Interview with Michael Bennett. TRANSCRIPT: 5/2/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Michael Lewis is one of the greatest nonfiction
writers of our time. You might know him from some real underground works
like “Moneyball” or “The Big Short” or “The Blindside”.
For his latest book, he turned his sights on what happened when Trump took
office. You`re going to hear him talk all about it when you listen to With
Pod this week.
That is ALL IN for this evening.
“THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: You and Michael Lewis, that I would eavesdrop
HAYES: It was very fun. I really like that. I really like him. It was a
MADDOW: He`s a great writer. He`s one of the few really good nonfiction
writers who`s really good at talking about the subject matter that he`s
been writing about without just regurgitating his writing.
HAYES: Incredibly, incredibly charismatic speaker, storyteller.
MADDOW: Exactly, well done. And you too. So, it`s a good combo.
HAYES: Well, thank you.
MADDOW: Anyway, all right. Thanks, Chris.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Very, very happy to
have you with us.
Colorado Senator Michael Bennet has just announced today that he is joining
the Democratic presidential field. We will be speaking live with Senator
Bennet later on this hour. This will be his first interview since making
his presidential announcement today. Very excited to have him here on set.
He`ll be joining us in just a moment.
I also want to let you know that we have just confirmed, just before I got
on the air, we just got confirmed, that Senator Kamala Harris, one of the
leading contenders for the nomination, has just confirmed with our office
tonight that she will be our guest on this show here tomorrow.
So, I know tomorrow`s Friday. If you were planning on taking Friday off,
the answer is no. I`m not either. I`m going to be here with Kamala
Harris, so you should be here too.
Today, though, some of the big news that happened today is that today we
got word, I guess, that Robert Mueller, hence forth, shall speak for
himself. At least we sort of got that word. Now, this is only a single
source report thus far and you should consider that.
But NBC News is reporting according to one source familiar with the matter
that the Judiciary Committee in the House led by New York City Congressman
Jerry Nadler, according to NBC News, that committee has begun discussions
directly with Robert Mueller`s team about Mueller himself coming to testify
According to NBC`s reporting previously, the committee had been trying to
arrange Mueller`s testimony and they had been discussing that matter with
the Justice Department, assuming that the Justice Department could speak
for Robert Mueller and would facilitate his testimony. There have been
multiple reports and some scathing allegations from Democratic members of
Congress recently that the Justice Department has been blocking that, that
they`ve been refusing to set a date for Mueller`s testimony, they`ve been
slow walking the requests for Mueller`s testimony from multiple
There`s been allegations from Democratic members that the Justice
Department basically hasn`t been acting in good faith, despite Attorney
General Barr`s public assertions that he has no objections to Mueller
coming before Congress. Well, again, this new NBC reporting tonight as yet
just a single source, not yet confirmed by other news organization, but
this reporting from NBC tonight is that Mueller`s team is now communicating
directly with the House Judiciary Committee about Mueller coming up to
Now, we got word of that tonight right after we got word of this from
Senator Amy Klobuchar. And I`ll tell you what this is. I will give you –
here`s the spoiler.
This starts off kind of normal. It`s really interesting. I think it`s
It starts off kind of normal. It gets very funny right at the end which is
why you should hear it. OK. Here it is. Here`s the date.
You see there, May 2nd, 2019. That`s today. It`s addressed to Robert S.
Mueller III, Office of Special Counsel, U.S. Department of Justice.
Dear Special Counsel Mueller – now, right off the bat, right, this is
interesting. This is not something you see every day. This is on the
letter head of a U.S. Senator, my Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, who I
should mention is also running for president.
But here she is writing one on one as a senator to the special counsel
directly. Hey, Bob. Hey, Bob, I`ve got a thing I need from you.
Dear Special Counsel Mueller: I write to request information related to the
report on the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016
presidential election which was recently completed by your office. On May
1st, Attorney General Barr appeared before the Senate Committee on the
Judiciary to testify about the evidence collected during your investigation
and the findings described in your report. Unfortunately, on numerous
occasions, Attorney General Barr was unable to speak to certain sections of
the report or to the underlying evidence evaluated by your office.
The shade there is that a lot of people notice that Attorney General Barr
didn`t seem to know how to answer basic factual answers about the report
which gave rise to suspicions that maybe he never bothered to read it.
Anyway, back to Klobuchar`s letter. Quote: I asked Attorney General Barr
whether your office requested and reviewed any of President Trump`s
personal tax documents or the Trump Organization`s financial documents.
Attorney General Barr stated he did not know and suggested I ask you
Now, unfortunately, Chairman Lindsey Graham, chairman of the Judiciary
Committee on the Senate, has made clear he does not intend to call you,
Special Counsel Mueller. He does not intend to call you to testify before
the committee. Accordingly I respectfully request you provide answers to
Number one, did your office review President Trump`s tax returns? If not,
did you attempt to obtain the documents? If so, what years of return did
you obtain and whether documents or were any redactions made?
