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All In with Chris Hayes, Transcript 12/18/2015

Guests: Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Jeff Weaver, Charles Pierce, Lynn Sweet, Josh Barro, Robert Costa

Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: December 18, 2015 Guest: Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Jeff Weaver, Charles Pierce, Lynn Sweet, Josh Barro, Robert Costa (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC GUEST HOST (voice-over): Tonight on ALL IN -- JEFF WEAVER, BERNIE SANDERS CAMPAIGN MANAGER: The leadership of the Democratic National Committee is now actively attempting to undermine our campaign. WAGNER: The DNC brings down the hammer on the Sanders campaign after a data breach and the Sanders campaign makes devastating charges of its own. WEAVER: In this case, it looks like they`re trying to help the Clinton campaign. WAGNER: Tonight, the campaign manager for Bernie Sanders and DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz join me live. REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D-FL), DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIR: The Sanders campaign unfortunately doesn`t have anything other than bluster at the moment. WAGNER: Then, Donald Trump responds to Putin`s praise. DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: At least he`s a leader. You know, unlike what we have in this country. WAGNER: Why top Republicans say Trump went too far. TRUMP: Our country does plenty of killing also. WAGNER: And a report card for the president as he gives his year-end briefing. BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Interesting stuff happens in the fourth quarter. WAGNER: ALL IN starts now. OBAMA: OK, everybody, I`ve got to get to "Star Wars". (END VIDEOTAPE) WAGNER: Good evening from New York. I`m Alex Wagner, in for Chris Hayes. A major rift breaking out today in Democratic politics as the Bernie Sanders campaign took the extraordinary step of suing the governing body of the Democratic Party. That body, the Democratic National Committee, is led by Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who will join us live momentarily. The Sanders campaign claims the DNC is trying to thwart their candidate because it sees the Vermont senator as the biggest threat to Hillary Clinton winning the Democratic presidential nomination. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) WEAVER: The leadership of the Democratic National Committee is now actively attempting to undermine our campaign. This is unacceptable. Individual leaders of the DNC can support Hillary Clinton in any way they want, but they are not going to sabotage our campaign, one of the strongest grassroots campaigns in modern history. (END VIDEO CLIP) WAGNER: That guy, Jeff Weaver, the Sanders campaign manager, will also join us live in just a moment. And here is what he and the campaign say the DNC did to prompt the strong response. It cut off access to the lifeblood of any presidential campaign, data on millions of voters. The DNC maintains a master list of information about Democratic voters that is essential to get out of the -- to get out the vote efforts. The individual campaigns can build on that list with specific voter information they glean themselves, information they get from activities like voter canvassing or talking to supporters at campaign events. Through a vendor, the DNC is supposed to maintain a firewall so that the various campaigns cannot see what rival campaigns have added to the list. But that firewall failed. And when it did, the Sanders campaign improperly accessed Clinton`s private campaign data. Documents obtained and reviewed by NBC News appeared to show that at least four individuals affiliated with the Sanders campaign conducted searches and saved the Clinton`s campaign`s list of potential voters over a period of more than 40 minutes. The DNC responded by cutting off the Sanders camp`s access to that crucial data which the Clinton campaign alleged had been, quote, "stolen", casting Sanders staffers as, quote, "kids in a candy store who ran wild." In a statement the Clinton campaign said, "We are asking that the Sanders campaign and the DNC work expeditiously to ensure that our data is not in the Sanders campaign account and that the Sanders campaign only have access to their own data." The Sanders campaign for its part did not deny accessing the data and today, they fired national data director Josh Uretsky for his role in the incident. But the campaign also lashed out at the DNC, casting the decision to withhold data as wildly inappropriate and as part of a broader nefarious plot to coordinate Hillary Clinton and to stifle her competition. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) WEAVER: I don`t know the motivation of every single person over at the DNC, but I think if you look at a pattern of conducts -- we`ve obviously had a concern about the Saturday night debate schedule and its impact on ability of campaigns to get their message out. Clearly, there`s -- in this case, it looks like they`re trying to help the Clinton campaign. You know, we`re taking on the establishment, and I`m sure there are people within the Democratic establishment who are not happy about the overwhelming success that Senator Sanders is having all across this country, but we are determined to win this campaign. We`re going to win this campaign by talking about the issues that are important to the American people. To do that, we need our data, which has been stolen by the DNC. That`s what we want back. (END VIDEO CLIP) WAGNER: Late this afternoon, the Sanders campaign filed a lawsuit against the DNC, seeking an injunction and asking for more than $600,000 per day in damages. Joining me now to respond is the chair of the Democratic National Committee, Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida. Thanks so much for joining me tonight, Debbie. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Thanks for having me, Alex. WAGNER: So for people looking at this I think a lot of folks are confused about the crime and the punishment. And explain to us if you can why you think this punishment fits the crime. