means the male sex organ but that`s rarely used. This is
according to Rosten, the authority on Yiddish.
So, it gets down to one simple issue. Did you use the word to describe
THEN-SEN. AL D`AMATO (R), NEW YORK: Yes, I did and I used it in the
context of being silly and foolish.
PRESS: Did you mean it as a term of contempt for your opponent?
D`AMATO: A term of foolishness.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Yes, I did. I did call him a Putzhead.
Political debates are always good, but they are rarely this specific kind
of challenge for the moderator to keep a straight face.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: The statement he made – yes, it`s a
slur, it`s a vulgarism, it doesn`t bother me. That is not the issue.
PRESSMAN: Have you ever called anyone a putz yourself?
SCHUMER: I may have, but I tell you something, I wouldn`t lie about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was 1998.
SCHUMER: He lied about it.
MADDOW: He did lie about it. That was the issue.
1998, the incumbent senator from New York was a Republican, he`d already
been elected three times, he was running for a fourth term and along came
this feisty Democrat challenging him for his seat and that Democrat was so
aggressive, he raised so much money, he went after Senator Al D`Amato so
relentlessly that honestly it drove the senator to distraction.
He`s a three-term senator that everyone thought was so tough but he lost
it. He calmed his opponent a Putzhead at a public meeting, and he called
him other things beside, and he did lie about it, and his Democratic
challenger got it on the record, nailed him with it to the point where he
was answering for it in the debates.
That incumbent senator didn`t know what hit him. I mean, incumbents,
especially rich, high-profile incumbents, they should be basically
unbeatable in big expensive statewide races in places like New York. But
along came this guy who was basically just made to win a race like that.
He`d been elected to the state assembly at the age of 23. He`d been
elected to Congress at the ripe old age of 29. He had never lost an
election in his life and he took on and beat this entrenched rich incumbent
It was the highest profile Senate race in the country that year, mostly
because of how hard that young congressman fought to get that seat. And he
got that seat. And if you look – it`s funny, look at the map of the race
results that year, it doesn`t much look like the Democrat won but he did,
he won by just under a half million votes.
But that was his first election to the Senate. It was the upset of a
sitting incumbent Republican. Now put that map on the left and then look
at – that other map there on the right? That`s six years later.
Look what happened six years later when he had to run for reelection for
the first time. Yeah, that one you can tell it`s not close. And you know,
he`s still never lost an election. He got his seat in Washington with a
campaign still famous 20 years later for its ferocity, and he turned that
upset first win into just a dominant political position.
And then he put it to work for other Democrats, he got into the leadership
and he stayed there. He became head of the part of the Democratic Party
that works to elect Democratic senators. In his first election cycle as
head of the Democrats` Senate prospects, all of these Democratic
challengers took seats from all of those Republican incumbents. All those
yellow check marks there are on Democratic heads. All those Republican
incumbents lost to Democrats. That was his first cycle in charge of the
Democrats picking up Senate seats.
Then in the next election cycle, he did it again. Five Democratic
challengers unseated five more Republican incumbents in the Senate. Plus,
the Democrats picked up three more open seats that year besides.
He fought tooth and nail in that first election with the Yiddish insults
and everything. He fought tooth and nail to get into Washington. But once
he was there he got 14 more Democrats into the Senate alongside him. And
now, as of today, as of tonight, he will be the most powerful Democrat in
Washington in the era of Donald Trump. The new Congress starts today and
Chuck Schumer will be the leader of the Democratic Party in the one house
in Congress where the minority party has some power.
And I will just say one thing before I bring him into this conversation –
it is inarguable that Democrats feel thunder struck by this past election.
But that is mostly because this election result was a surprise. I mean,
compared to 2008, the last time the White House flipped from one party to
the other, 2008, the Senate Democrats earned so many seats with Chuck
Schumer heading their Senate campaign arm for two cycles that newly elected
President Obama in 2008, he came in with not just a majority in the Senate,
he had a super majority, 60 Senate seats and the House was Democratic, too,
and the new president won the election by a huge margin and he was riding a
huge wave of popularity.
Now, that was a head of steam in 2008. In contrast, the Republicans right
now, yes, they are coming in with a new Republican president, but they just
lost seats in both houses of Congress. They`ve only got two-seat majority
in the Senate. Their new president has the lowest approval ratings of any
president-elect in the modern era and their incoming president –
incidentally, I know it`s a sore spot – he lost the popular vote by more
votes than any incoming president ever in the history of this country.
