Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: December 13, 2016 Guest: Ta-Nehisi Coates, Richard Bizer, Sam Seder, Catherine Rampell, Dan Dicker
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Thanks for being with us. "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Tonight on ALL IN.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The President-elect specifically said to the Russians, hack Hillary`s e-mails.
HAYES: Trump tapped ExxonMobil`s CEO, Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State. A man who`s cozy with Vladimir Putin.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But when he gets the friendship award from a butcher, frankly, it`s an issue that I think needs to be examined.
HAYES: Plus, the new Energy Secretary who wanted to end the Department of Energy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can`t, sorry. Oops.
HAYES: Then, the President-elect takes his "Thank-You" tour to Wisconsin, where we spoke with Trump voters yesterday.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because there`s so many illegals in there, I can`t get the pay I should get.
HAYES: Tonight, Ta-Nehisi Coates on why he believes Trump won, and his new cover story on the Obama presidency.
TA-NEHISI COATES, THE ATLANTIC NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Could I imagine a Donald Trump without a Barack Obama as president? No, I cannot.
HAYES: And Trump cancels his first planned press conference in over four months. Punting on the single biggest issue of his presidency.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I don`t know if it`s a blind trust if Ivanka, Don and Eric run it. But, is that a blind trust? I don`t know.
HAYES: When ALL IN starts right now.
HAYES: Good evening from New York. I`m Chris Hayes. In 38 days, Donald Trump will become the President of the United States, and tonight, he`ll be appearing in Wisconsin with some Christmas trees, or as I like to call them, "holiday trees". Just kidding, I call them Christmas trees. Continuing his "Thank you" tour of states that voted for him on Election Day, now over a month ago, for the first time in a public event, President- elect is making an appearance with House Speaker Paul Ryan, who was openly critical of Trump during the campaign, but who now sees an opportunity to press some of the agenda items on his wish list, like cutting Social Security, or privatizing Medicare or scaling back aids to poor-- aid to poor kids.
We were just in Wisconsin last night, talking to voters, and none of the Trump supporters we spoke to, said anything about curving programs like Medicare, Social Security, instead, they backed those programs enthusiastically. We travelled to Kenosha, Wisconsin, with Senator Bernie Sanders, trying to answer the question, that frankly, all of us are still grappling with, as the Obama era comes to a close, how did a country that elected Barack Obama twice, then go ahead and elect his polar opposite? A man who repudiates just about everything Obama stands for, who effectively launched his political career pushing a racist conspiracy theory to subvert the current president`s legitimacy.
And not just the country, how did certain states, certain counties, even certain individuals, lots of them, vote for both Barack Obama and Donald Trump? Wisconsin is one such state in this election, Kenosha County, where we were yesterday, turned red for the first time since 1972. And we talked to one Obama voter who is showing pretty good about that outcome. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m optimistic.
HAYES: You`re optimistic?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m usually not optimistic but this time I am.
HAYES: And you voted for Barack Obama.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
HAYES: And you feel disappointed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
HAYES: And now you`re hopeful about the future?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: It`s a tough contradiction to make sense. That`d be more for perplexing because President Obama`s current approval rating right now is the highest it`s been in years. He`s now at 56 percent according to Gallup, compared to 41 percent disapproval, a net positive of 15 points. Compare that to Donald Trump`s favorability rating, which according to the most recent poll is eight points underwater, and that`s actually close to Trump`s best performance. This high-water mark, making him the least popular President-elect in modern history. We learned from the people we talked to in Wisconsin, both Trump supporters and Trump skeptics and opponents, is that for all his hateful rhetoric about refugees, Mexican- Americans, women, you name it, a lot of them put their faith in American norms and institutions to contain and correct his base or instincts. They approach Trump, as journalist Salena Zito suggested a couple months ago in "The Atlantic", taking him seriously but not literally
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He knows as well as anybody in this room, you can`t go after a group of people because of religious beliefs. It`s never and I knew that right off the bat. But he was still upfront and he talked to the public.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would never want to see what he has thrown out just because of their beliefs or their -- I mean, that`s awful.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He can propose all he wants, it`s got to go through our congress first. That`s another buffer zone we have.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that a lot of what he says is just unimplementable rhetoric, just to gain attention.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Joined now by Wisconsin radio talk show host, Charlie Sykes, an MSNBC contributor who is at the Town Hall yesterday who I saw out of the corner of my eye grimacing quite a bit, and Joan Walsh, National Affairs Correspondent for the nation and an MSNBC political analyst. Charlie, I`ll start with you because you were in that room. You know, I know that, that moment was so revealing and also as we watch now what`s happening in the transition, when the -- in terms of what the President-elect says about policy priorities or who he`s appointing. The sense that he says so many things and is on so many sides of every issue, that you`re just sort of guessing but that his supporters somehow know what the real Trump is.
CHARLIE SYKES, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: No, I was struck by that, how they project on him what they want him to think. And I think that that individual was quite sincere and quite articulate. It`s a blank slate. He can`t possibly mean that he must have said it for these reasons. But you know, I mean, I was really struck, you know, watching that event, you know, that I`m not - that I`m not sure that Bernie Sanders or the democrats have really figured out how to come to grip with this populist, nationalist, cult of personality that Donald Trump has created. Because what you kind of got there, was they weren`t voting for him for any specific, it was just sort of this global sense that he was going to turn things around. He was going to grow the economy.