Number two, did your office obtain and review financial statements from the
Trump Organization? If not, did you attempt to obtain them? If you did
obtain them, what years of statements did you obtain and were the documents
complete or were any redactions made to the documents?
This is how it ends. In addition, I respectfully request that you provide
the committee with any of President Trump`s tax returns and Trump
Organization`s financial statements that were obtained by your office to
aide our evaluation of the report and its conclusions.
Sincerely, Amy Klobuchar, United States senator.
So, that`s obviously the funny part at the end. Oh, and by the way, in
addition if by any chance you did get Trump`s tax returns and financial
statements, I would like those. Thank you. Sincerely, Senator Klobuchar.
I enclosed a self addressed stamped C-130 cargo plane. Please just send
those my way.
Now, where this comes from is a little notice but a sharp and potentially
important little exchange that happened at yesterday`s hearing between
Senator Klobuchar and Attorney General Bill Barr. It was at the very, very
end of his testimony, been there for hours. Klobuchar had had a long first
round of questions with him.
They`ve gone through the roster of senators on the committee and just came
back for one quick final round where people just had a couple minutes to
ask final answers. And Klobuchar just bing bing bing bing, peppered him
with a bunch of quick questions. And I`m not sure this is how he wishes he
would have responded.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you. Mr.
Attorney General, on April 27th, President Trump stated Mueller, I assume,
for $35 million, he checked my taxes and he checked my financials. Is that
accurate? Did the special counsel review the president`s taxes and the
Trump Organization`s financial statements?
WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I don`t know.
KLOBUCHAR: Can you find out if I ask later in a written question?
BARR: I – yes, or you could ask Bob Mueller when he comes here.
KLOBUCHAR: OK. I`ll do that too. But I think I`ll also ask you and then
obviously we would want to see them as underlying information. During my
earlier questions, we went through a number of actions by the president
that the special counsel looked into.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, she just moves on. She just moves on. Great. I`m going to
ask you and yeah, at your suggestion, I will ask Robert Mueller directly.
I will absolutely do that.
If the answer is yes, he got tax returns and financial statements,
obviously, we`ll expect to see those as underlying information, right?
Let`s move on. Next question. Barr`s just like say what? Hmm?
So, I think it was a good use of the second round of questions from Senator
Klobuchar. I get him on the record on stuff. Get him on the record
suggesting that the senator should go directly to Robert Mueller on this
question and get him on the record. I mean, get Mueller on the record.
She should go to Mueller directly on this matter to find out what the
underlying evidence was that Mueller looked at, and she should be asked him
to obtain it. OK.
And to the extent it matters, she gets him on the record. She gets Barr on
the record not objecting when she notifies him that if Mueller did look at
Trump`s taxes and financial statements, she and the committee would be
furnished with those since that is underlying investigation. William Barr
struggles to keep up and swallows his tongue and says nothing.
That`s a quick exchange. That`s kind of what you need to move these things
forward sometimes and in this case, that moved it forward, because that
gave Senator Klobuchar an opening, in fact an invitation, by the attorney
general for her to start communicating directly with Robert Mueller rather
than going through him or going through the Justice Department. And so,
Amy Klobuchar has written to Mueller and opened up that line of
communication with the office. We shall see.
I think now that we know a little bit more about what has been going on in
Robert Mueller`s life recently, now that we have seen his letter which was
made public yesterday which is him memorializing in print and laying out
clearly the battle that he has been in with Attorney General William Barr
over Barr misrepresenting Mueller`s findings and trying to submarine
Mueller`s whole investigation and misrepresenting to the public. One of
the things that does is puts Mueller himself back at the center of this
After what we have now seen and heard about the behavior of Attorney
General William Barr when it comes to Mueller and Mueller`s report, it
should be no surprise that committee chairman and members of the Judiciary
Committees are going to open up communication with Mueller directly rather
than routing anything through William Barr ever again. I mean, at this
point, based on what we`ve seen just from Mueller himself, it`s clear that
Attorney General William Barr is the last person on earth you should be
contacting if you were seeking true information about Robert Mueller or his
investigation, because now, we`ve got Mueller on the record saying Barr has
been mischaracterizing his work and mishandling his work, right?
So, the whole idea that Barr is the one you go to if you want to know
anything about this investigation or about Mueller himself, that`s over
now. Barr himself today elected not to turn up and testify in front of the
House Judiciary Committee. That will take some time to resolve as a
conflict. Barr had volunteered today to testify today. That`s what he
backed out. He wasn`t subpoenaed to testify. Now they will likely
subpoena him to testify. If he refuses to testify in response to the
subpoena, they`ll have to fight back.
Ultimately, they may decide to hold him in contempt of Congress. That,
too, will be a somewhat lengthy process. By the time Barr finally does
agree to sit down in front of Jerry Nadler and the House Judiciary
Committee and their professional staff, we will presumably by that point be
some distance further down the road in this ongoing scandal.
