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The plot to stop Mueller Transcript 12/15/17 All In with Chris Hayes

Guests: Ted Lieu, Richard Blumenthal, Nick Ackerman, Ben Howe, Michelle Goldberg

Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: December 15, 2017 Guest: Ted Lieu, Richard Blumenthal, Nick Ackerman, Ben Howe, Michelle Goldberg



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will you consider a pardon for Michael Flynn?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don`t want to talk about pardons for Michael Flynn yet. We`ll see what happens.

HAYES: The President dangles a pardon and takes aim at the FBI.

TRUMP: We`re going to rebuild the FBI. It`s a shame what`s happened with the FBI.

HAYES: Tonight, President Trump and the plot to stop Mueller. Then --

TRUMP: He said very nice things about what I`ve done for the country in terms of the economy.

HAYES: Malcolm Nance on the shared talking points of Trump and Putin.

TRUMP: No puppet.


TRUMP: You`re the puppet.

HAYES: Plus quality control.

SEN. JOHN NEELY KENNEDY (R), LOUISIANA: Have you ever tried a jury trial?




KENNEDY: Criminal?


HAYES: Another Trump Judicial Nominee humiliated on the Hill.

KENNEDY: Can you tell me what the Daubert standard is?

PETERSEN: I don`t have that readily at my disposal.

HAYES: When ALL IN starts right now.


HAYES: Good evening from New York, I`m Chris Hayes. The plot to stop the investigations into Russia and the President is entering a new and dangerous phase and it risks throwing the country into a constitutional crisis. This morning, the President of the United States left open the possibility of a pardon for his former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn who pleaded guilty to a felony for lying to the FBI about conversations with the Russian Ambassador. Flynn is now, of course, a cooperating witness in Special Counsel Robert Mueller`s criminal probe.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: About Michael -- about Michael Flynn, would you consider a pardon for Michael Flynn?

TRUMP: I don`t want to talk about pardons for Michael Flynn yet. We`ll see what happens. Let`s see.


HAYES: We`ll see what happens. Let`s see. The President who is on his way to speak at Quantico, the training academy, recited a garbled version of the claims being made by his allies that the FBI and Justice Department are corrupt and conspiring against him.


TRUMP: Well, it`s a shame what`s happened with the FBI. But we`re going to rebuild the FBI. It will be bigger and better than ever. But it is very sad when you look at those documents and how they`ve done that is really, really disgraceful. And you have a lot of very angry people that are seeing it. They`ve found tremendous things on the other side. When you look at the Hillary Clinton investigation, it was --you know, I`ve been saying it for a long time. That was a rigged system, folks.


HAYES: All right. In isolation, it`s actually hard to figure out what he`s even saying but it`s not hard to figure out where the President picked up those talking points that he was fumbling around with. Those talking points have been airing around the clock on Trump T.V. He`s also hearing them directly from people like Congressman Matt Gaetz, a Republican on the House Judiciary Committee who took a ride with the President on Air Force One last week. Gaetz confirmed to Politico he personally warned Trump that Mueller`s investigation is, "infected with bias against the President." Today, Gaetz urged his colleagues to help shut the investigation down.


REP. MATT GAETZ (R), FLORIDA: The Congress has an obligation to expose this bias, to expose what I believe is a corrupt investigation. And I call on my Republican colleagues to join me in calling for the firing of Bob Mueller. And look, it`s time for Mueller to put up or shut up. If there is evidence of collusion with Russia, let`s see it.


HAYES: Like the Congressman, the President seems to believe erroneously that neither the Mueller investigation or any of the active Congressional probes have turned up a shred of incriminating evidence.


TRUMP: Let`s put it this way. There is absolutely no collusion. That has been proven. When you look at the committees, whether it`s the Senate or the House, everybody -- my worst enemies, they walk out, they say, there is no collusion but we`ll continue to look. There is absolutely no collusion. I didn`t make a phone call to Russia. I have nothing to do with Russia. Everybody knows it.


HAYES: Absolutely no collusion and everybody knows it. In fact, that latter contention is the opposite of the truth. According to an Associated Press poll just out today, the vast majority of Americans, 72 percent, believe the President has done something illegal or unethical with regard to his ties to Russia. Despite all the evidence, the Trump campaign was eager to get Russian help, despite the charges brought against four Trump associates including his Campaign Chairman and his National Security Adviser, despite the numerous leads that have still have yet to be followed, Republicans in Congress may be ready to shut down their part of the investigation. According to Congressman Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, his GOP colleagues already appear to be wrapping things up and Schiff is concerned about what comes next.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: They`re refusing to schedule any of the witnesses to come in in January and there are literally dozens of witnesses that need to come before our committee who may never come before the committee if they shut this down. So I think they are on the verge potentially of reneging on the commitment they made to the public to following the facts where they lead because these witnesses are unquestionably relevant and important to the Russia investigation and they`re signaling we may never hear from them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you worry that they`re trying to shut down the investigation by year`s end to lay the foundation for Donald Trump to fire Bob Mueller?

