Shrinking Democratic Presidential Field. TRANSCRIPT: 1/10/20, The Rachel Maddow Show.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Amazing show as always.
Great week. Well done, my friend.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, “ALL IN”: Thank you. You too.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy to have you with
us. Happy Friday.
The impeachment trial of President Donald Trump is set to begin in the
United States Senate maybe as soon as next week, but if not very soon
thereafter. It has happened. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announcing today
she`s asked the Judiciary Committee in the House to prepare a resolution
for next week that the House will vote on the floor, that resolution will
name the impeachment managers who essentially will be the prosecutors who
make the case against the president in his Senate trial.
We expect that list of impeachment managers to include people like
Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff who himself is a former federal
prosecutor and who of course led the fact finding part of the impeachment
inquiry in the House. It`ll be interesting to see who else makes the
impeachment manager`s list. And indeed whether the House decides to appoint
any of its staff, its staff attorneys or any sort of wild card picks in
addition to members of Congress for those very important impeachment
The same resolution that names the impeachment managers which we`re now
expecting within a few days, we also think that resolution will formally
approve the conveying of the articles of impeachment from the House over to
the Senate. And that will give the Senate the ability to start their
So, again, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announcing today that she`s asked the
judiciary committee to pull together that resolution next week. Nancy
Pelosi tends to run things in the House with a pretty iron fist. So when
she says something`s going to happen in the House, you can usually bet on
it happening. You can preclude any possibility of it not happening.
If this process in the House rolls out next week along the time line that
she laid out today, that would mean that at least by the end of next week,
the Senate will have received the articles of impeachment, they will know
who the impeachment managers are going to be, they can then start the
process of the Senate trial. Once they get all of that, once they decide to
start the Senate trial, we`re guessing that it might take a few days for
them to get geared up to actually start. And that`s because, for example,
all the senators will need to be sworn in. They will all have to swear
their oath to do impartial justice in this matter, which will be a
particularly fraught oath in the case of this impeachment given what some
senators including the top Republican in the Senate has said about their
willingness to be impartial on this matter.
We expect that both sides, the impeachment managers as the prosecution and
the president`s defense team as well, we assume both sides will need at
least some amount of time to get their briefs together in terms of how
they`re going to present their case. That could take a few days.
I mean, be humble here. To be honest there`s been so few impeachments ever,
there`s very little presidents to go on here. We don`t know how it`s going
to rollout over the next few days, over the next week or so, but we do know
as of tonight the process is starting, that it is happening.
When Nancy Pelosi made this announcement today that she wants the Judiciary
Committee to prepare that resolution to convey the articles of impeachment
she then faced lots of reporters questions. She was asked by reporters
about her expectations for what would come next in the Senate. Nancy Pelosi
was asked if she believed the Senate would conduct a fair trial. She gave a
one-word answer to that question. She said no, like no with 17 O`s, no she
does not expect a fair trial.
But whether or not what they conduct in the Senate is fair by anyone`s
estimation, they are going to have to conduct something. We know this isn`t
going to be like the Bill Clinton impeachment trial in which 100 U.S.
senators voted unanimously 100-0 on the set of rules that govern the
conduct of that trial. I mean, both sides collectively agreed to those
rules in 1999 without dissent in the U.S. Senate. That will not happen this
This time, Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, says he`s
happy to run a Senate trial in which only Republican senators are onboard
voting for the rules by which it will be conducted. And so, you can expect
what you will over those rules when McConnell finally rolls them out.
However, this is going to go it is now finally getting under way. I should
mention on the crucial issue of witnesses and whether or not any witness
testimony will be taken as part of this Senate trial, even though Mitch
McConnell and most Republican senators have made clear they don`t want
there to be any witnesses at this trial, they want this thing done and over
with as soon as possible with as little substantive, factual discussions as
they can get away with, despite that it would take only four Republican
senators to join with all the Democrats to vote for witness testimony to be
included in this trial.
We assume the Democrats would hang together on this. That would mean only
four Republicans would have to vote with them on individual witnesses or on
in general the question of whether witness testimony will be allowed or
invited. Maine`s Republican Senator Susan Collins said today she is talking
with some of her Republican colleagues about the possibility they could
cobble together the four Republican votes so that witnesses could be a part
of the Senate impeachment trial. Because of those comments today from Susan
Collins, yes, I suppose it is theoretically possible that that could
But honestly in the Trump era, a lot of people have turned blue and hurt
themselves holding their breath waiting for Republican Senator Susan
Collins to do something interesting in principle when she has raised the
prospect that she might do so. She raises that prospect a lot. She very
rarely actually does so.
