Trump endorsed South Carolina’s Kate Arrington. TRANSCRIPT: 11/7/2018, The Rachel Maddow Show.
Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: November 7, 2018
Guest: David Laufman, Chris Coons, Lauren Underwood
ADAM SERWER, THE ATLANTIC: And that`s something that has a long history in
the United States of America. Once upon a time, it was Democrats who were
violently trying to restrict the electorate so that Republicans couldn`t
vote. But these days, what you see is Republicans trying to ensure that
the electorate is older and whiter so they can continue winning elections,
even though the majority of the people in a given state don`t actually
support what they`re doing.
And part of the way they do that is they run on white identity politics.
When you look at progressive initiatives, Medicaid was expanded in three
red states yesterday. It`s not – it`s not that Americans don`t like –
don`t like those kinds of things. It`s that –
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, “ALL IN”: OK. I`ve got to cut you off there,
Adam. Michelle Goldberg and Adam Serwer, thank you for joining me.
That is “ALL IN” for this evening.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts now.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Welcome back, man. It
was great to have you in Texas last night.
HAYES: It was really interesting. It was a very interesting night in that
state`s politics and with huge implications, huge implications for what
happens next in the nation`s politics.
MADDOW: Oh yes. I mean, seeing that Senate race, and we`re all laser
focused on that, to see Beto O`Rourke not get there, but to see the knock-
on effects of him getting even that close, even though he still failed,
that just tells you how many doors just opened in that hugely important
state from hereon out.
MADDOW: It`s incredible.
Well-done, my friend.
MADDOW: Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy, happy,
happy to have you with us.
Boy, there`s a lot going on, right? It`s one of those times I feel very,
very blessed to have this job.
In March of this year, a guy who was going to run for Senate in Nevada
announced that he was not going to run after all. He said, quite proudly,
that the only reason he was backing out was because he had personally
received a call from the president of the United States, and the
president`s team imploring him for the good of the Republican Party to
please not run for Senate this year, as he was otherwise intending. The
White House later confirmed that, in fact, the president had done that.
The president called this guy in Nevada, Danny Tarkanian, somebody who`s
run for office a lot in Nevada, he`s lost every time.
The president had called him and told him not to run for the Senate this
year, so as to clear the way for Republican U.S. Senator Dean Heller to run
for re-election in Nevada, without the hassle of having a Republican
primary challenge. So, the president intervened to keep that primary
challenger out, to clear the way for Dean Heller, so Dean Heller could be
Trump-endorsed Senator Dean Heller last night lost his re-election race.
He lost his seat in the U.S. Senate. He was beaten by a Democrat named
Jacky Rosen. Now, Jacky Rosen was a Democratic member of Congress who had
to give up her seat in Congress in order to run against Dean Heller. That
obviously was a good bargain for her. She`ll be coming back to Washington
as a U.S. senator instead of as a member of Congress.
But because she had to leave her seat in Congress in order to run for the
Senate, that left her congressional seat open. And this was where the
Trump genius came in. Having advised Danny Tarkanian that he wasn`t
allowed to run in the Senate primary against Dean Heller, so has to ensure
that Dean Heller would hold onto his seat, ahem, Trump then promoted the
heck out of Danny Tarkanian to get a different gig, to be the Republican
nominee for that House seat, for the one that was vacated by Congresswoman
Well, last night, that Trump endorsed candidate Danny Tarkanian, he lost
that race, too. He lost that House seat to a Democrat named Susie Lee.
But the president believes he has real political genius when it comes to
these things, and he is not shy about doing this sort of thing anywhere in
Just a few weeks after that brilliant Danny Tarkanian presidential
intervention that cost the Republicans both a seat in the United States
Senate and a seat in the United States House, the president waded into
another race in South Carolina, where he decided that in a congressional
primary in South Carolina, he would direct his followers to no longer
support Republican Congressman Mark Sanford. The president decided that
Mark Sanford was insufficiently pro-Trump for a Republican member of
And so, before the polls closed in that congressional primary, where Mark
Sanford was trying to hold onto his seat, the president just cannonballed
into the deep end with this endorsement. Quote: Mark Sanford has been very
unhelpful to me in my campaign to MAGA. He is MIA and nothing but trouble.
I fully endorse Katie Arrington for Congress in South Carolina. Vote
Well, Katie Arrington, on the strength of that high-impact endorsement from
the president, she beat Mark Sanford in that primary. The president has
been gleefully rubbing that in against Mark Sanford ever since, sort of
pounding his chest about how he cost Mark Sanford his seat in Congress. I
am POTUS, hear me roar.
Well, last night was the general election in South Carolina, just like it
was everywhere. And last night, presidentially endorsed Katie Arrington
lost that seat to a Democrat named Joe Cunningham. Did I mention that was
South Carolina? Just won by a Democrat.
