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All in with Chris Hayes, Transcript 2/1/2017

Guests: Joaquin Castro; David Miliband; Sheldon Whitehouse, Ben Sasse, Tommy Vietor

Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: February 1, 2017 Guest: Joaquin Castro; David Miliband; Sheldon Whitehouse, Ben Sasse, Tommy Vietor

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HARDBALL HOST:  -- in the Presidency live at American University.  "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes starts right now.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA:  I would say if you can, Mitch, go nuclear.

HAYES:  As the President gives a nuclear directive to the senate on the Supreme Court, the fallout over President Trump`s executive order on refugees.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  I think the President`s been very clear that his number one goal is not to target any one religion.

HAYES:  Tonight, new evidence that this was not just about stopping bad guys.

STEVE BANNON, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST:  20 percent of the country is immigrants.  Is that not the beating heart of this problem?

HAYES:  Then, the new White House explanation for the President`s first military strike in which almost everything went wrong.  And why the Trump administration is suddenly threatening Iran.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  As of today we are officially putting Iran on notice.

HAYES:  Plus, our grass-roots protests about to stop the nomination of Betsy DeVos.  And on the first day of black history month, getting to know Frederick Douglass.

TRUMP:  Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who`s done an amazing job.

HAYES:  When ALL IN starts right now. 

Good evening from New York, I`m Chris Hayes, just over 13 months ago, Donald Trump called for a "complete and total shutdown of Muslims entering the United States."  Today according to the Trump administration, that has nothing to do with its ban on travel to the U.S. of refugees and people from seven Muslim majority countries.  Here was White House press secretary Sean Spicer earlier today.


SPICER:  I think the President`s been clear that his number one goal is not to target any one religion but places and areas where we believe that there is an issue.  That`s what the executive order was all about the other day.  He understands that it`s not a religious problem, it`s a radicalization problem, that there`s a big difference between Islam the religion and radical Islamic terrorist.


HAYES:  First thing this morning, the President himself weighed in on twitter.  "Everybody`s arguing whether or not it is a ban.  Call it what you want, it is about keeping bad people with bad intentions out of country."  We have yet to hear any reports of specific bad people the travel ban has successfully kept out of the U.S.  We`ll keep you posted if we do.  What we have heard are stories of students missing vital classes, workers unable to get their jobs, patients cut off from medical treatment and families separated. 

Including the family of a little boy being treated for severe burns at a hospital in Boston.  An aid group brought him to the U.S. after a heater exploded in the Iraqi refugee camp where he was sleeping.  Now his parents are stranded overseas just as their infant son faces another round of surgery.  Other sick children on their way here for medical treatment are stuck now, too, according to the Washington Post including a nine-year-old Somali child in Ethiopia with a congenital heart disease that cannot be treated in a refugee camp.  A one-year-old Sudanese boy with cancer and a Somali boy with a severe intestinal disorder living in a camp that doesn`t even have the colostomy bags he needs. 

These are the people the ban is keeping out at the moment.  If you pay attention to the people behind it wildly reported to include Chief White House Strategist Steve Bannon, it`s clear this is not actually about keeping out violent people who wish to do us ill, it`s about laying the ground work for dramatic reduction of Muslim immigration to the U.S. based on the belief that Muslims are a kind of infectious disease determined to infiltrate and sicken the country.  Over the years, Bannon has revealed his views on Islam in interviews and speeches and as the host of a radio show for Breitbart where he was the former chairman.  In one interview from 2010, he criticized George W. Bush for delivering a positive speech at a mosque days after 9/11.

BANNON:  Islam is a religion of peace.  Islam is not a religion of peace.  Islam is a religion of submission.  Islam means submission.  I mean the whole thing is just categorically -- he is the - he is the - he is the epitome.

HAYES:  On his radio show in 2015 Bannon asked Congressman Ryan Zinke, now the President`s nominee for Interior Secretary, why this country should admit refugees in the first place.

RYAN ZINKE, UNITED STATES CONGRESSMAN FROM MONTANA:  Vetting is important because we don`t know --

BANNON:  Why - no, you only vet - stop - commander, you only vet if you`re going to let them in.  Why even let them in?  If you agree to just change the vetting process, right, you are buying into the assumption that we should be taking - you know, Caroline May had a report on Breitbart yesterday, two million immigrants from Muslim majority countries have come to the United States since 9/11 -- 2 million.

HAYES:  Two million.  He`s not talking there about specific individuals with ties to terrorism or jihad or violence, just the raw number of Muslims seems to be unacceptable.  Less than a year ago, Bannon had Stephen Miller, now senior policy adviser to the White House on his radio show.  They shared concerns not just in letting in refugees but about immigration as a whole.

