Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: January 2, 2017 Guest: Evan McMullin, Michael McFaul, Kenneth Vogel, Howard Dean, Sarah Isgur Flores, Christina Greer, David Cay Johnston
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Tonight on ALL IN.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know a lot about hacking, and hacking is a very hard thing to prove.
MELBER: 18 days until inauguration.
TRUMP: I also know things that other people don`t know.
MELBER: What does the President-elect know and when will he know it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What does he know, Sean?
SEAN SPICER, INCOMING WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: You know, we`ll wait until Tuesday or Wednesday.
MELBER: New reports Russia hacked the U.S. electricity grid and why Trump is still unconvinced. Then, party like it`s 1989. Conflicts of interest and the guest list at Trump`s New Year`s gala.
TRUMP: And again, I want to thank my members.
MELBER: And the story of the Trump biographer booted off the golf course. Plus, the democrats` new plan to fight Trump nominations. And Bruce Springsteen talks politics and why he`s really seeing darkness on the edge of town.
BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN, AMERICAN SINGER-SONGWRITER: I`ve felt disgust before but never, never the kind of fear that you feel now.
MELBER: ALL IN starts now.
MELBER: Good evening from New York. I`m Ari Melber in for Chris Hayes. There are 18 days until Donald Trump becomes President. And it`s clear he will enter office with a diplomatic crisis on his hands. Washington ringing in the new year with fewer Russian diplomats around -- payback for Russia`s interference in the 2016 election. While President Obama cast the sanctions as a direct response to Russian hacking of the emails, there are brand-new revelations of other Russian hacks that went beyond that now infamous email effort. And into something more physical. New reports of hacks that could impact America`s electricity grid. The Washington Post reporting a U.S. utility company, Burlington Electric, found Russian affiliated hacking codes penetrating their computer hardware.
Thankfully, their computer was not connected to the utility grid systems. A foreign intrusion that could impact America`s electricity and affect public safety would be obviously significant for any president. Add in the plots to impact America`s democratic system and you would expect a new president to strike a posture of strength, if not outright, indignation against this adversary, which is what makes Donald Trump`s responses so bizarre thus far. He continues to question whether U.S. intelligence is correct about Russia`s guilt, and then he`s publicly undercutting the current president`s sanctions by welcoming Russia`s response to them. Trump wrote, quote, "Great move on delay by V. Putin. I always knew he was very smart." That was after Putin said that any diplomatic response to the sanctions would wait until Trump takes office. And this weekend, Trump reiterated that the U.S. Intel could be wrong adding that he knows a lot about hacking and is privy to some special information here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: It`s a pretty serious charge and I want them to be sure. And if you look at the weapons of mass destruction, that was a disaster. And they were wrong. And so, I want them to be sure. I think it`s unfair if they don`t know, and I know a lot about hacking, and hacking is a very hard thing to prove, so it could be somebody else. And I also know things that other people don`t know, and so they cannot be sure of the situation.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you know that other people don`t know?
TRUMP: You`ll find out on Tuesday or Wednesday
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That`s tomorrow or the next day. Trump`s spokesperson Sean Spicer, though, later clarifying Trump won`t be revealing -- he won`t be revealing anything privileged tomorrow or Wednesday. And then, Spicer was deflecting on Russia`s role by arguing that maybe election interference is more of an issue for Hillary Clinton than Vladimir Putin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SPICER: Why aren`t we talking about the influence -- other influences on the election? Why aren`t we talking about Hillary Clinton get debate questions ahead of time? That`s a pretty valid attempt to influence an election.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Spicer is citing an email there that showed a democratic operative on CNN appeared to share debate questions in advance with Clinton, an email that was revealed by the underlying Russian hack. Now, Trump`s aides would apparently prefer to take shots at Hillary Clinton than address the foreign policy dilemmas they`re facing right now. It`s easy to see why. It`s pretty easy to blame your competitor for everything. That is, of course, what 2016 was all about. But 2016 is over. This is 2017. It`s not a test. And it`s about to get much more difficult for Donald Trump.
Joining me now former CIA Operations Officer and a 2016 Independent Presidential Candidate, Evan McMullin. What do you think of what we`re seeing here and this apparently bizarre inability to deal with what might be negative information about Russia separate from what you do about it by the Trump administration incoming?
EVAN MCMULLIN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL INDEPENDENT CANDIDATE: Well, I think we have to ask ourselves, the entire country, why is Donald Trump and his team working so hard to protect Russia in the situation? It`s clear that Russia worked to undermine our democracy, to influence our election. The Intel com-the Intel community came out unanimously in October and said this is what Russia is doing. But you don`t need to be an intelligence officer to know that. Russia is doing the same thing here in our country that it`s done in Europe and it is still doing in Europe and Germany, for example.