One side benefit of that delay is that by that point, William Barr will
hopefully no longer be seen as the guy you`re supposed to ask questions of
about Robert Mueller. By that point whenever he does sit down with House
Judiciary, right, what he does decide that he`s willing to face Democrat
question, he will presumably no longer be thought of as the guy who is
supposed to explain Robert Mueller.
At this point, by the time that`s going to happen – by the time he sits
down and does that, the reason they`re going to want to talk to him is no
longer going to be that Barr isn`t the one who`s explaining Mueller. At
that point, presumably, the reason they will want to talk to William Barr
is because of Barr`s own behavior, is because of what Mueller himself says
is Barr`s mishandling of his investigation, his misrepresentation of
Mueller`s finding, his creation of public confusion about what Mueller did
and Mueller found.
And to that point, to that point of William Barr`s behavior and what he has
done here and how it may be affecting what we know about the investigation
and what impact its having on the presidency, to that point after his
testimony yesterday, we are still trying to get to the bottom of this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R-IA): Was it Special Counsel Mueller`s
responsibility to make a charging recommendation?
BARR: I think the deputy attorney general and I thought it was. But –
but not just charging, but to determine whether or not conduct was
criminal. The president would be charged – could not be charged as long
as he was in office.
GRASSLEY: Do you agree with the reasons that he offered for not making a
decision in volume two of his report? And why or why not?
BARR: I`m not really sure of his reasoning. I think that if he felt that
he shouldn`t go down the path of making a traditional prosecution decision
then he shouldn`t have investigated. That was the time to pull up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was the time to pull up. I`m going to land this plane. I
guess they`re saying pull it up.
I mean, the Justice Department and Attorney General William Barr have
confirmed that Robert Mueller told Barr that he didn`t believe he was
allowed to make a declaration as to whether or not President Trump
committed crimes because of the Justice Department policy that says you
cannot charge a sitting president.
As Mueller explained in his report, if you can`t charge someone, it`s not
fair to accuse them of a crime. And the whole point of charging someone is
that you then give them their day in court so they can defeat the charges,
they can beat the charges if they didn`t commit the crime, so they can
clear their name so they can be acquitted. You don`t give an accused
criminal that right if they never get their day in court, right, if you
only accuse them of crimes without actually charging them and putting them
on trial and letting them prove they didn`t do it, right?
That was Mueller`s reasoning, whether or not you agree with reasoning, that
is what Mueller explained in his report about why he felt constrained by
Justice Department policy that he couldn`t say one way or the other whether
the president committed crimes when it came to obstruction of justice.
Well, William Barr and the Justice Department say that they learned that
that was Mueller`s position at a meeting between Barr and Mueller on March
5th – March 5th of this year. That`s the first time the two of these guys
met after William Barr was sworn in as attorney general, after he was
cleared by the Justice Department ethics office to take over oversight of
Well, how did William Barr respond to that news flash from Mueller when
Mueller told Barr on March 5th that he believed he couldn`t make a
traditional prosecution decision about the president? How did Barr take
that? How did he respond?
Well, now we know, in his own words.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARR: I think that if he felt that he shouldn`t go down the path of making
a traditional prosecutive decision, they shouldn`t have investigated. That
was the time to pull up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, that was the time to pull up. If you`re not making a charging
decision and you say you`re not, then the way William Barr thinks about it
means you can`t be investigating. You can`t be using grand juries. You
can`t be using subpoenas. You can`t be using all the tools that
prosecutors use to investigate toward the ultimate aim of assembling a
You can`t do that. You can`t use any of those tools not if you`re not
going to assemble a criminal case. Not if you`re not going to file charges
you can`t be investigating if at the end of the day you are not going to
charge, says the brand-new attorney general, newly installed to oversee
Robert Mueller`s work.
And less than three weeks after that first meeting, we get word from the
Justice Department that Robert Mueller`s investigation is over and his
report is in. Two and a half weeks after Barr was allowed to take over
oversight of the Mueller investigation, the Mueller investigation was
Did Barr end it basically as soon as he got into the Justice Department?
What he has explained since then in public testimony is his own belief that
Mueller had no right to even look at potential obstruction of justice by
the president, to investigate the president`s conduct at all, not if
Mueller at the end of the day wasn`t going to declare the president could
be charged with a crime.
So, we`re still trying to figure that out. I will note for the record just
as an aside that there are two volumes of the Mueller report, right?
Volume one is about Russia. Volume two is about obstruction. The
obstruction starts and ends with Robert Mueller justifying and defending
the fact that his office had been conducting this investigation about the
president`s behavior in the first place, justifying and defending that they
were investigating the president for obstruction of justice even though
they weren`t considering charging him.
