Awaiting senate vote on GOP tax bill Transcript 12/19/17 The Rachel Maddow Show

Guests:
Chris Murphy, Marie Follayttar Smith
Transcript:

Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: December 19, 2017
Guest: Chris Murphy, Marie Follayttar Smith


CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, ALL IN: Joan Walsh and David Cay Johnston, thanks
for joining me.

That is “ALL IN” for this evening.

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.

Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you, my friend.
Much appreciated it.

And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Big night in
Washington tonight.

If you have late-night plans tonight, you might want to cancel them. You
might be late for dinner. Just – I know, just leave everything in the
oven, I promise I will take the dogs out when I get in, but I`m going to be
late. Sorry.

Here`s an interesting thing, though, about what`s going on tonight in
Washington. Even though everybody knew in advance that this was going to
be a big night in Washington, a big consequential night when a very big
decision who would be made, there is one person who really doesn`t need to
be there in Washington tonight as this decision is happening. And it`s
this guy.

And this is becoming a recurring theme of the Mike Pence vice presidency.
Time and time again, we get explanations from his office for the vice
president`s behavior, explanations that everybody in Washington and most
people in the media just kind of go along with and they don`t make too much
of a splash. But time and time again, factually those explanations that we
get from the vice president`s office don`t make sense.

And I mean, let me be absolutely clear here. I mean what the vice
president`s office tells us time and time again is stuff that can`t be
true. And this happens over and over again. It sometimes happens on small
stuff like what`s happening in Washington tonight in terms of his presence
in Washington tonight, but sometimes it`s on big stuff too.

This pattern has reared its head a bunch of times, for example, in the
Russia investigation. Mike Pence insisted solemnly that there were
absolutely no contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia during the
campaign. That was definitely not true. He said he had no idea that Mike
Flynn had been talking to the Russian government about sanctions. That
solemn assertion from the vice president also cannot be true. It`s just
utterly implausible.

The vice president also solemnly intoned in his trademark more in sorrow
than in anger, solemnly intoned that he had never been notified that Mike
Flynn was on a foreign government payroll when he was operating as Trump
national security advisor. Mike Pence was definitely notified that Mike
Flynn was on a foreign payroll, despite his solemn assertions to the
contrary.

I don`t know if this will ever become the thing that Mike Pence is famous
for in his vice presidency, but honestly, it is the brightest theme that I
can identify thus far in his vice presidential tenure. Public statements
about his actions that are a lot of things, but they`re not, how do you
say, true.

And now we`ve got another whopper from the vice president`s office that`s
about what`s happening on this big night in Washington. This one actually
starts, I think, a couple of weeks ago when President Trump made his big
announcement that the U.S. would some day eventually move the U.S. embassy
in Israel to Jerusalem. You may remember that was the announcement in the
White House where the president, like his teeth seemed to come a little
loose and he spoke very strangely at the end of his remarks, got a lot of
attention because it was physically weird.

Regardless of the physical weirdness of those remarks, that was obviously a
big, consequential, provocative announcement from the president. And soon
thereafter, they got a response. The Palestinian president responded with
the kind of negative anger that you`d expect under these circumstances.

The Palestinian president declared that henceforth because of that
announcement, the U.S. will no longer have any role in the Mideast peace
process. The Palestinians will no longer speak to the U.S. about anything
having to do with Mideast peace and negotiations. The U.S. is out. They
said they`ll deal with the U.N. They`ll deal with and other countries they
see as honest brokers.

But all these images we`ve got burned in our minds of U.S. presidents of
both parties trying to bring the two sides together for Middle East peace,
that is now over. We are out of that process.

Now, whether or not you are invested in or particularly interested in the
prospects for Middle East peace, this is a big dramatic thing. It`s a big
dramatic change. Not just for this administration, it`s a big dramatic
change for our country, to be kicked out of that process because of
behavior by our president.

It`s dramatic. It was particularly dramatic at a human level because good
ole Vice President Mike Pence had been planning to head over there. He had
previously announced that he was heading over to the Middle East for a big
five-day trip.

He was just about to get on the plane and go to the Middle East when they
found out basically that when he got there, he should expect to get thrown
out of the biggest meeting he was due to take on that entire trip, or best
case scenario, they would stand him up and denounce him while he was there.

So, this was a long planned trip to the Middle East for Vice President Mike
Pence. But right before he was due to start it, he found out he`s going to
have something – somewhere between a huge confrontation and a big
embarrassment when he gets there. So, what do you do?

