Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: November 18, 2016 Guest: Matt Mackowiak, Wade Henderson, Michael Wolff, Ben Domenech, Wes Lowery, Tim Ryan
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC ANCHOR: Tonight on ALL IN.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would get the best people, people that I`d be comfortable with and we will do the right thing.
KORNACKI: Trump starts naming his best people, like Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, a lightning rod choice for Attorney General.
JESS SESSIONS, UNITED STATES SENATOR OF ALABAMA: Nobody is perfect. We can`t have everything, can we, Mr. Trump?
KORNACKI: Plus, Steve Bannon breaks his silence. Why Trump`s new White House senior adviser says, "Darkness is good." Breaking news from the Trump University fraud lawsuit, and what a difference an election makes.
TRUMP: Mitt let us down. He let us down.
MITT ROMNEY, BUSINESSMAN AND POLITICIAN: Mr. Trump is a con man, a fake.
TRUMP: He choked, like a dog, he choked.
KORNACKI: A preview of tomorrow`s Trump-Romney meeting.
ROMNEY: There are some things that you just can`t imagine happening in your life. This is one of them.
KORNACKI: ALL IN starts right now.
TRUMP: He choked.
KORNACKI: Hey, good evening from New York. I`m Steve Kornacki, in for Chris Hayes tonight. Donald Trump today, making three major picks for his national security team. For head of the CIA, Trump tapping Representative Mike Pompeo, a Kansas Republican who serves on the House Intelligence Committee, former army officer who supports the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques and opposes closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay. Pompeo perhaps best known for his aggressive questioning during the Benghazi hearings of Hillary Clinton, accusing her of failing to act when American lives were on the line. Pompeo has to be confirmed by the senate if he`s going to take over the CIA.
On the other side though, there is no confirmation necessary when it comes to Trump`s pick for National Security Adviser, and that would be retired army lieutenant general and Trump loyalist, Michael Flynn. He`s the former head of the Defence Intelligence Agency. Earlier this year, he claimed on Twitter that, quote, "Fear of Muslims is rational." He also encouraged chains of lock her up, directed at Hillary Clinton during the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. Now, multiple senior intelligence officials tell NBC News today that they have deep reservations about Flynn, describing him as a hot head with an abusive leadership style.
And that brings us to Trump`s choice for Attorney General. That`s Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions. He was an early supporter of Donald Trump in the presidential campaign. Sessions is generally well-liked by his senate colleagues. Senate, of course, must confirm him for this position, but Sessions did run into trouble 30 years ago back in 1986, when he was the United States attorney and he was nominated by Ronald Reagan for a federal judgeship. Sessions then was accused of making racially insensitive comments. His former assistant U.S. attorney telling the committee that Sessions had called him "boy", and had warned him, "to be careful what you say to white folks." What we`re about to show you now is an NBC news report from that time, from the controversial Sessions` nomination battle back in 1986. This is reporter Ken Boddie, the date, March 17th, 1986.
EDWARD KENNEDY, FORMER UNITED STATES SENATOR: Mr. Sessions is a throwback to a shameful era, which I know both black and white Americans thought was in our past. It`s inconceivable to me that a person of this attitude is qualified to be a U.S. attorney, let alone a United States federal judge.
KEN BODDIE, KOIN 6 ANCHOR: Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, he was brought face-to-face with things he personally had said. For example, that the NAACP and the Civil Liberties Union are un-American organizations.
JEFFERSON SESSIONS III, U.S SENATOR: These comments that you could say about county organization or something, I may have said something like that in a general way and then, probably was wrong.
BODDIE: Also brought face-to-face with the justice department civil rights attorney who knows him well, and who was asked, "Is Sessions a racist?"
GERALD HEBERT, JUSTICE DEPARTMENT LAWYER: I don`t really know whether he is or he isn`t. I probably ought to know, but I don`t. I really can`t say.
BODDIE: But the would-be judge`s biggest problem came in a case he prosecuted and lost, a vote fraud case involving black civil rights leaders in Perry County, Alabama. Defendants in the Perry County case were Albert and Evelyn Turner, political and civil rights leaders for more than 20 years. Albert was an aide to Martin Luther King. Their scrapbook has all the marches.
EVELYN TURNER, POLITICAL AND CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER: This is bloody Sunday. Albert, you can see, that`s him right there.
BODDIE: Albert Turner guided the mules at Dr. King`s funeral. The federal government charged the Turners with doctoring absentee ballots, vote fraud and mail fraud.
ALBERT TURNER, POLITICAL AND CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER: My own opinion is that the case is political. I actually don`t think Jeff Sessions ever came in with an ounce of evidence.
BODDIE: Blacks charge harassment by U.S. attorney Jeff Sessions, noting there was no investigation of white vote fraud. The justice department says it had no complaints about white vote fraud. Jack Drake, a Tuscaloosa civil rights attorney says the feds might have found plenty of white vote fraud had they looked for it.