I don`t think anybody is truly counting on the prospect that four
Republican senators will actually vote to hear witness testimony in this
trial. But theoretically, the possibility is there. Now that the articles
are being conveyed from the House to the Senate, this, of course, is a big
next step, right, in only the third presidential impeachment in U.S.
We had one in the 1800s, one in the 1900s, and now we`re having one in the
2000s. They`re not very many of these. It`s a big step in that history.
It`s also a big step in the Trump presidency. Just in this moment in
American history that we`re all living through. But can I just be petty
about this for just a second? It`s Friday, it`s been a long week. Allow me
to be petty.
Let me just note a small, ad admittedly small detail about this that will
definitely not make the history books but right now means a great deal to
me. If in fact what we learned today from Nancy Pelosi about how this is
going to go in the next few days, if in fact this is the timetable in which
the impeachment trial in the Senate is now set to start, if some time in
the middle of next week, a resolution will go from the Judiciary Committee
to the floor of the House. The floor of the House will vote on it. That
will include convening the articles in the Senate. That will start the
process of the Senate swearing in all the senators and getting ready to
conduct their trial. If that is the time line, yes, it`s a big deal
historically speaking. But in small terms, it also means that they`re not
going to have to reschedule the Democratic candidates debate next week.
I know this isn`t the biggest deal, but it`s kind of the most pressing deal
right now in terms of all of our schedules. The next Democratic
presidential primary debate is Tuesday night at Drake University in the
great state of Iowa. Democratic Party Chairman Tom Perez said on MSNBC this
week that the party would acknowledge and would happily admit that it was
necessary to reschedule that candidates` debate if it turned out the debate
would conflict with the impeachment trial of President Trump in the Senate.
And I mean that makes sense. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren,
Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, they`re
all qualified to participate in that Iowa presidential debate on Tuesday
night. They all, of course, would also need to be present in the Senate if
and when the Senate impeachment trial is under way. They will be jurors in
that trial effectively, along with all the rest of the U.S. senators who
are not running for president. So, you can`t have a debate requires their
president while simultaneously the constitutional imperative of impeachment
also requires their presence thousands of miles away. So – or hundreds of
It`s not the most important thing about the impeachment process at this
point I know. But if in fact at some point next week, the Judiciary
Committee is going to put forward that resolution to convey the articles
and name the impeachment managers and all that, if that`s going to happen,
you know, next week some time, it is very unlikely that the Senate
impeachment trial will have started in earnest by Tuesday night.
So just in terms of the calendar, it means the candidates debate is
probably on. We`ll see. Anything can happen, but it`s probably on. So you
don`t need to change your plans and I don`t either.
Now, as I mention that Democratic debate on Tuesday night is in Iowa. Iowa,
of course, is the first contest in the Democratic presidential primary. The
hugely well respected sort of definitive poll in Iowa is called the Iowa
poll. It`s sponsored by “The Des Moines Register” and CNN and Mediacom
right now, but everyone calls it the Iowa poll.
Tonight, that poll for the first time shows that Vermont Senator Bernie
Sanders is in the lead in Iowa. This is the first time he`s been in the
lead in this poll in Iowa in this cycle. As you can see there, this is the
results of that poll on-screen in total. Bernie Sanders in the lead in
Iowa, with 20 percent support. Elizabeth Warren in second with 17 percent.
But she`s narrowly bunch would the third and fourth place finishers. Pete
Buttigieg in third place with 16 percent, Joe Biden one point behind
Buttigieg with 15 percent.
So they`re the top four. Sanders, Warren, Buttigieg, Biden, and you have –
and then there`s the big jump. You have to drop down 9 points before you
get to the fifth place candidate Amy Klobuchar. She`s one point ahead of
Andrew Yang, who is at 5 percent.
Cory Booker is 3 percent, Tulsi Gabbard at 2 percent, Tom Steyer at 2
percent, Michael Bloomberg at 2 percent. Nobody else in this poll
registered in 1 percent or more in the Iowa poll.
And, obviously, this poll is great for Senator Bernie Sanders and his
campaign and their supporters, right? This is the time where you want to be
peaking, right? We don`t know if this is the last Iowa poll that`s going to
be in the field before the actual caucuses take place next month, but we`re
less than a month out from the caucuses. This is the first time he`s been
in the lead. It makes it seem like his campaign is surging in Iowa at just
the right time for him so you can understand why they`d be very excited.
But I want to point out one unusual thing on what`s about to happen in
Iowa, because you look at these standings in the Iowa poll as of tonight,
and it turns out these results map kind of oddly onto the list of who`s
going to be in that next Democratic debate in Iowa on Tuesday night.