I mean, the way he described it at the very end, very final section of
volume two of the report, that was Mueller`s defense of the fact that his
office was working to, quote, ascertain whether the president violated
obstruction statutes. Their defense of the fact they were even trying to
ascertain that by the president`s behavior is the end, is the closing
argument of the obstruction section. That`s page 178. It`s the last thing
That same defense, the fact they were investigating the president at all is
literally on page one of the obstruction section as well. Page one of the
obstruction says, while the OLC opinion concludes that a sitting president
cannot be prosecuted, it recognizes that a criminal investigation during
the president`s term is permissible.
So, why is it that Mueller and the special counsel`s office felt it was
necessary to open and close the whole obstruction section of their report
with a defense of the fact that they had been investigating the president
at all? Who was asking them to justify that?
I mean, is that at all related to the fact that the attorney general has
now articulated multiple times in public that he believes that Mueller
wasn`t going to say at the end of the day whether President Trump committed
crimes or not, that Mueller shouldn`t have been investigating Trump at all,
at that point the investigation is inappropriate? I mean, did Barr shut
Mueller down when Mueller told him he wasn`t going to say whether or not he
was going to be charged? If so, was the grounds on which he did so, that
Barr think that precludes you from even investigating?
I don`t know. And neither do you. But Robert Mueller knows. And now,
according to this new reporting from NBC News tonight, the Judiciary
Committee in the House is negotiating with Mueller directly to arrange his
testimony, whereupon he can presumably tell us that and everything else he
Here`s the flip side though which I think is the worrying part here for
Attorney General William Barr and for the White House. Over the last 24
hours or so, you`ve seen headlines like this one, right? Republicans turn
against Mueller. You have seen the attorney general himself calling
Mueller snitty, saying that Mueller`s whole investigation was based on a
false accusation and it was illegitimate.
We saw this letter today from the president`s Russia lawyer, from Emmet
Flood, deriding Robert Mueller, saying what Mueller turned in was some sort
of law school exam paper, saying that all that Mueller`s investigation
produced was a bunch of political statements in that report. Emmet Flood
sneering at Mueller`s report and his findings by calling the report from
Mueller a, quote, prosecutorial curiosity.
We`re watching Republicans in Congress and the White House and the
president`s legal defenders all starting to round on Robert Mueller.
Forget all the stuff like, oh, Mueller`s an honorable guy. Oh, Mueller`s
exonerated the president.
No, now, it`s Mueller is deranged. Mueller is terrible at his job.
Muller`s a disaster.
And the problem for them as they make that turn is that Mueller is alive
and Mueller is starting to communicate with the outside world in his own
terms that we now know includes at least some lines of communication
directly from the Judiciary Committees to him. And that puts William Barr
and the Trump White House in a bit of a corner here because in order to
cast dispersions on what was wrong with Mueller`s investigation and what`s
deficient about Mueller himself, in order possibly to have justified
shutting down Mueller`s investigation in the first place once Barr took
over as attorney general, they`ve had to make this aggressive argument
about what it is that Mueller did wrong, right? What was so wrong about
Mueller saying that he felt constrained by Justice Department policy, such
that he did not believe he was allowed to say whether or not the president
committed crimes. They have hung their hat on that being the disaster of
what Mueller did, right?
I mean, here`s how Barr himself put it in his opening statement for the
Senate yesterday. Quote: The role of the federal prosecutor and purpose of
a criminal investigation are well-defined. Prosecutors work with grand
juries to collect evidence to determine whether a crime has been committed.
Once the prosecutor has exhausted his investigation into the facts of the
case, here, she faces a binary choice, to either commence or decline
The appointment of a special counsel and the investigation of the conduct
of the president do not change these rules. At the end of the day, the
federal prosecutor must decide yes or no.
The federal prosecutor must decide yes or no.
Ryan Goodman singled out this part of Barr`s opening statement yesterday at
Just Security, noting that this might make for great rhetoric for Barr
deriding Mueller, claiming that Mueller didn`t do his job, but it also
creates a really big problem for what happens next as long as Mueller is
alive and can speak for himself on his own terms.
Quote: In his report, Mueller took the view that he didn`t have authority
under the Justice Department`s legal opinions to make a federal criminal
accusation against a sitting president. Barr`s statement to the Senate now
resets that framework. Indeed, Barr`s clarification of the rules appears
to state that Mueller has a duty to make exactly that call about the
president. Whether or not Barr articulated this legal framework to justify
his decision in the Mueller investigation, what it means is that special
counsel Robert Mueller may now be able or in fact required to say on the
record whether he believes President Donald Trump committed the crime of
obstruction. Mueller should have the opportunity to do so in congressional
In other words, all these guys, Barr and the rest of them, they`re all
roundly denouncing Mueller for having botched this investigation, when he
refused to state that President Trump committed crimes. I mean, it may, in
fact, be possible that Barr told Mueller the investigation must end if he
was going to continue to refuse to say if President Trump committed crimes.
