116th congress officially gavels in tomorrow. TRANSCRIPT: 1/2/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: You get to hear her actual voice.
We have a lot of big plans this year. Great new guests and we also have
the possibilities from road shows. A lot of you have been telling us where
you are and whether you would come out to a road show. We are collating
all that feedback. You`re going to hear from us more on that.
And that is ALL IN for this evening.
“THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Welcome back, my friend.
Good to see you.
HAYES: You too. Good to see you.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Very happy to
have you here tonight. Very happy to be back from the holidays. Happy New
On New Year`s Eve, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren announced that
she is forming an exploratory committee to prepare for a presidential
campaign. Tonight, in just a couple of minutes, Senator Elizabeth Warren
will be here live for her first interview since that announcement.
2019 is going to be a whole lot of things in American news and politics. I
think there was good reason for this year`s New Year`s Eve to be a little
more, sort of nervous making than usual. I think everybody is sensing that
2019 is going to be a wear-your-seat belt kind of year in American
government. It helps that impression that we are starting the New Year
with the government already shut down.
But one of the many things that we know 2019 is going to be is a huge year
for the Democratic Party. 2017 saw the Democrats in shock at their loss of
the White House, and their across the board relegation from power. 2018
saw the Democrats regroup and find their footing and organize their butts
off to win back control of the House, to actually win more seats than they
have won in any midterm election since the one that happened just a few
weeks after Nixon resigned in 1974.
Now, 2019 is going to be a huge year in the history of the Democratic Party
for two reasons. One, because Democrats are about to have an epic,
national, all hands on deck competition to decide how they want to oust
Donald Trump from power next year, and with whom as their candidate.
Senator Elizabeth Warren is the first real Democratic heavyweight to
formally enter that competition. So, I`m really excited that we have her
here live tonight to start that conversation. I`ve been looking forward to
that for a very, very long time.
But the second reason this is going to be a huge year for the Democratic
Party is because right alongside that big national presidential competition
that the Democrats are starting right now, right alongside that, tomorrow
at noon, Nancy Pelosi will take up that big gavel as speaker of the house,
which will put her second in the line of succession to the U.S. presidency,
after only the vice president himself. The Democrats tomorrow will take
over the House under Pelosi`s leadership. But not the Senate, which means
they will not be in a position to make policy on their own.
For all legislation, big and small, they will find themselves in a
necessary but not sufficient role, which means they could do nothing by
themselves, but nothing can be done without them, either. Where they will
have control of their own destiny and the ability to govern as they see
fit, will be inside Congress, when Democrats tomorrow take control of every
committee in the house, with all that implies, in terms of the
investigative powers of Congress and their subpoena powers, and their
oversight powers and responsibilities.
That, of course, will have special significance for the president himself,
given the existentially threatening serious scandals that plague him like
no other president in U.S. history. But I think we should expect the
Democrat`s control of the House should change the Trump administration more
broadly, as well, beyond just the president himself, because even in these
last couple of years, with Republicans in charge, and with Republicans not
playing any role at all in terms of watch dogging and exercising oversight
of the new administration, still, over the last couple of years in that
environment, the Trump cabinet was like a carousel that somebody turned up
to a 300-mile-an-hour spin cycle.
I mean, cabinet officials and cabinet nominees regularly and spectacularly
being flung off into space. Ahh, right? There`s almost every single one
of them faced significant ethical allegations and scandals.
I mean, Tom Price, Scott Pruitt, Ronny Jackson, Andy Puzder. Remember Ben
Carson`s dining set? How is Wilbur Ross still there? I mean, that is with
the Republicans in Congress doing everything they could to make sure nobody
knew, or noticed or cared, let alone did anything about any of it.
I mean, today we got just a little snapshot, a little taste of that.
President Trump today hosted a cabinet meeting today. There are a lot of
weird things about it. He did – he sort of went on a rift for a while on
the wisdom of the Soviet Union invading Afghanistan. Somebody has
apparently given President Trump the old Soviet Union talking points on why
that invasion was an awesome idea. And so, President Trump decided to
wheel out those Soviet era talking points for the cameras in front of his
somewhat bewildered cabinet today.
So, you`re the Republican president arguing that it`s a good idea for the
Soviet Union to have invaded Afghanistan – people are like, please, nobody
ask him about the gulag, right? But this cabinet meeting today was the
first of the year, the day after New Year`s Day. And in addition to all
the weirdness in the room, the timing and the nature of who was there,
there`s a very weird spotlight on the cast of characters surrounding the
president today, right?