JACK DRAKE, TUSCALOOSA CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: I`m seeing letters written by the concerned citizens of Sumter County, for example, saying we know you don`t live here anymore, but we want you to vote here.
BODDIE: Drake says, race is the only issue when black-held elections that the federal government got involved in a local struggle over the courthouse.
DRAKE: I think the motivation came from the whites who live there who are really desperate when they start to think about losing control of the county courthouse.
BODDIE: The original complaint came two years earlier from the local district attorney.
ROY JOHNSON, LOCAL DISTRICT ATTORNEY: I gave them my preliminary investigative report and advised them of the situation here and asked for their assistance.
BODDIE: Roy Johnson showed us the original impounded ballots. He said the Turners illegally changed some of the absentee ballots they had collected.
JOHNSON: Ballots were being changed from the way the voters had cast them.
BODDIE: Johnson turned his evidence over to Jeff Sessions and asked the U.S. attorney to monitor the 1984 Primary Election.
JOHNSON: I told him basically what I`ve just outlined, that we had an essence sheer on adulterated fraud in the absentee of balloting process here in Perry County.
BODDIE: Some blacks whose absentee ballots had been changed were bussed to mobile to testify. Law enforcement authorities say, everything went smoothly, others say, they were terrified.
DRAKE: I don`t believe those people who were carried to mobile in that bus will ever vote again.
BODDIE: The case was tried last summer. Albert and Evelyn Turner were found not guilty. Jeff Sessions declined to talk to NBC News, but his friends and supporters told us, he is not a racist, and the justice department says, Sessions had a good case. Jack Drake disagrees.
DRAKE: I don`t think the government had a case. The impetus side, what I think, was to keep blacks from voting, to intimidate people and they went right after the leadership that they want to defeat.
BODDIE: Albert Turner does not want Jeff Sessions on the federal bench.
TURNER: A man like Jeff Sessions will be there for such a long period of time. And I honestly think that he will be in the way of progress in this area for quite a while.
KENNEDY: He is a - I believe a disgrace to the justice department and he should withdraw his nomination and resign his position.
KORNACKI: Again, that`s an NBC News piece from March 17th, 1986, Ken Boddie reporting there. Now, Jeff Sessions was ultimately rejected in that battle for the federal judgeship by the senate judiciary committee. At the time, that committee was controlled by republicans. The question now, 30 years later, is will he face similar opposition as he tries to become the Attorney General of the United States? Joining me now from the Trump National Golf Club in New Jersey, that`s where Trump`s transition team is now holding its meetings, NBC News correspondent, Hallie Jackson.
So Hallie, 30 years ago, Jeff Sessions could not get his nomination confirmed by the senate. He obviously then went years later, got elected to the senate. Now, he`s going to have to go back in front of the senate for confirmation again. Is there reason to believe he could be in trouble like he was three decades ago?
HALLIE JACKSON, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Frankly, Steve, not particularly. And let me explain why. Remember that given the rules of the senate, Jeff Sessions would need 51 votes in order to move forward with this confirmation. He - republicans, of course, have 52 seats. And right now, there aren`t any republicans who have come out against his confirmation. You got to start with the judiciary committee, right? All the republicans on that committee have come out today in support of Senator Sessions. You have many republicans not just, sort of, the republicans, rather, who you would might think would support Sessions, but people like Jeff Flake of Arizona who was been a consistent anti-Trump voice in the senate, backing Sessions, somebody like Joe Manchin, for example, from West Virginia, a democrat coming out in support of Sessions, Susan Collins, more moderate, coming out in support of Sessions.
So there`s not a lot of reason to believe that he will have a ton of difficulty getting through this confirmation process. Will he be asked difficult questions? Likely. There is one source on Capitol Hill who told my colleague Frank Thorp who covers The Hill, in his day job, you know, given the past, the history, that you just played in that - in that piece from 1986, how is this person supposed to be -- how is Jeff Sessions supposed to try and heal the nation`s racial divide as the nation`s top law enforcement official? And I think that that is a very real question that will come up.
Ultimately, though, it appears when you look at the numbers that Sessions will be able to get through this process. The big question, Steve, I think is, what happens then? What happens when it becomes Attorney General Jeff Sessions? How does that inform not just policies in the United States? His immigration position, how does that inform some stance in there? But what kind of an influence does he have on President-elect Trump, who will then be President Trump? How much of a vocal voice will Sessions be in Donald Trump`s cabinet? He has been, as you mentioned, one of his most loyal supporters, one of his most loyal and vocal surrogates. He was the first senator to come out to back Donald Trump. We saw him all the time on the campaign trail. So, how does that influence continue to play out come January 20th, Steve?
KORNACKI: All right. Hallie Jackson down there in Bedminster, New Jersey. Hallie, thanks for that. Joining me now for more, Wade Henderson, President and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and Texas-based Republican Consultant Matt Mackowiak, Texas-based, but here in New York, tonight. Thank you to both of you for joining us. So, two sides of this - of this question here. I want to talk to you, Matt, first of all, on the side supporting Jeff Sessions. And then so, Hallie Jackson just answered the "will he be confirmed question." It looks like the answer is likely to be yes there. Let`s tackle the question though, of should he be confirmed?
