Florida Senate Race still too close to call. TRANSCRIPT: 11/12/2018, The Rachel Maddow Show.

Guests:
Patricia Mazzei, Barry Richard, Jerrold Nadler, Harley Rouda, Brian Rice
Transcript:

Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: November 12, 2018
Guest: Patricia Mazzei, Barry Richard, Jerrold Nadler, Harley Rouda, Brian
Rice

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: We need to spend more time. Thank you, Chris.
Have a great evening.

Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Rachel has the night off.
She`s going to be back tomorrow.

And happy Veterans Day. This is a long weekend for some people. If you`re
one of them, congratulations.

You may have noticed that the news really did not slow down this weekend,
like not even for a second. Not even for a two-day, let alone a three-day
weekend. These absolutely terrifying and terrifyingly destructive fires
have continued to ravage California. The death toll from those fires rose
precipitously through the weekend. We`re going to have more on that
ongoing disaster in the president`s ill-considered response to it in just a
few momentums.

But, of course, the midterm elections that happened almost a week ago have
continued happening. Not just through the weekend, but right up to this
very moment. NBC News is calling Democrat Kyrsten Sinema the apparent
winner in the Arizona Senate race. That`s the seat currently held by
retiring Republican Jeff Flake which makes this a Democratic gain.

The Republican candidate Martha McSally conceded not long ago in a video
tweeted out by her campaign. There she is accompanied by her dog.

National Republicans, including the White House have reportedly been urging
her not to concede and to join them in pushing conspiracy theories about
the vote count in Arizona. But she has declined. Now, there is
speculation that that could be because she expects to be appointed
Arizona`s other senator. In the seat that Jon Kyl is holding only on a
temporary basis following the death of John McCain.

All right. Let`s begin the night in Florida. This was the scene over the
weekend as captured by a producer of this show outside the Broward County
supervisor of elections office, where votes are being counted in Florida
Senate and governors races. As you can see, the protests outside the
elections office in Broward County look a little more relaxed today, almost
more of a tailgating feel to them if your tailgating parties resembled a
Donald Trump party.

Beyond the parking lot, the legal battle over these Florida races is really
only getting started. As of tonight, in Florida governor`s race,
Republican Ron DeSantis remains the apparent winner, according to NBC News.
But his lead over Democrat Andrew Gillum has shrunk considerably since
Tuesday night as more votes have been counted in Democratic strongholds
like Broward County.

DeSantis is ahead of Gillum now by fewer than 34,000 votes out of over 8
million cast. That makes the margin less than half a percentage point
which in Florida triggers an automatic machine recount of the votes. So,
that`s ongoing across the state as we speak, though at last check, Broward
County still had not started its recount, and the deadline for counties to
complete the recount is Thursday afternoon.

The same goes for the Florida Senate race. But that race is much closer.
As you can see, NBC News still has this race too close to call. Just
12,500 votes separate Republican Governor Rick Scott and the Democratic
senator he`s trying to unseat, Bill Nelson.

Scott`s lead in this race has dwindled over the last week, and on Thursday
at noon, when the machine recount is over, if it`s over by then, and if the
margin is still this close or closer, there will be a hand recount of all
the votes.

I spoke with NBC News national political correspondent Steve Kornacki
earlier today. He told me earlier the hand recount is where things may get
really interesting.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC NATIONAL POLIITICAL CORRESPONDENT: In the issue in
Broward County is you had this extraordinary number of what they call
undervotes, votes that were cast – whoa – votes that were cast for
governor but were not cast for Senate. There were about 26,000 ballots
that left that Senate contest blank. And the question is why in a county
that Bill Nelson is getting 70 percent of the vote. In the Nelson campaign
says it`s a machine issue. They were feeding them into machines. It was
for some reason missing all these voters for the Senate.

Well, if there is a manual recount. That will find that and they will find
tens of thousands of ballots with names checked off in Senate race.
They`ll add them, potentially just looking at how the vote is going in this
county, potentially you could be talking about a net there begin of 10,000
votes for Bill Nelson. Again, keep that margin in mind.

But the other possibility here is the ballot design. We`ve been talking
about this. The Broward ballot design, long column on the left here of
instructions. There is the U.S. Senate race.

Look, the governor`s race meanwhile. There were more votes prominently top
of the center column, wide spacing there. You say a lot easier to miss
this than that.

And U.S. election assistance commission, they give advice to states and
cities on how to run elections. They have a report that specifically
advised never to do what Broward did. They said when you have a column of
instructions, their counties found that when you put a race underneath a
column of instructions, they concluded that voters were likely to miss that
race and not vote on it.

So, that`s why that ballot design issue looms so large. If the Nelson
campaign is right, that 12,000 could come awfully close to zero because of
this. If not, I`ll not sure where Nelson gets the vote.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: All right. That was Steve Kornacki earlier today laying out where
the Nelson campaign thinks it can find the votes to possibly win that race
in Florida.

