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Countdown to Senate vote on GOP tax bill Transcript 12/19/17 All In with Chris Hayes

Guests: Jon Tester, Leonard Lance, Josh Earnest, Michelle Goldberg

Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: December 19, 2017 Guest: Jon Tester, Leonard Lance, Josh Earnest, Michelle Goldberg



REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: Monumental, brazen theft.

HAYES: What did Republicans just vote for?

SEN. MARK WARNER (D) VIRGINIA: The single worst piece of legislation I`ve seen in my time in the Senate.

HAYES: Where all the money is going.


HAYES: And what it means for the Republican Party.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: This tax bill will be an anchor around the ankles of every Republican.

HAYES: Then, the bait and switch.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is going to cost me a fortune, this thing, believe me.

HAYES: The President`s big broken promise.

TRUMP: The rich will not be gaining at all with this plan.

HAYES: Plus, no end in sight.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, PRESS SECRETARY, WHITE HOUSE: We have confidence that it`s going to come to a close in short time.

HAYES: Reports Bob Mueller has a lot more to investigate and more White House nominees go down.

MATTHEW PETERSEN, DISTRICT JUDGE NOMINEE: 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. After weeks of backroom deal-making, months of grand proclamations about what they`d deliver and years fantasizing what another round of Reagan-era tax reform, today the moment arrived for Republicans to put their tax bill up for a vote and they bungled it. At this hour, Lawmakers are debating the bill on the Senate floor before proceeding to a vote sometime later tonight. The House voted earlier today which was supposed to be the big celebratory moment. But due to a procedural snafu, the bill now has to go back to the House tomorrow for yet another vote before it eventually lands on the President`s desk.

Consider what exactly Republicans have spent so long trying to achieve. In an economy whose defining feature is its vast income inequality, more wealth in fewer hands, an economy with record corporate profits, booming stock market, and wages, paychecks for average folks lagging far behind, the Republicans are offering a bill that quite frankly redistributes wealth upward to the most prosperous Americans. The economy is being looted according to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.


PELOSI: This GOP tax scam is simply theft, monumental, brazen theft from the American middle class and from every person who aspires to reach it.


HAYES: The largest share of the bill`s tax cuts go to corporations which will see their rates slashed 14 percent from 35 down to 20 percent, as well as the top earners. There are lots of other goodies for the wealthy and well connected. The bill benefits those who make money through private businesses like real estate, people like say, the President of the United States. It benefits people who stand to inherit large sums of wealth like, I don`t know, the President`s children.

It benefits big banks and private equity managers and in general favors those who make money off the wealth they already have, people with investments and stocks and bonds and real estate over those who get by on wages, working for a living. While most middle-class families would get some degree of tax cut in the first couple of years, that will happen, after 2025 they`ll start to pay more in taxes because while the corporate tax cuts are permanent, the cuts for middle-class families come with an expiration date. That is not what the President pledged to deliver.


TRUMP: The rich will not be gaining at all with this plan. We`re not -- we`re looking for the middle class, and we`re looking for jobs. I think the wealthy will be pretty much where they are, pretty much where they are.


HAYES: Nope. Nope, nope, nope, no. Instead, the final measures in this bill are so imbalanced that according to U.N. Envoy for Human Rights "The proposed tax reform package takes out America`s bid to become the most unequal society in the world." On top of that, the bill adds over $1 trillion to the deficit, which Republicans are already signaling they are going to use as an excuse to cut Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid, and other safety net programs.

Just like the ObamaCare fight, this bill has activated grassroots protests on Capitol Hill where people have been crowding the Senate gallery, staking out offices, filling the halls to make their voices heard. At least 18 people were arrested earlier today in the House. The American public appears to largely agree with the protesters. According to a new poll from NBC News, just 24 percent think this tax bill is a good idea. It`s the least popular tax bill in modern history. Which is why Chuck Schumer, the Senate`s top Democrat had a warning today for his Republican colleagues.


SCHUMER: This bill will be an anchor around the ankles of every Republican. Our Republican friends are listening to the thousand greedy, greedy, multi-billionaires who want their taxes cut even though they`re doing great, and don`t want to share those benefits with the middle class, even making millions of middle-class people pay more. Republicans will rue the day that they pass this tax bill.


HAYES: Senator Jon Tester is a Democrat from Montana who`s up for re- election next year. And how does a Democrat up for re-election in the state that Donald Trump won overwhelmingly vote against a tax cut?

SEN. JON TESTER (D), MONTANA: Because our children are going to have to pay for this tax cut, that`s why. It`s going to add $1.5 trillion, Chris, as you`ve pointed out to our national debt. And our kids and our grandkids are going to have to pay for the sugar high, the temporary sugar high, that this tax cut will give folks. And as you`ve already pointed out, the tax relief for the big corporations is permanent, the tax relief for working families goes away after a few years. This bill is just wrong on all sorts of different fronts but mostly, but mostly it`s bad for our kids. You know, I`ve said on the floor a few minutes ago, people come to the Senate to work for the next generation, the generation after that. This really does drive a nail in the coffin of their opportunity and their ability to be all they can be moving forward because they`re going to have to pay for some $12,000 in additional debt because of this tax bill alone.