The vice president`s office announced that Vice President Pence was
cancelling his trip. He will not be making his big Mideast trip after all,
but they insisted that the cancellation had nothing to do with the fact
that the United States is now being rejected and disinvited from the
meeting that was the main point of his trip. Literally, the quote the vice
president`s office gave to NBC News was, quote, that has nothing to do with
it. They insisted instead that the real reason Vice President Mike Pence
was cancelling his trip to the Middle East is because he was needed at
home. He`s needed in Washington to vote on the tax bill.

Here`s the problem. There is no conceivable mathematical scenario in which
Mike Pence will be needed to vote on the tax bill. None. We have known
since this weekend that Arizona Senator John McCain would be home in
Arizona tonight recovering from cancer treatment. He will not be voting on
the tax bill tonight.

That means since this past weekend, we have – we have known the full range
of mathematical possibilities for what could happen in this big Washington
vote tonight. We know all the Democrats are a no, that`s for sure. With
all of the Democrats voting for it and all the Democrats against, that vote
would be 51-48, the Republicans would win. If one Republican votes no,
that vote would be 50-49, and the Republicans would win. If two
Republicans vote no, the vote would be 49-50 and the Republicans would
lose.

John McCain is gone. That means there are an odd number of senators in
Washington voting on this thing. That means there can`t be any
circumstance in which there is a tie vote. In which Mike Pence has to cast
the deciding vote.

The only conceivable reason Mike Pence would need to be there for the tax
vote is to break a tie. Mathematically speaking, there cannot be a tie.
So, it, factually, makes no sense to say that Mike Pence had to bail out of
his Middle East peace trip because he was urgently need on the Hill. I
mean, it`s a nice story, it makes him sound very responsible and not at all
afraid to go to a place where he`s not wanted and where he`s definitely
going to get yelled at. But once again, it is a story that is factually
implausible that is coming out of the vice president`s office.

And it is by a million miles not the most important thing about this vote
that we are all waiting for tonight but – boy howdy, if the vice president
wants to get famous for one thing, this isn`t the kind of pattern you would
want to be famous for. What else is he famous for this past year?

After the 2008 financial crisis, which started right at the end of the
George W. Bush presidency, carried over obviously into the first year of
the Obama presidency, after that financial catastrophe, we had a brief
national reckoning. Not just with what had happened on Wall Street, we had
a little bit of a psychological, even emotional reckoning, I think, with
something else that was wrong in our country and that we as American
citizens perceived to be wrong in our country.

And even though we`re a few years down the road from that now, I still
think this is easiest to see in pictures. And you`ll recognize some of
these pictures. In 2010, researchers at Duke University and Harvard
Business School did a really large statistically sound sample of the
American people. It was a big poll, big national sample. More than 5,500
people participating in the survey.

And they asked these people about the distribution of wealth in the United
States. And it produced this super interesting visual, which you might
remember from the time. It`s got a lot of attention a few years ago. So,
Americans in this big survey, it`s in 2010, said if they could waive a
magic wand, if they were going to create an ideal American society from
scratch in terms of the distribution of wealth in our country, this is,
according to this big poll, ideally what the U.S. would look like.

And you see, it`s divided into top 20 percent, second 20 percent, middle 20
percent, that`s income. So, blue is the 20 percent of richest people in
the country, red is the second tier, green is right in the middle, middle
20 percent, and then purple and light blue are the people in the fourth
quintile and bottom 20 percent of income.

In this big survey, this is an interesting portrait of American values.
This is what Americans said would be the ideal distribution of wealth would
be in our country. And it`s not totally egalitarian, right? The richest
people in the country do control proportionally more of the wealth but we
got a big strong middle class and even the people at the bottom, they`re
not making as much money but at least are in a position to compete.

It`s a statement of what we want, right? That was Americans saying what
we`d like our country to be like. But Americans are not naive.

So, the first round of questions was what do you think the country should
be like ideally? The next round of questions was – not what do you want
income distribution to be like in the United States, but what do you think
it is right now?

This was asked in 2010 right after the financial crisis. Americans, again,
not naive, not pie in the sky people, were fully aware that we are way less
equal a society than we might idealize, fully aware that the richest people
in the country do control a very large proportion of all the wealth in the
country.

So, if you look at the visual here, that bottom line is what I just showed
you, right? That`s what Americans ideally want our country to be like, but
the line above that is different, right? That`s the Americans` perception
of what the country is actually like.

We perceive, we recognize that actually a big proportion of the wealth is
controlled by the small, wealthiest quintile of the population.

Here`s the kicker, though. The truth of how income is distributed in our
country is way worse than even the estimation by the American people that
you just saw. As of 2010, if you plot it on a graph like this, the top 20
percent of wealthy people in this country are controlling more than 80
percent of all the money in the country, right?

