Thanksgiving Edition Transcript 11/24/17 The Rachel Maddow Show
Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: November 24, 2017
Guest: Hillary Clinton, Eric Holder
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Happy Friday. Still full?
Welcome to a special edition of THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW tonight.
A few days after the presidential election in 2016, something quite
unexpected happened. Planned Parenthood started getting a flood of
donations from Mike Pence, from all over the country, Mike Pence was
donating, the new vice president-elect. Once it became clear that
Republicans would soon control the White House in both chambers of
Congress, a lot of Americans suddenly felt an urge to donate to civil
rights and reproductive health organizations like the ACLU and Planned
And when people started donating to Planned Parenthood, in particular a
good number of them did so under the name Mike Pence. It was just a little
dig at the very anti-abortion conservative incoming vice-president. Please
send a certificate of receipt for my donation to the Indiana statehouse.
When liberals and Democrats were trying to figure out what to do next in
the immediate aftermath of the 2016 election, troll Mike Pence was a funny
option. A huge new influx of people chose to donate to progressive rights
protection groups that presumably would be working overtime in the new
Then, by the end of the transition in the start of the new administration,
the next widely chosen option was for people to march the women`s marches
in New York City and Washington, D.C. made national news for days in part
for their sheer size, some of the biggest demonstrations we`ve ever had in
this country. But women`s marches turned up in pockets of the country
really all over the place, places like Jackson, Mississippi, or Fairbanks,
Alaska. Almost 2,000 people braving snow and sleet in Fairbanks. Salt
Lake City, Utah, thousands of people took over the capitol building in
Utah, in the snow, a Monday after inauguration.
Nobody really knew at the time but all that energy would become after the
women`s marches were over, whether it would be harnessed and turned somehow
into something tangible and long-lasting but those marches definitely
helped shift the national tone in that direction, and then the first big
electoral test of that was in the commonwealth of Virginia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Jennifer Carroll Foy boy loves a challenge. She was one of the
first African-American women at VMI, first in her family to graduate from
college and law school. And in January, this public defender announced her
candidacy for a House seat that covers part of Prince William and Stafford.
She had concerns about policies she viewed as anti-women.
JENNIFER CARROLL FOY: I said, you know, why not me, and if not now, when?
KATHY TRAN, CIVIL SERVANT AND IMMIGRANT ADVOCATE: My youngest Elise Minh
Khanh was just seven months old. Elise was inspired by Ellis Island. Minh
Khanh is Vietnamese for bright bell, and that was inspired by the Liberty
Bell. So her name means to ring the bells of liberty and champion
opportunity for all.
I made the decision to run when she was about a month old. I just give it
a very aspirational name to this tiny little baby and I realized I couldn`t
rest upon her shoulders that responsibility. I had to stand up and fight
for those values myself.
WENDY GOODITIS, EDUCATOR AND COMMUNITY LEADER: I had a brother who
struggled with alcoholism and PTSD for decades. I lost him in March two
weeks after I announced for this. It was devastating and hard to go on,
but there are others like him and I intend to make sure that they have more
chances than he had.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The women featured in that footage there, Jennifer Carroll Foy,
Kathy Tran, Wendy Gooditis, they ended up being some of the first time
candidates in Virginia who flipped 15 seats in Virginia`s House of
Delegates from Republican to Democrat. It`s been a decade since Democrats
flipped more than one seat in that legislature and they just flipped 15 in
one night, at least. Those Democrats include the first Latino women in the
Virginia House of Delegates, the first Asian-American women in the House of
Delegates, and the first openly transgender person to ever sit in any state
That same night, Democrats also won the governorship in Virginia and the
governorship in New Jersey. And then a week later, Democrats in Oklahoma
flipped a very unlikely seat. They flipped a state senate seat in a
district that had gone for Trump by 40 points in November.
The woman who won it is a Democrat. She`s a woman. She`s a mother of
three. She`s 26 years old and she`s openly gay. Hello, Oklahoma.
Right now, Democratic women are having kind of a moment – which is all the
more remarkable given what happened to the nation`s first female
presidential candidate just a year ago.
MADDOW: One of the things that you deal with in a surprisingly
straightforward way in your new book is that people are obsessed with your
HILLARY CLINTON (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes.