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, first I think it`s really unfortunate that Senator Sanders` campaign staff is not serving him very well. Alex, I had to personally call Senator Sanders yesterday after we learned on Wednesday that this breach had occurred. We had a glitch with our vendor, which obviously was of significant concern. And we learned that during the period of time in which there was an opening, in which our campaigns could see one another`s proprietary data, the Sanders campaign staff chose to view, download, export and download that data that did not belong to them. And we asked for that information from them once we learned of it on Wednesday. We asked for them to tell us who accessed it, what they had, and for them to demonstrate that they had destroyed it and no longer had access to it. And we are still waiting for that. So, I had to take the extraordinary step of calling Senator Sanders, and I informed him myself for the first time that this breach had occurred. His own staff had not told him. Senator Sanders is a man of integrity. I have tremendous admiration for him. I think he`s run a remarkable campaign. But, you know, unfortunately his campaign staff have not served him well. And so, the only way for me to make sure that I can preserve the integrity of our voter file is to ensure that until we have the information that we need for me to be able to certify that that the campaign can`t have access to that voter file so they can`t manipulate data that they shouldn`t have in the first place. And we`re waiting for that assurance. And my understanding is it`s being compiled and we`re waiting for it and as soon as we have it and we`ve reviewed it and we can really see that that`s what we`ve asked for, then we`ll be able to turn their access on. We want to do that as expeditiously as possible, but we absolutely have to have that information. WAGNER: Are you at all concerned that there is now some outcry about the severity of this punishment given that Senator Sanders` campaign is effectively frozen, no fund-raising, no outreach to voters in early states -- (CROSSTALK) WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Alex, there`s -- there`s simply no other remedy available. I mean, they accessed information, proprietary information, of another campaign. And if the shoe were on the other foot, I`m quite sure that the Sanders campaign and their supporters would want me to take the exact same action against the Clinton campaign that I`ve taken in this case and be very loud about it and make sure that it was clear that my responsibility was to level the playing field and treat their campaign fairly and restore the integrity of that voter file. That`s what I`m doing here. Until I know, until we can see that they no longer have access to information that they were not entitled to, they can`t use the vehicle -- WAGNER: Does that -- WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Wait a minute, Alex. They can`t use the vehicle with which they can manipulate that data that they took. WAGNER: Are you -- do you have an estimate about how long this might take? WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: And the ball is in the Sanders campaign court. WAGNER: Sorry. Once you receive -- WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Once we receive it and we review it, which won`t take very long. As long as they provide us with the information they`ve asked for, we can turn it back on. But the ball`s in their court. We`ve within waiting since Wednesday to get this information. It`s baffling to me that they admit they did this, they fired one staffer over it. They -- it`s clear that other staffers were involved in this as well. And yet, they still won`t give us this information and their response is a lawsuit? I mean, it`s just -- you want to talk about an action that is inappropriate as a response to their own campaign taking the information of another campaign that doesn`t belong to them, this is really baffling as to why his campaign team is acting in this way. WAGNER: Congresswoman, I have to call your attention to the fact -- I know you`re not unfamiliar with this. There have been some allegations that the DNC has been supportive perhaps secretly of the Clinton campaign in the scheduling and the number of Democratic debates. I want to read a tweet from David Axelrod, "Without evidence that his hierarchy knew about data poaching, harsh penalty for Bernie Sanders, looks like DNC is putting finger on scale." Do you have a response to that? WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: We do have evidence that his campaign inappropriately accessed proprietary information. The analogy that I would use is it`s as if you found a house with an unlocked front door and instead of locking it and notifying authorities you went in and you took things, ransacked the house and took things that didn`t belong to you. And then you expect to continue to have access to the house. I mean, that makes no sense. The owner of the house certainly shouldn`t allow them to have -- the perpetrator to have access to the house until there is a full accounting of what was taken, who took it, and we make sure that they can`t do it again. That`s the process we`re going through. It`s an entirely reasonable response. And it could be resolved very quickly. We`re two days now, we`re two days into -- since we`ve asked for this information. And I don`t understand why the campaign has taken this long to begin compiling it. They are compiling it now from what I understand. And as soon as we have it and I can review it, we`re happy to -- and it meets with the request that we have asked them for, we`ll be happy to give them the access back to their voter file. WAGNER: And what of the lawsuit? Is this going to court? WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: You know, you`d have to ask the Sanders campaign. We simply asked for documentation, one, of what information they have, who took it, how they`ve used