Tuesday was the cut off for qualifying to be in that debate, so unless
something crazy happens between now and midnight, we pretty much know who
is definitely going to be on that debate stage.
And remember, it`s these dual criteria that the DNC has put forward. It`s
fund-raising and polling. Based on that dual criteria, we know there are
six Democrats qualified to be on the debate stage Tuesday night.
And the unsurprising part of it is the first five. The first five
candidates qualified for the debate on Tuesday night, in fact its the first
five in this most recent gold standard Iowa poll. The top five, they`re
Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, Joe Biden, Amy Klobuchar,
they`re one, two, three, four, five in the Iowa poll. They were also the
first five to qualify for this debate.
But late last night, we got news a sixth candidate would qualify for the
debate stage in Iowa on Tuesday night. And it turns out you have to take a
big leap down the standings to get to him, because it`s not Andrew Yang
who`s in sixth place or Cory Booker or Tulsi Gabbard. You have to skip over
all of them, and it is Tom Steyer who has earned the sixth podium on the
So this result is according to the rules, there`s transparent criteria, you
can do the math and figure out why these are the candidates who will be on
the debate stage Tuesday night.
But in terms of Tom Steyer making the debate stage and making it at the
last minute with polls that just came out last night, how did he get up
there along with the other five candidates who are the top five contenders
in Iowa? It turns out funny answer. It`s a very specific answer and kind of
a funny story. We`ve got a great report on that coming up in just a few
minutes. It will blow your mind. It will change your ideas about how these
candidates are actually competing in this primary, stunning story that is
coming up in just a couple of minutes.
I do want to point out, though, in the big picture of the Democratic
primary, today, we have crossed a notable threshold. I mean, there`s still
a bazillion people running in the Democratic race. That`s how you can have
Bernie Sanders with a commanding first place lead heading into the Iowa
caucuses even though he only has 20 percent support. Twenty percent isn`t a
gigantic number. It only makes sense that you can be in the lead with 20
percent because there`s still so many other people in the field dividing up
the overall vote.
The field is still huge for the Democrats, but the original size of their
field was like death defying, record breaking. It was stadium seating. This
was the original field in the Democratic primary as of last spring and
summer. And there were a couple of late additions like Deval Patrick and
Michael Bloomberg. But for the most part, this gigantic field was already
in place from the earliest days.
Since then it`s been a story of attrition. The first candidates to drop out
of the field, to poof off our list of contenders dropped out as of July of
last year. It was Eric Swalwell who was the first to drop out. Three, two,
one, poof. Goodbye, Congressman Swalwell.
Then the following month in August, we lost four more contenders. August
last year, we lost John Hickenlooper, Jay Inslee, Seth Moulton and Senator
Kirsten Gillibrand. Ready? Poof, poof, poof, poof, all four of them gone in
Following month, in September, it was say good-bye to three, two, one, Bill
de Blasio. Poof.
The month after that in October, the candidate who dropped out was
Congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio. Ready, get set, can you find him? Poof.
In November, there was one candidate who dropped out, former Texas
Congressman Beto O`Rourke. Duck, duck, goose, gone.
And then in early December, we said good-bye to former Congressman Joe
Sestak and to Montana Governor Steve Bullock. Three, two, one, poof, poof.
Those are the last two candidates we officially took off the roster and
transformed into these tiny cartoon clouds. I had neglected before tonight
to formally say poof to California Senator Kamala Harris and former Housing
Secretary Julian Castro. So this is your last time to find them on this
board. Tonight we say good-bye to Senator Harris and Secretary Castro from
the Democratic field. Three, two, one, good-bye.
And now, today, you may have seen the latest Democratic candidate to slough
off the burdens of this campaign and get on with her life is self-help guru
and author Marianne Williamson. Can you find her? She`s next to Andrew
Not a shock that Marianne Williamson dropped out of the race today. She
laid off her entire campaign staff a week ago yesterday. So, that was a
hint. We had been expecting this moment, but today she made it official.
Three, two, one, good-bye Marianne Williamson.
Now, as I mentioned, there is a threshold that has just been crossed here.
Today in terms of the balance of the field, we crossed a mathematical
threshold because, again, remember this is what the board looked like when
it was full. This is what the board looked like when it was full when we
Now this is what the full slate of candidates looks like as of tonight. If
you can absorb visual information quickly or if you can count really fast,
you will note as of tonight with Marianne Williamson dropping out of the
race, officially, half of the Democratic field is gone. As many candidates
have now dropped out of the race as are still in the race. We are on the
fulcrum. The seesaw is perfectly balanced. The Democratic field will
eventually reduce itself to one, but the half-life decay metaphor is in
effect in round numbers. As of tonight, half of the Democratic field is
Now, last night, the incumbent president held his first campaign rally of
the election year of 2020. And whatever he thinks about his would-be
Democratic rivals in 2020, he is plainly still quite focused on the last
Democrat who he ran against.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWD: Lock her up! Lock her up!