MADDOW: Everything from sort of a deep thing you point out, which is that
people needed to be told again and again, why, why truly do you want to be
president – when nobody ever asked Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz that question,
exactly that same way. But, also, you know, the really human stuff.
This is what you write in the opening of chapter five in the book: What I
ate, who did my hair and makeup, what my mornings were like. It may seem
strange, but I get asked about these things constantly. Philippe Reines,
who played Trump in our debate prep sessions, has my favorite explanation
why. He calls it the “Panda Principle”.
Pandas just live their lives. They eat bamboo. They play with their kids.
But for some reason, people love watching pandas, hoping for something,
anything to happen.
So, you`re sort of marveling at people having that interest in you, but
then you also basically concede that you have now learned that that`s what
people want to know and chapter five of the book is literally, here`s what
time I get up. Yes, I hit the snooze button. Here is what I eat for
breakfast. Here`s where I exercise.
Yes, I love my husband. Here`s some mystery novels I like. Yes, I like
I mean, do you wish people didn`t want to know you in that way and do you
understand why they do?
CLINTON: Well, you know, I`ve stopped asking both questions because I`ve
concluded that it`s just a part of our lives now. And I think I was slow
to accept that and I believe that I`m pretty straightforward and, you know,
pretty ordinary in most of my human existence.
And so, I think, though, that people were a little bit intrigued, maybe
even obsessed because of when I burst into the public awareness. You know,
Bill was the first baby boomer president. I was the first professional
wife, first lady, and, you know, there was just this insatiable curiosity
and I have said many times before, I became like a, you know, a national
Rorschach test, right? You see what you want to see in you.
But I wanted in this book because it is true people ask me these questions
all the time and I thought well, you know what? I just want to embrace it
and go ahead and tell you what I have for breakfast and all the rest of it
and maybe it will give people a little bit of satisfaction that they know
me better than they thought they did.
MADDOW: Do you feel like it that sort of interest and almost that sort of
no-win situation about your privacy? Is something that is inherent – that
any woman who runs for president is going to face? Is it inherently gender
dynamic going forward? Did you face it more than anybody else will because
you were the one trying to break the glass ceiling twice?
CLINTON: I think there is a lot of truth to that. I think that just being
a woman at that high level of politics is still so unusual –
CLINTON: – and people are sorting it out.
I have some fascinating statistics in there about how there is a big
difference between Democrats and Republicans in terms of wanting to see a
woman be president. Lots of good research that I put into the book about
how difficult it is because as a man gets more professionally successful,
he becomes more likable. As a woman gets more professionally successful,
she becomes less likable.
I really wanted to pull the curtain back and talk about this because I hope
through my experience and the fact that I`m, you know, trying to have this
conversation with the American public, that people will begin to be more
self-aware, because also in that chapter I have on being a woman in
politics where I talk about endemic sexism and misogyny, I say, look, it`s
not just about me. You know, there`s that, oh, I would have voted for
another woman but not this woman.
Well, I ran for the Senate. I was elected twice. I know, you know, how
people can get to know you and respect you and support you. But because we
never had a woman president, the barrier is so high. That glass ceiling is
And now that some of the potential 2020 candidates are starting to get
public attention, they are getting hit from both the left and the right,
and sometimes when it comes from the left, you`re not sure whether it`s a
Russian pretending to be an American from the left or not.
So, I want to raise the visibility of these issues so that if women run for
president in 2020 or 2024, whenever it might happen, you know, more
Americans will say, hey, you know, maybe I should actually listen to her
and see what she has to say rather than, oh, say, I don`t like her hair or
why is she wearing that color? You know, the kinds of things that get in
the way of giving women candidates the sort of serious consideration that
MADDOW: I hear your optimism about how that can get better.
CLINTON: I hope so.
MADDOW: By talking about it and naming it, you give people away to at
least discuss it and maybe combat it.
I also feel like the sexism that you faced as a political barrier in 2016
was considerably worse than the sexism you faced as a barrier in 2008. And
I know in 2016, you got further but I feel like what I saw directed as you
as a public figure was more vitriolic and frankly more rhetorically violent
than what I saw eight years earlier, which implies to me – I mean, maybe
that`s the general election versus the Democratic primary. But I like to
think that things get better over time, too, and I don`t see that as having
happened with you.