You know, and I`m just not sure that they have grasped how they are going to campaign against that. Particularly if he delivers on some of the things he`s talking about, and grows the economy and actually lowers unemployment rate.
HAYES: Well, Charlie, this is a really interesting -- I think Charlie makes an important point here, right? That Senator Sanders` approach to all this, and I find it admirable, and I think some people find it at time frustrating or limiting, is to kind of proceed as if you assume the person has a substantive objection that maybe you can come to similar grounds with.
JOAN WALSH, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Right.
HAYES: I think is a mode of political organizing, that`s a probably a pretty effective mode.
HAYES: But my job is to analyze what`s in front of me. And Charlie`s point about the degree to which there is this kind of cult of personality, this sort of unique figure who`s going to kind of break everything, and when he says bad things, we forgive him that. That is a huge central part of what is happening here.
WALSH: And how do you get around it without your own cult of personality with the democrat -- which democrats don`t have?
WALSH: I mean, two things happened. First of all, I wanted to just say Paul Ryan is in the same boat as those four Trump voters last night because he chose to believe that Trump --
HAYES: That`s right.
WALSH: -- is not opposed to cutting Social Security and Medicare. So, you know, even republican-elected officials, I mean, you know, Charlie was somebody who stayed - who stayed true to Never-Trump, but there were lots of Republican-electeds who felt like, well, you know, I know he`s talking against our agenda, but we believe that when he becomes president, he`s going to agree with us.
HAYES: Well, and that`s -- Charlie, you know, he`s on stage with Paul Ryan tonight. You got Reince Priebus described the once by, I think, John Weaver, John Kasich`s chief person as a "Kenosha Ward Healer". I think he sort of dismissively called Reince Priebus. You know, your -- I consider you, Charlie, a kind of Scott Walker/Paul Ryan republican. And that catechism, frankly, a month after Election Day looks a lot closer to being the reality than some kind of weird new Trumpist version of like American, you know, Juan Peron. Like, you know, Paul Ryan seems to be queuing up the whole agenda of, you know, tax cuts and cuts to "Entitlement Programs". I mean, do you feel confident you`re going to basically just get Ryanism?
SYKES: No, I wish I was confident. By the way, at the town hall, I was sitting next to the guy that beat Reince Priebus for state senate. The democratic guy senator, who I was telling the story of how he beat Reince Priebus.
HAYES: Mr. (INAUDIBLE) I think his name is, yes.
SYKES: I don`t think anybody - I don`t think that anybody is confident because you don`t know, so, you know, this was the line -- or no, before the campaign, you know, don`t worry about Donald Trump, you know, he`s not going to be focused on policy, it will be Mike Pence and Paul Ryan who will be setting the agenda. And maybe that will happen. What happens, though, you know, the first time that`s he`s crossed?
SYKES: What happens when the republicans in the senate step up and say hey, you know this Russian hacking thing is actually a real serious thing. You know, appointing, you know, this crony capitalist to be Secretary of State, we know the - we know the friend of Vladimir Putin. What happens the first time that he is crossed? How long does that honeymoon last? But you`re right, what`s happening right now on both sides of the political spectrum is people are hoping, you know, it is the - it is the triumph of hope over experience with Donald Trump that maybe he will do what we want him to do and he will make this pivot, but you can see this in Wisconsin, the republicans in Wisconsin are all in on Donald Trump tonight.
HAYES: Yeah, they are all in. I mean, that is -
WALSH: And they were in.
HAYES: And they were in. And it was interesting to me to speak to some of the Trump voters who, and this is I think one of the things about the election result, people have to recognize is, you know ultimately partisans come around to the person nominated to run their party. And you know, and so, I talked to - I talked to a guy who`s a manager in a manufacturing plant, he was a Ted Cruz guy in the primary. But not only did he vote for Donald Trump, he sounded identical in the room to other folks in the room who had been early Trump adopters. He was now in the same way, and that`s true right now, let`s say, 40 to 45 percent of the country.
WALSH: Right. And the question is when he doesn`t deliver --
WALSH: Will they notice? If he doesn`t deliver, I believe when he doesn`t deliver, will they notice this cabinet of plutocrats? At what point are they going to say, "Hey, he`s not doing what he promised." And the thing that you see in Kenosha, especially, in lots of places like these where Hillary Clinton did not make a successful pitch. People don`t just want jobs, unemployment is low. People don`t even necessarily just want higher wages, they want the whole economy back. And Donald Trump -
HAYES: That`s right.
WALSH: -- mutually went out and said -
HAYES: That`s right. And said I will waive a magic wand and bring it all back. That`s right.
WALSH: I was at his last - second to the last -
HAYES: Re-open the mines.
WALSH: We`re going to re-open the mines, miners are back, steelworkers are back.
HAYES: You mentioned Hillary Clinton. I want to play quickly this bite of Richard Bizer talking about why he didn`t vote for Hillary Clinton. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: You`re generally a democratic voter?
RICHARD BIZER: Yes, I am.
HAYES: But this time you voted for Trump. Why did you vote for Donald Trump?
BIZER: Basically, because he wasn`t Hillary.