Well, Robert Mueller is about to come to Congress to testify as far as we
can tell. And if this whole attack on Mueller`s findings and what might be
the effort to shut down Mueller was all based on it being a huge problem
that Mueller wouldn`t say whether or not Trump should be charged. If Barr
is demanding now that what the Justice Department rules say is that Robert
Mueller must declare if Donald Trump committed crimes, well, it no longer
matters whether the report says that, right?
We`re in the new phase of the report, maybe the past on that point. And in
the future, what this will mean is that Robert Mueller will be sworn in
before a congressional committee and he will be asked by Jerry Nadler or by
Amy Klobuchar or by Kamala Harris or any of these folks, and Robert Mueller
will not just be able to explain under oath whether or not he believes the
president committed crimes, he may be obligated, under the Justice
Department rules, as newly explained by Attorney General William Barr. He
may be obligated to say, to declare if the president is a criminal and if
that is what his investigation found. That is the box that Attorney
General William Barr has created for himself and for the White House the
way he has attacked Robert Mueller.
And now, it is Robert Mueller`s time to speak.
More ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: A lot of the still photos that we use on the show come to us by a
photo bank run by “The Associated Press”. If you search for Colorado
senator in that photo bank, you get a ton of photos of the Ottawa Senators,
an NHL team, playing the Colorado Avalanche.
But you also get this oddly titled album, “Colorado`s mystery senator.”
You see how that`s the title there? Colorado`s mystery senator.
In that album, you get this photo of the mystery senator getting out of a
car, then this one of him wearing protective eyewear, touring a lab wearing
a nice suit. There`s also one of him wearing slightly larger protective
eyewear. This time, he`s got a hard hat.
All those photos ran with this “A.P.” story titled “Colorado is still
sizing up its new senator”. This was in 2009, because Michael Bennet was
still relatively unknown not just in Washington as a new senator but even
to people in his own state.
2009 is the year that Michael Bennet was appoint today the U.S. Senate seat
vacated by Ken Salazar when Ken Salazar was brought to Washington. When
Salazar got that nod, every well-known Democrat, every ambitious Democrat
holding office in the state of Colorado wanted to be in the running for
that appointment to the U.S. Senate.
The surprise pick though was this guy who had no statewide profile at all.
He was the superintendent of the Denver public school system. School
superintendent to U.S. senator are – not necessarily dots that you would
think would ever connect. They don`t usually connect to each other without
anything else in between.
But that is what happened to Michael Bennet. Bennett was a Yale-educated
lawyer. He`d been at the Justice Department under President Clinton.
After practicing law, he entered the private sector, became managing
director at an investment firm run by a really conservative politically
active billionaire. Bennet was not conservative, and not a Republican, but
he thrived there, made a bunch of money. He did end up becoming managing
But the public service bug really bit him. And when his friend became the
mayor of Denver, a man by the name of John Hickenlooper, you might heard of
him, Bennett said yes when the new Denver mayor asked him to become his
chief of staff at city hall.
From there, Bennet went on to run Denver`s public schools despite having no
previous background in public education. If you need a barometer as to how
he did in that job, consider that within just a few years of taking that
gig, he was the runner up to be education secretary for the whole country
under President Obama.
So, yes, Michael Bennet may have been a mystery senator when he was
appointed in 2009, but he was an impressive mystery, right? What was
challenging in terms of the politics is that Bennet was only appointed in
2009 with zero name recognition and having never run a campaign in his
life. But after getting appointed in 2009, he actually had to get
reelected and to get sort of reelected to hold the seat the very next year
And remember 2010 was a huge backlash year against the Democratic Party, a
huge red wave that year.
In that “A.P.” article, the one with the mystery senator photos, they
talked to Republicans in Colorado who are excited but also a little wary
about the prospect of picking him off. Quote: Republicans saying Michael
Bennet is an untested newbie they can pick off next year. But privately,
they say Bennet has shown he has some serious political chops.
They probably further thought they had him on the ropes after he came out
in favor of Obamacare and put it this way.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to try one question on you, as a new senator
who`s on the ballot next year, in a tough state, if you get to the final
point and you are a critical vote for health care reform and every piece of
evidence tells you if you support that bill, you will lose the job, would
you cast the vote and lose your job?
SEN. MICHAEL BENNET (D), COLORADO: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. That tape will be held, I hate to tell you
that. But that tape will be held.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That tape was held. Bennet did vote for Obamacare in the United
States Senate. But he got reelected in Colorado in 2010 in that red, red
Tea Party year, this brand-new senator who nobody had heard of a year
before – I mean, in the primary he had to beat a Democratic challenger
that had the backing of Bill Clinton. After having a tougher than you
would expect primary, he then had to go on to the general. He eked out a
win against a strong but slightly insane Republican in a year when a lot of
slightly insane Republicans actually did great. Democrats lost six Senate
seats that year, but not Michael Bennet`s.
