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All in with Chris Hayes, Transcript 1/17/2017

Guests: Masha Gessen; Evan McMullin; Chuck Schumer, John Dean, Diane Ravitch

Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: January 17, 2017 Guest: Masha Gessen; Evan McMullin; Chuck Schumer, John Dean, Diane Ravitch

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  Thanks for being with us.  "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes starts right now.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT:  No puppets.  No puppets.

HAYES:  Three days before inauguration, Vladimir Putin steps in to defend Donald Trump.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA:  Vladimir Putin`s priorities are to restore the Russian empire.  OK.  That`s what they are.

HAYES:  While the outgoing CIA director blasts Trump`s attacks on the Intel Community.

TRUMP:  That`s something Nazi Germany would have done and did do.

HAYES:  Then, with Obamacare now more popular than ever.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Our core beliefs are what unite us.

HAYES:  New controversy facing Trump`s pick to lead that fight.  Senator Chuck Schumer joins me live.  Plus, Obama`s surprise announcement on Chelsea Manning.  And why Richard Nixon`s former lawyer is literally having nightmares about Trump`s presidency.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  When the President does it, that means that it is not illegal.

HAYES:  When ALL IN starts right now.


HAYES:  Good evening from New York.  I`m Chris Hayes.  There are now just three days until Donald Trump is sworn in as President and it will happen against the backdrop of deep unpopularity among the American people.  A new NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll finds just 38 percent have a positive view of Trump while 48 percent have a negative view, making Trump the most unpopular incoming President in the history of the poll.  Of course, Trump doesn`t buy it.  After other polls showed similar findings, Trump tweeted this morning "The same people who did the phony election polls and were so wrong are now doing approval rating polls, they are rigged, just like before." 

The polls are not rigged though they can be wrong sometimes.  But we should note that national polls entering Election Day actually turned out to be pretty accurate.  Hillary Clinton won the national popular vote by 2.86 million votes, about two percentage points.  On Election Day, national polls showed Clinton leading by an average of three points.  Again, pretty close.  That`s in part, of course, and it`s important to remember that it`s not Trump`s popular vote total or his unpopularity with the American people that John Lewis cited when he deemed Trump an illegitimate President and said he would boycott the inaugurations sparking a movement. 

At least 59 democratic lawmakers now say they won`t attend Trump`s court inauguration.  So many that we couldn`t fit them on to one single graphic.  Now, what Lewis cited was the U.S. Intelligence Community`s determination that the Russian government intervened in the election to boost Trump`s chances of victory.  Of course, we still don`t know the full story of what steps the Russians took to help Trump or what influence the Russians may or may not have over him, releasing his tax returns would help in that regard.  We also do not know if the reports are true that the FBI opened an investigation into explicitly collusion between the Russian government and the Trump campaign before Election Day. 

Here`s what we do know.  We know that democrats want answers.  Today, democrats on the senate judiciary committee asked Trump Attorney General Nominee, Jeff Sessions, to commit that he will not impede or shut down any FBI or Justice Department investigation into the Russian effort.  Also, we know that Trump who has been all over the map on a host of issues has been reliable and consistent advocate of the Russian view on a host of crucial foreign policy matters. 

NBC News today published a list of nine things Trump has said since the election that might make Vladimir Putin smile including calling NATO obsolete, criticizing the European Union, down playing allegations Putin has ordered the murder of journalists.  We know that Vladimir Putin has Donald Trump`s back and we know that because he wants the world to know it.  In an extraordinary news conference today in Moscow, Putin rallied to Trump`s defense, accusing the Obama administration and democrats of seeking to undermine Trump`s legitimacy by spreading false information.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator):  There are several goals set in this fight.  Maybe there are more but some are obvious.  The first one is to undermine the legitimacy of the U.S. President-elect.  And I want to stress that people who do that, whether intentionally or not, they harm the interest of the United States significantly.


HAYES:  Putin also denied unsubstantiated claims laid out in a dossier prepared by a former British spy that Russia has compromising information on Trump garnered while Trump was in Moscow a charge Trump vehemently denies.  Putin telling reporters -- and this is a word for word translation of what he said -- I will quote here, "this is an adult man first of all, and a part from that, is a man who for many years took part in organizing beauty contests.  He has socialized with the most beautiful women in the world.  I find it difficult to believe that he ran to a hotel to meet with our girls of reduced social responsibility.  Although here also, we have the best ones in the world."  Joining me now, Russian-American journalist Masha Gessen, author of "The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin", which is a fantastic book.


HAYES:  What is he doing here?

GESSEN:  He`s having fun.

HAYES:  Felt like to me -- felt like the mission accomplished.  It was a victory lap.

GESSEN:  I mean he`s -- you know, he`s been taking a victory lap for a month now.  At his annual press conference in December, he actually had a journalist ask him, "What does it feel like to be the most powerful man in the world?" and then he took the victory, and then took credit for the American election.  I think he feels he`s been elected President of the United States.