HAYES: But senator, doesn`t this show -- I mean, I hear Democrats talk about that, I hear Republicans talk like that when they`re out of office. I hear Democrats talk like that largely when they`re both in and out of office. They seem to care more about deficits in that respect. But doesn`t this bill and doesn`t the political machinations show no one does care about the deficit? That the whole thing`s been a fig leaf all along? Why should -- why should that be a motivating concern for anyone after Republicans just went from decrying deficits to passing a big deficit- larding bill?

TESTER: Well, there`s no doubt about it, Chris. The fiscal hawks have flown away. We haven`t heard a peep out of them. But the bottom line for me, for folks from Montana, folks who have worked at very slim margins, fiscal responsibility is very, very important. And I can tell you that I think it`s very important for folks across this country. And at a time when we should be paying the debt down, when times are better, we`re actually adding to the debt. So it`s a double whammy for our kids and our grandkids.

HAYES: I want to play you something that Joe Manchin, he`s a colleague of yours, he`s also up for re-election, he`s a Democrat who`s running in a state that Donald Trump also won, talking about how he essentially was a gettable vote at the beginning of this process and wasn`t by the end. Take a listen.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: I was an easy pickup, very easy pickup. And I had a couple, two or three other Democrats would have been very easy pickups if they just made an effort. Our Republican friends come out because of wanting to use the gimmick of the budget reconciliation, they got to make some choices. It shows you where their values are. Their choices were that the corporations get the greatest cuts.


HAYES: Were you a gettable vote on, in theory, a tax bill at some point?

TESTER: Chris, absolutely. I mean, I sent letters to the administration and said, look, I`d like to give you a rural view of what needs to be in a tax bill, I never heard anything back from them. There were 17 Democrats that stood about three weeks or a month ago in a press conference that said, we want to work with Republicans to get a bill, a bill that takes into consideration public input and a bill that we can negotiate and vote on together. When Reagan`s tax bill was passed, it was passed initially 97-3. When it came out of Conference today at 74 votes, this bill is going to be passed probably on a strict partisan line. And tax reform is too important, it`s far too important, because it impacts everybody in the country, just to do it on a partisan -- on a partisan line. We should have gotten public input. Our committees should have done their job and really negotiated this bill. And if we would have, we wouldn`t have ended up with a bill that taxes our kids.

HAYES: All right, Senator Jon Tester, thanks for making time tonight.

TESTER: Thanks.

HAYES: Congressman Leonard Lance, the Republican from New Jersey who voted against his party`s tax bill, one of only I think about a dozen members in that caucus. Why the no vote, Congressman?

REP. LEONARD LANCE (R), NEW JERSEY: For the reasons that Senator Tester suggested. I am a budget hawk and I hope I`m a budget hawk not only when Democrats are in the White House but when there`s a Republican president and also there`s the very important issue, Chris, of SALT, the continued deductibility of state and local taxes. It has been in our tax code since 1913, and it should have remained in the tax code.

HAYES: That is going to -- you represent a suburban district in New Jersey. New Jersey has a state income tax. It`s a place with relatively high tax state like New York and California. Those states are really going to get pounded, particularly relatively affluent folks like the people in your district. Do you think you`re going to see tax hikes for people in your district because of this?

LANCE: That may occur with some. Of course, doubling the standard deduction affects in a positive way all districts across America, but we in New Jersey have the highest property taxes in the nation. Our new governor is suggesting that the state income tax may increase on upper-income filers to a marginal rate of 10.75 percent. And so I think as a matter of federalism, Chris, and a matter of fairness that SALT should have remained as-is.

HAYES: I heard a Republican strategist debating this on Chris Matthews` show before me and he said, it`s only going to raise taxes on people in New York and San Francisco, which is a stand-in for all the folks who live in blue state, and say they deserve it. That was his perspective. And that`s really the perspective I think of the tax writers and the Republicans. These aren`t our people, so if it punches them in the face, they deserve it. What do you think about that?

LANCE: New Jersey is a sending state, not a receiving state. I`ve heard discussion among colleagues of mine from the south and rocky mountain west that states like New Jersey are high-tax states. That is a matter of federalism and certainly is a matter of fairness. We don`t want to exacerbate the situation. New Jersey sends more funds to Washington than we get back. I think we`re at the bottom of that list and I do not want to make that situation worse.