it, make sure they don`t have access to it any longer, and that we need them to agree to an independent audit so we can have an independent objective review of what happened here. WAGNER: Let me ask -- WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: When they do that, we`re looking forward to restoring their access. WAGNER: Let me ask you one more question, which is we`re on the eve of the final Democratic debate of the year. Are you at all concerned that this has become a major distraction in a week where the candidates could have been focusing their fire toward Republican candidates? WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Oh, it`s certainly unfortunate that any campaign had staff that chose to take another campaign`s proprietary information. But tomorrow night, I expect our candidates to engage in the kind of discussion that has been the hallmark of our previous debates, talking about how to move our country forward, make sure that people can build the cornerstones of a middle-class life, and it will be remarkable in stark contrast to the Republican debate on Tuesday night and all the Republican debates prior to that that have had the full extremism of the Republican Party on display. I mean, the other night it was like listening to a debate between candidates running for president of a third world autocratic nation, not the United States. And that`s going to be remarkable contrast. One of the three candidates on the stage tomorrow night for us will be the 45th president of the United States. I`m confident of that. WAGNER: DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, thank you so much for your time. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Thank you. WAGNER: Joining me now is Jeff Weaver, Bernie Sanders` campaign manager, who today accused Chairwoman Wasserman Schultz and the DNC of trying to sabotage his campaign. Jeff, thanks for joining me. WEAVER: Thanks, Alex. WAGNER: Let me first get your reaction to Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz saying the ball is in your court. Have you handed over the necessary information to the DNC at this point? WEAVER: Well, let me -- let me hold up a cell phone with the e-mail that I sent to the head staffer at the DNC last night at 5:08. I`m happy to provide it to anybody in the media which will demonstrate that, of course, what the chairwoman said was absolutely false. We have responded with information. If they wanted additional information, they certainly should have let us know. In fact, as they really know, I have been trying to negotiate with them for days over what information they wanted. After we provided this information to them, I said, "If this is not satisfactory, what else do you need?" And we got nothing back. Now, the truth of the matter is, it took the lawsuit -- now that we have filed the lawsuit, they are coming running now to try to fix this problem because they know that this lawsuit will be successful, and they also know that in the process of this lawsuit, using legal discovery, we will get access to all the internal communications of the DNC where we can demonstrate what I think most people think is going on, which is that there are some people in there who are clearly trying to help the Clinton campaign. Certainly, this debate schedule has been widely discussed. Very few debates. Many on nights when a lot of people aren`t going to be watching. But now, we see certainly there was a problem. The DNC`s firewall failed miserably. I mean, this is the equivalent of Debbie Wasserman Schultz walking by the desks of my staff and throwing files of Clinton materials on their desks. Now, they should not have opened them and looked at them. That`s absolutely the case. That does not meet our high standards. And we certainly -- we have fired one staffer, we are looking at some others. But let`s be clear. We had a few 20-year-olds that looked at files that were provided to them by the DNC -- WAGNER: Well, Jeff, let me push back on that for a second. WEAVER: No, no -- WAGNER: Is that really the same as Debbie Wasserman Schultz throwing files on the -- Clinton files -- I mean, they had to go past the firewall, which was down -- WEAVER: No, there was no firewall. You go -- WAGNER: Right, the firewall was down, but they had to go into -- WEAVER: You go on the computer -- look, I`m not trying to justify what they did. But let`s be clear what it is. The firewall was down. You go on the computer system. You do a data search and it pulls up everybody`s data. So -- and that`s how they realized, somebody realized at first that it happened. We fired one of them. We`re investigating. When we determine what happened with the other ones, we may take other disciplinary action. But that is not an excuse for the DNC to issue a death sentence on the Sanders campaign. The data they have withheld from us is data that is paid for by the 2 million individual contributions that we have received averaging less than $30 apiece. That is data that has been secured by our volunteers and staff going door to door and calling people in Iowa and New Hampshire, and the DNC has stolen it. They have it. They won`t give it back. It is outrageous. And what they have done is they have crippled this campaign for two days. If we hadn`t filed a lawsuit today, this clearly would have gone over the weekend. We`re 45 days from Iowa. I think anybody who can do math understands what`s going on. We have a grassroots campaign. We have to be able to talk to our volunteers. We have to be able to build crowds at events. We have to be able to talk to voters. WAGNER: Jeff, why do you think this story is coming out now? We hear from your camp that a similar breach happened in October. You reported to the DNC. There was no media report about. What`s behind the timing here? WEAVER: Look, back in October, I have to tell you, a really egregious breach in the firewall was discovered by one of our vendors who was doing some work with it. He called me up, I said, immediately quarantine it, put it in a password protected file, we`ve got to call to the DNC. The breach was so