That is funding groups like white supremacist groups, white nationalist groups, using internet trolls from -- that they employ in Russia, supporting their cable network here in America. It`s RT America. Doing all of these things to support Donald Trump and to undermine American`s faith in democracy. You don`t need to be an intelligence officer to know this. And then on top of all of that, you have the hacks. So this is a playbook they`ve deployed before. We`re seeing it here in America. We`ve got to climb the learning curve as Americans on this real quick because as we see these, these efforts are not stopping. Russia continues to undermine our democracy.
MELBER: And so, when you look at Donald Trump trying to thread the needle or basically do the typical campaign talk right, between blaming Hillary or saying oh you know I got special info, I`ve got a couple more days, you know, the clock is running out on your ability to do this when you`re actually going to be President.
MCMULLIN: Absolutely, it is. And we need better leadership, frankly. We need to see better leadership from Donald Trump. I don`t think we`re going to see it, but I`m forever hopeful that somehow we`ll see a change. But this claim that he has information, that he, quote, knows things that others don`t know, I find that highly, I`m highly skeptical that that`s true. In fact I think it`s absolutely not true. But let`s take a look at what he is doing and why.
MELBER: You have a really nice way of saying that he`s full of B.S.
MCMULLIN: You`re right.
MELBER: Yeah, well, but, and you`re saying it as respectfully as you can. What do you think your former colleagues here in the intelligence agencies are thinking though when Donald Trump seems to use every time this issue arises to sort of get into their biggest embarrassment on Iraq and sort of cast doubt about the entire integrity or the competence of the entire operation.
MCMULLIN: Well, he - of course, they`re unhappy about that, but I think that speaks to a much deeper source of tension between the intelligence community and Donald Trump. That is that Donald Trump wants to align our country, his administration, with the very country that is attacking our democracy, the intelligence community and the national security community in general warned against him, warned against this policy approach during the election, and that`s not going to change. There`s a very deep source of tension there. But Donald Trump continues to attack the media. He attacks the intelligence community. He attacks any other source of information because that`s what authoritarians do. And as I`ve said for the last several months, Donald Trump is somebody who has authoritarian tendencies.
MELBER: Well, you said-- I just want to pause in the point you`re making. You think this is bigger than the Russia debate which is one piece of it. You think that unlike basically most other incoming Presidents, he doesn`t want to give any informational deference to the intelligence community because their ability to call it as they see it is a threat in his mind to his own power?
MCMULLIN: Absolutely it is. This is, this is, how authoritarians operate this is why they attack the media, this is why they attack other sources of power. This is why they try to undermine democratic norms and democratic systems. This is part of the playbook. So this is what happens. Donald Trump gets painted into a corner because the media, because the intelligence community and so many others can see that Russia is attacking our democracy. And he refuses to acknowledge it. And so he denies it, says we should move on. And ultimately he says because there`s no other way, I`ve got information that you don`t have. But I`m not going to tell you for a few days.
So what happens? Then we in the media talk about it for a few days, repeating his claim to know things that no one else does, half of America believes it. Half of us don`t. But to his audience, you know, they believe it. And we`ve carried that message in the media. So he has won, and he`s playing us by doing this.
MCMULLIN: Now, what we have to do is call him out when he does reveal whatever he knows that other people don`t know allegedly, we`ve got to ask, OK where did that information come from?
MELBER: Well, and you said half of America, I think we have to fact check that, I believe it`s about 46 percent.
MCMULLIN: Sure. Right.
MELBER: Evan Mcmullin, thank you very much for joining. I would say Happy New Year, but you didn`t leave me feeling that happy. Up next, Michael McFaul former U.S. Ambassador to Russia. First, Mr. Ambassador, your response to what I was just discussing with Evan and your view of where intelligence and diplomacy meet here.
MICHAEL MCFAUL, FORMER US AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: Well, intelligence is a major part of diplomacy, it`s a major part of our developing a foreign policy. In a few weeks President Trump is going to be working with these very people that he`s saying very distrustful things about. And I want to remind your viewers that the vast, vast majority of the people that work in the intelligence community are not political appointees.
MCFAUL: They`re professionals that will be there on January 20th working for President Trump. and diplomacy meet here.
MELBER: Mr. Ambassador, when we look at the sanctions that are currently being deployed against Russia, when Trump comes in, do they just continue automatically? What does it take for him to change them?