HAYES: People heard that a lot among people they`ve talked to?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: One thing I think is in the reams of post-election analysis by democrats, center left folks,progressives, republicans, conservatives, why this happened. Hillary Clinton really is for a millions reasons and you can say I think a lot of them have to do with gender and unfair, is a singularly unpopular figure.
HAYES: And that was true and continued to be true and you just hear it a lot. What was your reaction in that moment?
SYKES: Yeah. And you can`t --you can`t overstate that. You cannot overstate that as a factor. You understand that Donald Trump got fewer votes in Wisconsin than Mitt Romney got four years ago.
SYKES: What happened was that Hillary Clinton dramatically underperformed
HAYES: And in Wisconsin --
WALSH: Charlie, he was actually asking me that question. I`m going to answer it.
HAYES: Oh, I`m sorry.
WALSH: I -- it`s OK. I confess to being somebody who really, who didn`t take her baked in negatives to be as negative as they were. And also that people would see that the first woman president was going to be somebody who was very much an insider, but she was an insider and an outsider year. You saw the people saying, all we heard, our people were deciding between Trump and Sanders and that was it.
WALSH: And that -- in Wisconsin, that was the deal.
HAYES: In Wisconsin, particularly, and there`s just this like - there`s this sort of politically wall built around her that just you could try to chisel at it, even in conversations. And you would only get a few inches deep. Charlie Sykes, Joan Walsh, that`s live coverage of Paul Ryan and some Christmas trees as he -- we await the president-elect. Thank you, both.
Up next, I`m going to talk with acclaimed author Ta-Nehisi Coates, and his new cover story, fascinating coverage story. He telling President Obama`s legacy and why he says without an Obama presidency, there would be no Donald Trump. That interview right after this two-minute break.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have any of you seen down on streets that it seems as though we have become the silent minority and not the majority?
HAYES: What do you mean by that?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How much have we been listened to, really?
HAYES: Who`s the we when you say this? You mean --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Us people.
HAYES: Who people?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The people who needs the Medicare, the people who need the Social Security, who needs the help with the education.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: We got a lot of reaction to our town hall in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last night, where people got a chance to express and hear some views that don`t often get aired in public.
And as part of process figuring out what it means the country that elected Barack Obama twice, just voted for Donald Trump to succeed him. That`s a question Ta-Nehisi Coates tries to answer in his new cover story for the Atlantic. "My president was black, a history of the first African-American White House and what came next." Coates sat for several extended interviews with the President, and in the piece, he examines Obama`s legacy in light of the surprise outcome of the 2016 election. And considers how so many people in so many counties around the country could have voted for Obama, many of them twice, and then turned around and voted for his polar opposite.
I`m joined now by Ta-Nehisi Coates, national correspondent for the Atlantic, author of the new cover story "My President was Black." You know, so you and I had talked about this piece when you were writing it. And the piece was being written in one universe, right? It was, like -
HAYES: In the road to the election with this conception of it was going to be Hillary Clinton.
COATES: Right, right.
HAYES: And then it got published into another universe and ultimately the piece wrestles with the difference between one and two. And you saw last night in the town hall, like, just talking to individual voters who voted for Barrack Obama and Donald Trump, how do you understand that?
COATES: Pretty easily. I mean, I think Barack Obama`s an extraordinary politician. You know, I mean, people think of -
HAYES: It`s actually not that complicated in that sense.
COATES: Yeah. No, it`s not. I mean, people think of, like, racism or - and I don`t - I don`t mean to describe individual racism, but racism as a barrier as global, it`s like completely preventative. But usually, it`s throughout, I mean, this isn`t just with the presidency. It`s not a matter of it being completely preventative, it`s just the odds get raised or odds get lowered.
HAYES: Right. COATES: So, it`s not that there - you know, couldn`t be an African- American president. It`s just that it was tremendously harder and you need a particular individual and that`s really the story the piece tries to tell.
HAYES: So, that`s interesting because I think, like, we look for such structural analyses of all of this, and then sometimes it`s sort of, like, you come down to these individual factors, ultimately a lot of what this piece is about is just that, right, the way to understand the Obama era is kind of understand this individual who turned out to be just really good at what he had to be good at.
COATES: Right, right. And racism, you know, in many ways is about probability. You know, you can go to any, you know, the most messed up neighborhood in the country with, you know, the worst sort of socio- economic conditions, and you can find a resilient individual who grows up there and, you know, overachieves and becomes, you know, in many ways better than, you know, all his peers who had to be.
That doesn`t mean the situation isn`t messed up. Do you know what I mean? So, it`s not, you know, I think he was a unique politician, man. I think he`s very, very different. And so, you know, the fact that people flipped to Trump - I mean, in any ways that`s said in the piece, it evinces - you know, that fact that all Trump had to do, you know, a guy who had no political experience at all, was to just sort of show up.
HAYES: Well, but that`s - OK. So, there`s two ways to think of this, right? One is - one is that the U.S. is going along and then this remarkable thing happens of Barack Obama, who is a remarkable politician for a million different reasons, which you discuss in the piece - which I want to talk about. And then there`s a question of, is the end of the Obama era and Trump this sort of bizarre resetting to normal, or is it a backlash to him?