egregious that it`s hard to believe large amounts of our data was not inadvertently or intentionally downloaded by other campaigns. And we want a full investigation not only of this incident. But let`s take a long hard look at the entire campaign and see about data security at the DNC. I think that will be very, very, very revealing. WAGNER: Let me ask you one more question. WEAVER: Sure. WAGNER: In terms of the relationship between the Sanders campaign and the Democratic Party it seems to be at an all-time low. There has been some speculation in the press that this could push Bernie Sanders out of the Democratic field and into a third-party run. Is that a possibility? WEAVER: No, let me tell you about what`s going on here. I have to say that we are quite gratified by the support we have received. We have received calls and e-mails from super delegates, from a committee, national committee people, from officers at the DNC. You know, everybody in the Democratic Party, and I`ll say most people in the Democratic Party, have not supported this terrible overreaction by the chairwoman. It was an outrage to cripple a campaign, to basically put it on hold for two days where we`re entering one of the most critical parts of the primary is absolutely, absolutely outrageous. WAGNER: Will you drop the lawsuit if and -- as soon as the DNC reinstates your privileges and access -- your access to the voter rolls? WEAVER: Well, if we get assurance that they are not going to again try to steal our data and we`re going to have to now, of course, back it up much more often outside the system, so that we don`t have them doing this two days before the Iowa caucuses, and in addition to that, we want a full independent audit by mutually agreed upon auditor who can go back and look at the DNC`s handling of data security from the beginning of the campaign until now. WAGNER: Jeff Weaver with the Bernie Sanders campaign -- thank you very much for your time. WEAVER: Thank you. WAGNER: Much more on the battle between the DNC and the Sanders campaign coming up next. Plus, why Republicans say Donald Trump has gone too far. Well, at least the latest reason why people are saying Donald Trump went too far. And later, a look at everything President Obama has accomplished just in the year 2015 and everything he says he still has yet to do. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: And I plan on doing everything I can with every minute of every day that I have left as president to deliver on behalf of the American people. And in 2016, I`m going to leave it all out on the field. (END VIDEO CLIP) WAGNER: Coming up, we`ll have more on the breaking news this hour. The major rift in the Democratic Party that has Bernie Sanders suing the Democratic National Committee. Former DNC Chair Howard Dean joins me, coming up next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: There`s simply no other remedy available. I mean, if they -- they accessed information, proprietary information of another campaign. And if the shoe were on the other foot, I`m quite sure that the Sanders campaign and their supporters would want me to take the exact same action. WEAVER: They know that this lawsuit will be successful and they also know that in the process of this lawsuit, using legal discovery we will get access to all the internal communications of the DNC where we can demonstrate what I think most people think is going on, which is that there are some people in there who are clearly trying to help the Clinton campaign. (END VIDEO CLIP) WAGNER: That was the chair of the Democratic National Committee, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and Bernie Sanders` campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, on this show just a short time ago, battling over the DNC`s decision to block the Sanders campaign from accessing crucial voter information as punishment for improperly accessing Clinton campaign data. The Sanders campaign late this afternoon filed a suit against the DNC for its actions. Joining me now, our MSNBC political analyst and former governor of Vermont, Howard Dean, former chair, of course, of the DNC. Joan Walsh, national affairs correspondent for "The Nation", and Charlie Pierce, writer at large for "Esquire". Governor Dean, let me start with you, the former chair of the DNC. Do you think the organization is take right approach here? HOWARD DEAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, they have to do some of this. I mean, the data breach was serious. Apparently, there were 25 separate instances where somebody in the Sanders campaign accessed the data, which they`re not supposed to be doing. And the guy who was responsible for it got fired, which is the right thing to do. So -- but I, of course, would like to put a benign, you know, look at this because I`d like this to go away and have these campaigns get back to talking about the issues. And so, my own view of this is you do in fact have to shut down the database for a while if you don`t know how somebody`s accessing it. But it really is a bad thing for the Sanders campaign. It hurts the Sanders campaign. And I think they ought to minimize the shutdown and accelerate the investigation. I would like to see the database reopened to the Sanders campaign before it ever gets to court. WAGNER: Would you if you were chair of the DNC offer an assurance to the Sanders campaign? DEAN: You can`t offer an assurance until you know what`s going on, but I think it`s important so the public thinks it`s fair not to tie up the Sanders database any longer than you absolutely have to. We`re not talking days. We`re talking -- I`d like to do this in a few hours if I were the chair. WAGNER: Joan, there are some people that are saying Hillary Clinton should come out and say that -- say something here and perhaps say that the Sanders campaign should be offered an assurance or that this should be handled more than just expeditiously. Given how critical access to these voter lists is. JOAN WALSH. MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I thought that until a few hours ago myself, Alex, you