MCFAUL: Yes, they do continue. And so, it will be incumbent upon him to be proactive to change them. If he chooses to do so. And in doing so, I think he`ll have to explain to the American people and to his own administration, I want to keep emphasizing that, these people are going to be working for him come January 20th, why he is reversing it. And you know, maybe there, there will be an argument. I look forward to the, the new intelligence that he allegedly has. Maybe there`s some reason for it but right now, I think that would be a very difficult thing for him to do without explaining his actions.
MELBER: You mentioned the intelligence he claims to have. What would he have? Either he has something that is from the intelligence community and we spend about $17 billion a year trying to get the best possible, or he has it from some other nonpublic source, would that be a Russian source, or what other source would there be for special Intel that is not within the cache of what they already have within our 17 agencies?
MCFAUL: You know, to be honest, I have no idea. I hear that. It disappoints me. I wish he would spend a little more time learning about our intelligence and learning, you know, do a deep dive in -- counter espionage and maybe understand these things better. Maybe he has some source from somebody who provided Wikileaks with the data. That`s a conspiracy floating out there on twitter and facebook, but i guess we`ll just have to wait until Tuesday to find out.
MELBER: What do you think about his wider habit here of saying "we don`t know", "we don`t know, things we as a government or we as a country do know? I mean, why is that so important to him rhetorically or politically and does it remind you of anything you`ve seen abroad in the way some leaders sometimes seem to prefer the conspiracy theories of the street to what`s actually knowable?
MCFAUL: Well, he`s denying it because he`s worried that it affects the legitimacy of his election. And of course if--more people believed that the Russians influenced our election, that would delegitimate his electoral victory. But I think that`s the wrong strategy for him. He`s been elected. The Electoral College has spoken. Everybody is preparing for him to be sworn in. I think it actually would help him to put this behind us if he acknowledged the facts. I mean, I personally think we need a bipartisan independent commission so that we get all the facts and all the facts, by the way, of how the Obama administration handled this intelligence challenge during the election. And so that it could be wrapped up. Everybody knows the facts. And then we get on with doing the things we need to do to prepare for the next election cycle. Because the Russians have tremendous capability. It`s going to be will be better in 2020. Other actors are going to have capabilities in 2020. We need to defend ourselves, not pretending that we weren`t attacked.
MELBER: Right. The other big nuclear story here is North Korea as a-as a aspirational power. Here is what Donald Trump wrote on Twitter. North Korea just stated it`s in the final stages of developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching parts of the U.S. "It won`t happen!" How does that sort of declarative statement compare to the actual bipartisan process over two administrations to have some kind of constraint of their ambition?
MCFAUL: I work here at Stanford with George Shultz, the former Secretary Of State for Ronald Reagan, and he always talks about never make a threat unless you`re ready to deliver on it. And what troubles me about that tweet is he`s now made a declaratory statement about policy. And I, I just don`t know if he`s done the homework to actually know if he could implement the threat that he`s just put out.
MELBER: Wow. Well put and thank you for your time, Ambassador Michael McFaul. As always, appreciate it.
MCFAUL: Thanks for having me.
MELBER: Still ahead, Donald Trump continuing to conduct business as usual. His private resort was selling hundreds of thousands of dollars in tickets this weekend. That was for the New Year`s Eve party with the President- elect. We`ll explain what`s wrong with that after the break.
MELBER: He was repeatedly accused of conflicts of interest over his former employer, Halliburton Oil, which got lucrative contracts in Iraq. Imagine though if Cheney had not stepped down from his job as Halliburton CEO before taking office. It would have been technically legal. Presidents and Vice presidents are not formally required to commit any day job. It would have caused all kinds of problems but technically Dick Cheney could have served at the White House and remained CEO of an oil company. He didn`t. And that has many people literally longing for Dick Cheney`s approach to conflicts of interest right about now. Because so far, Donald Trump refuses to divest at all from the Trump organization and he`s not even stepping back from business activities that would literally be really easy to skip.
Take a look at this weekend, for example, when Trump headlined the New Year`s Eve party at his Mar-a-Lago Resort. And this is not just his private vacation home, which he would have every understandable right to go visit, this is a business. It charges $100,000 for annual membership fees -- excuse me, a one-time membership and another $14,000 in annual dues -- hard to keep track of because it`s so expensive. And Trump says the whole thing is worth over $50 million. Some of the value coming from selling the tickets to the big events, like New Year`s Eve festivities. Tickets for the Mar-a-Lago party, take a look, started at $500 a pop, according to POLITICO.