LANCE: So you voted no on this bill. Now, you`re going to -- you`re going to almost certainly have a challenger in 2018 and what do you say to a voter who`s sitting in your district who says, well, sure, you know, you voted no and I appreciate that vote, I didn`t like the tax bill, I`m glad you voted no. But you`re part of a Republican majority that crafted this, that pushed it through, that voted for Paul Ryan for Speaker and a Republican Party that made sure that people like myself in New Jersey and California and New York, we took it on the chin. Why should I empower the Republican Party at all come election time next year?

LANCE: I want to work in a bipartisan capacity, moving forward. I hope SALT can be revisited. And we do not live in a parliamentary system, we live in a system where there are separate branches of government, the executive branch, and the legislative branch. And I think that the administration should have examined our bipartisan proposal regarding retention of SALT.

HAYES: Sure, but Congressman, respectfully, they didn`t. And the reason they didn`t is even if we don`t live in a parliamentary system, increasingly both parties act in a parliamentary fashion. And you happen to be from a party that doesn`t really care that much about New Jersey, New York, and California because it`s not where their base is. So what do you tell a New Jersey voter about why they should vote for a Republican who`s going to go join a caucus that seems to gleefully delight in their voters taking on the chin?

LANCE: I think this was true when Democrats controlled both Houses in 2009 and 2010, with a Democratic President on health care. That was done on a single-party vote. This was done on a single-party vote. And it just proves we need moderates governing from the center out. And I represent a district that is highly sophisticated, and I believe the voters in the district I serve will judge me based upon how I have conducted myself and how I have voted.

HAYES: All Right, Congressman Leonard Lance, I appreciate your time tonight.

LANCE: Thank you, Merry Christmas.

HAYES: You too. For more on the backlash of the tax bill, I`m joined now by Josh Earnest, former White House Press Secretary under President Obama, and Michelle Goldberg, Columnist for the New York Times. Josh, let me start with you. I thought this was an amazing moment of messaging from John Cornyn, who`s in leadership in the Senate. He says, under Tax Cuts and Jobs Act which by the way, the name has been changed, a married couple earning $100,000 per year, $60,000 from wages, $25,000 from their non- corporate business, and $15,000 in business income will receive a tax cut of $2,603.50, a reduction of nearly 24 percent. I just thought, what -- who is that? Who`s sitting out there being like -- yes, checks out, that`s exactly what my household budget`s like.

JOSH EARNEST, FORMER PRESS SECRETARY, WHITE HOUSE: Yes, not exactly a Norman Rockwell depiction of the typical middle-class American family. Look, Chris, they`re straining to try to justify putting forward this kind of legislation and trying to convince people that it actually benefits them. The truth is, we know what this was. This was a corporate tax cut bill that was done without much consideration at all to middle-class families, and certainly no consideration to the deficit. You know, Chris, you were talking to Jon Tester about whether or not he was a gettable vote when it came to a discussion about tax reform and corporate tax reform.

I`ll remind you that back during the Obama administration we actually did a lot of legwork, in putting out position papers and whitepapers from the Treasury Department, explaining how we could actually reform the corporate tax code in a way that would eliminate loopholes, lower the overall rate, make our businesses more competitive here in the United States, do something good for the committee economy, and do it in a way that wouldn`t worsen our deficit picture. So there is a good way to do this, a commonsense way to do it. That is not what Republicans chose to pursuit.

HAYES: How do you think -- I mean, whenever I watch this, I remind myself that you know, Hillary Clinton got 3 million more votes. The President is sort of governing from a minority of voters, and the party is governing from a minority of voters. And yet they have unified control of government. And that -- those things really feel explosive on a night like tonight.

MICHELLE GOLDBERG, COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Right, because they are essentially stealing from the rest of us, stealing from the majority of this country. And one of the things that`s so striking about this particular tax bill, Matt Yglesias made this point in Vox today, we`re used to thinking of corruption in terms of Congress people doing stuff for friend in their districts, or doing things to benefit particular constituencies. The extent of kind of actual straight-up self-dealing in this bill, the extent that this is just a bill to give more money to Bob Corker and Donald Trump and Ivanka Trump and John Cornyn, is really something new and astonishing and sort of more I think in common with a post-Soviet kleptocracy than what we`re used to seeing in American politics.

HAYES: And the reason for that being that all of these different wrinkles about how pass-through income is treated, if you have to have a real estate enterprise or you have these positive investment vehicles that are throwing off money, which Members of the United States Senate and Congress have a lot of compared to average Americans, means that they`re getting more benefit than your average working Joe.

GOLDBERG: Right. It`s -- I mean, this is actually structured so that even two people with roughly similar incomes --

HAYES: Exactly.

GOLDBERG: -- the person who earns the income as opposed to the person who inherits the income is penalized.

HAYES: I mean, it`s a situation where if you`re a surgeon on one hand, or you have like a bunch of -- if you`re a slumlord on the other, and you`ve got a lot of rental income on buildings you don`t maintain very well, the slumlord makes out better than the surgeon under the tax treatment in this bill. Josh, the argument that the Republicans make is, Democratic scaremongering has convinced people are going to see a tax hike when actually in the next few years, they`re going to see a tax cut. People are going to come around and they`re going to love it and don`t believe the hype.

