Thousands of protesters in Times Square. TRANSCRIPT: 11/8/2018, The Rachel Maddow Show.

Guests:
Elijah Cummings, Sharice Davids
Transcript:

Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: November 8, 2018
Guest: Elijah Cummings, Sharice Davids

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: And thanks to you at home for joining me this
hour. Happy Thursday.

So, for months, we have been hearing about organizing efforts, what people
plan to do in case President Trump took action to try to shut down the
investigation, the investigation into Russian interference into his
election and the crucial question of whether his campaign was in on that
foreign operation. So, for months, activist groups have been openly
developing a plan for there to be some sort of public response as soon as
the president just stopped talking smack about that investigation and moved
instead to take his first steps to actually curtail it.

Well, yesterday, after the president fired the attorney general and
installed a hand-picked replacement to oversee the entire Justice
Department, including the Mueller investigation, those groups that have
been musing about this possibility for months, yesterday, they declared
that they had reached their break glass in case of emergency moment. And
so, that put their long developed plan into action for today.

Under the banner “protect Mueller”, which is the number one trending
hashtag on Twitter tonight, and has been all night, and under the
additional banner, nobody is above the law. At 5:00 p.m. local time all
over the country tonight, people showed up. In New York City, it was
thousands of people in Times Square. Ultimately, they marched as a group
downtown towards Union Square. It’s a distance of 25, 30 city blocks. The
marchers apparently stretched for about a dozen of those blocks as they
marched downtown.

In Virginia, state route 7 in Virginia, talk about contrast with Times
Square. Look at this. Rural state route 7 looked like this. The sign
saying truth and protect Mueller. In Roanoke, Virginia, people marched
with big banners that read “no one is above the law. Protect the
investigation.”

In Kansas City, Missouri, in what looks like, as this looks to me like the
dreaded wintry mix, right? Snowy, slushy rain. Hey, hey, ho, ho, maybe
it’s ho, ho, hey, hey. There we go, Mueller ain’t going away. That rhymes
better than hey, hey, ho, ho.

People came out in Charleston, South Carolina, tonight as well. People
came out in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio. In red state Alabama, in the
beautiful city of Birmingham, Alabama, people came out tonight.

In Philadelphia, people gathered at Thomas Payne Plaza in large numbers to
demand that the president’s hand-picked appointee must be recused from the
Mueller investigation. He cannot be allowed to oversee it.

Hundreds of people turned out tonight in Minneapolis where it is heading
down toward 19 degrees tonight. They decided to gather in front of the
office of just unseated Republican Congressman Erik Paulsen, asking him to
protect Mueller. I think this is why people didn’t mind the cold there
tonight. No more Minnesota nice. Now I’m Minnesota mad.

People were out in places like Buffalo, New York, and Austin, Texas,
Madison, Wisconsin, and Omaha, Nebraska. The protests were bigger in some
cities and smaller in others. Little Rock, ArKansas, Smyrna, Georgia,
Sioux Falls, South Dakota where it was snowing, Santa Fe, New Mexico.

In Chicago, somebody held this vaguely threatening but also very well done
sign, Mueller is coming for you.

In Pittsboro, North Carolina, Pittsboro, more than 100 people gathered in
front of the courthouse. Pittsboro, North Carolina.

And there are so many more cities where these things happened tonight on
zero notice. Morristown, New Jersey, Kingston, New York, St. Louis,
Missouri, Bar Harbor, Maine. I mean, people were out on the road in super
snowy Bemidji, Minnesota tonight, and then in warm and sunny St.
Petersburg, Florida. All 50 states.

So people out in the streets tonight, and that’s asking a lot of people,
right, in terms of their civic engagement just this week. I mean, just two
days ago, everybody had to freakin’ line up to vote, take time out of the
day, in some cases take many hours out of the day to go vote on Tuesday.
Everybody stayed up late on Tuesday night, watching the election returns
come in.

Now, it’s just two days later, and thousands of people are out in the
streets, over a thousand protests all around the country. Sometimes,
citizenship requires overtime and double shifts.

But the nearness of those two civic engagements, the election on Tuesday
and all those protests today, it’s not a coincidence, right? The reasons
why this is happening now are clear, including brand-new developments in
today’s news. Some of which happened very much out loud in the headlines
and in the press, and one big development we’re going to talk about in this
story that happened quietly in a very serious and sober courtroom in
Washington, D.C.