It`s possible. Nelson lost a lot of votes in a heavily Democratic County
because of how poorly designed that ballot is. But the Nelson campaign`s
attorney who`s litigated a lot of recounts in his time says he is confident
that when all of the votes are counted, Nelson will be the winner. Well,
the vote counting continues. Meanwhile in Florida`s courtrooms, there are
a number of battles brewing.

I`m not going to detail every single lawsuit that has been filed thus far
in Florida. The show is only an hour-long, after all. But I am going to
tell you the Nelson campaign and outside Democratic groups are asking
judges to make county elections officials, counties election officials stop
tossing out mailed in ballots because the signature doesn`t match the one
on file.

They want officials to take a second look and reconsider those ballots.
They want county officials to accept ballots that were mailed by Election
Day but didn`t reach elections officials by the mandated deadline.

Another lawsuit seeks to have Rick Scott as the governor of Florida recuse
himself from involvement with the recount process, and that is because –
this one makes sense – Rick Scott, as his lead in the race has dwindled,
has not only accused the Broward County supervisor of elections of rampant
fraud, he has not only alleged that, quote, unethical liberals are trying
to steal the election from him, he has also asked the state law enforcement
agency, which he controls to investigate and potentially intervene in vote
counting in Broward County.

Yesterday, Rick Scott secured a motion, he filed a motion in court asking a
judge to let his state law enforcement agency impound all the vote counting
machines in Broward County, as in take control of the voting equipment.
Now, the Broward County elections department has had its share of problems.
You will be hard-pressed to find anyone who would disagree with that.

In fact, after the supervisor of elections there got in trouble after the
last election in 2016, this governor, Rick Scott, said he was so concerned
about Broward County, he would be sending his own state election monitors
in there to keep an eye on things this year in 2018. And so, after Rick
Scott started saying that there was rampant fraud in Broward County`s vote
count this year, reporters, including from this very program, started
reaching out to the Scott administration to ask whether those monitors had
in fact been sent to Broward County, whether they had found anything
suspicious.

Guess what? Scott`s election monitors have not seen anything to support
Rick Scott`s claims of fraud. Quote, our staff has seen no evidence of
criminal activity at this time, which is also what the state law
enforcement agency said. They told the governor they were unable to carry
out the investigation into the vote count that he asked for because they
couldn`t find any allegations of fraud to investigate. Not evidence,
allegations.

And so, Rick Scott went to court today to try to get a judge to force law
enforcement to intervene in the recount by impounding, taking control of
the voting machines. The judge rejected his motion because he said there
was simply no evidence that it was warranted.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAKE TUTER, JUDGE: If someone in this law enforcement or someone in this
county has evidence of voter fraud or irregularities at the supervisor`s
office, they should remit it to the local law enforcement officer. If the
lawyers are near, they should get the person to swear out an affidavit.

But everything they`re saying in front of the elections office is beamed
all over the country. We need to be careful what we say. These words mean
things these days, as everybody in the room knows. So I`m urging everybody
to wait until these counts are over and there is going to be plenty of time
to litigate whatever anybody wants to litigate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: All right. So Rick Scott has not had much luck thus far trying to
intervene in vote count, although he has been making almost daily
appearances on Fox News to air his evidence-free claims of voter fraud.
It`s a popular saw.

But here`s something interesting to keep in mind about the continuing
election fight in Florida, and this is something we have heard from, among
others, THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW producers who were in Broward County on
Friday and Saturday. A lot of the national attention is on this Senate
race between Rick Scott and Bill Nelson because that is the closest race,
and it`s being most vigorously fought in the courts.

But on the ground in Florida, the strongest feeling among voters appears to
be centered on the governor`s race. The protesters crowding the Broward
County elections office were mostly to judge by their signs and
paraphernalia supporters of Ron DeSantis and Andrew Gillum.

Last night and tonight, Andrew Gillum has held events at black churches in
Florida labeled as faith events to make every vote count. He has another
one scheduled for tomorrow. The speeches he has been giving have not just
been about his own election prospects, which remain distant even with the
recount given the wider margin in the governor`s race, but his speeches
have been more broadly about voting rights, about voter disenfranchisement,
about the integrity of elections, which may suggest that Andrew Gillum,
like his fellow Democratic gubernatorial candidates Stacey Abrams in
Georgia, might be focusing not only on his own contest, but on fixing the
process for the next election.

Joining us now is Patricia Mazzei, Miami bureau chief for “The New York
Times”.

Patricia, thank you for being with us.

PATRICIA MAZZEI, MIAMI BUREAU CHIEF, THE NEW YORK TIMES: My pleasure.

VELSHI: All right. These lawsuits, there are lots of them out there.
They`re hard to keep track of. We haven`t even listed them because there
are so many going on. Are there any to you that look like they`ve got the
most merit?