And so, Democrats are thunder struck that they lost, but they`re not
exactly starting from scratch here. And the new guy taking charge for them
on Capitol Hill has a history of winning uphill political battles, even
when they get ugly to the point of being funny in retrospect.
Joining us now in his first interview since becoming minority leader in the
Senate is Senator Chuck Schumer.
Senator, it`s nice to see you.
SCHUMER: Rachel, great to be here.
MADDOW: That was a little “this is your life.”
SCHUMER: That was – yes, I remember that well.
One interesting thought. So, D`amato came out and it was reported he
called me this name, putzhead. He said, “I never would, I don`t lie.” and
his slogan against me “too liberal for too long.” We came back at one with
him which we used the whole campaign “too many lies for too long.” and he
comes out of here and denies it and guess who pulls out the rug from under
Ed Koch who was totally on D`Amato`s side. He was mad at me because when
he ran against Dinkins I didn`t support him because I thought New York was
a racial tinderbox and Ed Koch was throwing matches on the flame. Yet, Ed
Koch can said, “I cannot tell a lie. He said it.” And that was that.
MADDOW: So, I think a lot of people don`t know your back story about how
you – first of all that you started getting elected to office when you
were so young, that you never lost an election, you upset this incumbent to
get there. But should we – are there extrapolatable things that you
learned from the way that you started and the way that you started winning
that apply to what`s going on with the Democrats right now?
SCHUMER: All through the years my lodestar – I`ve always been a middle-
class guy, I came from a middle-class neighborhood. My father was an
exterminator, didn`t go to college. I grew up with people who were
firefighters and store owners and teachers of all different ethnicities.
That`s what happens in Brooklyn.
But I learned you have to be true to yourself. You have to have an
internal gyroscope that directs you and the higher up you go, the more
fierce the winds blow and the only way you don`t get blown off the mountain
is by believing in things and believing in them without worrying about what
That`s who I`ve been, you know? That`s who I`ve always been. I have
focused on average folks. I care about them. I believe in them. I still
identify and empathize with them and that`s what I tell candidates – be
MADDOW: And you have been in public life and in national life for a long
SCHUMER: Yes, I tell people I`m from Brooklyn. Sometimes it helps me,
sometimes it hurts me, but I know one thing – I`d be less than whatever I
am if I tried not to be from Brooklyn.
MADDOW: Because you have a Brooklyn accent, you are from Brooklyn, you
have come up from New York politics, people think of you as a New York
political figure. But now, indubitably, you are a national political
figure and I think a lot of Democrats having been through the Sanders
versus Clinton primary, having been through the shock of losing this
election, are sort of trying to figure out how to place you and trying to
think about what your leadership is going to be like at a national level.
Do you see yourself as a moderate? Do you see yourself as a liberal? Do
you see yourself as ideological at all?
SCHUMER: Yes, I see myself as somebody who will fight really hard for the
middle-class and people trying to be there and not be afraid. I am not
afraid of Donald Trump. I am not afraid of the Republicans. And we`re
going to hold their feet to the fire.
I am actually excited about this opportunity. It`s an opportunity. They -
- there are so many contradictions in this administration.
I mean, one, we`re going after their nominees. McConnell wanted to let all
of them get just through in these quick little two-hour hearings. Get all
of them done in two weeks. We`re saying no way.
Price, the guy from HHS, Donald Trump said when he campaigned he wouldn`t
cut Medicare and Social Security, but he turns around nominates as his HHS
secretary, guy made his career on cutting Medicare and Medicaid. We`re
going to slam him on these things.
He said he`s going to clean the swamp. Who`s his cabinet? Billionaires,
people who own huge businesses, people who have been part of that swamp for
a very long time. In other words, there was a certain populism – you say
can a lot of things about Donald Trump and I worked really hard against
him, but he had a certain populism to him, a false populism but a populism.
He now has sold out to the hard right – the pro-business, pro-corporate,
pro-elite group. And I think we can really nail him on this. We can be
very strong and unflinching and hold his feet to the fire. The theme of
the speech I gave today is, we`re going to hold him accountable.
MADDOW: You talked about this being an accountability Congress.