Trump`s government spokesperson told reporters beforehand that the event was sold out, 800 attendees. And while the private club does not reveal its financials, those tickets alone would land somewhere north of $400,000 in revenue for Mar-a-Lago. Now, let`s pause on that figure because there is something very abnormal here that many people want to normalize. That $400,000 which Trump banked in one night is the amount the president earns in a year. It`s not chump change. It`s real money. And as Trump tweets and tries to distract his way through this transition, it`s the money he`s making in this basic situation, mixing his roles as President-elect and as head of a private company, at the very -- at the very least, he risks the appearance of mixing government work meant to be in the public interest with his family business.
Now according to reports, attendees at the New Year`s Eve party included music producer Quincy Jones, actor Sylvester Stallone, and Fabio, who needs no introduction. And did any foreign government officials buy their way into the party or any lobbyists? We just don`t know because this was a private event on private property. The most secretive kind of event the president can even attend. If the money were going to the RNC, for example, instead of the Trump organization, every attendee`s name would be public under federal law. If this were even a White House reception, every attendees name would be public under federal law. Now, we do know Trump`s business partner from Dubai attended the party. Cell phone video showed Trump giving him a shout out during his speech and a spokesman for the transition says quote, "They had no formal meetings or professional discussions. Their interactions were social."
That may be true. There may have been only one business partner in attendance, or may not be true. We will never know and as long as Donald Trump keeps spending his time generating revenue for his companies, he will continue raising questions and conflicts that could cast a cloud over his presidency and, more importantly, over the independence of his administration.
For more, I`m joined by Ken Vogel, Chief Investigative Reporter for Politico who has been on the story. Ken, the money here, why does it matter if the President-elect is at this event generating this revenue?
KENNETH VOGEL, CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER FOR POLITICO: Well, it certainly creates the appearance, Ari, that what he is doing is essentially selling access to himself. Sure, this club Mar-a-Lago has had these types of events before at a major holidays, on New Year`s, on Christmas, on Thanksgiving. But what it hasn`t had is a featured guest who, by the way, happens to be the President-elect of the United States of America. So, the way that they explain this is just business as usual. This is the way Mar- a-Lago conducts business. That seems sort of a (INAUDIBLE) explanation given the circumstances. And forget about the money that Trump receives from this and would have received whether he was President-elect or not.
The specter that he is essentially allowing anyone who has the money to either buy a membership or the access to someone who has a membership who can pay for a ticket to something like this, creates appearance of forget about the possible business partners who were in there or the celebrities, it`s the people who want to get access to Trump. I mean, $525 to get access to the President-elect of the United States is an amazing deal for any potential foreign business person or a person who wants to do business with the United States Government, special interests, lobbyists. You could just imagine going down the line the types of people over whom this would be an amazing deal.
MELBER: Well, look at the -- Ken, look at the contrast here. He ran a campaign saying because he has money and a business he won`t be beholden to these interests. That was a big selling point for him. And a lot of people believed it, naively or not, saying, "Well, he does have money so he will fundraise less." And there`s a truth to that. But that truth seems to be dwarfed by what was on display this weekend which is the business actually makes him more beholden than campaign money and, as we`ve been saying, is less traceable, less transparent.
VOGEL: And it`s also much trickier for him to extricate himself or for there to be transparency around. So, let`s say, given the benefit of the doubt and saying he goes to the extreme end of divestiture, of trying to distance himself from his businesses. Well, he`s still going to vacation at Mar-a-Lago, even if he has Mar-a-Lago in a blind trust or he doesn`t really know whether his businesses -- his portfolio includes Mar-a-Lago, he still knows someone is paying money to this entity that is so closely associated with him that may or may not be in his portfolio, that may or may not be in the blind trust that his kids may or may not oversee, and here they are sitting on the couch or the patio for dinner with the President-elect of the United States. It`s just a very complicated situation. That cannot be easily extricate, can`t easily extricate himself from it.
MELBER: So, let`s stipulate that that`s what people who care about good governance, ethics performers, a lot of journalists and people who think about these kind of issues, that`s what they`re concerned about. Let`s put that to the side then and then look at the actual Trump team`s response. What are we learning about where they`re at? Because this is a guy who said he was going to hold a big announcement to clean this up. Things were going to change. The kids are going to be in charge. Said all this stuff, and then when you looked at his actions, not the tweets, not the announcements, or the announcements he never gave, the action is them doing this and then saying, "Hey, what`s the matter? This is just business as usual." Does that tell you there`s something wrong if they think "business as usual" is okay when he`s the President-elect?
VOGEL: I mean, it`s a little bit of a sign of where their head is at as they try to grapple with this incredibly complicated situation where they try to put to rest these concerns about conflicts of interest and try to find a sustainable system going forward for separating himself from his businesses. In a way, it`s just I cannot -- for the life of me figure out how it can be done in a way that will satisfy sort of the good government concerns that I think are validly being raised in this another situations.