BANNON:  And now you got all the engineering schools are full of people from south Asia and east Asia.  And it`s not that people have any problem with those folks learning but they come here to take these jobs.  Isn`t the beating heart of this problem right now, the real beating heart of it, of what we`ve got to get sorted here is not illegal immigration, as horrific as that is, and it`s horrific.  Don`t we have a problem we`ve looked the other way on this legal immigration that`s kind of overwhelmed the country?  Is that not the beating heart of this this problem?

STEPHEN MILLER, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR POLICY ADVISER:  Well, yes, and it`s mind-boggling.  It`s important to understand that historically speaking, immigration is supposed to be interrupted with periods of assimilation and integration.

HAYES:  More recently in an off-the-record briefing to reporters an anonymous senior administration official gave a revealing rationale with the travel ban, one that`s consistent with Bannon`s stated world view.  "You could argue that if you admit 50 people who aren`t themselves terrorists but maybe who have sympathetic attitudes towards terrorists who - or believe there`s an appropriate place for terrorism, that creates an environment where it`s easy to radicalize people, to spread radical views and ideologies and ultimately to inculcate terrorism."  In other words, they`re all sympathetic to terrorism so keep them all out. 

Tonight, Reuters is reporting based on five anonymous sources briefed on the matter that the Trump administration wants to revamp and rename a U.S. government program designed to counter all violent ideologies so that it focuses solely on Islamist extremism and meaning the program would no longer focus on, say, Nazis and White supremacists who embrace violence.  Joining me now, republican strategist Steve Schmidt and MSNBC Contributor.  Steve, what do you make of the world view of Bannon and Miller specifically as it sort of forms itself into policy as we see expressed in the executive order?

STEVE SCHMIDT, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR:  Well, it`s an absolutely radical world view, Chris, and it`s a departure from the bipartisan consensus that existed from Harry Truman through Barack Obama that the centrality importance of the United States as the anchor nation in a liberal global pluralistic world order that was built after the catastrophe of the second world war where 80 million people were killed.  And Steve Bannon is hostile to that global order.  David Petraeus was testifying today on Capitol Hill and he talked about the necessity of preserving that global order, that it`s not self-sustaining, that it maintains itself through American commitment.  And so the notion that you saw with President Trump saying things like "Mexico has beaten us to a pulp", it`s an absurdity.  Of course, when you give consideration to those words.  But when you look at the inaugural address, the American carnage speech, the speech where he talks about the international alliances costing America.  There`s no country in the world that has benefitted more from that liberal global order that prevailed in the cold war, that`s lifted a billion people out of abject poverty than the United States.  And so we need to understand how radical the thinking is, how outside norms it is of national security experts in both parties on a 70 plus year basis.

HAYES:  Well, and that`s the thing about the executive order to me is, you know, there are policy processes that happen.  If you say to yourself, we have a - we have a problem we want to solve and the problem is we want to make sure that anyone let into the country is not coming into the country with the intent to do harm.  Which I think is a goal that unanimously supported, right?  If someone wants to come into the U.S.

SCHMIDT:  100 percent, of course.

HAYES:  If someone wants to come into the U.S. to carry out an attack, we don`t want them to come into the country.

SCHMIDT:  That`s right.

HAYES:  But if you look at that executive order and you got something like 10 sections and only two of them are actually about vetting.  Which are actually the non-controversial parts, right?  Because what they`re trying to do is something much broader than that.

SCHMIDT:  Look, this executive order couldn`t have been more incompetently announced than it was authored by a pack of monkeys.  Just extraordinary.  There`s no awareness at the Justice Department, the joint terrific task force, the Department of Homeland Security, all of the mechanisms by which information is funneled to the President of the United States for decision making, carefully vetted, carefully vetted by the office of legal-council at the Department of Justice.  The job of the White House chief of staff is not to stand in the oval office clapping behind the President as he signs ill-conceived orders.  It`s to control - to control the flow of information into the oval office and to direct decision the making out to the various government agencies on the back end.  It`s just extraordinary incompetence that cause chaos across the country, unsettled our allies and caused enormous confusion unnecessary.

HAYES:  All right.  Steve Schmidt, thanks for your time tonight.  Appreciate it.

SCHMIDT:  You bet.  Good to be with you Chris.

HAYES:  I`m joined now by Congressman Joaquin Castro of Texas.  And Congressman, I want to begin with something which you said about the executive order.  I read the headline here from Buzzfeed.  Congressman says "Trump could be impeached if he overstepped - if he overstepped authority on travel ban."  That doesn`t scan to me, you can - the President can issue an executive order that the courts strike down.  It doesn`t mean he`s committed an impeachable offense, does it?