Well, let’s talk about the out loud part first. As you know, the
Democratic Party sort of cleaned up in the elections. Democrats appear to
be on track now to pick up 37 seats in the House of Representatives. What
people said would be the sort of unimaginably gigantic Democratic wave for
this election would be 40 seats. It looks like Democrats are going to get
37. That is way more than usual, which Democrats aren’t afraid to tell you
now.

I mean, typical gain for the party that doesn’t control the White House in
the midterm election is in the low 20s in terms of the number of seats that
party picks up in the House. As more and more of these close races have
been called over the past couple of days and even into this evening, it is
starting to look like Democrats aren’t going to be anywhere near the low
20s. Their pickups for this election are going to be way closer to 40. So
that’s big deal for the Democratic Party and for the balance of power in
Washington.

Tonight this hour, we’re going to be speaking with a first-time candidate
who won her election on Tuesday night. She unseated an entrenched
Republican incumbent. She is our guest tonight live. She is going to
surprise you in lots of ways. I’m very much looking forward to talking
with her.

We’re also going to be speaking in just a few minutes with the powerhouse
Democratic congressman who will now be the incoming chairman of the
Oversight Committee in Congress, the House Oversight Committee, Congressman
Elijah Cummings. So, I have been looking forward to talk with him ever
since it seemed it might be remotely possible that he might be chairman of
that pour powerful arm of Congress.

So, we’re having both of them here on the show tonight this hour. But
immediately after these election results started to become clear on Tuesday
night, right after the election, on Wednesday morning, that is when the
president fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions, or at least secured his
prearranged resignation. Now, part of the reaction to that move by the
president has been a big, loud counter argument today that what the
president did to replace Jeff Sessions at the Justice Department might have
been illegal.

That case was made in bold print today at “The New York Times” by a high
profile constitutional lawyer who is former acting solicitor general of the
United States, Neal Katyal. And his co-author in this piece is somebody
who was reportedly considered to be solicitor general in the Trump
administration. His name is George T. Conaway III.

He is a distinguished conservative lawyer in his own right, but he is
probably best known now as the husband of White House senior adviser
Kellyanne Conway. Katyal and Conway argued today that while it’s within
the president’s rights to fire Attorney General Jeff Session, it’s not
within the president’s rights to install his own random hand-picked guy to
take over the Justice Department from Jeff Sessions and become the acting
attorney general.

Quote: Because Matthew Whitaker has not undergone the process of Senate
confirmation, there has been no mechanism for scrutinizing whether he has
the character and ability to evenhandedly enforce the law in a position of
such grave responsibility. The public is entitled to that assurance,
especially since Mr. Whittaker’s only supervisor is President Trump
himself, and the president is hopelessly compromised by the Mueller
investigation.

Quote: Mr. Trump’s installation of Matthew Whitaker of acting attorney
general of the United States is unconstitutional. It is illegal, and it
means that anything Mr. Whittaker does or tries to do in that position is
invalid.

Now I’m not a lawyer. Do not take my advice. I couldn’t get you out of a
parking ticket if you got a parking ticket while you were on a pogo stick.
I can not help you.

But if you want to know what explains all the three-inch-all the headlines
about what Trump just did here right after the election, how he was able to
actually get the election results off the front pages of newspapers across
the country, right, if you want to know what’s got those three-inch
headlines and what’s got people out in the streets in a thousand different
protests tonight, and what’s got all these serious legal minds and these
law enforcement veterans all saying, this is the crisis we have been
expecting, the reason people are freaked out is because what the president
has done here basically has – again, I’m not a lawyer, but what we’re
seeing the arguments here are constitutional concerns and criminal
concerns.

Constitutionally, what should have happened here under normal circumstances
is if the attorney general was going to quit or get fired, that should have
activated the line of succession at the Justice Department, right? The guy
who would then take over as acting attorney general for the time being
would be the next in line at the Justice Department. The next in line,
Senate confirmed deputy Attorney General of the United States Rod
Rosenstein. That did not happen. The president instead leapfrogged
Rosenstein, leapfrogged that normal chain of command and instead installed
his own guy.

So those are basically the vastly oversimplified constitutional concerns
here. But then there is also just the very blunt question of obstruction
of justice, right? We’ve all become like mini laymen experts on
obstruction of justice in the Trump era.

It’s within any president’s right to fire or demand the resignation of any
cabinet officer, including the attorney general. Just like it’s within the
president’s rights to fire or demand the resignation of the director of the
FBI, unless, unless, of course, it turns out that the reason the president
was doing either of those things is because he had a corrupt purpose in
mind. He did it for the corrupt purpose of undermining a criminal
investigation that he is worried might catch him or catch his family or his
campaign or administration, right?