MADDOW: There was also on the other side of Capitol Hill, there was a
weird start to the Congress and –
SCHUMER: But that`s who they are. You see these hard right people who are
ideologues on the hard right, they don`t get it. So, how could it dawn on
them that the first thing they should do is undo an ethics law? Crazy.
Now, they had to back off but still. That was their opening. We are going
to have so many opportunities.
Here`s a great one. I mean, it`s very important to me, ACA.
SCHUMER: They`re like the dog who caught the bus. They don`t know what to
do with it. It has so many good things, 20 million people covered. You`re
21 to 26, you get on your parents` plan. You`re a parent, your child has
cancer, they can`t deny you insurance. Women have to be treated the same.
Planned Parenthood. All these things are very popular.
They say, “Oh, we`ll keep those but get rid of ACA.” They can`t. And so,
what do they do, they say, “We`ll repeal it and two years from now, we`ll
tell you what we`ll replace it with.” Bull. They have nothing to replace
it with it.
MADDOW: But they have the votes to repeal it. I mean, they filed the
legislation in the Senate to start repealing it today.
SCHUMER: They do because they`ve used this reconciliation process. Every
Democrat will vote against them, and when they actually try to repeal it,
but try to keep – they have two choices, neither one is a winner for them.
They either try to keep the benefits, that means they have to put in a
whole lot of money. You know what happens then? The right wing, the hard
right guy says, we`re not paying money for this, to help poor people? To
help people get health care? Forget it.
Or they cut out the benefits and there`s an outcry and even now, they can
do this repeal and say we`ll replace in the two years. Guess who`s getting
hurt? Workers, but hospitals, and rural hospitals. So you go to the
reddest of states and who`s complaining the most? These little hospitals,
rural, that depend on the ACA.
MADDOW: Are you saying that outcry is going to stop them from repealing
SCHUMER: I am saying by the time they get up to having to actually put a
repeal bill in, they`re going to be so tied in a knot, they may not be able
to do it.
MADDOW: Do you –
SCHUMER: We`re not going to help them.
SCHUMER: So, they`re going to have to get all the votes themselves and the
more their mainstream ones will say, we have to keep the benefits. Their
more right wing ones will say, we can`t put in any money and they`re stuck.
MADDOW: Do you think that they will – I believe they will not be able to
MADDOW: But I don`t believe you that they won`t be able to repeal it.
SCHUMER: Well, they`ll repeal two years from now but there will be chaos.
We will tell America that they`re replacing affordable care with chaos and
once the chaos starts hitting the fan, I don`t know what they`re going to
do. No, they`re going to repeal because they`re ideologues, they hit
government. So this is the worst thing that could have happened to
America, that government expanded in a major and significant way.
But they don`t have anything to put in the its place and when the chaos
evolves, what are they going to do? They`re going to be stuck.
Same thing with the cabinet. Now, we are demanding hearings. First, we`re
demanding everyone get an ethics investigation, that they all file these
plans that they`re supposed to file, all the Obama nominees did on how
they`re going to get rid of all their potential conflict of interest, all
the businesses and stocks and things like that that they have. And they
get an FBI background check. OK.
MADDOW: Can you force those things?
SCHUMER: We can force the first two. And if they don`t do them we can
demand – we can`t influence when they have the hearings. The original
plan was to have eight or ten hearings the first week. But we can hold
them up on the floor and for two months, that`s all they`ll do as their
nominations. And so, they`re sort of stuck there, too.
And what we`re demanding is so reasonable. We call it the rigged cabinet.
It`s not the kind of cabinet that represents America. It represents
wealthy people, it represents a load of the people from the swamp and
people who had views that are so out of the mainstream and Donald Trump
didn`t campaign on most of these things.
MADDOW: The new – excuse me. The new leader of the Democrats in the
Senate as of today is Senator Chuck Schumer. We have him here tonight.
I`m not going to let him leave.
We`ll be right back with you, Senator, in just a moment.
SCHUMER: My pleasure.
MADDOW: Stay with us.
MADDOW: Joining us again is the brand new Democratic leader of the United
States Senate, Senator Schumer.
Senator Schumer, thank you very much for sticking with us.
I want to ask you about the last person who was in a position like yours.
After Barack Obama got elected, Mitch McConnell was in your position and he
basically bucked political science. He did an experiment.