CLINTON: Well, but I think there were several different conditions that
had to be dealt with for the first time. The Internet was obviously up and
going but social media was not as unleashed in `08 as it was in 2016.
I ran against someone who demeaned women, degraded them, attacked them and
again, not just me but, you know, Miss Universe contestants and Republican
women who dared to run against them and interviewers who questioned him.
It was so rhetorically vile what he said about so many women and that kind
of lifted the top off of what had been much more restraint because I did
feel like in `08, there was a lot of it. It was out there.
But by the years that followed, I thought, OK, you know, people are coming
to grips with the fact that – you know, you don`t talk about women like
that. You may think it but you don`t talk about it anymore and you have to
at least try to give, you know, lip service to women being treated equally.
Trump threw all that out the window.
MADDOW: Do you think he changed the weather?
CLINTON: I think –
MADDOW: Do you think he changed what was possible in American politics?
CLINTON: I think he gave permission for people to be much more sexist and
misogynistic, which is much more generalized hatred of women.
So – even for me, I was taken aback by some of what he would say and the
fact that people would vote for him including women after the “Hollywood
Access” tape, it just had a different feel to it.
So, yes, I think he was in large measure the determinative factor that made
it so much worse in 2016.
MADDOW: Hillary Clinton speaking very bluntly there about who made things
worse and how.
Former Attorney General Eric Holder has some thoughts on that too. That`s
MADDOW: It was 2010. I was in Alaska. Lisa Murkowski was an incumbent
senator who`d lost the primary for her own seat and then went on to win it
anyway by running as a write-in candidate in the general election, which is
nuts for a Senate race.
And in the middle of that nuttiness, I went up to Alaska to cover that
race. And there unexpectedly on the street in Anchorage, that`s where I
learned that any political conversation with a stranger at any point might
suddenly veer into untrue nonsense about Eric Holder. You just have to be
ready for it at any time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Good luck, you guys.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Make sure you know Lisa confirmed Eric Holder and we
disagree with that.
MADDOW: She what?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Voted to confirm Eric Holder.
MADDOW: Why are you against that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s the most anti-gun attorney general this country
has ever had.
MADDOW: What`s he done against guns?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, at this point – well, what hasn`t he done
against guns? Let`s ask that question. Let`s look at what his voting
record before-hand. And I`m sure you guys –
MADDOW: Eric Holder wasn`t an elected official.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, just – all I`m asking is look at what his record
is with Obama, then. Look at what he`s –
MADDOW: What`s he done on guns that you`re upset about, though? Just so,
I mean –
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I honestly, I`m not – I don`t know enough about him to
answer that truthfully, Rachel.
MADDOW: Can I just ask why you`re upset about Eric Holder?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because he`s anti-gun.
MADDOW: What has he done that`s anti-gun?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t have all the facts but I know that he is
MADDOW: There`s no specific thing he`s done that you guys are upset about?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just look at his press releases, that`s all I say.
Look at his press releases, look where he`s coming from.
MADDOW: I will. But what press release like about – about what?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anything –
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was in Alaska in 2010. Eric Holder, the nation`s first
African-American attorney general, had only been serving in that role since
the previous year. But by 2010, he was already the object of ornate
fantasies by people who really were invested in hating him, even for things
he hadn`t done.
Eric Holder served as attorney general from 2009 to 2015, whereupon the
Republican-controlled Senate finally consented to swear in Loretta Lynch as
his successor. Eric Holder served for 12 years in the Justice Department`s
Public Integrity Unit before becoming a superior court judge in D.C., and
then becoming the U.S. attorney in D.C., and then becoming deputy attorney
general, and then becoming attorney general.
Since leaving office as A.G., he has returned to private practice of law
firm Covington and Burling. Tonight, he`s here for his first live TV
interview since President Trump was sworn in to office.
Mr. Attorney General, thank you for being here.
ERIC HOLDER, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: Good to be here.
MADDOW: Have you seen that clip before?
HOLDER: I have seen that clip. I`ve actually saved it. I saw it in
YouTube, and it`s one of my – you know, watch later save – I watch it
every now and again.