Yesterday, New Year`s Day, is when Ryan Zinke left as interior secretary,
under an ethics and corruption cloud. Today, we got a nice reminder that
the acting replacement for him at the Interior Department is an oil
Yesterday, New Year`s Day, was also departure day for Defense Secretary
James Mattis. The acting replacement for him we got spotlighted today is
an executive from Boeing, a major defense contractor. He sat right next to
the president today. At one point, I thought he swallowed his tongue and
might need physical help, but I think he`s OK.
Yesterday, New Year`s Day, was also departure day for U.N. Ambassador Nikki
Haley. Today was a good reminder that her designated successor is a host
from “Fox and Friends.”
Yesterday, New Year`s Day, was also departure day for White House chief of
staff John Kelly, whose acting replacement is – first of all, that`s a
weird thing in itself. There`s not such thing as an acting White House
chief of staff. White House chief of staff is a job that the president
picks somebody for. It`s not like there`s a confirmation process that
makes someone graduate from acting in the role to really holding the job.
You either have the job or you don`t.
But nevertheless, we`re supposed to say now that the acting chief of staff
at the White House will be Mick Mulvaney. Mick Mulvaney was a Republican
congressman when President Trump nominated him to run the White House
Budget Office. At that point during his confirmation process, Mr. Mulvaney
was discovered to have not paid payroll taxes on his family`s nanny.
He nevertheless was confirmed to run the budget office and he thereafter
took it upon himself to seize control of the Consumer Financial Protection
Bureau so he could commence choking all life out of it. He requested
immediately that its budget go to zero and then quickly stopped the
agency`s enforcement actions against payday lenders, loan sharks and
financial scams that preyed specifically on members of the U.S. military
and their families. He will now be the new acting White House chief of
So, again, that`s just in terms of just today`s transitions. That`s the
oil lobbyist at the Interior Department, the defense contractor executive
at the Pentagon, the “Fox and Friends” host at the U.N., and the guy
underpaying his nanny that has made it his life`s work to destroy the
life`s work of Elizabeth Warren in protecting normal Americans from the
financial scams and bankrupting them, those are literally just the people
who at their first day of work today in the Trump cabinet, while over
400,000 normal government workers today were forced to work for free,
indefinitely, as the shutdown continues and another 400,000 normal federal
workers have been sent home without pay.
This is the environment which the Democrats are being handed subpoena and
oversight power. This is also the environment in which Elizabeth Warren
now says she will run for president herself, thank you very much.
But before we bring on Senator Warren tonight, I also want to just briefly
let you know about one other thing that we`re watching closely in our
newsroom tonight. We`re not sure when we`re going to get an answer to
this, so you should know about it tonight in case it happens tonight.
Actually, there are two things like that.
The first one you definitely heard about already, which is the arrest in
Russia of an American named Paul Whelan. Russia apparently arrested Paul
Whelan on Friday of last week, on the 28th. They say that he`s a spy.
They say they caught him in the act of some kind of espionage.
Paul Whelan is 48 years old. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps, deployed
twice to Iraq in 2004 and 2006. He was a staff sergeant in 2008 when he
was court-martialed on larceny charges, stripped of his rank, given a bad
conduct discharge from the Marine Corps.
He now works for an auto parts company in the Midwest. Nobody quite
understands what his connection is to Russia. It`s been reported today
that he did have an active presence on at least one Russian social media
outlet. His family has said he has traveled to Russia repeatedly, but they
also say he was there this time for a purely social occasion, a friend`s
wedding, and that there`s no chance that he was spying, which is what
Russia is alleging.
Well, after being arrested on Friday, Russia should have provided Mr.
Whelan with consular access. They should have provided him with access to
American embassy officials within 72 hours. That did not happen, though,
until today. When U.S. ambassador to Russia, Jon Huntsman, was allowed to
visit with him. That is unusual that the ambassador himself would take
this kind of meeting.
But the U.S. government is being quiet and acting a little strangely about
this. Number one, it is strange for Huntsman to have taken the meeting.
Also, the U.S. secretary of state, Huntsman`s boss, Mike Pompeo is being
very, very quiet about this. He`s saying only that the U.S. wants more
information in this case.
And who knows what is really going on in this case? Honestly, I mean, who
knows what is going on with this American who has been arrested, Paul
Whelan? Who knows what is going on in the Trump administration when it
comes to dealing with Russia?
But this American guy is now five days and counting in Russian custody.