HAYES:  You know, one of the things that you wrote about -- you wrote about when the -- when this -- the dossier was published by BuzzFeed and leaked about how it itself sort of functions as a kind of delegitimizing document.  And it was interesting to me that Putin, of course, takes the opportunity to reaffirm the unsubstantiated claims in that dossier and to -- and to make sure that they are once again re-aired.

GESSER:  Oh, I mean, we`re down the rabbit hole.

HAYES:  Yes, we are down the rabbit hole

GESSER:  He -- you know, why is he reaffirming?  It`s -- it affirms his view of reality.  He thinks this is how the world works.  You know, you have lots of false information that emerges.  You know, that there`s no such thing as actual democracy.  Everything and anything is illegitimate.  So, he adds fuel to the fire because that is a fire that he`s always believed in.  That doesn`t mean that he was behind anything.  You know, it doesn`t mean --

HAYES:  Right.  That`s right, that`s right.  I mean to me, one of the things that`s so clear and so upsetting to me about the way you`ve written about him is just the -- is the sort of like -- almost this astringent cynicism, right, that everything about liberal democracy or all this things are just complete bankrupt pieties, that everyone is on a hustle, I am, you are, we all are, basically.  And it feels a little like American political culture has moved in that direction, whether that`s because of Russian influence or not.

GESSER:  Right.  And that`s what I find most disturbing.  In fact, I find it very disturbing that here we are at the top of your show on this pretty important day with some really outrageous stuff going on in congress talking about Putin again.

HAYES:  Right.  Well, he`s won, right? 

GESSER:  He`s won.

HAYES:  So then, what do you make of the fact that -- I mean, you have this FBI investigation obviously, we`re not privy to that.  But there is also the fact just from a sort of tactical and strategic standpoint, I mean, Trump really hasn`t been quite clear about endorsing these very important objections and it`s not just Trump, right?  Of course, it`s the Brexit folks, it`s the national front.  There really is this project being done and Putin is part of it but it`s organic to many other states to kind of undo the liberal order as we understand it.

GESSER:  Absolutely.  I mean, that`s really the important part.  The important part is out there in the open, you don`t have to look for a conspiracy to understand this man is out to destroy, you know, the world as we know it.

HAYES:  And that includes E.U. and NATO.

GESSER:  And that includes E.U. and NATO.  And that includes nuclear security.

HAYES:  And what does that mean, though, to have someone like the President-elect then sort of endorsing that of the United States?

GESSER:  It is an existential threat to all of us.

HAYES:  You really mean that?

GESSER:  I really mean that.

HAYES:  One of the things that I think is maddening when you talk about the rabbit hole here is, there`s not going to be some -- like I want their desperately to be some sort of definitive rendering of judgments, right?  Like there`s an FBI -- I mean, there`s an FBI investigation, maybe we`ll find some smoking gun document somewhere and in some cases sometimes there are, right?  But that`s not the way it`s going to work, presumably.

GESSER:  Welcome to journalism under autocracy.  I mean, that`s the problem, you can never -- you know, journalists -- and we don`t realize it until we lose it, rely on working institutions of state to actually get the truth.  You know, you need an independent judiciary, you need intelligence agencies doing their job, you need law enforcement doing their job.  Once they start to become subsumed by either, you know, controversy or, as happened in Russia, you know, being absorbed into the executive branch, you no longer have that.  So you`re constantly trying to find the truth in a sort of squishy reality.

HAYES:  All right, Masha Gessen, thanks for being with me and I appreciate it.

GESSER:  Thank you.

HAYES:  Among those who Trump has been feuding with in the run up to his inauguration, outgoing CIA director John Brennan who suggested Trump does not fully understand the threat posed by Russia, prompting Trump to accuse Brennan of leaking that unsubstantiated dossier detailing Trump`s alleged ties to Russia and the compromising material they have on him.  Brennan last night denied that charge explicitly to the Wall Street Journal saying, quote, "Was I a leaker of this, no."  Brennan also harshly criticized Trump for drawing a link between U.S. intelligence agencies who Trump suggested leaked the widely circulated document and Nazi Germany.  Brennan telling the journal, "Tell the families of those 117 CIA officers who are forever memorialized on our wall of honor that their loved ones who gave their lives were akin to Nazis.  Tell the CIA officers who are serving in harm`s way and their families who are worried about them they are akin to Nazi Germany.  I found that to be repugnant.  I`ll forever stand up for the integrity and patriotism of my officers who have done much over the years to sacrifice for their fellow citizens." 

Joining me now, former CIA Operations Officer Evan McMullin who ran for President in 2016 as an independent.  Your reaction to Brennan`s comments and the fact that James Woolsey, who served in various national security posts criticized Brennan to say -- and said -- and said he should have some respect.