EARNEST: Well, Chris, we`ve seen this before and I actually saw this when I was sitting in the White House in 2009. This is exactly the argument that we made about the Affordable Care Act. That it was not polling well when it was passing through Congress and we staked our hopes on the idea that once people had experienced the law and once they understood the benefits that they would enjoy, that the law would become more popular. That`s exactly what happened.

By 2016, not as fast as we would have liked to have seen, but by 2016, you had Democrats who are outwardly campaigning on the law because people had come to appreciate and experience the law themselves, that they could keep their kids on their health care plan until they were 26, they could be prevented against -- or prevent pre-existing conditions, being discriminated against because of pre-existing conditions. The problem for Republicans in the strategic error that they`ve made is the more that people learn about this law, the less they`re going to like it.

HAYES: Although --

EARNEST: There`s less here than meets the eye. And it`s compounded by the fact that the law actually starts out in worse position than the Affordable Care Act. It`s the most unpopular major piece of legislation since the history of polling. And it`s being backed by the President of the United States, who by the way is also polling lower than any other president at this point in his presidency. So Republicans have made a strategic error here if they think that down the line people`s minds are going to change on this.

HAYES: We should note that a lot of ObamaCare is back loaded. It took a while for provisions to start rolling out. It`s different here when the tax cuts are up front, then they take it off. But what I do think is similar is the catalyzing effect it will have on the kind of activist volunteer core of the base of the Democratic Party.

GOLDBERG: I mean, I think it`s too hard to tell what the issues are going to be in November of 2018, right? So much is going to happen before then. But this is such an insult and it`s such an insult across the board, right? It`s an insult to the poor, it`s an insult to the elderly, it`s an insult to people who rely upon ObamaCare because it also while kind of taking an act the fairness of the tax code or what was -- .

HAYES: Dismantles a huge part of ObamaCare.

GOLDBERG: Right, dismantles a huge part of ObamaCare, oh by the way. And it also is -- you know, there`s this contingency -- there`s this contingent of kind of suburban women who have been sort of maybe moving towards the Democrats in certain states. I mean, certainly they were responsible for helping Roy Moore -- I mean, helping Doug Jones beat Roy Moore in Alabama. Especially in states like New Jersey, like California, like New York, where we still have -- we still have Conservative Republican Representatives. This is -- you know, this is a dagger pointed at them. This is going to destroy a lot of people`s public schools.

HAYES: Yes, there`s a real activism that will come out of this. Josh Earnest and Michelle Goldberg, thank you, both. Next, how President Trump sold populism on the campaign trail but delivered to Goldman Sachs in the White House. The great con on the tax bill in two minutes.


HAYES: President Trump promised the days of Washington politicians enriching themselves at the expense of everyone else were over.


TRUMP: For too long, a small group in our nation`s capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost. Washington flourished, but the people did not share in its wealth. Politicians prospered, but the jobs left and the factories closed. The establishment protected itself but not the citizens of our country. That all changes starting right here and right now because this moment is your moment. It belongs to you.


HAYES: But before that speech, the President had already tipped his hand not long after election day. He went to Manhattan`s 21 Club where a burger costs $36, and made a very different promise.


TRUMP: Thank you, we`ll get your taxes down, don`t worry.



HAYES: We`ll get your taxes down, don`t worry. We now know definitively which promise the President would keep. It was most certainly not his populist vows to fight for the forgotten man. That was a promise to a bunch of rich people eating $36 burgers, that he would cut their taxes and make them even richer. In the first year of his presidency, Donald Trump has proven time and again that his populist message was basically con. A candidate who promised to fight for the working man, elected to fill his cabinet with Goldman Sachs billionaires, who helped craft a tax bill that enriches himself and wealthy members of Congress and the President, while leaving mostly scraps for nearly everyone else. Joining me now, a true expert on this tax bill, CNBC Editor at Large John Harwood. And John, you have really reported on this bill. Is -- I mean, distributionally how do you characterize who this bill helps most?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNBC, EDITOR AT LARGE: This bill is essentially a corporate tax cut, a business tax cut because in addition to the corporations you`ve got all these so-called pass-through businesses which get a lower tax rate. One of the owners of a lot of pass-through businesses is President Trump himself. And I think what the President is doing is -- you know, during the campaign, Chris, he said he was a populist and was going to help the forgotten person. But he did propose tax cuts that were similar to this as a candidate. It`s just that people didn`t pay attention to it. People accepted the characterization of him as a populist, even though he had a tax cut that at the time was very tilted toward the wealthy.

But what happened was we got after the election, and you had Steve Mnuchin, the Treasury Secretary, saying, no. No tax cut for anybody at the top end. And things like the President said, the rich aren`t going -- aren`t going to benefit. Those things simply were not true. And it is remarkable that this President, having provided so much of an emotional identification with those voters, would take this turn or embrace this path as robustly as he has.