So, again, what we ideally wanting it to be like is the bottom. In the
middle is what we believe it is. On the top is what it actually was in
2010.

The blue is the top 20 percent of the richest people in the country
controlling more than 80 percent of the wealth. The bottom 40 percent of
the country, the light blue and purple quintiles, they don`t even show up
on the top graph because combined, that 40 percent of the U.S. population
controls less than one-half of 1 percent of all American wealth. They
don`t even make it onto the graph.

So, this was done in 2010. It was published in 2011. It was one of those
rare academic papers that crossed over and became a cultural thing. I
think it had a pretty big impact on people`s thinking about what we had
just gone through as a country in 2011 when it came out, what the financial
crisis meant, what were the real problems in our country that we need to
think about economically.

The next part of the reckoning that we had after the financial crisis was
more forward looking. It was a question of causation, of consequences. If
we as a country have income inequality and inequality of wealth on such a
grand, almost unimaginable scale, is it possible that that is economically
dangerous to us as a country?

So, this is the other part of that reckoning that we had as a country after
that crash. This was a chart that came out in a congressional report in
September 2010. And again, something that started off in almost academic
context, this dry congressional analysis, but ended up getting a lot of
circulation because its message as you can see is worrying and specific.

These blue lines basically show income inequality. They show the
proportion of total income in the country controlled by the wealthiest
sliver of the population. The first big peak in income inequality is right
before the crash of 1929 that led to the Great Depression. The next big
peak on the graph is right before the crash that took the economy down
again in 2008 and 2009.

And all this graph shows is that spikes in income inequality and financial
crises are correlated. It doesn`t so that one causes the other, but that
correlation does kind of make you worry. And the really worrying, forward-
looking part of this reckoning is what`s happened since we had that
financial crisis in 2008 and 2009.

You can see after the 1929 crash and the Great Depression, that Gilded Age
of massive wealth disparity, it eased a little bit, right? Got better.
The middle class got stronger in terms of the proportion of wealth in the
country controlled by regular people.

But after the modern crash in 2008, 2009, we know that things didn`t get
better. They didn`t correct in the same way they did after the Great
Depression. And it`s not because the crash in 2008-2009 wasn`t big enough.
Just a couple of years ago looking back at the 2008-2009 recession compared
with the Great Depression, ex-Fed Chair Ben Bernanke said no question, the
2008 crisis was worse than the Great Depression in terms of its economic
impact.

But for whatever reason after we started to drag ourselves out of that
economic pit just a few years ago, the income inequality thing didn`t get
better, it just continued to get worse. This was “The Washington Post” two
weeks ago. The richest 1 percent now owns more of the country`s wealth
than any time in the last 50 years.

Today, the top 1 percent of households own more wealth than the bottom 90
percent combined. That gap between the ultra-wealthy and everyone else has
only become wider in the past several decades. That share is higher now
than it has been at any point since at least 1962.

So, right before the Great Depression, there`s a huge spike in income
inequality. After we have the Great Depression, that spike revolves and
started to go away and the middle class got stronger after that crisis.
Then again 2008-2009, a huge spike in income inequality followed by a
crisis, but income inequality has not resolved, it has kept getting worse
since then.

And that`s where we are now. And that`s the environment in which the
Republicans control the White House and the House and the Senate, and they
got together to write their new tax bill. And it`s the biggest overhaul of
U.S. taxes in 30 years.

And if you are at all concerned about these trends, if you are at all
concerned about the claiming of more and more and more of America`s wealth
by an increasingly tiny sliver of the population, a trend that is already
profoundly out of sync with what Americans say they want and it is
accelerating, if you see those as worrying or bad things, then you would
not design a tax bill that is the biggest overhaul of the U.S. tax code in
30 years where the impact of that bill is that 62 percent of the tax
benefits from the bill are going to go to the top 1 percent of the people
who are already the richest Americans in the country.

But two weeks ago, that is what the U.S. Senate passed on a party line
vote, a tax bill where 62 percent of the benefits go to the top 1 percent
of the wealthiest people. But, of course, that was not the final version
of the bill. They knew they had work to do. The polling on that
incredibly regressive thing that they passed two weeks ago showed that it
was the least popular legislation, least popular major legislation in three
decades.

So, they have had these past two weeks to work on trying to improve it,
trying to make it better, and now tonight, right now, they have got what
they consider to be a better version. Instead of giving 62 percent of the
benefits to the top 1 percent in the country, the new version they`re
voting on tonight gives 83 percent of the benefits to the top 1 percent in
this country. They had to bend over backwards to make this even more
regressive, to make it even more painful for people at the lower end of the
economic spectrum and even better for people who are already rich, who are
already benefitting from this bill.