JOAQIUN CASTRO, UNITED STATES CONGRESSMAN FROM TEXAS:  No, and actually if you read the text of that story it had actually not to do with the substance of the order although I strongly disagree with what many consider and I consider a ban on Muslim travel.  It had to do with reports that after the judge issued a stay on that order the President may have ordered CBP and other federal agencies to ignore the judge`s order and to disobey the order.  In that case what I said is the congress should censure the President and if he does it again then we need to consider removal at that point because the courts represent our way of settling disputes peacefully and if that is taken away from the people they`re left with essentially chaos.  So a President can`t just flout those judicial orders.  He`s got to follow them.

HAYES:  You know, you`re talking about the executive branch essentially adhering to decisions made by the courts.  Another place - a sort of locus of independence would be the Department of Justice.  Obviously you`re in the House, you don`t get a vote on Jeff Sessions.  But I do want to play this sound for you.  This is last year, Senator Jeff Sessions, the nominee to be Attorney General, talking about the Muslim ban proposal in its initial incarnation.  Take a listen.


JEFF SESSIONS, UNITED STATES SENATOR FROM ALABAMA:  He`s treading on dangerous ground because Americans are so deeply committed to freedom of religion.  That is a major part of who we are but at the same time, we`re in an age that`s very dangerous.  It`s time for us to think this through and the classical internal American religious principles I don`t think apply, providing constitutional protections to persons - not citizens - who want to come here.


HAYES:  Are you confident that Senator Session cans play the role of a kind of check on the White House.  Can be fully independent should he be asked to do things that are extra constitutional, unconstitutional or illegal?

CASTRO:  No, I don`t.  I think he`ll do whatever Donald Trump tells him to do.  And that`s why you`re going to see few if any democrats I believe support his nomination.  His words there are troubling.  Any time the United States government has targeted people based on their skin color or religion, and not only has that been wrong but there is also a tendency of a dragnet affect and we saw some of that even this weekend where green card holders, people who have a legal right to be in the country were denied entry into the United States.  I saw a story today and looked like of a citizen who also got caught up in that dragnet.  That was the case when the government decades ago did operation wetback which took many Mexican nationals who had been allowed in to work but also took in American citizens and deported them to Mexico.  So these things tend not only to affect their targets but also people who have a legal right to be here including citizens.

HAYES:  What are you hearing from your constituents at this moment, congressman?  Particularly I wonder after the - you use the word impeachment or talk about the possibility that if there was a violation of the sort of authority of our article three courts, that could possibly open up to that.  What are the feedback like from your constituents on that?

CASTRO:  Well, everybody is obviously very concerned and nobody takes the idea of removing a President or impeaching a President lightly and no one should.  It`s historically very significant and so it`s not a light hearted thing.  It`s not a whimsical thing.  At the same time, I think most people would agree that this President has behaved in an extraordinary manner.  And ignoring or flatly disobeying a court`s order is also very significant and if you do it repeatedly you`re putting yourself in the impeachment realm.

HAYES:  All right.  Congressman Joaquin Castro, I appreciate your time tonight.  Thank you very much.

CASTRO:  Thank you.

HAYES:  Joining me now, David Miliband, President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee which operates refugee resettlement in 26 U.S. cities and former Foreign Secretary for the UK.  I guess first is just the basic question of how this order is affecting the work that you do with refugees.

DAVID MILIBAND, INTERNATIONAL RESCUE COMMITTEE CEO:  So the refugee resettlement numbers are being cut very significantly but we`re facing immediately is families separated, people in desperate straits having got their Visa, 60,000 would be refugees have been through the vetting system which often is the toughest possible way of getting into the U.S. and then now stuck in limbo.

HAYES:  If the 60,000 that have already sort of made it through.

MILIBAND:  Being through - that they`ve been identified, they`ve been through the 21 steps of the refugee vetting system, then they`re stuck.  If they`re from Syria, they`ve been told there`s an indefinite ban on them.  And the interesting thing about what I see is that, yes we are a refugee resettlement agency here in the U.S., we also work in 30 war torn countries, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq in the middle east.  The great danger there is that you compound the human misery of these individual stories with a propaganda gift to extremists who want to say you can never trust the Americans to look after Muslims.  That`s the great danger.

HAYES:  You know, when I read that story act the 18-month-old boy with burns or Sudanese cancer victim, one-year-old, it did seem to me like a ready-made for propaganda.  They`ll said look, this is - this is what the Americans think of the value of your life.

MILIBAND:  Look, half of the Syrians due to come to the U.S. this year are under the age of 14, we`re talking about an assault on some of the most innocent and vulnerable people in the world, never mind people who have been traumatized but an unspeakable war.

HAYES:  What do you say to an American who says, A, I have my own problems, I am barely keeping my head above water financially, things are tough here.  B, I`m worried about a terrorist attack and I am just not sure I trust the competence of this government to protect me.