Take on a very popular president who has a very popular agenda, make every
effort to block that agenda without any regard for the polls and just sit
back and wait for the voters to punish the governing party and reward you
for being obstructionist. It seemed crazy and almost outrageous at the
time to people observing in the moment, but it worked like a charm for his
MADDOW: You are not planning to borrow that playbook, though?
SCHUMER: Well, we are going to be tough. But, you know, and Bernie and
Elizabeth agree with me on this. Let`s say he proposes – as he said he
would – a trillion dollar infrastructure bill, you know, a grand public
Now, we Democrats always believed it. Bernie campaigned on it. But you
have to look at the details. We`re not going to just go for anything he
proposes. It`s going to have to be our bill.
So, for instance, they said we`ll do it with tax breaks. You can`t build
roads and bridges with tax breaks unless you put huge tolls on them that no
one can afford to pay back the bonds.
Let`s say they try to get rid of environmental protections and labor
protections. Forget it.
So, do we say no absolutely on the first day, or another one where I tend
to agree more with Trump than I did with Obama and Bush, trade. I think
free trade has been a loser. I voted against NAFTA back in 1994.
And if he comes up with a really good trade position, we`re not going to
just necessarily say no, but we`re going to hold his feet to the fire and I
can assure you of this – anything we`re going to support will get almost
no Republican votes. That may mean we support them on nothing. But we`re
not going to sacrifice our principles for the sake of compromise.
MADDOW: But a unified party line vote at this point accomplishes nothing.
I mean, can the Democrats do anything alone? Right now –
SCHUMER: We can`t do anything alone, but if it`s really positive
progressive type stuff – it may not be – and we pick up a few
Republicans, it would have to be with the majority of Democrats in the
House and Senate.
But the bottom line is our main job here is, as I said, hold his feet to
the fire. It`s not going to be to sit in a room and say, where can we
compromise, where we can`t? If he proposes things, that might – he said
he was for closing the carried interest loophole. I`m not going to vote
against it if he proposes it. All the Republicans will, but I won`t. I
think we should close the carried interest loophole.
There are a few examples here and I`m not going to rule them out, but most
of the things we`ll be talking about whether it`s health care or education
or transportation or helping the poor or voting rights or guns or choice or
Planned Parenthood, we`re going to oppose them tooth and nail. There`s no
way for compromise on any of those.
MADDOW: Let me ask you a hard-line edge on that which is the Supreme
Court. The Republicans took this unprecedented step. They didn`t let
President Obama make a Supreme Court appointment for almost a year now.
SCHUMER: Very moderate, mainstream nominee.
MADDOW: A nominee who a lot of progressives would have been very
disappointed in, actually, although he`s very well respected.
MADDOW: But that was an incredibly radical thing the Republicans did.
Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon says they stole a Supreme Court seat.
SCHUMER: That`s a fair statement.
MADDOW: Didn`t they just get away with it?
SCHUMER: They did.
MADDOW: I mean, there are no consequences for it?
SCHUMER: Well, the consequences are going to be down the road. The
consequences are going to be down the road.
We are not going to settle on a Supreme Court nominee if they don`t appoint
someone who is really good, we`re going to oppose them tooth and nail.
Now, then, they won`t have 60 votes to put in an out-of-the-mainstream
nominee. Then they`ll have to make a choice, change the rules.
It`s going to be hard for them to change the rules because there are a
handful of Republicans who believe in the institution of the Senate and
they don`t change the rules.
MADDOW: Is there –
SCHUMER: But we are not going to make it easy for them to pick a Supreme
MADDOW: Is there an argument to be made, though, if it is a fair statement
that that was basically a stolen seat, so it isn`t theirs to fill, then in
that case, no nominee would be legitimate because that seat should have
been filled by President Obama.
SCHUMER: It`s hard for me to imagine a nominee that Donald Trump would
choose that would get Republican support that we could support. So, you`re
MADDOW: And so, you will do your best to hold the seat open.
MADDOW: In terms of your transition from Harry Reid to you, for the
Democratic leadership in the Senate, one of the things that Harry Reid sort
of took on personally in a very ostentatious way is he took on a personal
fight with the Koch brother, Charles and David Koch.
SCHUMER: Yes, yes.