MAZZEI: Well, we should note that the governor, one, his first two motions
against Broward and Palm Beach, they were not on fraud allegations. They
were on access, public records, transparency issues.

There is a federal lawsuit pending filed by Senator Nelson`s campaign that
is challenging how Florida counties invalidate mail ballots and provisional
ballots based on voters` signatures.

VELSHI: Right.

MAZZEI: We`re going have a hearing on that on Wednesday, and that`s going
to be interesting, if nothing else, because this has been an issue in other
states and because what they claim is that the criteria for throwing out
some of these ballots is so inconsistent that all of these ballots should
count.

Now, we`re talking about thousands of ballots, but probably not enough to
overturn any result except for maybe the agricultural commissioner`s race
on their own. But it just would be a statewide implication as opposed to
lawsuits in specific counties.

VELSHI: Right. And the signature issue is more serious than it appears.
Cindy McCain has said this. Sometimes she signs her name Cindy McCain and
sometimes it`s C. McCain. I might do Ali Velshi somewhere, A. Velshi. So,
this issue of not exact matches being thrown out may have some merit.

But you bring up Broward County and Palm Beach County. What`s the problem
with Broward County?

Marco Rubio has tweeted about it. Jeb Bush got in on it. Everybody has
been talking what a mess Broward County is from the perspective of
elections. And Steve Kornacki, when he showed me that ballot today, I was
thinking to myself, I might have missed that. I mean, it`s a poorly
designed ballot.

MAZZEI: Well, there are national guidelines for how to design ballots.
And they specifically say that when you have vertical voter instructions as
Broward did, you should not put a contest underneath the instructions
because people might miss them. Having said that, there is no standardized
state ballot, and these are always the issues that we see when there is a
disputed election that come up after the fact.

In Broward in particular, as you noted, they`ve had a history of troubles.
And people took a while to really be openly critical of the elected
supervisor of elections. But, you know, she has faced criticism even from
within her own party at this point, just because people are frustrated with
the fact that, for example, Miami-Dade County next door, which is a bigger
county, was able to count more votes more quickly.

VELSHI: Patricia, this is supposed to be done by noon, this first
machinery recount, by noon on Thursday. We`re already hearing there might
be delays. What do you think happens? Do you think on Thursday at noon,
the margin is that tight and it goes to a hand recount?

MAZZEI: Well, I think it`s 3:00 p.m. I think we can probably expect hand
recounts in the Senate and agriculture commission races.

But, look, if history has taught us anything, it`s that we are going to see
more lawsuits, especially if counties are unable to complete their machine
recounts. And then we`re going to have to ask the same question about the
hand recount, whether they will be able to finish in time for their next
deadline on Sunday.

VELSHI: All right, 3:00 p.m. on Thursday. Thank you for noting that.

Patricia Mazzei is the Miami bureau chief for “The New York Times.”

Joining us now is Barry Richard, Gillum campaign counsel.

Mr. Richard, thanks for being with us tonight.

BARRY RICHARD, GILLUM CAMPAIGN ATTORNEY: Sure.

VELSHI: What`s going on with Andrew Gillum. Does he – does he think the
recount will bring him closer or is he maybe thinking about future
elections?

RICHARD: Well, he is hoping it will bring him closer. And obviously the
legislature thought when you were within the margin of a half percent or
less, that there was a realistic chance it would become closer, especially
when the votes are being counted as they come in late are in a county that
favored him significantly. I think what his mind is on base upon the
conversations I`ve had with him is the necessity to fix the system that
leaves a lot of people without their votes being counted. And I think
that`s why you`re seeing him making speeches along that line. I think
that`s significant to him.

VELSHI: You represented George Bush in the 2000 thousand recount. How
would you compare what`s happening now to what happened then?

RICHARD: Here is how I would compare it. I was a Democrat representing
the Republican candidate. I received hundreds of e-mails and mail letters,
phone calls. Only a small handful of them were nasty.

My wife and I had an anniversary in the middle of the litigation, and
Gore`s legal team toasted us on national television. We had demonstrators
for both parties in front of the capitol who would demonstrate all day and
then party together that night. Can you imagine that happening today?

VELSHI: Not at all. That said, how do you see the next few days playing
out?

RICHARD: Well, Thursday we`ll know what the machine recount results in.
So far as the Gillum team is concerned, we`ll evaluate all of the evidence
that`s coming in. We`ll advise Mayor Gillum of what his legal rights are,
and he`ll make a decision.

VELSHI: All right. And of course that margin is bigger in the governor`s
race than it is in the senatorial race when you were representing George
Bush in 2000. The margin was much, much smaller. Are you, given your
experience, do you think a margin at this point of 30,000 plus votes is
something that Andrew Gillum can bridge?