A few weeks after President Trump applied his unparalled presidential
political genius to the Katie Arrington/Mark Sanford race, which cost the
Republicans a seat in the House, the president also confidently waded into
the Kansas governor`s race. When Republican voters in Kansas were deciding
this year who was going to be their candidate for governor, they had a
choice between a sort of normal conservative Republican or a much, much,
much Trumpier choice named Kris Kobach. Immensely controversial, very high
profile, Kansas secretary of state, sort of a special White House adviser
on nonexistent voter fraud.
In that Kansas primary to decide who the Republican Party`s candidate would
be for governor in Kansas, the president once again decided he would exert
his political genius and weigh in. This was in August, he announced his
full and total endorsement in that primary for Kris Kobach. Kobach won
that primary, presumably in part on the strength of the president`s
Kris Kobach went onto the general election last night as the Republican
candidate for governor in Kansas, and he is the Republican candidate for
governor who lost the Kansas governorship to a Democrat named Laura Kelly.
And it wasn`t even that close. And Kris Kobach`s dead weight at the top of
the ticket in Kansas may have also been enough to cost Kansas Republican
Congressman Kevin Yoder his seat, as well.
Kris Kobach lost to a Democrat, Congressman Kevin Yoder lost his
congressional seat to a Democrat, as well. To a gay Native American female
MMA fighter named Sharice Davids, who is a Democrat. Because the
president`s political genius knows no bounds.
Republican Congressman Dave Brat of Virginia, remember when he complained
during the campaign about all the women getting up in his grill? How much
he hated his female constituents pressuring him to hold a town hall? How
much he hated all that? Last night, Dave brat got all the women out of his
grill. That won`t be a problem anymore. Last night, Dave brat lost his
seat in Congress to a Democratic woman named Abigail Spanberger, who is a
Do you remember all the Indivisible protests against Republican Congressman
Rodney Frelinghuysen in New Jersey? Last night, the Rodney Frelinghuysen
seat also flipped to a Democratic woman veteran named Mikie Sherrill.
Do you remember the individual protests against Congressman Darrell Issa in
California? Last night, Darrell Issa`s seat in Congress went to a Democrat
as well, went to a Democrat named Mike Levin.
Republican Congressman Scott Taylor in Virginia, you might remember he got
in serious trouble this year during the campaign when he and his office
tried on a little scheme to fake petition signatures to get a fake third
party candidate onto the ballot to hopefully divert votes from the Democrat
who was running against him. Last night, Republican Congressman Scott
Taylor in Virginia lost his seat in Congress when that Democratic
challenger, Elaine Luria, she beat him anyway.
In Minnesota, a Republican congressman named Jason Lewis – he`s had the
whole idea of Minnesota nice, sort of straining at the seams a little bit.
Congressman Jason Lewis is the one who publicly campaigned at length and on
tape that he`s not allowed to call women sluts anymore. Last night,
Minnesota Republican Congressman Jason Lewis lost his seat in Congress to a
woman, who actually seems very nice no matter what he might call her. Her
name is Angie Craig and she will soon be Congresswoman Angie Craig, because
she is the Democrat who has ousted Republican Jason Lewis from Congress.
In New York state, John Faso ran ads against his opponent, who was a
freaking lawyer and a Rhodes scholar, trying to make his constituents
believe that his opponent was some kind of crazy gang member who was only
running for Congress so he could, like, beat people up in the district or
something. It was insane. It was very blatantly racist. John Faso lost
his seat in Congress to that Democratic candidate, Antonio Delgado.
In Michigan, Mike Bishop last night lost his seat to a Democratic candidate
named Elissa Slotkin, she`s another CIA veteran. Do you remember that ad
that highlighted the national security backgrounds of eight first-time
female Democrat conditions running this year? Elissa Slotkin was one of
the women in that ad. Five of the eight women in that ad won their seats
last night and ousted Republican incumbents.
In California, Republican Congressman Steve Knight just lost his seat to
Democrat Katie Hill. She will be staking Steve Knight`s seat in the House.
In Illinois, Republican Congressman Randy Hultgren lost his seat to a
nurse, Democratic candidate named Lauren Underwood. Lauren Underwood and
Randy Hultgren for that matter, neither of them were on anybody`s radar.
Lauren Underwood came out of nowhere and won that seat through sheer hard
work and raw talent.
Lauren Underwood is going to be a national star, I`m telling you. She`s
actually going to be our guest a little later on in this hour. You`re
going to want to see that.
Last night, Democrats flipped control of the Colorado Senate and the Maine
Senate and the Minnesota house and the New Hampshire House and the New
Hampshire Senate and the New York state senate.
In Nevada, actually Democrats got everything. They got the governorship,
they took away Dean Heller`s U.S. Senate seat, they came within one vote of
a Democratic super majority in both houses of the Nevada legislature.
In Wisconsin, not only did Democrats take away Scott Walker`s governorship,
but U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin, who had once been the number one Republican
target for her Senate seat this year, she not only won re-election over a
Trump-endorsed opponent, she absolutely crushed it, double digits.
Democrats won the attorney general`s race in Wisconsin, as well.