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So crooked Hillary – wait.
You should lock her up, I`ll tell you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Lock her up. The crowds at Trump events do this reflectively. He
talks about himself, he then immediately very quickly usually starts
talking about his Democratic presidential opponent in 2016, Hillary
Clinton. The crowds instantly respond that she should be incarcerated. Now
somebody should go arrest her and she should be put in prison for some
And this, of course, is part of what Republicans will have to explain to
their kids and grandkids and what ultimately we`ll all have to try to
explain to historians about what Republicans were like in this time in
America, right? The Trump era is when Republicans started insisting
political opponents of their party`s president should be locked up, which
is departure from small “D” democratic norms in our history before now.
But the Trump era Republican Party has been doing this for so long now, it
really is like a reflex. You know, hit the knee with a little pointy hammer
and they just do it. Somebody says Hillary Clinton and they instantly say,
lock her up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE FLYNN, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: I have called on Hillary
Clinton to drop out of the race because she – she put our nation`s
security at extremely high risk with her careless use of a private e-mail
server. Lock her up, lock her up.
CROWD: Lock her up! Lock her up! Lock her up!
FLYNN: You guys are good. Damn right. Exactly right. There`s nothing wrong
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Yes, about that – that gentleman leading and praising the damn
right “lock her up” chants at the Republican national convention, that is
Mike Flynn who is now facing the very real prospect of himself being locked
up in federal prison after pleading guilty to a felony charge of lying to
Federal prosecutors had initially told the judge he`ll be sentencing Mike
Flynn, that they thought he should just get probation because he had been
such helpful with prosecutors after he pled guilty. Thereafter, however, he
stopped cooperating with prosecutors and now in a remarkable turn of
events, prosecutors have withdrawn their previous recommendation that he
should get probation, and they`re now calling on him to do some prison
That is just one of the remarkable things that`s happened this week in what
has been an incredible news week. It was a strange new twist in what has
been a strange criminal case around Trump`s national security advisor Mike
Flynn. And we`ll talk about that later on this hour.
But in terms of him leading the charge that Hillary Clinton should be
locked up, right, from the earliest days of the Trump campaign, to
something the president is still continuing with tonight or as of last
night, “The Washington Post” just broke the news last night that a Justice
Department review of Hillary Clinton`s e-mails, as well as the supposed
Uranium One scandal which single-handedly kept the lights on at Fox News in
prime time for months at a time, the Justice Department review of those
“lock her up” Hillary Clinton scandals, a review that had been ordered by
Attorney General Jeff Sessions under intense pressure from the Fox News
Channel and from Trump supporting Republicans in Congress and from the
president directly and from then conservative gadflies like William Barr
who`d ultimately go onto become Trump`s attorney general. That Justice
Department review of Hillary Clinton`s e-mails and supposed uranium
scandal, that Justice Department review it`s been wrapped up, having found
nothing of consequence.
As I mentioned, “The Washington Post” was first to report this last night
this review has wound down while finding nothing of consequence. CNN
tonight has now matched that reporting. Quote, a Justice Department review
of business dealings tied to Hillary Clinton, a review championed by the
president and his allies has wound down with officials not finding enough
evidence to recommend the formal opening of any criminal investigation.
I mean, this follows the FBI, of course, deciding that there should be no
charges related to this supposed scandal about the e-mails. It also follows
the Justice Department inspector general finding that was the correct
conclusion by the FBI. There shouldn`t have been any charges. The only real
wrongdoing related to this e-mail thing was the FBI director deciding to
make public statements about that investigation during the campaign because
he felt like he was under so much pressure to look tough on Hillary
Clinton, that he felt like he had to say something about Hillary Clinton in
the middle of this investigation, even though it probably influenced the
election, and even though the FBI itself concluded there was never any
reason to bring charges in this case.
After that, the State Department inspector general did yet another review
of this matter and found that in fact there had been nothing wrong in the
supposed Hillary Clinton e-mail scandal, no reason to take any action here
at all, let alone put Hillary Clinton in prison for it.
I`ll tell you as a matter of my opinion, I believe that “The New York
Times” is one of the great wonders of the world, and we are a better
country and a better world for having “The New York Times” in it. But “The
New York Times” has something wrong with it when it comes to reporting on
Hillary Clinton. They`ve got some sort of unresolved internal issues when
it comes to their reporting on Hillary Clinton. I don`t know if they`ll
ever resolve it, but “The Times” more than any other mainstream print
publication has hammered away at the Hillary Clinton e-mail thing as if it
really was as big a scandal as people like Mike Flynn and Donald Trump were
saying it was.