RICHARD: Well, it`s certainly possible when it`s out of 8.5 million votes.
Whether or not that will happen, again, remains to be seen. I`m not
prescient. None of us can predict what the result can be.

I don`t think, by the way, that there is any fraud here much less massive
fraud. There generally is not fraud in American elections.

VELSHI: Right.

RICHARD: The studies that have been done show very little fraud. So, the
question is whether there was enough error in the counting, and we just
don`t know that.

VELSHI: That`s an important distinction. These are voting practices.
These are all sorts of things that we can fix. It`s not the same thing as
fraud that the governor is alleging.

Thank you, sir. Barry Richard with the Gillum campaign counsel, thank you.

All right. More news straight ahead. We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELSHI: Over the weekend, leading Democrats continue to raise the alarm
about the president`s new acting attorney general. Matthew Whitaker comes
to the job of chief law enforcement officer of the United States with a
long record of criticizing the special counsel investigation, saying there
was no collusion and the investigation ought to be starved of financial
resources. Now, Whitaker has taken the job of overseeing the
investigation, and he is fighting back against accusations that he`s going
to try to rein in or undermine the probe.

“Bloomberg News” reports the acting attorney general has told associates
that the Justice Department under his new leadership will not cut the
budget for Mueller`s investigation, even though the only place that
suggestion came from was him in this interview. He specifically put that
idea out there as an option last year on TV, available for everyone to see.
This is not hard journalistic work for us. He also continued to field
questions about whether his ability to be acting attorney general was
constitutional.

Today, the city of San Francisco threatened court action over the
appointment, noting that the city currently has four cases proceeding
against the Department of Justice, that name fired Attorney General Jeff
Sessions as the defendant. San Francisco City attorney is asking the
Justice Department to provide the legal justification behind elevating
Whitaker to lead the Justice Department. Rod Rosenstein would have been
the natural choice, by the way. Otherwise, the city said it may be forced
to ask a judge for a legal rationale.

Now, “The Wall Street Journal” reports late tonight that the Justice
Department is expected to publish a legal opinion supporting Whitaker`s
appointment. That legal opinion is expected to come as early as tomorrow.
Meanwhile, reports that Whitaker will not recuse himself from overseeing
the Mueller investigation despite his well-documented history of making
statements questioning its legitimacy have Democrats pursuing new avenues
of inquiry.

Whitaker has declared that he is, quote, committed to leading a fair
department with the highest ethical standards. Democrats are not taking
that at face value. Today, it emerged that top Democratic leaders,
including one with whom I`m to be speak in the House and the Senate have
sent a letter to Lee Loftus. This is Lee Loftus. He`s the top ethics
official at the Department of Justice demanding to know immediately what if
any advice he has given Whitaker regarding recusal.

Quote: We request that you immediately notify us in writing regarding
whether you or any other ethics officials at the Justice Department have
advised Mr. Whitaker to recuse from supervision of the special counsel
investigation and the basis for that recommendation. It continues: We also
request that you provide us all ethics guidance the department has provided
to Mr. Whitaker to date.

The letter was signed by seven top Democrats, including the incoming chair
of the House Judiciary Committee, New York Democrat Jerry Nadler.

Empowered by the majority Democrats won last week, Congressman Nadler says
he will summon Whitaker as the very first witness before his committee when
Democrats take charge in January.

Joining me now, Congressman Jerry Nadler, the top Democrat on the House
Judiciary Committee.

Congressman, good to have you here. Thank you.

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY), RANKING MEMBER, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Good to be
here.

VELSHI: You got a response to your letter to Lee Loftus?

NADLER: No, we have not gotten a letter yet and we don`t know when we`ll
get one. I mean, it is clear I think that the very reason that he was
appointed was to be a hatchet person on the investigation. He ought to
recuse himself because he has prejudged the issue. He said there was no
Russian involvement.

VELSHI: He has been very specific. He said there is no collusion, he
doesn`t think this is a legitimate line of inquiry and had suggested on
television in that CNN interview that you just could starve the Mueller
investigation.

NADLER: He suggested a number of ways that you could do that, but he`s
prejudged the issue, which means he shouldn`t be there, but we know why he
was appointed, because the only reason, and the president was very clear
about this, the only beef he had with Attorney General Sessions was that he
did not recuse himself. He did not act as the president`s personal defense
attorney.

So, obviously, when he appointed someone, he appointed someone he expected
not to recuse himself. Now, he has, under normal ethical guidelines, he
must recuse himself. That`s why we wrote this letter to the chief ethics
person. You know, this is just another – the obvious reason for this
appointment was to crack down and control the Mueller investigation. This
is part of a pattern of interference by the president with the
investigation.

The president thinks he is above the law and can get away with it. And
we`re going do have to show him he is not above the law and we have to
protect the – our first priority is to protect the integrity of the
investigation because we are dependent on that investigation to protect the
integrity of our elections from foreign interference.