In a purple state, Michael Bennet held on in the worst possible
environment. By the time he was up for re-election again in 2016, he was
definitely no longer a mystery. He won by over 150,000 votes. During
Bennet`s time in the Senate, he`s gotten the reputation as, God forbid, a
man who reads. I know.
He is known to be a senator who is pragmatic. He`s still pretty low
profile and soft spoken except when he`s not. Like this signal moment
where he blew his stack at Texas Senator Ted Cruz on what was then day 34
of the government shutdown.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): So, the only thing that is necessary to pass a clean
bill paying the salaries of every man and woman in the coast guard is for
the Democratic senators to withdraw their objection, is that correct?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s correct.
CRUZ: Thank you.
BENNET: Madam President.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator from Colorado.
BENNET: Madam President, I seldom as you know rise on this floor to
contradict somebody on the other side. I worked very hard over the years
to work in a bipartisan way the presiding officer with my Republican
colleagues. But these crocodile tears that senator from Texas is crying
for first responders are too hard for me to take.
They`re too hard for me to take because when you – when the senator from
Texas shut this government down in 2013, my state was flooded. It was
underwater! People were killed! Peoples` houses were destroyed! Their
small businesses were ruined forever.
This government is shut down over a promise the president of the United
States couldn`t keep! And then America is not interested in having him
This idea that he was going to build a medieval wall across the southern
border of Texas, take it from the farmers and ranchers that were there, and
have the Mexicans pay for it isn`t true!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Senator Michael Bennet is no longer a mystery, but he is
occasionally still surprising. He is also, as of today, the latest entrant
in a field of Democratic candidates for president that has 21 people
running as of today and counting. Senator Michael Bennet joins us here
MADDOW: Joining us now for the interview is Michael Bennet. He`s the
senior senator from the great state of Colorado. As of today, he`s the
newest entrant in the Democratic presidential field.
Senator, congratulations. Thanks for being here.
BENNET: Thank you. Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: How has day one been?
BENNET: It`s been good. I told my mom I was going to be 22nd or somebody
had to be 22. I`m 21st.
MADDOW: You`re 21.
BENNET: I am, so I`m actually –
MADDOW: You`re moving up in the polls.
BENNET: I thought I was. It`s been a good day.
MADDOW: I will say I`ve been looking forward in particular to you
declaring so that I could say, this year`s candidates include Beto, Bernie,
Buttigieg, Booker, Biden, Bullock and Bennet.
BENNET: That`s good.
MADDOW: So, Bullock is not – he hasn`t declared, but there`s an article
yesterday that said he`s going to run.
MADDOW: I mean, the point there is there`s a lot of B`s, but also that
there`s so many Democrats running but even alphabetical sorting doesn`t
help at this point.
MADDOW: So, how does – how does the size of the field, the fact that
there were 20 people ahead of you in the pool affect your decision about
BENNET: Well, I think in some ways, it made it possible to be honest with
you because if there were two people in the field and if people said who`s
this guy who`s the superintendent from Denver, it might make it hard for me
to run and compete. I think that the field is as big as it is has
coalesced as little as it has creates real opportunity for all of us that
are in the race and there are some great people in the race.
Overall, I`m really happy that we`ve got a large diverse field in part
because I think the American people don`t know what the National Democratic
Party stands for and we`re going to use this process, I hope, to figure out
what it does stand for so we can beat Donald Trump.
MADDOW: Because President Trump is a different kind of president and
because people, I think, particularly in the Democratic side of the ledger
believe that he may be a uniquely bad president or uniquely threatening
president in term of American traditions, I think even more so than usual,
a lot of the discussion is electability –
MADDOW: – who can win, and more broadly, how can this giant primary be
conducted in such a way that it`s going to be putting a nominee forward who
is as strong as possible, who has the best chance of winning.
Do you have concrete ideas about that or do you feel like it will work
BENNET: Well, I think it will work itself out.
BENNET: I know a lot of these people. I think they`re good people.
There`s nothing wrong with having a competition of ideas. We should have a
competition of ideas. We should see what Democratic voters want and want
I agree with you that the essential question is going to be who can beat
Donald Trump. That should be our number one question. But we also go into
the point of the fate or the state of our republic. We have got – it`s
shambles. And we have got to figure out how to govern this country again.
I mean, one of the reasons I got in was I came to believe if you look at
the last ten years of our political system which was mostly a case of
tyranny by the Freedom Caucus, we got almost nothing done. And if we have
another ten years like that, my generation`s going to be the first
generation of Americans to leave less opportunities, not more, for people
coming after us.
In other words, I don`t accept that we can continue to accept the degraded
political conversation we`re having in this country and a degradation of
our institutions and expect our exercise of self-government is going to
actually work. And that is not just a Trump problem. He is a huge
manifestation of that problem, but that existed long before he was there.
It existed because of the Tea Party. It existed because of Mitch
McConnell`s strategic cravenness or craven strategicness.