MILIBAND:  Well the only good thing about this controversy is that we can explain to Americans that there - it`s legitimate to say you want a good vetting system but there is a very, very tough vetting system, biometric testing, interviews of individuals.  The refugee has to prove that they`re going to be - become a patriotic and productive citizen.  And remember, in our program, we run an employment program for refugees, 80 percent of them are in work, paying taxes, actually employing people often within six months of arrival and there`s another point as well.  Which is America depends on the global system that has been set up over the last 70 years. 

Your earlier discussion that put this in a historical context, the Atlantic charter signs in 1941, the 75 year period since then 76 years has been essentially a period not just where America has been a donor to the global order, it`s been a beneficiary.  And interestingly enough, when JFK set up USA, the international aid agency in 1961, he said "it befits America and benefits America to give aid abroad because it`s a way of promoting global stability."  And remember this final point, the vast bulk of refugees are not in western countries.  The vast bulk of refugees, 86 percent, are in poor and lower and middle income countries.  Like in Lebanon, is a country of six million people, it`s got 1.3 million Syrian refugees over all.  And Jordan, your second-closest ally -

HAYES:  Yes, this would be like 50 million refugees showing up in the U.S.  50 million.

MILIBAND:  Yes.  I mean, Jordan in percentage.

HAYES:  Right.  Yes.

MILIBAND:  Jordan is the second-closest ally of the U.S. in the middle east.  It`s got 650,000 registered refugees.  It`s got 650,000 government as unregistered refugees and a population of 7.3 million.  I mean, that is - it`s like the whole of the UK coming to America in the space of five years and so the great bulk of the load is being born by the Kenyas of this world, the Ethiopias, the Ugandas, the Jordans and Lebanons of this world, not the European countries or the U.S.

HAYES:  You`re a foreign minister.  Did you ever think you would see the day when the UK pulled out of the EU and the United States had elected a man basically on the promise to essentially do away with the entire set of institutions that side into it had international realm?

MILIBAND:  No.  It`s actually worse than that.  I was involved in the Lisbon treaty which drafted the arrangements for countries to leave the European Union.  Never in my wildest resolve - this was a big demand that the EU - it shouldn`t be a one-way street. 

HAYES:  Yes.

MILIBAND:  Never in my wildest dreams did imagine the UK would be taking advantage of the exit door and the feeling that I have is that this is this is going to be a very long-running saga for the UK which I obviously I`m very fearful of.

HAYES:  All right.  David Miliband, great pleasure to have you here.

  MILIBAND:  Thanks a lot.  Very much.

HAYES:  Up next, is the grass-roots resistance to Donald Trump about to stop Betsy Devos from becoming Education Secretary.  Things are on a knife edge.  Next, Senator Sheldon White House on a daily protests swarming offices and streets around the country.


HAYES:  President Donald Trump`s nominee for Education Secretary is now perilously close to defeat in her confirmation battle.  Betsy Devos can be assured of two no votes from republican senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine.  Senator Murkowski sited thousands of constituents she have heard from recent days.  These two GOP defections means that with a united front from democratic senators, the republican 52 percent majority in the senate cannot afford to lose another vote.  The kind of public pressure being brought to bear is not limited to republicans.  When Senator Sheldon Whitehouse democratic realignment recently held a town hall meeting, more than a thousand protesters showed up outside and the senator addressed why he voted for Mike Pompeo who is now confirmed as President Trump`s CIA director.


CROWD (chanting):  Obstruct! Obstruct! Obstruct!


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No appeasement.

WHITEHOUSE:  I believe that it was in our national security interest to get people who are not Trump people.


HAYES:  Joining me now, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.  And I want to talk about Gorsuch and nominees but first I want to ask you about that moment.  Because have you ever had that experience?  Have you ever had thousands of constituents showing up asking about a single vote?

WHITEHOUSE:  It was a little bit like the tea party rallies the summer of the affordable care act.  This was a bigger crowd.  It brought together - it wasn`t about a single vote.  This very crowd that have gathered in reaction to the refugee ban and it was a lot of people who I knew, it`s a lot people who I worked with for years, it`s a lot of people who care about progressive causes and they had - a lot of them had gone to the women`s march.  And I was actually thrilled that a group could gather so quickly just after the women`s march had happened to show that you know, this is not a flash in the pan.  We are not going away.  And Rhode islanders are boisterous, we don`t hesitate to raise our voices, we gesture with our hands.  We are - that was totally fine and part of our civic conversation so it was great.

HAYES:  So there`s a message being sent that I`m seeing everywhere.  It`s almost unanimous and it`s across interestingly the ideological spectrum.  This is from the sort of - well let`s call the base of the democratic party across the very sort of lefty folks to sort of more centristy folks and their ideology which is no democratic votes for Gorsuch.  I don`t care - I`m channeling what they`re saying.  I don`t care what his qualifications are, who he is, perfectly nice guy, great jurist, doesn`t matter, the seat is illegitimately open ergo there should be no democratic vote.  What do you think of that?