MADDOW: I wonder if now that you are no longer the lightning rod that you
once were, do you miss that at all? I mean, do you get any sort of
perverse satisfaction from the inchoate hatred that you attracted?
HOLDER: No, not really. You know, that – it was something that kind of
baffled me, because I never understood, you know, like that piece you
showed, what was the nature of – and the depth of the negative feelings
that I generated in people on the other side. I never quite understood
MADDOW: In your time as attorney general all those years, it didn`t become
HOLDER: No. No. Never really did.
I mean, you know, I said things in support of the program of the president,
but there seemed to be a special animus that, you know, political
Washington and then, you know, people like that had for me. And, you know,
I`m not totally sure what that was all about.
MADDOW: There have been – by the time you were sworn in, there had been
82 attorneys general –
HOLDER: Yes, 81. I was the 82nd.
MADDOW: Eighty second. So, 80 of them, 79 of them, had been white men.
MADDOW: Alberto Gonzalez had a term as attorney general that didn`t end
Janet Reno was the only who served as – had served as attorney general
before you, and you were the first African-American man to serve. The only
vitriol that I have seen directed of public official that was so divorce
from that public official`s record, other than to a president, was against
MADDOW: And my theory about that has always been that the nation`s top law
enforcement officer is someone who evokes a different kind of emotional
reaction out of particularly a paranoid slice of the public.
MADDOW: And it`s therefore just hard place to be first –
MADDOW: – to break any sort of barrier.
HOLDER: The attorney general sits at the conjunction of law and policy and
the Justice Department is in so many parts of so many people`s lives, you
know, from national security thing to civil rights, voting, that you are a
presence in a way that other cabinet members are not. And I thought that`s
at least one of the reasons why perhaps, you know, I could engender those
kinds of negative feelings. Most people saw me as a representative of the
And for some. You know, for some. And I`m not saying this is for all, but
for some, I think there were probably some, you know, some racial issues.
MADDOW: The attorney general of the United States is often a lightning rod
for criticism of the president of the United States Eric Holder says he
understood that to be just part of the gig. Now though, we`ve got that gig
inverted, where now, the attorney general is a lightning rod for criticism
from the president, not for the president.
More ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: – made history when he became the first sitting United States
senator to testify against another sitting U.S. senator.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), NEW JERSEY: I know that some of my many colleagues
are happy that I am breaking with Senate tradition to testify on the
nomination of one of my colleagues. But I believe like perhaps all of my
colleagues in the Senate that in the choice between standing with Senate
norms or standing up for what my conscience tells me is best for our
country, I will always choose conscience and country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That senator who Cory Booker was breaking precedent for in the
United States Senate, it was Republican Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama.
Jeff Sessions was a Senate backbencher, a man whose nomination to be a
district court judge had failed years before after accusations of racism
Sessions was never a particularly senior senator or a particularly
influential senator. But the hard-line nature of his views did stand out
over time, not just against illegal immigration but against immigration,
full stop. Not just in favor of the drug war but wanting one specifically
against people who smoked pot that made him a favorite of the
breitbart.com, hard-line part of the American conservative media. He then
became the first U.S. senator to endorse Donald Trump the president. And
then once Trump was president, Sessions became the nation`s attorney
Now, Jeff Sessions` days may conceivably be numbered even there, as every
day presents a new opportunity for the president to pick a fight with him.
Former Attorney General Eric Holder explains just why that dynamic might
actually be something dangerous for the country.
MADDOW: In terms of the Justice Department as a national security agency,
which in many ways it is, I`ve always wondered if – if it fits the line of
national security policymaking in the sense that it`s less partisan than
other types of domestic policy. What I mean by that is, in my job, I`m
often looking back into some time in the last couple of generations looking
for historical context for things that are happening now. And if officials
that I`m talking to are national security figures, and national security
advisors or defense secretary, I often have to look up what their party
affiliation is –
MADDOW: – because in the national security environment, it`s just often
not that important and there`s a certain continuity and inertia in national
security policy that transcends partisan winds. Is that also true at
HOLDER: Yes. And Justice Department officials have gotten in trouble –
attorney generals who gotten in trouble when they have forgotten that the
Justice Department really is different from other cabinet agencies. I
remember Senator Leahy said to me during confirmation, you`re not the
secretary of justice, you are the attorney general of the United States and
there has to be a wall between the Justice Department and the White House,
even though you`re a part of the administration.
