Trump to NYT: Dems invented Russia investigation Transcript 12/28/17 The Rachel Maddow Show

Merika Coleman, William Barber, Carmen Yulin Cruz

Date: December 28, 2017
Guest: Merika Coleman, William Barber, Carmen Yulin Cruz

TIM MILLER: If you look at the election, it`s Dubuque, Iowa, and Scranton,
Pennsylvania. And so, sure, there is old-line Republicans, as well. But
I`m talking about the trends on where the party is going.

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, ALL IN: Yes, it`s a fair point, although a lot of
people haven`t abandoned the party yet. We`ll see. Tim Miller and Charlie
Sykes, thank you.

That is “ALL IN” for this evening.

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now with Joy Reid, in for Rachel.

Good evening, Joy.

JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Thank you very much, Chris. Have a great evening.
Appreciate you.

HAYES: You too.

REID: All right. And we do have some breaking news right off the top here
at THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW. Rachel is off tonight. She will be back in the
New Year.

But Donald Trump has given an impromptu interview with Michael Schmidt of
“The New York Times.” I have that interview right in front of me. I`m
going to read you just a little bit of it. He didn`t make new news. He
made some reassertion, but it`s very interesting.

Right off the top it says here that Donald Trump said Thursday that he
believes Robert Mueller, the special counsel in the Russia investigation,
will treat him fairly contradicting some members of his party who have
waged a week`s long campaign to discredit Mr. Mueller and the continuing
inquiry during an impromptu 30-minute interview with “The New York Times”
at his golf club. The president did not demand an end to the Russia
investigation swirling around his administration but insisted 16 times that
there has been no collusion discovered by the inquiry.

Quote: It makes the country look very bad and puts the country in a very
bad position, Trump said of the investigation. So, the answer, it`s worked
out, the sooner it`s worked out, the better it is for the country.

Just a little bit more, asked whether he would order the Justice Department
to reopen the investigation into Hillary Clinton`s emails, Trump appeared
to remain focused on the Russia investigation and he said the following: I
have the absolute right, he said, to do what I want to do with the Justice
Department, he said. Echoing blames by his supporters that as president,
he has the power to open or end an investigation but for purposes of
hopefully thinking I`m going to be treated fairly, I stayed uninvolved with
this particular matter.

And I believe Michael Schmidt is on the phone with us. He`s one of the
reporters who broke that story just a few minutes ago.

Michael, thanks for joining us.

telephone): Thanks for having me.

REID: Just a couple of interesting points because I`m racing through this
article. This seemed to be an impromptu interview. How did you guys – is
this something you formally worked out with the White House or did you just
run into him on the golf course?

SCHMIDT: Well, I was at the club today where he plays. I had been brought
there and we were eating lunch and he was sitting next to us. I had spoken
to him before over the summer and he was very excited to talk about the tax
bill that he had just passed. And I said, well, if you`re going to talk
about it, why don`t we talk about it on the record? And I was able to
interview him.

REID: And you, according to this piece as published now in “The New York
Times” for those tuning in, Trump gave the interview at the grill room at
Trump International Golf Club after he ate lunch with his playing partners,
including his son Eric and a pro-golfer Jim Herman. There were no aides
present for the interview. The president sat alone with a “New York Times”
reporter at a large round table as club members chatted and ate lunch

A few times, members and friends, including long time supporter Christopher
Reddy who is president and chief executive of Newsmax, a conservative web
and TV company, came by to speak with Trump as well.

At any point, did aides break in to maybe help Trump out with some talking
points, or did you have him all to himself?

SCHMIDT: No, there weren`t many aides around. It was just him. He had
played golf with his son. He really enjoyed being around the club there
because a lot of supporters that are members. He spent a lot of time
talking to them. And just sort of – he was kind of hanging out there and
we just happened to be there to see him.

And, you know, he`s very – he`s someone that really likes to engage. You
see it when he`s leaving the White House. He often stops and will speak
with members of the media as he`s getting on the plane.

And, you know, he feels aggrieved in part by the Russia investigation and,
on the other hand, he really wants to tout the things that he`s done this
year, especially the tax bill, which he had not really had many successes
at all this year, legislatively, but that really gave it to him.

So, he believes he`s the best – he`s his best salesman and he wants to
tell his story. You know, I think if you can get him, you can get him.

REID: And he did say here as sort of bragging, that he`s saying –
disputing reports that suggested he doesn`t have a detailed understanding
of the tax legislation. I know the details of taxes better than anybody,
better than the greatest CPA, I know the details of health care better than
anybody. That`s typical Trump speak.

