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The plot to stop Mueller Transcript 12/21/17 All In with Chris Hayes

Guests: Jennifer Rubin, Bill Kristol

Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: December 21, 2017 Guest: Jennifer Rubin, Bill Kristol

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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Tonight on ALL IN.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, PRESS SECRETARY, WHITE HOUSE: For the 1,000th time we have no intentions of firing Bob Mueller. We look forward to seeing this hoax wrap up very soon.

HAYES: The secret and not so secret efforts to discredit the FBI and the Special Counsel.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Key members of this investigation are loyalists of either the Obama administration and/or Hillary Clinton.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: There basically was collusion to try to prevent Donald Trump from becoming president.

HAYES: Tonight, new signs that the Justice Department is being used for political purposes as Republicans target federal investigators.

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D) MARYLAND: Whenever it seems as if Mueller is getting closer and closer to the White House, it seems that we're just trying to turn to something else.

HAYES: Then, the man who gets the power to start impeachment proceedings if Democrats win back the house. Plus, the never Trumpers now shunned by other conservatives and the fundamental misunderstanding of Trump's new tax plan by his own people.

IVANKA TRUMP, ADVISOR TO THE PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I'm really looking forward to doing a lot of traveling in April when a lot of people realize the effect that this has.

HAYES: When ALL IN starts right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Good evening from New York, I'm Chris Hayes. Within the last hour, the Senate followed the House and passed a bill to keep the government from shutting down tomorrow at midnight. It includes temporary money for the Children's Health Insurance Plan which is good but no relief for 800,000 DREAMers who remain in limbo. Officials in Washington are starting to head home for the holidays but they do so amid a probable sense of dread that the President and his allies are advancing their plot to undermine and discredit the Russia investigation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CUMMINGS: We have a situation here where whenever it seems as if Mueller is getting closer and closer to the White House, it seems that we're distracted to something else. So now they've reached into their book of -- playbook of tricks and now they are pulling this out today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Elijah Cummings is referring to Congressional Republican's targeting FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. GOP lawmakers have called McCabe to Capitol Hill twice this week for closed-door interviews as they work to cast doubt on the impartiality of the FBI.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Cummings, are you concerned about this hearing today?

CUMMINGS: Well, we got less than 48 hours. As a matter of fact, at the same time that Mr. Dowdy was grilling McCabe and the Intelligence Committee, they sent to notice out for this. Certainly, this is an effort to discredit the FBI.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: For weeks, Trump T.V. has worked hard to undermine the Russia investigation by casting the FBI somewhat absurdly has a hotbed of liberalism.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Over the last month or so, it is been demonstrated that key members of this investigation are loyalists of either the Obama administration and or Hillary Clinton.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: They spend much time around the FBI. GOP Lawmakers are increasingly and enthusiastically embracing Trump T.V.'s assault in our political reports today. White House ally Devin Nunes, the Chair of the House Intelligence Committee led a group of House Republicans who have gathered secretly for weeks in the Capitol in an effort to build a case that senior leaders of the Justice Department and FBI improperly and perhaps criminally mishandled the contents of a dossier that describes alleged ties between President Donald Trump and Russia. At the same time, a parade of Republicans are very publicly insisting it is time to investigate the real scandal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: You know, we've had this investigation about Russian collusion. Maybe we need an investigation about high-ranking Obama officials colluding to try to prevent Trump from being president. That's more serious than even Watergate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Put that in your collusion pipe and smoke it. The Trump Administration is also doing its part. NBC News reports that Attorney General Jeff Sessions has directed Justice Department prosecutors to ask FBI agents for information about the so-called Uranium One deal which conservatives have seized on to push a baseless anti-Hillary Clinton conspiracy theory. Democrats are not sitting idly by announcing today that a 171 Democratic member of Congress has signed a letter in support of the Mueller investigation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MAXINE WATERS (D), CALIFORNIA: We have decided we will not stand by and allow Fox News and right-wing Republicans to defy the rule of law and create their own rules to interfere with the legitimate investigation under the Constitution of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Congressman Cummings told reporters that the very idea of American democracy is at stake.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CUMMINGS: This is a fight for the soul of our democracy, nothing less. And so I'm going to work hard to make sure we save that democracy and I will fight until I die.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Joining me now, Congressman Adam Schiff, Democrat of California and Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee. Congressman, first, let me ask you about Devin Nunes who's the chair of your committee though recused from anything having to do -- well, supposedly recused from the Russia investigation meeting in secret with other members of the committee to kind of plot out investigation of the investigators. Did you know about that?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: No. I mean, I certainly knew that they were initially pursuing this whole unmasking business and failing to find anything critical of the Obama administration. I think they then turn their sights to try and undermine the FBI and the DOJ. Now, we could see them doing that. We could see them issuing subpoenas. In terms of whether this group is working in parallel with other committees, though, I don't have much visibility into that.