Put up kind of an interesting thing between me and a president who I was a
friend with. There were certain things we couldn`t discuss, certain things
we didn`t discuss. But I think that`s an appropriate way for an attorney
general to think of himself or herself, and it`s an appropriate way for the
Justice Department to be run.
MADDOW: Is there more discontinuity between the Justice Department under
Jeff Sessions and the Justice Department under President Obama than there
has been between previous administrations?
HOLDER: Yes, I`m looking from outside but it sure seems that way to me.
There have been statements that this attorney general has made, Attorney
General Sessions has made, the interactions that he`s had with the White
House, that are inconsistent with I think the way in which I conducted
myself as attorney general and, frankly, the way in which I think my
predecessors – many of my predecessors conducted themselves. Certainly,
the berating that he reportedly took by the president is totally
inconsistent with my experience. And again, I think inconsistent with all
the previous attorneys general that I`m aware of.
MADDOW: Is that just a matter of personality and Washington personal drama
or do you think that there is national consequence or risk associated with
that strange thing that we saw unfold with the president berating his
HOLDER: I think – that actually worries me because I think it betrays a
lack of understanding on the part of the president about what the role of
the attorney general has to be. You can`t go at the A.G. in that way, if
you truly understand the independent role that he should play within the
There are going to be things that an attorney general is going to do that
the president is not going to agree with, and a president really is just
going to kind of suck it up and say that the A.G. has the responsibility to
enforce the laws. He`s got national security responsibilities, and he is
an independent actor in a way that other cabinet officials are not.
MADDOW: Unless the president doesn`t treat him that way.
HOLDER: Unless the president doesn`t treat him in that way. And history
has shown us that when that wall is too low, that`s when Justice
Departments get in trouble, during the Nixon years, during the Bush years,
when you have White House contacts with the Justice Department and channels
that are not approved.
MADDOW: What`s the corrective for that when it goes bad?
HOLDER: Resignations, investigations, public outcries. You know, there
are really no formal things that can be done – I mean, ultimately, I
suppose, impeachment of an attorney general, something along those lines.
But it`s really a question of, you know, having a vibrant press focused on
these issues and the American people keeping track of what`s going on
between DOJ and the White House.
MADDOW: A vibrant press, last line of defense.
Both Eric Holder and Hillary Clinton in their interviews warned about
shifting norms under president Trump affecting our government`s
institutions. Secretary Clinton had some insider information to offer on
that front. That`s coming up next. Stay with us.
MADDOW: You`ve said that it seems to you that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis
may be effectively operating as both defense secretary and secretary of
state. You, of course, are one of the highest profile secretaries of state
we`ve ever had.
Rex Tillerson is among the lowest, certainly the lowest in modern times.
He has advocated a 30 percent cut to his agency. He`s left dozens of
senior jobs unfilled as you said today. He told State Department staff
that his biggest goal for the State Department is efficiency and that`s why
he wants to shrink the State Department so much. They`ve even stopped
doing daily press briefings.
Given the risk of nuclear war with North Korea, given the sorts of
diplomatic challenges that we`ve got around the country and around the
world, why do you think they are hollowing out the State Department?
CLINTON: Well, I think they came in with preexisting conceptions about the
State Department and about diplomacy that were not particularly well-
founded. It`s not that you don`t want to be more efficient. I actually
had a process to try to make sure we became more efficient. But they came
in with a bias against diplomats and diplomacy.
Now, the good news, Rachel, is that the budget that Tillerson`s been
promoting has been rejected in the Senate Appropriations Committee on a
bipartisan basis. The members of the Senate had said, look, you know, we
traveled the world. We know what our diplomats do on the front lines and
we are not going to give you a 30 percent cut and they basically came up
with about the same amount of money.