MELBER: Well, and complexity has become a little bit of a dodge for them. There are parts that are complex, in other words, you can`t just legally force someone into having a fire sale, right, and potentially costing them a lot of money. That`s not typically how a disillusion would work. That is -- that is actually complex. What`s not complex is making the decision to not sell yourself for $500 access and tickets. That`s not complex. That`s simple. If you wanted to skip the party, you could skip the party. If you wanted to donate the funds that New Year`s to charity, you could donate the funds. There`s a million simple ways to do that, they chose none of those and then they counterattacked and told people, "Hey, don`t be mad. It`s business as usual." That`s my final thought. Ken Vogel, I appreciate you giving us yours.
VOGEL: Yeah, I mean it`s not just the excuse that this is the way it`s always been done. They went further in our story where we reveal that the tickets are being sold for $525 for members-(INAUDIBLE)
MELBER: All right, Ken, thank you very much for your time and happy to hear your last thought while we look at the eagle. No better image. Coming up, we showed you the clip, and maybe you noticed the guy holding the eagle statue. If you`re wondering what it is about, we actually have the answer right after a quick break.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Regulations are going off, we`re going to get rid of Obamacare.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That footage of President-elect Donald Trump`s New Year`s Eve party at his Mar-a-Lago resort, might have you wondering who`s the enthusiastic gentleman over there to Mr. Trump`s right and what is the deal with that eagle statue being held by another gentleman to Trump`s left. And don`t they have something they could put this thing on so that poor guy doesn`t have to just cradle it the whole time? And gosh, when you`re seeing someone give a stump speech, you don`t even know how long it`s going to go, you`re just holding it. Well, the answer, courtesy of a Facebook post from the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences, is the man at the right is Joseph D. Cinque, President of the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences, and the eagle is bronze, a bronze eagle awarded by the Academy and there is more.
Trump has actually been honored before by this same academy and its president. Last May, Trump was the presumptive republican nominee and the hospitality academy gave an award to Trump`s Scottish golf course, you see there, as the best golf course worldwide. Which prompted this Yahoo! News headline, quote, "How a convicted felon nicknamed `Joey No Socks` covered Donald Trump in stars." That article explained that over the past decade, Trump has received many similar awards from that same man including five and six-star ratings for Trump properties and the Chicago Tribune reported on it thusly quote, "The organization is run by Joseph Cinque, a long time Trump acquaintance who goes by the nickname `Joey No Socks` and has a felony conviction for possessing stolen property.
And perhaps most importantly, this eagle was far more cooperative than this eagle, you may remember from that Time Magazine shoot in 2015. It`s a live eagle. What do you expect? Look at it - look at him go. America. Up next, David Cay Johnston is here on the President-elect and his evolving relationship with corporate welfare.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look, everything that he does right now he gets -- he speaks with the head of Sprint, gets 5,000 jobs moved from abroad. And everyone starts to mock, well all those jobs were already announced. They weren`t. The sales jobs had been previously announced, these jobs are coming from abroad to America. And instead of trying to mock him or undermine him, it`s time that people started giving him credit for actually getting things done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Getting things done. President-elect Donald Trump`s incoming press secretary Sean Spicer there insisting those 5,000 jobs Donald Trump said Sprint was bringing back to the U.S. are new. They are not. They are part of a holistic deal previously announced by Sprint`s parent company SoftBank.
But American corporations are now facing pressure to go along with Donald Trump`s jobs claims.
The New York Times slamming it in a new editorial that has called, quote, why corporations are helping Donald Trump lie about jobs.
The piece explains why it`s so messy for the government, through President- elect Trump to try to leverage companies in this manner, quote, "it`s easy to see why SoftBank and Sprint might want to help Mr. Trump take credit for creating jobs, SoftBank`s chief executive wants the Department of Justice`s antitrust division and the Federal Communications Commission to allow a merger between Sprint and T-Mobile, quote, Mr. San sees a new opening for his deal in Mr. Trump who has surrounded himself with people who have sided with large telecommunications companies and regulatory debates and have argued against tough antitrust enforcement.
The Times explains why this should be objectionable to conservatives and liberals alike, since it is, quote, crony capitalism with potentially devastating consequences.
Joining me now, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist David Cay Johnston, a columnist with The Daily Beast and the author of the making of Donald Trump.
I`d like to start by just walking through how this works. It appears that Donald Trump will have some private communication with a company and then he will take the lead in the announcement, separate from what would normally happen in corporate communications, right, whether that`s to the public or to shareholders would be some formal business announcement.
You have a lot of expertise here. So, explain how it works.