MATT MACKOWIAK, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: Uh-hmm.
KORNACKI: We played that clip, 1986. This was the first federal judge nominee that Reagan put up that actually got rejected by the senate. This was a republican senate, republican committee. That was the basis. We just showed you in that tape for rejecting him. What`s really changed in 30 years that would make you look at Jeff Sessions differently now?
MACKOWIAK: Yeah, we`ll keep in mind, he`d been an assistant U.S. attorney, then he was full U.S. attorney in the southern district of Alabama, at the time he was confirmed by unanimous consent in the senate, including Joe Biden and Pat Leahy, he was the top democrat of judiciary committee from much of his career. Since then, after he was not confirmed, he was Attorney General of Alabama and elected to the United States senate three or four times. So, he`s been successful, he`s also built up 20 years of relationships in the U.S. senate. As you know, when senators get put up for cabinet roles, it`s very effective because they know they have the relationships at the committee level and on the floor to get the votes and to work directly with them.
Now, look, his record has positive things as it relates to race as well. And I hope Wade would consider these things. Working with Dick Durbin, the number two democrat, to reduce crack penalties, to bring him in line with cocaine penalties, many African-Americans have thought that that was - that was racially unfair. And I think that`s something you have to say. He campaigned against George Wallace, when he was a young man in Alabama. That says a lot about his heart. He voted for Eric Holder, the first African-American Attorney General, United States history. So he`s got a record on both sides. Obviously, there`s questions he`s going to have to answer, but I think there`s some facts here that need to be on the table, and even part of the national debate.
KORNACKI: So, wait, let me ask you to pick up on that point. Again, this was - this was 30 years ago, what we just showed. Since then, Jeff Sessions has had a 20-year career in the U.S. senate also Attorney General for Alabama. Have you seen anything in the 30 years since that would say, "Hey, this guy deserves a different result this time around?"
WADE HENDERSON, PRESIDENT AND CEO OF THE LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE ON CIVIL AND HUMAN RIGHTS: Well, Steve, let me say at the outset, let me concede that Jeff Sessions voted for Eric Holder. Let me also concede that he played an important role in passing the Fair Sentencing Act. However, his record of hostility to voting rights obliterates the other positive things that he`s done. And let me go back for a minute. The Attorney General`s position is the most important law enforcement position in the nation. The Attorney General has a responsibility to ensure equal rights for all Americans.
But Jeff Sessions has shown both in his career as a U.S. attorney but also in his career as a United States Senator, has been on hostility to the enforcement of civil rights, particularly in the area of voting rights. I mean, this is a senator who rejected as a U.S. attorney, did play a very important role in the Turner case. And I think that`s something that has to be looked at. But he is also someone who had voted against, for example, the Matthew Shepard-James Byrd Hate Crime Law. He showed hostility to the violence against women act. This is an individual who has shown on hostility to the enforcement of civil rights laws, even though the position of Attorney General would have a particular responsibility in that area. Here`s what`s important, though, Steve --
KORNACKI: Can I just ask you, though, Wade, just to make the point, but I just want to follow up and to point me there. How different does that make him - that this is a republican who just won the election for president, presumably --
KORNACKI: -- going to get a republican pick for Attorney General. The other instances, the other cases, examples you`re bringing up there, how different is Jeff Sessions from any republican pick you`re going to get?
HENDERSON: Well, I think Jeff Sessions is different in one fundamental way. What he has shown as a hostility to voting rights, which from our standpoint, is especially important. Look, voting is the language of democracy. If you don`t vote, you don`t count. This is the first election that we`ve had in our nation that did not have the full protection of the voting rights act, largely because the Supreme Court invalidated a key position three years ago. What we have shown in the study that we have done, looking at how states like, the State of Alabama and others responded to that decision, is that they closed over 800 polling places, Steve, in the last three years, largely because they could take those actions because of the Supreme Court decision.
So we think that voting rights is a key issue that has to be elevated in this debate. It`s especially ironic that after the election that we`ve had, which was an election that was influenced by voter manipulation, we`ve had an individual nominated to be the chief law enforcement official of the United States who has a hostility towards protecting voting rights and protecting the interests of all Americans. And in that regard, that disqualifies him in our view for the position of Attorney General.
KORNACKI: And now, I want to get Matt on that question. So he says, hostile to voting rights. Now, obviously in that piece, we just played voting rights that case in 1984 was a part of that. Do you believe there`s been any evidence in Sessions` history of hostility to voting rights?
MACKOWIAK: Well, that`s Wade`s opinion. I mean, I`d have to look through the entire record. I think, look, there are a lot of southern states that believe that the federal government shouldn`t dictate to them, how their state should be run. That it shouldn`t be run at the state level. As you know, elections are not national. Elections aren`t on the state level. I think I heard Wade also say he has hostility towards civil rights, which I think is unfair, because he did vote for the 30-year extension of Civil Rights Act. I hope Wade`s aware of that. I hope democrats are aware of that.