I mean the changes they have made just in the last two weeks are really
specific. They really specifically target the people who are already the
wealthiest people in the country. Since they last voted on this thing,
they have changed this bill so that if you are fortunate enough that you`re
going to have $22 million to leave to your children when you die, you can
do so tax-free. They added that.

So, if that`s the biggest worry that you and your friends and your peers
and your family have been worried about, oh, I`m so concerned about the
taxes I`m going to have to pay on the $22 million I`m planning on leaving
to my son, if that`s been your biggest economic worry, you are sleeping
better tonight. They also went in and literally changed the very top tax
rate.

Since they last voted on this thing, they felt some kind of pressure,
something moved them to go back in and take the very top tax rate that is
only paid by the wealthiest people in the country and they specifically
changed that one, to lower that rate for a millionaires-only tax break.
They also mysteriously felt moved to go in over the last couple of weeks
and add a gigantic tax break that will almost exclusively benefit large-
scale multimillionaire real estate developers. Uncanny, right? I have no
idea where they got that idea.

Here`s how the business press is covering it. Here`s how “Bloomberg News”
is covering it. You see the headline there, Trump, real estate investors
get late-added perk in tax bill.

Here`s the lead: Lawmakers scrambling to lock up Republican support for the
tax reform bill added a complicated provision late in the process, one that
would provide a multimillion dollar windfall to real estate investors such
as President Donald Trump. Why did they feel compelled to go in at the
last minute and add this in?

Since the last time the Senate voted two weeks ago and tonight, they added
that. Some day, we`ll all see that movie and marvel that we all lived
through it.

But what we know right now is that provisions like that, that they put in
in the last couple of weeks, they`re a really freaking big deal. It`s not
just like, oh, Bob Corker and Donald Trump taking care of number one. This
thing they just did that benefits real estate developers, just that
provision alone is going to cost $414 billion.

When they say they don`t have the money to fund like kids health insurance
or like children`s diabetes research or, you know, some environmental
cleanup, whatever it is, the real estate loophole they added at the last
minute for Trump, that real estate loophole alone will cost $414 billion.
And when you start giving away things at that scale to the wealthiest
people in the country, it adds up.

And so, the total cost of this thing that they are passing tonight will be
nearly $1.5 trillion added to the debt and the deficit. And this is the
least popular major legislation in more than 30 years.

New polling just came out today from NBC. The total proportion of
Americans who believe that this tax bill is designed to benefit the middle
class is 7 percent. And that includes like, you know, Republicans who like
the bill for partisan reasons and people who don`t know what the bill
means. A grand total of 7 percent of Americans think this is designed to
help the middle class. And that`s because 93 percent of Americans are
smart.

But it remains an interesting tale to be told about why Republicans don`t
care about how unpopular this bill is. I mean they voted on it a couple of
weeks ago. It was really unpopular. Then they spent two additional weeks
making it even more egregiously unpopular.

But they really seem not to care, which is interesting, right? I mean by
ten years out, 60 percent of Americans will see their taxes go up because
of this bill, and it`s the lower 60 percent of Americans in terms of
income. But the top 1/10 of 1 percent on average, they`re going to get
almost $200,000 in their pockets right away.

The top 1/10 of 1 percent next year will get an average of $193,000 per
taxpayer, per very rich taxpayer. By the time this works its way through
the American public at the end of ten years, just from this bill alone, the
top 0.1 of 1 percent will see their income overall go up by 3 percent and
that`s a lot when you`re already starting off with multimillionaire there.
You know, multimillionaire, if you`re getting about 3 percent raised,
that`s a lot of money for the richest people in the country.

But the bottom 50 percent of Americans will see their real income drop
specifically because of this legislation, because this legislation will
increase their taxes.

But the Republicans are passing it anyway, rushing it through, letting
Mike Pence inexplicably sit in on things so he doesn`t have to go to the
Middle East.

The House voted on it so fast today that they screwed it up. They
applauded, they`re very excited, but they voted on it in a way that doesn`t
fit congressional rules. Even though they all celebrated today, they were
all excited so Paul Ryan`s gavel danced off the podium, watch, puts it
down, ahh! They couldn`t even gavel the place closed without falling down.

They were so excited, but they actually have to vote on it again tomorrow
because they screwed up what they voted on today. They have to fix up the
part that they screwed up. And now, tonight, the Senate is burning the
midnight oil pushing this through as fast as they possibly can and only
they know why.