I want to go back to the Mueller investigation. Very interested in this,
16 times essentially saying that he does believe that Mueller is fair.
There`s been a pretty concerted effort by conservative media to paint Bob
Mueller as on a witch hunt to take down the president and to even attack
the FBI.

You write here in this piece that Trump repeated his assertion that
Democrats invented the Russia allegations as a hoax, a ruse, an excuse for
losing an election, and claims that everybody knows that his associates did
not collude with the Russians.

When he says everybody knows that, who do you think he`s referring to?

SCHMIDT: Well, I think he`s trying to say, look, it`s widely known that
he`s trying to say from his perspective, it`s widely known that there was
no collusion and he`s trying to make that argument. And he cited in our
conversations and statements made by Democrats that said they haven`t found
evidence of collusion and he believes that if he can nail home that point,
that there was no collusion, then, you know, this will all go away.

I don`t know if that`s necessarily true, but that`s his point on that.

REID: Interesting that he also tried to distance himself between himself
and Paul Manafort who, of course, we all know was indicted in October,
saying of him who he called a very nice man and an honorable person, that
he had spent more time working for other candidates and presidents and for
him – just to read for our viewers who are just tuning.

Paul only worked for me a few months, Trump said. Paul worked for Ronald
Reagan. His firm worked for John McCain, worked for Bob Dole, worked for
other Republicans far longer than he worked for me. Were you talking about
Paul as many years before I had heard of him? He worked for me 2 1/2,
three months.

Isn`t it the case however that Paul Manafort was a partner of Roger Stone
and that these guys have known Donald Trump a long, long time? He doesn`t
just meet Paul Manafort, did he?

SCHMIDT: No, he`s trying to put distance between himself and Manafort
several times. This is sort of a new attempt. I never heard him say this
construction before, where he sort of gets into the fact that Manafort had
worked for these previous administrations.

And, look, he spent much more time working for other Republicans much more
time than he worked for me, which I never heard him say before. But he –
what he wants to do is he wants to put distance between himself, he doesn`t
want to offend Manafort, so he always says that Manafort is – you know, he
says, oh, Manafort is a good guy, an honorable man and stuff, and then he
tries to push him as faraway as possible.

The interesting question which we didn`t get to, what will he do with Mike
Flynn? How will he put the distance between himself and Flynn who now is
cooperating with the government?

REID: Did he mention Flynn at all during your interview?

SCHMIDT: We didn`t really get into Flynn. Sometimes it can be difficult
with the president. The president can jump from topic to topic very
quickly and as an interview is trying to interview him, it can be

REID: Yes, and he also does have certain things he does seem to return to
over and over and over again. The question of Jeff Sessions who still
seems to be irking him, the fact that Jeff Sessions recused himself in the
Russia investigation, he appears to have gone back down that road again.
Can you explain to us his thoughts on that?

SCHMIDT: Yes. I mean, he sort of repeated what he has said on this, where
he is very disappointed that Sessions has recused himself from the
investigation, that he believes that was a mistake, and he blames Mueller
for the fact that Sessions was – I`m sorry. He blames Sessions for the
fact that Mueller was appointed. He thinks that if Sessions had maintained
control and not recused, then Mueller wouldn`t exist and he pins that
directly on Sessions.

And there`s a long-standing expectation from administration officials and
people around Sessions that as the Russia investigation heats up, he will
really go after Sessions. His criticism of Sessions, they were not that
strong. I`ve seen him be much harsher about Sessions.

REID: Yes, absolutely.

Well, Michael Schmidt, good get from “The New York Times”, a reporter who
just interviewed Donald Trump at his golf club in Florida. Congrats on the
scoop and thanks for joining us.

SCHMIDT: Thanks for having me.

REID: All right. Thank you very much.

Joining us now is Barbara McQuade, former U.S. attorney in the eastern
district of Michigan.

All right. Barbara, I want to talk to you about this interview as well,
for some fascinating stuff.

One piece in the interview is this part about Jeff Sessions we were talking
about Michael Smith about. Donald Trump and I`ll read this just for the
viewers. Donald Trump said, it`s too bad that Jeff Sessions, the attorney
general, recused himself from overseeing the Russia investigation. Trump
said he did not directly answer a question about whether he thought that
Eric Holder, President Barack Obama`s first attorney general, was more
loyal than Sessions had been.

And he said the following. I don`t want to get into loyalty, but I will
tell you that, I will say this, holder protected President Obama, totally
protected him. And added, when you look at the things that they did and
Holder protected the president, and I have great respect for that, I`ll be

Is that a – basic understanding of the job of the attorney general to
protect the president of the United States? What could he be possibly be
talking about with Eric Holder?

