CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: That is ALL IN on this Tuesday night.
"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Let`s never do this four years again, huh,
HAYES: Please, please, please, please. You know, I had a thought. In the
statue garden, Grover Cleveland, the only president to lose and be re-
elected again, and I thought, ugh, is that why he`s in there? Grover
Cleveland? Who`s a big Grover Cleveland fan? But, anyway.
MADDOW: Did you see the reporting tonight in "The Wall Street Journal"
that Trump is now talking to people about forming a third-party, a patriot
HAYES: Sure, did.
MADDOW: I thought, well, the one really, really, really bright silver
lining to Democrats is that.
HAYES: Yes. Good. Go with God.
MADDOW: Exactly right. Thank you, my friend. Much appreciated.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
Last day, less than the last day. It`s the last night and it feels like a
dark night. It is -- it is hard not to feel trepidatious about it now at
the end, not only given what we have been through with this presidency, but
also just given the terrible way it is ending. For the first time in the
history of our country, there has not been a peaceful transfer of power
between presidents. And the outgoing president tomorrow will not attend his
successor`s inauguration. He and the first lady will not greet the next
president and the next first lady and show them around the White House and
then ride down to the Capitol together for the swearing in, like even
truculent, sour-losing presidents have done in the past. They just won`t do
Instead, did you know that president Trump is going to give a speech
tomorrow? Seriously. He is leaving not long after dawn, sunrise is 7:23
a.m. tomorrow in Washington, D.C. The outgoing president is throwing
himself a good-bye ceremony shortly thereafter, that he is ordering members
of the military to attend, which he can do, because in the morning he will
still technically be commander in chief.
He will have a couple hundred service members there. They do not have a
choice. And he may order one of the military bands to play for him as well.
There has been continuing reporting today the White House is trying quite
desperately to get other people who the president cannot order to be there,
to nevertheless show up there of their own accord tomorrow morning before
he flies off to Florida. They really are apparently just using all their
contact lists indiscriminately. Each invitation to the sendoff the
president is throwing for himself asks the recipient of the invitation to
please bring with them five additional guests.
And they are sending these invitations to everyone they have an email
address for, apparently, including, we think by accident, a number of
people who the president has loudly denounced as his enemies. People like
Anthony Scaramucci, the former White House press secretary for five
minutes. And, John Kelly, former White House chief of staff. Even John
Bolton, his former national security adviser, who wrote a whole book about
how terrible a President Trump was, who the president then sicced the
Justice Department on in response to that book.
But oops, somehow, John Bolton is among those invited to come tomorrow to
the president`s -- to the party that the outgoing president is throwing for
himself. And please would he bring five friends with him?
So we`ll see how it goes early tomorrow. The president is leaving the White
House roughly at dawn. We are advised that he really is planning on giving
a speech, possibly kind of a long one, at this event that he is throwing
for himself at Andrews Air Base. There`s a reason why former presidents
don`t give speeches on their successor`s inauguration day, right? But,
yeah, that`s what we are getting from the outgoing president.
Because Mr. Trump is then just leaving and flying to Florida, rather than
taking any part in the inaugural ceremonies in Washington, responsibility
is going to fall to the White House usher to welcome President Biden and
the new first lady, Dr. Jill Biden, to the White House, once Joe Biden is
sworn in tomorrow at noon. The usher has to do it because the departing
You know, I have found myself thinking over the past week or so -- if Mr.
Trump could have seen into the future to this day, if in 2015 he was
thinking about running for president, if he could have seen -- picked one
day in the future, picked this day, the final day of his presidency, to
know what it was going to be like this day, to know what he would have
wrought and brought down upon himself by this day, do you think he would
have run in the first place? I mean, honestly. Don`t think about how he
thinks about the country, we still don`t understand that, but we know how
he thinks about himself and his own interests.
And he is leaving office with the main legitimately open question on the
last day and the last night of his presidency being, will he try to pardon
himself? To avoid future federal prosecution and potential federal
imprisonment for his crimes? He is leaving office tomorrow with this
conundrum of how he`s going to keep himself out of prison. He couldn`t even
pull a Richard Nixon in the end, because apparently he does not trust that
his vice president would pardon him if he resigned, like Ford at least did
for Nixon. He couldn`t even count on that because he can`t trust his vice
president to do that for him, not after he sicced a murderous mob on his
vice president less than two weeks ago in the "hang Mike Pence" attack on
the Capitol that he directly incited.