But it's more the same problem we saw early in the investigation when the Chairman of the Committee had difficulty removing himself from his role during the campaign of being a proxy for the White House. And here I think, again, we see some on our committee, including the Chair, doing the work of the White House, doing the work of Steve Bannon and his allies rather than doing the work of the committee, which is supposed to be investigating Russia as well as the connections between Russia's active measures campaign and Trump officials.

HAYES: I don't serve in Congress so I don't know the answer to this question. But is it weird to have a caucus in your committee meeting in secret to sort of plot a kind of counter-investigation to what the committee's investigating?

SCHIFF: Yes, of course. It's highly irregular. I've never seen anything like it. It's all the more unusual in the Intelligence Committee, which has a long tradition of being very bipartisan and, in fact, had been bipartisan up until that trip that the Chairman took to the White House where he pretended to obtain documents and then later presented them back to the White House. That was really, I think, a major body blow to our ability to work together. And then since that time, notwithstanding his promise to recuse himself, he never really did. He insisted on having the ultimate say and what subpoenas could go out and more importantly what subpoenas could not go out as well as the scheduling of the witness interviews or the not scheduling of witness interviews. So he has kept very much a leading hand here but not one that is devoted to the investigation.

HAYES: I just want to make sure I'm understanding. You're saying that Nunes has vetoed subpoenas?

SCHIFF: Well, yes. They are any numbers of subpoenas that we've asked to be issued that were necessary to compel people to cooperate or to compel the production of documents that are directly relevant to the investigation. Those decisions are ultimately made by Chairman Nunes and those requests have been denied.

HAYES: There's reporting today from NBC that the Attorney General has ordered people in the Justice Department to ask FBI investigators to go back over their investigation into the famed Uranium One deal. There's two ways to interpret that. One is a worrying decision for an administration to essentially reopen an investigation to a political rival. The other is that Sessions is dotting his I's and crossing his T's so he can go back to the White House and say there is nothing there. Which of those two do you think it is?

SCHIFF: Well, either way. Frankly, I find this deeply disturbing that the White House is essentially interfering with the operations of the Justice Department, that the policy that divides the White House from the administration of justice and properly so when it affects the White House is being broken down. And we've now seen this in multiple ways. We saw it first when the White House urged the Justice Department to lift the gag rule on a witness in this Uranium One investigation so that it could be retarded. That violated White House policy.

We then see the next step along those lines that the Attorney General is now asking these agents about that investigation and potentially reopening it. We also saw a very disturbing sign last week when the Justice Department released to the press internal text messages of FBI personnel during the pendency of an Inspector General investigation. That never happens. So why is it happening now? I think it's because the Justice Department is losing its independence from this White House and that is a real threat to our system of checks and balances.

HAYES: Andrew McCabe, number two at the FBI, was before your committee today in closed session if I am not mistaken. I understand you won't be able to tell me what he said but can you explain why Republican members seem so focused on Mr. McCabe?