about I got on a conference call with the Clinton folks and they are very upset about this. They`re using words like stolen, that their data was stolen, and they`re providing details that anyone who wants it can look at the audit. Now, I haven`t had time to talk to somebody and explain, why are you using the word "stolen"? That`s a really -- that`s a serious word. But it is clear that the Sanders campaign has changed its story. We were told this was a low-level staffer but now it`s the head -- it`s their data direct, their national data director. You know, they`ve spent a lot more time yelling about this than they have answering questions about how was this accessed, was it saved. The question was it downloaded? Was it saved? And what were they doing with it? The Clinton campaign is now alleging I can`t vouch for this being true, that their entire strategy has been breached, that if you looked at this data for 40 minutes, you know what their targets are in the various caucuses. You know what their targets are in New Hampshire precincts. WAGNER: In the early voting states. WALSH: In the 10 early voting states. There were 25 separate searches. So I can`t say that this is true, but these are serious allegations as well. WAGNER: Charlie, can you believe we are back in a moment we are discussing Hillary Clinton, servers and data over again? WALSH: But she`s the victim. I mean, come on. WAGNER: No, no. Charlie, you`ve written about this. CHARLIE PIERCE, ESQUIRE: Democrats, Democrats, Democrats. WALSH: Really. (LAUGHTER) PIERCE: They can`t get out of their own way. The Republicans go on TV Tuesday night and give us a Roger Corman film of a debate. And there`s -- even the most centrist of centrist pundits looked at these guys and said, "My God". And three days later, we`ve got a data company which apparently should be, you know, selling lawn sprinklers instead of, you know, being a data firm because it clearly can`t keep the data safe. And now, you`ve got Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who has no credibility on this issue at all, determining -- she will now determine when Bernie Sanders gets to start campaigning again. That`s a nightmare. Meanwhile, you`ve got Jeff Weaver threatening to bring the temple down on his own head. What is wrong with all these people? WAGNER: Get rid of -- Charlie brings up an important point. The notion that the DNC has its thumb on the scale for Hillary Clinton, and just optically, right, setting this sort of right or wrong crime and punishment thing, set that aside for a moment. As a strategist here, do you think this is the right call? Given the narrative that is established -- DEAN: Well, look, there is a serious data breach. There`s no question about that. And you`ve got to do something about it and make the data secure, because you can`t have the Clinton campaign being afraid that the Sanders people are going to get their data. So, we do not need this discussion right now. What we need is a discussion about the issues. Both -- you know, the Sanders campaign is good at this, right? I`ve known Bernie for a long time. It does not pay to poke Bernie and beat up on him because he`s very good at pointing out what`s going on. So, my attitude is, let`s get this settled, it is serious, the data breach is serious. We`ve got to deal with it, let`s not hold up his campaign for three days. I don`t think it makes any sense. But the allegations are very serious. WAGNER: Sure, but if you`re the DNC and there are widespread claims that you`ve acted favorably toward the Clinton campaign and you are now, as Charlie points out, in the position of telling the Sanders campaign when it can start up again. I mean, it`s a problem. (CROSSTALK) WALSH: I mean, look, it`s tough. And I agree with the Sanders campaign. There should have been more debates. I understand the perception. But then to say we can`t deal with this serious data breach because we`re perceived as being in the tank for Hillary Clinton. That`s not right either. DEAN: What would you expect the Sanders campaign to say? Of course, they`re going to say that. WALSH: I respect the chairwoman. I don`t think she should be so far out front on this. I think having her throwing punches with Jeff Weaver, I mean, I know you didn`t have them on together. You did an excellent job. I was happy to see both things. Except, I don`t think she should necessarily be taking the lead on this and be a pugilist in this because it is her judgment that`s being called into question and I think -- I defer to the former chair here. But wonder if that`s the best use of her time, going -- DEAN: I just took neutrality. When I was in this position between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, I did not vote in the Vermont presidential primary because I -- you know, to secretly vote and then say you`re neutral is not true. So I was really scrupulous to do this right down the middle and I think that`s what you have to do. WAGNER: Charlie -- DEAN: But there is a responsibility here. WAGNER: Charlie, in an imaginary fantastical world where you are chair of the DNC, what do you do in this situation? DEAN: Can`t wait to hear this one. WALSH: Me too. PIERCE: What do I do? WAGNER: Yes. PIERCE: First of all, I cut this off before it ever gets to the "Washington Post". Second of all, I fire this company because they clearly couldn`t -- you know, they clearly can`t secure their own shoes, let alone data. Third of all, if I am perceived as having -- already as having favored one of these campaigns, I recuse myself from the decision. I certainly do not bring onto myself the determination of when the Sanders campaign can start again. WAGNER: The recusal -- PIERCE: That does nobody any good. I look at this in a little bit of a -- if I can have a little bit of a history, this impresses me as Special Order 191. Special Order 191 was a copy of General Lee`s battle plan prior to the Battle of Antietam that was found wrapped around a bunch of cigars by a union soldier named Burton Mitchell and was delivered to union headquarters. That`s what this is, except it`s in cyberspace.