SCHIFF: That`s exactly what I`m worried about.


HAYES: Joining me now is Congressman Ted Lieu, a Member of the House Judiciary Committee and Foreign Affairs Committee. And Congressman, it`s good to have you. I want to play something that your colleague Trey Gowdy, House Republican had to say that really, really caught my eye and I want to get your reaction to it. Take a listen.


REP. TREY GOWDY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: We were supposed to interview Andy McCabe yesterday on another committee. It was all set up and ready to go and then at the last minute they said, he can`t come Tuesday, he`s going to come next week. I`ll be shocked if he comes next week. I`ll be a little bit surprised if he`s still an employee of the FBI at this time next week.


HAYES: I`ll be a little bit surprised if he`s still an employee at the FBI this time next week. That`s the number two, if I`m not mistaken that the FBI is a career civil servant. What is Trey Gowdy talking about?

REP. TED LIEU (D-CA), HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I don`t know. And I see these attacks on the FBI are deeply disturbing. The only reason that Republicans are attacking the FBI is because they`re getting desperate that Special Counsel Muller`s investigation is getting closer to the very top of our federal government in terms of criminal activity or possible collusion.

HAYES: When Matt Gaetz or another one of your colleagues says he`s calling on Mueller to be fired. He wants his Republican allies to join him. Is that posturing or do you take him and the threat of this seriously?

LIEU: I take it seriously. But keep in mind, the lesson of Watergate is that no one is above the law. And FBI Director Christopher Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein came to the Judiciary Committee and testified under oath and stated no one is above the law. So if the President tries to fire Mueller because he`s getting close to him, that would be obstruction of justice, it would be an impeachable offense.

HAYES: But the question is who`s going to stop him?

LIEU: Well, keep in mind, the President can actually fire Robert Mueller. He would have to get Rod Rosenstein to fire Mueller. If he doesn`t, then he would have to fire him. It would be just like a Saturday Night Massacre that Richard Nixon engage in. The American public would stop him. People would go out in the streets and say this is not acceptable.

HAYES: It`s interesting that you say that because I saw this -- Walter Shaub, who was Head of the Office of Ethics for a while until he resigned, said this. This weekend I`m stocking up on portable phone charges, warm clothes, and gear needed for when we take the streets. I`m concerned the assault on the rule of law is coming over the holidays when we`re distracted. It will be a defining moment for the republic. Do you share that kind of concern, that we`re heading for is some kind of genuine constitutional crisis that would require some kind of mass civic response?

LIEU: I think it`s a possibility. The reason I think it won`t happen is because Trump`s advisers understand that even if Mueller is removed, it doesn`t stop the investigation. The investigation keeps on going. If FBI agents have identified criminal activity for example on Jared Kushner, that keeps on going. Prosecutors are going to prosecute, FBI agents are going to keep on investigating. You can`t stop that.

HAYES: Do you trust Rosenstein and do you trust Sessions to conduct themselves with independence and fairness in good faith as regards to everything that`s happening with the Mueller investigation?

LIEU: I trust Rod Rosenstein. I cannot trust Jeff Sessions because he`s lied under oath to Congress multiple times. But I do believe Rod Rosenstein will do the right thing. And he is the only one right now that can remove Robert Mueller. He`s testified before Congress under oath that there is no good cause to remove Robert Mueller and that every action he took had a legal and factual basis.

HAYES: I want to play what he had to say before your committee in terms of the fact that there is no cause to fire Mueller. He was fairly strong about that. Take a listen.


REP. JERROLD NADLER (D), NEW YORK: Have you seen good cause to fire Special Counsel Mueller?


NADLER: Thank you. If you were ordered today to fire Mr. Mueller, what would you do?

ROSENSTEIN: As I`ve explained previously, I would follow the regulation. If there were good cause, I would act. If there were no good cause, I would not.

NADLER: And you`ve seen no good cause so far.


NADLER: Thank you.


HAYES: Do you -- what do you say to those who are sitting across from you in that hearing room who say this entire operation is infected with bias?

LIEU: They should look at the actions of Robert Mueller. He has secured two guilty pleas. No one disputes the legitimacy of those guilty pleas. He`s put two indictments out on Paul Manafort and Mr. Gates. No one disputes that those indictments don`t have a rock-solid legal and factual basis. And there is nothing they can point to that Robert Mueller has done that is wrong. They have pointed, however, that some members of his team donated to Democratic candidates. Well, that`s correct. The FBI Director, Christopher Wray, was also part of the team, gave over $39,000 exclusively to Republican candidates. But I still trust the FBI Director. It`s demeaning and offensive to think you can`t do your job just because you donated to political candidates.