And I think Democrats need to own up to the fact that we haven`t won every
one of those battles and what are we going to do different to stop losing
on judges and on climate and to be able to actually create universal health
care in this country rather than just have a debate where they ignore us
and ignore us and ignore us, and we don`t really make progress, I don`t
think, with the American people. That is a big task for us.
MADDOW: Do you think that – I mean, one of the things, you wrote this
manifesto today, and one of the things you described there was that the
solution to that can`t be that Democrats have to win everywhere, that you
have to have Democrats have uni-party (ph) rule because as long as the
Republicans are there nothing will happen and once you`re in power all you
have to do is roll back everything the other party did.
You`re talking about an idea where there has to be, again, a sense that
both parties have a role in pluralistic governing. And I – if I had a
magic wand, I would that to be true too. I feel like better ideas come
from competition among potentially pliable and viable ideas from both
But because of what you`re describing there, whether it`s Mitch McConnell
or the Freedom Caucus or anything else from the Republican Party, I don`t
think there`s any hope at all for Republicans and Democrats to work
BENNET: First of all, let me profoundly thank you for actually reading –
MADDOW: Oh, I read the whole thing. I even have a quote from a part that
I`m bothered by.
BENNET: Well, good. I hope you`ll raise the part you`re bothered by.
MADDOW: I will.
BENNET: And I hope will go read it because I`ve spent some time on it, and
I think that it`s – you know, I hope that it`s provocative. I was trying
to be provocative, because there are a lot of people who feel like you do.
And let me be clear about this. I do not believe the Freedom Caucus can be
negotiated with. I do not believe they can be compromised with. I do not
believe Mitch McConnell will ever do that unless – I mean, when I think
about Mitch McConnell, I think of a guy who`s completely immune to give and
take unless he`s taking everything which he often does and he often has
over the ten years that I`ve been in the Senate.
But I represent a state that`s a third Republican, a third Democratic, and
a third independent. And I don`t think those Republicans and independents
are represented by the Freedom Caucus in Washington. I think the Freedom
Caucus in Washington is supported by a few billionaires in this country and
by Fox News. And so is Donald Trump, by the way.
And at a certain point, we`ve got to find a way to beat them. We have to
find a way to close over them. And I think the way to do that is by
isolating them and then by pursuing a set of policies that are popular to
the broad swath of the American people.
So, we`re not just talking to the coast. We`re not just talking to people
who already agree with us or are convinced by us. But we`re actually
making an effort to reach out because I do any we need to build a
constituency for change in this country.
It`s really easy to have a constituency to keep stuff the same that we`ve
seen that for ten years. What have we accomplished? I mean, we were able
to pass the Affordable Care Act, some of it through reconciliation, and
that`s a good thing. They were able to pass their tax bill. That`s a bad
thing. And I suppose we could say Dodd-Frank.
Other than that, we`ve really done nothing. And so, we have to find, I
think, a way in this country to reconstruct that pluralist politics and the
argument – one of the arguments I make in my piece is that everywhere in
America that goes on every single day except in Congress.
And the whole system is based on the idea not that we will agree with each
other but we will disagree with each other. Rachel Maddow will have her
views. Michael Bennet will have his views. Kamala Harris, who`s coming on
tomorrow, will have hers. And Mayor Pete will have his. And then you got
And what we have to do is figure out how to go back to a place where we
don`t expect unanimity. We don`t have a tyrant or a king to tell us what
to think. We expect to have division and disagreements.
How do we fashion those disagreements into imaginative and durable
solutions is the work of a democracy. And we have completely lost it in
MADDOW: Michael Bennet is the senior senator from Colorado. You`ll stay
there, I promise I`ll tell you about what bugged me in your piece.
BENNET: I want you to too.
MADDOW: Good. I also have a question for you – I`m going to break my
rule about never talking to people about their families.
MADDOW: I have a good reason to break that rule with you.
BENNET: All right.
MADDOW: We`ll be right back with Senator Michael Bennet after this.
BENNET: Thank you very much.
MADDOW: Back with us now is Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado. He
announced today that he is running to be the Democratic nominee for
Senator, thank you for sticking around.
BENNET: Thank you for letting me sit around.
MADDOW: All right. I want to ask you about your dad.
BENNET: This is just like being at home without a TV between the two of
us. I appreciate it.
MADDOW: Well, sort of. You can`t turn me off quite as easily.
BENNET: That`s true. You can`t walk away.
MADDOW: The mute button doesn`t work in person.
I`m asking you about your dad which is an awkward thing.
MADDOW: I would not do this for most candidates, but you are a special
case. You were born in India, I learned today, because your dad was
working for the U.S. embassy there at the time you were born.