Democrats did lose U.S. Senate seats in states where Trump had won in
double digits, and the Florida Senate race looks like it`s going to a
recount. Although we did learn that Jon Tester in Montana, Democrat Jon
Tester looks to have held on to his seat.
In Georgia, the governor`s race there will be an ongoing, all-out battle,
where honestly we have now entered into the sort of civic nightmare
scenario where it comes down to a fragile little thin margins of disparate
absentee and provisional ballots from all over the state and maybe a
recount and all of it is going to be overseen by one of the two candidates,
who is also in charge of doing all that counting. Tonight, remarkably,
Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp tried to have his office, his
secretary of state office, announce that he had won the election, but with
no details to back it up.
Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams is not having it. She has announced
that her campaign has started an all-out ballot chasing program to make
sure that Kemp is not allowed to determine his own fate, and that every
single vote is counted in a way that is fair and transparent and provable.
That Georgia governor`s thing is going to be a big national deal for a long
while yet. National eyes will be on that for good reason until that one is
There are ongoing races that are as yet uncalled. It may be deep into this
weekend before we know who won the Arizona Senate race, for example.
There are absurdities in last night`s results, like two Republican members
of Congress who have each been charged with multiple felonies, they`re both
literally on trial for multiple felony corruption counts. They both got
re-elected in Republican districts. Congressman Chris Collins in New York
and Congressman Duncan Hunter in California, they will soon presumably be
able to simultaneously solicit new campaign contributions from their sucker
constituents along with requests for additional donations to go into the
commissary accounts they`ll have in federal prison.
I mean, you can buy them phone cards or you can help them run for re-
election, right? Send them Fritos. I mean – are these guys going to
still get to do constituent service hours like at visiting time? You have
an issue, you need your congressman to help you with, you just go down, you
sit across the glass, you pick up the phone. Can you still be on a
committee if you`re in prison? So, there were some absurdities.
Last night was a wild night. Veteran Texas Republican congressmen like
Pete Sessions, 11-term Pete Sessions, and John Culberson, they lost their
seats to Democrats in Texas. A Republican congressman from Oklahoma City,
a race that barely anybody had bothered to poll, he lost his seat to a
Democratic woman named Kendra Horn. Steve Russell, Republican congressman
of Oklahoma will be going home. Kendra Horn, Democratic congresswoman from
Oklahoma, has taken his seat.
The Democrats broke supermajorities in the North Carolina House and in the
North Carolina Senate, and in the Michigan Senate and the Pennsylvania
senate. The number of states where Democrats have complete control in
state government went from eight before last night to 14 as of today. That
means control of the governorship and both houses of the legislature.
But the story of the night, and the determinative political change that we
just went through last night as a country is what happened thanks to the
Democrats just romping in the House. Nancy Pelosi will be speaker of the
House once again. Adam Schiff will be the intelligence committee. Jerrold
Nadler will run the Judiciary Committee. Elijah Cummings will run House
oversight. Oversight, did somebody say?
In 2006, when Nancy Pelosi became speaker the first time, that was an
election in which Democrats felt their ascendants was a few years overdue.
Think about the timing of the George W. Bush presidency, the first midterm
election in the George W. Bush era, that was anything but a normal cycle,
it was just after 9/11, the president had already started one war and was
about to start a second. So, 2002 was one of those very, very rare midterm
elections where the president`s party didn`t lose ground. It was just a
singular, different thing.
But by the next midterm election, 2006, Democrats more than made up for it.
They won seats by the dozen. They won control of the Congress. You know,
Nancy Pelosi became speaker.
They turned on the klieg lights of congressional oversight for the end of
the George W. Bush administration. But you know, right after that `06
midterm, when Democrats picked up so many seats and did so well and took
back control on Capitol Hill, right after that, the Bush administration
responded to that election result immediately.
I don`t know – this has sort of been lost. I heard Andrea Mitchell
mention this today, as soon as we got today`s big news and I was like, oh,
yeah, that`s exactly right, that was this day, 12 years ago. The day after
the 2006 midterms, you know, after we learned for the first time that Nancy
Pelosi would be speaker of the House, Democrats are taking control of
Congress, day after the midterms in `06, that`s when President Bush fired
Donald Rumsfeld. You remember that? Who was secretary of defense?
I mean, that was seen, essentially, as a palliative move, a concession, an
effort to stop the political bleeding. Voters in that 2006 race voted for
Democrats up and down the ballot. Voters in 2006 were clearly furious
about the course of the Iraq war. Donald Rumsfeld was not only running
that war as secretary of defense, he was essentially its public defender in
And so, after that 2006 midterm, the Bush White House responded to that
scream from the voters by pushing Rumsfeld out the very next day. Well,
now today, we`ve got something that`s not exactly a parallel. I mean,
today, it`s 12 years later. Voters last night screamed once more.