HAYES: All right, Congressman Ted Lieu, thank you.

LIEU: Thank you.

HAYES: Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut has been one of the most outspoken voices on the need to protect Robert Mueller investigation. He joins me now. Do you share the feeling that many I think have that over the last week there has been an intensification of the rhetoric coming particularly from Trump T.V. and from his allies in Congress around shutting down this investigation? Does it feel that way to you?

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: There is clearly a feeling that the rhetoric has intensified, at least among some of the Trump supporters and the targets of this investigation, like Donald Trump himself. And there is increasingly a need to protect the investigation. My hope is that my Republican colleagues will speak out and stand up. Now is the time for that kind of courage in the public interest.

HAYES: Let me just say, there is not a lot of that going around. Back during the summer, when Mueller was first named, which was back in the spring, there was widespread by partisan support, Newt Gingrich said he was a great choice even though Newt Gingrich is now talking about how corrupt and inept he is. And then during the summer when the President appeared to be threatening to fire Sessions, there were Republicans like Lindsey Graham and others saying he cannot move against Mueller, if he does we will stop him. I have not heard those kinds of reassurances publicly from Republicans recently. Have you?

BLUMENTHAL: Senator Grassley said this week that he believes that Robert Mueller is a person of integrity and professionalism but you`re absolutely right, Chris, there have been few voices explicitly supporting the Special Counsel, and pointing out that there is no evidence, not a scintilla, that political bias of any kind has infected or affected the Special Counsel`s investigation. There is no evidence that any FBI agent`s political views have impacted this investigation. And so you point out absolutely correctly that the rhetoric has intensified but there is no evidence to support it.

HAYES: So one of the key elements here is the obstruction case or the possibility of the President committing obstruction of justice when he fired James Comey, when he asked him to go easy on Michael Flynn. There was a really interesting exchange this morning with the President on a key factual matter the White House has yet to answer, which is when the President himself found out that Michael Flynn had lied to the FBI. I want you to take a listen to this exchange.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President will you --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When did you find out that Michael Flynn lied to the FBI? When did you found out?

TRUMP: What else is there? You know the answer. How many times has that question been asked? Yes, go ahead.


HAYES: We don`t know the answer. Do you know the answer?

BLUMENTHAL: Well, he has said in a tweet that he knew that Flynn had lied to the FBI when he fired Flynn, which means he also knew when he asked Comey to pledge his loyalty, when he asked Comey to go lightly on Flynn and his investigation, and when he fired Jim Comey as Director of the FBI, because Comey would not drop that investigation. I think there is a credible case of obstruction of justice against Donald Trump. And that`s one of the reasons why this rhetoric about the Special Counsel, impugning the FBI, which is really reprehensible for the President of the United States. These dedicated men and women come to work every day and they park their political views at the door. I know from having been a United States Attorney for 4 1/2 years, and the Attorney General of the State of Connecticut, that these professionals work hard to be objective, fair, and aggressive in pursuing crime.

HAYES: If the President did indeed know that at the time, I mean, the tweets seem to imply it. I don`t know if they`ve come out and admitted that he knew that Michael Flynn had lied to the FBI when he fired him. But if he did, then he knew that he had lied to the FBI when he told James Comey to go easy on him and when he fired James Comey. Isn`t that more than a credible case for obstruction? Isn`t that the case? Isn`t that just right there in front of everyone?

BLUMENTHAL: It`s a credible case from what we know publicly. There is probably, even more, evidence, indeed mounting evidence that is known only to the Special Counsel and his team. And I think that the case is building piece by piece. It will form a mosaic at some point that has increasing power. And I think that to speculate at this point, I`m not prepared to do but I think the Special Counsel is pursuing it methodically.

HAYES: Let me ask you this. Are you confident that the White House will not do something constitutionally reckless in the face of more indictments returned or Robert Mueller getting closer to the President`s own guilt?

BLUMENTHAL: The Special Counsel clearly is coming closer to the Oval Office. I am not at all confident, unfortunately, that the President will avoid impulsive and rash action that would precipitate a constitutional crisis. That`s why I am pushing legislation. It`s bipartisan that would protect the Special Counsel against such firing, as well as against political interference. I think the more the President raises --

HAYES: But Senator, if your colleagues were serious about that, then they would have voted on it already. I just -- I guess I don`t -- you seem to have more trust that the sort of checks are in place than me standing here from outside this sort of black box, looking into it does. And I guess I`m asking you, if you have private reasons to believe that your colleagues will be there in that moment if needed.