WHITEHOUSE:  Well I think there`s a lot of justifiable frustration that President Obama who people had a lot of respect and affection for was denied the prerogative of the Presidency for months and months and months by just rank unprecedented republican obstruction and I understand that very, very well.  I think the issue with Gorsuch is going to be the fact that he will be a swing vote to deliver a five-person majority back to the republicans in the Supreme Court and the last time they had a five-person republican majority, they abused it. 

They used it to just make a barrage, five to four decisions that were all directed like a compass towards true north, towards corporate special interests republican election advantage and right wing social policy.  And it became predictable.  And if the court is going to be the Supreme Court of the United States, it has to stop behaving that way.  Judicial conservatives are a very different thing than politically conservative activists.  And if Mr. Gorsuch is going to be a judicial conservative, that`s one thing.  But if he`s going to go back to being the fifth vote in a group of five politically conservative activists who were seeking to jam special interest benefits and conservative social policy down America`s throats, we`re going to have a real problem with that.  And I think a lot of our caucus will come together on that problem irrespective of the support that we`re feeling from the outside.

HAYES:  So what I`m hearing from you - I just want to be clear on this.  You are - you have made - not - you have not made a decision in advance.  I mean, the thing that happened with Merrick Garland, of course, the republicans just said we`re not even going to touch the merits of Merrick Garland, right?  Their premise was I don`t want to talk about what kind of justice he`s going to be, I don`t care.  We`re blocking him as a group.  What I`m hearing from you is, you are going to consider - you are not doing that.  Essentially you are going to consider and come to a conclusion.

WHITEHOUSE:  Well, bear in mind that the republicans did that in the majority in the senate when they control what comes up and what does not come up.  Chuck Schumer does not control that.  There is no way we can prevent hearings from taking place on Mr. Gorsuch.  What we can do is focus on making sure that he does not rebuild the five-man activist block on the Supreme Court that brought us decisions as disgraceful as citizens united.  And I think there, we have very strong support not just from our base but from 80 percent of Americans who loathe the citizens united decision and very strong support within the caucus that this should be a court again and not a rampaging group of five rather belligerent conservative policy activists who throw President aside, who throw originalism aside, who throw all these judicially conservative doctrines aside as long as it gets them to those three goals.  The corporate special interests, the republican election advantage and the right wing social policy.

HAYES:  All right.  Senator Sheldon Whitehouse with some of that judiciary committee, thank you for your time, appreciate it sir.

WHITEHOUSE:  Thank you.

HAYES:  Coming up, the Trump administration announced today they are putting Iran quote "on notice."  What that means next.


MICHAEL FLYNN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER:  President Trump has severely criticized the various agreements reached between Iran and the Obama administration as well as the United Nations as being weak and ineffective.  Instead of being thankful to the United States in these agreements, Iran is now feeling emboldened.  As of today, we are officially putting Iran on notice.  Thank you.

HAYES:  Donald Trump`s National Security Advisor Michael Flynn made an appearance on the White House briefing room today to announce that the White House is, and I quote here "putting Iran on notice" due to a recent ballistic missile test as well as an attack on a Saudi worship perpetrated by Houthi militants who are allied with Iranian government.  Now Flynn who recently deleted his inflammatory twitter account did not explain what "putting Iran on notice" meant.  On a follow-up briefing, National Security council officials said Flynn`s words were designed to get Iran`s attention, they did not rule out military action.  The Trump administration has in fact already taken military action taken elsewhere in the world.  Though astonished something little has a main event.  On Sunday, a navy seal and an American girl were killed in a U.S. military raid in Yemen, a raid where one official said quote "almost everything went wrong."

We`ll talk about that raid, which resulted in the death of Navy SEAL Ryan Owens and eight-year-old Nawar al-Awlaki (ph) next.



SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  With respect to Yemen, I think it`s hard to ever say something was successful when you lose a life.


HAYES:  President Trump today traveled to Dover Air Force Base for the return of the remains of Navy SEAL Ryan Owens killed Sunday in the first military raid carried out under the new president.  NC News Pentagon Correspondent Hans Nichols brings us the story.


HANS NICHOLS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  NBC has learned from a senior military official that the pre-dawn raid in south central Yemen went wrong almost from the beginning leaving a Navy SEAL dead.

The target?  Not high-value terrorists, but hard drives loaded with al Qaeda documents and potential terrorist plots. The operation months in preparation, but the squad from SEAL Team 6 unexpectedly encountered small arms fire.  Four SEALs were wounded, one fatally.

Chief Petty Officer William Ryan Owens, a father of three from Peoria, Illinois.  An MV-22 Osprey involved in the mission made a hard landing.  Three more U.S. troops were injured, the Osprey abandoned and then destroyed.