The president leaves office with his second, his second Senate impeachment
trial still pending. No president has ever been convicted in a Senate
impeachment trial. Donald Trump stands a real chance of it, though.
He leaves office with his campaign chairman and his deputy campaign
chairman convicted felons, with his most longstanding political adviser,
Roger Stone, a convicted felon. With his campaign manager, Steve Bannon,
under federal indictment and awaiting trial. With the criminal
investigation of himself and his business under way in New York, possibly
another criminal investigation pending against him soon in the state of
With the last two banks on earth that would still do business with him
pledging now to never do so again. One of them closing his accounts and
calling on him to resign the presidency. The other one is the one to which
he has personally guaranteed over $300 million in outstanding loans, which
are soon coming due, with no one having any sense of how he will possibly
With his business interests cratering at home and across the globe, with a
live question in play whether he will be the first president to ever face a
lifetime legal ban on him ever running for office again. With even his wife
leaving Washington with an approval rating nearly 20 points lower than any
other first lady in history. She`s the only first lady in history to be
viewed on balance negatively by the American public. That`s like a physical
impossibility, but he`s managed it somehow.
His long-time fixer and lawyer is also not only now a convicted felon, he`s
one who has cooperated and is cooperating in an ongoing way with multiple
ongoing investigations into the president, including the criminal bank
fraud and tax fraud one that is ongoing in New York.
His niece is suing him to get the inheritance she says he stole from her.
He`s soon going to be deposed in a defamation case brought by a woman who
says he raped her and who says she saved a dress with his DNA on it to
A company that was lined up to broker the sale of his now flagship
property, his D.C. hotel that company refuses to be associated with him and
will have nothing to do with the sale. The city where he was born and
raised and lived his whole life before the White House, New York City, has
canceled all its Trump organization contracts. He, of course, in the middle
of his one term in office said good riddance to New York and moved to
Florida, apparently out of some combination of spite and tax interests.
But even still, his neighbors in Palm Beach, Florida, are asking that town
to enforce zoning and tax rules in order to prevent him from actually
moving in there full-time. And the PGA won`t put tournaments at his golf
courses anymore. And he`s banned from Twitter and Facebook and YouTube, and
And apparently they can`t find anyone to come to the sore loser sendoff
he`s throwing himself at dawn on his last morning as president at an air
base after he was voted out, after only one term. The only president in
U.S. history to have ever lost the popular vote twice, to have been
impeached twice, the only defeated incumbent president ever to use violence
by his supporters to attack the U.S. government to try to force his
continued hold on power.
He leaves tomorrow at dawn, slinking out before the inauguration of the man
who soundly beat him. He sneaks out early tomorrow as the only president in
living memory to face the legitimate prospect of post-presidential
conviction in the Senate. And a lifetime ban on holding office. And
potential federal and state criminal charges in the courts.
Other than that, how was the play, Mr. President? Was it worth it? If you
could have seen, if you could have gone -- five years ago, could have fast
forwarded to see me say that on TV, and it`s all true, if you`d known how
this would go by the end of it, would you still have done it? You will go
down in history as unequivocally and inarguably the worst president in
American history, with what may literally be the rap sheet to prove it.
That`s what you did.
Glad you did it? Wish you could take it back? We do.
So here`s where we are tonight. Less than one day left. Tonight, it is a
dark night and a lot of worries as to what else he can do before he goes.
We are awaiting news right now as to the expected dozens of pardons from
the president tonight on his last night in office.
CNN has interesting reporting this afternoon reporting that in part was
later matched by "The New York Times," that a number of Republican members
of Congress asked President Trump for prospective pardons on this last day
that he`s in office, because they believe they may be criminally charged in
conjunction with the Trump mob attack on the capitol two weeks ago.
CNN`s reporting today, quote, several Republican lawmakers who are alleged
to have been involved in the rally that preceded the deadly riot at the
capitol have sought clemency from Trump before he leaves office. But after
meeting with legal advisers several hours on Saturday, the president
decided he would not grant them.