It’s a pretty simple basic principle, right? The president has the
absolute right to pardon anybody in the country for any crime. But he
can’t do so for a corrupt purpose. He can’t do so because somebody gave
him a million bucks to do it, right? You can do something that’s within
your legal rights for a non-corrupt purpose, but as soon as you take a
bribe or you do it for some other corrupt purpose, well, that’s no longer
within your rights.

The president can fire cabinet officials. He can fire the heads of
agencies, as long as he isn’t doing so for the purpose of obstructing
justice. So that’s the reason, right, why the James Comey firing resulted
in special counsel Robert Mueller being appointed. That firing
investigated as potential criminal obstruction of justice by the president.
Did he fire Comey in order to shut down parts of the Russia investigation
that threatened the president?

Similarly, if there is evidence that Attorney General Jeff Sessions was
fired yesterday in an effort to block the Mueller investigation, in an
effort to protect the president from that investigation, you can expect
that the sessions firing as well will ultimately come under investigation
as potential criminal obstruction of justice, if it has not already. And
that worry that the president might have fired Attorney General Jeff
Sessions for a corrupt purpose as part of a criminal scheme to obstruct
justice to get rid of the Mueller investigation that threatens him, that
got a big boost today from the free press when multiple news outlets
started going through the record of this person who the president plucked
from obscurity and installed at the head of the Justice Department to
replace Jeff Sessions, right?

Obviously, from the outset, it’s not a normal appointment. The normal
course of events would have been to allow the number two at the Justice
Department to take the job temporarily until somebody new was appointed.
He didn’t do that. Instead, he takes this guy from outside, not a Senate
confirmed guy, and plops him in there.

Well, did he do that for a corrupt purpose? Let’s look at what we know
about this appointment. Obviously, first thing you might ask is, well, is
this person qualified to do the job?

He’s a lawyer. He’s a former U.S. attorney. The reason we have this weird
video of him is because this is him promoting a Neato swinging seat that
you can clip on to the outside of your hot tub. We also have this odd
video of him promoting bulky plastic holders for razor blades.

The reason we have this weird video of Matt Whitaker is because this
appears to have been Matt Whitaker’s last job before landing there the
Trump administration. He was on the board of and otherwise actively
associated with a company called World Patent Marketing. It no longer
exists.

This is a company that was shut down six months ago by the FTC as a
criminally fraudulent scheme. The company was shut down by orders of the
U.S. government, and they were ordered to pay a fine. They were ordered to
pay a $26 million judgment to the FTC for being a gigantic fraud scheme,
which ripped off its customers to the tune of hundreds of thousands of
dollars each. That’s where Matt Whitaker comes from.

Quite recently, they paid their fine six months ago. He also made money as
the soulful time employee of something called FACT. FACT was funded by, we
don’t know who, dark money donors only. He was the only employee. FACT
appears to have exited for the sole purpose of giving Matt Whitaker an
affiliation to put under his name when goes on cable news shows and right-
wing radio, to be a full-time anti-Hillary Clinton, anti-Robert Mueller
pundit.

Over the course of this afternoon and into this evening, what has started
to emerge is his extensive record of public criticism, public attacks on
the Mueller investigation the president has now put him in charge of. The
special counsel’s investigation led by Robert Mueller into Russian
interference in the 2016 presidential election and the question of whether
the Trump campaign colluded in that attack.

Mr. Whittaker has just been installed directly by President Trump to
oversee that investigation. Mr. Whitaker quite clearly is a person who has
already made up his mind about the key questions at the heart of that
investigation.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEW WHITAKER, ACTING ATTORNEY GENERAL: I think we would know if there
was a smoking gun, or any gun, or any smoke. I think we would know. I
think we would know if there was evidence suggesting that there was a crime
that happened here.

Let’s assume that the president asked him to stop investigating Flynn.
That doesn’t rise to the level of obstruction of justice. This idea that
there was some collusion with Russian nationals and even Putin to interfere
and did interfere with the election I think is just ludicrous based on what
we know at this point.

The truth is there is no collusion with the Russians in the Trump campaign.
There is not a single piece of evidence that demonstrates that the Trump
campaign had any illegal or even improper relationships with Russians.
It’s that simple.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MADDOW: Clearly, this is a man who has made up his mind in terms of this
investigation. You know, and that’s fine. You can – it’s not a criminal
act to leap to your own conclusions about what the Russia investigation
will ultimately find, right? It’s fine if you’ve made up your mind about
it and declared what your made-up mind has decided about that
investigation. That’s fine.