BARBARA MCQUADE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: No, Joy, I think you`re dead on
there, that protecting the president is absolutely not the job of the
attorney general. The attorney general`s job is to defend the Constitution
of the United States and to serve the American people. And so to say he
was loyal or protecting the president, I admire that, really is a
fundamental misunderstanding of the appropriate role of the attorney

REID: Yes, not to mention the fact that it`s not clear what he`s even
talking about there. I mean, let`s go to the other part of this that I
thought was another interesting quote. Donald Trump said – I`m presuming
he`s talking about the firing of Jim Comey, but this also has implications
for what could happen to Bob Mueller.

He said the following: I have the absolute right to do what I want to do
with the Justice Department, he said, echoing claims by his supporters that
as president has the power to open and end an investigation. Another
quote: But for purposes of hopefully thinking I`m going to be treated
fairly, I`ve stayed uninvolved with this particular matter.

What does that tell you about his attitude toward Bob Mueller and whether
or not he believes that he can fire him if he wants to?

MCQUADE: Yes. Well, it sounds like he believes that he can and that he
can do whatever he wants, but that he believes at least for now, it`s
better to be hands off. You know, the norms of the Justice Department for
decades has been that the president and partisan politicians are hands off
of the Justice Department so that we can ensure its independence and that
it`s working free from any kind of partisan politics.

Now, that`s just a norm. And so, the president does have the ability to
suggest priorities and maybe even investigations, but I would suggest that
when it comes to an investigation about him or his own administration that
to shut down an investigation like that could amount to obstruction of
justice, in the same way the president has the absolute power to grant
pardons or appoint judges. If he did so in exchange for a bribe, I think
everyone would agree that is an abuse of that power.

Similarly, to shut down an investigation that might implicate him or others
close to him, I think others would also agree would be an abuse of power.

REID: And just to be clear, just for the American people, for those
listening today, does the attorney general or anyone in the Justice
Department have any obligation to exhibit loyalty toward the president of
the United States or to protect him from possible legal liability?

MCQUADE: Absolutely not. In fact, just the opposite. Their commitment is
to the Constitution and to the people.

I remember when I first became U.S. attorney and we had a gathering at the
White House with President Obama and others, and he told us to always
remember that our loyalty was not to him, but to the American people and
the Constitution.

I think all of us took that obligation seriously. I think Jeff Sessions
takes it seriously. In fact, you can question a lot of the things that
he`s done and a lot of decisions he`s made, but I think he made the
absolute right decision when he recused himself from the investigation. It
is textbook out of the recusal policy of the Justice Department and the
appointment of the special counsel was also textbook because of the
implications of a conflict of interest that required someone with
independence whose job is not dependent on the president of the United

REID: Former U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade, thank you so much. Really
appreciate you being here.

MCQUADE: Thanks, Joy.

REID: Thank you.

And joining us now is NBC presidential historian Michael Beschloss.

Michael Beschloss, it`s always great to see you, but especially now –


REID: Thank you. That we have so many Nixonian quotes to work with in
this interview that Michael Schmidt and “The New York Times” got with
Donald Trump. Let`s go in order.

Donald Trump claiming about Bob Mueller, that he has the absolute right, he
says, I have the absolute right to do what I want with the Justice
Department. Could that be more Nixonian?

BESCHLOSS: Actually, it goes way beyond Nixon. Nixon never would have
said something like that as president, nor would any other modern
president, and that`s why I think what he said was ominous, bordering on
shocking because you have this president making this claim that he could do
whatever he wants with the Justice Department.

No other modern president would agree with that. He goes on to say he has
the right to open or end an investigation. Well, guess what investigation
he`s alluding to? And the other thing he says is that for purposes of –
this is almost his quote. For purposes of hopefully that I`m to be treated
well, I have stayed uninvolved, referring to the Mueller investigation.

What he`s telling us, let`s listen to this very carefully, is there is a
serious chance that if he feels he`s not being treated fairly, he will not
be uninvolved, and he may try to shut down this investigation.

REID: You know –

BESCHLOSS: I think this is a real warning.

REID: Yes, I think what`s interesting is that he does refute what has
become the mantra among conservative media and also a lot of Republican
lawmakers that Mueller is somehow inherently biased, that he`s running a
witch hunt. Did he defend Mueller`s honor and integrity? It is an
interesting tack to take. What does it tell you?