COATES: I don`t know yet. I don`t know yet. I don`t think it`s a mistake that Donald Trump began his political life as a birther. I don`t think that`s a mistake. I don`t think the political, you know, sort of rhetoric, the way it exploded into anti-Muslim, anti-woman, anti --you know, I don`t think that`s incidental. It`s just very, very hard to believe that. You know, and so, I think to some extent you do have to ascribe, you know, the fact that he`s actually President. I guess, the way to answer this is could I imagine a Donald Trump without a Barack Obama as President? No, I cannot. No, I cannot. Let`s make that really simple.
HAYES: That`s right. That`s the way I feel. It is very hard to imagine history coming along and producing this man as president except for the end of this era.
COATES: Yeah, yeah.
HAYES: So, do you think, you know, when you - when you - when you`re sort of thinking about Barack Obama`s Presidency, as a whole, right, how much do you view that legacy now contingent on what happens in the next four years?
COATES: Contingent at all. Do you know that - I mean, obviously, that`s the policies, right? Bu I mean --
HAYES: Does the A.C.A. get repealed?
COATES: Right, right, right. Obviously, you know, some of that is, but like with any other President, you know, so - I mean, if we just do this with Lincoln right, you know, a better example actually is grant, who does this great job during reconstruction and then for the next 100 years, everything is basically rolled back, right? And you know, as you say, reset.
HAYES: And his legacy is, too, in the school of the people that were the victors in that battle.
COATES: But that was wrong. That was - you know, I was completely wrong. You know, I would say Grant actually was a great president. You know, he cannot control necessarily the events that came after him. And I think, you know, you can make the same case for Barack Obama.
HAYES: The thesis of your piece which I found so sort of novel and powerful is basically Barack Obama had a singular life and we all kind of know that because that`s the - that`s the sort of shtick of his biography, like who else had this life, right?
HAYES: And that the uniqueness out of life gave him - it produced in him a genuine heartfelt disposition to see the best in white people.
COATES: That`s right.
HAYES: And that when he became a politician, white people saw that in him and were like, I want to be -
COATES: Right. HAYES: -- what you see in me.
COATES: Right, right.
HAYES: And that, that was the very same thing that produced the blind spots to not see essentially the worst of white people coming at him.
COATES: Right, right. I mean, you stated the case better than I did in the piece. You could have wrote the piece. Yeah, I mean, that`s the, you know, the basic argument, and you have to - I`m somebody who`s, you know, been fairly critical, you know, of the president. You know, particularly in terms of how he addresses African-Americans, his deep belief in, you know, color-blind policy. You know, I`ve had more share of criticisms on that, but one of the things I had to come to terms with is writing the piece, is someone with my politics could never be President.
And that leaves you with a much more profound question of whether we should have had a black President, anyway. I mean, this is actually politically, like, very, very interesting because you believe, you know, you have a way of seeing the world is actually correct, that this would be the best way to go. The person that`s going to get elected is not going to be that. So then, is it actually worth it? Do you know what I mean?
HAYES: Does it - does Barack Obama being president, fundamentally and permanently alter the relationship of blackness to American power?
COATES: Yeah, I think so.
HAYES: Yeah. Even after he`s gone.
COATES: That was a section in this piece that I really wanted to write that I did not have the chops to write. It was actually trying to draw some sort of connection between the fact that you have a man with a bust of Martin Luther King in the Oval Office, you know, who really will be responsible for, you know, ramping up, you know, drone killings, who has, you know, and this is kind in the piece who will lead me in National Security, you know, State. We`re enrolled in that now - I mean, we are.
HAYES: We meaning -
COATES: We meaning black people because we supported him. You know what I mean? It`s not like, you know, when it was J. Edgar Hoover and - do you know what I mean?
HAYES: The enemy -
COATES: (INAUDIBLE) sort of outside of it, you know what I mean? Like, you`re not completely outside of it anymore. You know? This is part of getting integrated into the house with all of its works, and all of it`s problems and all of its structural problems -
HAYES: And that`s - I mean, to me, the crazy question now politically, both the democratic party, for the future frankly of multi-racial pluralistic democracy in America, right, is, like, how do you keep a progressive majority together that is multiracial, that is tolerant, that is committed to equality in a country that wants to fracture around those lines?
And I want to - I want you to react to something Senator Sanders said to me at the town hall. Because you and I were texting about this, people are wrestling with this. This is what he said to me about political correctness. Take a listen.
HAYES: What do you think about the political correctness? What does that mean to you?
BERNIE SANDERS, UNITED STATES SENATOR FROM VERMONT: What it means is you have a set of talking points which have been poll tested and focus-group tested and that`s what you say rather than what`s really going on. And often, what you are not allowed to say are things which offend very, very powerful people. For years and years, we have been told by republicans and many democrats that our trade policy was a great idea. That it was working for America. Well, you know what, the American people don`t believe it.
HAYES: When you hear political correctness, OK, do you think about trade policies? Raise your hands if that`s what you`re thinking about and when you hear political correctness? When you hear political correctness, do you think about the way that you are or are not allowed to talk about certain groups of Americans?
HAYES: What did you think about the moment?
COATES: I watched the whole town hall. I thought there were, you know, some good moments, you know, from Senator Sanders. I thought that was not a good moment, I thought it`s painful to say, I thought it alluded to some of the things that maybe some of us saw during the primary.