Democrats took control of Congress once again. Nancy Pelosi will once
again be ascending to the speakership. And now today, the day after the
election, another cabinet official has been fired, immediately after the
But this is basically the opposite of what happened in 2006. This time
with this firing, I mean, instead of making a concession as to what the
voters clearly wanted, what the voters said they were concerned about when
they went to the polls and voted against the president and the president`s
party, this time, the firing of a cabinet official appears to have been
done not out of an effort to try to answer the voters` concerns, this time,
it quite clearly has been done out of fear, the president`s fear.
The president firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions today appears to be a
defensive move, to try to stop the special counsel`s investigation before
Democrats actually get sworn in for the new congress, whereupon they would
have power through their control on Capitol Hill to protect that
investigation. So, I think the timing of this announcement today by the
White House was designed, clearly, to step on the tail of the election
results from last night, to replace that story with a new White House
controversy. But there`s no reason to see these two things as two
different stories. There`s no reason to split screen this.
This is all one thing. Democrats controlling Congress means they can
provide protection to the special counsel`s office, to the FBI, to the
career prosecutors and investigators who are pursuing this unprecedented
investigation into the president and his campaign, which has already
resulted in over 100 felony charges and has created this odd spectacle
where all these people at the upper echelon of the president`s campaign and
his business are right now awaiting sentencing on federal felony charges,
even as we headed into that first midterm election last night.
I mean, under normal circumstances, the president firing an attorney
general, the way you would know that was a normal firing, is because the
attorney general would be fired, and that would almost automatically
elevate the number two person at the Justice Department, the deputy
attorney general into the top job on an acting basis.
Remember Sally Yates from the whole Mike Flynn controversy during the
transition and the first few days of the Trump administration? The reason
that Sally Yates was acting attorney general through that whole controversy
is that she had been deputy attorney general under Loretta Lynch. When
Loretta Lynch left her post, that elevated Sally Yates from deputy attorney
general to be acting attorney general. So, that`s why she was acting
attorney general when she had to do all that crazy stuff, once people who
appeared to be agents of a foreign power started moving into the White
All right, under normal circumstances, firing Jeff Sessions, for any reason
at all, would elevate this man, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, to
become the acting head of the Justice Department, to become the acting
Part of the reason you can be sure that something quite abnormal just
happened here is that the president didn`t just fire Attorney General Jeff
Sessions and have Rod Rosenstein step into the top job in an acting
capacity, to fill the gig until somebody else could be nominated to take
the job full time. Instead, he fired the Attorney General Jeff Sessions
and instantly installed a new guy who has been described as Trump`s eyes
and ears in the Justice Department for months now, installed a new guy to
become the acting attorney general, slotting him in above Rod Rosenstein.
And the new guy will take over instantly all of the work at the Justice
Department, including taking control of the Mueller investigation, taking
control of the Mueller investigation away from Rod Rosenstein, and putting
it instead in the hands of this Trump loyalist.
If the Justice Department`s announcements are to be believed on their face,
as of right now, Rod Rosenstein no longer oversees the Robert Mueller
investigation. This guy, who Trump just installed on his own say-so, right
at the top, as the acting A.G., Matt Whitaker, Robert Mueller reports to
him. Which means Robert Mueller`s budget is controlled by him, which means
that Whitaker presumably has a say over anything Mueller wants to do,
including new indictments, new subpoenas, new avenues of investigation, a
report to anyone about his findings, any major step. It all has to go
through Matt Whitaker now, who the president just installed on his own say-
so, no warning, and he had to leapfrog the order of succession at the
Justice Department in order to do it.
So, there are questions we need to answer about that, right? There`s
questions we need to answer about it, and there`s one thing you need to
know tonight about it. Question number one, isn`t there an ethics process
at the Justice Department that might prevent Matt Whitaker for taking over
the Mueller investigation, that might force him to recuse from overseeing
the Mueller investigation on the basis of his many public statements
criticizing the Mueller investigation and saying it should be shut down or
All right, this is not something where we perceive Matt Whitaker as, you
know, objective agnostic on the issue. Before he got the job that he`s had
recently at the Justice Department, he was basically a professional pundit
whose whole job was talking smack about the Mueller investigation and
opining publicly on TV about ways that it could be shut down. Once you`ve
publicly opined on something like that, you shouldn`t be involved as a
Isn`t there an ethics process at the Justice Department that`s supposed to
police that and make sure there`s a recusal for anybody who`s already
proclaimed their bias on a matter they might become involved in? That`s
Question two. If the answer to that is yes, if career ethics officials at
the Justice Department have looked into this and made a determination as to
whether or not Matt Whitaker should be recused from overseeing the Mueller
investigation, would we know about that? And if they told him he had to
recuse and he couldn`t oversee that investigation, would he have to follow
And number three. The special counsel`s office itself is not commenting on
this matter, as usual. But is there any other way that we can get
visibility into whether or not this move by President Trump today, to fire
Jeff Sessions as attorney general, to instead leapfrog the line of
succession at the Justice Department and install this loyalist who is a
publicly declared opponent of the Mueller investigation, can we see, are we
allowed to tell whether and when and how this is a live, active White House
effort right this second to shut down Mueller`s investigation?