Unless, of course, you want to become the Justice Department official whose
in charge of supervising that investigation while it is ongoing, because
that investigation is actually designed to determine factually whether or
not any of those things is true. And if you’ve already decided and
declared publicly what you believe to be true, then the one thing you can’t
do is oversee that investigation at the Justice Department. It’s good
punditry living, but you can’t actually run the investigation, not for U.S.
law enforcement.

But those comments by Matt Whitaker and others were dug up today by the
very capable Andrew Kaczynski at CNN and by a team of reporters at “The
Daily Beast”. And hour-by-hour, more news outlets have been turning up
more comments like these from Matthew Whitaker who again, the president has
just installed at the head of the Justice Department and specifically as
the supervisor of the Mueller investigation.

And honestly, I mean, so we know why the president has done what he has
done, right? But there’s another equity here, right? There’s the Justice
Department. And the Justice Department has rules that are supposed to
prevent this sort of thing.

The Justice Department has rules that are supposed to stop somebody who is
a declared partisan about an ongoing Justice Department investigation,
somebody who has declared in no uncertain terms what he believes the
outcome of that investigation should and will be. Justice Department rules
don’t allow a person in that circumstance to run that investigation. They
have lots of processes in place to make sure that doesn’t happen.

And, you know, the Justice Department has to still be standing when Trump
gets done with it. The Justice Department is not only staffed by Donald
Trump appointees. It is staffed by career prosecutors and career Justice
Department officials who are not partisans, who are not rooting for one
side or the other. People who are committed to the marrow of their bones
to the idea of impartial law enforcement in the United States that is not
bent at will by the president to serve his own needs and to let him get
away with crimes, right?

And then the president installs that guy to run that investigation. So
here we are. We got over a thousand protests in every nook and cranny in
the country tonight, including all 50 states. And this guy is now
technically in charge of all U.S. law enforcement as of right now,
including the active investigation into the president, that president
personally put him in charge of after this guy denounced it publicly as a
lynch mob and a witch-hunt and no collusion, no collusion, lock her up.

The Justice Department itself as an institution just can’t conceivably
allow something like this to happen, right? I mean, this so defies not
just the rules, but the very core principles of what the Justice Department
is and why it exists. Otherwise, the president would just have his own
police force, right?

I mean, knowing what we know about the history of the Justice Department,
presumably something breaks here in terms of this appointment as acting
attorney general that the president has tried to put in place in the
immediate wake of the election – specifically, this appointee being
allowed to take over what the special counsel’s office is investigating.
And so here is one last thing you should know. I mentioned a whole bunch
of really important stuff happened on this issue today out loud, and in the
press. But there is manage else that happened today in court.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

MICHAEL DREEBEN, DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE: The purpose of the appointment was
to provide assurance to the American people that an investigation would be
conducted that was sufficiently independent of the ordinary chain of
command so that the United States people could have confidence in it.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MADDOW: That is the voice of Michael Dreeben, who is considered to be one
of the top appellate lawyers in the country. He is one of the top
prosecutors working under Robert Mueller in the special counsel’s office.
Mueller’s investigation essentially went silent ahead of this week’s
elections. That’s according to Justice Department rules.

But today in court, a three-judge panel in the D.C. Court of Appeals, they
heard arguments in a Mueller case, a case that has been brought to the
court specifically to try to end the Mueller investigation.

This is a case we’ve talked about a few different times on the show. It
involves a guy who once worked for Roger Stone. He is somebody who nobody
has heard of. His name is Andrew Miller. I believe he is a house painter
in Missouri now.

Mr. Miller was subpoenaed by the grand jury that is being run by the
special counsel’s office. He was subpoenaed to hand over documents and to
testify. He rejected the subpoena. He challenged the subpoena. He said
Mueller has no authority to give him a subpoena, and they have turned his
case into a legal vehicle to try to have the very appointment of Robert
Mueller declared unconstitutional.

And as I said, I’m not a lawyer. I don’t know how this will go. Clearly,
the plaintiffs here want this to go all the way to the Supreme Court. The
lawyer for the Roger Stone guy spoke with reporters outside today’s hearing
and explained bluntly that he wants this case to get to the Supreme Court
as soon as possible, because now Brett Kavanaugh is there. And with Brett
Kavanaugh there on the court, he thinks that President Trump will get
basically whatever he wants when it comes to limitations on the Russia
investigation.

The court hearing today, though, was not a Supreme Court hearing. It was
at the D.C. Appeals Court, one level below the Supreme Court. We will see
if this case ever in fact gets to the Supremes.