Hold on to your wallet.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED AMLE: The senator from Utah is recognized.

SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: Mr. President, the Senate will soon vote on
the conference report for HR-1, the tax cuts and jobs act. I`ve waited a
long time to get this final statement in support of tax reform –

PROTESTER: Save our health care, save our health care.

HATCH: Mr. President, I ask for order.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`ll be in order.

HATCH: I ask for –

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sergeant-at-arms will restore order in the gallery.
The senator will suspend.

PROTESTER: We need our health care and children`s education. We need our
health care, and children`s education. We need our health care.
(INAUDIBLE)

We need our health care.

HATCH: This fella has a very interesting way of trying to get his point of
view across.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: That was from the Senate floor today, a demonstrator against the
tax bill trying to get in a word of protest before the Republicans pass
this thing. That protester was arrested. You heard them cut his mike and
you heard him yelling from the hallway.

They`re debating this live as we speak.

Joining us now is Senator Chris Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut.

Senator Murphy, thank you for joining us. I know these next few hours will
be very busy for you.

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D), CONNECTICUT: Thanks for having me.

MADDOW: So is this goose cooked? Are there any conversations with anybody
undecided or is this just a matter of the timing here?

MURPHY: I think it`s a done deal. As of right now, I think Jeff Flake is
the only one who hasn`t declared his vote. Maybe somebody gets lost on
their way to the Senate floor, but unfortunately, I think this is going to
get voted on in the Senate tonight, head back to the House tomorrow and it
will become law.

It`s not a policy document, Rachel. This is essentially a ransom payment
to the big GOP donors who have demanded this all year long. There`s really
no rational explanation for putting 60 percent of the tax cut in this bill
in the hands of the top 0.1 percent of Americans other than a pay back to
seven or eight families that continue to fund Republican politics.

Ultimately, this bill will become even more unpopular. Republicans will
probably lose the House and the Senate because of it but there will be a
lot of pain along the way. I`m not holding out hope that there`s going to
be a miracle tonight.

But listen, I didn`t think that the health care bill was going to go down
until John McCain walked onto the floor, so I guess miracles have happened
in the past few months.

MADDOW: When you say that you think the Republicans will lose the House
and the Senate because of this bill, the polling would indicate that if –
certainly, if the vote was going to happen right now, Democrats would have
something like a plus 11 generic ballot advantage in Congress, but that
vote will happen almost a year from now and a lot of things can happen
between now and then.

Can you just talk in terms of the calculus that you think your Republican
colleagues are making? Obviously, as you say, their donors, the wealthiest
people in the country, have to be very happy with the kind of outsized
benefits they`re getting here.

But when it is such a blow to the middle class, when it is something that
is so regressive, when it`s something that`s polling so poorly, when it
seems like it`s going to have such negative political consequences, how is
this a rational vote for them even with their donors being pushy?

MURPHY: Yes, listen, great question. It doesn`t seem to be rational.

But I go back with six months. When we looked at the first few fund-
raising quarters in House races and Senate races across the country,
something surprising happened. Democratic challengers were outraising
House incumbents.

Now, that rarely ever happens and yet it was happening in dozens of races.
And there were two reasons for that. One, you know, a Democratic
enthusiasm is up. But, two, there really is no low donor Republican base
any longer because they have stopped raising money in small amounts. They
are now totally dependent on these big super PACs to come in and fund their
races.

And so, they have come to the conclusion that without the support of these
families, they can`t even make a contest in these House and Senate races.
So, I think many of them know that they are taking a big risk, but they
don`t see any way to fund their operation without this money coming in. I
can`t explain it any other way because the American people have already
weighed in on what they think about the bill. As I said, as it gets
implemented, it will get even less popular.

MADDOW: If your prediction is right and Democrats do take the House and
Senate after the midterm elections, do you think that Democrats would try
to overturn this bill?

MURPHY: Absolutely. We have to given the assault that`s occurring here,
especially on the East and the West Coast. I would hope that we would take
a look at the entirety of the bill.

Listen, the corporations in my state, they wanted a corporate tax cut but
none of them were expecting to have the corporate tax rate dropped to 20
percent. They would have been thrilled if they got the tax rate below 30
percent.

And so, there is plenty of room to go back into this bill to make up some
money and return it to the middle class or the working class that`s losing
out here. And, of course, you know, what we haven`t talked about is the
repeal of the individual mandate –

MADDOW: Yes.

MURPHY: – which is going to increase everybody`s premiums by 10 percent
compounding every year, so that conveniently in year seven of this bill,
your premiums will have doubled and your standard deduction will have gone
back to its previous levels.