Now, I said those were questions we need answers to, I actually think we
can get answers to all of those questions tonight and we`re going to try to
over the course of this hour. But I also said there was one thing I think
you should know that I want to tell you about this tonight, one thing I
want to tell you is that there are groups all across the country who have
been preparing for months now for the inevitable day when President Trump
would take action to end the Mueller investigation. Today, those groups
decided that this is it. That this is the break glass in case of emergency
moment for which they have been preparing and organizing for months.
And so, they have said it`s a go. Tomorrow at 5:00 p.m. local time, all
over the country, there are already over 900 protests planned to
#ProtectMueller. You have been reading for months about these organizing
efforts about what people should do in case of emergency to save Mueller`s
team, to save its work, to preserve this investigation.
The groups who have been working on this decided today that what happened
today with the firing of Jeff Sessions and the installation of this new guy
to oversee the Mueller investigation, the groups who have been working on
this for months have decided that today is that emergency.
So we expect protests all over the country, tomorrow, 5:00 p.m. local time.
I just looked online before I got on the set. There are more than 900 of
them planned already across the country. We`re going to have some expert
advice coming up in terms of answering those questions.
We`ve got Congresswoman-elect Lauren Underwood coming up joining us this
hour. We`ve got a lot to get to. Stay with us.
MADDOW: In August 2017, so August last year, this was this op-ed about
Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Quote: Mueller`s investigation of Trump is
going too far. Quote, the president is absolutely correct. Mueller has
come up to a red line in the Russia 2016 election meddling investigation
that he`s dangerously close to crossing.
If he were to continue to investigate the financial relationships without a
broadened scope in his appointment, this would raise serious concerns that
the special counsel`s investigation was, indeed, a mere witch hunt. Same
guy also retweeted articles saying the president`s lawyers should not
cooperate with, quote, Mueller`s lynch mob.
When a bipartisan group of senators drafted bills to protect the special
counsel`s office from political interference from the White House, this
same person argued that would be a mistake, and Mueller was, quote, already
That same person also went on TV repeatedly to suggest strategies that
might undercut the special counsel or shut down the investigation all
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATT WHITAKER, ACTING ATTORNEY GENERAL: I can see a scenario where Jeff
Sessions is replaced with a recess appointment, and that attorney general
doesn`t fire Bob Mueller, just reduces his budget so low that his
investigation grinds to almost a halt.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Today, the person who wrote all those things and said all those
things attacking the special counsel`s office and proposing ways to destroy
their investigation or stop it in its tracks, today, that person got a new
job. He will now be in charge of overseeing the Robert Mueller
investigation. When the president fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions, he
did not allow Sessions` deputy, Rod Rosenstein, to become the acting
attorney general, which would be the normal course of events.
He instead installed Matt Whitaker, who used to have a job as a full-time
pundit, railing against the Mueller investigation. He, as of today, has
been put in charge of it. What happens now?
Joining us now is David Laufman. He is the former chief of the Justice
Department`s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section. One of his
roles was to oversee the Russia investigation at the Justice Department
before Robert Mueller was appointed.
Mr. Laufman, it`s an honor to have you with us tonight. Thank you for
DAVID LAUFMAN, FORMER CHIEF OF JUSTICE DEPARTMENT COUNTERINTELLIGENCE &
EXPORT CONTROL : Good to be with you tonight, Rachel.
MADDOW: Am I right that it is not the normal course of events that
somebody new would be installed in the acting attorney general`s role
rather than allowing the deputy attorney general to step up into that
LAUFMAN: I can`t say it`s never been done before, but it`s certainly
unusual, especially with such an experienced deputy attorney general as Rod
Rosenstein, ready to step up and assume that function until another A.G.
can be nominated.
MADDOW: Obviously, Mr. Whitaker, as acting attorney general, I understand
he can serve in that role for something like seven months, under statute,
before he needs to be replaced. He can`t stay in that job indefinitely.
He could be there until this summer. As acting attorney general, he`ll
oversee everything at the Justice Department. The Justice Department
making clear that includes the Mueller investigation.
There is this issue of whether or not he ought to be recused from that,
though, based on his public statements, criticizing the investigation,
talking about curtailing it and ways to shut it down. That`s how it seems
to me from a layman`s perspective. How do you see that?
LAUFMAN: Well, look, he may not be under a legal obligation to recuse
himself like Attorney General Sessions was because of Attorney General
Sessions` involvement in the Trump campaign, but there is, at a minimum, to
put it kindly, a grotesque appearance of a conflict, an appearance of
impropriety by virtue of his many statements questioning the legitimacy or
the scope of the special counsel`s investigation.
So, now the, you know, the fox has been put in charge of the chicken coop,
and there`s reason for great alarm about the future well being and latitude
of the special counsel`s investigation, about the ability of special
counsel Mueller and his team to complete all the necessary logical
investigative steps and charging decisions of any that remain ahead. The
writing of a report, the transmittal of a report to Congress, that
ordinarily would be carried out, if left to their discretion.