BESCHLOSS: It tells me the game I think he is playing is that he is
saying, well, I`m expecting Mueller to conduct a fair investigation, and
then suddenly, he will discover things that will convince him that the
investigation, in his mind, is not fair. He will be shocked and he will
respond by saying, well, I can do whatever I want with the Justice
Department. That includes shutting down investigations.

You were talking about Nixon, Joy. That`s the kind of thing Richard Nixon
would never have dared say in public.

REID: Yes. And, you know, speaking of Nixon, this is fascinating to me
only because if you`ve ever watched the documentary “Get Me Roger Stone” or
any documentaries about Donald Trump, it is clear that the firm that used
to have both Paul Manafort and Roger Stone, they know Donald Trump and have
known him for a long time. He was seen as sort of a pet project, a better
version of Nixon that Roger Stone thought he could mold into a charismatic
version of Nixon to essentially run the same playbook.

Because you have so many similarities between the water break in and the
break in of the DNC, although one is digital, what do you make of the idea
Donald Trump is trying to suggest and pass off on the American people that
he barely knows Roger Stone`s business partner Paul Manafort?

BESCHLOSS: Well, I guess he may feel that there is a sucker born every
minute because there`s ample evidence to the contrary. And I think that`s
the reason why we should take what he says pretty seriously, especially
what he said tonight, because when Donald Trump says something like, you
know, I have the absolute right to do what I want with the Justice
Department, he`s not just giving us rhetoric. He is telling us something
that is very important.

REID: And what would be the implications for the Constitution if Donald
Trump were to, as you said, suddenly discover that there is gambling going
on in this house and –

BESCHLOSS: And finds the investigation unfair.

REID: Exactly. And fires Bob Mueller?

BESCHLOSS: I always draw back from using the word – the phrase
constitutional crisis. I think it is overused. But I think that would be
a case in which there really would be a constitutional crisis in that I
think we cannot predict what the course of events would be there.

But at that point I think if he tries to do that, that will be something
that, speaking about Nixon, will make the Saturday Night Massacre of
October 1973 look like peanuts.

REID: Yes, if ever you need a presidential historian, this would have been
the night, and we are so lucky to have you.

BESCHLOSS: OK, thank you.

REID: Thank you.

BESCHLOSS: Be well. Happy New Year, Joy.

REID: Happy New Year to you.


REID: NBC presidential historian, yes, Michael Beschloss, so appreciate
you. Thank you.

All right. So, much more, we have lots to get to tonight ton this
surprisingly busy news night. Stay with us.


REID: OK. Just when you thought the whole Roy Moore saga was behind us,
it turns out it never really went away. Even today, the day that Alabama
certified the special election results, showing that Doug Jones had won the
special election, to become the first Democrat in Alabama in 25 years to
sit in the United States Senate, Roy Moore still had to be the star of the

Late last night, Moore filed a complaint in Alabama circuit court to try
and delay the certification of the election results. He claimed that he
was the victim of voter fraud, lots and lots of voter fraud, he complained
about the, quote, anomalous unexplained higher turnout in Jefferson County
where 43 percent of the population is black. He cited a so-called
elections expert who claims that the probability that the official election
results in Alabama were accurate is, quote, less than one in 50 billion.
That same expert also happens to be a well known JFK assassination
conspiracy theorist.

In any case, today, the circuit court judge threw out Roy Moore`s
complaint, not on any basis of the crazy claims, claims that have been
thoroughly debunked by Alabama secretary of state who happened to support
Roy Moore in the election. No. The complaint was thrown out because Roy
Moore, the former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, filed his
complaint in the wrong court. columnist Kyle Whitmire gave the business on that fun fact today,
writing that quote: There is irony here we can`t whistle past. The former
chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court lost his election court battle
because the court where he filed his lawsuit didn`t have the jurisdiction
to hear the case.

Whitmire later writes, quote, I`ve heard a lot of people saying Moore
should have conceded the election because carrying on like this was not
good for Alabama. To the contrary, this was great for the state. Alabama
needed to see who Moore was and now, it`s witnessed that long pathetic

A source tells NBC News today that Moore has yet to determine whether he
will try again to contest the results, presumably, he`ll be sure to find
the right court next time.

Meanwhile, Doug Jones transition team is measuring the drapes. They
released a statement today on the certification of the new election results
and made sure to include Doug Jones` new title in bold title senator-elect,
just to be clear. At the very least, Roy Moore`s long strange good-bye for
the last few weeks has made fun political theater if anything about an
accused (INAUDIBLE), it can be called fun.

