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All In with Chris Hayes, Transcript 1/28/2016

Guests: Jess McIntosh, Heather McGhee, Eric Boehlert, Ben Domenech, Steve Schmidt, Peter Suderman, Brandon Friedman

Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: January 28, 2016 Guest: Jess McIntosh, Heather McGhee, Eric Boehlert, Ben Domenech, Steve Schmidt, Peter Suderman, Brandon Friedman

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Good evening from New York. I`m Chris Hayes.

And at this very hour, an unprecedented event in modern presidential politics is about to begin. The culmination of a campaign that has defied every expectation, turned conventional wisdom on its head, and most significantly has laid waste to the entirety of the institutional landscape of the modern Republican Party and possibly, some very important Democratic and set of norms for American politics along the way.

I speak, of course, of this. You are looking at Sheslow Auditorium at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, where Donald Trump event is just getting under way. In one hour, the GOP presidential front-runner is scheduled to take the stage at the exact same time that his rivals will be kicking off the final GOP presidential debate before the Iowa caucuses at the Iowa event center, just a seven-minute drive from where Trump is holding his event.

Trump is boycotting the FOX News-hosted debate because of what he claims was unfair treatment by FOX host Megyn Kelly in an earlier debate, along with what Trump considered antagonism from FOX News as a whole.

Before Donald Trump`s rise, the notion that a GOP front-runner could defy FOX News so flagrantly would have been unthinkable. Yet, Trump has chosen to pick a fight with the most powerful figure on the American right. FOX News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes who`s starting with his role in Richard Nixon`s campaign has crafted the modern right in his own, pugnacious, perpetually aggrieved and domineering image.

In Trump, Ailes appears to have finally met his match, a bully even bigger and more brutal than he is. Indeed, if there is any question over who is the, quote, "alpha dog" in the showdown, consider what played out last night on FOX News when Bill O`Reilly asked Donald Trump over and over and over, beseeching, begging to reconsider his debate boycott, despite O`Reilly having agreed before the interview not to make that request.


BILL O`REILLY, FOX NEWS: Will you just consider? I want you to consider, think about it. Say look, I might come back. Forgive, go forward, answer the questions, look out for the folks. Just want you to consider it.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I told you upfront, I said, don`t ask me that question, because it`s an embarrassing question for you and I don`t want to embarrass you.

O`REILLY: Of course, I`m not going to listen -- but I`m not going to listen to anybody.


HAYES: In case you missed that, it was Trump saying to Bill O`Reilly, quote, "I don`t want to embarrass you." Ouch.

Trump`s event tonight is ostensibly to benefit veteran`s group, though for starters, the money is going through Trump`s own foundation, and it`s not as though Trump doesn`t get anything out of the arrangement.

The group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of American said it would decline any donation from Trump`s event, adding, "We need strong policies from candidates not to be used for political stunts."

Speaking of political stunts, both the Carly Fiorina campaign and super PAC supporting Ted Cruz said they would donate millions of dollars to veterans` charities if Trump agrees to debate, Fiorina and Cruz. If not apparently, well then, their donors will just keep the money.

The degree to which Trump is overshadowing the GOP field is truly astounding. Both Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum plan to join Trump at his rally tonight after their appearances at the undercard debate. And in spite the fact that they are still running for president against Donald Trump.

We`re watching one of the two modern American political parties which has been in existence for 150 years being ripped apart at the seams by a reality TV star.

Joining me now from outside the Trump rally in Des Moines is NBC News correspondent, Katy Tur.

And, Katy, what is the scene like there?

KATY TUR, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, I can tell you that the people inside like exactly that, Chris. They like that he`s ripping apart the book. He`s ripping apart the system. He`s shaking things up.

When you talk to them, they say that he is a breath of fresh air, that they like his policies, they like his positions. They like he`s not politically correct.

I asked a couple of veterans what they meant by that. They said this country is going in the wrong direction, that it`s culturally different from what they are used to. They want Donald Trump to be, they seem him as an 18th century, a 19th century president in a 21st century world.

I said, do you think the country is changing for the worst? They told me yes, they believe that. They think this country was founded on Christian values, "Western values" is the term they used. They believe that others are coming in and changing that.

They`d like to see that stop. They believe that Donald Trump is the person to do that. Things like the Muslim ban resonate greatly with the number of people I speak with when we`re at these Trump campaign rallies.

There are others inside who tell me that they fully realize that this is a show, that this is a game. But they are so entrenched by it, they`re so entertained by it that they cannot stop looking.

I spoke with one woman, an independent who is deciding, believe it or not, between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. She said she waited eight hours in negative 12 degrees with one of his Iowa events recently. She waited four hours outside today to get into this event. She said she cannot stop watching Donald Trump.

And there`s a chance that she will walk into her caucus station on Monday and stand there and decide between Hillary Clinton she says has all of the experience in the world and really deserves to be president, or Donald Trump who she says she likes that he`s bucking the system and changing things up.