MADDOW: Wow. And 13 million Americans will be on their way to losing all
health care coverage.

Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, I know it`s going to be a
late night tonight, sir, thank you for being with us.

MURPHY: Thanks.

MADDOW: Much appreciated.

All right. We`ve got more ahead tonight, including Democrats apparently
flipping the legislature in Virginia tonight. Thanks to a one-vote margin
in one district. That remarkable story is ahead. Plus more. Stay with
us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: (AUDIO GAP) airport.

The last time the Republican tax bill came to a vote in the Senate, Senator
Susan Collins from Maine voted yes. She cut a deal with her Republican
colleagues. After that vote, her constituents in Maine drove in pretty
large numbers to the Bangor Airport just in case she flew home for the
weekend, because after that vote, they wanted her to see their backs turned
on her when she got off the plane.

Senator Collins ended up staying in D.C. that weekend, so she didn`t see
the backs of her constituents at the Bangor Airport. But if she has kept
one eye barely open for the last few months, she has seen a lot of people
like those constituents asking her, begging her to vote against the final
version of the tax bill. Her constituents have repeatedly visited her
Senate offices all across Maine, in Bangor, in Portland, in Lewiston, in
Biddeford.

They have held sit-ins on the carpet, they have held die-ins on the tile
floor, they have protested on the side of the road, they have stood out in
the snow and in the wind and in the dark and in the cold. They have tried
talking to Senator Collins` staff. They have tried talking to the senator
herself over the phone. They met with her in person whenever they could.

They blocked doorways outside her office space in Washington, D.C. They
wrote her handwritten notes and signed their names. They sent her framed
pictures of their protests with holiday greetings.

They tried sending her her sugar. They baked her cakes. They baked her
lots and lots of cakes. They made her informational handmade board games
about what`s wrong with the tax bill. Taxopoly. They played cribbage on
the floor in her Portland office to let the senator know that they think
she got played when agreed to vote yes.

Senator Collins said today she thinks the coverage of the tax bill has been
sexist because so many people think that she, an experienced senator, has
duped by the promises Republicans made her about that bill in exchange for
her vote.

But the pressure on her vote didn`t just come from the press, it came from
Mainers, from her constituents who sang her songs and said prayers that she
would soften her heart and change her mind. Her constituents who dressed
up like the monopoly man and the Grinch and the treasury secretary, people
who put on chicken suits, people who held up giant checks cut out to the
wealthiest 1 percent.

They stood outside “Star Wars” screenings with Darth traitor costumes with
her face on them. They got big groups of people in a room to cold call the
senator. They occupied her offices until they closed and they were then
told to go home and they said no.

So, those folks were zip tied and arrested and taken to jail. This has
been going on for months. All across Maine and in D.C. people in Maine
pushing every single pressure point to try to get Susan Collins to vote no
tonight on the Republican tax bill. She`s one of the few Republicans who
is seen as a possible get on that vote.

Susan Collins has now, of course, told her constituents that she`ll vote
yes on the tax bill tonight. She did make a deal with Senator Mitch
McConnell. She said she`d vote yes if he promised her some specific health
care provisions by the end of the year.

Senator Collins is poised right now to hold up her end of the deal by
delivering her vote tonight. She says she is mad about the negative
coverage she received over those dealings. She believes that she will
actually get what she negotiated for.

But as we barrel toward this vote tonight, it really is an open question as
to whether or not Republicans are planning on giving her what they promised
her in exchange for her vote. Republicans in the House made clear today
that they are not fond of the deal Mitch McConnell brokered with Susan
Collins. Capitol Hill reporting tonight is that house Republicans really
might not include the Susan Collins health care provisions in the spending
bill this year, which is what Mitch McConnell promised her in exchange for
her vote.

And so, this deal that Senator Collins made, this deal she traded for her
yes vote on taxes, it`s – it`s wobbling a little, at least as deals go.
It`s like a bike on a loose kickstand.

But if there`s any chance she might change her mind, she`s running out of
time to do so. Feedback from her colleagues, of course, has been loud.
But for weeks and months intensively, what she`s been hearing from her
constituents has been almost unimaginably loud.

Joining us now is Marie Follayttar Smith. She`s co-director of Mainers for
Accountable Leadership. She`s also an organizer for Moral Movement Maine.
She`s one of Senator Collins` constituents who has been urging her to vote
no on this bill.

Ms. Smith, thank you very much for joining us tonight. We`ve been watching
the protests in Maine for weeks. We`ve been looking forward to speaking
with you about them.

MARIE FOLLAYTTAR SMITH, MAINE ACTIVIST: Thank you very much for having me.