EVAN MCMULLIN, FORMER CIA OPERATIONS OFFICER:  Well, you know, Woolsey, unfortunately, has taken up defending Donald Trump and even defending what he himself describes as Donald Trump not leveling with the American people and even toying with the American people on the truth about Russian hacking and Russian efforts to influence our election.  As a former CIA officer, I have to say I`ve been most disappointed by Director Woolsey.  As far as what Brennan said, look, he`s standing up for his people and he should stand up for his people.  Donald Trump, the President-elect is attacking the very people he will depend upon to understand what`s happening in the world. 

And these are people like I did who are sacrificing their lives -- potentially sacrificing their lives, sacrificing everything in their lives as they serve overseas and he`s attacking them.  He will depend on them to understand what`s going on in the world.  Although, it -- he should, it doesn`t seem that he will and so the question then becomes where will he get his information.  What will his source of sensitive information be?

HAYES:  Well, and I think one of the things we`re seeing is this notion -- and we -- I`ve seen members of congress today, senators, pundits, that -- you know, the sort of -- the security state and Intelligence Community will have its revenge on Donald Trump, right, ultimately.  And there`s something to me that`s worrisome about that idea, right?  I mean, that`s not the path down which we would hope that sort of the resuscitation of American democratic institutions would go.

MCMULLIN:  Yes.  You know, I push back a little bit on that idea because, you know, when you -- when you serve at the CIA, you`re taught to serve our policymakers regardless of whether they`re republicans or democrats.  You`re also, you know, committed to upholding the constitution and defending the country.  And so, there are -- there are fundamental conflicts between Donald Trump and the intelligence and National Security Community around his very dangerous ideas of partnership with Putin as he attacks our democracy and an effort to undermine NATO.  They oppose this.  He`s driving towards it.  That`s a problem.

HAYES:  I want to play -- you know, one of the things that Vladimir Putin said today was, "I don`t know the guy."  And again, like, this is one of these simple things, like have they ever met or not?  I don`t know, do they have a relationship?  Donald Trump was asked this on the record while in Moscow in 2013 for the pageant by our own Thomas Roberts who was there as well.  Take a listen.


THOMAS ROBERTS, MSNBC NEWS ANCHOR:  Do you have a relationship with Vladimir Putin?  A conversational relationship or anything that you feel you have sway or influence over his government.

TRUMP:  I do have a relationship.


HAYES:  I mean, Donald Trump says a lot of things and some of them turn out not to be true so we can just take that as him either boasting or maybe he does, I don`t know.

MCMULLIN:  Well, the thing is before the election and the years preceding the election, he said multiple times that he had a relationship and had met with Putin, that Putin have given him gifts, I mean, it was the normal thing that he would say before the election that he had this relationship with Putin.  And if you watch the rest of that video, you even see what we`re taught to recognize as micro expressions in the CIA that tell you a lot about where a person`s coming from.  In this case, you see Donald Trump sort of light up with a childlike glee over the notion that he has this -- over his claim that he has a relationship with Vladimir Putin and that Vladimir Putin is watching what he does very closely.

HAYES:  Yes, he says that he`s probably very interested in what we`re doing right now.

MCMULLIN:  That`s right.

HAYES:  There is the letter today from the Senate Judiciary Committee which speaks to a larger question, which is to the extent that there`s any kind of definitive judgment that could be rendered about whether there was any collusion, and what the full story of the hacking was that that rests in the government that will in three days be controlled at the top of the executive by Donald Trump.  Can he just unilaterally shut that down?

MCMULLIN:  Well, if there`s an investigation being run out of congress, he doesn`t have the authority to do that.

HAYES:  But I mean the federal branches, right?  So if there`s something in the FBI -- there`s something in the FBI --

MCMULLIN:  Yes.  Well, yes.  On the executive side, absolutely he can.  That`s why it`s so important that congress follow through with this.  But the risk there and the challenge there is that congress won`t have the political will to do it and that`s why it falls on us as American citizens to ensure that our representatives in congress see this through, that they do investigate.  Short of that, it`s the media, it`s the press, and we`re going to need to depend on the press to also pursue it.

HAYES:  All right, Evan McMullin, thanks for your time tonight.  Nice to meet you in person.

MCMULLIN:  Thank you.  Likewise.

HAYES:  Still to come, the leader of the democrats in the senate is calling for an investigation into Trump`s pick for HHS and there`s humor on that.  And Obamacare`s sudden surge in popularity next.

And later, the contentious hearing for the billionaire republican donor Donald Trump pick for Education Secretary, we`ll bring you inside the hearing and introduce you Betsy DeVos, ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Do you think if you were not a multibillionaire, if your family has not made hundreds of millions of dollars of contributions to the Republican Party that you would be sitting here today?


HAYES:  Coming into 2017, republicans made clear that their plan for the Affordable Care Act was to repeal and delay.  That is, repeal Obamacare then come up with a replacement later.  That plan now appears to be falling apart.  President-elect Trump has repeatedly promised a simultaneously -- simultaneous replacement plan.  At least six senate republicans have openly expressed skepticism or opposition about repealing a law without a replacement ready to go.