But what happened today in this case, right, the day after literally a no
collusion, no collusion, anti-Hillary Clinton TV pundit affiliated with a
large criminal fraud scheme was installed by the president personally as
acting attorney general with control over the Mueller investigation, today
one day after that guy was installed in that job, here was Mueller’s team.
Here was Mueller’s top appeals court prosecutor explaining today in court
just how much of the work of the special counsel actually has to go through
– it used to be Rod Rosenstein as of yesterday. It’s now this new guy,
Matt Whitaker.

And it’s really one of the first windows we’ve ever had into how the
Mueller team is actually supervised in the Justice Department, and how
somebody in the Justice Department who had authority over them might be
able to try to shut them down. This is the first description that we had.
And we get it directly from one of the top prosecutors working Mueller’s
case.

We’ve got tape of it. I believe we’re the first people to broadcast this
nationwide. The first voice you’re going to hear is one of the judges on
the three-judge panel. The person who answers the questions is Michael
Dreeben from the special counsel’s office.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

JUDGE: Can I just ask you a couple of detailed questions on the
constitutional question and specifically about the way that supervision is
exercised? So, there is the provision that talks about the attorney
general finding that something the special counsel wants to do is so
inappropriate or unwarranted under established department practices that it
should not be pursued.

DREEBEN: Correct.

JUDGE: Do you understand that to mean that the – if the attorney general
makes that assessment, then that the special counsel can’t take the step?

DREEBEN: We do.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MADDOW: If the attorney general makes that assessment, decides something
is inappropriate or unwarranted, then the special counsel can’t take that
step? Yes.

So, Michael Dreeben from the special counsel’s office from Mueller’s office
saying bluntly to the court that the special counsel’s office just can’t do
what it wants. If the acting attorney general tells them no, what you’re
doing is inappropriate or unwarranted under established Justice Department
practices, then that acting attorney general can stop Mueller from doing
anything. And, of course, yesterday President Trump just installed a new
acting attorney general.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

DREEBEN: The special counsel has a regular reporting obligation to the
acting attorney general in order to maintain the acting attorney general’s
ultimate accountability for the investigation. That’s one of the twin
purposes of the regulation, ultimate accountability in the attorney
general, day to day independence of the special counsel. We are therefore
required to submit reports to the acting attorney general in accordance
with the Department of Justice’s urgent report guidelines, without going
into all their detail, ensured that major events, investigations are
reported up the chain of command so that supervisory officials in the
department are aware of them.

The regulations also specifically provide that the acting attorney general
can ask the special counsel for an explanation of any investigatory step.
So, he is aware of what we’re doing, and he can ask for an explanation of
it. It is not the case of the special counsel is off wandering in a free-
floating environment and can decide on his own when to report. There’s a
reporting obligation.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MADDOW: He’s aware of what we’re doing and he can ask for an explanation
of it. There is a reporting obligation.

Top prosecutor from Mueller’s office saying that all major events in the
special counsel’s office investigation, all major stuff has to be reported
up the chain of command. So, that supervisory officials in the department
are aware of those events. Quote: Ultimate accountability lies in the
attorney general, in this case the acting attorney general.

This is why it’s such a big deal that President Trump has just installed
his hand-picked guy who is an avowed enemy of Mueller’s investigation to be
the guy in charge of Mueller’s investigation.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

DREEBEN: But if the acting attorney general concludes in words that afford
him a fair amount of discretion that an action is so inappropriate to a
degree of inappropriateness or unwarranted that it shall not be pursued, he
can step in and say otherwise.

JUDGE: So it’s not that then it just triggers a reporting obligation on
the part of the attorney general?

DREEBEN: That’s right.

JUDGE: It’s that the attorney general can actually prevent the action from
happening?

DREEBEN: That is our understanding of the regulations. The preamble to
the regulations makes clear that that is part of the arsenal of powers that
the acting attorney general has.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MADDOW: It’s not just that they have to report if they do something. They
can actually stop you from doing it. The arsenal of powers that the acting
attorney general has are the kinds of powers one would not expect the
Justice Department to allow to be placed into the hands of somebody who was
completely personally compromised when it comes to overseeing an
investigation of the president.

But the president is trying it, and that’s why there were a thousand
protests in all 50 states across the country tonight.

This is what we’ve been waiting for. It turns out to be a test for the
country. It turns out to be a test first and foremost of the Justice
Department. What are they going to do here?

Congressman Elijah Cummings joins us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Overnight, a small army of senior administration officials
received this rather sobering letter, varied a little bit from agency to
agency. This is the one that went to the White House counsel.