HAYES: You know, that`s -- I think that`s well said. I mean, they were very clear, right? No one at the top is going to get better off. This is -- this is what Sarah Huckabee Sanders had to say about the President`s own taxes at the podium today, I want you to respond. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The President has said that this tax bill is going to cost him a fortune. That`s actually not the case. How does he figure this is going to cost him a lot of money?

SANDERS: Look, we expect that it likely will certainly on the personal side, could cost the president a lot of money.


HAYE: I mean, is that possible?

HARWOOD: The only way that that is possible is if the President is a lot poorer than he has told us. But look, I think it is not possible and you know, when Sarah Sanders says on the personal side, remember, those pass- through rates are on the personal side. So when you take the reduction in the top rate, the pass-through income, the changes to the estate tax exempting more income from tax, the breaks for real estate in this bill, there is no way if the President has any semblance of the wealth that he claims that he`s not going to come out way ahead in this bill.

HAYES: I mean, the point here is that if you`re sitting on a bunch of buildings that are throwing off passive income, like a real estate mogul, all of a sudden you just got an enormous once in a lifetime tax boon. That`s what just happened today. I mean, no one is going to benefit more in some ways than a person who`s situated in precisely that way.

HARWOOD: Right. Now look, I think it`s worth saying that many Republicans, and I would put Paul Ryan in this group, sincerely believe that lower taxes are better for the economy and related to that, this gets to what we`re going to see next year, they want government to be smaller. So you know, in terms of the issue of the deficit, while they`re -- you know, you were talking with Senator Tester about the you know, hypocrisy argument against Republicans, they cared about the deficit under Obama, not so much now. Well, they care about government when -- deficits when Democrats are in power because they think Democrats are for larger government. When they`re in power, if they can lower the amount of tax revenue, that makes it easier for them to cut programs. They don`t support those programs. And that`s what we`re seeing and they`re going to try to do it next year.

HAYES: The deficit is a feature not a bug in this case. John Harwood, thanks for your time tonight.

HARWOOD: You bet.

HAYES: Coming up, reports of Robert Mueller`s investigation could potentially wrap up before the end of the year, just not the end of this year. More on that ahead.


HAYES: On Trump T.V. today, around lunchtime, during a discussion about an FBI agent`s anti-Trump text messages, a Fox News contributor actually floated the idea of an FBI plot to assassinate President Trump.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His intent, regardless of whether it was an assassination attempt or whatever, it was definitely something --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m just saying, you know, we don`t know what it was. We don`t -- when you say we`ve got to make sure that this guy doesn`t get in at all costs, what does that mean? One thing that we know for sure is that he was plotting in an election against a candidate and there`s FBI fingerprints all over this.

FAULKNER: All right, because I know how things get clipped on social media, I just want to make sure that we press in on the fact that no one has floated any sort of an idea that --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, it`s been floated. When I talk about this I`m talking about social media stuff and you know, that`s out there. I`m not talking about media.

FAULKNER: Nothing credible?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I mean, yes.


HAYES: All right, thankfully, well done, co-host Harris Faulkner, batted that down, clarified a bit there. But just keep in mind that this is the network the President is evidently glued to. A network that has raptly escalated its attack against the FBI and Special Counsel Robert Mueller. The Washington Post reports that "A White House Adviser to the President has enjoyed the attacks in recent weeks. He`s spoken to a number of Fox News Hosts, Republican Lawmakers and others who have castigated Mueller`s team," the adviser said. President Trump may think the Mueller investigation will soon end but new reporting suggests that Mueller`s investigation will last at least through 2018. That`s next.


HAYES: President Trump appears to be on a collision course with special prosecutor Robert Mueller. White House lawyers are set to meet with Mueller`s team later this week. They are reportedly seeking assurances the investigation will end soon and President Trump will be cleared, but the reality appears to be quite different. According to The Washington Post, at least, quote, "people with knowledge of the investigation said it could last at least another year," pointing to ongoing cooperation from witnesses such as former Trump campaign adviser George Padopoulos and former national security adviser Michael Flynn. The special counsel`s office has continued to request new documents related to the campaign and members of Mueller`s team have told others they expect to be working through much of 2018 at a minimum."

Natasha Bertrand is a political correspondent for Business Insider.

Well, this meeting, it really does feel like two trains headed towards each other in this meeting, because all the reporting we`ve gotten is the White House is being told Ty Cobb`s telling the president, don`t worry, it`s going to be done over the year. That does not appear to be the case from the Mueller side.

NATASHA BERTRAND, BUSINESS INSIDER: Not at all. And people that I speak to also say there`s no chance this investigation is going to be over before the end of 2018, it`s just not looking that way at all.