Political correctness is not about trade. It is - and even people who make arguments the emphasis is not what they - what they say. I mean, and so it left me with the impression that it was one of two things, either he literally does not know, or this was the framework that he had for understanding everything. I just wonder who`s around him. I hope they`re people who are going to have a conversation about that with him afterwards.
HAYES: I want to end on this. You know, you and I talked a lot about reconstruction, it`s something we share an interest in, and I think there`s some deep fear that, like, are we in an 1877 moment?
HAYES: When progress just gets really rolled back and we don`t see - CAOTES: Right.
HAYES: What are you feeling right now about wherever we are in the fork in the road?
COATES: I think it`s too soon to tell. We`ll see. We`ll see who can tell, you know, `ll see, who can tell, you know?
HAYES: All right. Ta-Nehisi Coates, thank you so much. COATES: Thanks so much. Thanks for having me, man. All right.
HAYES: Coming up, a worrying theme emerging from Donald Trump`s cabinet picks appointing people to lead agencies they are openly hostile to. More on that, after this quick break.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let no one be mistaken, Donald Trump`s candidacy is a cancer on conservatism, and it must be clearly diagnosed, excised and discarded.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Yeah, cut that cancer right out. During the GOP, Presidential primary then-presidential candidate, Rick Perry, unloaded on Donald Trump for his, quote, "toxic mix of demagoguery and mean-spiritedness and nonsense." I thought that was a pretty good line. Trump in turn, pretty much flat-out called the former Texas Governor, stupid.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I see Rick Perry the other day and he`s so, you know, he`s doing very poorly in the polls. He put glasses on so people will think he`s smart, and it just doesn`t work. You know, people can see through the glasses.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Despite calling Perry dumb, sources tell NBC News Trump has now tapped him for a cabinet position. Secretary of rick pe, charged with the nation`s nuclear arsenal, which would put Perry in charge of the stockpiled nuclear weapons. It`s a move that seems at first like a compliment but may instead be a weird, very Trumpian sort of revenge, because the choice ensures absolutely that news outlets like this one will replay the most humiliating moment of Perry`s public life when during his first run for President, Perry forgot the very agency he has now been tapped to lead. RICK PERRY, FORMER GOVERNOR OF TEXAS: And I will tell you, it`s three agencies of government when I get there that are gone. Commerce, education, and the - what`s the third one there? Let`s see.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can`t name the third one?
PERRY: The third agency of government I would - I would do away with, the education, the --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Commerce.
PERRY: -- commerce, and let`s see.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my. PERRY: I can`t. The third one, I can`t. I`m sorry. Oops.
HAYES: That was five years ago, and it`s still impossible to watch. The third agency that Perry wanted to do away with was the Department of Energy. And now, thanks to Trump, he may run it. Perry`s not the first Trump cabinet pick who`s openly hostile to the agency he soon could lead. There`s climate change skeptic Scott Pruitt to lead the EPA, who is currently suing the EPA over its efforts to reduce greenhouse gases.
Fast food CEO Andrew Puzder, tapped to lead the department of labor, the same agency that found widespread wage violations at his restaurants. Ben Carson, for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development who complained the sorts of program had oversees foster, and I quote here, "dependency." And for Secretary of Education, Betsy Devos who has championed the use of public school funds for private school vouchers.
And today, Trump made two new cabinet picks who come with their own controversies. To lead the Department of the Interior, Montana republican Ryan Zinke who in 2014 said climate change is not, quote, "proven science", and to lead the State Department, Texas oil man Rex Tillerson, with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin had even republicans worried. And we have more on that, next.
HAYES: Donald Trump`s most high-profile cabinet pick may also be the hardest to get confirmed. Trump today tapping wealthy Texas native Rex Tillerson, the chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil, to be his secretary of state.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: He`s a world-class player. He`s in charge of, I guess, the largest company in the world. He`s in charge of an oil company that`s pretty much double the size of his next nearest competitor. It`s been a company that`s been unbelievably managed, and, to me, a great advantage is he knows many of the players and he knows them well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: The players that Tillerson knows especially well is Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In 2011, ExxonMobil negotiated a $500 billion -- I said that right, with a b -- dollar Arctic oil contract with Russian oil firm and the Kremlin. Two years later, Putin awarded Tillerson the Russian Order of Friendship, indeed, according to Tillerson`s friends and associations. The Wall Street Journal reports "few U.S. citizens are closer to Mr. Putin than Mr. Tillerson."
And amid bipartisan concerns about Trump`s friendliness with Putin and growing calls for investigations into Russia`s use of cyber-warfare to boost Trump`s presidential bid, Senator John McCain and some other Republicans are signaling they may challenge Tillerson`s confirmation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: Frankly, I would never accept an award from Vladimir Putin, because then you kind of give some credence and credibility to this butcher, this KGB agent, which is what he is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Tillerson has opposed U.S. sanctions against Russia put in place after the invasion of Ukraine that have reportedly cost ExxonMobil over $1 billion. Tillerson, himself, owns more than $200 million in a company stock, and has a company pension plan worth another $70 million.
Steve Caul who wrote a book on ExxonMobil, which is incredible, wrote in The New Yorker that Tillerson has worked his whole life running a parallel quasi-state for the benefit of shareholders, fashioning relationships with foreign leaders that may or may not conform to the interests of the United States government."
And now Donald Trump wants him to be America`s top diplomat.