He`s facing decades in prison there if they convict him on espionage
charges. And so, one thing to watch here is the possibility, and it is
just a possibility, but it is worth watching for the possibility that
Russia has arrested this guy, that Russia has picked this American guy up
because they want a swap.
One trailing end of the Mueller investigation is the indictment of Russian
citizen Maria Butina. She was criminally charged for allegedly acting in
this country as a secret agent of the Russian Federation, allegedly sent
here by Russian officials to infiltrate and influence the Republican Party
in the 2016 presidential campaign through the NRA and other connections
that she cultivated with American conservatives. Maria Butina initially
pled not guilty, but has since pled guilty and entered into a new
cooperation agreement that requires her to cooperate with local, state, and
Now, we know from an accidentally, momentarily unsealed court filing that
her cooperation has already include Maria Butina secretly testifying to a
grand jury in Washington, D.C. About what, we do not know.
We also know from publicly facing court filings that prosecutors in her
case have urged the judge in her case to leave in place a gag order that
prevents Butina`s lawyers from talking publicly about her case. They made
that case to the judge. They made that argument about the gag order,
saying that that gag order should remain in place so as to not prejudice
any forthcoming criminal trials involving new defendants we haven`t met
yet, who may be indicted in part based on testimony and evidence provided
by Maria Butina, now that she`s cooperating with prosecutors.
If you`re Russia, how do you feel about that? If she was, in fact, as
prosecutors allege, acting as an agent of the Russian government to
influence the U.S. presidential election and the Republican Party, how do
you, in Russian government, feel about the fact that she`s now pled guilty
and agreed to cooperate and is testifying to a grand jury and prosecutors
are hinting it may result in yet more indictments?
There is historical precedent for Russia – actually, for the Soviet Union,
there is historical precedent for the Soviet Union arresting somewhat
random Americans in Russia, specifically so they could swap those random
Americans for a valuable Russian, who is being held in U.S. custody, who
the Russians desperately wanted to get back home. “The Washington Post”
today notes that it happened in 1986, after an FBI sting operation in New
York resulted in the arrest of a Soviet physicist named Gennadi Zakharov
for allegedly spying on behalf of the Soviet Union.
So, Zakharov gets arrested here, he`s a Soviet physicist. He`s charged as
a spy. To get Zakharov back, the Soviets, three days later, arrested an
American journalist in Moscow, an American journalist named Nicholas
Daniloff. He worked for “U.S. News and World Report” at the time.
And the point of arresting this American journalist had much less to do
with him than it did with the fact that they wanted that Soviet physicist
back out of U.S. custody. And sure enough, the Soviets ended up swapping
the American journalist in Moscow for the Russian physicist in New York.
They had something to trade, see?
And it wasn`t quite that simple, there was other retaliation on both sides.
It was a big diplomatic standoff. But the principle is worth knowing from
history, right? As one Russian accused foreign agent right now sits here
in an American jail with a cooperation agreement, for God`s sakes, and one
American, now newly sits in jail over there.
So, again, the State Department and the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo do
not seem at least publicly exercised about this newly arrested American in
Moscow. But this thing I think is worth watching closely. If it does turn
out to be a Russian effort to get somebody to swap for Maria Butina, this
may be a very interesting, sort of thing to weigh between what the Trump
administration, the executive branch wants to do with Maria Butina, and how
valuable U.S. prosecutors, including the Mueller investigation, is finding
her as a cooperating witness.
And also, one last thing that we`re watching. I`m surprised to say it, but
we`re watching the U.S. Supreme Court tonight, because for the first time,
what appears to be an element of the Mueller investigation has gone to the
Supreme Court of the United States. And we could get a ruling from them
literally any time now. So you should know this is going on.
Now, the fuse on this one got lit over the holiday break. It`s been
shrouded in secrecy, so you are forgiven if this hasn`t been on your radar
for the past few days, but you should have a heads up about this, because
we really are watching for this and we don`t know when this is going to
You know, you will remember that there is a case, a mystery case, that has
been handled almost entirely under seal in federal court in Washington.
And we know it relates to the Mueller investigation because of sharp-eyed
reporters at “Politico” and CNN who have been watching the clerk`s office
in D.C. federal court and watching the building where Mueller`s team works
from, and those reporters have piece it together that the sealed case does
involve Mueller`s prosecutors.