The fear of legal exposure is not limited to Republicans who promoted or
spoke at the rally, including Congressman Andy Biggs, Congressman Mo
Brooks, and Congressman Paul Gosar. Those who participated, organized and
fund-raised are also concerned, including the president`s oldest son,
Donald Jr. and his girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle. Top figures associated
with the group, including Women for America first and Turning Point Action,
they`ve also voiced private concern about legal repercussions, but quote,
several of Trump`s closest advisers have urged him not to grant clemency,
not only to those people, but to anyone who breached the U.S. Capitol on
We don`t know what or who is going to be on the president`s pardon list
tonight or if it will come out tonight or maybe he`ll time it all to
coincide with the speech that he is going to give as an outgoing president
on his last morning. We don`t know what he will do. We will let you know
when we do figure it out.
The president also tonight apparently has ordered the last-minute
declassification of what he describes as a binder full of material related
to the investigation of Russia interfering in the 2016 election to help him
win the presidency. And again, we know that he has done something that he
is describing in this way. We know he thinks he has ordered some kind of
declassification of some kind of material related to that investigation.
Declassification that this White House statement tonight seems to indicate
the FBI opposed him doing.
But, at this hour, we still don`t know what this material is and we don`t
know if the president`s effort to declassify it will actually result in
this information becoming public. Again, we will let you know when we do
know. Suffice to say the president is trying to unilaterally declassify
intelligence related to Russia that the FBI says is too sensitive to be
released and he`s doing it on his last night in office. Surprise.
So, of course, naturally, of course, it is ending as crazily as it began.
There will be very little sleep in the news business tonight. But this is
the last night.
I want to tell you, after this hour that I`m on tonight on MSNBC. We`ve got
a special coming up. It`s Joy Reid`s fascinating and very newsy interview
with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Among other things, Nancy Pelosi talks in this interview with Joy about the
timing of the impeachment trial against President Trump. She also talks
with Joy about what it was like to have the mob of violent Trump supporters
who breached the Capitol, screaming her name inside the capitol building,
and apparently hunting for her during the Capitol attack, "where is Nancy?"
We asked Joy and her team if we could play this clip of her interview with
Pelosi in advance of that interview at 10:00 p.m., they said yes, so here
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOY REID, MSNBC HOST, "REIDOUT": We`re standing in statutory hall. It is
hard to believe people would have such disrespect for the building. But
also disrespect for those of you and your staff and those who serve. I
don`t know if you`ve been able to see the video in which you can hear
people screaming your name.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Yeah.
REID: "Where`s Nancy?" Looking for you. Hunting you.
REID: When you -- I don`t even know how I would react to that. How do you
react to that, how personal it was towards you?
PELOSI: Well, I was actually more thinking about my staff and my
colleagues who don`t have the protection that I have. But also, think of
this. This is statuary hall. This used to be the chamber of the House.
Abraham Lincoln`s desk is there, see, in front of that Lincoln room. That`s
Mr. Clyburn`s office now, one of his offices now.
Lincoln served here. In the chamber that they were trying to bombard is
where the abolition of the abolition of slavery took place. War was
declared to protect our freedom. History was made. Giants of America
served, with whom we are all colleagues.
But they and some of our friends in the Congress had no respect for that.
In fact, they were here to destroy that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Incredible moment in the interview that Joy Reid has done with
Nancy Pelosi. The full interview with Pelosi will air tonight here on MSNBC
right at the top of the hour, starting at 10:00 p.m. Eastern.
You are right, if you heard there at the end the speaker said that some of
our friends in the Congress had no respect for that, they were here to
destroy that. One of the things that Speaker Pelosi discusses with joy
tonight is the potential culpability, the potential criminal culpability of
some currently serving members of Congress who supported the attack on the
capitol. You are going to want to see that interview.
Tomorrow`s inauguration will be the one-year anniversary of the first
coronavirus case being discovered in the United States. We`ve since had an
administration that told us it was contained, pretty much airtight, it
would all go away like magic, it was all a hoax.
Today, one year after the first case was discovered in the United States,
we have crossed the threshold of 400,000 Americans killed by this virus.
Roughly the same number of Americans killed in World War II. President-
elect and vice president-elect led a national memorial for those who have
died at the reflecting pool at the foot of the Lincoln memorial today.