SCHIFF: Well, I think they're focused on Mr. McCabe because they see him as an opportunity to, again, try to tear at the FBI, tear at the investigation, tear at Bob Mueller. If they can just discredit the FBI, then maybe they can get the country to ignore what Bob Mueller finds or worse, they can get the country to go along with the firing of Bob Mueller. I don't think this is going to work but it's so deeply destructive to the whole institution of the Justice Department, FBI and also besmirches the reputation of Andrew McCabe who's been a career public servant and people like Bob Mueller, another dedicated public servant. So it's hard to add up all of the flaws with what they're doing and what a danger it poses to our institutions.

HAYES: Congressman Adam Schiff, thanks for being with me tonight.

SCHIFF: Thank you.

HAYES: With me now, Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse or Rhode Island, a Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. I want to get your reaction to the news about Jeff Sessions directing people at the Justice Department to talk to FBI investigators about Uranium One.

SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D-RI), SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Well, Jeff has recused himself from the Russia investigation. So this gets perilously close to the borders of that investigation if the whole purpose of the enterprise is to distract attention if the Russia investigation. If the White House is running a plan to throw up as much squid ink as it possibly can to distract from what Mueller is up to and that's the intention of it and the Attorney General who's recused with respect to Mueller is participating in that effort, then I think we've got a pretty significant problem on our hands. The idea that you ask an agent at the conclusion of a case to go back and say could you take a second look, did you really -- did we turn over every page here, that's not necessarily a bad thing, but it's weird when it's a recused attorney general doing it for a case that is being pushed up as a counterweight or as a distraction to the underlying investigation that he's recused from.

HAYES: Your colleague, Mark Warner, who is on, of course, the Intelligence Committee, gave a speech, I believe, yesterday talking about what his red lines would be in terms of White House actions. What is your sense right now of where things stand? What are your red lines?

WHITEHOUSE: Well, I think everybody's redline for a long time has been what Mark described. An effort to fire Mueller or an effort to pardon material witnesses, which would very likely actually be an effort to obstruct justice and create its own perils has long, I think, been an absolute red line for Democrats and I think whenever Republicans are asked about this, they say, no, that would be a red line for us or they'll say, well, nobody's thinking about it so we don't have to go there. The problem is that we're seeing this increasing barrage of phony disinformation being fired at the FBI and the Department of Justice and specifically at the Mueller investigation.

And all of that begins to look like they're softening up the public and particularly their base for some kind of an intervention in the investigation and as Adam very clearly pointed out, the White House is not supposed to be involved in the investigative and criminal work of the Department of Justice and that wall should be absolutely impenetrable when it goes to matters in which the White House itself is the subject or a potential subject of that Department of Justice investigation. So the White House being all over this in so many ways and the Attorney General being all over this in ways that may relate to the matter that he's recused from, it all just has a really bad odor about it right now.

HAYES: Do you trust that wall has remained intact? Which is to say, can you say definitively one way or the other whether the independence of the Department has been breached?

WHITEHOUSE: The department has to hold its own against constant efforts to breach it, including by the President himself. When the President sends out tweets that criticize the FBI or when he sends out tweets that challenge the credibility of Jim Comey, who is likely at some point going to be a witness in this investigation, those send signals to the political people in the department and even to eager line officials who might want the President's approval as to what it is that he wants to do and he ought to knock it off. I think there's actually some potential liability there because all it takes is a jury to believe beyond a reasonable doubt that some of these tweets were, in fact, intended to influence the grand jury. And then you've got obstruction of justice.

HAYES: Final question, you were a No on the C.R. vote that just happened just a short while ago. It passed with the majority of the Democratic caucus voting no, 17 or 16 members of the Democratic caucus and Angus King voting yes. Why were you a No vote?