From the one public-facing court order in this case, we think we can
surmise that what this case is about is Mueller and his team issuing a
subpoena to a company, and that company is owned by a foreign country`s
government. So we don`t know what country, it`s just called country A, we
don`t know the name of the company, it`s just called the corporation. But
this corporation, this foreign company, they don`t want to obey the
subpoena they got from Mueller.
And so, initially, they went to federal court in Washington, D.C. to argue
they shouldn`t have to obey the subpoena, basically because of their
ownership structure, basically arguing that because they`re a corporation
owned by a foreign company, they shouldn`t be subject to American law at
least in this way. So, the first level federal court in D.C., district
court in D.C., heard that challenge from the company and said, no, no way,
that`s no reason for you to get to ignore the subpoena. You have to obey
The company appealed to the appeals court in D.C. and the appeals court in
D.C. also heard that appeal, they heard the case, and they too said, nope,
no way. We agree with the lower court. Your argument doesn`t hold water.
The lower court ruling stands, you have to obey that subpoena.
The company then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which is a total Hail
Mary, right? Everybody appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court. The odds of
them taking up their appeal are like, it`s not like mega millions or
Powerball, but like, really, it`s really long odds. Surprise, though, the
Sunday before Christmas, yes, on a Sunday, the Supreme Court justice, who
was basically responsible for cases from the D.C. Circuit happens to be the
Chief Justice John Roberts. He decided last Sunday, yes, we might take up
And Chief Justice John Roberts asked for briefs from the government, which
in this case means Mueller`s prosecutors. He got that brief a few days
ago. And then this afternoon, he got a response brief from whatever this
mystery foreign state-owned company is.
And so, now, the Supreme Court of the United States is weighing this. They
are, right now, most unexpectedly, wading around in this totally secret,
totally intriguing part of the Mueller investigation, which we really don`t
know anything about at all. But they`ve got the briefs from both sides,
and so, they could rule now at any time, and I will just say, if the
Supreme Court does decide to take up this case, if they do decide to hear
this appeal from this foreign company, they would also have to decide if
this whole thing is going to continue to happen completely in secret, which
itself is amazing, because I`m not a lawyer, and I may be wrong here, but I
don`t know of any other Supreme Court case ever in the history of this
country where the parties involved are all being kept secret, and the
arguments in this case are all being kept secret, too.
But that is how this case has been conducted this far in the lower courts.
And if the Supreme Court takes it up on those terms, we are going to see
something at the Supreme Court that has never happened before in this
country, and it will be happening for the first time on a case that is
derived from the Mueller investigation into the weighty matter of whether
or not the president of the United States was elected as a knowing
participant in a hostile foreign intelligence operation.
So, we`re waiting on that tonight, day one. Other than that, this is
shaping up to be a normal year, right?
Senator Elizabeth Warren has just announced she`s opening an exploratory
committee to run for president. She joins us live here in studio, next.
MADDOW: It was September 1998, President Bill Clinton was arguing to the
public that he should not have to resign. Google was barely two weeks ago
and the next generation of young adults was getting prematurely saddled
with ridiculous amounts of debt.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: College for many, the first taste of freedom, and
responsibility. And for some, easy money and big debt.
Lured by cheap giveaways, pens, CD holders, college kids can get credit
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I didn`t have to put anything down that I had a job
or was able to pay it.
REPORTER: That can lead to big trouble. The average credit card dealt for
students is $1,800. A recent study by a Harvard law professor shows a
quarter of a million of young people filed for personal bankruptcy before
they`re even 25.
ELIZABETH WARREN, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL: We`re talking about young people who
are beginning their lives, their professional careers and starting families
by declaring themselves financial failure because of the debt they have run
up while in college.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Recognize that familiar face? Elizabeth Warren was a professor at
Harvard Law School, and an expert in bankruptcy law. But at this point in
her career, she had not only gained a reputation for being able to explain
the financial industry and the financial system in a way that made sense to
regular people at home, she also specifically gained a reputation for
telling you things that were helpful to your own life, but that the
financial industry really didn`t want you to hear.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WARREN: When credit card companies prey on the vulnerable, it`s just a way
to fleece the young people of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Elizabeth Warren has long had a knack for explaining what regular middle
class people in America were feeling on a very personal level, what was
happening to them, and importantly, explaining why it was not necessarily
their fault. A side effect of Elizabeth Warren`s public profile before she
became a figure in American politics was that she took the shame out of the
financial struggle that regular working Americans have faced as the system
has served them less and less well over time.