“The New York Times” front paging it countless times, building it up,
eviscerating the scandal and then dissecting the resulting entrails and
looking for every little piece of it they could get into the mainstream
campaign coverage throughout the course of the election, right up until the
week of the election. When the State Department inspector general
ultimately conclusively decided there really was no crime here, no great
scandal, no systematic wrongdoing whatsoever, really nothing to see, “The
New York Times” put that story on page A-16 of the Saturday print edition
of their paper under a headline that called it a quiet ending.
See the headline. A quiet ending into inquiry for e-mails and server. Yes,
it was a quiet ending. Yes, “The New York Times” you gave it quite a quiet
ending especially compare today how big an opening you gave it on the front
page for months.
Similarly, it was “The New York Times” that put the supposed Uranium One
scandal on its front page in the heart of the campaign in April 2015, in a
sort of reporting partnership with a right wing author who appears to have
invented that scandal, who was working with Trump campaign chief Steve
Bannon at the time. “The New York Times” did a reporting partnership with
that guy, put that nonsense, that made up non-scandal above the fold on the
front page in the heart of the campaign, made it look like it was
mainstream news instead of a Steve Bannon joint cooked up in a caldron.
They then went back to the story again, ran more headlines about it in
November of 2017 which is when FOX News and the Trump folks had heated up
that story again and when Attorney General Jeff Sessions decided he needed
to appoint this new Justice Department review to go back over the uranium
one thing and e-mails thing again to see if there could possibly be any
“The New York Times” had front-paged it during the campaign. They went back
and put it in their news again in partnership with this Steve Bannon
connected right wing author. When they want today go back to it, when the
Trump administration insisted that scandal was live again in the fall of
2017, which is how we got that Justice Department review.
Well, now that Justice Department review has apparently concluded that
there`s nothing there. And, in fact, the review wound down months ago and
found nothing and no reason to charge anybody or even open a formal
investigation and, oops, never mind, guess there was nothing there. Thus
far at least, “The New York Times” has not reported on the conclusion of
that review at all. It`s been reported in “The Washington Post” and CNN
thus far, but we haven`t seen “The Times” touch it.
I bet they will. I look forward to seeing their story and how they contend
with the fact they were more than anybody else in the mainstream media
promoted that story. I also look forward to seeing whether the “lock her
up” chant about Hillary Clinton will nevertheless live forever even after
Mike Flynn`s sentencing.
We got more ahead. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FLYNN: Lock her up, that`s right. Yes, that`s right, lock her up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Mike Flynn, the president`s first national security advisor is now
on the brink of potential federal prison time himself. General Flynn due to
be sentenced later this month for lying to investigators about his secret
contacts with the Russian government during the Trump transition. He`ll be
finding out his fate. He`ll be sentenced by the judge in his case January
But on the way to that, this week, prosecutors in this case got sort of a
do over in terms of telling that judge what they think Flynn ought to get
for his punishment. The first time they weighed in more than a year ago,
Flynn was cooperating with prosecutors as part of his guilty plea and
cooperation deal, because prosecutors were happy with the assistance he was
giving them, they initially told the judge in his case although his crimes
were very serious, they were open to the prospect of no prison time at all
for Flynn because of his, quote, substantial assistance to the government.
Since then, however, prosecutors say that Flynn is not only no longer
cooperating but they told the judge in his case this week that Flynn
actively tried to sabotage one of their cases. They`re withdrawing the
assertion that he provided them substantial assistance. As such, they`ve
now changed their mind whether or not Mike Flynn ought to serve time in
According from their sentencing memo this week, far from accepting the
consequences of his unlawful actions, Flynn has sought to blame almost
every other person and entity involved in his case. The defendant`s conduct
was more than a series of lies. It was an abuse of trust. The defendant
monetized his power and influence over our government, and lied to mask it.
Tasked with protecting our national security, instead he compromised it. It
is clear that the defendant has not learned his lesson. He`s behaved as
though the law does not apply to him and if there are no consequences for
his action. The government is not aware of any case where such a high
ranking official failed to accept responsibility for his conduct, continued
to lie to the government and took steps to impair a criminal prosecution.
Here`s the thing I want to ask about, though. After raking him over the
coals like that, when it came down to making an actual sentencing
recommendation to the judge, the prosecutors in this new filing this week
suggested that Flynn ought to get a sentence within the applicable
guidelines range of zero to six months of incarceration, which is prison
time maybe but not that much. When Mike Flynn broke his cooperation deal,
presumably prosecutors could have decided to rip up their side of the deal
entirely. They could have decided to charge General Flynn with all the
things he confessed to, all the things he told them he did as part of his
If he did as prosecutors say try to impair, try to interfere with another
prosecution, presumably that also meant they thought he was obstructing
justice which might be additional criminal charges. They`re not trying to
give him additional charges and they`re only asking for zero to six months.