BLUMENTHAL: I am not trusting and I am not confident. I am pushing legislation and advocating for it. And I`m hopeful that my colleagues, Republicans as well as Democrats, will be convinced that the need is now. I agree with you.

HAYES: All right, Senator Richard Blumenthal, thank you.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.

HAYES: Still to come, the tax bill jam job. Is there still a chance, any chance it`s going to go down in defeat? It just got slimmer today. And next, Russian President Vladimir Putin`s remarkable and curious praise of President Trump in two minutes.



TRUMP: From everything I see, has no respect for this person.

CLINTON: Well, that`s because he would rather have a puppet as President of United States.

TRUMP: No puppet. No puppet.

CLINTON: It`s pretty clear --

TRUMP: You`re the puppet.


HAYES: This week has brought the remarkable spectacle of the President of the United States and the President of Russia literally spouting nearly identical talking points. First, on the U.S. economy.


TRUMP: And our economy, as you know, has surged from where it is when I took it over.

The stock market is soaring to new record levels, 85, not including today. Hopefully, we`ll set another one today.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT, RUSSIA (through translator): Objectively, we see some serious achievements accomplished even the -- during the short span he is president. Look at the markets, how they`ve grown.


HAYES: Trump and Putin spoke by phone yesterday and you`ll never guess what they talked about.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How was your call with Vladimir Putin?

TRUMP: It was great. He said very nice things about what I`ve done for this country in terms of the economy. He said also some negative things in terms of what`s going on elsewhere.


HAYES: Trump and Putin also struck a strikingly similar note on the topic of alleged collusion.


TRUMP: I have nothing to do with Russia. Everybody knows it. That was a Democrat hoax, it was an excuse for losing the election.

PUTIN (through translator): You know, all of this has been invented, made up by people who are in opposition to President Trump.


HAYES: And these uncanny echoes all come amidst a Washington Post report that Trump continues to reject the evidence that Russia interfered to boost I`m in the election despite being given an extraordinary CIA stream of intelligence that had captured Putin`s specific instructions on the operation. Trump scoffed at the suggestion that his candidacy had been propelled by forces other than his own strategy message and charisma. With me now to talk about the nature of the Trump-Putin relationship, MSNBC Terrorism Analyst Malcolm Nance, author of The Plot To Hack America. Let`s start on that last -- that last nugget from that Washington Post story which I`ve been wanting to ask you about because it was so striking at just an intelligence level, that the U.S. intelligence apparatus appears to have intelligence of Putin giving direct instructions over this operation. What`s your reaction to that?

MALCOLM NANCE, MSNBC TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, that`s a significant piece of information, if it`s true. It`s quite possible that it is true, because you don`t actually have to go and expend resources to be at the tippy top of collection inside Putin`s office. Sometimes you can downstream information that`s given to subordinates or deputy subordinates and somewhere along the line someone gets sloppy with their communications and we get a copy of their action message that authorizes this operation to go ahead. You have to remember, this entire Russian investigation started as a counterintelligence operation. We had information indicating that Russian intelligence was carrying out this operation and was doing it with the assistance of American citizens.

HAYES: What do you make of the sort of echoes between Trump and Putin`s rhetoric on both the economy, which I want to get to in a second because I think it`s a deft maneuver by Putin to ingratiate himself but also the way they both talk about the sort of investigation in the same terms.

NANCE: Well, you know, I really don`t know who is leading who when I hear this two talk and of course there`s of suspicion, there`s some evidence that it`s Vladimir Putin. He knows how to play Trump. From as early as December of 2015, when Trump was still in the field with 15 other candidates, Vladimir Putin came out and gave him somewhat of a tacit endorsement, saying that, you know, Donald Trump was a colorful and brilliant character and Trump really responds to that. Now what we have here is we have Putin in no uncertain terms putting words into Trump`s mouth, and then waiting for Trump to respond in a way that he already knows. The Chinese are also doing this as well, you know. Trump responds to flattery.

HAYES: Yes, it`s amazing how much the Chinese have also been playing from the same playbook. They say very -- you know, lavishly praise the President. The President loves them, he sort of praises them back in this kind of endless loop. What are the -- what are the concrete, tangible impacts of having a President who just refuses to abide the basic core intelligence findings on this operation and to the extent it may have continued?

NANCE: Well, you know, there`s no need to pull punches here. It places us in danger. The purpose of the U.S. Intelligence Community is to give the President of the United States the best open access to the best intelligence there is in the world from all sources, multisource intelligence, and giving him in a compact format that he can consume and then make proper, adequate decisions about safety, security, and the economy of the United States, but most notably, the safety of American Citizens. If you have a President of the United States who doesn`t even want to hear it, or he doesn`t even think that this information is good enough for him, and that it`s corrupt, and that it will somehow harm him, then what you have is a President who will then blindly ignore things that could in fact damage the security of the United States, or compromise the security of the United States. It`s literally like walking around with your eyes closed on a high-rise scaffold. So for --

HAYES: What`s your fear about -- the compromise, what do you mean? I mean, there`s one level that seems obvious, which is that something like this might happen again. I mean, they`ve learned the bang for the buck of breaking into a few inboxes and publishing on the internet was pretty high. Is that the kind of thing that you`re worried is going to happen again?