The title of her 2003 book about why things were so tough for middle class
families was plain. She called it “The Two-Income Trap.” It`s a
blockbuster for good reason. She based it on research she had done with
her daughter that showed middle class families not struggling because of
outlandish spending on things they couldn`t afford. They were struggling
because they had, in many ways, been set up for failure.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WARREN: What we discovered is that what we think of as ordinary consumer
spending, families are spending less. So the question became, why are they
going broke? And the answer is: the basic expenses. The things it takes
to raise a family in the middle class: mortgage, health insurance, a second
car so that mom can get to work, tuition for preschool, tuition for
college. Those are the expenses, those core expenses that are slamming
families against the wall financially.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Getting out there, speaking plainly, telling regular people at
home, understand the system that`s gotten you where you are. This is not
of your own making.
The system is stacked against you, and here is why. That was Elizabeth
Warren`s public profile, spoke to people at home watching TV, spoke to
Democrats as they pursued new ways to protect middle class families and
consumers at the federal level, particularly in the context of the Wall
Street collapse in 2008 and 2009. Now, it is the centerpiece of her
potential bid for the White House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WARREN: In our country, if you work hard and play by the rules, you ought
to be able to take care of yourself and the people you love. That`s a
fundamental promise of America, a promise that should be true for everyone.
I`ve spent my career getting to the bottom of why America`s promise works
for some families, but others who work just as hard slip through the cracks
into disaster. What I found is terrifying. These aren`t cracks that
families are falling into, they`re traps. America`s middle class is under
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: They are traps. This is the – talk about consistency. This is
the message that, for decades, has made Elizabeth Warren a fairly
terrifying specter to Wall Street and to the people who benefit from how
the system works now and the way the system is stacked against regular
meshes. Those attacks sharpened when she decided she herself would jump
into politics in 2012 when she unseated one of the coziest and best paid
friends of the financial industry, Republican Senator Scott Brown of
Massachusetts. He was an incumbent Republican senator at the time and she
beat him by eight points. Now, she just got re-elected senator in
Massachusetts by 24 points and now she`s announced her exploration of a run
for the White House.
Joining us now for the interview is Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of
WARREN: Thank you. It`s good to be here.
WARREN: Thank you.
MADDOW: Why – a lot of people are considering running, a few people have
already stuck a toe in the water. You are the first household name
Democrat, the first heavyweight to announce that you are going to go ahead
with this exploratory committee. Why are you going first?
WARREN: Well, look, I want to be in this fight, because this is, in my
view, the fundamental question that faces our country. And it`s so – who
does Washington work for? You can see what the trap is. Why does the trap
continue year after year after year?
And the answer is, because Washington is working great, fabulously, for the
wealthy and the well-connected. They have bought the government they want.
They have bought the rules that they want.
I think that Washington ought to work for everybody else. And I think
that`s what this fight out to be about. We`re talking about a system that
is fundamentally corrupt. That the money that flows through Washington is
how it is, that this whole system just stays rigged. And the folks at the
top are doing great, and everybody else just sliding further and further.
MADDOW: You – I live in Massachusetts, I`m one of your constituents.
WARREN: Yes, good.
MADDOW: You were just re-elected.
MADDOW: You just won in a landslide. I can see a future for you where, if
you could live to be 300 years old, Massachusetts would continue electing
you until you were 300.
WARREN: Thank you.
MADDOW: I could imagine you, because of what I know about Massachusetts
and because of what I know about you as a politician and your beliefs and
skills, that you could go back – you could build a life long rest of your
career in the Senate and become the liberal economic populist lion of the
Senate, and I can imagine you doing a lot of good in that role. I don`t
know if I were you why I would prefer to try to achieve those goals as
president rather than trying to continue to achieve them and build on what
you`ve already done in the Senate.
WARREN: So, look, this isn`t about me. This is about tens of millions of
families across this country who are getting cheated, and they`re getting
cheated on financial products, they`re getting cheated on prescription
drugs, a Washington that works great for drug companies, not people trying
to fill prescriptions.
You can just keep going through the list. It`s working great for oil
companies that want to drill everywhere, not for families, who have
children that want to breathe the air. This is truly about what kind of
country we`re going to be.
And look, I never thought I was going to get in politics. Never in a
million years. But I got in this because I believe this is the fight that
we must fight. And I can`t tell others to go fight it. I have to be in
there right alongside them.
We are building a movement across this country. You saw it. You saw it in
2018. Look at all the people who came off the sidelines. Look at all the
people who said – look at all the women who said, never thought I was
going to be called on to do this.