Quote: We ask that you confirm that the White House has preserved all
materials related to any investigations by the special counsel’s office,
including any related investigations conducted by any component of the
Justice Department.

Quote, we also ask that you preserve all materials related to the departure
of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. We remind you – helpful reminder – we
remind you that concealing, removing or destroying such records may
constitute a crime, may result in the immediate disqualification from
holding a position in the federal government, and may be punishable by up
to three years imprisonment under federal law. Have a nice day, sincerely,
Congressman Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the Oversight Committee,
and other top Democrats who will be taking over powerful oversight
committees come January now that the Democrats have won the House.

Joining us now is Congressman Elijah Cummings of Maryland. He is the top
Democrat on the Oversight Committee.

Congressman, sir, it’s really nice to have you here this evening. Thank
you for making the time.

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D-MD), RANKING EMEMBER, OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: I’m
honored to be here.

MADDOW: First of all, I should say congratulations on your win on Tuesday.
I know you were reelected in a landslide. Obviously, your party also takes
control in the House.

What should the American people expect from you if and when you’re now set
to ascend to run the Oversight Committee in the House? It’s a very, very
powerful position.

CUMMINGS: They should expect us to do what they have basically told us to
do by the numbers that were voted in on the Democratic side. What they are
asking for is transparency in their government. They’re asking for
honesty, and they’re asking the Congress to simply do its job under the
Constitution.

They understand that every two years we swear to uphold the Constitution of
the United States of America. And part of that, Rachel, of that oath is
about the business of being a check on executive branch. They should
expect that, and I promise you, they will get that.

MADDOW: You and your colleagues sent what amounted to a very stern
preservation notice to the White House counsel’s office and lots of other
government agencies that may have come into contact with the special
counsel’s office at some point during the investigation, everything from
the FBI to the CIA to the NSA to the Treasury Department to the IRS.

Why did you send that preservation notice today? Are you concerned that
evidence may be at risk?

CUMMINGS: I am extremely concerned about evidence being at risk, Rachel.
Keep in mind that over the year and a half or so that President Trump has
been in office, we in the oversight committee, the Democrats have asked the
Republicans to help us get documents so that we could do what the
Constitution says we’re supposed to do, have oversight. Rachel, you cannot
do oversight without information.

They have basically refused to issue subpoenas, and they not only that, not
only have they been aiders and abettors with regard to this president, but
they have gone so far as to basically act as his defense counsel. So we
want to make sure that the evidence is preserved. We – keep in mind we
don’t take over until January. So in the meantime, we want to make sure
that everything stays intact so that we can do the appropriate
investigations.

MADDOW: If you discover once you do have the gavel in January, if you
discover retroactively that records were destroyed either during the
previous Congress or during this lame duck period, would you expect to
pursue that potentially as a criminal matter or as at least a point of
investigation?

CUMMINGS: I would think it would be legislative malpractice not to pursue
it as a criminal matter. As a matter of fact, we would be obligated to
turn that information over to the Justice Department. Now what the Justice
Department will do once they get it is a whole another thing. We would
hope that they would do what they deem to be appropriate and fair.

But we have no choice. We have to turn – we’ll have to turn that over.

MADDOW: Congressman, there are reports today that Nancy Pelosi, the
Democratic leader today scheduled an emergency call with her caucus to
discuss the president firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions yesterday and
installing a hand-picked acting attorney general whose never gone through
Senate confirmation, whose nevertheless been put in charge of the Mueller
investigation and whose been a very controversial choice on the Mueller
investigation specifically because of his many public comments disparaging
the investigation and saying how he thinks it should go.

I know you and your fellow incoming chairmen were invited to brief other
incoming Democratic House members during that call. Can you share with us
what those discussions are like within your caucus right now and what you
plan to do, if anything about this new controversial act by the president?

CUMMINGS: First of all, I was very proud that we had almost our entire
caucus, including the new members who haven’t even been sworn in yet to be
on that call. Basically, what I told them is that we must act with the
urgency of now, that Mr. Whitaker is not the person that should be sitting
in the acting general’s spot. Because, and I reference back in June of
2017, Mr. Whitaker said that there was no evidence here for a case in the
basically condemned special prosecutor. That was a month – a month after
he was appointed.

A few weeks later, he said that no lawyer would bring a case like this.
Then in August, this is 2017 now, and back in 2017, he called a – the
special prosecutor’s office a lynch mob. Those words sound kind of
interesting, but the fact is he did.

My point is he had already judged this situation, Rachel, before he even
knew the facts. The special prosecutor had just gotten started. And
that’s why we have been insisting and I agree with Leader Pelosi that he
should recuse himself.