It`s astonishing to me, 400,000 Americans dead, within one year of the
first case being found here that we`ve had no national memorial for the
dead before today. But Biden and Harris led that today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAMALA HARRIS (D), VICE PRESIDENT-ELECT: We gather tonight, a nation in
mourning, to pay tribute to the lives we have lost, a grandmother or
grandfather who was our whole world. A parent, partner, sibling, or friend
who we still cannot accept is no longer here.
And for many months, we have grieved by ourselves. Tonight, we grieve and
begin healing together. Though we may be physically separated, we, the
American people, are united in spirit.
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT-ELECT: To heal, we must remember, it`s hard
sometimes to remember. But that`s how we heal. It`s important to do that as
That`s why we`re here today. Between sundown and dusk, let us shine the
lights in the darkness along the sacred pool of reflection, remember all
whom we lost.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Each of those 400 lights that lit up at that moment in the
memorial service represents 1,000 Americans killed by the coronavirus. When
those 400 lights were lit, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris and the incoming
first lady and second gentleman, they all turned around to take it in. Four
hundred lights to represent 400,000 Americans dead. There was a long, long
moment of silence.
The reflecting pool is more than 2,000 feet long. The lights stretch the
entire length of the pool on both sides. After those lights were lit, a
gospel singer sang "Hallelujah." If you`re like me, you wept like a baby
through the entirety of it.
Like the president-elect said, this memorial on the national mall this
evening was meant to be a moment of unity, for the nation. In that spirit,
cities all over the country lit up city landmarks or rang bells to
participate in this nationwide moment of grief.
This was the Empire State Building in New York City tonight blinking like a
red beating heart.
This was Milwaukee, Wisconsin, tonight, the city`s home bridge lit up in
remembrance. This was Tucson, Arizona, the mayor rang this bell for four
straight minutes. One minute for every 100,000 lives last across the
In Seattle, they had five different people take turns ringing a bell, each
knew somebody who died of COVID. They rang the bell about 40 times to
account for the 4,000 people who have died just in their state.
In Miami Beach, police officers activated their emergency lights in
deference to the dead.
In Las Vegas at the Clark County government center, they projected images
of angels on the ceiling.
This is down the road from the reflecting pool in D.C. at the National
Cathedral. The number 400,000 projected in light on the church walls.
So this was today, effectively, the start of the new administration, right?
The first act by the new vice president and president who arrived in
Washington together today to be ready for their swearing-in tomorrow. And
tomorrow, there will be a strange start to the day, with the outgoing
president fleeing Washington hours ahead of the inauguration.
But he`ll be gone. He`ll do whatever he`s going to do. The inaugural will
start mid-morning. Lady Gaga will sing the national anthem.
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor will swear in Vice President Harris,
just as she swore in Vice President Biden for his second term in 2013. When
it comes to swearing in President Biden, that job will go to Chief Justice
John Roberts. President Biden will give his inaugural address, they`ll
review the troops.
They tell me once the new president is sworn in, that they can start moving
his furniture and belongings into the White House. So the White House staff
is going to be scrambling at the point of the swearing-in to start the
Bidens moving in.
Again, part of the rudeness and lack of consideration of the outgoing
president and his family not welcoming in the incoming president and his
family is that there`s been no advance planning in terms of setting up the
household for the new incoming first family. And the fact is tomorrow`s
going to have unusual logistical constraints in terms of the time to get
the Bidens moved in.
Usually, there`s a big, long inaugural parade, a big luncheon with Congress
at the Capitol, all which of has its own ceremonial purpose. But for people
doing the moving work, those are important big, long events that give them
time to rush everything in. Because of COVID there`s no lunchtime at the
There`s going to be a parade but not a big, long parade with thousands or
tens of thousands of people, it`s going to be a virtual parade instead of
in person. The new president and vice president will tomorrow after the
swearing-in go to Arlington cemetery to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
They`ll lay a wreath there. That will be an important part of the day
tomorrow in terms of the continuity of U.S. government.
We are not having any representation of the transfer of power and the
continuity of U.S. government between the major parties coming from the
outgoing president, Mr. Trump, who as I said is fleeing before this all
happens. But we will have some of that at Arlington, because the Bidens and
the Harrises will be accompanied at Arlington by Barack and Michelle Obama,
by Bill and Hillary Clinton, and by George W. and Laura Bush.