But I think that what Trump`s lawyers are trying to do here is they`re trying to keep him calm, they`re trying keep him not only from tweeting something that he`ll regret later and that could be used against him, but they`re also trying to prevent him from firing Mueller, which would of course have really dramatic consequences.

So, you know, they`ve pushed back the date repeatedly. Ty Cobb at first said, oh, it`s going to be Thanksgiving, then it was Christmas...

HAYES: That`s right. I remember the Thanksgiving.

BERTRAND: Right. And that just hadn`t happened. You really are left wondering what`s going to happen next year when Trump is not given -- when he`s exonerated by the date that he expects to be?

HAYES: To go back to something that you said, the people you`re talking to, the reason they think it will be longer is just based on the nature of the investigation, from what`s publicly viewable?

BERTRAND: Right. So, you have the trials for Manafort and Rick Gates that are obviously -- they haven`t even been set yet. Then you have Michael Flynn who is cooperating in ongoing way with Mueller. And you have George Papadopoulos who is also cooperating. And you have a ton of witnesses that have yet to be interviewed by Mueller. And these are all going to help him build a case not only for collusion, but also obstruction. And Trump doesn`t seem to realize how serious the obstruction aspect of this actually is.

And that kind of arrogance is really going to backfire as it already has in some way with that tweet that we saw with Michael Flynn. When after Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to the FBI, you saw Trump come out and tweet, well, I fired him because he lied to the FBI. That actually would have been an admission of obstruction of justice the way many people read it because the original explanation he gave was that he fired him for lying to Mike Pence, not the FBI.

HAYES: Right.

BERTRAND: So things like that, careless mistakes where he goes out and he says things, just because he`s overconfident that could really blow up in his face.

HAYES: There`s this desire on the part of the president to get an exoneration. He`s, according to some reporting, even talking about like how he`s going to get a letter. But that seems unlikely to me.

BERTRAND: Seems unlikely to most legal experts who have experience in this kind of thing. that`s not how Robert Mueller is going to do things just because that would essentially diminish his leverage.

If you were to exonerate the president now before hearing maybe everything Michael Flynn has to say, before you`re hearing everything that the transition team has to say. He recently got their emails, now he`s going to be interviewing them in conjunction with the written statements that they said last December, which they didn`t realize that he actually had.

So he still has to go through all of these things. And for him to exonerate Trump now before even learning the half of it would really be useless.

HAYES: Plus, the other thing is, prosecutors don`t write exoneration letters. The way it works is you either got chargeable crimes, you charge a person or not. You bring it to a close. You might have some announcement saying, well, this is as far as it goes. But it`s not -- prosecutors don`t do that, that`s not what -- I think he`s seeking a level -- he wants some sort of official clearing of his name that it feels like even the best case scenario is not going to happen.

BERTRAND: Right. And he might just be telling people that because he thinks that, hey, maybe if I say it enough it will actually happen.

HAYES: Like have it in writing.

BERTRAND: But this is not -- right, this is not the process they usually take. And obviously, there have been arguements that maybe it`s because he`s the president and Bob Mueller thinks that, you know, it`s logical that he wouldn`t want this cloud kind of hanging over his head because it could damage his ability to run the country.

But this is not just an average investigation.

HAYES: Natasha Bertrand, thank you.

Still to come, Ady Barkan is on Capitol Hill protesting the tax plan tonight. We spoke with him last week. I`ll get his reaction to today`s vote ahead.

Plus, tonight`s Thing One, Thing Two starts after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) Thing One tonight, The New York Times recently reported Trump spends at least four hours a day, sometimes as much as twice that, in front of the television. The president pushed back calling that a false story and "wrong." Because how could he watch all that TV? He claimed last month he is an avid reader of documents. I quote here, "believe it or not, I don`t get to watch much television, primarily because of documents. I`m reading documents. A lot."

So with that you might assume the president reads his administration`s new national security strategy, a 55-page document designed to keep the country safe.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN: Has the president, as far as you know, read the entire strategy document?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president himself personally led the presentation of the document to his cabinet only about a week ago.

BLITZER: But has he read the whole document?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can`t say that he`s read every line and every word. He`s certainly had the document the entire -- for throughout the process and has been briefed on it.


HAYES: If the president hasn`t even read his own national security strategy, it makes you wonder what else might be slipping through the cracks at the White House. And that`s Thing Two in 60 seconds.


HAYES: One of the key White House responsibilities is to nominate and vet qualified candidates to run the upper levels of government and to sit on the nation`s courts. So how`s that vetting of the best people going?

According to the nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service, the Trump administration has seen 14 nominations requiring congressional approval go down in flames. Today, we can add former congressman Scott Garrett to that list after two Republican senators helped to block his nomination to head the Export-Import Bank in part due to his prior attempts to eliminate said Export-Import Bank.

And when it comes to judicial nominees, three Trump picks have withdrawn in the past week alone. Most recently, Matthew Peterson was unable to answer basic questions about the law during his confirmation hearing.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you ever tried taking a deposition by yourself?