So, look, he`s going to have to answer questions about statements from the past, votes he`s taken, but again, I think the record here is much more balanced if you look at the positive record and the negative statements from the past, they get to balance all that together. At the end of the day, he`s going to be confirmed a lot of times, the (INAUDUBLE) party wants to - wants to embarrass one or two nominees to try to make the president, sort of, realize that congress has a role, and that`s part of what`s happening here, I think.
HENDERSON: This isn`t about embarrassing a nominee. It`s about protecting the rights of American citizens and the issue of who should be the nation`s top law enforcement official is one that`s too important to ignore. The record speaks for itself. It`s not just a hostility to voting rights, it`s a hostility to gay rights -
HENDERSON: -- and a hostility to women`s rights. And those things have to be taken into account.
KORNACKI: OK. We are going to have to leave it there tonight. Wade Henderson, Matt Mackowiak. Thanks to both of you for joining us. Appreciate that.
HENDERSON: Thank you.
KORNACKI: Still to come, the man challenging Nancy Pelosi, trying to take her out as the leader of the house democrat. Congressman Tim Ryan from Ohio is going to join me. That`s ahead. Also, his first interview since the election, Donald Trump`s Chief Strategist tells the Hollywood Reporter, quote, "darkness is good," invoking Dick Cheney and Darth Vader. Reporter Michael Wolff on what he learned in his exclusive interview with Steve Bannon. That`s next.
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TRUMP: I could have settled this case numerous times, but I don`t want to settle cases when we`re right. I don`t believe in it. And when you start settling cases, you know what happens? Everybody sues you because you get known as a settler. One thing about me, I am not known as a settler.
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KORNACKI: That was Donald Trump back in March, but today, Trump agreed to a $25-million settlement of a series of fraud lawsuits against Trump University. That`s his defunct real estate seminar program. A settlement was announced this afternoon by New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. One of the cases a federal class action suit had been scheduled to go to trial in just 10 days. The $25 million will be divided among the former students who sued, alleging Trump University misled them about the course materials and about Trump`s level of involvement. The lawsuits became a major campaign issue after Trump publicly attacked a judge handling one of the cases, alleging that his Mexican heritage made him incapable of ruling impartially.
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TRUMP: We`re building a wall, he`s a Mexican. We`re building a wall between here and Mexico. The answer is, he is giving us very unfair rulings.
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KORNACKI: Now, Trump has denied all the Trump University allegations and the settlement doesn`t require him to acknowledge any wrongdoing. Still ahead here, with his fraud lawsuit behind him now, will Donald Trump settle his long feud with Mitt Romney? Big meeting taking place in New Jersey tomorrow. We will have a preview, that`s ahead.
KORNACKI: For the first time since President-elect Donald Trump won the election last week, Steve Bannon, his campaign chairman and now the new Chief White House Adviser is breaking his silence. Bannon, the former head of Breitbart News, which he once called the platform for the Alt-Right spoke with The Hollywood Reporter Michael Wolff this week. And quoting from Wolff`s article, "Darkness is good, says Bannon. Dick Cheney, Darth Vader, Satan, that`s power. It only helps us when they get it wrong. When they`re blind to who we are and what we`re doing." And by "they" there, Bannon is talking about the media and the left. And Michael Wolff, columnist for The Hollywood Reporter joins me now. Michael, thanks for taking a few minutes. So -
MICHAEL WOLFF, COLUMNIST FOR THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: Thank you for having me.
KORNACKI: You got quite an interview here. This guy`s name is all over the news. He`s been called a white supremacist, racist, an anti-Semite. You got to sit down and talk with him after he`s heard all of these accusations for the last week. What does he say to those major allegations against him -- accusations against him?
WOLFF: He dismisses them. I don`t think he sees those as germane to who he is or what he stands for. I think he sees that as part of liberal media`s failure to understand who he is and what he`s about.
KORNACKI: And so, what does he say he is? If he`s a - he says he`s a nationalist, not a white nationalist. What`s the distinction he`s drawing there?
WOLFF: He`s a - and I don`t want to be in the position to -- I am not - I am not defending his views. I am - I am -
KORNACKI: So, you`re explaining what he told you then?
WOLFF: I am - I was just there to listen to what he had to say. And what he has to say, is that he is about jobs for Americans. That is exclusively his focus, jobs for Americans. That makes him a nationalist in his view, and it makes him a very astute political figure in his view, that giving jobs to voters is the way you get elected.
KORNACKI: You - I`m curious about this. One of the ways this issue was raised within the idea he might be a white supremacist, a white nationalist, whatever term you want to use, and one of the reasons for that is not so much what he said himself, but what he`s allowed the Breitbart site to become, through sort of the articles, through the comments, through sort of the culture that its fed, that it sort of fed on the right. Is that something that he acknowledges at all, that he grapples with at all?