HAYES: I`m processing that, Katy.

Maggie Haberman of "The New York Times" was talking to Trump and he was sort of reiterating it`s not a bluff. I`m really not going to the debate.

I think there`s some, oh, he is going to get there and get in the car and drive and show up. You know, in the middle of the debate, like an actual wrestling event.

You have been on the road with the Trump campaign for months now. Did you think this was a bluff. Are you surprised it`s actually coming to this?

TUR: I earlier would have said it was maybe -- it was likely or less than not likely for him to get on this stage tonight, ask the crowd. Should I go to the debate? Should I face Megyn Kelly? And if everybody says yes, do it. He could get in the car and make a big spectacle of showing up late and come in with his cape or something.

But as the day has worn on and has spoken to people like Maggie Haberman, I think it`s less likely that he will be showing up at that debate. Then again, he could show up for just the spin room. That`s a theory that Chris Matthews was pointing out.

I think with Donald Trump, nobody quite knows what he`s going to do. I think that he`s such a spur of the minute guy. He gets on the stage and he follows his heart. He knows what he wants and the minute he wants it. So, you can`t really predict him.

That`s what I`ve learned this entire time in the campaign trail. It`s fruitless trying to predict what Donald Trump is going to do. There`s going to be fireworks at this debate, or fireworks at that debate, or it`s going to come out hard against Ted Cruz at this rally and he hasn`t.

I think he likes to listen to what the media says the entire day and do the opposite of it. So, I wouldn`t be surprised if he just did this event tonight and then wrapped it up and said, I`ve made my point and made my stand and I refuse to be involved in that debate, which I didn`t think was fair.

HAYES: All right. Katy Tur, thank you very much. We`ll keep our eye on that auditorium in Iowa throughout the night.

Joining me now, MSNBC contributor Josh Barro, correspondent with the Upshot at "The New York Times", Jess McIntosh, spokesperson for Emily`s List, the pro-choice organization supporting women running for elected office, which has endorsed Hillary Clinton.

There`s a lot of things to sort through in watching this.


HAYES: It`s -- because I think there`s a mixture for people watching this who are not Trump supporters, particularly for people who are watching this who consider themselves liberals, center-left Democrats. There`s this intense mix of schadenfreude, right? Like delight at watching Roger Ailes get out-bullied by some -- Roger Ailed by somebody else.

JOSH BARRO, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: It`s almost obscene how much you`re enjoying yourself, Chris. I`ve never seen you this happy.

HAYES: No, I`m just covering this.

BARRO: Uh-huh, uh-huh.


HAYES: There is something about -- if you spend a lot of time -- if you spend a lot of time interacting with modern American right, there this kind of real core of just kind of seething --


HAYES: Anger and kind of bullying and obsession with who is dominating who. We`re sort of detached from, well, I think marginal tax rates should be lower. We`re just seeing it --

MCINTOSH: I think the reason why Trump is ripping the Republican Party apart at the seams --

HAYES: And he is doing that. Let`s just be clear.

MCINTOSH: I mean, everything from the actual establishments, to the agitator, FOX News establishment, I think what`s happening is Donald Trump doesn`t believe anything he says. He`s creating a persona that mirror what is will work for the Republican base. That`s so much more frightening than just having someone who believes these racist things. He only says them because it works.

HAYES: Because he knows what the audience wants to hear.

BARRO: And he understands the Republican base better than the Republican Party does, which is why this has worked so well.

HAYES: This is why, because he walked in, in this distance, this social distance, this enormous social distance have grown up between Republican elites and their base. You and I were just having a Twitter conversation with someone who staffs the Republican senator talking about things like occupational licensing and breaking up the car dealership monopoly as populist issues that will get the base rev up.

BARRO: It would be the alternative to the Donald Trump. Populism and we`re going to change occupational licensing rules. I think the thing is, liberals think of Republicans in Washington sort of playing on cultural grievances of their vast base out in the country in order to implement their economic agenda. But I think it`s really not so much that cynicism as often unawareness that`s what the model is.


HAYES: One hundred percent agreed. They think the people at the rally could be persuaded that the thing that`s really getting grinding their gears is occupational licensing.

BARRO: Exactly, and that they are deeply concerned about tax rates on capital gains and all these things that the Republican donor class cares about. It`s not there was this divergence between the elites and the base in the party, since the elites they didn`t know that the divergence existed, to the extent that it did.

HAYES: And now, he`s taking on -- I mean, taking on FOX is the ultimate, right? I mean, it`s one thing to take on the donor class, which is, first of all, diffuse. They don`t in the old saying, buy ink by the barrel, right? They don`t have their own platform.

Here`s -- I mean, here he is, he is tweeting -- he`s retweeting today this conspiracy theory about the Saudi prince who is part owner of FOX News or has an ownership stake.

BARRO: Just like 6 percent.