I guess the mall jokes kind of write themselves, though. But in this
election in Alabama, is it an anomaly or a portend of things to come for
both Democrats and Republicans and not just in Alabama, but throughout the

Joining us now is Alabama state representative and assistant minority
leader, Merika Coleman, from Birmingham.

Representative Coleman, great to see you.

STATE REP. MERIKA COLEMAN (D), ALABAMA: Great to be here, Joy.

REID: OK. So, let`s take a look at Doug Jones` map. He won by
essentially winning what`s called the Black Belt, all of the parts of
Alabama where African-Americans live, including the county where Selma
happens to reside. Do you think the fact of that, the fact that African-
Americans formed so much of his base, I think 56 percent of Doug Jones
voters, just Doug Jones voters were African-American, do you suspect that
is why Roy Moore is so dubious of the result?

COLEMAN: Oh, sure. Roy Moore actually gave out the rally call to white
supremacists when he, you know, said there was some type of voter
impropriety. Historically in this country, when there is a high voter
turnout, there has been that charge and the Republican secretary of state
has just said that that`s just not the case.

So, we`re excited. Jefferson County is one of the counties that he cited.
We were higher than the average of the rest of the state. And it`s really
a slap in the face that Roy Moore would make these allegations to the
people who went on the ground, knocked on doors, and encouraged people to
go out to vote.

REID: A lot of people don`t realize Alabama only went solid Republican in
terms of the state legislature in 2010 –

COLEMAN: In 2010.

REID: – when Barack Obama was president. Right.

So, with all of the Senate seats back up again in 2018, is there a
possibility that this momentum that Doug Jones used to win could actually
change the composition of the Senate in Alabama?

COLEMAN: One hundred percent. In Alabama, the state legislature,
nationwide, with the U.S. Senate, and Congress, there is this blue wave,
this progressive wave that has gone across this country. No more are
people just looking at their U.S. Senate races per state. They are looking
at the impact that these people are going to make across this country.

So, you know, there are some other states that are in play that I may
actively get involved in from the state of Alabama. Other people may
actively get involved. We`ve got to make sure that we elect progressive
people in the statehouses across this country but also in U.S. Congress

REID: Well, speaking about that, the African-American population in
Alabama 26.8 percent, it`s very high. Mississippi is even higher, like 37
percent. Is the idea here that in states with high African-American
populations, even if they`re deeply red states like Alabama, that if you
just mobilize enough of those voters, plus 30 percent of the white vote,
can that be replicated or was it frankly because Roy Moore was just
somebody so objectionable?

COLEMAN: Well, of course, Roy Moore was a train wreck of a candidate. You
know, for someone to talk about how times were better during slavery, of
course, that issue is one of those issues that mobilized black voters.

But in addition, there are lots of issues that African Americans and
communities of color care about, kitchen sink issues, health care,
education, when you talk to us about the issues that we care about, we get
out and vote.

REID: Yes –

COLEMAN: You know, again, it`s a slap in the face to Birmingham when
people marched in the streets of Birmingham so the rest of the country can
have the right to vote, to say that there was some kind of cheating going
on here in Jefferson County.

REID: Yes, absolutely. Alabama State Representative Merika Coleman, thank
you so much. I really appreciate your time.

COLEMAN: Thank you.

REID: Thank you.

And much more to come here tonight. Stay with us.


REID: – a lot of controversial people for judgeships around the country.
The latest is a guy named Thomas Farr. He`s up for a seat in U.S. district
court for North Carolina`s eastern district. But he started his career as
counsel for North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms, who a former leader named
him Jim Crow, senior.

Thomas Farr defended the senator`s thinly veiled voter suppression campaign
in 1990, in which the Helms team sent out postcards with incorrect voting
and registration information to African-American voters. But we didn`t
really know or hear about any of this until after Farr had gotten through
committee and was well on his way to Senate confirmation.

The Trump administration has been very successful in pushing through
controversial nominations like Farr`s with almost no scrutiny. In just his
first six months in office, Trump picked 27 lower court judges, more than
twice as many as Presidents Reagan, H.W. Bush and Clinton combined. And
his nominees are remarkable for another reason as well, because by and
large, they`re far younger than the picks of previous presidents. Meaning
they`ll sit on the bench longer and have a role in shaping American law in
society for a long, long time to come.

And joining us now is reverend Dr. William Barber, president of the
Repairers of the Breach and architect of the Moral Monday`s Movement. He`s
also the author of a new op-ed on just this very subject.

Reverend Barber, always good to talk to you.


REID: How are you doing? Happy New Year.