Nevertheless they weren`t asking for prison time at all before. This is
sort of another hairpin turn in the saga of this criminal case against
Trump`s national security advisor. But does even this late turn in the
Flynn case still have some intrigue in it?
Joining us now is Chuck Rosenberg, former U.S. official at the Justice
Department and the FBI, former U.S. attorney in the eastern district of
Chuck, it`s great to see you.
CHUCK ROSENBERG, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Oh, it`s nice to see you.
MADDOW: Let me – I am not a lawyer. I read these things because it`s my
job and for fun. Is there – is there intrigue? Are there unanswered
questions in terms of how this is resolving as Flynn has started getting
ROSENBERG: Well, the biggest question is what the judge is going to do with
this. Right? I mean what the prosecutors are signaling to the judge is that
this guy deserves something more than a term of probation. How much more,
how long would he serve in jail?
Completely up to the judge. He has plenary authority here. But they`re
telling the judge in no uncertain terms, he did not accept responsibility.
He did not help our case, our investigation, and you ought to know about
that, your honor.
MADDOW: And the way that plea agreements and cooperation deals work is that
you pledge to completely cooperate with prosecutors. If in the judgment of
prosecutors, alone you don`t completely cooperate or you lie to them or you
otherwise breach the terms of the deal, it`s within their discretion alone
to rip up the deal and charge you with all the things that they agreed not
to charge you with.
ROSENBERG: Some defendants don`t want to cooperate at all. Let`s put them
to the side. Among those that do, the overwhelming majority would love to
try and cooperate. They have to cooperate completely and fully, that`s
typically the language of the plea agreement. And you`re absolutely right,
whether or not they met that threshold, whether or not their cooperation
was completely full is wholly within the discretion of the prosecutors.
But remember, once you get to sentencing, whatever it is the prosecutors
recommend, the judge still decides. In this case, he, Emmet Sullivan,
imposes the sentence. Recommendations by prosecutors and I know this
because I was one are just recommendations.
MADDOW: In terms of the prosecutor`s options here, though, if they are
saying not only did Flynn break the terms of his agreement, we believe he
actively tried to impair this other prosecution. We thought he was going to
be a star witness, he testified one way to the ground jury, they in fact
made public his grand jury testimony now so we can see the difference
between what he claimed before the grand jury, and then what he later
claimed when he apparently tried to screw up that prosecution. They`re also
describing him as essentially being culpable for the things he admitted to
when he signed onto this plea.
He pled to one charge of false statements, but he admitted that he made
multiple false statements and that his FARA filings were wrong and other
things like that. Wouldn`t we expecting them to be charging him with those
things now, too?
ROSENBERG: Well, maybe not and here`s why. Under the federal sentencing
guidelines and that`s a pretty cumbersome document. So I`m not recommending
necessarily you run out and read it. What your sentence should be, ought to
be is determined by a whole bunch of sort of math equations.
How much money did the offense cost, let`s say, your victims? Was there
more than minimum planning? Did you abuse the position of trust? Did your
obstruct justice? Those things add points.
Points are bad here, by the way. Unlike a basketball game, points are bad.
On the other hand, did you accept responsibility? Did you do so early? That
Regardless of whether they had charged him with a violation of Foreign
Agent Registration Act, or of lying to the FBI, the guidelines would still
come out about the same zero to six months. And you have to go through this
long convoluted math equation to get that, but that`s what the guidelines
generally dictate for a nonviolent offender who has no criminal record.
MADDOW: Chuck Rosenberg, former senior official at the Justice Department
and the FBI, former U.S. attorney – sir, thank you for being here. You
always make things more clear.
ROSENBERG: My pleasure.
MADDOW: Thanks. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: This is interesting.
All right, we got new numbers today in terms of how much money the
Democratic candidates running for president have spent thus far in their
campaigns on TV and radio ads. This is data from NBC News and Ad Analytics.
We did this last night and you might remember we had to wrap the graphic
around the studio walls so you could see everybody in – with everything in
But if you remember what this looks like with the entire field, this is
just the field minus the billionaires. If we need to fit the two
billionaires in terms of their ad spending on this chart, you have to
change the scale. You have to shrink everybody else down because between
them, the two billionaires running the Democratic primary are spending
hundreds of millions of dollars on TV and radio ads and they make everyone
Last night, Tom Steyer officially qualified for the Democratic debate which
will be in Iowa next week. The deadline to qualify is today, and he has
made it. In the days leading up to today`s deadline, it really didn`t seem
like Tom Steyer was going to make it onto that debate stage. He was in low
single digits in most national and statewide polls. He needed better
numbers in at least two polls.