MADDOW: Let me just ask your reaction tonight. As far as we know, Senator
Collins has been unswayed by these really relentless efforts to try to get
her to vote no.

SMITH: Unswayed and last night, she doubled down while Mainers occupied
her Lewiston and Bangor office when she announced that she would support
the bill.

MADDOW: I know that some of these actions involve direct contact with
Senator Collins. People were able to speak with her on speakerphone.
People were able in some cases to meet with her. As far as I understand
you were able to meet with her personally as part of these lobbying
efforts.

Did you feel like she was responsive to the case that you guys were making?
Was she hearing you? Was she engaged?

SMITH: She listened, but she didn`t hear. I met with her last week, Ady
Barkan (ph) said but it`s my life on the line, and she said, I know, but.
And that sort of was the response to four Mainers sharing their stories. I
know, but I have these promises. I know, but I`m still going to vote for
this bill. I know it will harm you.

MADDOW: Senator Collins expressed anger today. She said that the coverage
of the tax bill has been sexist, and she didn`t elaborate at length, but we
got the sense from the reporters to whom she made those remarks that what
she meant was people wouldn`t be doubting a male senator for being able to
drive a hard bargain and get a good deal. And she thinks it`s sexist of
the media and even for her constituents to suggest that she might have
bargained her vote away for promises that aren`t actually going to come
due, that the Republicans won`t actually give her that they promised her
they`d give her.

What`s your reaction to that? What`s your take on that part of this?

SMITH: Well, around 70 percent of Maine`s resistance is female, so it
would be the women perpetuating sexism, which is possible, but unlikely in
this case.

I think she`s trying to shift the subject and, you know, her position, she
is always a top three target on every single vote. That is her position.
That is what she has set up and it`s disappointing that she wants to change
the discussion.

MADDOW: Do you think that this is going to have consequences for her in
Maine? She`s obviously a pretty popular politician at home. She`s
entertained the idea of potentially running for governor. Her independence
is certainly an asset for an independent-minded state like Maine, to the
extent that she acts independently instead of just talks independently.

Do you think this will have consequences for her?

SMITH: It already has. Three of the women who traveled down to D.C. with
me last week had voted for her. They supported her. They believed in her.
And they are no longer believers that she is protecting their welfare. And
that`s the trend.

MADDOW: Marie Follayttar Smith, co-director of Mainers for Accountable
Leadership, an organizer for the Moral Movement Maine, I really appreciate
your time tonight. As I said, we`ve been following your work in Maine,
really wondering if it was going to pay off in Maine, pay off for the
country. Please stay in touch and keep us apprised.

SMITH: Absolutely. Thank you very much.

MADDOW: Will do.

All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: It was the most exciting night, at least the most exciting
electoral night that Democrats had had in this country for a whole year.
It was when Democrats ran the table in Virginia on election night in
November. They kept the governor`s mansion by a big margin.

More than that, they blew everybody`s mind when they erased a 32-seat
Republican majority in the state legislature. That looked impossible, but
they did it. They remade the face of the Virginia legislature with a huge
night of Democratic votes.

If you added up all the votes – so every seat in the legislature was up.
If you add up all the votes that got cast that night for Democrats and all
the votes that got cast for Republicans, Democrats shellacked the
Republicans of Virginia. They were plus 10 statewide in terms of those
votes for those legislative seats.

But then the next morning, Virginia Democrats woke up and they were still
in the minority in the legislature. And that`s because Virginia`s
districts are drawn to be so favorable to Republicans. A bunch of those
races, though, were really close.

And then today in Virginia, did you see how it all worked out?

Today, Virginia Democrat Shelly Simonds beat Republican incumbent David
Yancey in a recount in one of these Virginia House districts. Going into
the recount the Democrat was behind by ten votes. But five hours later,
after this cliff-hanger recount with all the math scribbled on the white
board, after that, she ended up ahead by one, one vote.

If it holds up and gets certified, that means that Virginia Democrats will
have gotten 200,000 plus more votes overall for legislative seats,
including that one vote victory in that one delegate`s race, and they still
won`t get to be in charge. They will have steam rolled their way to a tie,
to 50-50. Unbelievable, but true.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: This is the Holiday Inn Rosslyn at Key Bridge. It`s a nice three-
star holiday inn in Arlington, Virginia, just across the Potomac River from
Washington, D.C. Tonight, this holiday inn was also the venue for a
fundraiser.