VELSHI: So, perhaps in response to the letter that you and seven other
legislators sent or perhaps in response to our inquiries, the Department of
Justice has given us a statement tonight, and it says Acting Attorney
General Matt Whitaker is fully committed to following all appropriate
processes and procedures a the Department of Justice, including consulting
with senior ethics officials on his oversight responsibilities and matters
that may warrant recusal, which is interesting. It`s different than a
straight-out denial that there is any issue.

NADLER: Well, I hope that`s true. I have my reasons to doubt it, which I
stated a moment ago, but we`ll see. And we`ll be interested in seeing what
the Justice Department says.

VELSHI: I mean, given everything that`s happened and given how these
Ethics Departments tend to be weakened under this administration, do you
have any faith that Matthew Whitaker will, A, meet with these ethics
officials and, B, that they`ll tell him anything useful, and C, that he
might listen?

NADLER: I`m very skeptical of all of that because of the obvious reason,
he is only useful to the president in so far –

VELSHI: He doesn`t recuse himself.

NADLER: He doesn`t recuse himself and acts to squelch the investigation.
That`s why he was appointed, it`s part of a pattern of interference by the
president with the investigation. You know, the normal process of having
an acting attorney general would have been to go to the deputy Attorney
General Rod Rosenstein, the solicitor general, both have been confirmed by
the Senate to their positions.

But instead, they went out of the normal line to take this guy who`s got no
apparent qualifications, lots of conflicts of interest, and, again, the
reason is transparent.

VELSHI: OK. So, you`re going to get in and you`re going to take over as
chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and you grog to invite or
subpoena Matt Whitaker?

NADLER: We`ll, first, invite him. If he declines the invitation then
we`ll subpoena him.

VELSHI: Do you think he`ll respect that subpoena?

NADLER: Well, I would hope so. I would hope that he will respect the
subpoena and not fight it. He could delay it somewhat. But ultimately, he
has to respect the subpoena.

VELSHI: All right.

NADLER: The House has to enforce the subpoenas.

VELSHI: What do you want to ask him?

NADLER: Well, we`ll ask him the obvious questions. Given your stated
views, given the fact that you said that you prejudged the issue, that
there was no investigation – there was Russian interference with the
election, which is ridiculous, how can you supervise the investigation?
And more to the point, what will you do? Will you, when – if and when
Mueller gives the report, will you make that report public? Will you give
it Congress?

VELSHI: Because he could put it in a drawer.

NADLER: He could put it in a drawer. Will you make that report available
to Congress? Will you veto or tell Mueller he cannot go down any
particular investigation line? Will you say he can`t indict any particular
person, or do you think that he should be given the freedom to take the
investigation where it leads as he has had that freedom under Rosenstein`s
supervision and as any investigation should.

VELSHI: Congressman Nadler, good to see you. Thank you, sir.

NADLER: You`re quite welcome.

VELSHI: Congressman Jerry Nadler is the incoming chairman of the House
Judiciary Committee.

Still ahead tonight, we`ve got the latest on the surprisingly long list of
races that have not yet been called after last week`s midterm elections.
And we are going to talk to one Democrat for Congress who declared victory
this weekend in what could be a key Democratic pickup. We`ll have more on
that story and others, a little later in the show.

Stay with us. We`re back after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELSHI: As I said earlier, I hope you`re having a good Veterans Day
weekend.

Yesterday, a number of senior administration officials, including the V.A.
Secretary Robert Wilkie and the Defense Secretary James Mattis honored our
nation`s veterans at Arlington National Cemetery.

President Trump was not in attendance. He was in France this weekend with
other world leaders to mark the 100-year anniversary of the end of World
War I. On Saturday, President Trump was scheduled to hold an event at a
cemetery east of Paris in which a number of American soldiers are buried,
but he didn`t show. He canceled, apparently due to rain.

All the other world leaders managed to attend their events that day, but
rain stopped the president of the United States of America, who instead
decided to hole up at the residents of the U.S. ambassador to France for
the afternoon. Since returning to the United States last night, the
president has held no public event here is at home to mark Veterans Day.

These are unusual moves for president, who tends to take every opportunity
he can to publicly out the his support for veterans, even as he has taken
numerous steps to undermine the government agency in helping the veteran`s
administration, the V.A.

Today, we`re seeing how much those efforts to minimize the V.A. have
worked. Last year, the president signed a law intended to expand G.I. bill
benefits to more veterans. It was supposed to help more veterans cover
their education and housing costs. But since signing that bill, the V.A.
has struggled to keep up with a backlog created by that G.I. bill.

Today, more than 82,000 veterans in school have yet to receive their G.I.
bill payments from the V.A., in large part due to I.T. glitches at the
V.A., causing payments to veterans to either be delayed or just never
delivered.