So, the Congress is even recognizing that there is no strategy. There`s no
What I hear from inside the department, because I still have a lot of
communication coming to me, is that there`s a very small group of people
around Tillerson, none of them experienced diplomats that he has brought in
to be his palace guard so to speak. They don`t even reach out into the
State Department to talk to the people who have studied North Korea for
So, they`re not getting the expertise and experience that is still at the
State Department. And I think that`s a –
MADDOW: Because you think they`re disdainful of that –
CLINTON: I think they`re disdainful. I don`t think – I think they don`t
know what they don`t know to be honest. I think that they had views that
were superficial, and I think the perspective of Secretary Tillerson was as
a chief executive officer, where you tell people what to do. You tell Kim
Jong-un what to do. You tell people that, you know, you have a different
You know, the world is a really complex place and it`s about a lot of
things that people in the State Department have had experience with and at
least should be brought to the table and listened to, which I don`t think
MADDOW: Do you think that there – that it was inherently a bad idea to
take somebody who had been a lifer at Exxon, somebody who only in his adult
life ever worked at Exxon, the immediate past CEO of Exxon, to put him
immediately in charge of diplomacy and the State Department. I mean, when
you were secretary of state in 2011, Rex Tillerson went to Vladimir Putin`s
MADDOW: – on the Black Sea to celebrate Exxon and Russia signing a half
trillion dollar oil deal. That`s probably the biggest oil deal in the
history of oil.
MADDOW: Putin later awarded him the Russian Order of Friendship, when
another part of that deal closed.
I mean, is – was he a strange choice for the job as being the CEO of Exxon
inappropriate experience to bring to the job that he`s trying to do now?
CLINTON: I think it`s very limited experience. You know, I think there
have been in our past people with extensive business experience, CEO
positions, other kinds of private sector work that I believe could have
gotten into this position and had a better understanding of what`s required
in the 21st century.
I don`t know that he was a particularly bad choice from the very beginning.
I mean, I didn`t know anything about him other than what you just said
basically, but he never reached out to anybody. He`s never asked people –
you know, there used to be a tradition, Republican, Democratic
administrations, you would come in and the prior secretaries of state would
all get together and have a dinner and talk. And often times, you would be
on the other end of a phone call saying, you know, what did you deal with
on this? Can you tell me some more about that?
I`ve talked to a few of the other secretaries of state that are still
around and nobody has heard anything, whether they were Republican or
MADDOW: And you haven`t had any communication with him?
CLINTON: No, none. I saw – I met him at the inauguration lunch and that
was it. And then you`ve got somebody like Steve Bannon who clearly is
wielding influence from the outside who recently just spewed contempt about
some excellent American public servants, including two prior Republican
secretaries of state and one prior Republican national security advisor.
So, the attitude was so negative and – you know, why take a job that
you`re not willing to really dive into and learn about? And you come in
with preconceptions and you have a model that you`re trying to put on top
of an institution that has so much inherent strength, even though, yes,
does it have problems? Everything in government does. That`s not a big
But then not to want to learn. I kept waiting for the aha moment where
you`d hear, you know, the secretary actually called in people and said,
hey, tell me what I don`t know. Tell me what I need to know. Let`s
But from what I hear, that doesn`t happen and, in fact, there is a
concerted effort to prevent that from happening.
MADDOW: Having been through your own particular version of the Trump
wringer as his political opponent, do you have any advice for his staff?
CLINTON: Well, look, this is a man who engages in humiliation and
domination as a tactic of control, and he acted out on the national stage,
first in the Republican primary, and then continuing into the general
election. And I think for a lot of people watching, the public and the
press, it was hard to turn away from. You haven`t seen somebody at that
high a level aiming for a job that`s the most important in the world who
behaves like that, who says what he says, who delights in mocking people,
attacking people. So, I think that`s pretty deeply embedded in his
And I think going forward, any effort to try to contain him, which I know
some in the White House and in the broader administration have been trying
to do is especially important when it comes to consequential decisions.
You know, as you just read this recent reporting, I think the goal might
well have been, psychologically, to really make Jeff Sessions, who is a
very proud man. I served with him in the Senate. Didn`t agree with him on
anything but I did serve with him – to make him just be more dependant on
pleasing the president. Whatever he could do delivering that speech about
DACA, only to have Trump a few days later say, hey, just kidding. We`re
going to do something that will keep these young strivers in our country.