NANCE: Well, we already know that`s going to happen again because this administration has taken absolutely no steps to try to secure the United States from any further intrusions. The things that are happening are happening at the department level, at U.S. cyber command, NSA, and organizations who are taking whatever steps they can. But there is no national infrastructure program. There is no imperative to get the United States electoral process secure because he just doesn`t believe it. But the President has already shown that he can compromise information. When he had the meeting with Foreign Minister Lavrov and Kislyak in the Oval Office which we didn`t know anything about until the Russians reported on it, then he actually compromised top-secret security programs between the United States and Israel. He could do that inadvertently again because he does not respect the sanctity of the top secret information that he has.

HAYES: All right, Malcolm Nance, thanks for being with me tonight.

NANCE: My pleasure.

HAYES: Next, the Trump judicial nominee so unqualified even a Republican Senator took him to task, straight ahead.



TRUMP: We have people that are totally qualified, they`re going to pass, but they`ll have to wait a long time.

I can say the same thing with our judicial nominees, our judges. We have some of the most qualified people. The Wall Street Journal wrote a story about it the other day that this is some of the most qualified people ever.


HAYES: The idea that the President picked the most qualified people ever has become something of a punch line. For example, the White House confirmed on Wednesday that Judicial Nominee Brett Talley`s nomination had been withdrawn. Talley who has never tried a case was rated unanimously unqualified by the American Bar Association, the Fourth Judicial Nominee under President Trump to receive a not qualified rating from the Bar Association and the second to receive the rating unanimously, which is really quite rare. And the White House also pulled the nomination of Jeff Mateer who had described transgender children as evidence of, "Satan`s plan." And today, thanks to a video clip tweeted out by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, we witnessed another Trump nominee tacitly admit he is not qualified for a lifetime appointment.

KENNEDY: Have you ever tried a jury trial?

PETERSEN: I have not.



KENNEDY: Criminal?




KENNEDY: State or Federal Court?

PETERSEN: I have not.

KENNEDY: Have you ever taken a deposition?

PETERSEN: I was involved in taking depositions when I was an associate at Wiley Rein when I first came out of law school. But that was -

KENNEDY: Have you ever taken a deposition by yourself?

PETERSEN: I believe no.

KENNEDY: OK. Have you ever argued a motion in state court?

PETERSEN: I have not.

KENNEDY: Have you ever argued a motion in federal court?


KENNEDY: When is the last time you read the federal rules of civil procedure?

PETERSEN: The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure? I - in my current position, I obviously don`t need to stay as invested in those on a day-to- day basis, but I do try to keep up to speed.


HAYES: Oh, that is hard to watch. If you`re not a trial lawyer, perhaps it`s hard to understand just how horrible that performance was. Luckily we have a trial lawyer, Watergate Prosecutor Nick Akerman, to explain. That`s next.



KENNEDY: I`ll judge you`re obviously going to have witnesses.


KENNEDY: Can you tell me what the Daubert standard is?

MATTHEW PETERSON, U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE NOMINEE: Senator Kennedy, I don`t have that readily at my disposal, but I would be happy to take a closer look at that.


PETERSON: That is not something that I`ve had to contend with.

KENNEDY: Do you know what a motion in limine is?

PETERSON: Yes. I haven`t -- again, my background is not in litigation, as when I was applying replying to Chairman Grassley. I haven`t had to, again, to do a deep dive. And I understand and appreciate this line of questioning. I understand the challenge that would be ahead of me if I were fortunate enough to become a district court judge.


HAYES: Matthew Peterson is up for a lifetime appointment, I can`t stress that enough, for the U.S. district court for the District of Columbia, one of the most important federal courts in the country.

MSNBC legal analyst Nick Ackerman is a former assistant special Watergate prosecutor, now a litigator for Dorsey and Whitney.

Nick, it`s good to have you here.


HAYES: So, I think non-lawyers watch that and you just -- the reaction you have to it is, it looks like a literal nightmare that you might have about like a stress dream about being unprepared for something. But as a trial lawyer, what is your reaction to watching that?

ACKERMAN: To watching that? These are such basic concepts, such basic skills he`s asked about. I mean, Daubert, every trial lawyer knows that that relates to expert witnesses and the standard for admitting expert testimony. On motion in limine is something that comes up during the course of a trial to get an advanced ruling from a district court judge on a ruling of evidence.