Veterans have been waiting on those payment news face taking on loans and
credit card debt, getting kicked out of school, or even eviction from their
housing as they wait for the V.A. to figure out these I.T. glitches.

A V.A. spokesperson tells NBC News that efforts to find a solution to the
I.T. issue are, quote, ongoing. The House Veterans Affairs Committee will
in the meantime schedule a hearing on the matter, scheduled for Wednesday,
which is weeks left to go in the semester.

Happy Veterans Day weekend.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELSHI: Look, losing an election is tough. Dogs help, though.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MARTHA MCSALLY (R), ARIZONA: Hey, everybody, I just called Kyrsten
Sinema and congratulated her on becoming Arizona`s first female senator
after a hard fought battle. I wish her all success as she represents
Arizona in the Senate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: The dog does soften the whole thing, doesn`t it?

Tonight, Republican Martha McSally whom you just saw conceded the race for
Arizona senate, putting an end to drawn-out battle for that seat. Democrat
Kyrsten Sinema is on her way to becoming Arizona`s first female senator and
the first Democrat in more than 30 years. But nearly a week later, for a
range of other reasons, a number of other important races remain undecided.

Over in Georgia, Democrat Stacey Abrams is still battling her Republican
opponent Brian Kemp. Right now, she is trailing by about 58,000 votes.
And with ballots still left to be counted, Abrams hopes she can close the
gap just enough to push Kemp`s lead below 50 percent. That would force the
race into a runoff, because that`s how it works in Georgia. You have to
get 50 percent who more to win.

I talked to the campaign manager for Stacey Abrams today. She says her
team has defined 20,000 votes to make that runoff happen. There`s focused
on an as yet uncounted provisional and absentee ballots, as well as early
votes that have yet to be reported. The Abrams campaign has filed a
lawsuit to make sure every vote in Georgia gets counted.

Why do you have to file a lawsuit for that? Shouldn`t every vote just get
counted?

All right. It`s not just marquee races that remain outstanding, by the
way. Results are still trickling in, in some pivotal House races. Voting
in New Jersey`s third congressional district still do not know who their
representative will be in January. Republican Congressman Tom McArthur is
trying to cling to his seat there, but Democratic challenger Andrew Kim is
currently ahead by more than a point, 3,500 votes.

Ballots are still being counted in Utah today where tens of thousands of
votes have yet to be tallied in the fourth congressional district. If
Republican incumbent Mia Love loses the race, that would give Democrats
another pickup, 5,000 votes separating those two.

By NBC`s count, Democrats have gained 31 seats so far. The last votes to
be counted will likely be in California where vote tallying is notoriously
slow.

But there is one candidate in California who did not wait for an official
call to declare victory. This was the headline over “The Sacramento Bee”
on Saturday. Harley Rouda declares victory over 30-year Congressman Dana
Rohrabacher.

Now, Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher has represented this solid red
district in Orange County, California for 15 terms. In the entire
existence of this congressional district, voters have never elected a
Democrat. Dana Rohrabacher is so Russia-friendly, he is frequently
referred to as Vladimir Putin`s favorite congressman. But now, it looks
like Mr. Putin may need to find himself a new favorite on Capitol Hill.

Dana Rohrabacher is trailing Harley Rouda by more than 9,000 votes. I
should tell you, NBC News has not officially called this race in favor of
Harley Rouda, but “The Associated Press” has declared Mr. Rouda the winner,
and Mr. Rouda declared victory this weekend. He is a first-time candidate.
He is new to the Democratic Party.

For years, he was a registered Republican. Now he is the newest political
newcomer to wrestle a solid red seat into Democratic hands.

Joining me now, Harley Rouda, who has declared victory against Dana
Rohrabacher in California`s 49th congressional district.

Mr. Rouda, thank you for being here.

HARLEY ROUDA (D-CA), CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Thanks for having me.

VELSHI: Under normal circumstances, I`d congratulate someone who has won a
seat. We haven`t determined that you`ve won that seat. How did you
determine it?

ROUDA: Part of it is looking at what votes are left to be counted. And
for us, those were the mail-in ballots that had been received three days
prior to Election Day, those that were dropped off on Election Day, those
that are received three days after Election Day and provisional ballots.
And based on the trend lines we had seen, those were all going to be headed
our direction.

VELSHI: Democrats had flagged this district on as one of their targets
early on there was a huge push to flip this seat.

Why do you think you were the candidate to unseat a 15-term congressman,
someone who has been in Congress for 30 years?

ROUDA: Yes, 30 years. And it really just started after the women`s march.
And me, like many people around the country holding our hand up and saying
we need the change that we want the see. So, we`ve had grassroots support
since day one. By the time we got to Election Day, we had 5,000 volunteers
supporting our campaign.