MADDOW: When ethics officials at the Justice Department advised senior
officials on whether or not they need to recuse from something, do we have
any transparency in that process? Are we the public ever allowed to know
either – can we ask for a statement or can we FOIA a statement about what
kind of advice has been given? And if that advice has been given to Mr.
Whitaker in conjunction with this case, would he be obliged to follow that
LAUFMAN: Well, there is an ethics apparatus at the Department of Justice,
it`s centered in the deputy attorney general`s office, so, it`s centered in
Rod Rosenstein`s office. One of Rod`s senior staff people is the senior
ethics official for the department. I happen to know that individual.
He`s a fine lawyer, he`s a fine person, he`s a long-time career official.
If asked to, I`m sure he would produce a fine legal analysis with a
But this is a more subjective kind of, you know it when you see it, it
should be so obvious that someone with statements attributed to him that
Mr. Whitaker has, should have nothing to do with oversight of the Mueller
investigation. And so, unless a kind of ethics insurrection arises within
the department where he is pressed upon to recuse himself, it`s improbable
that he`s going to give any credence to recommendations that he recuse
himself. And it`s inconceivable that he would recuse himself, because the
president installed him in this job to get rid of an attorney general who
could – who was recused.
So, it`s just – we are in this hall of mirrors here where we are now stuck
with a perilous situation at the department, and we are going to have to
rely on the moral courage and fortitude of people like Rod Rosenstein and
other department officials to speak truth to power and to advise the
incoming attorney general as forcefully as they can what steps they think
he should take, that are in the best interests of the Department of
MADDOW: David Laufman, chief of the counterintelligence section at the
Justice Department, which meant he had an oversight in the Russian
investigation before special counsel Robert Mueller was appointed.
Mr. Laufman, I know that speaking publicly on these matters is not your
favorite thing in the world. I appreciate you making time to be with us
tonight. Thank you, sir.
LAUFMAN: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: This is a serious step by the president. I just want to
underscore what Mr. Laufman said in terms of relying on people within the
Justice Department, essentially to squawk, to allow it to be known what`s
going on there. If, in fact, we`ve got a crisis of ethics in the Justice
Department, and if, in fact, this move was done to obstruct justice, to
shut down the investigation that is lawfully pursuing these matters. And
that hasn`t come to its conclusions.
All right. We`ve got more to come tonight. We`re going to be joined by a
leading member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, also Congresswoman-elect
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Chris Coons is the Democratic senator from the great state of
Delaware. He is known for his bipartisan, good faith collegiality with
colleagues of all stripes. He`s known for his civility and for being
calmed and cool and collected at basically all times.
That reputation is what made it all the more striking today to see the hot
fire which Chris Coons responded when news broke today that the president
had fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions and instead installed a White
House loyalist named Matt Whitaker to take over the operations of the
Justice Department and the Mueller investigation, specifically.
He responded online, quote: If there`s any indication that the president
has fired the attorney general and named Mr. Whitaker as acting attorney
general to influence or end special counsel Mueller`s investigation, that
would make today`s action an historic attack on the rule of law. Quote,
that is a red line, which President Trump has been warned not to cross by
Republicans and Democrats alike for months.
Joining us now is Senator Chris Coons from the great state of Delaware,
member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Senator Coons, thank you for making time to join us tonight, sir.
SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: You called this action by the president today a red line if this
appointment was made in order to influence or end the special counsel`s
Can you tell me what you mean by that?
COONS: That`s right. If he forced out Attorney General Jeff Sessions and
replaced him not with Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, but
instead with a loyalist, Matthew Whitaker, in order to have Acting Attorney
General Whitaker squeeze or end the investigation by Robert Mueller, that
would be an obstruction of justice action. And there have been some strong
words by senators, both Republican and Democrat, for months, cautioning
President Trump against interfering with the Mueller investigation.
Many senators have said, if the president is innocent, it`s in his best
interest to have this investigation go all the way to its conclusion.
There were some more statements today, by Senator-elect Mitt Romney, by
Senator Lamar Alexander, by Senator Susan Collins, by many Democrats, as
well, saying the president should not interfere. But if, as your previous
guest indicated, there`s a decisive step taken to curtail the scope and the
reach, the funding or the support of the Mueller investigation, that would
be a decisive moment and we would need to match these words with action.
I`m calling on the Senate to take up and vote on and pass the bipartisan
bill that I introduced last year, with three other senators. It`s already
passed the Senate Judiciary Committee by a strong bipartisan vote of 14-7.
It`s ready for action on the floor. And this strikes me as the sort of
moment that should precipitate bipartisan action in the Senate.
MADDOW: The kind of worry that you`re describing there, that action should
be taken to stop the Mueller investigation, how would you know if that had
happened? I mean, one of the things that has become a hallmark of this
investigation is that the special counsel`s office is incredibly tight-
lipped. We know them by their public actions and not by their words. If
there was action taken, even today already within the Justice Department,
to kybosh some element of the investigation, or to divert it or slow
something down, how would we know?