HAYES: How common is a motion in limine? Like how -- like 10 being being basically every trial has one, 1 being quite obscure.

ACKERMAN: Probably a 12. I mean, these are not obscure concepts.

I mean, the idea that this person is being appointed for a lifetime position as a federal district court judge, he doesn`t know anything about the rules of evidence. He doesn`t know anything about the federal rules of civil procedure. He`s never looked at them. He`s never been in a trial. He`s never done a trial, I mean, it just is mind-boggling.

HAYES: What does it matter?

ACKERMAN: It matters because this is a very important position. He has to be sort of the gatekeeper, the person that oversees the trial, that conducts the trial. He`s never been in one before. From the standpoint of a litigant, he`s doing cases, they`re not only civil cases were people`s money and fortunes are at stake, but he`s also doing criminal cases. And if he doesn`t know this stuff, guilty people are going to be allowed to go free, and innocent people will be locked up. I mean, that is what we`re looking at, when a person just doesn`t understand how this all works.

HAYES: Yeah, will you explain that? I think one of the things it`s hard for people who don`t know the federal courts very well, and the difference between a district judge and an appellate judge, and why not knowing this for the district judge is so important.

ACKERMAN: Well, the district judge is actually the trial court. I mean, people who have disputes, or it`s the government coming in, for example the Paul Manafort case. You`ve got a case there where you`ve go to a very complicated transactional case that`s a conspiracy to defraud the government, that the district court judge is sort of the gatekeeper. She`s going to decide on questions of evidence, what comes in, what goes out, or in the case of a civil case, the same sort of thing, like if it was a sex harassment case, you would have the same issues.

I mean, if he doesn`t know the basic concepts of what the job is, it`s almost like saying just because he went to law school, therefore he can be a judge, just because somebody went to medical school as a dermatologist doesn`t mean they can be a brain surgery.

HAYES: Right.

ACKERMAN: That just doesn`t work that way.

HAYES: What do you think about the sort of standard of -- I mean, we`ve now seen a few of these judges. We saw Brett Tally who is in a similar situation, he got pulled pack. We`ve seen some of the appellate court level, there`s been a huge push by the Trump administration to get people on that court. Are you satisfied or confident that they have the necessary qualifications?

ACKERMAN: It`s appalling. The people that they`re trying to put on the federal district court is absolutely appalling. It`s going to mean that litigants are not going to feel like they`re getting a sense of justice. It means that litigants are going to have to pay more for legal fees because these judges won`t know what they`re doing.

HAYES: They`ll also get overturned. I mean, there is real consequences if you screw up a trial.


HAYES: Like as a judge, if you make the wrong ruling and it`s a very, very hard job, just to be clear.

ACKERMAN: Right, this is not for a rookie, basically.

HAYES: Right, and if you screw it up, there`s going to be consequences, because there is going to be appeal and you could end up with a situation in which convictions get voided, huge civil suits get overturned, things like that.

ACKERMAN: Right, or even worse, if somebody who is guilty gets let go because this judge doesn`t know what he`s doing and you`ve got somebody who should be in jail that doesn`t go to jail.

I mean, this is a pretty complicated job. It`s not just dealing with civil issues but it`s also criminal issues. I mean, you have to be a pretty well-rounded lawyer to take on this job.

HAYES: Do you think -- I guess when you watch Peterson there struggle on these basic concepts, is this the kind of thing that if like he spent, you know -- if you went back and crammed, he could be OK?

ACKERMAN: Well, at least he could have sat through a couple of trials. I mean, maybe if he walked into the federal district court in D.C. and sat there for a week and just watched what was going on, maybe, maybe he could have figured it out.

HAYES: But do you -- are you confident that someone like that -- I mean, I guess my question is, is there a certain amount of experience you just need to be able to qualify to do this job that you just can`t get from watching trials and books?

ACKERMAN: Yeah. It`s a matter of being a trial lawyer, having been there and done it. And even when you`ve done that, I think most people who get pointed to the bench, the federal bench, I mean, there`s a learning period even at that.

HAYES: I know some people, yeah.

ACKERMAN: Yeah. So it`s a tough job in a lot of ways. And it`s a very, very important job. And the kind of people that they`re putting on there, this is not about liberals or conservatives or Democrats and Republicans, this is about competence, just plain old fashioned competence.

HAYES: Nick Ackerman, always a pleasure.

ACKERMAN: Thank you.

HAYES: Ahead, the week that was. Is Doug Jones` victory a major milestone for the resistance? Plus, tonight`s Thing One, Thing Two starts next.


HAYES: Thing one tonight, the biggest election news this week was of course Doug Jones` unlikely victory in the Alabama Senate race. But we also got results in an election held a month ago. New York mayor Bill de Blasio won a second term on November 7 by a wide margin of 65 to 29 percent.