Just today, for instance, Time Magazine reported Senator Susan Collins of Maine has told her republican colleagues she cannot support the repeal without a replacement.  Again, that margin in the Senate is just three votes.  So, now it looks like republicans will need to have a replacement plan ready to implement as soon as they repeal the existing law.  But here`s the problem, as pressure mounts for republicans to come up with a replacement for Obamacare, Obamacare itself is actually enjoying record levels of popularity among the American people.

According to a new NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll, 45 percent of Americans now believe the Affordable Care Act was a quote "good idea" compared to just 41 percent who think it was a bad idea.  The first time, we should note, since the law`s passage back in 2010, that more people approve of it than disapprove.  And if you`re wondering why so many Americans have suddenly changed their minds about the law, look no further than a report just out from the Congressional Budget Office, which found that a repeal plan like the ones republicans have proposed would increase the number of people who are uninsured by 18 million in just the first year with millions more losing coverage in the following years.  All of which makes the job of replacing Obamacare a daunting task.

Now, add to that the fact that the man charged with leading the replacement campaign, republican Congressman Tom Price, continued to face a series of ethical questions that threaten to derail his confirmation for Secretary of Health and Human Services.  In November, the Wall Street Journal reported that Price had traded over $300,000 in shares of health-related companies while overseeing legislation that would have affected the value of those companies.  Last week, Kaiser Health News reported Price got a, quote, "sweetheart deal"on some stock from a biotech company that his committee in congress is in charge of regulating.  And a new Time report shows that Price invested in six companies within weeks and even days of sponsoring legislation that benefitted those companies.

Today, three democratic senators on the committee overseeing Price`s nomination called for that hearing to be delayed until these allegations can be further investigated. 

Joining me now, the man leading the calls to investigate Representative Price`s actions, as well as fighting to save the ACA more broadly, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.  And Senator --


HAYES:  It`s good to see you.  You know, your -- the job in an oversight and confirmation hearing is to kind of tease out some of this stuff.  Why do you think the hearing should be delayed to further investigate these charges?

SCHUMER:  Well, first, they`re very serious charges.  The latest one, which came out yesterday, is the most troubling of all.  Representative Price bought stock in a rather small company that specialized in hip and knee replacements and a week later introduced legislation specifically aimed at exempting them from regulations.  Now that, any prosecutor would say, "Oh, boy I better look into this."  And to have the hearings and try to have the vote before we know the results here, that`s a huge mistake.  It`s not draining the swamp, as President-elect Trump promised, it`s making the swamp worse.

HAYES:  I should note, just for the record here, that that report which you just cited from CNN, the Trump campaign has called for a retraction of that, they`ve just issued a document I think minutes ago attempting to rebut it.  I have not had the opportunity to read it because I`m on air with you.  That --

SCHUMER:  I`ll tell you what they say --

HAYES:  Yes, go ahead.

SCHUMER:  They say that it`s a broker -- it`s a broker who bought the stock.  Well, we don`t know that`s the case.  That`s their word, third hand.  There ought to be an investigation.  The facts here are so, so troubling that only a real and independent investigation will get to the bottom of it.

HAYES:  You would then postpone this hearing.  One of the things that the hearing, I believe, would center on is a fascinating report yesterday which is about the fact that Price himself does have quite a comprehensive vision of what a replacement for Obamacare would look like.


HAYES:  And I saw a report yesterday that in his briefing from the Trump folks, they`re not telling him what their plan would be because they don`t want him to answer questions about it.

SCHUMER:  Well, Price`s plan would really hurt.  It gives leeway to the insurance companies and hurts the consumer dramatically under Price`s plan.  I believe that the number of the uninsured would go way up, prices for just about everyone.  The cost of health care would go way up.  It`s a business oriented plan that doesn`t help the consumer.  So, I can see why the Trump organization doesn`t want to support it.  Their basic problem is that for six years the republicans have been talking about repeal but they haven`t come up with a replacement and I think the Trump people are going to find it really troubling, they`re stuck, because President-elect has said he wants to keep the benefits of ACA, 20 million people uninsured, preexisting conditions, kids can stay on their parents` plan until they`re 26, treating women equally, all of those cost money.  And yet when they present a plan the hard right is going to say I don`t want to spend any money on health care, so they`re stuck between a rock and a hard place and they don`t know what to do.

And I`ll say one other thing, Chris, the momentum as you pointed out is changing.  People are now realizing.  When they called for a repeal, repeal, and they couldn`t do it.  People said, "Yes, maybe they should repeal it, and we get something better."  Now that it`s a real factor, people are realizing how much they benefit and lots of those people are blue-collar people in red and purple states that voted for Trump.

HAYES:  So -- is that -- is that your theory of what we`re seeing in the polling here?  Because there`s two things that have happened.  We`re seeing the polling move and we`re seeing mobilization on behalf and in defense of the ACA unlike we`ve ever seen in six years of the law.  Is it to you just that basic that once you`re actually face to face with the reality of the thing going away that galvanizes people?