HAYES: Six percent of 20th century FOX, right. So, they`re not a controlling share in any way. This ridiculous and obviously photoshopped photo. Most people don`t know the co-owner of FOX News is Prince al-Walid of Saudi Arabia. Here with his sister and his host Megan misspelled Kelly. In case you only watch FOX news, and you missed everywhere else, Google it.

It`s like -- that is like -- that is --

MCINTOSH: He actually has a reason to be afraid of Megyn Kelly. The reason why his rise and the fall of the Republican Party delights me as a Democrat is because it is not tenable in the general election. The question that Megyn Kelly asked him that got him in such state of tizzy, if you will, was how he would react to his past comments calling women bimbos and fat pigs and slobs and dogs and all the rest of it.

OK. So, Emily`s List sister org, American Women, polled with "Elle Magazine" asking even if you agreed with a candidate on their policies, would you vote for someone who used those exact words about women? Seventy-three percent of Republican women said, no, not chance.

BARRO: Yes, but he`s going to get way more than 27 percent of Republican women to vote for him. Like, in the primary, he`s going to get more than 27 percent.


HAYES: Here`s the question and here`s something I think is important as we watch this sort of unfold tonight. We are, of course, looking at the Trump plane. We have live shot of the Trump plane.

They -- don`t lose sight of the fact, we`re talking about Iowa. We`re talking about New Hampshire and non-representative states with small hard core people that are not representative of the broader electorate, right? We`re talking about 40 percent of the one-half of one-half of party is the group we`re talking about.

Keep in mind, Donald Trump is massively toxically unpopular figure broadly. According to all the polling, favorable rating negative 25 points, his favorable rating among Hispanics and African-Americans, 18 percent. Embarrassed for Trump to be president, 50 percent.

So, as it stands now -- I know what you`re going to say, Josh -- but just keep in mind right now, this is a massively toxic figure.

BARRO: Right now, maybe. Donald Trump`s numbers with Republicans were terrible before he got in the Republican race.

HAYES: That`s right. They look like that.

BARRO: Right. Donald Trump is a very talented brander who is good at changing the perception of him and changing the way voters think about him. He`s got Republicans to forgive him for so many things. This is a guy who was avidly pro-choice.

HAYES: They`re running an ad in Iowa which is dominated by evangelicals of him saying I`m very pro-choice over and over.

BARRO: Yes, it doesn`t mean to matter. Donald Trump used to be for a 13 percent wealth tax, like his old positions are a litany --

HAYES: Right. OK, but this keeps get back to this key point, right, the issues aren`t what`s driving the --

BARRO: He was also for amnesty.

HAYES: No, no, I know that. But I`m saying the issues aren`t what is driving who he is playing to now, but when he expands out past that, people --


BARRO: It`s not just Republicans who can be appealed to on nebulous feelings stuff.

HAYES: I agree, I agree.

MCINTOSH: That Republicans would be forgiving him for as much as they are if Ted Cruz weren`t as Ted Cruz is.

BARRO: Well, the voter base doesn`t necessarily think Ted Cruz is that odious. He polls very -- his favorable ratings are very strong.

HAYES: It`s the people in the establishment who despise them.


HAYES: All right. Josh Barro and Jess McIntosh, thank you both for being here.


BARRO: Thank you.

HAYES: All right. Still ahead, we`ll have continuing coverage of this Donald Trump event. We`ll tell you what happened the last time that Trump held a fund-raiser for veterans. Let`s just say it didn`t go very well.

Plus, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have campaign events this hour in Iowa. We`ll take you live to both of those.

And, first, an update on the Democratic debate drama. The offers and counter-offers in the Sanders and Clinton campaign.

Those stories and more all ahead. Stay with us.


HAYES: As we reported last night, Hillary Clinton has called for an unsanctioned debate in New Hampshire on February 4th, just days before the New Hampshire primary. Now, the debate would be sponsored by "The New Hampshire Union Leader", the newspaper, and this network.

After reporting on this last night and after our show last night, the Sanders campaign responded to that Clinton proposal, releasing a statement which reads, "From the beginning of this campaign, Senator Sanders has called for more debates. Secretary Clinton has not. Now, she`s asking to change the rules to schedule a debate next week that`s not sanctioned by the DNC.

Why is that? The answer is obvious. The dynamics of the race have changed, and Senator Sanders has significant momentum.

We propose three additional debates. One in March, April and May and none on a Friday, Saturday or holiday weekend. If the Clinton campaign will commit to this schedule, we would ask the DNC to arrange a debate in New Hampshire on February 4th."

Now, the Clinton campaign has responded to Sanders, in statement which reads, "We are glad that Senator Sanders has changed his mind about a debate next week in New Hampshire. We`ve always been willing to add additional debates beyond the six that had been scheduled and look forward to starting discussions on scheduling debates in April and May."