Have you ever argued a motion in state court?

PETERSON: I have not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you ever argued a motion in federal court?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When`s the last time you read the federal rules of civil procedure?

PETERSON: The federal rules of civil procedure, I have -- in my current position, I obviously don`t need a stay as, you know -- invested in those on a day-to-day basis. But I do try to keep up to speed.



HAYES: Protests surged on to Capitol Hill and elsewhere this week in response to the GOP tax bill. At least 18 people arrested in the House, nine in the Senate today.

Among the provisions of the bill that has Americans so upset is the repeal of the Obamacare individual mandate. Congressional Budget Office had previously estimated the killing the individual mandate would leave another 13 million people without health insurance.

The Republicans` previous attempt to repeal Obamacare was met with massive protests this summer with GOP plans ultimately failing. And that`s what many of the protesters in Washington right now hope will happen with the tax bill too. One of the most vocal protesters who was on Capitol Hill today Ady Barkan of the Center for Popular Democracy. He joins me now.

Ady, it looks like they do have the votes. They`re going to vote in the senate tonight. They`re going to have to revote in the House. What`s your feeling, your reaction to what happened today?


It`s an ugly day for democracy. Not only are these Republicans undermining the entire national health care system, taking away health care from people who need it, taking money out of the pockets of middle class and working class families and sending them up to real estate developers like Donald Trump Jr., hedge fund managers, but maybe worst of all, they`re totally undermining our democracy.

The process has been a sham. Our voices have been excluded. This is an affront to the institution of the congress and an affront to American democracy. And so it`s a sad day. And we have to mourn it. And we have to be outraged. And tomorrow and the day after and every day until November, we have to fight back.

HAYES: You have been diagnosed with ALS. It`s something you`ve spoken about extremely movingly. You have a son. And you also have talked about the ways in which this bill is a health care bill. I think it`s something that`s gone under-noticed in many ways. It repeals the individual mandate. It requires cuts to all sorts of spending, which they may or may not waive. What do you predict the politics of this bill among activists, among folks like yourself, is going to be like six months from now, a year from now?

BARKAN: Look, this is the first major piece of legislation that Donald Trump is going to sign. So this will crystallize for all of us the atrocities of this administration and the congress. And as I said, it`s an assault on our economy. It`s an assault on our health. It`s an assault on our democracy. What more do we need?

And look at where it hits, Chris, it primarily it`s hitting women, primarily low-income folks, it hits black and brown folks the worst.

Look, it reflects the racism and the sexism and the kleptocracy of this country. And I think the progressive movement and the left in this country is going to rise up. And we`re going to mobilize Americans and raise our voices and make sure that all Americans, the coal miners in West Virginia and the farmers in Montana and the janitors in Los Angeles, will understand how this bill screws them and all of us over for the benefit of the wealthiest.

And the American people are going to rise up and we`re going to demand a government that actually is accountable to us and that actually promotes our interests. And so that`s why we`ve been getting arrested. We`re saying, you have to hear our voices. You have to understand the damage. We cannot let this kind of horrible legislation and governance go on as business as usual.

HAYES: Ady Barkan, making sure there is no business as usual in the Capitol, thanks for your time again.

BARKAN: Thanks, Chris. Keep it up.

HAYES: After the break, can Republicans recover if they successfully pass such a deeply unpopular bill? Why it could severe cost the party at the polls next.



SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, (D) NEW YORK: This bill will be an anchor around the ankles of every Republican. It so helps the wealthy and the powerful corporations. It does so little, and even hurts, many in the middle class. It`s a loser.


HAYES: Republican tax bill is historically unpopular and it comes at a time the GOP has a president who`s also historically unpopular. The party has already been paying at the polls. Democrat Ralph Northam won the Virginia governor`s race last month. Just one week ago, Democrat Doug Jones won a senate race in Alabama, of all places, a stunning rebuke of the Republican Party.

Republicans say if they pass the tax bill, voters will learn to like it. But will that gamble pay off?

MSNBC political analyst Joan Walsh, and national affairs correspondent for the Nation; and Pulitzer Prize-winning Journalist David Cay Johnston, author of "It`s Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration is Doing to America."

David, let me start with you. As someone who has covered sort of taxes and tax policy at a granular level for decades, what do you think ultimately the politics of this bill look like?

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, PULITZER PRIZE-WINNING JOURNALIST: well, the bill should be wildly unpopular as the polls are showing at the moment but I think the Republicans have actually done something very politically wise here. A lot of people who have seen their wages slipping over the last 15 years are going to now have $20 or $40 a week more after-tax income, because of this bill. And unless they connect that to in the future they`re going to come for your Social Security and your Medicare and other programs, they may well think, well, gee, you know, this is not so good, you know, Donald Trump got a whole cake and I only got crumbs, but at least I got some crumbs.