And I think most people are between the 20-yard lines in America. They
believe in socially progressive ideas, but they want fiscal responsibility.
They want moderates, and that`s why we won this election.

VELSHI: All right. So, I want to ask you about Congressman Rohrabacher
who is known for his affection toward Vladimir Putin. He was one of the
only people – trying to get count in my head – who voted against the
Magnitsky Act, for instance. When you talk to voters in your district,
does the support for Russia or the investigation into Russia`s interference
into the election, are those issues for your constituents?

ROUDA: You know, it depended on who you talked to and where they were on
or are on the political spectrum, but when you brought it down to, OK,
what`s all his trips to Russia, all his hard work on Russia doing to create
jobs here? How it is helping your family? How is it helping your
community? How it helping your schools? How is it helping your kids?

When you put it in that – in those type of terms, most people quickly
concluded yeah, why is he spending so much time on Russia.

VELSHI: What`s the number one priority for you when you take office? How
are you going to reconcile the goals you got with the Republican-controlled
Senate?

ROUDA: I think this is the best opportunity we have to really work on
bipartisan legislation. And I think one of the first areas we have to
focus on is infrastructure. We spend about 2.5 percent of our GDP on
infrastructure. That`s about half of what the European Union spends, and
about a third of what China spends. We see it all around us.

Great opportunity for bipartisan support, and I`m hoping those on both
sides of the aisle will work to achieve that outcome.

VELSHI: You would think so. The president has hosted several
infrastructure weeks in the last two years, but they haven`t amounted to a
hill of beans.

ROUDA: Yes, I think it`s been about 50 infrastructure weeks in a row, but
yes, it`s time to make it a reality.

VELSHI: Harley Rouda, tell me about the fact that you were a Republican.

ROUDA: Yes, I was a Republican. I left in 1997. And prior to that time,
it was common for Republicans to believe in environmental stewardship, to
believe in women`s rights, to believe in voting rights, to believe in civil
rights, to believe in reducing the budget. And since then, and especially
now, most of those issues have been placed on a backburner at best.

And I think that`s why we`re seeing such a move, at least in my district of
moderate Republicans to support our campaign.

VELSHI: Harley Rouda, former Republican, now California Democrat, and
according to the “Associated Press”, a congressman-elect – thank you for
your time tonight, sir.

ROUDA: Thank you.

VELSHI: All right. Up next, a report from the California fires with a
guest who really knows how these things work. We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELSHI: It started as a small brushfire a little after 2:00 p.m. in
Griffith Park, California. The blaze quickly spread through the park
trails where thousands of men were out clearing the brush and maintaining
the roads. The men didn`t have access to water, so they tried to fight the
fire with their shovels. And within 15 minutes, the smoke was halfway up
the canyon.

The fire took the lives of 29 people. That was October 3rd, 1933. It was
the deadliest fire in California, until Paradise. In this past hour, we
learned that the death toll in and around the California town of Paradise
is now 42, making the Camp Fire the deadliest in California state history.

Right now, there are three huge fires raging across California – the Camp
Fire, the Woolsey Fire and the Hill Fire. Statewide, 44 people have died,
hundreds of thousands have been forced to evacuate, 8,000 firefighters have
been dispatched across the state, risking their lives, battling these wind-
driven wildfires, which is what makes what happened this weekend
particularly troubling.

The president took to Twitter, claiming that California`s forest
mismanagement is to blame for the fires and threatening to withhold federal
funds from the state.

In response, the president of California professional firefighters issued a
scathing statement, calling the president`s tweet, quote, ill-informed,
ill-timed and demeaning. He also pointed out that the president did not
have his facts straight. Quote: Nearly 60 percent of California`s forests
are under federal management, another one third under private control.
It`s the federal government that has chosen to divert resources away from
forest management, not California.

He went on, quote: Natural disasters are not red or blue. They destroy
regardless of party. Right now, families are in mourning, thousands have
lost homes, a quarter million Americans have been forced to flee. At this
desperate time, we would encourage the president to offer support in word
and deed instead of recrimination and blame.

Joining me now, the guy who authored that statement, Brian Rice, president
of the California Professional Firefighters.

Mr. Rice, we appreciate your time tonight, and we thank you and your
members and all first responders and firefighters, and medical
professionals for doing what they`re doing to keep Americans safe right
now. What`s the latest?

BRIAN RICE, PRESIDENT, CALIFORNIA PROFESSIONAL FIREFIGHTERS: Thank you.

You know, the news on the fire front up in paradise and then in Woolsey,
too, it`s looking better. I`ll go back up to paradise as far as the
weather is beginning to cooperate now, you know, they have personnel and
equipment on scene. Down at the Woolsey Fire, a lot of the area is down,
but the winds are still up. And that – on either of these when the winds
come up that could change everything in a heartbeat.