But they stood up and they said, I`m part of this. This is my country, my
voice will be heard. And my government will reflect my values. That`s
what I believe. And I think the best place to fight that is right there
from the presidency of the United States of America.
MADDOW: In terms of the Democratic Party right now, this is going to be a
huge year in Democratic politics. I mean, it`s been – it has been sort of
the Trump show–
MADDOW: – since the 2016 election, because it`s been honestly a bizarre
spectacle to have somebody of this caliber behaving the way that he is in
that office. This will be the Democratic Party show this year, and there
will be incredible competition to be the candidate to take him on in 2020
and the Democrats get to show what they`re made of in terms of having
control of the House.
How do you fit into this year`s Democratic Party? We`ve got this new class
of house lawmakers coming in, with outspoken lefties and socialists –
WARREN: I know.
MADDOW: – and environmentalists and feminists and all sorts of up-enders
of the status quo.
MADDOW: I know that you`re a progressive. You voted 13 percent of the
time with Donald Trump, which is one of the lowest percentages of anybody
in the Senate. How do you fit in with the Democratic Party? And where do
you see your party right now?
WARREN: Look, I don`t think of this so much in terms of party. I think of
this as people who want to see change. And the kind of change they want to
This is going to be the fish or cut bait year for the Democrats. And it`s
going to be how do we think government should work and who do we think
government should work for?
In fact, let me give you an example of that. Just think about this
upcoming Democratic primary. Is this going to be a Democratic primary that
truly is a grassroots movement that is funded by the grassroots, that`s
done with grassroots volunteers, or is this going to be something that`s
just one more play thing that billionaires can buy?
So I think this is a moment for all of the Democratic nominees, as they
come into the race, to say, in a Democratic primary, we are going to link
arms, and we`re going to say grassroots funding, no to the billionaires.
No to the billionaires, whether they are self-funding or whether they`re
funding PACs. We are the Democratic Party, and that`s the party of the
That`s how we not only win elections, that`s how we build movements that
make real change. And that`s what we`ve got to do. We`ve got to win, but
we`ve got to produce. And that`s only going to happen if we`ve got a whole
MADDOW: When you talk about billionaires and the Democratic primary, Tom
Steyer is considering running. Michael Bloomberg is apparently considering
running. Do you specifically mean that anybody who`s a billionaire should
be precluded from running? Or –
WARREN: Of course not. I just mean people should not be self-funding.
And they should not be funded from PACs from other billionaires. That a
primary is an opportunity to hear from the grassroots, to see what you can
build, to see what kind of energy is out there.
Get out there, trust your message, trust what it is that you`re fighting
for. And if someone else wants to fight for something different, trust
them to get out there and fight it.
And then let`s see where grassroots America is. Let`s see where people
across this country say, you know what? I want to be part of this. I am
in this fight all the way.
MADDOW: Senator Elizabeth Warren is our guest.
Senator, I`m not going to let you leave a good long time. Stay right
We`ll be right back with Senator Elizabeth Warren.
MADDOW: We`re back now live with Senator Elizabeth Warren, who has
announced the formation of an exploratory committee to run for president.
Senator, thank you again for being here.
WARREN: It`s good to be here.
MADDOW: In June 2016, when it was reported that you were being considered
as a potential rubbing mate for Hillary Clinton –
MADDOW: – I asked you in an interview what I thought was the most
important question for potential V.P., I asked you if you believed you were
ready to be president right then, right now if it came to that. You looked
me right in the eye and said one-word answer, you said “yes”, without
It made me wonder, thinking back on that today, if you`ve been planning on
running yourself ever since, or if you knew then that actually you could
have run in 2016, that maybe you were ready for this all along.
WARREN: Yes, it`s not a question of are you ready, it`s a question of what
the country needs. At that moment, we were already down to the wire, we
knew who our candidates were, and we were in the fight.
And now, we`re in a very different place. We`ve lived through two years of
Donald Trump as president. And we`re to the point, we have lived through
two years of one scammer and grifter after another, running federal
agencies, running our federal government.
And we have lived through two more years of giant tax giveaways to the
billionaires, to big corporations. And a harder and harder squeeze on
working families. Student loan debt is up another $100 billion since over
just the last year.
You know, it`s like the thing is tilted badly in favor of the rich and the
powerful, and against everyone else. And the tilt is getting steeper and
steeper, and that`s why we have to be in this fight.
MADDOW: I highlighted when I brought you on before the break, I
highlighted the consistency of your message and how you were an academic
expert before you were efficient a political figure. You were a policy
person in Washington on that issue before you were ever an elected official
campaigning on those issues.