WOLFF: I certainly don`t think he grapples with it in the least. And he acknowledges it only in to the extent that he believes he`s created a voice and a media product that speaks to a good part of this country enough of the country that he goes to the White House, and the liberals don`t go to the White House. So I think that he very clearly sees this as a - as a - as a profound split. You people, the media, the liberals have no idea who I am, and who the Trump campaign is, and who it represents. And to continue to use these kinds of descriptions is not going to help you understand. And it`s going - it`s divisive and paralyzes the discussion.
KORNACKI: What is your sense, just sort of getting a view on the inside there a little bit, obviously, Donald Trump appointing him to this top position, being willing to absorb all of the sort of blowback that comes with that from the media, what`s your sense of how that relationship works, the Bannon-Trump relationship?
WOLFF: I think Steve Bannon is Donald Trump`s brain. I mean, I think it`s a very, very important fundamental, close relationship, and I think it`s a relationship that will - that will be at the center of the next stage of the Trump revolution, if you will.
KORNACKI: And what is it that Trump sees in him? It`s such a unique person to bring into a campaign. Nobody with a background like that I can think of has ever come into a campaign. What drew Trump to him in first place?
WOLFF: You know, I don`t really know the answer to this. I don`t know how far their relationship goes back. I think he was drawn into the campaign because the campaign was floundering at a certain point, during the summer. He came in, he gave it focus, and he gave it this fundamental idea. I think from August on, the thing that Trump really spoke about as the media and the liberals were talking about pussygate and whatever, and all of the other things that we were talking about with great relish. Donald Trump was going out in -- with Steve Bannon at his side talking about jobs. It`s the economy stupid. We once heard that and understood it and knew it, but I think we, and I mean, the liberals and the media forgot that.
KORNACKI: All right. Michael Wolff, Hollywood Reporter with the interview with Steve Bannon. Fascinating stuff. Thanks for joining.
KORNACKI: And coming up, Mitt Romney, he`s on his way to New Jersey. He`s going to meet with the man he says was causing trickledown racism. Can Mitt Romney go from that to working in a Trump White House? We`re going to explore that question next.
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TRUMP: Mitt is tough. He`s smart. He`s sharp. Governor Romney, go out and get `em. You can do it.
MITT ROMNEY, FRM. GOVERNOR OF MASSACHUSETTS: There are somethings that you just can`t imagine happening in your life. This is one of them. Being in Donald Trump`s magnificent hotel and having his endorsement is a delight.
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KORNACKI: Well, a lot has happened since Donald Trump endorsed Mitt Romney for president back in 2012.
In early 2015 Romney actually flirted with running for president again. He decided not to, but after that it was Trump who took credit.
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TRUMP: Well, a lot of people have given me credit for it. He was having a little bit of a free ride. Everybody was saying, oh, he`s going to come in, isn`t that wonderful? Isn`t that wonderful? And I remember I backed him and a lot of people backed him and worked for him and all of that. And he choked. Pure and simple. He didn`t do a good job. The last month he didn`t even exist, something went wrong. And, you know, I always say once a choker, always a choker.
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KORNACKI: Now, months after that Trump launched a presidential campaign of his own. And then flash forward to this past spring as Trump was winning primaries, gaining momentum, seemed to be potentially on his way to the nomination. Romney then took what was an unprecedented step for a former nominee.
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ROMNEY: Now, Donald Trump tells us that he is very, very smart. I`m afraid, though, when it comes to foreign policy, he is very, very not smart. He`s not of the temperament of the kind of stabl , thoughtful person we need as a leader. Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud. His promises are as worthless as degree from Trump University. His domestic policies would lead to recession. His foreign policies would make America and the world less safe. And his personal qualities would mean that America would cease to be a shining city on a hill.
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KORNACKI: So that was during the campaign, but tomorrow, well, tomorrow begins a new chapter in the Trump/Romney relationship. Romney is on his way to Trump`s New Jersey golf course where he will meet with the president-elect who is reportedly considering him for secretary of state.
Joined by Ben Domenech, publisher of the Federalist. Ben, thanks for taking a few minutes.
So, I know we`ve had teams of rivals scenarios in our history, we`ve had unlikely pairings before, we`ve had former rivals, former opponents team up. But I don`t think will have seen anything like this if it comes to pass.
I know the idea is tantalizing to some people. Do you think this is something that could actually happen, could these two ever get on the same page to that degree?
BEN DOMENECH, THE FEDERALIST: Well, I think that this really is an olive branch or potential olive branch from the Trump organization to a lot of Republicans who have been skeptical about him and about the degree to which his administration will be able to approach the world in a responsible manner.
The fact is that as this whole campaign has gone on, we`ve seen Donald Trump be more willing to reach out to a lot of the people whose views he`s pushed back against over the course of the campaign. He may have dismissed them in the past, but I think now that he actually is in the role of the president-elect, he`s going back and circling back to a lot of these various Republicans with whom he`s had disagreements in the past.