But then last night, last minute, almost out of nowhere, he came in really
close to the top of the polls in two early states. Polling third, tied with
Elizabeth Warren for third in Nevada at a whopping 12 percent. Double
digits, right, 12 percent tied for third.
And look at this, second place in South Carolina. Joe Biden`s way out in
front. But look who`s in second? Tom Steyer, 15 percent in South Carolina.
Frankly, a surprise for politics geeks, right, for those of us who pour
over each new poll, a surprise.
But if you are a TV watcher in the great state of South Carolina or the
great state of Nevada, it was probably less surprising to you because check
this out, a lot with the fresh members we got today on total ad spending
from all the candidates, we also got a break down what the candidates are
spending by state, and it makes the puzzle kind of easy to solve.
All right. So far ,the candidates combined have spent $17 million on
political ads just in the state of South Carolina. OK, $17 million in TV
and radio ads, South Carolina alone.
Here`s how you solve the puzzle. Of that $17 million spent in South
Carolina, $14 million of it was spent by Tom Steyer. Oh, that`s how it
works. Tom Steyer has spent more on ads in South Carolina than Pete
Buttigieg or Bernie Sanders have spent on ads nationwide for their entire
Same thing in Nevada, the other state that helped deliver Tom Steyer, a
surprise spot on the debate stage. So far, there have been $11.6 million in
total spent on political ads in Nevada by everybody. Of that $11.6 million
total spent on Nevada ads, $10.4 million of that spent by Tom Steyer.
His Nevada-only ad spending is more than all of the ad spending by Biden,
Warren and Klobuchar combined nationwide. So I guess it must be nice to
know he got his moneys worth, that spending tens of millions of dollars in
these two states worked.
We`ve got more news than that. Today, Mayor Bloomberg announced even if he
does not himself win the Democratic presidential nomination, he says he
will throw the weight of his campaign by which I mean the gazillions of
dollars that come along with it, he says he will throw his money behind
whoever is the Democratic nominee running against Donald Trump, again even
if it is not him.
Today, my colleague Andrea Mitchell asked Tom Steyer if he too would pledge
to keep his money in the race in support of the eventual Democratic nominee
even if the eventual nominee is not named Tom Steyer, Mr. Steyer said in
response, quote, the question about whether I will continue to support
progressive causes, progressive candidates and the Democratic Party is
something I`ve always said I will do, which I think is a yes. Maybe.
But that leaves us with a wild and baffling dynamic in the Democratic
primary right now. Two billionaires pouring what seems like endless amounts
of money into the race, sounding like they`ll keep the money flowing for
whoever is in this right through November. But at least in the case of Tom
Steyer in this next debate, it seems pretty clear the reason he`s going to
be on the debate stage is just because he spent all of the money anybody
was spending in both Nevada and South Carolina.
Those are early states that are supposed to get tons of attention from
everybody. His disproportionate spending there appears to have vaulted him
not only to the debate stage but into the next phase of the campaign.
There`s one person I turn to help me make sense of these things. He joins
here next on set.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Joining us now here on set is MSNBC national political
correspondent Steve Kornacki.
I feel like it`s becoming, Steve, that Steve Kornacki time of year is
watching over. I woke up – I woke up on New Year`s Day in 2020 and I was
like I wonder where Steve is right now. I`ve seen a lot of him this year.
Let me ask you about these numbers. Obviously, the Democrats have two
billionaires in the field who are spending in a qualitatively different
type of way than all the other candidates are. Tom Steyer didn`t like he
was going to be making the debate stage on Tuesday until these Fox News
polls came out in Nevada and South Carolina yesterday showing him with huge
numbers, double digits, second and third place in those states, and that
means he`s on the debate stage.
He is absolutely dominating the ad spending in those two states. Can we
directly we directly trace the ad spending to the poll results? Have there
been enough polls in Nevada and South Carolina that we could see what he
was like before he started spending and after?
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so, there really –
there haven`t been a lot of polls. I mean, I think this is legit. You can
quibble on is it 15, is it 10. I think he`s getting a bounce in these
states. But we haven`t had a lot of polls in any early states this year.
They`re a lot more expensive. They`re a lot harder to do these days.
KORNACKI: Folks – when`s the last time your phone rang, you saw a number,
didn`t recognize it, and you answered it.