WARREN: Long before.
MADDOW: Long before. This has been your life`s work, to undo the tilt of
And yet, when people go to the ballot box, vote for the Democratic primary
in 2020 and for the general election in 2020, there will be one very big
thing different that was not true when you were doing that previous work,
which is Donald Trump.
MADDOW: And is Donald Trump a qualitatively different thing that either
changes your analysis or that has made you feel more urgent about these
issues that you worked on? Is he just a continuation of what the other
Republicans have done (ph)?
WARREN: Donald Trump is an accelerant. He takes a problem that has been
growing and growing and growing, and he just sets it off and makes it worse
MADDOW: Because of corruption?
WARREN: Because of corruption. Just look at it that way. That`s what
this is about. He takes this government, and he`s pretty damned open about
it, and says this government works for the rich.
What was the first order of business? What did it take? First, they tried
to take away health care from tens of millions of Americans, came within
one vote of doing it. In fact, when it passed the House, what did they all
do? They all went off and celebrated, high-fived over taking away health
MADDOW: Any Republican president would have done that.
WARREN: Hold them together and what was the next thing to do? And the big
one that they held every single Republican together for, so it`s
Republicans, was give a tax break to the rich. Give $1.5 trillion giveaway
to billionaires and giant corporations.
And notice what Republicans have said, as long as he can keep delivering on
those tax breaks. Yes, he kind of says some things that make us a little
uncomfortable and he`s a little louder and don`t like the tweet thing and
the whole foreign policy seems to be a disaster. But hey, the rich folks
got $1.5 trillion.
And who is supposed to pay for that? People who get Social Security, our
students who have to pay the interest rate on student loans and can`t
refinance those loans. Every part of this is angled over and over to pay
off the big donors, make sure they get their part, and leave everybody else
behind. That`s what this is about.
MADDOW: When I look at those things, those specific things you just
mentioned, repealing health care, the tax cuts, and I would also include in
there, the choice of Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme
WARREN: Oh, yes.
MADDOW: Those are all things I can imagine a President Romney doing or a
President Paul Ryan or a President Mitch McConnell or a President –
WARREN: In fact, didn`t soon-to-be Senator Romney just say that in an op-
ed today? He said, I don`t like how he behaves, but look at all those
great things he`s done.
WARREN: Love those taxes, love those judges.
MADDOW: But for a lot of Americans, both – I think conservative Americans
and liberal Americans, and people who don`t like to align themselves with
politics at all but are worried right now, Donald Trump is not just the
next Republican president, he`s a special kind of crisis. He`s a special
kind of departure from what even had been Republican politics in the past.
Do you see that or do you see him just the next Republican?
WARREN: I see him as what happens when corruption invades a system, that
it gets a little bit corrupt and it gets a little more corrupt and it gets
a little more corrupt, and then it gets bigger and they get bolder and
bolder. And then you end up with someone like Donald Trump, somebody who
isn`t even coy about it.
WARREN: Someone whose cabinet appointees don`t know about whatever is the
subject area that they`re supposed to be in charge of. Cabinet officials
that get caught for just – for trading in stocks in the areas that they
are supposed to oversee. Cabinet officials who don`t even pay their taxes.
And no shame, just keep it up, because now they`re wallowing in the
corruption. But the problem is a long, systemic problem.
You know, you described this as my life`s work, but it truly is my whole
life`s work. I`m a kid who had a dream when I was a little tiny girl. I
wanted to be a public schoolteacher. All three of my old brothers went
off. They joined the military.
I just wanted to teach school. But that meant I needed a college diploma.
By the time I graduated from school, no chance for something like that. My
folks didn`t have the money for that.
And so, I ended up, it`s a bumpy path. I drop out of school at 19, I got
married. I found a commuter college, $50 a semester. And I got a four-
year diploma that I could go become a public schoolteacher on a price that
I could pay for on a part-time waitressing job.
That`s how you build a middle class. That catapulted me into the middle
class. I am the daughter of a man who ended up as a janitor. And I got a
chance to be a public schoolteacher, a college professor, and ultimately, a
senator, because America made an investment in a kid like me.
My life`s work is for every kid to have an opportunity, every kid. Right
now, those opportunities are shrinking. And they`re shrinking even harder
for people of color, people who have just always caught the wrong end of
the stick in this country.
And this is a democracy. There`s more of us than there is of them. We get
organized and we put it together and we can make real change. And for me,
that`s what this is all about.