WALSH: OK, so the recusal, Governor Dean, is that a good suggestion here?

DEAN: Well, I mean, it`s never a good idea for the DNC chair to recuse. What you want to do is never be -- allow yourself to get put in a position where somebody`s going to demand that you recuse.

You know, ironically, I had big battles with Debbie Wasserman-Schultz when she was a congresswoman from Florida and I cut Florida and Michigan out of the voting.

WAGNER: That`s right.

DEAN: Because they didn`t follow the rules. And she of course accused me of being biased against Hillary Clinton at the time.

Look, you`ve got to make tough calls. The chairman of the DNC in a presidential year`s got to make tough calls.

But there is an issue of the appearance of impropriety. So there is impropriety in the leaks. There`s no question about that. And I know the Sanders campaign and this company are going like that at each other.

But downloading 25 times is not entirely the company`s fault.

But there needs to be a grownup here in the room someplace. And the grownup needs to say we do not want this debate to go on more than 24 hours, so stop it.

WAGNER: The grownup is Charlie.

PIERCE: Alex, can I ask a question?

WAGNER: Yes. We`re out of time, but yes.

PIERCE: Where`s Martin O`Malley? Where`s poor Martin O`Malley? Nobody`s even stealing his data.

WAGNER: Nobody even wants Martin O`Malley`s data.


WAGNER: And isn`t that the coda to all of this?

Howard Dean, Joan Walsh, Charlie Pierce, thank you all for this lively Friday evening discussion.

WALSH: Thanks, Alex.

WAGNER: Still ahead, Donald rump`s latest praise for Vladimir Putin apparently unwavering in the face of human rights violations. That is coming up.


WAGNER: George W. Bush is once again going to bat for his brother. W. spoke to donors on a conference call today painting a decidedly rosy picture of Jeb`s campaign saying "I`m very upbeat about our chances of winning. Jeb is a candidate who`s peaking at the right time, I guess is the way to put it."

Peaking is a somewhat surprising way to describe Jeb`s steady slide to 5.7 percent support. That`s his blue line there in the Huffington Post average of polls. And way above it you can see Donald Trump`s red trend line.

And while George Bush is optimistic about his brother Jeb`s chances, Donald Trump last night was asked about the increasingly shrinking odds that he might lose.


BARBARA WALTERS, ABC NEWS: If you lose the Republican nomination, are you a loser?

DONALD TRUMP, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE; In a certain way, yeah. I hate to say it. If I lost the nomination, yeah, I guess I`d call myself a loser.


WAGNER: How far will establishment Republicans go in order to stop Donald Trump from winning? Mitt Romney is now defending President Obama in order to attack Trump. That is next.


WAGNER: One day after Russian President Vladimir Putin had some very nice things to say about Donald Trump, the GOP front-runner went on national television and reciprocated.


MIKA BRZEZINSKI, CO-HOST MORNING JOE: Do you like Vladimir Putin`s comments about you?

TRUMP: Sure. When people call you brilliant, it`s always good, especially when the person heads up Russia.


JOE SCARBOROUGH, CO-HOST, MORNING JOE: Well, he also is a person that kills journalists, political opponents, and invades countries. Obviously, that would be a concern, would it not?

TRUMP: He`s running his country, and at least he`s a leader, you know, unlike what we have in this country.

SCARBOROUGH: But again, he kills journalists that don`t agree with him.

TRUMP: Well, I think our country does plenty of killing also, Joe. So, you know.

SCARBOROUGH: What do you mean by that?

TRUMP: There`s a lot stupidity going on in the world right now, Joe, a lot of killing going on, a lot of stupidity. And that`s the way it is. But you didn`t ask me the question. You asked me a different question. So that`s fine.

SCARBOROUGH: I`m confused.

So, you obviously condemn Vladimir Putin killing journalists and political opponents, right?

TRUMP: Oh, sure. Absolutely.


WAGNER: Just to be clear about what kind of a leader President Putin is, Human Rights Watch pointed out that in the year since Vladimir Putin`s return to the presidency in 2012, the Russian government has unleashed a crackdown on civil society unprecedented in the country`s post-Soviet history.

Trump`s praise for Putin has Republicans lining up to denounce him. Jeb Bush tweeted, "does Donald even know Putin backs Iran/Assad? Does he care? We must stand up to Putin, not coddle him #chaoscandidate."

Mitt Romney went as far as to defend President Obama in order to attack Trump. Important distinction, sub-Putin kills journalists and opponents, our presidents kill terrorists and enemy combatants."

And conservative columnist Bill Kristol perhaps came down the hardest, "isn`t Donald Trump the most anti-American presidential candidate in both parties?"

Joining me now is Robert Costa, national political reporter for The Washington Post and an MSNBC contributor.

Robert, okay, is there a line somewhere that Donald Trump can cross where his candidacy would actually be hobbled?

ROBERT COSTA, THE WASHINGTON POST: When it comes to Putin, there`s a hawkish impulse in the Republican Party and he`s going directly against it. And I think it`s startling the GOP, especially the establishment, the elite, because being against Putin is such a core part of the Republican foreign policy argument.

But when it comes to his position he`s okay with Russia fighting in Syria and taking on ISIS without any American intervention.

WAGNER: Do you think that Putin comments play well among the base? Because in many of these other previous instances Trump says something inflammatory, the establishment expresses its concern with it, and it ends up strengthening Trump`s position. I wonder if the same is true in this particular instance.