Pentagon officials put the number of dead militants at 14, despite conflicting local reports on the numbers of non-combatants that were killed.  Among those reported dead, 8-year-old Nawar al-Awlaki, the daughter of Anwar al-Awlaki, the influential New Mexico-born al Qaeda leader who himself was killed in a U.S. strike five years ago.

Her grandfather telling NBC News that he identified his granddaughter`s body in a photo taken from the scene.


HAYES:  Joining me now, the National Security Council spokesperson under President Obama -- and I should say CENTCOM has now said that there were, it appears, noncombatant which lines up with local reports that perhaps women and children were in that raid.

How does -- what is the decision-making process like to do a raid like this?

TOMMY VIETOR, FRM. SPOKESPERSON CENTCOM:  You know, there`s probably a series of meetings in the situation room with your homeland security adviser, your counter-terrorism team, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff.  I mean, you have to weigh the risk of these things, Chris.  And, you know, if you`re running an operation like this deep into Yemeni territory and to an al Qaeda filled village, there`s a considerable risk to our special operators.

If you remember, the bin Laden operation, I mean, if not for the incredible ability a crashing helicopter, that could have gone very badly.

HAYES:  There is a sense in which the one of the sort of things that this president had done that  he`s passing over is the expansion of these kind of targeted raids or strikes through JSOC, right.  Targeting individuals, targeting individual compounds, in this case the target wasn`t a person it was hard drives.

Do you stay up at night having been part of the expansion of that power thinking about how it will be wielded by the new president?

VIETOR:  You know, look, Chris, I stay up at night thinking about what Trump may do in a lot of different areas.  I think the difference here is that President Obama put considerable thought and time and attention into figuring out every way possible to reduce civilian casualties.  And it doesn`t sound like whether the intentions were good -- the best of intentions here, the outcome didn`t allow for that.  And any time an 8- year-old is killed, it is an absolute tragedy.  It does not matter who her father was, it should never happen.  So, I think this should be investigated.

I think that...

HAYES:  Tommy, I should note that under President Obama, her brother, who was an American citizen, was also killed.

VIETOR:  I was the White House at the time, Chris, and that`s -- that is something I think about because he was a child and I don`t think any 16- year-old should be a combatant in a war.

HAYES:  Let me ask you this, the Iran put on notice from General Flynn today.  CENTCOM then later says that they don`t have any information that they`re putting our forces on different posture. There`s reports that General Mattis lowered down the sort of rhetoric of that.

At someone who was at the nexus of the decision making process in the last administration, what do you make of that?

VIETOR:  It seems like a lot of bluster.  I mean, it`s very easy to trot out the National Security Adviser and issue an edict like that and tell Iran they`re on notice.  But what are you going to do if they create hostile actions in the Persian Gulf or do something that forces a response?  I mean, they really need to think through these things.

I don`t think bluster and talk like that is helpful, especially in the midst of this Muslim ban where you`ve alienated the entire Middle East.  It seems like, you know, there`s a lot going on here that`s going to exacerbate tensions in the region, and not fix it.

HAYES:  All right, Tommy Vietor, thanks for your time tonight.  Appreciate it.

VIETOR:  Thanks.

HAYES:  Still to come, should Democrats follow the Republican strategy and unilaterally oppose President Trump`s Supreme Court pick?  I`ll talk Republican Senator Ben Sasse about that ahead.

Plus, a history lesson from the president.  That`s tonight`s Thing One, Thing Two starting right after this break.


HAYES:  Thing One tonight, President Donald Trump held what was billed as a listening session at the White House this morning to kick off black history month.  And there were a few odd things about it.  For one, every person who President Trump brought in to ostensibly listen to was either a Trump surrogate or a current member of the Trump administration or worked for Trump during his campaign or transition.

But perhaps the strangest thing was what Trump said during this listening session.


TRUMP:  I`m very proud now that we have a museum on the national mall where people can learn about Reverend King, so many other things.  Frederick Douglassis an example of somebody who`s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more I notice.


HAYES:  If you had trouble following exactly what the president was saying about Frederick Douglass, don`t worry, Press Secretary Sean Spicer cleared it all up later in the afternoon.  That`s Thing Two in 60 seconds.



TRUMP:  Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who`s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more I notice.


HAYES:  That remark left a lot of people wondering what President Trump meant by saying Frederick Douglass, one of the most important and consequential African-American leaders in U.S. history is now, quote, "being recognized more and more."

That question was posed to White House is press secretary Sean Spicer this afternoon.


REPORTER:  Today he made the comment about Frederick Douglass being recognized more  and more.  Do you have any idea what specifically he was referring to?