SCHUMER:  Exactly.  And, you know, if our republican colleagues were real about this, I mean, they`re ideologues, they don`t like to see government help people.  And so, one day, Obamacare came out, they hated it way beyond the -- what the law said, it was just the fact that government was doing something to help people that they didn`t like.  Representative Price, for instance, wants to privatize Medicare, wants to greatly reduce Medicaid.  Same kind of thinking, totally against what the American people believe.  And so they have this ideological vision but they can`t translate it into reality unless they really hurt a whole lot of people.

HAYES:  Right.  So then the President-elect, someone that you`ve talked to on the phone and you`ve expressed openness to working with on areas of shared agreement on policy, maybe infrastructure, maybe some things on China, and trade, he sounded like a democrat the other day when he said, "basically I want to expand the coverage, lower deductibles," and then he said something which doesn`t sound like -- I don`t know who it sounds like, "I don`t care about paying for it or not paying for it," I mean, can you imagine a world in which democrats work with him?

SCHUMER:  Yes.  Hey maybe -- yes maybe tomorrow President-elect Trump will come out for single payer and he`s kind of --

HAYES:  Impossible.  He`s been on the record for in the past.


SCHUMER:  -- Liberal democrats would go right along with that.

HAYES:  Can you imagine though working with the President -- can you imagine bypassing --


HAYES: -- congressional republicans and working with the President-elect on some kind of Obamacare extension?  Is that a crazy thing to ask?

SCHUMER:  Yes, I have a feeling that the right wing, the Pences and the people in his circle and cabinet would never let him do that.  I think when he tweets and he says, "I want to keep all the benefits," there`s not a lot of depth and study behind that.

HAYES:  All right.  Senate Minority Leader, Chuck Schumer.

SCHUMER:  To put it kindly.

HAYES:  An appropriately right expression on that last line.  I appreciate it.  Come back.  Thank you very much.

SCHUMER:  Thanks, Chris.  Bye-bye.

HAYES:  Coming up, why the Trump administration strategy to quickly push through their nominee confirmations isn`t going as plan.  We`ll look at the resistance after this quick break.


HAYES:  The Trump team initially took a kind of shocking on all approach to the process in confirming all its cabinet nominees.  Use the republican senate majority to schedule hearings early and often try to ram through his named nominees is possible before inauguration day.  This was the initial schedule for the first week of hearings with five of them originally jammed in last Wednesday alone, all scheduled to compete with the President- elect`s first press conference in half a year.  It was suggested that the usual norms and traditions no longer applied. 

There was the smaller stuff like granting General James Mattis, a waiver to serve as defense secretary before waiting the legally required seven years after his retirement.  Then there was the really big stuff like moving ahead with hearings before the nominees had even completed ethics agreements or FBI background checks.  Senator James Inhofe was explicit about the new conditions for Trump`s nominees.  "So it`s different now because it`s Trump?"  The Huffington post asked him.  "That`s just right," Inhofe said.  But senate republicans and Trump`s transition weren`t counting on the level of public scrutiny and outcry over its confirmation strategy.  And though Mitch McConnell had flat out rejected the possibility of any delay, guess what?  His caucus ultimately agreed to reschedule several hearings for nominees with incomplete paperwork.  Trump`s picks for education and commerce were both pushed back an entire week while his pick for labor secretary now won`t get a hearing until February. 

And several of Trump`s nominees are looking a lot less like a sure thing.  Andy Puzder the labor nominee is facing scrutiny not just over his treatment of workers as the CEO Carl`s Jr., which just sided for almost $60,000 in wage theft, but over claims of domestic abuse from his ex-wife who once appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show in disguise to talk about her experience.  Puzder denies her claims.  According to one report, Puzder may be having second thoughts about taking the job. 

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer just told me about his grave objections to Health and Human Services Nominee Tom Price who faces multiple allegations of untoward financial dealings.  And thanks to his ties to Russia, Secretary of State Nominee, Rex Tillerson, is just one vote away from failing to make it out of committee, though, as I always say, if your life depends on Marco Rubio having a spine, you`re already dead. 

We can still expect the republican-controlled senate to confirm most of Trump`s nominees, but the lesson from all this -- and it`s just been a few weeks, is that the laws of physics didn`t just go away after Donald Trump won the election.  In politics, gravity still exists.  The hearing is now under way for Trump`s nominee to be Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, she`s a billionaire conservative donor, an activist with a long list of tenfold conflicts including possible ties to a student debt collection agency with business before the department she`s been picked to lead.  Coming next, the showdown between DeVos and Senator Bernie Sanders.



SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT:  Would you be so kind as to tell us how much money your family has contributed to the Republican party over the years?

BETSY DEVOS, NOMINEE FOR EDUCATION SECRETARY:  Senator, first of all, thank you for that question. I wish I could give you that number. I don`t know.

SANDERS:  Well, I have heard the number was $200 million. Does that sound in the ballpark.

DEVOS:  Collectively between --

SANDERS:  Yes. Over the years.