COONS: That`s part of my concern here, Rachel, is that we don`t have any
direct way to know that. We`d only find out about it if there were people
directly connected with the Mueller probe who allowed that to be shared.
And as you mentioned, they`ve been extraordinarily tight-lipped and have
controlled information from getting outside that probe.
Robert Mueller is a decorated combat veteran. He`s a life-long Republican.
He`s a by the book federal law enforcement leader. He`s run a very tight
ship and he hasn`t had leaks, unlike virtually every previous independent
investigation like this.
So, we might not know, and we might not be able to act in time, to defend
I`ll just remind you, the only reason we`re having this conversation is
because President Trump fired FBI Director Jim Comey, and then went on
television and said he did so in order to stop the Russia probe. That`s
what led to the appointment of a special counsel. It was broadly supported
in a bipartisan way last year. This is likely going to be the kind of
moment when we have to put up or shut up, and it`s going to call for
actions by senators of both parties.
MADDOW: If Mr. Whitaker has been told or is soon advised by ethics lawyers
at the Justice Department that he cannot ethically oversee this
investigation, his public statements criticizing the investigation and, in
fact, declare his bias in a way that he can`t ethically oversee it, if he
defies that advice, or if we come to learn that he received that advice and
ignored it, does the Judiciary Committee or any other element of the U.S.
government have any way to correct that?
COONS: Not that I`m aware of. I mean, we could certainly call acting
Attorney General Whitaker in front of the Judiciary Committee, I think he
should appear in front of us to answer questions about his intentions with
regard to the Mueller probe and other issues. We have an oversight
responsibility where there`s a new acting attorney general. I think it
would be completely appropriate for Chairman Grassley to invite him to come
over and answer some of these questions.
But in the minority, Democrats on the committee can`t compel him to come
and testify. We can simply raise the issue, press the issue. One of my
concerns here is that as we move into the next Congress, our margin in the
Senate may get worse. We`ve lost probably two seats, maybe three in the
Senate in terms of the Democrat/Republican balance. And that may affect
our ability to bring together a bipartisan group that will compel action
MADDOW: Senator Chris Coons of Delaware, a member of the Senate Judiciary
Committee. Sir, thank you. I know it`s a very busy time. Thanks for
being with us tonight.
COONS: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. As I mentioned, tomorrow, a lot of groups across the
country who have been preparing for this moment are calling for protests
across the country. More than 900 are planned. They`re for 5:00 local
time Thursday, tomorrow afternoon.
It remains to be seen how many people will turn out for those. The
question is whether or not this was the break glass moment. Groups who
have been organizing for this say that it is and it will be interesting to
see how many people turn out tomorrow to try to protect the Mueller
All right. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Lauren Underwood grew up in Naperville, Illinois. When she was 8
years old, she was diagnosed with a chronic heart condition. That`s what
made her want to become a nurse, watching her own caregivers back when she
was a little kid.
Lauren Underwood became a nurse. She ended up taking her nursing
experience to the Obama administration, where she worked at the Health and
Human Services Department helping to implement the Affordable Care Act.
Back home in Illinois, Lauren Underwood`s congressman, Republican Randy
Hultgren, voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and that`s when things
started to change in Lauren Underwood`s life.
(BEGI VIDEO CLIP)
LAUREN UNDERWOOD (D-IL), CONGRESSWOMAN-ELECT: Good morning, everyone.
It`s Lauren Underwood. We are here in Naperville.
Hi. This is Lauren Underwood.
I want to remind you to vote. I`m Lauren Underwood.
I`m licensed as a nurse. I spent my career working to expand health care
coverage in communities across the country.
I`m Lauren Underwood. Nice to meet you.
The 2016 election happened, I was faced with this America on TV that didn`t
look anything like what I knew.
In a district that`s never elected a woman, seeing a young woman of color
is certainly a lot for some people. No one invited us to this table.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m so proud of you.
UNDERWOOD: No one. And I think that`s also what makes it so powerful.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOWE After the 2016 presidential election, with her hometown
congressman voting to get rid of the Affordable Care Act, Lauren Underwood
decided she would run for Congress. Thirty-two years old, never run for
anything. She`s from the 14th district in Illinois, which is a solid red
part of the state, a Trump district.
Eighty-six percent of that district is white. Voters there have never sent
a person of color to Congress. They have never sent a woman, either.
By all accounts, Lauren Underwood was a pipe dream to fill that seat held
by the Republican who had voted to take away her health care. Until she
wasn`t, last night, Lauren Underwood won. She turfed out a four-time
Republican congressman, 20 years her senior in a race everybody told her
she would lose.
Today, “The Chicago Sun-Times”, look at that, put her photo on the front
page, right next to this headline. “House Flippers.” She`s not a dolphin.
She`s a congresswoman-elect.
Joining us now is Lauren Underwood, congresswoman-elect from the 14th
district in Illinois.