Joining me now longtime oil trader and author Dan Dicker, who is author of the book "Shale Boom Shale Bust."
Dan, you`re my favorite person to talk to about anything oil related.
I guess my first question to you -- you know, there`s a little line about what`s good for General Motors is good for America, and I guess the first question is, is it true that`s what`s good for Exxon is good for America if we`re going to put this guy in charge of negotiating American interests?
DAN DICKER, LONGTIME OIL TRADER: Well, what`s good for Exxon at this point is much better for Russia than it is for America because and that`s because the Russian economy depends upon revenues from oil and gas in order to stay alive. And you can see that in a lot of ways in the Russian economy based on the way that their currency has gone into the toilet over the course of the last two or three years because of sanctions.
And now Exxon has an enormous commitment to Russian oil and gas development.
You talked about the Arctic. That is a half a trillion dollar plan that they have in place there that has been quashed so far by Obama`s sanctions. And if I was making a bet about what would happen in the first 100 days of a trump presidency, it would not be them building a wall on the U.S./Mexican border, it would be those sanctions coming off.
HAYES: First of all, you don`t get to say half a trillion that much, just generally, just talking about stuff. I mean, here -- I think this an important thing to understand. We`re talking a lot about Russia. There is this incredible New York Times ticktock of what seems to be very clear evidence that it was, indeed Russian state backed hackers, right in the DNC/Podesta.
You were -- explain to me -- I mean, Russia has gone through a period where it is hurting economically for two reasons. It`s got sanctions, it`s got oil prices that dropped down really low.
DICKER: That`s exactly right.
HAYES: What situation does it find itself in? And what does it need to happen?
DICKER: Both are being attacked right now, and you can see them on the sidelines. For example, there was a new OPEC deal for a production lowering, down to 33.5 million barrels a day. This is going down a million barrels a day from where they were.
Now, what has happened is not that this has been the first time that OPEC has brought down production, but this is the first time in history that Russia over the last weekend has come on board to that production decline.
HAYES: So, Russia is saying, OPEC, OK, we`ve had this glut and we`ve had these low prices for a really long time and we`re all bleeding.
HAYES: Let`s stop the bleeding together. We`re going to cut production, you guys cut production, let`s get the oil price back up.
And besides that you have now in this new in this new Trump administration, you have really the connective tissue of all of this seems to be oil. You have, for example, Wilbur Ross, who is the commerce -- supposedly the Commerce secretary, he is a major shareholder in EXCO. You have Harold Hamm, who was being named as the Energy secretary before Rick Perry was named. He`s the CEO of Continental. You have Rick Perry, who`s clearly a, you know, a Texas governor, an oil state.
DICKER: You have Pruitt who is going into the EPA. He`s from Oklahoma. That`s an oil state.
DICKER: In many ways, you look at this and you have a number of oil guys who are going to be running the government in Trump`s cabinet. You have a number of bankers -- you have got three guys from Goldman Sachs who are coming in.
DICKER: And you`ve got three or four generals. Now, to me that`s a tremendous triumverate...
HAYES: You have got generals, bankers, and oil.
Now, when we talk about oil, it`s important I think folks when they think about Tillerson and Tillerson`s role, I mean, this is a guy who has negotiated deals all over the world. If you want to just talk about like is this someone qualified for this job in a technical sense, sure, right?
HAYES: I mean, he does deals.
DICKER: This is a guy who...
HAYES: He talks to people all over the world.
DICKER: Trump is right, he`s a player. He`s sat down at the table with just about everybody.
HAYES: But keep in mind, like, what`s in the interest of OPEC, of Venezuela, of Russia right now, which are higher oil prices.
HAYES: And is also in the interest of Exxon, which wants to see those prices come up, right? because they make more money.
DICKER: And Tillerson, himself, makes a lot of money as you mentioned. He`s got...
HAYES: I mean, we can imagine American foreign policy bizarrely dedicated to achieving that policy aim with a guy who spent his whole life trying to bring that about with his partner, the Russians, who need that to happen.
DICKER: One of the things that`s most scary for me is watching what I think is going to be really a corpratocy (ph) that`s going to be put into place here where oil becomes the importance and the resources, the natural resources everywhere become the moving factor and the prices of those natural resources and the economy that you can drive, according to those resources. We`ve seen copper, for example, take a tremendous move up since the Trump -- since Trump was elected. Now we`re seeing oil take a tremendous move up. It`s moved from the mid 40s now to the mid 50s and I think it will see over $60 by the end of the year on its way back to what we`ll see as triple-digit numbers by the end of 2017.
HAYES: Wait, so we`ve had this crazy situation, oil had been very low for a long time, right?
HAYES: And, again, Russia is desperately in need of it to go up, a huge percentage of government...
DICKER: It sort of puts -- it sort of gives you a reasoning somehow, a sideways, but a reasoning for all this maneuvering that the Russians did, all of the hacking of emails and so forth.
HAYES: Which the intelligence agencies haven`t completely agreed upon, but the working theory is they did this and you`re saying a possible motive for that is...
DICKER: One motive for that is because during the campaign -- I mean, you heard Trump about taking the oil, keeping the oil in Iraq, which was very much a non- Bush idea, but somehow he mentioned it a couple times. There`s going to be a resurgence, for example, of the Keystone Pipeline, coal, clean coal sequestration, a restart of Keystone, a rollback of all sorts of regulations on fracking. I mean, it was very clear to the Russians, at least, that in terms of an energy policy that would be more beneficial for them and beneficial for price that Trump was the guy to support.