As it`s been said, the front-runner always favors fewer debates. The underdog always favors more. That axiom may wind up causing the addition of multiple, much-needed Democratic debates over the coming weeks and months.


HAYES: All right. Tonight is the big night. We were scheduled to have a Republican debate which is going to be the main event of the night. That would be on another network, on FOX News, until Donald Trump decided to pull out. He`s now staging a counter event in an increasingly bitter feud with Roger Ailes. We`re reporting, saying Ailes has been calling him every 15 minute.

Last night, Bill O`Reilly beseeching Trump to come on. We are keeping our eyes on everything that`s going on tonight, not just that Trump event you see there in his plane.

Hillary Clinton will be speaking in Iowa. Bernie Sanders will be speaking in Iowa. The two of them now on the trail.

And one of the things that has come to dominate discussions in the Democratic Party is electability and also, who would be best to take on Donald Trump, as he goes towards this first votes being cast in Iowa with a dominating lead in basically every one of the states.

Now, there`s reason to believe each of them have a plausible case. Joining me now, Heather McGhee, president of Demos Action, to talk about that.

Heather, I think there`s a case to me made for Hillary Clinton that she would be the stronger candidate in race against Donald Trump, largely I think because of the experience and resume and the sort of stark contrast with someone`s temperament is somewhat questionable.

HEATHER MCGHEE, PRESIDENT, DEMOS ACTION: Right. I think people are making that case. They are definitely making the case that at some point, voters will just be terrified about the idea of a Trump presidency and want to go with someone who really would be reassuring and that she has so much experience.

But I think there`s also a conversation that`s happening right now about electability, which talks about who the people are. Both Trump and Sanders right now are vying for the Reagan Democrats in many ways. They are vying for the pissed off, white, potentially populist voters. And Secretary Clinton right now is really trying to assemble the Obama Democratic multi- racial coalition.

That`s why --


HAYES: Yes. Sorry, finish that thought. I didn`t mean to cut you off.

MCGHEE: I was just going to say, that`s why Ian Haney-Lopez and I had an essay out today in "The Nation" which actually tries to connect these two stories. Can we talk about race to people of color and talk about class to white voters who are beginning to show some populism and then talk about how both are connected to the whole 99 percent?

HAYES: Well, and that`s the big question, right, is what is the antidote for -- I mean, there`s two questions for Democrats, I think, as they`re watching this unfold. This complete institutional destruction that`s happening on the other majority. You know, what`s the antidote to this? Is it just self-contained?

I mean, basically, are we talking about a small relatively group of people who are very angry, or is there traction in a broader electorate for this kind of rhetoric? Which has been at times, you know, quite frankly flirted with fascism as many people have pointed out.

MCGHEE: That`s right. Well, we are hearing right now is really kind of the culmination of 40 years of a conservative strategy to use what Ian Haney-Lopez calls dog whistle politics which is, frankly, how racism has evolved in our politics. Right now, we`ve got this ongoing conversation about free stuff, about makers and takers, about drug testing welfare recipients and a food stamp president.

And all of what does is help tap into unconscious bias usually among voters but it`s coldly strategic among politicians. And the end result is actually something that Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton should talk about all the time, which is that once the public is discredited, we have this feeling they are undeserving people and public institutions and now labor unions are discredited as well.

And that`s how we got the inequality that we see today. It actually harms white working and middle class people, as well as people of color.

HAYES: I was reading some of the voter profiles. "The New York Magazine" run this piece where they just talked to a bunch of voters. You see in some ways the sort of wide swath of economic destruction that has stuck through a lot of white rural America.

These were people in New Hampshire and Iowa, you know, talking about layoffs, talking about wage stagnation. When I was up in Burlington, Vermont, talking to a guy who is choosing between, he was sort of attracting to both Sanders and Trump, he was talking about having to work two jobs.

MCGHEE: Yes. And that`s the question, is who are those economically anxious white Americans going to blame? Are they going to blame people the plutocrats that Trump -- that Sanders is pointing to, excuse me, or are they going to blame people of color, the Mexican illegal immigrants who are rapists and the thugs in the inner cities, which is who Trump is going to blame.

So, we really feel like there`s a moment right now where the progressive coalition needs to both talk to anxious white Americans on class and talk to the people of color who in motion around racial justice and connect the two. And that`s what we`re trying to do right now, and I think it`s really important.

HAYES: Well, that`s going to be -- I mean, the winning message for Democratic nominee, whoever that is and whoever they are up against, is going to basically be that. If you learned anything from watching this campaign play out so far and the mood that voters are in.

Heather McGhee, thank you very much.

MCGHEE: Thank you, Chris.

HAYES: Still to come, Donald Trump said he could shoot someone and he wouldn`t lose any voters. Well, someone did some polling on that. You don`t want to miss those results. That`s next.


HAYES: For weeks, we watched as Donald Trump and Ted Cruz dominated the Republican field. And with four days until the Iowa caucus on Monday, new NBC poll out today among those likely GOP caucus voters has Trump up seven points ahead of Cruz.