SPICER:  Well, I think there`s contribution -- I think he wantsto highlight the contributions that he has made and I think through a lot of the actions and -- and statements he`s going to make I think the contributions that Frederick Douglass will become more and more.


HAYES:  In case you didn`t fully catch it on Spicer`s explanation, let me just read the actual verbat, "well, I think there`s contribution -- I think he wants to highlight the contributions that he has made and I think through a lot of the actions and statements that he`s going to make I think the contributions of Frederick Douglass will become more and more."

Will become more and more. OK.


HAYES:  This morning, Senate Republicans on the finance committee suspended the rules and approved Donald Trump`s nominees for Secretary of Treasury and Secretary of Health and Human Services without a single Democrat even present.

Democrats, you see, were boycotting the hearings on Steve Mnuchin and Tom Price asking for more information on both men after reports that Price misrepresented to the committee the offer he received to buy discounted stock in a biomedical firm and reports that Mnuchin misrepresented to the same committee his former company`s use of so-called robosigning on home foreclosures.

But in a surprise move this morning, Republicans sent Price and Mnuchin to the full senate without a singling Democrat voting.  Such a bypass of senate rules and procedures is significant and perhaps offers a glimpse of what to expect with President Trump`s Supreme Court nominee.

I`ll ask Republican Senator Ben Sasse about that after this quick break.



TRUMP:  Yes.  If we end up with the same gridlock that they`ve had in Washington for the last -- longer than eight years, in all fairness to President Obama, a lot longer than eight years, but if we end up with that gridlock I would say if you can, Mitch, go nuclear.


HAYES:  Joining me now is Senator Ben Sasse, a Republican from Nebraska.  And senator, I saw you last night at the event announcing Judge Gorsuch for the position.  And I want to start  with this question, which is a question that a lot of Democrats are asking, and I want to get your response, which is basically why should Democrats do anything to confirm this individual given how Merrick Garland was treated?

SEN. BEN SASSE, (R) NEBRASKA:  Well, I mean I think you could have infinite theoretical debates about the Biden rule and the Schumer rule and the so-called first term year rule and the eighth year, last year of a lame duck second term presidency rule.  I don`t know about all that.

Here`s what I know.  There`s a vacancy on the Supreme Court and this is a guy who is the kind of judge that every American should be applauding regardless of who you supported for president, regardless of your policy preferences.  He`s the kind of person who should be a judge because he knows what a judge is.

HAYES:  But let me just say this, again, like I know you don`t want to look to the past, but the last clause you just said "this is someone who everyone should be supporting because he knows what a judge is," those identical statements could have been said about Merrick Garland, in fact, were said, in fact, were said by Judge Gorsuch at one point who decried the terrible treatment he was getting when he was in the appellate nomination process.

But that didn`t matter at all for Merrick Garland who enjoyed a similarly sterling reputation.

SASSE:  Well, here`s what I know.  I hear what you`re saying, Chris, but I also know that  Washington is filled with people who literally talk like we`re in a Middle Eastern blood feud and there`s always somebody who before did something before did something before did something before and it`s turtles all the way down, but fundamentally this is the kind of guy who should be on the court.  The president just ran for office.  He had his list of 21.  It was pretty darn transparent.  Obviously the president and I have had differences on a lot of issues.  But he had his list of 21.  And now he`s nominated somebody off that list of 21 and I`ve been reading the guy`s -- Judge Gorsuch`s opinions over  the course of the last three weeks and frankly I can`t find his policy views on anything.

When I`m reading these opinions, I assume late at night when he takes off his robe, when he gets back home in front of ESPN or MSNBC or whatever he watches when he unwinds, when he takes off his robe, I`m sure he has policy preferences and personal views, but I don`t know what they are, and frankly I don`t care because that`s not a judge`s job.

He`s the kind of guy we all ought to be applauding.

HAYES:  Right.  So, let`s say stipulating -- I think the blood feud idea is -- there`s something sort of profound in that, right?  Because there is a kind of race to the institutional bottom where we`re watching happen and part of it is because politics is a sort -- it`s a game played back and forth, right, so you guys are going up against each other and you adapt based on what the other side does over and  over.

If it is the case the lesson from that game for Democrats is we`re not giving a vote here should Mitch McConnell go ahead and exercise the nuclear option and get rid of the filibuster?

SASSE:  So, before we talk about the last part, let`s unpack really the important stuff you said in the first part which is honestly I`m not playing any kind of a game.  I know there are a bunch of people here who do view this as a game, but to be real frank I`d much rather live in Nebraska -- I do live in Nebraska, but I`d rather be in Nebraska than in Washington, D.C.

HAYES;  Careful there, senator.  Fine senators have gone down to the ash heap of history for not living in their home state, but continue.