To be frank with you, I’m shocked that he has not already recused himself.
Most lawyers in this situation would voluntarily say you know what? I
don’t want to even have the appearance of a conflict. But, again, he is
the absolute wrong person to have in this position.

And so, we again will gather our information. We’ll probably have
hearings. We’ll do our investigations and see what come of them.

MADDOW: Congressman Elijah Cummings of Maryland, who is the top Democrat
in the Oversight Committee, slated to be chairman of that committee when
the Democrats take the gavel in just a few weeks – sir, thank you for
being here tonight, and I hope we can stay in touch as you ascend to this
very, very important position. You’ll be in almost a unique position in
terms of your oversight role, sir, and we’d love to stay apprised of your
work. Thank you.

CUMMINGS: Rachel, I appreciate that and I want to say to your audience we
have to fight for the soul of our democracy. We have to fight for it every
day. Thank you very much.

MADDOW: Congressman Elijah Cummings.

All right. We’ll be right back. Thank you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Hey, election night is still going on. Are you tired? Do you
need some jerky? Do you want some junior mints? I have old coffee.

This afternoon, Democrats flipped another Republican-held seat in
California. Newcomer Katie Hill now projected the winner over incumbent
Republican Congressman Steve Knight in California.

In Washington state today, Republican Dino Rossi has just conceded to
Democratic candidate Kim Schrier. That flips that seat from red to blue.

In Georgia as of this morning, we learned that Lucy McBath has defeated
Republican Congressman Karen Handel in a previously red district just north
of Atlanta. In terms of all the called races for the House of
Representatives, there is a bunch of them still too close to call, NBC News
reports that as of tonight, Democrats have definitely picked up 30 seats in
the House, but there are like a million votes still to be counted.

In the Senate, tons of drama. In the Arizona Senate seat that was left
open by Republican Jeff Flake retiring there. There are still half a
million ballots to count, just in that one Senate race. As of tonight, the
Democratic candidate for that Senate seat, Democratic Kyrsten Sinema, has
pulled ahead by almost 10,000 votes. If her lead holds, that would give
Democrats a second red-to-blue flip in the Senate after the flip they
already got with Dean Heller’s seat in Nevada.

We’re also watching dramatic statewide races in Georgia and in Florida.
We’re going to have more on that craziness coming up in just a few minutes.

But before we do that, I want to introduce you to somebody on the show
tonight who could credibly claim to have pulled off, if not the most
surprising win in the election, definitely one of them. I don’t know if
she thinks of it that way. She seems way too confident for that, but you
are going to enjoy meeting her. That’s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: If Democrats wanted any chance of flipping congressional states in
a deep red state like Kansas, they were going to need a fighter. They
found one. This is Sharice Davids.

She is a former mixed martial arts fighter. She is also a lawyer. When
she is going to law school at Cornell, she would drive 90 minutes almost
every day to go train. On the way, she would listen to her law school
classes on tape.

Sharice Davids is Native American. She is a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation.
After she graduated from law school at Cornell, she went to live and work
on Native American reservations to help out underserved communities. She
eventually found her way to the White House when she was chosen in 2016 for
the highly selective White House fellowship program. She found she liked
working in politics.

When she got back home to Kansas, she started keeping an eye on her local
congressman, a man named Kevin Yoder. Congressman Yoder has been a fixture
in Republican politics. He served a red district in an even redder state
and never really had a challenge. Across eight years and four elections,
he has just glided to victory again and again, always by big double-digit
margins.

But Sharice Davids looked at the job that he was doing for Kansas, and she
thought maybe she could do it better.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHARICE DAVIDS (D), KANSAS HOUSE REP-ELECT: This is a tough place to be a
woman. I’ve been put down, pushed aside, knocked out. Truth is I’ve had
to fight my whole life because of who I am, who I love, and where I
started.

But I didn’t let anything get in my way. Still, it’s 2018, and women,
Native Americans, gay people, the unemployed and underemployed have to
fight like hell just to survive. And it’s clear Trump and the Republicans
in Washington don’t give a damn about anyone like me or anyone that doesn’t
think like them.

Enough. That’s why I’m running for Congress.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: The single most reserved staffer on THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW, a
person who is incapable of hyperbole, after that ad was first posted and
said, I’ve never used the word epic to describe something in our news
gathering process before, but I’d like you to look at it. I find it fairly
epic. Fair enough.

Tuesday night, Sharice Davids, the Democratic fighter running for Congress
from Kansas, the Democrat in a sea of red. She beat four-term Republican
Congressman David Yoder in Kansas. And she didn’t just beat him, she
trounced him by more than nine points.