HAYES: All right, Dan Dicker, thank you. That was one of the best sort of illuminating exchanges on this strange confounding nomination I`ve heard. Thanks. Appreciate it.
Silicon Donald Trump avoids addressing the biggest concern of his presidency, abruptly canceling a press conference meant to address what he will do with business while in office. We`ll talk about that ahead.
And, a major update from the Benghazi committee. Why you probably didn`t hear about it. It`s tonight`s Thing One, Thing Two next.
HAYES: Thing One tonight, just a month ago one of the most pressing issues for congressional Republicans was laying the groundwork for Hillary Clinton investigations. House oversight chairman Jason Chaffetz saying "even before we get to day one, we have two years of worth of material already lined up."
Another oversight member who saw no end to Clinton probes as Trey Gowdy, chair of the longest running congressional investigation of all-time, the select committee on Benghazi which had inadvertently morphed into the issue of Hillary Clinton`s private email server.
And the Sunday before the election when FBI director James Comey said a review of additional emails warranted nothing new and did not change the FBI`s conclusions about a lack of criminality on the part of Clinton, Gowdy wasn`t satisfied.
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MEGYN KELLY, FOX NEWS: Clearly this closes the book on the question of criminality insofar as the fesds are concerned and her email. Does it not?
REP. TREY GOWDY, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: Oh, I don`t think so, Megyn. I think it closes the book based on what they know now. The investigations are never over unless a statute of limitations has expired or unless jeopardy is attached. So this investigation is over based on what they know, but they don`t know what they don`t know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Investigations are never over.
Congressman Gowdy was not ready to close the book despite the fact the committee he chaired had issued its finding back in June, and has established no wrongdoing by Hillary Clinton. That committee remained in place poised for more work. And now there is, indeed, a huge development from the Benghazi committee, and that is Thing Two in 60 seconds.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) HAYES: So as I was saying the select committee on Benghazi, at 28 months, the longest running congressional committee in history, costing nearly $7 million, the committee that questioned Hillary Clinton for 11 hours, the very committee that was lingering, poised to carry on after the election, that committee has now quietly closed up shop, releasing its final report five months after releasing its findings, timing of that curiously coincides with the post-election universe in which Hillary Clinton is not president-elect.
The final report was add to the official House record without fanfare on December 7th. The report is 322,000 words long, not including Democrats` dissent and can be summed up by what Chairman Gowdy said nearly 14 months ago when asked what he believes they learned from questioning Hillary Clinton for 11 hours.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOWDY: We knew about the emails. In terms of her testimony, I don`t know that she testified that much differently today than she has previous times she`s testified. So I`d have to go back and look at the transcript.
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HAYES: Thursday, Donald Trump was going to give his first press conference since July 27th and his first ever as president-elect to, quote, "discuss the fact that I will be leaving my great business in total in order to fully focus on running the country."
Now, as things sit right now, Trump will be entering the White House with business ties that provide an unprecedented opportunity for conflicts of interest. According to analysis by Bloomberg, Trump has about $3.6 billion of assets and $630 million of debt held in more than 500 companies.
And because Trump refuses to release his tax returns and those companies aren`t public, we have no idea, none, what the full scope of his business ties are.
We also have no idea whether when he called foreign leaders or they`re calling him up to talk geopolitics with the incoming administration or trying to curry favor with the Trump business empire, or to use leverage to pressure Trump to their own ends.
All which brings us back to this Thursday, the day President-elect Trump was supposed to share his plan for avoiding these potential conflicts of interest. It turns out that`s not going to happen. Trump has now canceled his much-anticipated, by me, anyway, planned December 15th press conference. He said he`s rescheduled for January, vaguely, and he tweeted that, quote, "no new deals will be done during my terms in office."
And then he went on to say some stuff about his kids.
So, with 38 days left until inauguration. We`re right back where we started with a president-elect who could have conflicts of interest that border on constitutional crisis level when he takes the oath.
Much more on that next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I would put it in a blind trust. Well, I don`t know if it`s a blind trust if Ivanka, Don and Eric run it, but is that a blind trust? I don`t know. But I would probably have my children run it with my executives and I wouldn`t ever be involved, because I wouldn`t care about anything but our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Just this country. And that`s not a blind trust.
So far, President-elect Trump`s sole plan to deal with all the potential conflicts of interest from all his financial holdings is leave his business in the hands of his children. As Newsweek reporter Kurt Eichenwald put it, "America is on a precipice of an unprecedented threat as allies and enemies alike calculate whether they are dealing with a president they can please nearly by enriching his children."
Joining me now, Sam Seder, MNBC contributor host of the Maroity Report; Catherine Rampell, columnist at The Washington Post.
So, I don`t want to -- I basically don`t -- like, he tweeted this thing is going to be the sons and no new deals, but I mean, that`s meaningless, like, I just think it`s really important that no one run with that as news.
CATHERIN E RAMPELL, WASHINGTON POST: Obviously.
HAYES: Just emphasize that and tell me that I`m not crazy, like because I saw kairons (ph) today. I saw lower thirds about -- and I saw headlines floating around being like, oh, no new deals.