It`s all part of his manipulation. That is who he is. That`s how he
So, I`m hoping that the people who have a mature view of the exercise of
power when it comes to something like North Korea, life or death, when it
comes to something that would be incredibly stupid, given North Korea,
pulling out of the Iran deal so we have a second nuclear crisis to contend
with, I`m hoping that on the really big issues, there is enough authority
to be able to restrain and contain the president. That`s what we all have
to hope because I think this president and some of the people around him
pose a clear and present danger to our country, domestically to our
institutions of democracy, our self-governance, our rule of law,
internationally in so many ways because of the unpredictability, then the
fact that there is no strategic plan. There is just a reactive, emotional,
visceral kind of behavior.
So, I can only hope and I think every American who thinks about this can
only hope that, you know, people who know better, who have experience and
who realize that, you know, this country of ours is really worth defending
and protecting will be able to prevent anything really bad from happening.
It`s a horrible thing to have to say about anybody in that office.
MADDOW: On the question of the challenge that this presidency and
president chose – proves for American norms, for the rule of law, I want
to ask you about the “lock her up” thing –
MADDOW: – which started off as sort of astonishing and then became this
regular daily feature of the campaign. The president and his supporters,
you know, calling for your arrest and calling for you to be jailed. He`s
kept up his rallies as president and that is still a regular thing that
they chant when he mentions you derisively, as he always does.
Do you take that literally? Do you worry they might at some point try to
gin up a prosecution against you?
CLINTON: Well, I know there is nothing there, so I don`t take it
substantively as much of a worry.
But here`s what I do believe: I believe Trump admires authoritarians. He
doesn`t just like Putin. He wants to be like Putin. He wants to have that
kind of power that is largely unaccountable, unchecked.
And when I first heard that, especially at these rallies that, you know,
were exciting violence and insulting people and all the rest of it, I
thought it was bizarre, kind of, you know, really unbecoming of somebody
who`s running for president. Then we moved it into his convention and it
was being done from the platform and people were chanting it and screaming
it, I thought, wow, this is unlike anything I have ever read about or seen
in presidential conventions. Every kind of political barrier that should
have restrained this president and those urging him on was broken through.
And so, I don`t personally worry. I have no doubt that if he got into
serious political trouble, he`d try to gin something up, you know, about me
or President Obama. We are his two favorite targets.
But I worry that it is indicative of the kind of self-image that he has not
only of himself but of what the president should be able to do and that`s
why it`s really imperative that the Republicans in Congress rein that in.
That`s part of the reason I mentioned on the State Department, you know,
standing up to some of these very foolish plans that they have, why the
press has to hold him more accountable than it did during the campaign and
why the people around him have to be our first line of defense against him
doing something that could have serious repercussions.
MADDOW: Placing a lot of hope for the country in the wisdom of the people
who surround him.
CLINTON: Well, it`s not – it`s – we don`t have much else to place it on
right now. He is somebody who doesn`t listen and pursues his own interest
as he perceives them, and is very emotionally reactive.
So, on the small stuff, you know, they may not be able to stop him. They
may need to hold their fire until something is serious enough to intervene.
MADDOW: Are you ever going to run for office?
HOLDER: I don`t know. You know, I`m focused on this National Democratic
Redistricting Committee. That`s the focus of my political activities at
this point. I want to make sure that we repeal these attacks on our
democracy, try to end political gerrymandering to the extent that we can.
You know, we`ll see. I`m not saying no at this point. But that`s not the
focus of what I`m concentrating on now.
MADDOW: You`re not working on the redistricting project because it`s part
of a larger project in terms of you getting back into political life and
HOLDER: No. No. I think and I`m not being hyperbolic here. I think our
democracy is under attack. If you look at gerrymandering in the way in
which we have a system where politicians are picking their voters as
opposed to citizens picking their representatives. If you look at the way
in which these voter suppression laws have been passed, we`re coming to be
a country that is inconsistent with our founding ideals in the notion of
one man one vote is really under attack.
And so, I`m bound and determined to do all that I can to reverse that which
has happened, especially over the last decade.
MADDOW: I think you and President Obama surprised a lot of people in early
January when you announced that you were going to be working on this
project together on redistricting, in part because redistricting and
gerrymandering is an old political problem. It`s not novel and each party
has used it to their own advantage in different ways and different times,
and they`ve been – people have sort of been better or worse at it in
different parts of the country, and in different eras.