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, this is a con job plain and simple, Ari, this is a con job. And the numbers we`re talking about are absolutely inconsequential.
In the case of Sprint, it`s Japanese honor, the reportedly the wealthiest man in Japan, has had a plan in place for some time, and he also is going to want something from Donald Trump. Remember he tried to merge Sprint with T-Mobile and the Justice Department said no for antitrust reasons. You can agree or disagree with that, but he cleraly wants to do that and other actions in the future. And so what he`s doing is buttering up Donald Trump. And this is another variation of what we`re seeing with various people manipulating Trump as we`ve seen with Vladimir Putin.
On the other side, if you`re the CEO of a big company, of course, you`re going to do everything you can to let Donald Trump take credit because you don`t want him to use any of his enormous powers to make trouble for your shareholders. In fact, you essentially now have a fiduciary duty to kiss the president`s ring.
MELBER: When you say fiduciary duty, you are referring to the legal obligation these corporate executives have to actually maximize profits...
JOHNSTON: To their shareholders.
MELBER: ...to their shareholders, right. Their legal duty actually is to the company, but as a practical matter, yes, it`s to the shareholders. And they`re not going to do anything, no matter what Trump does, to put in jeopardy their position, the company`s position, and so Donald Trump is now in a position to basically extract from these people things that may or may not be good judgment.
You know, Ari, I`m old enough to remember when Republicans actually thought business should make its own decisions without government interference.
MELBER: Wait a minute.
JOHNSTON: That was only six months ago.
MELBER: You used the word extraction. I mean, at a certain point the outlines of what you`re describing sound like a shakedown, but instead of getting something very valuable for the country, the main shakedown is to get something that is rhetorically, or PR valuable for Donald Trump.
JOHNSTON: Absolutely. And let`s not lose sight of the fact that these are in Donald -- in Trumpian terms small potatoes. We`re about to get the government`s announcement for December on jobs. It`s probably going to show 82 consecutive months of jobs growth, the old record was 52. We`re close to 16 million private sector jobs under this administration. Very few Americans know that, but everybody has heard about the 730 jobs that Trump inflated to 1,1000 in Ohio, and very few people know that was a deal that violated Trump`s own position in the campaign when he said corporate welfare, interest-free loans and other tax favors didn`t create jobs, now he`s the champion of them.
Donald is an absolute corporate chameleon on these issues and whatever makes Trump look good no matter what it costs companies -- companies better line up and pay attention.
MELBER: All right, corporate chameleon. Say that ten times fast.
David Cay Johnston, thank you for joining me tonight.
JOHNSTON: Thank you, Ari.
MELBER: Still ahead, the Democrats plan to stall some of Donald Trump`s most controversial nominations. Who are they targeting? That`s coming up.
And tonight`s Thing One and Thing Two starts right after this break.
MELBER: Thing One tonight, 36 years ago in Tempe, Arizona, Bruce Springsteen made what are believed to be his first publicly recorded comments about politics.
Now it was November 5, 1980, in other words, one day after Ronald Reagan was elected president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN, SINGER: I don`t know what you guys think about happened last night, but I think it`s pretty frightening. There will be a lot of people depending on you coming up. So, here we go.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Now decades later, Springsteen would become an advocate for President Obama campaigning both in 2008 and 2012, and he campaigned for Hillary Clinton this year.
But if he was frightened by Reagan`s election all the way back in 1980, how is the boss feeling about Donald Trump`s victory? Those brand new comments, they are Thing Two in 60 seconds.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SPRINGSTEEN: Let`s all do our part so we can look back on 2016 and say we stood with Hillary Clinton on the right side of history, that`s why I`m standing here with you tonight for the dream of a better America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That was Bruce Springsteen campaigning for Hillary Clinton on the eve of the election. In a new interview for the WTF podcast with comedian Mark Marin out today Springsteen spoke candidly about why Trump and this new era scares him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK MARIN, COMEDIAN: Are you scared now?
SPRINGSTEEN: Yeah. Yeah. Of course. How could you not be.
MARIN: Right. Have you felt this fear before?
SPRINGSTEEN: I`ve felt disgust before.
SPRINGSTEEN: But never the kind of fear that you feel now.
SPRINGSTEEN: It`s as simple as the fear of -- is someone simply competent enough to do this particular job?
SPRINGSTEEN: Forget about where they are ideologically.
SPRINGSTEEN: Do they have the pure competence to be put in a position of such responsibility.
MARIN: And what`s your biggest fear of it as we enter it?
SPRINGSTEEN: I suppose would be that a lot of the worst things and the worst aspects of what he appealed to comes to fruition. When you let that genie out of the bottle -- bigotry, racism -- when you let those things out of the bottle...