Congratulations, Ms. Underwood. Thank you so much for being with us.
UNDERWOOD: Thank you, Rachel. I`m so honored to be on.
MADDOW: One of the reasons I wanted to talk to you tonight is because I
learned today after you won that you beat six men in the primary to get
this spot on the ballot?
UNDERWOOD: I did. And in that primary election, we had a field of seven.
I got 57 percent of the vote in that primary, which is pretty unprecedented
and went on to win the general election last night against Congressman
MADDOW: What is the secret to your success? To winning that primary, to
winning in a Trump district, to unseating a four-term incumbent, to what do
you attribute this?
UNDERWOOD: Well, when we launched this campaign, we had a goal of being
everywhere in our district all the time. You see, this is a seat that was
formerly held by the U.S. speaker of the house, Dennis Hastert, and a
Democrat succeeded him, Bill Foster, but it had been a long time since
there was real grassroots Democratic involvement, training and an
opportunity for a candidate to be able to travel to the rural and suburban
parts of the community and really build and mobilize a campaign that could
And so, we said that we were going to go to even the most rural parts of
the district, maybe that hadn`t been touched by a Democrat in 10 years, we
had farmers tell us that no Democrat had knocked on their door in that time
frame. And we showed up and showed up and showed up in those living rooms,
in those fields, and in those cul-de-sacs to engage our neighbors.
MADDOW: You were 30 years old when you decided to run for this seat. You
are 32 now. You`re going to be one of the youngest people elected to
Congress. And as an African-American woman, as a woman of color, running
in this district – I mean, that itself was such – it has to have been
such a steep climb.
I mean, I mentioned in the introduction, 86 percent white resident. You`re
running as a first time candidate, as a woman, as a young woman, as an
African-American woman. I want to know whether or not that was daunting
for you, whether that was a factor in terms of your confidence and in your
UNDERWOOD: Well, this is my community. It`s my home. My family moved to
Naperville when I was 3 years old. So, this is a community that taught me
to be a black woman in the world. And so, I certainly never – it never
crossed my mind that I was somehow not a good fit or unqualified to seek
this seat and run for this position.
And so, I stepped forward. And with the help of so many women in our
district, we were able to do what many folks had never imagined would be
possible. And I`m really proud that our election day was 50 years and one
day after Shirley Chisholm became the first black woman elected to the
United States Congress and I will be upon swearing in, the youngest black
woman ever to serve in the United States Congress.
MADDOW: What are your priorities for when you get there? Do you have a
dream in terms of committees, in terms of legislation to work on?
Obviously, you are getting there as part of a new Democratic majority.
There`s no Democratic majority in the Senate to work as a partner, but
there will be Democratic control of those committees and you`re coming in
as a bit of a star.
UNDERWOOD: Oh, thank you. Well, I am really focused on health care. It
has emerged as the number one issue in the election across my community
because premium prices are high, prescription drug prices are high, and so
many families across northern Illinois are feeling squeezed. As a nurse, I
know how important it is to protect pre-existing conditions. I also have a
pre-existing condition myself and so this health care agenda, lowering
prices, making sure that we can expand coverage and include real mental
health care reforms are the things I want to immediately begin tackling.
MADDOW: Illinois Congresswoman-elect Lauren Underwood, it`s such a
pleasure to have you here. It was a joy to follow your campaign from
across the country. And good luck to you. Please keep us apprised. Stay
in touch. We`d love to see how this goes for you.
UNDERWOOD: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right, thanks. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: One more piece of breaking election news tonight. What appears
poised to be another Republican to Democratic flip in the House, and this
is a weird one. Just check this out.
Just in the last hour, the New Mexico secretary of state adjusted the vote
count in a race we had previously thought was decided. This is the second
district in New Mexico, a seat that was left open when Republican Steve
Pearce left it to run for governor of new Mexico last night, he lost. The
reason I say this is a weird one is because last night, the Republican in
this race, Yvette Herrell, she was the projected winner. She even declared
victory around 10:30 p.m. last night.
We should have known something was up, though, because the Democrat in the
race, Democrat named Xochitl Torres Small, she didn`t concede. She said
she was waiting on votes that hadn`t yet been counted.
Well, sure enough, as of the right now, local station KOB is reporting that
the race has apparently turned, thanks to 8,000 ballots from a single
county that hadn`t been posted or counted last night. Apparently, there`s
still another 100 ballots that need to be hand-counted plus another 1,000
provisional ballots to be tallied.
But as it stands right now with the addition of those 8,000 ballots nobody
knew about last night, it kind of looks like a Republican hasn`t won in New
Mexico at all. That in fact Xochitl Torres Small has a 3,000 vote lead.
Xochitl Torres Small, if she pulls this out, she will become the first
woman to represent New Mexico`s second congressional district, and she will
become yet another Democrat who has taken the seat previously held by a
Republican incumbent. Again, that one not yet called but sort of uncalled
at this point.
That does it for us tonight. See you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
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