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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, 1/19/2021

Guest: Amy Klobuchar

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.

We`ll see.

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

president won`t.

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

pay them.

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

prove it.

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

that day.

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

it is.


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.


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.


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.


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

a nation.

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.


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

that category.

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.




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.


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.


HARRIS: I have been waiting for a -- get this. I have been waiting for a

girl vice president --


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.


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

hearings today.

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

as well.

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.


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

stop to.

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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