Your father was an assistant to Vice President Hubert Humphrey. He was
staffer to Senator Thomas Eagleton. He was staff director of the Senate
He was the head of USAID under President Carter. He was an assistant
secretary of state under President Clinton. He was the president of NPR
and he was the president of Wesleyan University where you ultimately got
And I think that my dad is awesome, obviously, but that`s like the combined
resume of 10 men.
MADDOW: How has that affected you? That`s slightly insane.
BENNET: Somebody today has said to me that they found a resume that put
our two resumes together it was somebody I worked with before at the
MADDOW: It`s like an encyclopedia of jobs.
BENNET: I mean, look, my family, when I was in the second grade – my
brother remembers this – when I was in the second grade, we were asking in
my classroom to line up byes who family, the most recent whose family was
here the longest. And I was the answer to both questions.
My mom and her parents were Polish Jews who survived the Holocaust. They
went to Stockholm two years, in Warsaw after that, went to Stockholm, went
to Mexico City, came back. Came to New York, the only country in the world
they thought they could rebuild their shattered lives and they had a
business in New York and they paid for my education and my kids` education.
Because of them, I had every benefit that anybody in America could be
My dad because he had all this public interest jobs couldn`t actually
support us the same way that my immigrant grandparents did –
MADDOW: Your immigrant mom did, yes.
BENNET: – but – and his family actually went all the way back to the
Mayflower. People we don`t remember were leaving religious persecution.
So, it`s an odd thing that I – a family that I was raised in but the
commitment to our country and to opportunity and the idea that we are a
pluralist society, and if you come here, you are an American no matter
where you came from, somebody who contribute to society, and the idea we
all have a responsibility to make it better, not take it for granted,
understand how meaningful the symbol is to people in the rest of the world
who don`t have benefit of free press, benefit of the rule of law, benefit
of an independent judiciary. Those where is all things that my
grandparents, you know, intuitively understood.
And my dad`s believe was that public service was noble and I was raised
believing it was noble. I still believe it`s noble. I – you know, when I
see what`s going on in the Justice Department today, a place where you said
I worked and I did work, by and large the people in that agency are
unbelievable patriots, committed to the rule of law, committed to this
We have got to restore that. We`ve got to restore decency in the federal
government. We`ve got to restore integrity in the federal government.
The Tea Party has done an unbelievable job of separating the American
government, the federal government from the people in America. And I worry
a lot about that. That`s the stuff that when they`re saying, you know,
when they shut the government down, when they do all that stuff and then
they go – Ted Cruz is my favorite on this – they go back and say, see how
terrible those guys are? They deserve their 9 percent approval rating.
But the reality is, that is the way we make decisions in America. It`s not
how they`re making in China. It`s not how they`re made in Iran or in
Russia. That is how they`re made here.
And the federal government in many ways is corrupt. It`s bankrupt. It`s
controlled by big donors. It – we have all kinds of problems that we`ve
got to solve.
But we can`t turn away from it. We have to fix it. We have to solve it.
And that`s how my dad would have felt about it, and that`s how my
grandparents would have felt about it and that`s how I feel about it.
MADDOW: Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado, I have a million things to ask
you about, and it just means you have to come back.
BENNET: I`ll come back because I want to hear the critique of what I
MADDOW: Oh, just wait. Thank you, sir.
BENNET: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: I really appreciate you being here.
BENNET: I really appreciate it.
MADDOW: Today was day one of Senator Michael Bennet`s run for the
presidency. It`s – I love – it`s an honor to have all these
conversations with these candidates, particularly early on as they`re
starting to run. This has become the most fun thing about my job.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: One final story for you tonight before we go. I want to close out
the show with a little bit of new reporting tonight. And it`s about the
House Intelligence Committee and the team of staffers and investigators
that that committee`s chairman, Adam Schiff, has been building to
investigate, among other things, the president`s conduct both before and
during his time in office, with a particular eye toward the president`s
business dealings and finances.
Congress man Schiff has explained over a period of months that he believed
that Mueller was not looking at the president`s taxes and finances. And he
believed that meant the intelligence committee needed to do so in order to
find out if that path led toward any evidence of the president potentially
being compromised by a foreign power. Earlier this week, as reported in
“The Daily Beast” that Chairman Schiff has hired the former chief of the
financial crimes division at FBI, a guy named Patrick Fallon, who is the
newest staffer on House Intelligence Committee.
We can add a little bit of new reporting on that tonight. An intelligence
committee staffer tells us tonight that former FBI financial crimes chief
Fallon, he is one of six full-time staffers on Schiff`s team investigating
the president now, one of six.
In addition to that FBI financial crimes veteran Patrick Fallon, Schiff`s
team includes three former assistant U.S. attorneys, and a Russian speaking
investigator. That core team will be supplemented by several other
committee staffers who will devote significant portions of their time to
the ongoing investigations.
So, six staffers working full time on presidential investigation, in the
House, in the Intelligence Committee into the president`s business and
finances and conduct. While, of course, the president does everything he
can to slow them down. Full speed ahead.
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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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