SASSE:  I want to be clear, I live in Nebraska.  I have got three little kids and I commute every week with which ever kid my wife is sick of they become my date for the week.  She banishes somebody from the home, and they come with me Monday to Friday.  And I don`t think Washington is the center of the world and frankly I don`t think any healthy person should think that Capitol Hill is the center of the world.

And so this isn`t a game to me, I`m worried about passing on an experiment in ordered liberty and self-governance to the next generation.

And I hear what you`re saying that for a lot of people it`s an iterative game of there was this chess move in that year and there was this chess move and now we know how to bloody up a pawn or  a bishop.  I don`t care about any of that.

I care about the fact that we have a crisis of public trust.  We have a crisis of civic catechesis (ph) and we have three branches of government.  We don`t have one, we don`t have four, we don`t have 73.  We have a legislature, an executive and a judiciary, and right now year over year -- let`s say presidential term over presidential term for 80 years maybe Washington has seen a consolidation of power and policy making in the executive branch.  And we should see a recovery of legislative policy  making, because we`re the people the voters can hire and fire.

The executive branch`s job should be to execute the laws safely passed and the judiciary has another job, not a super legislative one.

HAYES:  So, let me segue to that because I think that`s a really profound and interesting point.  We have seen the succession of executive orders from the president of the United States, that is part of the kind of executive prerogative and some of them seem squarely within the Article II powers of the executive, some of them seem outside of that.

You were critical of the immigration executive order.  Are you concerned that we are seeing the executive in the early days of the Trump administration reach out past what its constitutional power is?

SASSE:  It`s a great and fair question, but I want to answer it in the broader scope, so I don`t want to start with the 12 days, and I won`t be history nerd for long I promise.  But we here in the middle of 100 year consolidation of executive branch power.  Republican Teddy Roosevelt, Democrat Woodrow Wilson, both had a theory that the executive branch should have more power and the  legislature is responsive to the people and people are too stupid and voters can`t understand so we should haven`t big debates in front of the voters because legislators are always going to be people who can`t possibly understand what experts in the executive branch should and could.

And so we`ve seen consolidation, consolidation, consolidation.  Republicans always want to say, well, look, Obama did it worse than before.  Democrats have been saying for a long time George W. Bush did it worse than before.  The reality is there has been a successive consolidation of power for a really long time.

I think that a moment like this should be a time that frankly if Democrats wanted to go and read a lot of Gorsuch`s opinions, I think a lot would say, wow, Donald Trump nominated a guy who believes in a third branch of government that should check the other two, including the second branch?

People who are concerned about Donald Trump and any president who might have concerns about any voter and any sort of thoughtful citizen who might have concerns about the consolidation of power and the executive branch should like a guy like Gorsuch who believes his job is to defend and uphold the constitution of limited government.

HAYES:  So, let me just -- so here`s the final thought on that, right.  And I think that the big task, right, for Gorsuch from this sort of rule of law perspective is precisely this question of can he be the kind of institutional and constitutional check on the executive?  But part of what we`ve seen is as we talk about that trajectory, the history, a huge part of playing the role is that partisan alignments have sort of supervened over these institutional ones.

So, it`s -- there`s fidelity to your party over fidelity to the legislative branch.  And to bring it back to Garland, I think a lot of people felt like that`s what happened with Garland.  Ultimately, that was our team says we`re not giving this guy a vote so that we can preserve it for our party as opposed to we will play the constitutionally prescribed role of advising and consenting.

SASSE:  Well, the legislature didn`t consent.  So you`re right that there was a decision not to consent, but your broader point is surely true which is the founders envisioned a world where when  you serve in the legislature you don`t have partisan lenses as the first thing you think about, you should think about jealously guarding your prerogatives of your branch.  I think I`m the third most conservative guy in the Senate by voting record, but I`m not very partisan.

When I think about the parts of my identity that matter as a dad a and father and a Husker football fan, and serving as a legislator for a time, I don`t start with party loyalty anywhere in that top eight or ten, and it would be great if the Senate were again the greatest deliberative body in the world.

It`s a fanciful excuse that we claim to be right now.  And if you look at CSPAN 2 most of the time, there`s one person in there talking to nobody except their own base through a television camera with talking points.  It`s a shame.  Se should do better than that.

And one of the ways you can do that, frankly, is by using this moment to reaffirm civics for  our kids about what the job of a judge is.  In fact, not just my kids but Beyonce`s twins as well.  There`s all sorts of news in pop culture today.  Everybody ought to be teaching their kids about what the constitutional system is about.

HAYES:  That`s a great time trajectory, does Judge Gorsuch get a vote before the due date?  Senator Ben Sasse, Nebraska, thanks for joining us.  I appreciate your time.

SASSE:  Thanks, Chris.

HAYES:  That is All In for this evening.  The Rachel Maddow Show starts right now.  Good evening, Rachel.