Joining us now, Ben Domenech, publisher of "The Federalist", the contributor to "The National Review`s" "Against Trump" edition, and Eric Boehlert, senior fellow at Media Matters.

Eric, your reaction to the last few days watching. These are people you spend a lot of time thinking about. You`ve tracked Roger Ailes` career closely.


HAYES: Have you seen him in this situation?

BOEHLERT: He`s never been so -- his footing has never been poorly as it is now. I mean, the statements yesterday, the first one kind of mocking Trump, comparing him to Putin and then talking about terrorization after that.

They do not know how to fight an internal battle. They have never been challenged from within the Republican Party in any way shape or form. Republicans would cross behind the scenes who is getting air time and who is not, you know, what agenda is FOX pushing, what agenda they`re not.

Nobody has ever taken on FOX from inside the Republican tent and they do not know how to handle this. They created this FOX monster. They went all in with Trump for birthers. You know, 2011, they gave him endless air time and now it`s sort of marauding monster. And they don`t know what to do.

HAYES: What is -- Ben, what is the centrality here, I mean, what are we watching institutionally as we watch this bizarre moment, on the eve of this first vote in Iowa. You know, "National Review", obviously, is sort of -- the kind of pillar of a certain kind of intellectual conservatism at least I think in its own image. What is happening institutionally on the right?

BEN DOMENECH, THE FEDERALIST: Institutionally, the Republican Party is being taken over by a group of disaffected economically moderate voters who had not been very active before. We saw this sort of active fiscally voters coming out in the past and having an impact on the party. Now you`re seeing kind of this push back by these people who are basically economic nationalists who have nothing in common with the sort of fiscally conservative views who have traditionally led the party.

The Trump factor, from my perspective, is really about three policy issues which is number one, immigration.


DOMENECH: Where the elites of the party don`t want to listen to these people.

Number two, it`s foreign policy. It`s a no accident that the two people who are most critical of interventionism overseas in terms of going after Libya -- you know, Trump talking about being opposed to the Iraq War consistently -- are getting more than 50 percent of the vote. But again the Republican Party, the elites don`t really want to reconsider their foreign policy.

And then finally, it`s this sort of -- the economic game is rigged. Everybody does bad deals message that Trump has. I`m going to go do good deals for you.

And I think all of these are areas that the party elites have never really been able to grapple with it. They`ve ignored the complaints of these disaffected voters in the past, and now Trump is giving a voice to them.

HAYES: And here`s the thing I think tell. I really -- I think if your theories of American politics have sort of remained intact over the six months then you`re not really being honest with yourself. I mean, I tend to think -- you know, I basically I wrote a book about crisis of authority in American live, about this sort of decline -- the fact that we have in polling lower levels of trust in all our pillar institutions, and that actually that`s a sign of incredibly poor democratic health.

And often in other countries, what happens in those conditions is decadence and the rise of strongmen. I mean, just to be clear.

Here`s this polling. Eric, I don`t know what to make of this, Bloomberg, they actually asked people after Trump said I can shoot people in the street and I wouldn`t lose supporters.

OK, they asked if Trump actually did shoot someone, would you support him, 40 percent would still support him, 31 percent would vote for someone, 30 percnet, and this is my favorite, not sure.

BOLLER: Not sure.

HAYES: Depends.

BOLLER: Could go either way.

HAYES: We talking about limbs? We talking about organs?

But, I mean, this made me think like is this all a joke? Are people like - - is the Trump support some sort of massive troll people are pulling off?

Like, everyone understands that that is a ridiculous answer. What is that?

BOLLER: Right. You know, I said in July and August, of course he can win the nomination, because look he is reflecting something that has been taking place for eight years under Obama. And to be honest, some of the people behind the dump Trump push now were feeding it, were shoveling the coal onto it. It was an irrational, anti-intellectual, bigoted, kind of awful rhetoric about our president, about the state of Democrats.

So, this has created an inferno and Trump has seized it. And now there`s no logic behind it. There`s literally nothing he can do right now, it seems -- we`ll know after Iowa if these people are going to show up. We`ll know after New Hampshire.

If polling still can be trusted in the country in terms of politics.

But he has taken a bonfire to the Republican Party and they started the fire.

HAYES: Ben, there`s -- I sometimes feel like I`m -- this is happening and we`re moving through the housing bubble and I can`t tell if it`s like 2004 housing bubble, 2007 housing bubble. I mean, I want to think it`s a bubble, right, that there`s a bursting point here. Is there any indication you have or any -- what is your belief about if we`re going to see some normal rules of politics apply?

Particularly, you know, he`s getting killed by these Cruz ads right now. He`s skipping a debate, which I don`t think is obviously a winner for him. That event, by the way, has started the two YouTube stars who like to defend Donald Trump on YouTube are speaking there to warm things up.