VELSHI: I know earlier – a couple of hour ago, the Camp Fire seemed to
have been about 25 percent contained, the Woolsey Fire about 20 percent.
What do these numbers mean in real life? What is supposed to make people
feel safe, what degree of containment?

RICE: I think in California, when you start to see the containment begin
to approach 50, 50 percent and there`s a good weather outlook, you can
begin to have a little bit of a sigh of relief.

VELSHI: Talk to me in simple terms about what the president said and what
it really means. There are a lot of people who have pushed back saying
regardless of whether it was ill-timed and ill-conceived, it`s just not
actually correct what the president has said about California and why there
are these massive wildfires there.

RICE: You know, I`ll absolutely standby what my statement said, and that
the forest system in the United States and certainly California is part of
that, it`s very complex. And it`s complex between state and federal
government. In the case of the Camp Fire, the Camp Fire started in FRA,
Federal Responsibility Area. The federal government had responsibility of
that land.

They gave the fire suppression piece over the state and Cal Fire, but the
overall management of that they retain, which includes vegetation
management. The statement or the initial tweet to say that there`s no
reason for these fires to have taken place, there`s several reasons and the
top three are absolutely weather driven that we can`t have an affect on.

There`s no doubt that forest management can be better across this nation
and our national forest lands. But to say there`s no reason, that – it
doesn`t make any sense – we have red flag conditions that are still here,
and everybody needs – if you`re a citizen, you need to be on your guard.
We`re in the seventh year of a drought. Live and dead fuel moistures are
at all-time low. We still have low humidities and we still have a wind.

And those things in and of itself that you cannot control the best
maintained forests when you have 50, 60, 70 mile an hour winds pushing
fires, you`re in trouble.

VELSHI: It`s like hurricane type winds. The president maybe in response
to what you said or otherwise did tweet out a more traditional response.
He also tweeted out that he had signed an expedited request for a major
disaster declaration for California.

What do firefighters need to fight these fires? Does this help you when
the president says this?

RICE: Yes. And I do think the president completed his mission and that
certainly we owe a nod and an appreciation of thanks, and that`s good. But
when you lead men and women on the fire lines or any situation with that,
their morale is incredibly important.

VELSHI: Yes.

RICE: And the initial tweet did nothing to help the morale. I think and I
hope that there`s a boost that the firefighters know on the line that not
only their local and state officials have their back but also their federal
government has their back.

VELSHI: Well, I don`t know make it habit to speak on behalf of our viewers
but I think it`s fair to say tonight the country has your back. The
country is behind you. The country is very grateful for the work that you
do. Firefighters run toward a fire while the rest of us run away for it.

Brian Rice, thank you very much for joining me tonight.

RICE: Thank you.

VELSHI: Brian Rice is the president of the California Professional
Firefighters.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELSHI: Today, we got the newest prediction of an indictment coming in the
Russia investigation. Conservative author Jerome Corsi said today on his
live stream show that he has been told he will be indicted for giving false
information to the Mueller investigation or to the grand jury.

Jerome Corsi is a friend of Trump associate Roger Stone. The special
counsel has been looking into whether Stone and Corsi, among others, had
advance knowledge of WikiLeaks plans to release e-mails that had been
hacked by the Russians. Jerome Corsi today said he tried to cooperate with
prosecutors and the FBI, but he says under intensive repeated questioning,
his mind became mush.

He cited the perjury trap. He said he anticipates being criminally charged
soon that he is the next to be indicted. Also, he invited everyone to
please send him money for his legal defense fund, which he said last week
he`s been setting up.

And who knows who will be the next to be indicted in the Mueller
investigation. Whether it`s Jerome Corsi or someone else, or multiple
people, the inter workings of the investigations are a lot to wonder about.
From where we sit on the outside, it can be hard to guess where events are
leading.

But as Rachel herself likes to say, history is here to help. Her podcast,
a great podcast, “Bag Man”, has been following the story of Nixon`s vice
president, Spiro Agnew, who tried everything he could think of to keep
himself out of trouble for his baldly criminal behavior.

Spiro Agnew sought help from the rich and the famous. He started a legal
defense fund that raised enough to defend almost no one. And in this next
episode, you will hear him trying to use the power of his office to scare
prosecutors away and shut the investigation down.

Tonight, more or less, I`m speaking to the latest edition of Rachel`s “Bag
Man” podcast is going online. Yours for the listening, free along with
really cool exhibits to see at MSNBC.com/bagman.

Rachel seems hesitant to promote this thing. It`s really good. You should
download it. She`s not here. Take it from me.

All right. That does it for me tonight. Rachel is going to be back
tomorrow. Remember to visit MSNBC.com/bagman for the latest of the “Bag
Man” podcast.

You can watch me tomorrow at MSNBC if you`re so inclined, at 1:00 p.m. and
3:00 p.m. Eastern.

But now, it is time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.

Good evening, Lawrence.


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