Sharice Davids is only 37 years old. Before now, she had never run for
public office. She now shares the honor of being the first Native American
woman of being elected to the House of Representatives alongside newly
elected Deb Haaland from New Mexico. Sharice Davids is also the first
openly gay person to be elected from not just her Kansas district, but from
any district in Kansas.

Man, is there a story of this election? Don’t you want to meet
Congresswoman-elect Sharice Davids? She joins us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: When you make history, all at once in more ways than one, the
headlines about you get long. So they look like this. Sharice Davids
makes history: Kansas’ first gay rep, first Native American woman in
congress.

Joining us now is Sharice Davids, congresswoman-elect from the great state
of Kansas.

Ms. Davids, thank you very much for joining us tonight and congratulations.

DAVIDS: Thank you. Thank you. I’m happy to be here.

MADDOW: So, I have been telling the story of your somewhat remarkable
victory. Obviously you’re a lot of firsts here. There’s never been a
Native American woman elected to the House before Tuesday night. State of
Kansas has never elected an openly gay person to federal office.

Your district has been under Republican control for like a decade. What
made you decide to do this and what made you think you could win?

DAVIDS: Well, you know, I think that at the core of what helped me feel
empowered to do this was that I knew my community could do so much more and
have a much stronger voice in Washington, D.C. than what we had with
Congressman Yoder.

And, you know, starting off at Johnson County Community College right here
in our community and making my way to Cornell for law school – I mean, so
much of the opportunity I had in my life stemmed from the support I’ve had
here and having a strong public education foundation and all of those
things combined just led me to take the leap because I just – I knew that
we could do so much better than what we had.

MADDOW: You’re a trail blazer, not only for winning, but for getting the
nomination in the first place. You’re a trail blazer even within the
Democratic Party. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think you had to beat out
like five other Democrats in this primary.

What was that process like –

DAVIDS: Yes.

MADDOW: – in terms of integrating yourself into the existing Democratic
Party, figuring out how to best strategize against your fellow Democrats?
Was there a unification effort after that hard-fought primary?

DAVIDS: Yes, so there was a unification effort. We had a couple of unity
rallies right after and wanted to make sure that even though, you know, our
community had never seen a six-way primary before, that ultimately our goal
was to make sure that everyone came together for whoever ended up being the
nominee. And really, my approach was not necessarily one of competing with
the other candidates, but rather trying to make sure that our message of,
one, making sure everybody has the same kind of opportunity that I know I
had from this community. And, two, making sure people knew what we were
fighting for.

Our campaign tried really, really hard to talk to as many people as
possible about wanting to make sure that everybody had access to affordable
quality health care, making sure that we sent somebody to Washington, D.C.
who really cared about public education, about campaign finance reform, and
that was really the focus of what we were doing.

MADDOW: Obviously, coming from the district and having grown up there and
knowing what it’s like, I can tell from the way that you’re talking about
it that you’re focused on constituent services and what you want to be able
to do for the district. What you think Congressman Yoder wasn’t able to
do.

But I think it’s also obvious that you’re going to have a big national
spotlight on you because of how big a win this was, because you flipped
this district, because of who you are, because of how you won. What are
your goals for Washington, for your first term? You’re going to get a lot
of attention and you’re going to have probably your pick of the litter in
terms of what you want to tackle first.

DAVIDS: Well, certainly I want to be able to work on – health care was
the biggest issue that I heard from people about the entire time I was on
the campaign trail. And so, you know, that means that that has to be a big
part of what I focus on. You know, the folks here in the third district
are really concerned about making sure that we send somebody to Washington,
D.C. who is taking our voice and our values there.

And that means being pragmatic. That means trying to figure out ways that
we can build some kind of bipartisan change. So those are the kinds of
things I want to focus on.

And then, you know, as far as the attention, I think I’m just really happy
to see that Kansas is in the news for positive change making because we are
– we’re often, unfortunately, known for folks like Sam Brownback and Kris
Kobach. And I just have always wanted to make sure that people knew that
Kansas is about way more than that, and this has been an amazing
opportunity for people to see the positive things that Kansas has to offer.

MADDOW: Sharice Davids, congresswoman-elect from the great state of
Kansas, and as of right now, the most famous politician in the state of
Kansas. You’re doing your part. Really appreciate you being here. Good
luck to you. Stay in touch.

DAVIDS: Thanks so much. Have a good night.

MADDOW: You, too. We’ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow.

Now, it’s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O’DONNELL”.

Lawrence, didn’t I miss your birthday?


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