I mean, are you expecting some sort of normal rules of gravity to apply here at some point?

DOMENECH: You know, it`s interesting because the cycle really is unique from so many different perspectives. He`s a very unique figure. I think that what we will see in Iowa, though, is maybe going to reflect how much this is a unique cycle, because the lessons of history will tell you this is not actually a good move for Trump.

Reagan skipped the last debate in Iowa in 1980 and he lost that contest to George H.W. Bush. You remember Big Mo. That was a situation where Reagan actually had to make a little bit of a come back. And he did so even though he had been up nine points in the polls in advance.

So, that`s a situation where you would think this around this is something rude to a bunch of professional voters effectively in Iowa. You would think that they would judge him for it, but Trump supporters are not necessarily the people who will judge him for that.

And you might not see the kind of performance from someone like Ted Cruz that would be enough to have kind of a final closing message that would change things. Instead, I think tomorrow people will still be talking about how obsessed Donald Trump is with Megyn Kelly or whether she`s more obsessed with him. And so that`s the sort of conversation that says this is a completely different cycle than you could ever expect.

HAYES: Mike Huckabee, by the way, arriving having come from the undercard debate, making his way over to the Trump event.

I mean, this is the big question. And that`s why in some ways Monday night is going to be so interesting, because we will see how voters actually respond to all these conflicting cues. Ben Domenech, Eric Boller, thank you very much.

All right. Like we said, there`s a bunch of events happening tonight as we barrel toward the first votes being cast in what is by far I think the most bizarre election that I have ever covered.

Coming up, the insane story that unfolded the last time Donald Trump held a fund-raiser for veterans. You will not believe it. So stick around. That`s just ahead.


HAYES: Donald Trump`s event tonight is a theory a fundraiser for veterans, at least that`s how it`s billed by the Trump campaign.

The GOP frontrunner is currently directing his supporters to where he is urging people to donate and promising that 100 percent of your donations will go directly to veteran`s needs.

Actually, the first stop for those donations is the Donald J. Trump Foundation, and then we`re to assume his personal nonprofit foundation will direct that money to veteran`s groups.

So, this seems like a good time for a quick refresher on what happened the last time Donald Trump did a major event to raise money for veterans.

It was back in September aboard a retired U.S. battleship in San Diego, hosted by the group called veterans for a strong America. That nonprofit hosted and sold tickets to the event, which people paid up to $1,000 to attend.

It turns out after some digging, Veterans for a Strong America, who Trump claimed at the time represented hundreds of thousands of vets, didn`t appear to have any member as all. And the staff itself appeared to consist of just a single solitary lone individual.

Oh, and according to the AP, the group`s tax exempt status was revoked the next month, because it hadn`t filed tax returns for three years.

Joining me now Brandon Friedman, an army veteran who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, who worked in the Department of Veteran`s Affairs, currently CEO of McPherson Square Group, a communications company that works on military and veteran`s issues.

Brandon, it`s great to have you on the show. I`ve long been an admirer of your Twitter feed. I follow you quite avidly.

I want to get your reaction to this very bizarre thing that happened last night in which Donald Trump says he`s going -- Fox should donate the money, quote, to the vets. And I`m going to do a fundraiser to the vets. And then Ted Cruz`s super PAC says we`re going to pony up $2.5 million for the vets if you`ll debate us, and Carly Fiorina tweets and sells, well, I got $2 million. What was your reaction to that?

BRANDON FRIEDMAN, MCPHERSON SQUARE GROUP: This is all part of the Donald Trump show. He`s going to say whatever it is he needs to say to get the spotlight on him. His opponents are trying to keep up, and it`s really unfortunate because now you have other candidates saying well if you show up at the debate we`ll give money to veterans. Well, if they have the money and they really want to support veterans then they should just give the money to veterans and not use veterans as pawns in this political game that they`re playing.

HAYES: Yeah, that was -- I mean, my feeling is if you have money and you believe in a cause, then you should give money to that cause and not dangle it as some sort of inducement for someone`s behavior in the guise of honoring people that have served.

FRIEDMAN: Right. That`s just not how we should do things.

There`s lots of organizations that are deserving of funds. Really, you know, if Donald Trump really wants to support veterans, he should craft a coherent policy that everybody can see, something that`s going to put the Department of Veteran`s Affairs in the right direction.

You know, because there`s a lot of work that we have to do for veterans in this country. And, you know, I think one of the most important things that he could do, if he really wants to support veterans and the military, he could stop all the blustering tough talk because if there`s one thing we don`t need it`s most unnecessary wars, because that`s what puts stress on the Department of Veteran`s Affairs, that`s what puts stress on the military and puts us in the situation that we`re in.

So, you know, this ploy by Donald Trump it`s really cynical. You know, veterans` group are not having any of it. Everybody sees through it. And they know that he doesn`t have the connections in the veterans community, he doesn`t have the support really from veterans. And it`s just kind of sad to see veterans be used like this.