SPRINGSTEEN: ...intolerance. They don`t go back in the bottle that easily, if they go back in at all.
SPRINGSTEEN: You know, whether it`s a rise in hate crimes, people feeling they have license to speak and behave in ways that previously were considered un-American and are un-American. That`s what he`s appealing to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: It`s no secret Donald Trump didn`t get along that well with House Speaker Paul Ryan or Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell back during the election. But a new report from The New York Post has some fresh ideas into just how deep that divide could remain.
The Post reporting that President-elect Trump told Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer he actually likes him, a Democrat, more than McConnell and Ryan because the two Republican leaders, quote, wanted him to lose.
Now, The Post cites a source close to the Trump transition team for that quote. And I spoke today to a congressional Democratic source who said Democrats don`t dispute the quote.
Now, Schumer and Trump are both born and raised New Yorkers. Trump`s even donated to Schumer`s senate campaign in the past. But that`s about as far as it goes. In fact, The Washington Post report says that Senate Democrats, led by Schumer, are planning to contest at least eight of Trump`s nominees and want to stretch their confirmation hearings all the way into March.
Those eight targeted nominees include Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State as well as Senator Jeff Sessions, Trump`s controversial pick for attorney general.
Those two battles in early skirmishes already well under way. Democrats in the Senate foreign relations committee reportedly saying they`re outraged Tillerson will not release his full tax returns from the last three years as many cabinet nominees do, although not always the Secretary of State nominee.
Now Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee, as well as progressive groups, are accusing Senator Sessions of omitting basically decades worth of his records about his career from the information that he did provide pursuant to the confirmation hearings. Now, given the fact that Republicans control the senate, how much can Senate Democrats really do to stifle the nominations to the Trump cabinet and what does the opposition look like in both houses of congress once Trump takes office? Well, I will ask some very special guests about that right after the break.
MELBER: Welcome back.
Earlier in the broadcast we stated that music producer Quincy Jones attended Trump`s New Year`s Eve party at Mar-a-Lago. While Donald Trump`s spokesman, Sean Spicer, said Quincy Jones would attend, we want to correct the record, Jones spokesperson explains he did not plan to attend and spent New Year`s in Los Angeles.
Now, meanwhile, back in Capitol Hill, a fight brewing over a Trump nominee who has been in this position before.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY, (D) MASSACHUSETTS: 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.
He is, I believe, a disgrace to the Justice Department and he should withdraw his nomination and resign his position.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That was the late Senator Ted Kennedy speaking during the 1986 confirmation hearing for Jeff Sessions, then a nominee for a federal judgeship. Now, Sessions was ultimately denied that position by the Senate Judiciary Committee. It was a 10-8 vote. And Senate Democrats are now looking to block up to eight of Trump`s cabinet nominees. Senator Sessions widely considered one of the most controversial.
Joining me tonight to discuss what this whole opposition fight will look like in 2017 is Sarah Isgur Flores, a spokesperson for Jeff Session confirmation, Howard Cean, former chair of the DNC and MSNBC political analyst, and Christina Greer, associate professor of political science at Fordham.
Christina, I`ll start with you. The Sessions nomination is controversial. It also as a matter of the historical record is somewhat unusual because he is the only nominee who has been previously basically passed on by the Senate for a different position.
Your thoughts on him this time?
CHRISTINA GREER, FORDHAM UNIVERSITY: Well, keep in mind, his own colleagues and his own members of his party deemed him to be too racist in Reagan`s 1980s. And so when you have someone like the late Senator Ted Kennedy essentially saying that he`s not only an embarrassment to the profession and he should not be elevated to attorney general or to even a judge, the writings of Senator Sessions are so deplorable, it`s not just about black Americans in this country, it`s about how he feels about the history, but also the future of this country.
So the fact that Donald Trump, in the 21st Century, in 2016, chose this particular individual to me and to many others, black and white and other, sends a very distinct message about the dog bark, not even a dog whistle, the dog bark that he`s trying to send about his racialized platforms.
And so Senator Sessions is a horrible choice for this particular position, especially as an attorney general who is supposed to uphold some of the most important ideals of the constitution.
MELBER: Sarah, what is your response to that? And how does the senator address that history from the first confirmation hearing?
SARAH ISGURFLORES, SESSIONS CONFIRMATION SPOKESMAN: Well, I mean, I think it`s pretty clear that the leftist playbook at this point only has one page, and it`s smear. I didn`t hear a lot of facts there. I heard a lot of allegations. And I heard a lot of general statements about smearing him. 30 years ago, Jeff Sesions was in a Senate hearing where the Democrats practiced their playbook that they would use against Bork.