Are you working and President Obama working on this because you want
Democrats to compete better at this time, at the old project of
redistricting and gerrymandering? Or are you trying to illuminate it in
general, in a good government kind of way?
HOLDER: Yes. I mean, I`d say a couple of things. First, Princeton did a
study and said that what the Republicans did in 2011 when they do the lines
was the worst partisan gerrymandering over the last 50 years. What we are
engaged in, and this sounds kind of inconsistent, is a partisan attempt at
All I want to have done in 2021 after the census is that the lines be drawn
in a fair way and make this a battle between Republican ideas, Democratic
ideas, liberal ideas, progressive ideas, and conservative ideas. If that
is the case, if that`s the contests that we have, I think Democrats will do
But what I do not want to have happened is for this to be a successful
effort and then have Democrats in 2021 do what Republicans did in 2011.
That is not what this project is all about.
MADDOW: So, you feel like Republicans kind of ran the table on this during
the Obama administration when they did their red map project in 2010, that
sets them up in a way that was –
MADDOW: – tilted the playing field. What you want is to tilt it back and
then fix the system?
HOLDER: Yes, tilt it back but get it to just fair. Not to tilt it back
and to favor Democrats. Just to get it to a place where the lines are
drawn in such a way that people truly have a choice, have more competitive
districts at the congressional level, to have representation at the state
level that`s consistent with the wishes of the voters.
I mean, if you look at Wisconsin, for instance, it`s about a 50/50 state.
Republicans control two thirds of the state assembly and when you control
for everything else, it`s really just a function of the way in which the
lines were drawn in 2011.
MADDOW: So, I know that in this project you`re working on ballot
initiatives in some places where they`re going to try to do nonpartisan
redistricting, they`re working on, obviously, public consciousness and
awareness around these things. You`re working on litigation strategy.
You`re also working on supporting individual Democratic candidates in state
legislatures whose election would be key in terms of what control over
redistricting would look like there.
That`s a comprehensive strategy that I feel like does get at all the
different elements that make this sort of make or break this as a strategy.
What I don`t get is why this effort is going to succeed. I feel like I`ve
heard so much Democratic hot air on we got to work in the states, we got to
work in redistricting. I feel like there`s been so many projects launched
that were going to do this and then never really seemed to.
Why does yours going to have traction?
HOLDER: Well, I think ours is organized, first off. It is also the only
thing that`s within the Democratic Party that has at its sole
responsibility, this whole notion of redistricting. And then I think the
other reality is we`re in the Trump era. And I think people have seen over
the past decade what partisan gerrymandering on the Republican side has
meant, where you have state legislatures that passed these crazy gun laws,
these anti-choice laws, these voter suppression laws that are not
necessarily supported by the people in those states.
We have seen a dysfunctional Congress where people come to Congress,
especially on the Republican side, and because of gerrymandering, you`re in
a safe seat and more worried about being challenged by a person on the
right. You`re worried about being primaried as opposed to general
And that means that you have dysfunction in Washington because people don`t
necessarily have to talk to one another. They don`t have to compromise.
In fact, that`s a bad thing for somebody who is in a gerrymandered
So I think that dissatisfaction with the dysfunction, the concern about
what Trump, the Trump administration has been doing, and the way in which
this thing is constructed within the party and the support, frankly, that
we have gotten and having –
MADDOW: Raised more than $10 million the first half of the year on this.
HOLDER: Yes, and having the former president of the United States support
this. I think this can be successful.
MADDOW: I should mention that in the wake of that statewide election of
Virginia earlier this month, “The Richmond Times-Dispatch” to publish
editorial about the fact that Democrats in that election earned a majority
of votes in the House of Delegates, over two hundred thousand more votes
for Democrats than for Republicans. If you only look at the votes cast for
candidates of the two major parties, Democrats won percent of the vote in
Virginia`s legislative races this month. Republicans won percent of the
vote. And yet despite Democrats winning so many more votes than the
Republicans despite Democrats beating the Republicans by almost points,
Democrats are still fighting to win enough seats to control the House of
“Richmond Times-Dispatch” wrote, quote: This year, a Democratic tidal wave
erased much of the GOP`s gerrymandering advantage, but not entirely.
That does it for us tonight. We will see you again next week.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”. Have a great
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