Let`s start with your op-ed that you wrote on this nomination of Thomas
Farr in “The New York Times” and it reads: A straight line runs from the
racial polarization inflamed for decades by Mr. Helms and his political
machine to the re-emergence of violent white supremacists in the past year
in places like Charlottesville, Virginia.

If you could explain.

BARBER: Well, first of all, Joy, we have to come to a point in this
country, we recognize white nationalism and white supremacy is not just
Charlottesville. It is not just somebody just running over somebody in a
crowd that is violent as that is. White nationalism and white supremacist
is about policy and Farr has been at the center of almost every place where
white supremacy and white nationalism has tried to work itself into the
law. And we have to understand that.

I mentioned some time ago that many of these statutes put up were not put
up after the civil war, they were put in homage to policy driven racism of
the early 1900s to changing of the law. And Farr has been surgical at
being a part of that kind of racist connection to the law. In fact, I`m
very concerned about all of these appointees. I think we need to dig deep
into what their connections are.

For instance, Farr is connected historically to the Pioneer Fund that was
founded in 1937. Listen at what it said it wants: to pursue the betterment
for those deemed to be descendant predominantly from white persons who
settled in the original 13 states prior to the adoption of the

This is the kind of historical connection that this man has and others have
had that have supported him.

REID: You know, if justice or on the federal level which African Americans
and people of color have turned to when state-based justice has failed
them, it`s a one-two prong thing, the other prong of it is this course of
the Justice Department and the current attorney general, Jefferson
Sessions, has rolled back – he`s rolled back a program that essentially
tried to discourage local courts from jailing people because they didn`t
have the money to bail themselves out. He`s now rolled that back.

What do you make of that?

BARBER: Well, you know, when I see these things, I think about the
scriptures in Amos, for instance, that says, woe unto those who create
injustice in the court and kick the needy when they`re down.

Whether it`s Farr or whether it`s Sessions, they are operating out of a
white southern strategist mindset that has been promoted since 1968. It is
very anti-our deepest religious values. It is the Trump, Sessions and he
wants to be Farr part of that administration. It is Thom Tillis and Burr
who blocked, for instance, in Farr`s case, they blocked two qualified black
women, one a Supreme Court justice from even getting a hearing.

Now, you have Sessions attacking the poor, talking about debtor arrest,
which Charles Dickens spoke against in the 1830s. I mean, this is very
troubling. But we have to understand not only is it anti-the good news,
not only is it more like the Grinch that stole Christmas and the Christ of
Christmas, it is connected to this, this, this white supremacist mind-set
that links moral poverty and moral failure particularly black, brown
persons as the gateway to undermine public support.

Here`s hit on it though.

REID: Right.

BARBER: It also means, Joy, that the majority of the people who will be
hurt will be white, white women and children. We fear, for instance, Roy
Moore. But Sessions is from Alabama, too. In policy, he`s no different
than Roy Moore.

REID: Wow.

BARBER: And that`s something that we should understand, in policy, in

REID: Yes, absolutely. Well, the Reverend Dr. William Barber who is a man
behind the Moral Monday Movement, and also the restart of the Poor People`s
Campaign, thank you so much. Happy New Year to you.

BARBER: Thank you. Take care.

REID: Thank you.

And I want to take a minute right now to spare a thought for the family of
Erica Garner. She`s the daughter of Eric Garner who died literally at the
hands of a New York City police officer in 2014 following the application
of a choke hold. Since then Ms. Garner has transformed her personal
tragedy into a sustained and committed campaign for activism and social

But right now her fight is once again personal. At just 27 years old, she
suffered a heart attack on Saturday and has been in a coma ever since. And
despite some dire headlines this morning, reported that she`d been declared
brain dead, Ms. Garner`s family is still holding out hope that she will

We`ll be right back.


REID: Plenty more news ahead on the show tonight in case you`re just
joining us. The big story coming out right as we went on air, Donald Trump
making news about the Russia investigation in a new interview with “The New
York Times” this evening, saying it makes the U.S., quote, look very bad.

Donald Trump also saying in the interview that he believes Robert Mueller
will treat him fairly. On the subject of Robert Mueller`s investigation,
Trump saying, quote, I have the absolute right to do what I want with the
Justice Department. He said, echoing claims by his supporters, that as
president he has the power to open or end an investigation, quote, but for
purposes of hopefully thinking I`m going to be treated fairly, I have
stayed uninvolved with this particular matter.