Thereafter, we will all be able to see Joe Biden walk to the White House
with a huge military escort, and then there will be that virtual parade
which will start at roughly 3:15 Eastern Time.
And again, a virtual parade is a weird thing. A virtual Democratic National
Convention was a weird thing too, and they pulled it off and made it
interesting. So, I just can`t wait to see that.
Tomorrow night, instead of the usual rounds of inaugural balls, there will
be a televised concert and special instead. All the A-list musicians and
celebrities that Donald Trump has been mad for four years he couldn`t get
to come to his inauguration in 2017, pretty much they`ll all be part of the
special tomorrow night for the Biden inauguration.
But that`s what we`re expecting over the next 24 hours or so. Not
accounting for whatever craziness coming from Mr. Trump and his supporters
in their last few hours of Trump being in power. Trump administration is
ending, with historians already agog at how all worst presidents in history
lists need to be recalibrated now to account for the new undisputed king of
This presidency ends with his second impeachment and multiple ongoing
criminal investigations sparking like live wires into this last night. But
it`s the last night. It`s the last night, we will get there.
Going to talk with Amy Klobuchar, who has a lead role in planning and
executing the inauguration tonight. We`ll talk about security concerns,
changes because of COVID, contingency plans for last-minute craziness from
Like I said, not much sleep between now and 24 hours from now.
Lots to come this hour. Stay with us.
(SINGING "AMAZING GRACE")
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: Twelve years ago, I was waiting at the train station in Wilmington
for a black man to pick me up on our way to Washington, where we were sworn
in as president and vice president of the United States of America. And
here we are today, my family and I, about to return to Washington to meet a
black woman of South Asian descent, to be sworn in as president and vice
president of the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: President-elect Biden giving what was at times an emotional
farewell address in his home state of Delaware today, marking the start of
his presidency by, among other things, highlighting some of the history he
has already been part of, including serving as vice president to our
nation`s first black president.
And starting tomorrow at noon, serving alongside the first woman, the first
black person, and first person of South Asian descent to ever serve as vice
And in another way of marking the historic nature of kamala Harris` new
role, this is interesting. The presidential inaugural committee asked kids
across the country to please write a letter to the incoming vice president.
Please write a letter to Kamala Harris with a question or to give her some
advice or to share with her any thoughts that they had.
And today, they published some of the results of that effort, and it turns
out it was kind of great.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: I have been waiting for a -- get this. I have been waiting for a
girl vice president --
UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: Since forever!
HARRIS: I am so glad you are the first --
UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: Because now girls can do anything.
UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: Dear Miss Harris, I hope you are a wonderful vice
HARRIS: I cannot believe you`re of Indian descent, just like me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I can`t believe you are of Indian descent, just like me.
It is less than 24 hours until our first female vice president is sworn in.
Because Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, Minnesota`s first female senator,
is the top Democrat on the Rules Committee, that means that she has had a
really key role in all of this. She spent months planning the inauguration.
And tomorrow, she will be the one who introduces Supreme Court Justice
Sonia Sotomayor to swear in Vice President Harris, and Chief Justice John
Roberts to swear in President Biden. She will introduce the newly sworn-in
president as he delivers his inaugural address.
Senator Klobuchar told "The Star Tribune" today in her hometown, quote,
it`s on all of us to cherish it and to pass it on to the next generation.
It is on all of us to take up its torch.
Joining us, Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, top Democrat on the Joint
Congressional Committee on the Inaugural Ceremonies, which means she`s been
working triple time for months.
Senator, it`s great to see you. Thanks for being here.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): Well, thank you, Rachel.
We are really looking forward to tomorrow. I don`t think any of us --
Senator Roy Blunt is the chair of the inauguration, we`re doing it together
-- anticipated we would be planning this when we started a year ago, with
the pandemic and insurrection, the behavior of Donald Trump.
But we always believed that we must go forward and that this is the moment,
especially after two weeks ago, we will be on the very platform where those
rioters and insurrectionists came up, broke the windows. You`ll still see
some of the spray paint on the bottoms of the columns tomorrow.