We`ll see if this comes to anything, but it would be certainly a contentious relationship potentially if Mitt Romney ended up in the roll of Secretary of State.
What might be more of a good fit for him, given his ability to solve problems that have been plaguing the United States in the past is something along the lines of VA secretary or something along those lines, where he`s given a problem and asked to solve it in short order.
KORNACKI: Because there is also a basic. If you can get beyond the personal stuff, if you can get beyond the personal stuff between them, I mean, there`s also some sort of basic philosophical stuff. I mean, Mitt Romney in is the guy in 2012 said Russia is our number one geopolitical foe. I know a lot of Democrats piled on him then. They were starting to quote him this year during the campaign.
But Donald Trump wants a very different relationship with Russia. I mean, could that -- could a guy like Romney be the secretary of state in an administration like Trump`s that wants to be reaching out to Russia?
DOMENECH: I think that is a big question And I think that it`s also one they`d have to discuss obviously in moving forward. But I have to circle back to the larger question, which is what kind of cabinet about Donald Trump want to have? You started this show by talking about Jeff Sessions. Jeff Sessions is one of the most loyal people, he`s been very close to Trump since the beginning. Frankly, I think it was very unfair of you to present that 30- year-old footage from an NBC report as being the full story about someone like Jeff Sessions.
Jeff Sessions went back to Alabama after that report that you showed, prosecuted the head of the KKK in Alabama, made sure he got the death penalty against political opposition at the time, ultimately led to the defunding of the KKK in Alabama and became someone who reached the point as a senator that the senator who was the deciding vote in that judiciary committee against him being a nominee said it was one of his biggest regrets as a senator in his career.
I think that when Donald Trump approaches the issue of who he`s going to have within his cabinet, it will be people who he can trust, people who he can rely on. I think that`s why he`s picking people like Flynn, people like Sessions, people like Pompeo, people who he believes he can trust in these positions. That`s the sort of thing that would suggest that Mitt Romney is not the guy for this position given that they`ve never had that kind of trusting relationship.
KORNACKI: All right, Ben Domenech from The Federalist, thanks for the time.
DOMENECH: Good to be with you.
All right, still to come, Washington Post reporter Wes Lowery in what he says is a new era in America`s racial justice movement.
Plus, tonight`s Thing One, Thing Two starts after this break.
KORNACKI: OK, Thing One tonight, we may now have an idea of what President Obama really thinks about the election of Donald Trump. Obama, of course, was very gracious in his remarks last week when Trump visited the White House. And he maintained his upbeat attitude in Berlin yesterday.
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OBAMA: What makes me cautiously optimistic about my successor and the shift from campaign mode to governance is there`s something about the solemn responsibilities of that office, the extraordinary demands that are placed on the United States not just by its own people, but by people around the world that forces you to focus.
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KORNACKI: But behind all of that, there may be more. That`s Thing Two in 60 seconds.
KORNACKI: So President Obama has expressed cautious optimism about President-elect Donald Trump and Obama has been very gracious in public just like other sitting presidents who were succeeded by somebody from the opposing party, but David Remnick of The New Yorker interviewed the president at length after the election and we may have gotten a hint at some of President Obama`s additional thoughts on the subject of his successor.
Remnick writes, quote, "the official line at the White House was that the hour-and-a-half meeting with Trump went well and that Trump solicitous. Later, when I asked Trump how things -- when I asked Obama -- excuse me -- how things had really gone, he smiled thinly and said I think I can`t characterize it without -- then stopped himself and said that he would tell me at some point over a beer off the record.
And then there`s also this: after the sit down with Trump, Obama told staff members that he had talked Trump through the rudiments of forming a cabinet and policies including the Iran nuclear deal, counterterrorism policy, health care and the president-elect`s grasp of such matters was, as the debates had made plain, modest at best.
Trump, despite his habitual bluster, seemed awed by what he was being told and about to encounter.
A handover of power occurs in 63 days.
KORNACKI: Today, the president-elect announced his selection for attorney general tapping Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions a nominee who received praise from many of his Republican colleagues as well as from Democrat Joe Manchin. Several Democrats, though, did criticize the Session`s pick as well as the NAACP, which called the choice deeply troubling.
Now, we`ve confirmed Sessions will take over from Loretta Lynch. She`s the second African-American to hold that office after Eric Holder preceded her under President Obama.
And as this changing of the guard happens, it presents questions for organizations focused on racial justice including Black Lives Matter, a group which Donald Trump said during the campaign may instruct his attorney general to investigate.
Earlier Chris Hayes sat down with The Washington Post`s Wes Lowery to discuss what Lowery calls a new era in America`s racial justice movement "They Can`t Kill Us All."
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC ANCHOR: Let me start with my enthusiastic endorsement of the book, which is fantastic. It`s -- everyone should read it. It`s incredibly well reported and very well done.
WES LOWERY, THE WASHINGTON POST: Thank you, I appreciate it.