We now have a verb for it, Borking someone, it means smearing them without any basis. The person who was a witness against Jeff Sessions under oath later had to recant his testimony because the conversations he remembered were disprovable later.
This idea that Ted Kennedy somehow in his statement should hold now -- Ted Kennedy has worked with Jeff Sessions, passed legislation with Jeff Sessions, so has Dick Durbin. It`s why Joe Manchin said he`s going to vote for him.
We have senators, Democrats and Republicans, up in 2018 who are only too happy with the work that Jeff Sessions has done throughout his career. 20 years in the Senate. So, you know what, Democrats are going to do what they`re going to do. They`re going to say what they always say. It didn`t work in 2016 for Hillary Clinton, and it`s not going to work now. Jeff Sessions will make a fantastic attorney general who will uphold the rule of law, something that our previous attorney generals under this administration have been sorely lacking.
Oh, by the way, Jeff Sessions confirmed -- voted to confirm Eric Holder.
MELBER: Let me go, Christina, then Howard and back to Sarah.
GREER: So, Senator Sessions in 30 years has made a good choice in upholding Eric Holder who he, and Loretta Lynch, maybe two of the greatest attorney generals in the history of this nation.
But this is straight out of the Republican playbook in the sense that Donald Trump is pulling out a whole bunch of has-beens and never-wases and people who represent the worst part of American Democracy. They do not believe in equality. We know that these people believe that he consistently chooses believe in segregationist tactics. This is not a smear campaign.
FLORES: I`m sorry. That`s a lot of smear -- where are the facts? Excuse me, that is a lie. No facts.
GREER: ...if we read, and we know that the president-elect does not like to do so and he said so on record. But if we read, we know that this particular individual has gone out of his way, the majority of his career, to make sure that black Americans specifically are disenfranchised.
FLORES: That`s not true.
MELBER: All right, let me give Sarah a response, and then I want to bring Governor Dean who are waiting his turn. Go ahead, Sarah.
FLORES: I don`t know how to respond to something when there`s no facts there. No, he hasn`t.
MELBER: Governor Dean, go ahead?
HOWARD DEAN, FMR. DNC CHAIRMAN: There are some facts there in terms of the quotes that you can actually get that Jeff Sessions has actually said.
I`m more interested in the process here. If Manchin has said that he`s going to support Sessions, then you need four Republican -- four -- excuse me, four Republican vote against him. And this is -- they`ve targeted eight, the Democrats in the Senate have targeted eight people. They`re going to have to get at least three Republican votes, in this case four.
And the way to do that is to target the senators, the Republican senators who have to run for reelection in 2018, and you`re not going to get all of these eight. So I don`t want to make any predictions about, which ones you are going to get, but you`re going to have to show to a significant number of these senators` constituents that there`s going to be a penalty for voting for some of the people they want to target.
And I think they will get one or two of them, but I certainly don`t think they`re oging to get all eight of them.
MELBER: And governor, what do you think about -- what do you think about Rex Tillerson who seems to be the one where there is most motion, because there`s so much controversy and questions about Russia and then he also has some links there that the Trump folks argue are positive, because he`s been a businessman in the region, other folks argue, question his impartiality.
DEAN: Well, I know very little about Rex Tillerson, so I don`t have a particular comment about whether he should be the secretary of state or not. But there will be an incredibly thorough vetting of these vocation, there always is, no matter which side is doing the vetting. The senate is badly divided, it didn`t used to be a body like the House, but it is now. I can`t predict what`s going to happen. Somebody is going to find something, or they are not going to find something in Rex Tillerson`s resume that is going to be condemning.
If he doesn`t give documents like his full tax returns, that`s going to be a problem. But again, the only way to stop the confirmations of any of these folks is to find a constituency in the state of some senator that`s a Republican senator.
MELBER: Sarah and Christina, I have 20 seconds for each of you. Sarah first.
FLORES: Ari, nobody watching this show right now thinks that the Democrats actually will stop these confirmations. This is about delay. This is about playing politics with this. And nobody believes that if Hillary Clinton had won this election, that the Democrats would be trying to delay these confirmations until March.
I don`t know why. I don`t think it will help them in 2018. I think Republicans will win more seats.
MELBER: And Christina.
GREER: If Hillary Clinton had won, she would actually nominate people who were legitimate and didn`t seek to dismantle the very offices they`re put in charge of. Every single person that Donald Trump has put -- has nominated actually wants to roll back the clock, when we think about energy, when we think about housing, when we think about the attorney general.
MELBER: Sarah, Howard, Christina, lively, informative, thank you all.
Good evening to you. I`m Ari Melber. That is ALL IN for this evening. "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END