KLOBUCHAR: I think it will remind everyone of how precious our democracy
is and just why this inauguration is so important, and that Joe and Kamala
deserve the magic of that moment, but really, our country needs that
healing in the moment to see a new president taking the reins, to hear his
vision for the nation, how he`s going to get us through the pandemic, and
that started tonight with that elegant, elegant memorial service.
MADDOW: I know that you are a planner. And you are good at time
management. And you are a person who likes to have things done the way you
like to have things done. I`ve learned that much about you in the years
covering you while you have been in the Senate.
I have to ask you in all candor, what`s worrying you the most about
KLOBUCHAR: Well, I mean, everyone, of course, is focused on security, as
we should be after the last two weeks. The Secret Service is in charge of
this event, which is different than what happened at the Capitol.
You`ve seen the military presence. And I will note past inaugurations,
including President Obama`s, there was significant National Guard presence.
But they are there, they are ready.
And I don`t want us to overlook the meaning of this event for our country.
To have President Bush there, Vice President Pence, to have the leaders
from both parties there to tell the world, this is our new president and
vice president, we are proud of them, and we wish them well and want them
to unite our nation.
That`s what tomorrow is about. No matter what Donald Trump wants to do in
the morning, I have no idea. I`m going to be at church with the Bidens.
That`s how they are starting their day, as well as Kamala and Doug.
And I know we`ll see a new beginning. It`s something like 13 hours from
MADDOW: Senator, we expect Vice President Mike Pence to be there tomorrow.
We have seen emerge over the past few days a sort of strange pattern where
it almost feels like the vice president is acting as president. He`s doing
a lot of the ceremonial and dignified and sort of decent things that
presidents tend to do at the end of their term.
For example, thanking service members for their service, and thanking
members of the administration for their service. And today, presiding over
a coronavirus task force meeting, all things that you would expect the
president to be doing, but Vice President Pence has been doing them
Should we expect any sort of visible role for him tomorrow or will he just
be one person among many up on the dais?
KLOBUCHAR: He will be very visible, because he is the highest
representative of the Republican Party. I know that those of us running the
inauguration will escort him down the steps of the Capitol when the event
ends. I know he`s going to be acknowledged by many that are there.
And it is, again, part of the tradition of an inauguration. You go back to
when George Washington posed a question, really to himself, he said, what`s
the most important part of this grand experiment of our democracy?
And he answered it himself and he said, not the election of the first
president, but the second. Because our country is about a transfer of
power, a peaceful transfer of power.
We aren`t naive about this. We know what people tried to do two weeks ago.
But it makes this all the more important, that Americans and all those
little kids that wrote to Kamala that you just featured, Rachel, are going
to be able to see this moment up on the stage. They`re going to know
anything and everything is possible when they see her take the oath.
But they`re also going to know that our country is once again governing
from the heart and governing with goodwill.
MADDOW: Senator Amy Klobuchar, the top Democrat on the Joint Committee --
Joint Congressional Committee on the inaugural ceremonies -- I know you
will not sleep overnight, but tomorrow`s going to be a big day. Thanks for
making time to be with us tonight.
KLOBCHAR: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. I`ll tell you, as we are sort of heading deeper into
the night here, we are watching for a number of developments that we are
expecting out of Washington, including what we expect to be a busload of
pardons from the president. We`re also anticipating some further news or
explanation about what the president appears to have tried to do tonight in
announcing that he is declassifying something related to the investigation
of Russia interfering in the 2016 election to try to install him as
Again, both of those developments are sort of protean at this point. In the
case of the declassification there`s been an order issued but we don`t know
the implication of that yet. We`re working on that. We`re watching those
stories develop. It`s going to be a long night.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Just a few hours until Joe Biden takes the oath of office and
becomes the 46th president of the United States. Five of his most high-
profile cabinet nominees, five of them, got their Senate confirmation
Secretary of state nominee Antony Blinken appeared before the Foreign
Relations Committee. Armed Services Committee questioned defense secretary
nomine Lloyd Austin. Janet Yellen, Biden`s nominee for treasury secretary,
she had her hearing before the finance committee. There`s also a hearing
for Biden`s pick to head homeland security, Alejandro Mayorkas. And the
director of national intelligence committee, Avril Haines, got her hearing
Five really big ones, right? I mean, state, defense, treasury, homeland
security, intelligence. Five of them all at once, today. We never have this
many nominees for huge cabinet positions all having their confirmation
hearings all on the same day.