Trump also repeated his assertion that Democrats invented the Russia
allegations as a, quote, hoax, as a ruse, as an excuse for losing an
election. Trump also discussed his indicted former campaign chairman whom
he called a nice and honorable man, while taking steps to distance himself
from him, saying, quote, Paul only worked for me for a few months. Paul
worked for Ronald Reagan. His firm worked for John McCain, worked for Bob
Dole, worked for many Republicans for far longer than he worked for me and
you`re talking about what Paul was many years ago before I ever heard of
him. He worked for me for what was it, 3 1/2 months?

That`s all in a new interview tonight. Much more ahead. Stay with us.


REID: – 100 days since Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico, 100 days
is a long time, and yet tonight more than a million Americans are still
living in darkness. Living through what is now the longest black out in
American history.

Officially about 30 percent of the island is without power tonight, but the
real number could be much higher. On Christmas Eve, the Army Corps of
Engineers conceded that the official number is, quote, misleading because
it does not reflect how much electricity is actually reaching customers and
reaching homes.

And there is reason to believe that many of the 3-1/2 million Americans
living in Puerto Rico will be forced to live in the dark for a long time to
come. The original plan was to have 95 percent of the power back on by
Christmas. The new game plan is to have power fully restored by May, which
will mean eight months of darkness.

But even that might be ambitious. “The Daily Beast” has reported that
nearly 100 days in, Puerto Rico still doesn`t have enough supplies to
rebuild their power grid. Of the 52,000 power lines needed, fewer than
10,000 have arrived.

At this pace, all the necessary supplies to restore power won`t arrive
until March. And without supplies, linemen are roaming the streets of
Puerto Rico without much to do. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says
that`s because Puerto Rico is competing for supplies with Texas and
Florida, whose electrical grids were also hit by hurricanes, but whose
residents, we should point out, are not living in the dark.

“New York Magazine” published an opus on life in Puerto Rico after the
storm, full of heart-stopping details. Stories of medical staff forced to
pump air into a patient`s lungs by hand when the generators failed, wedding
halls being turned into makeshift intensive care units, and the surreal
consequence when millions of people are suddenly forced to live in the
dark. Hospitals that are, quote, seeing more fractures, wrists, shoulders,
hips as people try to acclimate to darkness on the road and in their homes,
broken bones from stumbling around in the dark is now a part of life in
Puerto Rico. Desperation has become more than a state of mind. It`s a
lethal force.

The governor has ordered a review of the official death toll, but now
because of how desperate things have become, one of the categories that
government officials consider when evaluating whether a death is storm-
related is suicide. And as we`ve said on this show before, the death toll
is no longer a function of the storm, but a function of the botched
recovery from the storm. Just this week, we were reminded just how inept
it has been when we learned that 50,000 pounds of food originally destined
for Puerto Rico has been sitting in a FEMA warehouse in Jacksonville,

When asked why those 50,000 pounds of food never made it, a FEMA spokesman
said, quote, it wasn`t clear why the food was never sent to Puerto Rico.

Joining us now from Puerto Rico is Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, the mayor of
San Juan.

Good evening, mayor.

I want to start where we just ended, with this idea that food that is
destined for Puerto Rico is still not getting to the people of the island.
What is the situation now regarding whether people in Puerto Rico are
getting enough to eat?

you for the opportunity and happy holidays to everybody.

It`s very important people know that there are various degrees of
destructiveness of the botched effort. In San Juan, things are getting
somewhat better. We see the light at the end of the tunnel. But as you
move away from the metropolitan area, still things are very touch and go.

FEMA has began to turn back its aid of food and water because it has said
that it wants the private sector, the regular economy, to take on where it
has left off. The problem with that is we continue to put on standard
operating procedures onto Puerto Rico without taking notice of the reality
of Puerto Rico. For example, unemployment is up.

You have just mentioned the power situation. And even those that have
power, my parents got their power back last Friday, and they didn`t have
power since Irma. The world stops counting since Maria, but a lot of
people here have not had any power since Irma. And even then, it`s on and
off. It`s very unstable.

And as you have mentioned, something I have brought to light very, very
many weeks ago, and I was criticized for it. It isn`t the same thing as
generating electricity. There is no way of saying where it`s going and if
it`s getting to the places that it`s supposed to be getting.

There are towns in Puerto Rico where bridges have totally collapsed or
roads have totally collapsed and where people still are in much need of
food and water. Water is still under a health advisory and you either have
to boil it or you have to ensure that you have the filtration system for
your water. And situations are still life-threatening situations.

Is it a little better than it was in September 20th? Of course. Is it
where it`s supposed to be? No, it`s not where it`s supposed to be. We
seem to be going from crisis to crisis.