HAYES: I think that`s a good point about -- I think that`s a good point about popularity because I do think there`s been a lot of focus on 2027 when taxes go up. Most people will see some kind of cut next year and the year after that.

JOHNSTON: Right, exactly.

HAYES: But I also feel like the way that politics works now, what matters most is what the kind of activist base feels about it. What do you think this does to that part of the equation?

JOAN WALSH, THE NATION: Oh, I think this energizes the activist base like crazy, as, you know, Ady Barkan, national hero now, just told you. And I just off a conference call with Virginia Democrats, because they finally -- they got a recount today that means that they took the house back from Republicans. They won at least 16 seats. There`s still another recount to go, Chris. And so we know the activist base is already incredibly energized. This will only do more.

And I never -- I defer to David Cay Johnston on all things tax related, but I will say -- you konw, I don`t think Barack Obama got a lot of credit when people got some money back in their pockets.

HAYES: He did not.

WALSH: He didn`t get any credit. And people -- unfortunately, I don`t know that people are paying that much attention when their taxes just go down by a little. Something else might happen in their withholding that they don`t notice it.

George W. Bush did the smartest thing in our political lifetimes practically by sending us a check. I got one. It had my name on it.

HAYES: Dude, that check with the name on it.

WALSH: I like it.

HAYES: George W. Bush gave you this money.

WALSH: But I sure did cash it.

And they`re not even doing that. Plus, they made several Byrd rule mistakes that mean they have to vote again, which makes them look incredibly stupid. And I`m really hoping Democrats have found like 20 mistakes and they`ll only release two a day so they`ll have to keep doing this every day through Christmas.

HAYES: Well, I think that part about the sort of -- I think that part is really a good point -- that David, in a broader sense, it`s striking to me that this bill is polling worse than even tax hikes have polled. And what it says to me in some ways is, and this was true of the ACA -- and I don`t want to get too both sidesey here, but I do think that the phenomenon of negative partisanship and polarization that exists in the country means that it`s very hard to pass big popular legislation. I don`t think they tried very hard here, but they`re already behind the eight ball, as it were, on this thing.

JOHNSTON: Well, one of the things the Republicans got smart about on this thing was recognizing that they couldn`t just give the entire store and have a Goldman Sachs shopping list. They had to sort of, you know, throw some things at people. I mean, the person who was really smart in this was Marco Rubio. The amount of money he got for people at the bottom is actually quite small, it`s a tiny, tiny fraction of 1 percent of the economy, but he`s going to be able for years to now pose as this champion of people at the bottom, even though this bill really shows the Republicans want socialist redistribution up.

WALSH: Right, 83 percent of the benefits going to the top 1 percent. I think those numbers are getting across to people. I really do.

HAYES: They are. And what`s been remarkable to me -- I mean, I`m watching conservatives who have spent all day kind of whining about the messaging and the framing and the media framing, they`re very upset that the bill -- that people are talking about 2027 or they`re talking about the corporate rate, or they`re talking about the benefits that go to the 1 percent, and what about those people who make $60,000 a year who are going to get a benefit.

And in some of the ways it`s remarkable to me that some of the -- you know, the basic kinds of messaging that has worked for so long hasn`t actually worked on this bill.

WALSH: I think it is -- it`s partly the president`s unpopularity. It`s partly the fact that people are realizing that he ran as a so-called populist, but he`s ruling as a plutocrat. And I think that that`s trickling down, so to speak. I mean, not to the base of his base, but even to -- you know, Democrats are winning with suburban Republicans, with white suburban moderates. I think that people are starting to see that he was going to drain the swamp. He is the swamp. And he`s not keeping most of his campaign promises.

And so people may see a bump in their take-home pay but may not notice it or they may notice these other things that are going on. And they certainly are coming after Medicare and Social Security next year.

HAYES: That to me, David, is -- I mean, there just is no -- my big takeaway of the election in 2016 in the primary and the general election is there`s no popular constituency for Ryanism, for Paul Ryanism, for the Ryan budget. It`s -- there`s no constituency for it in the Republican Party. And yet here we have this bill that is a Paul Ryan special and when they come for Medicare cuts next year, I think the politics of that are going to be even worse than this bill.

JOHNSTON: I`m not sure they`re going to do it right away.

HAYES: Interesting.

JOHNSTON: I suspect that the revenue losses will be worse than the preliminary projections show and they`ll wait until after the 2018 elections to do that. And I`ll tell you a headline we`re going to see in the future, it`s going to be a profile of Congressman Lance, who you had on earlier in the show, and it will be the last budget hawk.

WALSH: Last thing, five of seven California Republicans live in Hillary Clinton district who voted for this bill. They`ll be sorry.

JOHNSTON: They are dead congress people walking right now. Joan Walsh and David Cay Johnston, thanks for joining me.

And that is All In for this evening. The Rachel Maddow Show starts right now.



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