That`s because in years past when a new administration was on its way in,
the Senate would hold hearings for new cabinet secretaries over a period of
days, many days in advance of the inauguration, so the new president could
have at least some of his cabinet in place when he actually took office.
Not this time, though. This time we got all these hearings all at once,
literally the day before the inauguration, because the Republican-
controlled Senate chose not to get their act together to move on Biden`s
nominations before now. They had some very important recesses to take,
among other things.
I swear, the Senate didn`t even come back from their latest vacation until
today. Yeah. No rush when you haven`t held confirm hearings for anyone
before today. Feel free to take a few more days off.
So, Biden is having to take office with an empty cabinet, with literally no
cabinet secretaries confirmed, including in critical national security
positions, which is totally unprecedented.
When President Obama took office in 2009, seven of his cabinet secretaries
were confirmed by the end of inauguration day. Many of President Trump`s
cabinet picks faced more opposition in the Senate, but even he took office
with his defense secretary and his homeland security secretary in place.
This time, though, barring some kind of Senate miracle, Joe Biden will have
no one in his entire cabinet confirmed on his first day, including in the
major national security positions.
And bad news, good news on that front. Bad news is the obvious, right? Bad
news is that means President Biden is going to start with a whole bunch of
acting, temporary, fill-in cabinet secretaries instead of full-blown,
Senate-confirmed cabinet secretaries of his choosing which will make it
harder for the new president to hit the ground running. That`s true in
terms of policy matters.
That`s also true in terms of national security. It`s worrying for all the
obvious reasons. That`s the bad news.
The good news is that the Trump administration has been so profoundly
dysfunctional for four whole years that we`re actually sort of used to that
now. We`re actually sort of used to having only acting, stand-in, non-
confirmed secretaries at all the most important jobs in the cabinet. And
that`s not something that the Republican-controlled Senate screwed up for
Trump despite him doing it the right way, that`s just the way he ran the
I mean, thanks to Republican Senator Josh Hawley slowing down the process
on the homeland security committee, Joe Biden is going to have to settle
for an acting homeland security secretary for at least a few days.
But the United States has already had nothing but acting homeland security
secretaries for like two years under Donald Trump. The longest vacancy in
the presidential cabinet ever, because Donald Trump could just never get it
together to have real nominees who got really confirmed by the Senate and
who held their job with all the attendant powers.
So maybe after this four years and terrible governance, maybe we are better
at running government poorly in that way, than we otherwise would have been
before this four-year experiment in terrible governance that is now coming
to a close. I will find silver linings wherever I can. I will find them.
MADDOW: In May 2018, "The New York Times" published this opus on the
heretofore unknown origins of the Russia investigation that would go on to
engulf the Trump presidency. The investigation, of course, gave rise to
Special Counsel Mueller`s investigation. But it started out in life we
learned in this article by Matt Apuzzo, and Adam Goldman and Nicholas
It started off as an urgent national security investigation with a
melodramatic codename, Crossfire Hurricane. "The Times" account of
Crossfire Hurricane reads like a spy novel with FBI agents being dispatched
on secret missions to go gather evidence of ties between what the Russians
were doing to try to help Trump win the election and the Trump campaign and
whether there was cross purposes or whether they were working together and.
Robert Mueller and his team and the FBI agents who worked on Crossfire
Hurricane before them amassed a body of evidence that cast a shadow on this
administration. And as president, Donald Trump has become obsessed with
trying to undermine the Russia probe. He`s denied that Russia did what they
did, and he has tried to make the American law enforcement and intelligence
officers who investigated what Russia did into the real villains in this
And he`s still doing it, even at this late hour. He`s still trying this.
Tonight, the White House released an oddly and vaguely worded statement
saying that the president has ordered the last minute declassification of
what is described as a binder of materials from Crossfire Hurricane. That`s
literally what they give as the description of this material.