MADDOW: Talked about them hundreds of times on the Senate floor.
SCHUMER: He did a great job.
MADDOW: He did a great job but the Koch brothers now today were treated to
the news that the guy who used to run Freedom Partners for them, their
political network, is apparently going to be director of legislative
affairs in the White House.
SCHUMER: I didn`t know that.
MADDOW: Which – it`s not official but that`s the reporting today.
SCHUMER: And they opposed Trump – see, here`s what`s going on here.
Trump ran against the Democratic and Republican establishments, against
both. Trump as president-elect has been totally captured by the hard
right. The Koch brothers were opposed to him in the campaign and that will
make him a failure.
I said to this to him. You know, he`s called me occasionally on the phone.
I said this to him. I said, if you just get embraced by the hard right,
and I named Vice President Pence and a few of the others who are pushing
him in that direction, you will be so far away from where the average
American is, even the average Trump voter was, the non-bigoted parts of
them who just want to change because they were so upset, you`ll be a
failure. And I don`t think he gets that.
MADDOW: How did he react?
SCHUMER: He didn`t say anything.
But I don`t think he gets that. I think what I think might happen is, the
hard right runs the show. Now, they`ll fail because the right wing
ideologues, they are so out of touch with America, Trump just sits back and
tweets things and I called him today in my little speech and I said, we
can`t afford a Twitter presidency.
I said, for instance, you know, he can tweet about his little friend Putin,
but if he doesn`t get the intelligence briefings, how`s he going to know
the bad things Putin are doing? You can tweet about saving 800 jobs in
Carrier, I`m glad he saved them. What about the 1,300 that are going to
Mexico? Five hundred down the road at that Rexnord and the thousands every
week that we lose?
You can`t tweet a policy. So, the combination of the hard right running
the show – even though Trump didn`t campaign as a hard-right guy, he
campaigned as this populist sometimes with very bad and racist bigoted
overtones then him just out there tweeting, it`s not going to work. And we
have an opportunity. As the Chinese say, danger is opportunity.
So, I am – I was distraught after the election, but I`m now actually
invigorated by the challenge and our ability to succeed in this challenge.
MADDOW: Let me ask you. I don`t know if you have seen this. I don`t want
to blind side you with this. This is the latest statement, latest tweet as
you were just saying – president-elect`s latest unsolicited pronouncement
on the intelligence community. This was his tweet just a little while ago
tonight. You can see the scare quotes there. “The `intelligence` briefing
on so called `Russian hacking` was delayed until Friday. Perhaps more time
needed to build a case. Very strange.”
We`re actually told – intelligence sources tell NBC News that since this
tweet has been posted that actually, this intelligence briefing for the
president-elect was always planned for Friday, it hasn`t been delayed. But
he`s taking these shots, this antagonism – he`s taunting the intelligence
SCHUMER: Let me tell you, you take on the intelligence community, they
have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you. So, even for a
practical, supposedly, hard-nosed businessman, he`s being really dumb to do
MADDOW: What do you think the intelligence community would do if they were
SCHUMER: I don`t know. But from what I am told, they are very upset with
how he has treated them and talked about them. And we need the
intelligence community. We don`t know what`s going to – look at the
Russian hacking. Without the intelligence community, we wouldn`t have
MADDOW: Do you think he has an agenda to dismantle parts of the
intelligence community? This form of taunting hostile –
SCHUMER: Let me tell you – whether you`re a super liberal Democrat or a
very conservative Republican, you should be against dismantling the
MADDOW: Senator Charles Schumer of New York, as of today the Senate
minority leader, leader of the Democrats in the Senate for the new Congress
that begins today. Please stay in touch over this time.
SCHUMER: We will.
MADDOW: I will tell you that we have not always had the easiest time in
the world talking to leadership of the Democratic Party in the Obama
executive branch or in the Democratic Party legislative branch, and I hope
this is a new era for that, too.
SCHUMER: Rachel, they can say a lot of bad things about me.
Inaccessibility ain`t one of them.
MADDOW: I`ll hold you to it. Thank you, sir. Appreciate it.
SCHUMER: Nice to see you.
MADDOW: All right. Much more on deck tonight, including Senator Bernie
Sanders also here live.
SCHUMER: Also from Madison Heights.