And it was not just your average, run of the mill political fundraisers.
Fund raised at tonight`s event at the holiday inn were for the legal
defense fund to benefit Rick Gates, former Trump deputy campaign manager
who was indicted by special prosecutor Robert Mueller. Rick Gates, of
course, was indicted along with Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort by
special counsel Robert Mueller back in October. Gates and Manafort have
both pled not guilty to 12 felony counts of money laundering, making false
statements and foreign lobbying violations.

So, tonight was a fundraiser for Gates` legal fees. It was hosted by this
guy, his name is Jack Burkman. Mr. Burkman is a prominent and
controversial D.C. lobbyist and radio host. Among other things, he`s known
for committing conspiracy theories about the murder of DNC staffer Seth
Rich.

According to his most recent tweet, Jack Burkman also believes that Robert
Mueller is, quote, the devil. And now tonight, he convened the first
fundraiser for one of the Trump officials who has been indicted by the
devil – I mean Robert Mueller.

Now, Burkman had said that he expected a turnout of about 150 of D.C.`s
biggest movers and shakers tonight at his fundraiser at the holiday inn.
As you can see for yourself, the attendance was more in the 10 to 15 range,
more of them journalists than not.

I don`t know why they decided to put this thing on Facebook live, but they
did and it showed us that it was mostly journalists and less than 15
people. Rick Gates himself was not allowed to appear at this fundraiser on
his own behalf because he`s currently serving home confinement and wearing
an ankle bracelet. But he did appear via video conference with a very,
very poor signal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK GATES: By being here tonight, you`re giving us the tools that we will
need to fight and for that I`m extremely grateful. As you may be aware,
there`s a gag order on the case, so I am not able to talk specifically
about the case. However, I can say that because of people like you, we
will have the resources to fight.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Not if that turnout looked like what it looked like.

We asked the special counsel`s office today if Rick Gates` involvement
tonight`s event might potentially violate the judge`s gag order that
prevents anybody involved in the legal case from speaking about it outside
the courtroom. Special counsel`s office declined to comment to us on this
matter because they declined to comment to us about anything. They`ve
never given us a single comment ever, ever.

The goal of tonight`s event was to raise $250,000 to help Rick Gates. He,
of course, is on the hook for massive legal bills. We also know he`s not
getting any help from the president. Last month, “Bloomberg” reported that
after relying on the RNC and the Trump Organization to pay his own legal
bills, the president would finally start to pay his own legal bills. And
the president was also reportedly finalizing, finalizing a plan to use
personal funds to help current and former White House staffers with their
legal costs.

That`s what they said a while back, but for the White House staffers who
were helping to benefit from that promised legal fund, it has now been over
a month since this was being finalize and no fund is in sight. CNN is now
reporting, quote, for now at least, White House staffers are paying their
legal fees out of their own pockets, a significant expense for government
employees.

I thought Trump was going to help? He was going set that up fund.

Republicans in the House Intelligence Committee, they now confirm to NBC
that they`re pretty much done with the House Intelligence Russia
investigation. They plan to wrap it up in a couple weeks. That may be
true of the Republican-led congressional investigations, but the Mueller
investigation that looks like it`s going on for a while.

“Washington Post” reported last night that members of Mueller`s team have
been telling other people that they expect to be working through much of
2018 at a minimum. Meaning, as this thing goes on, as the Mueller
investigation goes on, there`s plenty of time for White House staffers and
Trump campaign staffers to rack up a ton of mounting legal bills and for
those who aren`t getting any presidential money, if it ever arrives, people
like Rick Gates, maybe that means more gala fundraisers like what we
witnessed tonight at the holiday inn.

Watch the space.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: We`re watching and waiting tonight for two things that will be
unfolding very late in the wee hours in Washington tonight. One of the
things we are watching for is the FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe who
went in to speak to the House Intelligence Committee today on the Russia
investigation just after 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time. He hasn`t been seen
since.

This is an FBI official who Republicans have been criticizing and calling
for him to be fired over the Russia investigation. He`s been going on
eight hours with the House Intelligence Committee behind closed doors
tonight. And we haven`t seen hide nor hair of him since he went in. So,
we`ll be watching for him at some point to emerge.

The other thing we`ll be watching for, of course, tonight is the Senate
vote on this markedly unpopular tax bill, the most unpopular piece of major
legislation to go through Washington in 30 years. It`s expected to add
$1.5 trillion to the deficit in what is largely a massive wealth transfer
from the middle class and the lower classes in this country to the people
who are already the richest people in America. It`s the largest one-time
corporate tax cut ever in the history of the United States.

The House is expected to vote again on this thing tomorrow to clean up
mistakes they made in their giant rush of a vote today. But the Senate we
do expect to vote some time tonight. Stay with us for coverage.

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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