DEVOS:  Between my entire family? That`s possible.


HAYES:  Senator Bernie Sanders` first question to education secretary nominee, Betsy DeVos, who has donated to five of the Republican senators overseeing her hearing tonight before the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, or HELP.

DeVos has never held a position in public education either as policymaker, administrator or a teacher, and said she`s worked as an activist and lobbyist advocating for the privatization of the K-12 system.

DeVos` home state of Michigan has been a major beneficiary of her largess, functioning as a kind of laboratory for her educational philosophy.

Since the law incentive`s the creation of charter schools was passed in 2010, fully 80% of Michigan charters have come to be operated by for-profit companies.

In that same period, according to a federal review, the number of charters on Michigan`s list of worse school has doubled, a portion the review called "unreasonably high."

I`m joined by Diane Ravitch who is the Assistant Secretary of Education under President George H. W. Bush, author of "Reign of Error, the Hoax of a Privatization Movement and the Danger to America`s Public Schools".

There`s a few things to talk about here. One, I just want to put into context, a bunch of senators raise in the hearing today, there`s not really a precedent for a Department of Education Secretary who`s never worked in public schools in any capacity. Just starting off there before you get to the other ideological stuff.

DIANE RAVITCH, FORMER ASS. SECRETARY OF EDUCATION:  Well, there have been governors, so you could say, well, Lamar Alexander was governor of Tennessee, Richard Riley was governor of South Carolina, but a governor has a huge responsibility for public education because it`s usually the single- biggest expenditure in their budget.

Betsy DeVos, on the other hand, has zero experience in education other than as a lobbyist for vouchers and charters and home schooling and cyber charters. Everything but public schools.

She is a dedicated enemy of public education and 85% of the kids in this country are in public schools.  HAYES:  DeVos has -- Michigan I think is fair to say has been kind of a laboratory partly because there`s a lot of DeVos money there, he she has a high degree of influence, particularly in Detroit.

Your assessment of her record there.

RAVITCH:  Well, you have to understand Betsy DeVos. First of all, the family is worth over $5 billion according to Forbes, so they have a lot of money to spend.

She and her family have given a lot of money to the legislature and she basically runs the state when it comes to education. They do what she wants.

In the year 2000, she and her husband sponsored a referendum to change the state constitution to permit public money to go to religious schools and the voters turned it down 69% to 31%.

Then Dick DeVos ran for governor in 2006 and he lost and so they decided better to work from the inside. And what they have been able to do is to create like the Wild West of charters.

I read the law. Anyone can open a charter. You or I could go to Michigan and open a charter and they would give us money. If we can gather students, we can collect the money to open charters.

HAYES:  There`s literally -- we should say there are lots of people in the charter movement which is a movement you are quite skeptical of on the record of, there are people in that movement who are -- do not like DeVos because they feel this complete Wild West lack of credentialing is actually tarnishing the broader movement.

RAVITCH:  Right. Actually, Michigan was criticized by some group called something like the National Alliance for Authorizers of Charter Schools saying it -- Michigan has one of the worst laws in the country because the charter people who are reputable want to see accountability.

Betsy DeVos and her husband actually have us discouraged accountability, discouraged any supervision. The Detroit Free Press ran a series saying that the charter industry in Michigan is now a $1 billion a year industry that`s unaccountable and unsupervised. And there are scandals all over the place because unqualified people are running charter schools.

HAYES:  And we should say, my sense from the folks I`ve talked to about Betsy DeVos, people in education circles, this is a true believer. This is a genuine ideologue who genuinely thinks the entire paradigm, existing paradigm of public education is bankrupt and statused, possibly un- Christian.

She is a believer in undoing and destroying that.

RAVITCH:  Well, she`s been quoted as saying that her efforts on behalf of choice -- meaning anything but public schools -- are advancing God`s kingdom. And there`s a lot of Christian Evangelical language that gets into this. The DeVos family supports a lot of fundamentalist organizations, anti-union, anti-gay, anti-this, anti-that, but the big thing they`re interested in is breaking up what they call the government monopoly.

The thing that`s so crazy about this is that if you were to look at the research on the ten top performing nations in the world, none of them have a free market, all of them have great public school systems. So that wherever you live, whatever your zip code, there`s a good public school. They don`t have charters and they don`t have vouchers, so she`s pushing an ideology that has been proven not to work.

And the best evidence of this is to look at Michigan itself, where the charters are lower performing than the public schools. And Detroit, which is overrun with charters and for-profit charters, the results there are abysmal.

She was talking in her hearing earlier this evening about results are what matter. There are no results from Michigan. In fact, the whole state of Michigan has declined on the national test over the past 15 years.

HAYES:  Diane Ravitch, thank you for your time tonight. I appreciate it.

RAVITCH:  Thank you.

HAYES:  Why John Dean, a former White House counsel to President Nixon, says that Trump could get away with being even more corrupt than Nixon himself. Dean will talk about that ahead.