KORNACKI: That`s – there it is. So, folks are finding new ways to get
these things on online. I don`t think anything is fully realized yet, but
that`s the future. In the meantime, everybody is living in this hybrid
world. That`s part of it.
But I think the numbers you put up there, that`s the story. It`s the
numbers he`s putting in in terms of money and it`s the fact that nobody
else is spending anything. He`s got the run of the place.
So, fascinating example here is you can look at Nevada, you can look at
South Carolina, it`s all Steyer and nobody else. He`s popping a little.
He`s getting in double digits.
KORNACKI: Look at Iowa, he`s the top spender in Iowa as well. He`s turned
11 bucks into Iowa, but the other candidates have also spent in the
millions there. The other candidates are campaigning there and the media in
Iowa has been covering this for months, every visit from Klobuchar, every
visit from whoever, Steyer is at 2 percent in Iowa.
KORNACKI: So, I think it`s simultaneously less than money can still buy
you something in politics. Money – it can buy you on the debate stage with
Steyer and when you got no competition, it can get you into double digits.
But the Iowa example is telling me, when you`ve got competition, there
might be limits on it.
MADDOW: Yes. And so, when – if you can spend enough and your rivals in
the race cooperate with you so that you can get 83 percent of the ad
spending to yourself which is what he`s got in South Carolina, 90 percent
of the ad spending to himself in Nevada, yes, that`s going to make a
The question is, Steve, what you think about wisdom of how these various
candidates and campaigns are spending the money. Obviously, as you were
describing, lots of people competing in Iowa. I would expect they would all
have hard decisions to make about how many of the Super Tuesday states to
spend in. Those include expensive states like California. But it surprises
me in early states like South Carolina and Nevada, the other campaigns that
aren`t run by billionaires aren`t really putting ads on TV.
KORNACKI: They have not. But I think there`s a much broader debate that`s
playing out in sort of campaign politics right now about the value of
spending money on television, spending money on media when free media kind
of – you know, free media being getting on to news programs, talked about
on cable news, on the radio, that sort of thing, the Internet. That carries
you a lot further than it used to.
I think there`s a sense with these candidates that break out in Iowa or
break out in New Hampshire and the money will start coming in then.
Steve Kornacki, MSNBC national political correspondent, Like I said, it
feels like the dawn of a new Steve Kornacki age. It`s great to have you
here, my friend.
KORNACKI: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: Looking forward.
All right. More to come. Stay with us.
MADDOW: I was just talking with Steve Kornacki here and I mentioned at the
top of the show the new gold standard Iowa poll is just out tonight and it
shows a tight race ahead of the Iowa Democratic caucuses, sort of tight
cluster of the top four candidates – Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren,
Pete Buttigieg, Joe Biden. Bernie Sanders is at the top of that poll for
the first time with 20 percent of the polling.
But I wanted to look at one other thing that you should know about from
this same poll which is quite unique. Iowa voters are asked in this poll
whether they have made up their minds ahead of the caucuses or whether they
have an open mind, whether they could still be persuaded to support another
candidate who right now isn`t their first choice.
And the number of likely Iowa caucus goers who say they`ve made up their
minds and know for sure who they`re voting for is only 40 percent. The
number of them who could still be persuaded is another 45 percent. And
that`s interesting in its own terms.
But compare that to four years ago when nearly 60 percent of caucus-goers
knew who they were supporting. It has flipped this year. The same
proportion who knew who they were supporting then is saying the opposite
now. And so, this is incredibly fluid and the Iowa caucuses are three weeks
from Monday. Anyway, wanted to make sure you see that.
We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: One quick heads up before we go tonight, couple of months ago in
October, Facebook took down a network of what they said were Russian-backed
accounts that were consistently praising President Trump and disparaging
former Vice President Joe Biden.
Soon after, in November, NBC News reported on new research that found that
of all the 2020 candidates, Joe Biden was generation by far the most
negative coverage in Russian state sponsored media.
Well, now, today, a new report from “Bloomberg News” says this dynamic is
on the radar of U.S. law enforcement and U.S. intelligence officials.
Quote: U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials are assessing
whether Russia is trying to undermine Joe Biden in its ongoing
disinformation efforts, according to two officials familiar with the
matter. It isn`t clear how far along intelligence and law enforcement
officials are in proving a possible Russian disinformation drive against
Biden and how formal the effort is. The FBI is declining to comment.
Again, unclear if a formal investigation has been launched, but Bloomberg
News says that U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials are
assessing whether there is an active Russian disinformation effort to try
to scuttle Joe Biden`s presidential chances for 2020. History rhymes.
That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again on Monday.
Now it`s time for “THE LAST WORD” where Ali Velshi is filling in for
Good evening, Ali.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
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