MADDOW: All right. We`ve got much more to come tonight. I said it was a
big show and I meant it. Just had this fascinating conversation with the
brand new as of today new Democratic leader of the Senate, Chuck Schumer,
the most powerful Democrat in Washington now in the Trump era.
Now, next, we`re about to be joined by the most influential progressive in
the country, and he really is a graduate of the same high school that Chuck
Schumer went to in Brooklyn. James Madison High School, this is your life!
At least this is your night on THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW.
Senator Bernie Sanders joins us live, next. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Maybe the most unlikely member of the new Senate Democratic
leadership team is someone who technically and sometimes is not a Senate
Senator Bernie Sanders, capital “I” independent of Vermont. He`ll be the
Democrats` new chair of outreach in the Democratic leadership team in the
Senate. You can see him doing his thing today in New York in supporting
the New York governor`s plan to make a college education way, way, way more
accessible. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: In a time when we have a president-elect
who thinks it`s a great idea to give hundreds of billions of dollars in tax
breaks to the top two-tenths of one percent, we have a better idea and that
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
And that idea is to make public colleges and universities tuition-free for
every person in New York state, in Vermont, and in America.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
If New York state does it this year, mark my words, state after state will
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Joining us now, I`m very pleased to say, is Senator Bernie
Sanders, leader of outreach for the Senate Democrats, former candidate for
president, of course, and now the leader of his own post-election
nonprofit, which is called “Our Revolution.”
Senator Sanders, it`s great to see you. Thank you for being here.
SANDERS: Good to be with you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Are you rested and recovered after your election journey?
SANDERS: Ready to go.
MADDOW: Ready to go. You look like it.
I know you heard a bit of my conversation with Senator Schumer here. You
guys went to the same high school. You`ve known each other for a long
Let me ask you candidly, how sort of rested and ready do you feel like
Democrats are for the Trump era? Are you confident in the plans, in the
strategic planning, in the operations thus far?
SANDERS: No. I think Chuck is off to a good start. He has brought
together some very, very good people. And he understands something, and
that is that at the end of the day the way we`re going to bring about
change, the way we`re going to stop Trump is not just inside the beltway.
You need an outside-the-beltway strategy. And that`s in a sense what my
job is as part of the Democratic leadership.
MADDOW: What does that mean?
SANDERS: What that means is on January 15th – for the first time in the
modern history of the Democratic Party – Democrats are going to be
organizing rallies all across this country in opposition to the Republican
budget which calls for throwing 30 million people off of health care,
throwing their insurance away, privatizing Medicare, making massive cuts in
Medicaid and at the same time giving huge tax breaks to the wealthy.
So what I think Chuck understands and what Democrats increasingly
understand, is you can`t just go to fund-raisers with wealthy people.
You`ve got to get out in the real world. You`ve got to mobilize people.
You`ve got to educate people. You`ve got to listen to people and that is
the transformation they need which, by the way, is why I am strongly
supporting Keith Ellison to be the new chair of the DNC.
MADDOW: He has – you feel like he has that same organizing model?
SANDERS: Absolutely. Absolutely.
MADDOW: This day of sort of resistance, this January 15th plan, this will
be the weekend before the inauguration. You`re not expecting people to
convene in one place, not telling everybody to come to Washington. You`re
telling people to rally in their home districts, in their home states.
SANDERS: Right. What we`re asking is U.S. senators, members of the House,
labor unions, environmental groups, senior groups, ordinary people to come
together and tell the Republican Party that their priorities are absolutely
backwards, we will not accept – you know, Rachel, if you simply throw 30
million people off of health insurance, this is what the Republicans intend
to do by repealing the Affordable Care Act, they have no alternative. It`s
not like we`re replacing it. They`re throwing 30 million people off of
Their estimates are that thousands of people every single year will die,
people will get much sicker than they should have been because they won`t
be able to go to a doctor. This is vulgar. It is vicious. It is
unacceptable. We have to fight back.
Description drug costs which are now outrageous will go up for senior
citizens because when you repeal the Affordable Care Act, you`re going to
be doing away with the provision that provides federal funding to subsidize
drugs for seniors. So – the so-called donut hole.
So, this is a disaster. This is a disaster and we have got to fight back
and we have to tell Mr. Trump and his friends that they`re not going to get
away with this.