HAYES: Is there an issue -- I`m sort of reading a bunch of -- today, I was reading a bunch of veterans writing about this and thinking about what issues should be front and center in this campaign. Obviously, it`s something that Hillary Clinton has talked a lot about, Bernie Sanders is on that committee and actually co-wrote the bill that was passed in the wake of all the sort of VA hospital scandal.

Is there an issue that should be more front and center?

FRIEDMAN: Well, yeah, there`s lots of things we can talk about with Veteran`s Affairs. There`s homeless veterans. I mean, as long as we have veterans who are homeless, we still have got more work to do. There are the issues with access at the Department of Veterans Affairs, so that we can veterans in to see the doctors they need to see. We still have a lot of work to do on veteran unemployment.

And so these are areas that Donald Trump could really take a position and he could be constructive, but instead he turns it into part of his reality show. And the good thing about -- there`s no really good thing about it, but fortunately veterans groups see through that and they`re not falling for it, except for these fake groups with the one member.

So, you know, I have a lot of faith in the veterans groups to not go along with this.

HAYES: All right, Brandon Friedman, thank you so much for joining me. I really appreciate it.

FRIEDMAN: Thanks for having me.

HAYES: We just showed you what appeared to be Bill Clinton who is doing a campaign event for Hillary Clinton in Iowa. He and Chelsea Clinton, I believe, are all three of the family are in Iowa, as we reach towards the stretch. There he is in his American flag sweater.

We are also monitoring the Bernie Sanders event. He has not taken the stage there. We will bring you some of that.

Although, actually, I take that back. There is Bernie Sanders. He is doing an event in Burlington, Iowa -- not Burlington, Vermont. He is polling neck and neck with Hillary Clinton, counting on a huge turn out this Monday night and still continuing to draw huge crowds, huge momentum.

Coming up, we`re going to also bring you some more live coverage of the Donald Trump event and how this marks a major crisis for the Republican Party.


HAYES: All right.

That is the event tonight in Iowa that Donald Trump is holding as a kind of thumb in the eye of the most powerful man in the American right, Roger Ailes, who controls a media empire that is the lifeblood of modern conservatism, and frankly the Republican Party, a Republican Party that finds itself in genuine shock and disarray at how this election has unfolded so far.

The Republican Party that finds all of its institutions brought low, all of its leaders viewed contemptuously by its own base. We are in genuinely uncharted territory as we head towards the first voting. Do not go anywhere. We`ll talk about it ahead.


HAYES: All right. We`ve got the past and future, perhaps, stars of Arkansas politics. We have got Hillary Clinton doing an event in Iowa. We`ve got Bill Clinton doing an event in Iowa, we have Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas also who has just made his way into that auditorium. He will be joined at some point by Rick Santorum who have come from the undercard debate.

Again, if you`re someone who doesn`t spend a lot of time enmeshed in the world of conservative media and its institutions, the idea of crossing Fox in the way that this is being done right now is generally had been unthinkable.

Here`s a quote that brought me up short today, "we may be witnessing the collapse of the Republican Party, or at least the Republican Party as we know it. And if so, then Donald Trump is the harbringer of Apocalypse."

Now those are not my words, they were written today by Peter Suterman, senior editor at Libertarian Reason Magazine. They convey the state of crisis confronting the GOP as the Trump phenomenon barrels on toward the Iowa caucuses.

Tonight`s spectacle perfectly encapsulate what Trump is doing to Republican political institutions. The party`s frontrunner blowing off both Fox News and the RNC, and so far at least, fully, completely in the driver`s seat.

Joining me now is Peter Suderman, senior editor at Reason magazine, and Republican strategist Steve Schmidt, an MSNBC contributor.

Peter, let me start with you. And give me your thesis about why this is some kind of Apocalypse for the Republican Party.

PETER SUDERMAN, REASON MAGAZINE: I think the signs of disarray are everywhere. You have National Review putting out not just a statement but an entire issue devoted to taking down Trump, to saying that he is an ideologically unmoored opportunist, you know, more like a strongman than any kind of conservative. You have a war going on between Fox News, which is, you know, one of the principle institutions and the constitution with the political right and the presidential front-runner.

And then you have -- you know, if you look at Donald Trump`s campaign. It`s really not operating from any place that is recognizable as the traditional Republican Party, as the American right as we have known it over the last 10 or 20 years. He`s not using operatives who are traditional -- you know who have run on campaigns before. He`s not really pulling from any part of the traditional American right of the Republican Party. He`s basically using the Republican Party as a vehicle to operate his own party at this point.

HAYES: That is well said. And one of the things you point out, there is no -- there`s no, like, professional political class around him, really. I mean, Corey Lewandowski is a campaign manager who was Koch operative for awhile. So there`s him.