People told me we couldn`t build a consumer agency. We got organized and
we made it happen. People told me I couldn`t beat a popular Republican
incumbent, but we got organized and made it happen.
Shoot, people told me you couldn`t get any accountability after Wells Fargo
ended up cheating millions of their own customers. But I said in an open
hearing that I thought the CEO of Wells Fargo ought to lose his job, and a
few weeks later, that`s what happened. You get into these fights and
that`s how your win them.
MADDOW: Senator Elizabeth Warren is our guest. Stay right there. We`ll
be right back with her. She`s just announced her exploratory committee for
her presidential bid. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Joining us once again is Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democratic of
Senator Warren, thank you again for being here.
WARREN: Thank you.
MADDOW: Really appreciate it.
You were on the Armed Services Committee.
WARREN: Yes, I am.
MADDOW: And you are best known as somebody – you have a very clear policy
platform. You have been fighting as we`ve been talking about your whole
life, your whole career for people who are regular folks who are getting
screwed by the financial system.
MADDOW: But if you are going to be president, you`re going to be in charge
of all of it. And I realized, even though I`ve interviewed you a bunch of
times, I don`t know a lot about your foreign policy positions. I know that
you have traveled to Afghanistan. I know that you`ve done your work as an
Armed Services Committee member.
MADDOW: I wanted to ask you about the president`s recent decision to pull
U.S. troops out of Syria. I know you voted against supporting Syrian
rebels with arms and training.
MADDOW: And now that the president made this decision the way he made it,
do you agree with him?
WARREN: So, I think it is right to get our troops out of Syria and let me
add, I think it`s right to get our troops out of Afghanistan. I think that
everybody who keeps saying, no, no, no, we can`t do that in defense
establishment needs to explain what they think winning in those wars look
like and where the metrics are.
We`re now 17 years in Afghanistan, and we control, what is it – that the
government controls less than 60 percent of the all the land. It doesn`t
have the support of the people. The heroin trafficking is up. There are
multiple groups that are terrorist groups throughout Afghanistan.
Lots of different problems in Afghanistan. And what seems to be the answer
from the foreign policy establishment – stay forever.
That is not a policy. We can`t do that.
Now, having said that, we can withdraw, you`ve got to withdraw as part of
the plan. You`ve got to know what you`re trying to accomplish throughout
the Middle East, and the pieces need to be coordinated. And they need to
be coordinated not just in our activities, but this is why we need allies.
This is why we build alliances.
MADDOW: Are you troubled by the nature of the president`s process around
the Syria (ph) –
WARREN: Are you asking me whether or not I think foreign policy ought to
be conducted by tweet? The answer is no. It should not. We actually need
to plan this out and talk about it with our allies, how we ensure more
safety and stability in the region.
But the idea that the way we`re going to do that is just to continue to
keep troops and more troops forever and ever and ever in that part of the
world is not – it is not working. And pretending that somehow in the
future it is going to work by some unmeasured version of it, it`s a form
fantasy that we simply can`t afford to continue to engage in.
MADDOW: Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, as I mentioned member
of the Armed Services Committee, first household name Democrat to announce
that you are forming an exploratory committee for president. I think that
your campaign is going to be formidable, from what we have seen already. I
hope throughout the process, you will keep us apprised and keep coming
WARREN: Look, just go to elizabethwarren.com, and you`ll find out all
MADDOW: See, I told you you`re going to be good at this.
WARREN: It`s so good to see.
MADDOW: Thank you, Senator. Thanks.
We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Congressman Sam Rayburn, Democrat from the great state of Texas,
he was speaker of the House for 17 years. During these years, his
speakership was interrupted twice when the other party, when Republicans
took control of the House. But when Democrats would get back in control,
he would keep getting re-elected as speaker.
Well, tomorrow at noon Eastern Time, Nancy Pelosi will take up the gavel as
speaker. It will be her second stint in that job, and that will make her
the first speaker of the House since Sam Rayburn, to become speaker again
after having lost that job.
Interestingly watch for this. Don Young of Alaska, who was the longest
serving current member of the House, he therefore will be performing Nancy
Pelosi`s swearing in ceremony. Congressman Young is probably the most
cantankerous member of the entire House. Something tells me he will make
this a bit of a spectacle tomorrow. So, watch him.
But then Nancy Pelosi will move on to swear in the other members of the
House. And tomorrow is day one.
That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
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Copyright 2019 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are
protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the