And the other point that has to be made – and I think it`s an important
one – is during the campaign, as you well know, Trump said over and over
again, he said, “I am the only Republican out there who will not cut Social
Security, Medicare and Medicaid.” And right now, we have the Republican
Party working overtime trying to cut Social Security, Medicare and
So, Trump has got to tell the American people one of two things – either
he lied blatantly and he has no intention of keeping his campaign promises,
or else he has to tell Republicans right now he will veto any legislation
that will cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
MADDOW: In addition to that role that you`ve got in Senate leadership and
the kind of demonstrations you`re calling for there, it`s interesting
calling for members of Congress themselves and senators themselves –
SANDERS: Yes, ain`t it?
MADDOW: Right, exactly, making that bridge. Bridges go both ways, I get
it. In addition to that, though, you`ve got your own organization. You`ve
got this post-election organization –
SANDERS: It`s not my organization. That`s illegal. I`m a United States
senator and I can`t head it up.
An organization came out of the Sanders campaign for president. It`s
called “Our Revolution.” And what that organization has done – I am not
involved, it would be illegal for me to be involved in the day-to-day
operations. What they have done is a pretty good job in trying to elect
candidates from the school board up to the United States House of
Representatives. And they`ve got a pretty good record and they`ve won some
And the goal of that organization is to get people involved in the
political process at the grassroots level from city councils, school board,
governor, whatever it may be. And get people to be thinking politically
and to be active politically.
MADDOW: Do you feel support for this type of strategy that you`re
describing? Obviously, the kind of strategy you`re talking about right now
for resisting what the Republicans are doing for building the kind of
future of the Democratic Party that you`re talking about here, a lot of
that is an extrapolation of what you did in order to have such success in
Do you still feel like a man alone in the Democratic Party for preaching
that way of approaching politics?
SANDERS: Well, less alone. Less alone. The fact that Senator Schumer is
supportive of these ideas, he is the leader –
MADDOW: Put you in leadership.
SANDERS: That`s right, put me in leadership.
But I think the Democrats – many of them, I will not tell you all, all
right, some Democrats say, “Hmm, we`re doing Obamacare, I`ve got a good
position, I`m a member of the DNC, do I really want all these young people,
working people, to come into my party? My party.” And some of them say
On the other hand, there are a lot who understand that when we have lost
the House, when we lost the Senate, when we lost the White House, when we
have lost 900 legislative seats, two-thirds of the governors` chairs are
now controlled by Republicans, maybe, maybe something is fundamentally
wrong with the Democratic Party.
And I think within the Democratic Party, more and more people understand we
have to change the dynamics. We have to open the doors to young people,
working people. We need to bring a lot more people into the process.
MADDOW: Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont now in the
Democratic Senate leadership is our guest right now. We`ll be right back
with Senator Sanders right after this.
MADDOW: Back with us now is Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
Senator Sanders, again, thank you for the time tonight.
Today was the first day of the new Congress. And on the other side of
Capitol Hill from the Senate, things went a little wobbly. The House
Republicans, who have a big majority, last night, behind closed doors, they
voted so that the first thing they would do as a new Congress was gut the
Congressional Ethics Office. Then, black box, we don`t know what happened,
but the results, you know, the next day, this afternoon, was they had to
take it all back.
And you see a lot of press headlines today crediting Trump tweeting against
the timing of their changes and as being – maybe that`s what caused it.
The other thing is apparently the phones lit up like you couldn`t believe
on Capitol Hill and social media went crazy.
SANDERS: If you think the phones are going to light up because of what
they did the other day, you are going to see phones really light up when
they try to cut Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security.
And here is most important point I think that people have got to
understand. Republicans think they have a mandate, let us not forget that
Trump lost the popular vote by almost 3 million votes. That on virtually
every major issue facing the people of this country, whether it is cutting
Social Security or expanding Social Security, whether it`s raising the
minimum wage, whether it`s pay equity, rebuilding our infrastructure, the
American people want to go forward in a progressive way. They want –
Republicans want – the wealthiest people to start paying their fair share
The truth is and I say this not in a particularly partisan way, the
Republican ideology is way out of touch with where ordinary Americans are.
Our job is to bring the American people in to the process and say, do you
want to give huge tax breaks to billionaires and cut Social Security and
Medicare? The American people do not want that to happen and our job is to
mobilize them through social media, through rallies, out on the streets.