Plus, tonight`s Thing 1 Thing 2 starts right after this break.


HAYES:  Thing 1 tonight. When Donald Trump takes the Oval Office on Friday, Michael Flynn will become the new National Security Advisor. As you may remember, another Michael Flynn made headlines last month, that would be Michael Flynn, Jr., the former Lieutenant General`s son.

Now, Flynn, Jr., stirred up quite a bit of controversy when he tweeted about an insane conspiracy theory that Hillary Clinton was involved in a child sex ring run out of a pizza shop in Washington, D.C., also known as #pizzagate.

That conspiracy theory, which is completely untrue, exploded on the internet leading one man to show up at this pizzeria on a mission to flee the imaginary captives before firing a rifle into the restaurant and getting arrested.

The same day that terrifying incident occurred, December 4, that was when Michael Flynn Jr. decided to start tweeting about #pizzagate.

The problem was, Flynn Jr. wasn`t just related to the next National Security Advisor, he had a government transition e-mail address and served as his father`s chief of staff.

Now, the Trump team initially denied Flynn Jr. was part of the transition before eventually `fessing up to the truth and firing him.

Now, you`d think that might have turned Flynn Jr. off from tweeting, but you would be wrong.

Just yesterday, he tweeted out this very thinly sourced article from a web site called, that says his own father is going to basically just take over the entire intelligence apparatus of the U.S.

That sounds like a bombshell, except there`s a big grain of salt, which is the byline of that piece, and that`s thing 2 in 60 seconds.


HAYES:  Michael Flynn Jr., who should have learned his lesson about spreading conspiracy theories after he tweeted about #pizzagate and lost his job with the Trump transition team, tweeted out this article yesterday, claiming that his father is going to take over control of the 16 intelligence agencies from the Director of National Intelligence when he becomes National Security Advisor later this week.

The article doesn`t seem particularly credible, the author says he got the information from "our sources", and Trump of course did just announce his pick for Director of National Intelligence earlier this month, former Indiana Senator Dan Coates.

Why would Flynn Jr. boast about his father`s plan to take over his job? The biggest reason to take it with a grain of salt is right there in the biline. The authors name is Thierry Meyssan, that of course would be the same Thierry Meyssan who authored two books about 9/11 conspiracy theories, 9/11 The Big Lie and Pentagate.

He also wrote this article in 2013 arguing the United States "planned the destruction of Syria" and that "NATO and the Gulf Cooperation Council, not Bashar Al Assad are responsible for the Syrian Civil War, and the slaughter of civilians."

That`s not really true, although that doesn`t seem to be a prerequisite for Flynn, Jr.        (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES:  Donald Trump moments ago in Washington, D.C. welcoming attendees of his first inauguration event. That`s a dinner for donors and foreign diplomats.

Tomorrow President Obama will give his last press conference of the year and he`ll likely be asked about a high profile commutation he granted hours ago.

The President commuted most of the remaining sentence of Chelsea Manning, Army intelligence analyst who has served almost seven years for charges relating to a massive 2010 leak which brought worldwide attention to Wikileaks.

Manning`s sentence of 35 years was by far the longest punishment ever imposed in the United States for a leak conviction. Manning will now be released on May 17 of this year instead of 2045.

Manning was also in the spotlight as a transgender woman. Former Bradley Manning, she began her reassignment while in military prison, the question of whether the military would allow her to undergo sex reassignment surgery is still unresolved.

She attempted to commit suicide last October while in solitary confinement , which was itself a punishment for a previous suicide attempt.

Late last week, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest illustrated the position on Manning.


JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  Chelsea Manning is somebody who went through the military criminal justice process, was exposed to due process, was found guilty, was sentenced for her crimes and she acknowledged wrongdoing.


HAYES:  Criticism, of course, of the Manning commutation has already begun.  House Speaker Paul Ryan saying in a statement President Obama`s action was outrageous and sets a dangerous precedent, a position that pardoned Edward Snowden was not acted on by the White House.  As for the connection to WikiLeaks, an intriguing claim made last week, WikiLeaks tweeting "if Obama grants Manning clemency, WikLeaks founder Julian Assange will agree to U.S. extradition."  Interesting.

Today, President Obama, we should also note also pardoned James Cartwright, that`s a general and former vice chairman of the joint chiefs of staff who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about leaks to reporters on the Iran nuclear program.  The power of the presidency and how it will be used by the next president is giving Richard Nixon`s lawyer nightmares.  John Dean joins me next.



RICHARD NIXON, 37TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Listen, I don`t want a president who`s warm on the outside and warm on the inside, too.  I want one that`s warm on the outside, but I want one who when the tough decisions are made is cold and tough and will make the right decision without fear of failure.


HAYES:  During the time of Watergate, Attorney John Dean was White House counsel for President Richard Nixon, widely seen as the most corrupt president over the last century, and perhaps the president most dangerous to American institutions as he used the power of the state to settle political scores, kept an enemies list, vowing revenge on those who got in his way and spied on those he considered to be a threat to his presidency, acts of vindictiveness and petty criminality that resulting in Nixon becoming the first president in American history to resign.