But we learned this week that at least three votes were not counted in that race. And they`re all from the members of the Trump family.

How multiple Trumps tried and failed to vote correctly, that`s Thing Two in 60 seconds.


HAYES: I mean, we have the worst mayor in the United States, de Blasio, who is the worst mayor in the United States, like not even a contest.

President Trump and his family were not in New York for that election, but they did attempt to participate. Unfortunately, the Daily News reports today that Melania, Ivanka, and Jared`s votes did not count.

The first lady correctly filled out her absentee voter application, as you see here, but when it comes to her actual ballot, election officials say she did not sign the ballot envelope. If any of the information is missing it is invalid, a board of election official said.

Trump`s Daughter Ivanka also managed to botch her ballot. She didn`t mail it until election day which was too late to be counted, officials said.

Her husband Jared Kushner, he didn`t mail his back at all, according to the board, so that`s not going to count. So, that makes it 0-3.

How about the president himself? Officials say Donald Trump filled out his ballot correctly, but if you look at his absentee ballot application, Donald Trump wrote his own birthday as July 14th, which is weird because Trump`s birth certificate says he was born on June 14th, which means if his birth certificate is authentic, and really who knows, he was a month off on his ballot application about his own date of birth. It`s unclear if Trump`s incorrect ballot application will affect his vote.


TRUMP: This issue is very important to me because throughout the campaign and even after, people would come up to me and express their concerns about voter inconsistencies and irregularities which they saw. All public officials have a profound responsibility to protect the integrity of the vote. We have no choice. We want to make America great again. We have to protect the integrity of the vote and our voters.


HAYES: Just a few hours ago, Republicans finally released the finished version of their tax plan. And with a few new developments today, they could have the votes they need to pass it.

Senator Marco Rubio got what he needed to change his vote to yes, a small increase in the refundibility of the child tax credit, even though Jim Tankersley of The New York Times tweeted that Rubio`s changes actually slightly reduce the total value of the tax credit increase.

Bob Corker of Tennessee who won bipartisan praise for standing up to the president saying the White House reminded him of an adult day care center, didn`t even get that much of a concession or any, as far as we know, but he`s still changing his vote. He had originally been the only GOP senator to vote against the plan because of deficit worries. Today he flipped. Senator Susan Collins of Maine praised the bill today after previously appearing to waiver. It remains to be seen, however, if Senator McCain and Cochran, both battling illnesses will be present for the vote next week.

Nonetheless, with Corker and Rubio on board, the passage of the Republican tax overhaul looks quite likely. And as a reminder, this bill would cut taxes for corporations, it would cut them for billionaire heirs, it would cut them for some middle class families, but at the expense of actually managing to raise taxes on millions of middle class Americans.

The House is expected to vote Tuesday for a final conference report and a bill over 1,000 pages long. The calculation for Speaker Paul Ryan and his party is pretty clear. With voters tipped to the way this tax plan will, in fact, cost the middle class, Republicans are just trying to get this thing through as quickly as possible.

And crazy as the tax bill is, it`s only been one part of a roller coaster week, everything from the shocking Alabama Senate election to the #metoo movement reaching the White House, next.



STEVE BANNON, BREITBART: Tomorrow the question is called. It`s an up or down vote tomorrow, right?

CROWD: Right.

BANNON: Between the Trump miracle and the nullification project.


HAYES: The nullification project appears to have won. The Alabama election was three days ago, three days ago -- happened three days ago. But in the Trump era, a week`s worth of news spans a lot of ground. Just this week, more than 100 Democrats called for the president to be investigated after women who have accused President Trump of sexual assault and harassment brought renewed scrutiny into the White House, congress Blake Farenthold of Texas announced he won`t run for reelection next year facing his own sexual harassment allegations. Omarosa Manigault Newman, remember her? Remember her? Was reportedly fired and had to be physically removed from the White House. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein testified before congress. The Republicans look poised, as of this hour, to pass a sweeping tax overhaul that willl cut taxes for billionaire heirs and corporations while raising taxes on many middle class families.

And Democrat Doug Jones won that Alabama senate election despite Steve Bannon`s best efforts to pull it out for the accused child molester, a shocking victory that made clear the price Republicans could pay at the polls next year.

Ben Howe is a senior contributing editor at Red State. Michelle Goldberg is an opinion columnist for The New York Times.

And Michelle, I want to start with you on this theme, which is you`ve now got a situation after -- when Al Franken was sort of drummed out by the Democratic caucus there was this sort of fear about unilateral disarming. Democrats are going to come up hold their own responsible, Conyers and Franken in one week, Republicans are not. And now a week later, Trent Franks is gone, Blake Farenthold is gone, and Roy Moore did not win. It looks like that did not come to pass.