There`s a Jeff Sessions adviser, Senator from Alabama who is pretty stridently anti-immigration who has come over to work for Trump recently. And that`s about it.

Steve Schmidt, let me ask you this, Stewart Stephens who is a very successful political operative for the Republican Party. He was the campaign manager if I`m not mistaken, for Mitt Romney or chief adviser. Really interesting guy, a very thoughtful guy, a very mordant observer of politics, he`s been a bear on Donald Trump the whole time, basically I think he thinks the normal rule of politics will apply, gravity will have its final say. Is that your position right now?

STEVE SCHMIDT, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Certainly not. It hasn`t been through the entire summer and the fall. I think what`s happening is very understandable.

First off, the crisis in the Republican Party is not caused by Donald Trump. Donald Trump is the result of the crisis in the Republican Party. You have a party that has lost the popular vote in five out of the last six elections. You look at a party that is shrinking. Every single demographic in the country that is growing the Republican Party is losing market share, its leadership has been complicit in the prosecution of an incompetently prosecuted war. It has been complicit in spending the country to $19 trillion in debt, abrogating its claims to being the party of fiscal responsibility.

And all of the conservative institutionalists and the establishment conservatives, the professional conservatives in Washington have stood idly by during this season of collapse. There are no new ideas in the Republican Party. There are not fresh policies. There is not the intellectual rigor and vigor that you saw out of conservatism in the 1980s.

And on top of it all, we live in a country where trust is collapsed in very nearly every institution with the exception of the U.S. military. And you see this playing out additionally on the Democratic side with the rise of Bernie Sanders.

HAYES: That last point about the sort of collapse of trust and what it means. I mean, because sometimes, as a chronicler it`s fascinating, as a citizen there`s something sort of terrifying about institutional decline. It can go in very bad places. I want to talk about that with both you gentlemen. I have to take a quick break. Stay with us. Thank you.


HAYES: We`re back with my guests Peter Suderman, senior editor at Reason magazine; Republican strategist Steve Schmidt.

So, I was talking about this book that I wrote called Twilight of the elites. It`s about what -- it`s about what Steve was just saying. You know, we have declining trust of all our institutions, except the military, incredible amounts of inequality. Tremendous social distance between elites and everyday folk, all of that playing out now.

Where do you see this going, Peter. I this there is question about is this a phenomenon of a small part of the republican base? I asked this before? Or something more broad and what that means for the political norms in America?

Josh Marshall had a column this morning where he said, you know, political norms are important and we`re watching them be kind of unwound in a way that bears some real attending to.

SUDERMAN: Yeah, I think -- you know, if you look at Donald Trump he is kind of the perfect candidate for this moment, this post policy moment that we are in. And he`s the perfect candidate for the party that has been -- that is most aggressively embraced a kind of post-policy attitude.

And I actually think back to an article you wrote years ago in which you went and talked to undecided voters and one of the things you found was that undecided voters didn`t even really understand what the concept of an issue was. And I think about that all the time when I look at elections and look at candidates. And Donald Trump is really running the perfect campaign for those kinds of voters.

It`s a post-policy, post-issue campaign. I mean, he`s got policy papers that he`s put out, but he doesn`t even seem to know what`s in them himself. They`re kind of jokes. That`s not at all what his campaign is about.

And so he has sort of marshaled support just by kind of being a bully, by sort of throwing around his weight, by sort of suggesting, you know, what an authoritarian he is. And people are gravitating to that, because they don`t have anything else, because there isn`t -- because there is, I think, you know a lack of authority and a dissipation of authority in American life.

HAYES: Steve, do you buy the he will be an electoral disaster is the nominee?

SCHMIDT: I certainly don`t. I think democrats should be very careful about what they wish for with regard to a Trump candidacy. His ability to appeal to blue collar, male, Democrats, rust belt, non-college educated, economically downscale, union members, ravaged by the great recession, affected by globalization against Hillary Clinton shouldn`t be underestimated.

I think you see this phenomenon again playing out in the Democratic Party as well with the rise of Bernie Sanders and his unsuspected competitiveness.

But to the point about Donald Trump and issues, there are three important issues that are departures from Republican orthodoxy with regard to Donald Trump.

He`s not a free trader. He`s not for the carried interest loop, which sets up the financial services industry to pay a different tax rate than the rest of us. And he has broken Republican orthodoxy on the issue of Iraq.

And some time for Republican voters between the 35th and the 40th votes to repeal Obamacare, they discovered and decided it was all Kabuki theater, all play fighting, all complete and total nonsense.

And so they`ve discounted the seriousness of anybody`s policy proposals. They don`t think it`s worth the paper it`s written on.

HAYES: This is the big question to -- if you`re a member of the conservative base, what have the last six or seven years from the conservative institutions of the Republican Party gotten you? What have they delivered you?

And the answer is not a whole heck of lot.

Peter Suderman, Steve Schmit, thank you to both.

That is All In for this evening.