COSTA: In this instance I think you`re seeing Trump linking himself to what he sees as a projection of strength, regardless of Putin`s human rights abuses and all the actions he has taken in Russia. Trump just sees in his mind a strong leader.

And he does this throughout the campaign. Whenever he sees strength, he tries to connect the Trump campaign with it.

WAGNER: So Robert, you reported first that the RNC is making some plans for a brokered convention. You`re seeing a pile-on here from the establishment vis-a-vis Trump`s comments. Why aren`t more establishment candidates coming out and saying something about Trump? And do you think this could be the beginning?

COSTA: Not so much. It`s late December, mid-December. We`re seeing scattered tweets from Republican leaders, we`re not seeing a financial effort against Donald Trump. This is an establishment that doesn`t really want to spend the money on Trump. And the only way at this point it seems to beat Trump is to actually beat him when the voting begins.

WAGNER: Does Jeb Bush stand any chance of increasing his odds of becoming the nominee by attacking Trump?

COSTA: It may be one of his only paths to the nomination because in a crowded field with many mainstream candidates competing in New Hampshire and elsewhere he`s looking long term. He could perhaps be the anti-Trump candidate who was willing to take him on now when others were not.

WAGNER: But isn`t he competing more with establishment candidates like Marco Rubio than he is with Donald Trump?

COSTA: He is. And now Rubio and Senator Cruz are battling each other on immigration and other issues. And so Bush has to find a way to define his candidacy. And being anti-Trump, that gives him some buzz. He`s getting mentioned in the headlines, and that`s a development compared to a few weeks ago.

WAGNER: So Robert, you think #chaoscandidate is enough to get Jeb Bush a couple more percentage points?

COSTA: No, but it may be enough to get him a few more dollars with donors who are paying close attention.

WAGNER: And that is important.

Robert Costa with the Washington Post and MSNBC, thanks for your time.

COSTA: Thank you.

WAGNER: Still to come, a reminder that President Obama has had a busy year and also a pretty successful one. A look at Obama`s 2015 coming up just ahead.


OBAMA: Those who now argue in retrospect we should have left...


WAGNER: President Obama has had just about enough of the pessimism that has been sweeping the country lately, particularly from Republicans.

He came out swinging today and rattled off a bona fide list of accomplishments from this past year alone. That`s ahead.



OBAMA: I am very confident that we`re going to have a terrific Democratic nominee. Whose phone is that, guys? Come on now. Somebody. You recognize your ring. Don`t be embarrassed. Just turn it off. Huh? There you go.


WAGNER: Today, a relaxed and confident President Obama held a press conference in which he was able to tout major achievements in this, the seventh year of his presidency, despite the naysayers and doom and gloomers.

Keep in mind the seventh year of two-term presidents often involves a great deal of coasting toward the finish line. By the end of 1999, the second year of a budget surplus in his presidency, Bill Clinton was able to herald some spending bills like the 100,000 police officers funded nationwide.

But there were no major policy initiatives, unless you count the Clinton administration`s unveiling of a new FDA regulation clarifying over-the- counter drug labels.

President George W. Bush`s most significant action in 2007, the seventh year of his presidency, was the surge in Iraq. That same year, the vice president`s former chief of staff Scooter Libby was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice.

Today, President Obama pointed to American leadership in a number of major initiatives that came to fruition this year including but not limited to the Paris climate accords.


OBAMA: This would not have happened without American leadership. And by the way, the same is true for the Iran nuclear deal. The same is true for the TransPacific Partnership. The same is true for stamping out Ebola, something you guys may recall from last year, which was the potential end of the world.


WAGNER: Of course the Ebola crisis peaked in 2014 and is now largely a distant memory.

When we come back, how the president may get just another huge bill passed in his eighth year in office, this one with the help of Republicans. Stay with us.



OBAMA: I said at the beginning of this year that interesting stuff happens in the fourth quarter and we are only halfway through. Since taking this office I`ve never been more optimistic about a year ahead than I am right now. And in 2016, I`m going to leave it out -- all out on the field.


WAGNER: Joining me now, Lynn Sweet Washington bureau chief at the Chicago Sun-Times and MSNBC contributor Josh Barro, national domestic correspondent with The Upshot at The New York Times.

Lynn, you have covered this White House up and down. It has been a remarkably productive year for this president.

LYNN SWEET, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Right. And I think he sounds a little chagrined, Alex, that at times he doesn`t get the credit that he deserves. And that came through a bit today, though he was good-natured as when that phone rang.

I was sitting a few seats away from the person who had it ringing and didn`t turn it off.

But what was interesting here is that I actually thought Obama would have emphasized even more accomplishments and pivoted that to more of an agenda for 2016, but I don`t think he was in the mood to give that much of a preview today.

WAGNER: Josh, when we talk about what might be in store ahead, criminal justice seems like the area where there`s room for the most bipartisan compromise. Do you think Republicans will give that to him in an election year?