RAMPELL: Well, no new deals means nothing obviously. He obviously already has assets that he could continue to swell through his policies. We don`t know what those assets are. We don`t know what his sources of income are. And far be it for me to compare the nobility of Trump`s work to, you know, the garbage that journalists produce. But we could take a lesson from journalism, what matters is not only the conflicts of interest themselves, but the appearance of conflicts of interest.
And by merely not divest and not being transparent about what he owns and how he could be lining his own pockets, that is equally destructive in my view.
HAYES: Did i forget to mention that I`m shorting Exxon stock by $100,000? Did I forget to do that in the segment we did when we were just beating up on Exxon? That`s my bad.
HAYES: No, but like that`s the point, right. Like, you see that`s exactly the problem. Like that segment I did on Exxon, if it turned out that I was financially invested in shorting Exxon-- you would view that whole segment quite differently, and like that`s the case for every single decision he makes foreign and domestic.
SAM SEDER, MAJORITY REPORT: I think there`s -- but I think there`s also -- I think it also has to do with the way he structures things, the way that people interpret that there is a quid quo pro type of relationship.
HAYES: Without ever saying anything.
SEDER: Without saying anything. But I think that also creates -- like for instance, the other day the CEO of Time Warner was at some symposium and he was asked do you have a problem with Trump`s 1st amendment attacks, right we`re all quite familiar with. He said, well, no I think that`s nothing. I think the real problem is the Democrats and them wanting to attack the first amendment through Citizens United.
Now, look, that to me signals that he`s got the message. He`s got a big merger that he`s got...
HAYES: Time Warner, ATT&T. He`s is going to before a Trump Department of Justice.
SEDER: And you have people like Jeff Bezos, the first thing he does afterTrump wins, make sure you get that tweet in there. It creates a structure where I think people presume this is the way you get ahead here.
HAYES: Here`s the nitty-gritty also, which I think is a sort of -- again, we don`t know what this all looks like and it`s sort of a bunch of shells, right, like, these legal entities.
It`s possible he can`t really divest, right?
HAYES: Like, all of the stuff is so liquid that you can`t just pull out of it, and even if you do, it`s like, OK, there`s a Trump building with your name on it.
RAMPELL: OK, yes, there`s a Trump building with his name on it. But most of that is done through licensing deals. Basically since he had his very brush, his very scary brush with personal bankruptcy a couple decades ago, he has generally preferred licensing deals as opposed to outright ownership and he could easily, you know...
HAYES: Divest of the deals.
RAMPELL: Well, he could sell off the licensing company, you know, he could basically sell off those rights. He could entrust them to a third party. It`s not really that difficult.
He does have some ill-liquid assets, real estate, for example.
HAYES: Right. Trump Tower.
RAMPELL: Trump Tower, but that`s not impossible to divest from either.
I think this whole idea...
HAYES: You think this idea...
RAMPELL: Yeah, this idea that he has this big, complicated sprawling set of companies -- yes, he has like shell companies, nested in shell companies, but it`s a fiction to say that he couldn`t divest from them.
SEDER; And also there`s no transparency. I mean, now you start to understand like why people make a big issue about releasing the taxes.
HAYES: Right. It`s the only way we would know what`s going on.
SEDER: There` no transparency whatsoever.
And I think, you know, the reason why they punted on this press conference, you know, I think that there`s probably some measure of concern that they could lose a half a dozen electors. They could lose maybe a dozen electors. Electors could come and say, you know, so they want to have this after that 19th vote because I think they were afraid of just the story having some legs.
HAYES: They feel blind sided by this. Trump said so himself. Basically everyone knew this was my MO. Then he got elected and everyone woke up to the fact that, like, oh my lord, this is a huge possibly constitutional problem with the emoluments clause. You`ve got people pressuring the electors. And now you can tell this is in front of mind for them because they were going to be a big announcement December 15th. We were going to learn the details. And now to try to just say on Twitter, kick the can down the road and something about -- that says to me...
RAMPELL: Yeah, in many ways there are parallels with the as yet undisclosed tax returns, right. There`s a continuous audit, I`ll release it when the continuous audit is done although continuous means it will never be done. I think it`s equally kicking the can down the road here.
SEDER: And you know who`s enabling this, too, is Paul Ryan.
HAYES: Of course.
SEDER: And Mitch McConnell. I mean, actively.
HAYES: They are literally on the record saying we don`t think this is worth investigating.
SEDER: And I think, you know, to a certain extent, pressure, you know, from various quarters needs to be exerted on them. They have both of those guys throughout the campaign enabled Donald Trump by not -- and I think, like, it`s at one point you need to have Democrats hold Paul Ryan and the, you know, leaders of the party responsible for this.
HAYES: And to me, with this issue, again, I even have a hard time sort of getting my head around because it`s so opaque, it`s not concrete until it is, right? It`s not concrete until you`re going along and you`re sort of playing this high-stakes game if you`re Trump politically that no one`s going to care about this until something happens -- some international incident, whether there is an allegation of a direct quid pro quo, and people discover, oh, you have an interest in this thing and we`re now in this international situation, then all of a sudden you have a real political problem on your hands.
Sam Seder, Catherine Rampell, thanks for joining us.
All right, that is ALL IN for this evening. "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.
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