Our next crisis is going to be people losing their homes because they don`t
have jobs or they have lost a lot of income in September, October, and
November, and they won`t be able to pay for their mortgages.

Of course, you know that we have had more than 217,000 people just go into
the Florida region. About – it`s estimated that close to half a million
Puerto Ricans would have left Puerto Rico by the end of January. And this
does not only deplete our resources, our human power, but it also depletes
the economic base of Puerto Rico.

So, the botched effort has been insensible, has been manmade, and has been
Trump administration made.

REID: You know, we all know that the president of the United States spent
a lot of time attacking you for your really desperate cries for the federal
government to do its job and to help Puerto Rico. At this stage, we`ve
just seen a big tax bill go through. The governor of Puerto Rico, Governor
Rossello has actually been critical of the fact Puerto Rico didn`t get much
out of that tax bill.

Is Puerto Rico receiving enough financial aid to do the things like get the
grid back up, to go into these remote areas where they don`t have power?
Is there enough actual financial aid coming in

CRUZ: No, there isn`t. Actually, the Trump administration criticized our
debt and then increased our debt by $4.9 billion of a loan that was given
to Puerto Rico. And people must think in the United States that the Puerto
Rican government already received that money. Well, we haven`t received
one cent of that money. So, it cannot be put to use.

I spent about a week in the United States telling people, telling the
American people not only was this tax bill bad for the United States and
for its citizens, especially the middle class, but it was going to
obliterate the Puerto Rican economy. It imposed a 20 percent import tax on
goods and services coming from Puerto Rico into the United States which
wasn`t there before. It also imposed a 12.5 percent intellectual property
tax which wasn`t there before.

And now, the last bill that was passed by Congress, the $81 billion bill,
does not have any earmark for anyone. It doesn`t earmark anything for
Texas, for Florida, for California, or for Puerto Rico. And it puts the
power of distribution of the moneys in approximately 100 agencies. So,
there will be a frenzy of people trying to bid desperately in order to get
resources and, of course, Puerto Rico is at a disadvantage.

So, no, we are not getting the money that we need. But even more than the
money that we need, we are not getting the support. You mentioned we don`t
have enough of the electrical poles that are needed to put our electricity
back on. But we are forced to rebuild our electrical grid just as it was

So, what`s going to happen when global warming keeps doing its thing and we
keep getting much and more stronger storms and hurricanes? It`s all going
to go, you know, back to where we started. So, it is very important that
we get a waiver on the act. And Senator Sanders, Senator Elizabeth Warren,
Luis Gutierrez and Lydia Velasquez (ph) I`ve worked closely in the
government and introduce a bill for the transformation of Puerto Rico.

It`s also very important that we have input and power to say where we want
things to get done. Right now fiscal control board that makes it evident
that Puerto Rico`s political status is a colonial political status,
controls anything and everything that would come to Puerto Rico. And they
have added their names to the group of people that are not doing a good job
and they`re not doing right by the Puerto Rican people.

REID: Well, it is not a good report card, but Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, I
appreciate you being here. I hope the country does better by you. Thank
you so much.

And still ahead, we have some very important people to tell you about.
Stay with us.


REID: Wow, for an end of the year holiday week there should was a lot of
news going on tonight. So, two things to let you know. First, right after
the show, “THE LAST WORD” will be here live with the latest fallout from
“The New York Times” interview with Donald Trump. The interview where he
says he has, quote, the absolute right to do what I want with the Justice
Department, a quote NBC News presidential historian Michael Beschloss told
us is something even Richard Nixon never said. So, that`s coming up live

Second thing to know is that tomorrow night here 9:00 p.m. Eastern, Rachel
will take an in-depth look at the Trump-Russia dossier. Now, if you missed
Rachel`s report the first time, you`ll want to tune in for that tomorrow
night for that at 9:00 p.m.

But before all of that, if you`re watching the show, you probably realize
that Rachel is one of the hardest working people in the business. But even
as hard working as Rachel she cannot do it alone. We want to take a moment
to thank the rest of the folks here who help out every night. And who I
have had the privilege of working with this week. Take it away.


REID: You`ve got to dig that funky Christmas music. It`s sort of groovy,
right? That was good. I love that. That was terrific.

All right. That does it for us tonight. See now you`re in the festive
move. We`ll see you this weekend on “A.M. JOY”. And Rachel will be back
here next year, which is only a few days. All right. Happy New Year.

And now, it is time for the last hosted tonight by my pal Ari Melber.

Ari, did you dig that – did you dig that groovy music?




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