HAYES: Let`s start with this. How does this movement start? What is this movement and how does it start?
LOWERY: Of course. I mean, I think that when we think about the movement, the racial justice movement currently, whether you call it Black Lives Matter or the movement for black lives, however you want to kind of describe it, it begins in the minds and the hearts of these young black and brown men and women largely in 2012 and 2013 during the Trayvon Martin incident.
Remember at the time we thought this was going be the trial of the century, it was going to an O.J. level event on race in America. There were predictions of riots if George Zimmerman was acquitted. And rather, there was a lot of protests, there was a lot of vigils, there were a lot of demonstrations. And black America largely decided to sit and wait and see what would happen. They wanted him arrested, and he was arrested, they wanted him tried, and he was tried. And then when George Zimmerman was acquitted for the death of Trayvon Martin, there was nothing. There was no violence. There was not largescale protests, but rather there was this disappointment in so many people who had felt like we let the system work, we let it play out and we were failed.
And then fast forward two years to Ferguson, right, where now we`re starting to see -- and this comes a few months after the death of Eric Garner and the video that`s gone viral. And here we have a young man whose body is lying in the street for four-and-a-half hours baking in the summer sun and the police refusing to say why this man has been killed. That was the moment that for both the residence in Ferguson as well as kind of simultaneously for a lot of young people around the country, there was no longer the willingness to wait and see.
HAYES: You know, I have to say that when you sort of zoom out from the individual cases and the activism and look at sort of the broader politicals context. You know, Barack Obama very famously talked about Trayvon Martin, said if I had a son he would look like Trayvon, and that produced tremendous backlash a lot from I would say white conservatives primarily.
And it`s also just, why is it the case, do you think, this movement happened at this moment in the history of this nation`s racial struggle with first black president?
LOWERY: Well, when you look at Barack Obama, everyone projected on to him. And I think people on both sides of the political spectrum projected onto him this desire to be abdicated of our responsibility as it relates to race, right, that this was going to usher in some type of post racial time. And look...
HAYES: Like, we`ve done it.
LOWERY: There`s a black guy. He`s the president. And what else could be do?
And on top of that, his oratory skills, his rhetoric, the way he campaigned certainly attributed to that, right. His DNC speech he`s talking about, we don`t have a black America and a white America, his -- the night he`s elected president he`s saying we`re not a collection of red states and blue states, we`re the United States. He spouted this sort of transformational promise that we could be so much better, right?
I think that one of the reasons Black Lives Matter and these activists become so mobilized during the Obama years is because of the false promise of a black presidency. Our friend and the writer Jelani Cobb says that there`s a -- we needed to have a black president to see the limitations of a black president.
HAYES: Right, there`s a sort of mismatch of the reality that`s happening on the ground and the sort of iconography and symbolism of him in the office.
LOWERY: Exactly, of course. And so you have a black president. So many of these young activists, they`re trying to tell the stories of many of them because I believe firmly that if you could understand one person from Ferguson, one person from Charlotte, one person from Charleston, you can understand everyone on the street, right.
So many of them had voted for Barack Obama, some of them canvassed for him and worked for his campaign and they believed in the system and working within the system. And then Trayvon Martin was killed and then Michael Brown was killed, and Eric Garner and Sandra Bland, this idea that voting for Barack Obama or supporting a black man for the presidency had not gotten rid of the threats that their black skin carried with it.
HAYES: And then on the other now we have the backlash.
LOWERY: The counter.
HAYES: We saw the backlash brewing on social media, and conservative media, among politicians and Donald Trump who said he ran as the law and order candidate who had very harsh words not particularly conciliatory, not particularly interested in sort of racial empathy. He was elected president, and I wonder how much you think this catalyzed some of that backlash?
LOWERY: You know, I think when that we look at historically any moment of massive racial progress especially as it relates to black Americans in the United States of America, you almost immediately see a phase of a backslide, you almost always -- whether that be after reconstruction, whether that be after the civil rights movement, you always see a backlash from the white majority.
This feeling that something`s being taken from them or things are changing too quickly or too rapidly.
HAYES: Yeah, it`s hard to avoid reading that into the subtext of a lot of what happened in this election.
Wes Lowery, "They Can`t Kill Us All." It`s a fantastic book. Go out and read it. Thanks for being here.
LOWERY: Thank you.
KORNACKI: Still to come, as Democrats try to find their path after defeat. Nancy Pelosi faces a new challenge to her long-held position as the top Democrat in the House. The man who is challenging her, Congressman Tim Ryan from Ohio joins me next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D) CALIFORNIA: Without even asking anybody for a vote, I have over two-thirds of the caucus supporting me. It`s a funny thing in a caucus or any place when somebody challenges you, your supporters turn out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Hours after a press conference in which House minority leader Nancy Pelosi announced her intention to continue holding on to her top spot in the Democratic leadership in the House, Congressman Tim Ryan released a letter challenging her, this after nearly 14 years of Pelosi being the top Democrat in the House. Ryan writing, quote, under our current leadership, Democrats have been reduced to the smallest congressional minority since 1929. At this time of fear and disillusionment, we owe it to our consistencies to listen and bring a new voice into leadership.