It`s a binder. A binder of information the president has apparently decided
to declassify tonight despite the fact that the FBI has deemed it too
sensitive to be released. What do we make of this? Why are they talking
about it as a binder full of material as if the container in which the
papers reside are the most important things we need to know about it? And
what are the president`s powers with regard to declassifying information
like this at the last few hours of his presidency?
Joining us is Andrew Weissmann. He`s one of the lead prosecutors for
Special Counsel Mueller. He headed up the prosecution of Paul Manafort,
who`s been pardoned by the president.
Andrew, thank you so much for being here on a big night. Appreciate it.
ANDREW WEISSMANN, FORMER LEAD PROSECUTOR FOR SPECIAL COUNSEL ROBERT
MUELLER: Nice to be here.
MADDOW: What do you make of this statement from the White House tonight? I
couldn`t make heads or tails about it. I know that the president wants to
declassify stuff related to the Russia investigation, but I can`t otherwise
surmise what he thinks he`s doing.
WEISSMANN: Well, this may be an example of Donald Trump being malevolent
but fortunately incompetent because he`s doing two diametrically opposed
things. On the one hand, he is saying that he wants to declassify documents
that the FBI has opposed. Now, you can`t declassify documents that would
reveal methods and means and would put people`s lives in danger. He has the
power to do that, but it would be incredibly dangerous to do that.
But the reason I think this is a sign of incompetence is between now and
noon tomorrow, there is no way in God`s green earth that the FBI and the
DNI and the CIA are all going to get together to do the declassification
that seems to have been ordered. It`s just not physically possible. So,
this is something that the incoming president is going to be able to put a
But on the same token, one of the things that the president has done is he
has also obtained a decision from the Office of Legal Counsel, the
Department of Justice, that his own presidential papers cannot be accessed
by President Biden. In other words, he`s trying to keep those secret at the
same time that he is trying to declassify material that very well could
jeopardize everyone`s safety and good law enforcement practices.
MADDOW: Andrew, for the last few days, we`ve been covering a strange thing
that seems to be happening at the end of the Trump administration in the
intelligence community, which is that the president appears to have been
moving heaven and earth, leaning on people, delivering ultimatums, doing
everything he could to get a new top lawyer, a new general counsel into the
National Security Agency.
What you just described about it not being possible under god`s green earth
for this declassification work to be done in time, for this to be done by
noon tomorrow, does that change at all if you`ve got somebody at the NSA
who`s specifically there to get this done for President Trump in the last
15 hours that he`s president?
WEISSMANN: Look, that helps. But the order itself refers to the Department
of Justice, the CIA and the DNI.
So, those are three institutions. And you know the government is a
bureaucracy. And the idea that something`s going to happen between now and
noon tomorrow, I mean, I worked for Robert Mueller who was famously
impatient. And even he would not be able to get this done that quickly
because remember one of the things that the president has said is that
certain material can be redacted.
So, just that very process of being very careful to make sure that you are
not putting people`s lives in danger because you make a mistake in what you
redact and what you don`t redact is something you want to be super careful
You don`t want this to be done as a rush job when you`re dealing with, you
know, people`s lives and the safety of the nation. So, I really find this
hard to imagine that it`s going to really be accomplished in time.
MADDOW: Well, I can guarantee that the president would not want to be very
careful about this and might not care at all what lives he`s putting in
danger. But the fact this has to be done through other people who will see
those equities differently. As you say that bureaucratic saving grace here
may be the most important bottom line.
Andrew Weissmann, one of the lead special prosecutors of Special Counsel
Mueller, head of the prosecution of Paul Manafort, former senior Justice
Department official, we`re all going to be up all night trying to figure
out what`s going to happen with these pardons and commutations. I
appreciate you helping us with this tonight too. Thanks.
WEISSMAN: You`re welcome.
MADDOW: All right. We`re going to be back a few minutes before the top of
the hour. Again, remember Joy Reid`s interview with Nancy Pelosi will be
airing tonight at 10:00 on MSNBC.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Our special coverage of the Biden Harris administration begins at
6:00 a.m. tomorrow, 6:00 a.m. counts as late night for me, not early
morning. So, I won`t be here but I`ll be here mid-morning along with Brian
Williams, Joy Reid, Nicolle Wallace, the whole gang.
But don`t go anywhere right now. Joy Reid`s exclusive interview with House
Speaker Nancy Pelosi starts right now.
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