MADDOW: That said, the Congress that they elected, by hook or crook, the
Congress that they elected has that as their objective.
SANDERS: That`s right.
MADDOW: I mean, the tax cuts for the wealthy, the dismantling Medicare –
Obamacare. They have already filed legislation to do that. They prepared
legislation to build the freaking wall on the southern border.
I mean, the Congress that`s there that they just elected is not going to
pursue the kind of priorities that you say are the American people`s
SANDERS: It`s not what I say, Rachel. I mean, it`s what every poll out
there tells us. I mean, you go out – you say to the American people,
should we raise the minimum wage? Yes, we should. Should we have pay
equity for women? Oh, absolutely, we should.
Should we ask the wealthy to start paying their fair share of taxes? Yes.
Should we do comprehensive immigration reform? Yes. Should we do criminal
These are not my ideas. This is what the American people want. And the
failure of the progressive movement, and let`s be honest about it, is we
have not mobilized people around that agenda. And Republicans have been
able to develop wedge issues and win elections, with the help of the Koch
brothers and their billionaire friends.
MADDOW: But you think basically from this opposition position, there is an
opportunity to mobilize people around these issues?
MADDOW: Anybody who has been interested in politics for a while has seen,
you know, votes go ways they didn`t want, seen decisions that they didn`t
want, made through democracy. It does feel like there is something
different in the reaction to this election result. It`s beyond
disappointed and angry.
And I`m asking you this because you I think embody the hopes for so many
progressive Americans and so many people who are otherwise alienated from
politics. People are afraid now of what`s going to happen in the country
because Trump is president. What – fear is a weak place from which to
operate. Fear is not a position of strength.
What do you say when people come to you and they tell you that you`re
SANDERS: I think there are legitimate reasons to be afraid. This guy will
have his finger on the nuclear button. I think what is important, though,
is to remember there have been very, very difficult times in American
history. And we`ve got a rocky history.
And I ask people who say, “Oh, things are so awful today,” well, 60, 70
years ago, black kids in the South were going to segregated schools, could
not drink in a white water fountain. People fought back.
A woman lost her run for president this year. A hundred years ago today,
women didn`t even have the right to vote. Couldn`t go to the schools they
You are sitting here, right? You are a leading correspondent. That wasn`t
the case 50 years ago.
Gay rights, think about the revolution that has taken place over the last
20 years. The trade union movement, the struggle that workers had to face.
So, I get impatient, Rachel, when people say, “Oh, you know, I`m giving up,
you know, I`m in despair.” You know, forget about that. You`ve got to
fight back as people have throughout the history of this country. People
have stood up and fought back.
And the most important point, as I said a moment ago, on all of these
issues, the majority of the people are with us and we have to go out and
reach out to people. Bring them in to the political process and fight for
the kind of nation that we know we can become.
If there`s anything that I learned, running for president, is there are –
and this is not rhetoric. This is truth. There are so many decent, good,
wonderful people out there who want to create a nondiscriminatory society,
want to create a society of environmental justice, of social justice and
economic justice. I believe that`s the majority spirit in this country.
And our job is to mobilize those people.
MADDOW: Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, nice to see you, sir. Come
back soon. Thank you.
SANDERS: You got it.
MADDOW: We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: There are still a couple of big jobs that haven`t been filled in
the incoming administration, head of the Veterans Affairs, Agriculture, for
example. But at about 10:00 last night, we started to get word that the
president-elect had settled on a pick for trade representative. His name
is Robert Lighthizer. He had the job before under Ronald Reagan. That was
the reporting last night, Lighthizer.
And today, we got the official announcement from the Trump transition that
they had indeed picked him for this post. This was their announcement,
“President-elect Trump to nominate Robert Lighter as U.S. trade
You put them side by side, you will see that there is something wrong here.
These are not two contrary announcements. These are not two different guys
being announced for the same job.
What you see here is the Trump transition team attempting to announce
Robert Lighthizer has been picked as U.S. trade representative but they
can`t spell it. So, they just call him Robert Lighter. It`s easier. It`s
People know what we mean, right? It`s like.
It`s been wonderful to have both Senator Schumer here tonight, the new
leader of the Democrats in the Senate, and to have Senator Bernie Sanders
here. Hoping to make a sort of standing date with Senator Sanders in the
That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
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