Ryan is a seven-term lawmaker from Ohio. His district includes a large swath of northeastern Ohio, that includes Mahoning County (ph), kind of Rust Belt part of the country that so appealed to Donald Trump.
The Washington Post points out that President Obama won Mahoning County (ph) in 2012 by more than 30,000 votes, but Hillary this year barely won it, her margin less than 3,000 votes.
And joining me now is Congressman Tim Ryan who represents Ohio`s 13th district. Congressman, thanks for taking a few minutes. I appreciate it.
So, I get the sort of big picture, I think idea of your candidacy that you represent sort of the heart of the country that swung from the Democrats to Donald Trump. And if anyone wants to ask what went wrong for the Democrats on election day, they could do worse than to look exactly where you live and where you represent in congress.
What I think I`d ask is if the Democrats replace Nancy Pelosi with you, besides that symbolism, meaningfully, substantively, what is the big difference between having you as leader and Nancy Pelosi? Give me a substantive issue that the Democrats will handle differently with you as leader?
REP. TIM RYAN, (D) OHIO: Well, I think the focuses would be economics. I mean, we were not on an economic message at all.
And let me say for the purposes of congressional elections, I don`t hang this last election around Nancy Pelosi`s neck. We were running with a presidential election and we do get caught up in that wave in which I believe there wasn`t enough of an economic message.
But clearly we can go back to 2010, `12, `14 and `16, and clearly we`re in a position where since 2010 we have lost 60, over 60 seats, almost 70 seats. And the brand now for us is not one that is working. And so a focus, a change of the messenger and a change of the message would be a big deal for us.
KORNACKI: But you`re saying you don`t hang the losses on Nancy Pelosi, but obviously yes, the size of the Democratic ranks has thinned over the last few years. But are you saying that Nancy Pelosi is not focused enough on economic issues? Is that your argument here?
RYAN: Yeah, I believe it is. We didn`t have a message in the House of Representatives. Let`s set the presidential aside. We were talking about a lot of different issues. And I felt like we were really getting thrown around by the news cycle in so many ways.
We need a deep economic message, Steve, one that resonates with our entire consistency -- black people, brown people, white people, gay people, straight people, middle class people, poor people, we need an economic message that is populist, but that is about opportunity, about lifting people up, about embracing the American dream. And I think all the anxiety we see today is 99 percent today in my estimation, economic.
If you look at my congressional district, the average median income is $57,000 a year, which means you have a husband and wife with a couple of kids making less than $30,000 each. And it breaks my heart to think that they don`t see us as the Democratic Party as their home, that they don`t see us as people who are really advocating for them.
We need to be with them. We need to let them know we care about them, and that we`re going to fight every day for them until we get this economy squared away.
KORNACKI: You know, Democrats -- and I include President Obama in this -- have made this argument sort of on behalf of Nancy Pelosi over the years. They`ve said, look, the signature achievements of the Obama presidency -- the health care reform act, the recovery act, the stimulus, Dodd-Frank, Lilly Ledbetter, all of these things Nancy Pelosi was instrumental in getting through the House of Representatives, that the Obama legacy, whatever we ultimately say it is, the Obama legacy wouldn`t be what it is without Nancy Pelosi.
Are Democrats, if they turn to you are they doing away with the leadership that has delivered for them in some ways?
RYAN: I have the greatest respect for Nancy Pelosi. I love Nancy Pelosi. She was a mentor of mine. I was a foot soldier for her when we took back the House. And we`re making the fight back in 2004, `05 and `06. I was there on the appropriations committee, six, seven, eight, nine, ten when we were implementing a lot of these things. That is where I was cutting my teeth.
The question really now, Steve, is moving forward. You know, we can talk about the past all we want. I think we`re starting to draw some real lessons.
The question is how do we get the House of Representativouse of back? We can talk about liberal policies, populist policies, socialist -- whatever you want to talk about, you are not going to get anything implemented if Paul Ryan is the speaker of the house, Mitch McConnell is the head of the Senate, and Trump is your president.
So we have an obligation to try to figure out how we win those 30 or 40 seats that aren`t going to be primarily on the coasts, they`re going to be in Michigan, they`re going to be in Wisconsin, they`re going to be in Ohio, they`re going to be in Pennsylvania, they`re going to be in Tennessee, they`re going to be in southern Indiana, that is where those seats are going to be. And we need a leader who could go into those congressional districts and convince people that a new Democratic Party, one that is progressive, multicultural and economically populist is the party they belong in. And we need a leader who can go do that.
KORANACKI: OK, Congressman Tim Ryan from Ohio. He is challenging Nancy Pelosi. Thanks for the time. Appreciate it.
RYAN: Thanks, Steve.
KORNACKI: And that`s going to do it for All In this evening. The Rachel Maddow Show starts right now. Rachel over to you.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END