Which brings us back to John Dean, the man whose job it was to advise Nixon on legal issues.  You see, Dean has an interesting perspective on what the country is facing with Trump preparing to take the oath of office in three days.

And a piece published in The Atlantic this morning, Dean was quoted as saying "the American presidency has never been at the whims of an authoritarian personality like Donald Trump.  He`s going to test our democracy as it has never been tested."  And joining me is John Dean, White House counsel under President Richard Nixon from 1970 to 1973.

Mr. Dean, how do you understand Donald Trump in relation to your former boss Richard Nixon?

JOHN DEAN, WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL TO RICHARD NIXON:  Well, I`ve thought about that a lot, in fact, a lot more than I really wish I had, as I said to Mckay Coppins who wrote the piece for The Atlantic he`s given me nightmares.  And I didn`t have nightmares when I worked at the Nixon White House.  So, it`s unusual.

Anyway, the way I see the problem is that everything Nixon was in secret, and we wouldn`t even know about if we didn`t have the tapes that he kept a record of everything he did and a number of his private offices and on his telephone calls, so we wouldn`t know that Nixon because he never really showed that Nixon publicly whereas Trump is just out in front.  He doesn`t try to hide this very -- his revenge, his dark thinking, his thinking out loud when he should be thinking things through before he makes a statement.  He`s just out there.

And that`s what`s given me problems, because I know the sensitivity of that job.  Even a person who`s experienced in Washington, which Trump is not, it`s a delicate and difficult job.  So, that`s what`s given me nightmares.

HAYES:  You know, one of the points made in that piece that you make that I thought about was also the fact that actually the presidency is more powerful than it was in the era of Nixon.  In fact, it`s probably more powerful than it has ever been in the history of the American Republic in certain fashions, particularly as regards to national security.

DEAN:  That`s very true.

Post-Watergate, what happened is the president didn`t really lose power, the congress started exercising its power and becoming more of a constitutional co-equal.  But what`s happened post-Watergate and particularly during the Bush/Cheney years is powers have been added to the presidency.  Congress has again started relinquishing a lot of its responsibilities.

The media has become weaker as a check as well, so the office itself has filled that void.  And Article ii under the constitution is the basis of the presidency is really a blank check.  And once the Trump people get in there and find out that they have a blank check, it creates nightmares to think  about what they might do with it.

HAYES:  Well, in terms of the checks that you just said, one of the things that strikes me as well is partisanship.  You know, it was ultimately fellow Republicans that made the trip to the White House somewhat famously to tell Richard Nixon that he had to go.  Do you imagine if that scenario were to play out today with partisanship and polarization as intense as it is, particularly sort of on the Republican side, that maybe they just ride it out?

DEAN:  As long as Trump is, indeed, letting them legislate in the way they want to and not making them vetoing things and making them try to get over his veto and what have you I think they`re going to be happy to have him there.  And just let -- they`ll do their thing, and he can do his thing.  And so long as he doesn`t too badly embarrass them, nothing is going to happen.  So, that`s why there will -- I see no check on the congress. 

I see little check in the media today.  Its standing is not much above the congress itself while there will be lots of articles and lots of complaints, he`s got a bigger megaphone than anybody else and we`ve seen him use it throughout the campaign.  We saw him use it throughout the transition.  And I don`t expect anything different when he gets in the White House.

HAYES:  What about public opinion?  I mean, we`ve been talking -- I mean, obviously, I was actually going back today and looking at public opinion as Watergate came out, and it was brutal.  It was brutal for Nixon.  His approval ratings went through -- it was brutal for the Republican Party, brutal for Republicans in congress, ultimately sort of more than anything that was kind of the check, right?  I mean, he had lost -- he had entirely lost the faith of the American people and that was the end of the road.

Doesn`t that still exist as a check?  Or am I deluding myself?

DEAN:  No, I think that is a check.  When a president has really no public support at all or he gets down in the low 30s that`s when he`s in in trouble, because members of congress at that point start running from him.  They will not want to risk their political careers to give him support and comfort so that indeed is the check.

But we`ve got to remember the base that put Trump in office is a very low information base.  They have a lot of tolerance.  And some of them actually like what he`s doing that he`s going to shake up the system.  So we`re talking a couple years of this before anything is going to really shakes out and where a broad base of the public is going to turn against him.  And as I say, I just don`t know what`s going to happen in that period.  I think it is going to test the system like it`s never been tested.

HAYES:  Yeah, and it`s interesting to go back and think about the test of Watergate, right, because there were ways in which -- that tested the system in ways it had never been tested.  It ultimately I think came through and partly it depending on folks like yourself and others who were there and in crucial moments did the right thing.  And I think that`s something we should also look for.

John Dean, thanks for joining us.  I appreciate it.

DEAN:  Thank you, Chris.

HAYES:  That is ALL IN for this evening.  "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now.