JOSH BARRO, THE UPSHOT: Yeah, well, I think there are two main areas. One is I think it`s likely there will be some sort of criminal justice reform bill. The main question will be how big a deal will that bill be? As the president noted, there`s legislation in the senate that he favors. It`s not clear what will come out of the house.

So I think it`s very likely that they`ll be able to agree on something, but you can do something big here or something small here. And the president also noted this is really an issue where state and local governments have to do most of the work, because that`s where most of the people are imprisoned.

So the other question is if congress does do something how of an example does that set for the states? And how much do they do?

But I think the other big area for bipartisan agreement is one that a lot of the president`s fans won`t like very much, which is the TransPacific Partnership. I think that`s likely to be the biggest bipartisan deal that comes out of congress in the next year, and I do think it`s very likely the president will get that done.

He did spend some time talking about that, but that`s something that Democrats are definitely going to have mixed feelings about.

WAGNER: Yeah, Lynn, let`s talk a little about the president`s working relationship with congress, because Speaker Paul Ryan has gotten some fairly major accomplishments in the early weeks of his speakership. President Obama seemed to suggest that he could maybe have a better working relationship with him than, say, I don`t know, some other speakers at the house. Let`s take a listen to what the president said.


OBAMA: Perhaps because even before he was elected, he had worked on Capitol Hill I think he is respectful of the process and respectful of how legislation works. So kudos to him as well as all the leaders and appropriators who were involved in this process.


WAGNER: How did you read that commentary, Lynn?

SWEE: Well, I read it as this is a man I could work with, says President Barack Obama.

He mentioned Ryan a few times in this press conference today, all respectfully. We kind of disagree on stuff, but what they have in common is they want to get things done. He talked about how Ryan worked with the other congressional leaders just to get the money, the spending bill in shape.

So I think this could be a very interesting year because it is in their mutual interests to get things done. Already you have Paul Ryan kind of setting his own course apart from what the Republican presidential field is doing. While they`re out there saying the world`s falling apart and Obama`s doing these things to America that we wouldn`t want to do, Paul Ryan is saying I`m going to show that we can do what we were elected to, do which is come to Washington and legislate.

WAGNER: Yeah, Josh, when Paul Ryan introduced the spending bill, the words he was using to describe the compromise, each side gave a little, neither side necessarily thinks that this is the perfect deal, those were words that President Obama has said about the art of compromise, and here we were hearing them from the Republican leader in congress.

BARRO: Well, so I`d say two things about that. One is that this isn`t Paul Ryan`s first time doing this. He was one of the key architects with Democratic Senator Patty Murray of the last bipartisan budget compromise deal that got done at the end of 2013 that sort of ushered in this era of a couple years of non-crisis governance where we haven`t had a government shutdown, and we haven`t had a credible threat of a shutdown since then.

So, we knew that Paul Ryan is not a guy who loves brinkmanship, who did not want to shut down the government. But the other thing is I think Paul Ryan would really like to coast for a year and so would a lot of other Republicans in congress. They think they have a decent shot of taking back the presidency next year. They know if they have unified control of government they can implement their agenda without having to get a Democrat to agree with it, so why pick a big fight now when you can maybe just get it done in a year.

And furthermore, I think Republicans, conservative Republicans in congress trust Paul Ryan when he says look, I have a long game here. Let me make this deal and we`ll come back next year with a Republican president and do what we really want.

I think they didn`t trust John Boehner as much. I think he has that credibility, because for so long he`s been pushing these really sweeping plans to remake government in a conservative direction, so they were willing to give him some rope and he took it.

WAGNER: Lynn, let me ask you about a signature priority of the president at least as far as he`s articulated it since the beginning of his presidency, which is closing down Guantanamo Bay. The president suggested he would present a plan to congress and that you never know, every once in a while congress will surprise you.

Talk to me about how feasible you think that is?

SWEET: I want to do -- I`m glad you brought that up because I think actually this was one of the most interesting parts of the press conference, Alex. President Obama came to office and -- on day one he said my goal is to close Guantanamo. Here it is, he hasn`t done it.

So the narrow plan he wants to present to congress is that he has slowly, through years, been able to place the prisoners in other countries. But he said today there are going to be some people who are just unplaceable. We`re going to be with them. He intends to make an economic argument that it`s costing us -- he kind of went through a few numbers -- 100, 200, 300, 400 million. And it`s just too expensive.

But he has to get that number down to I believe below 100 to even have that as a starter because Republicans have filed all kinds of bills through the years to prevent any of them from coming to the U.S.

WAGNER: It would certainly be a major accomplishment if he could do it.

Lynn Sweet and Josh Barro, thank you guys both for your time this Friday night.

SWWET: Thank you.

BARRO: Thank you.

WAGNER: That is it for All In this evening. The Rachel Maddow Show starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.