MICHELLE GOLDBERG, NEW YORK TIMES: Yeah, no, I think it looks like that was a good bet because it does put the Democrats in a much better position now to not only call out other Republicans but also to demand hearings and an investigation into Donald Trump`s horrific record of sexual harassment and confessed sexual assault.

You know, and he`s obviously very rattled. I think the one thing that we might have -- was it this week he sexually harassed a sitting senator on Twitter?

HAYES: Was it this week? I can`t even remember. I think it was this week, actually. Yeah, it was this week. It was this week. I think it was on Monday that he sexually harassed a sitting Senator on Twitter. Yes, that`s correct.

GOLDBERG: So he`s clearly rattled by this moment and this new accountability and you know I think that it just spares Democrats from having to answer the question even though the question is always posted in the blackest of bad faith, what about Al Franken.

HAYES: Right.

Ben, I want to show you the newest polling, because I am sort of -- I am amazed at the numbers right now that are coming up in polling. And I think one of the things that happened in the last election was a lot of people were caught by surprise by Trump`s win. There was over compensating I think in some of the media -- the way the media talked about and treated the Trump coalition, and skepticism, all of which I think was genuine and perhaps earned. But when you look at the numbers now, it is bleak out there for Republicans.

Trump right now in the 538 compilation is at his lowest approval rating ever, an average of 36.5 percent approval. The new AP poll out today has him at 32 percent. I mean, things are not good for the Republican Party`s popularity right now.

BEN HOWE, RED STATES: No. And I think, you know, the Trump effect, I think is what I predicted it would be. I said it all through the 2016 election that I believed Trump would disappoint the people who are willing to sort of hold their nose and vote for them and hope for the best. They were going to find themselves more and more being disgusted with his behavior. I thought that independents and people who might be willing to vote Republican at times would end up feeling as though the Republican Party representing something they can no longer support as long as he`s the leader of it. And I really can`t -- once he won, I sort of counted on the idea maybe Republicans will try to hold him accountable, certainly not cheerlead for him but have been. And I think -- I mean, Steve Bannon calling it the Trump miracle. I haven`t even heard that before.

HAYES: That is a really good clip versus the nullification attempt.

HOWE: Yeah. I mean, he`s trying to speak this language that frankly he does not understand to Christian voters.

But, you know, I think that a lot of people are really seeing what a bunch of us warned them would be the case and it`s going to come back to bite the Republicans -- I think it`s going to come back to bite them in 2018 very hard.

HAYES: Yeah, I haven`t had -- I don`t think we`ve talked this week about the Doug Jones win. But it really is -- I mean, there were so many distinct things about that race, obviously, because of Roy Moore and the accusations, but as a political earthquake to get a Democratic Senator in Alabama.

GOLDBERG: Right, even more so than getting a Republican Senator in Massachusetts during Obama`s first term. But what is so amazing about it is that we now have proof, right. For a long time we`ve had these really increased Democratic margins that have fallen short in very, very red districts. Now we finally have one that Jeff Sessions` old seat. This is incredible. And yet, you don`t see any sort of instinct for self- preservation among Republicans in congress, which is really astonishing. They are not just yoking themselves to this tax bill, which has -- you know, which obviously fulfills a lot of their dreams, but which is incredibly unpopular, they are and yoking themselves to Donald Trump`s obstruction. They are going all in on this kamikaze attack on the FBI.

It`s just -- I mean, it`s so hard for me to understand what they think they are going to get out of this and how they think they are going to be remembered.

HAYES: It`s a great question, Ben, what do you think the psychology right now of Republicans on the Hill is given what they are facing, given the aftermath of Jones?

HOWE: Well, so, you know, in Alabama for instance, you know, I think these people are still conservative. They still like things like the tax bill.

HAYES: Tight.

HOWE: This is -- elections are becoming, especially for Republicans these days, elections are becoming constant battles of lesser evil arguments and everybody is discussing can we deal with this person or can we put up with that person, can we vote for this guy as long as it keeps this guy out. And policy is barely even on people`s radar at this point.

So, I don`t think it`s that surprising that Republicans would still be pushing what can be considered somewhat of a conservative agenda thinking that if they can somehow rescue this situation and stop putting scum bags up for people to vote for, if they can put people in there -- because it seems like what they keep putting up either somebody who is really weak with no backbone against a scum bag.

HAYES: Right.

HOWE: And that dynamic is killing it.

HAYES: Yeah.

Ben Howe and Michelle Goldberg, thank you for making time on this Friday evening.

A reminder, open enrollment for health care under the Affordable Care Act ends tonight. The deadline is just a few hours away. You still have time. Go to if you need to enroll. That is All In for this evening. The Rachel Maddow Show starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.



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