WHITEHOUSE: Well, we wanted to send a strong message that the Republicans need to work with us and pass a responsible spending measure. They've been completely fixated with the tax bill for so long, they haven't been able to do two things at once and we need to catch up, we need to get the Children's Health Insurance Program funded, we've got community health centers that need to be funded. We had an opioid epidemic raging in America that we need to get money for. We have emergency relief we need to fund and then we've got all of these DREAMer kids that we need to take care of.

And at the moment they're being just hopeless about getting things done and getting Democrats and Republicans that are in a room together and working these things out. So we wanted -- I think many of us wanted to send a signal that you can't just C.R. your way through life. At some point you have to deal with Democrats, be responsible, fund the things that need funding and stop acting like this is kind of government by the dark back room.

HAYES: Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, thanks for your time tonight and a very merry Christmas.

WHITEHOUSE: Merry Christmas.

HAYES: Still ahead, for the first time this cycle, I will speak the words, if the election were held today. New polling shows Democrats in strong shape for the 2018 election. Steve Kornacki is here with the big board in tow. We'll see how -- just how strong. But first, the Democrats if Democrats were able to take the majority, the man with the power will say, oh, I don't know, begin impeachment proceedings as a long history of Donald Trump. That Congressman from New York Jerry Nadler joins me live in just two minutes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JERRY NADLER (D), NEW YORK: I think a serious part of an attempt at a lot of diversion from the real issue, which is the Russian attempt to subvert the last election, the possible collusion or the certain collusion by many languages of the Trump campaign and possible collusion by the President himself.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Congressman Jerry Nadler is the new Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee which means if Democrats were to flip the House next year, he could lead an effort to impeach the President. Because that's the committee it would start in. Democratic leadership as a whole, including Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, Minority Leader have tried to tamp down the impeachment talk. But Jerry Nadler has a long history with Donald Trump going back decades in New York. Back in 1998, the Observer referred to the "bitter personal animus" between the two men, "Mr. Nadler flatly calls Mr. Trump a liar while a developer clearly relishes every opportunity to paint Mr. Nadler as a floundering incompetent. Congressman Jerry Nadler joins me now. Congressman, congratulations on your election as Ranking Member of the very august Committee.

NADLER: Thank you very much.

HAYES: 54 percent of Americans, which is shocking to me, I have to say this poll is -- should Congress hold impeachment hearings? 54 percent of American say yes. Right now, that's a plus 13 on impeachment hearings. I'm sorry. No, 54 percent say no. I got that wrong. It is -- there's a plurality certainly of democrats that want that to happen. What is your perspective about impeachment hearings?

NADLER: My perspective is that it's too early to talk about impeachment hearings. We have to wait to see if the report of the special prosecutor. We have to wait and see about obstruction of justice. You can't hold impeachment hearings unless you're really convinced of two things. Number one, that the President has committed impeachable offenses. And he may very well of. There are a lot of suspicions but no real proof yet. And second of all, that you can convince, by the end of the process, a majority of Americans, including a good fraction of those who voted for the -- for the President, that he must be removed from office.

He shouldn't do the impeachment unless both of those are two for two reasons. Number one, arithmetic, you need two two-thirds of votes in the Senate. There's no point in impeaching a president in the house and having him acquitted by the Senate. But second of all, if you're really removing a president from office, you're in one sense nullifying the last election and it has to be seen by some percentage of the people who voted for him that you had no choice so that you don't have the country tied up in recriminations and bitterness for the next 20 years saying, you -- we elected him and you stole the election from us.

HAYES: This sounds like someone who sort of -- I think what I hear from you is sort of worries about Democratic legitimacy and sort of institutional vitality if Democrats were to pursue this path.

NADLER: Well, if the evidence is there, then we are duty bound to pursue that path. If it is not, we must not.

HAYES: What have you learned about Donald Trump in the 40 years or so that you have interacted with him?

NADLER: Well, what the public knows. He's a liar. He lies all the time. We know that. He stiffs his vendors. He stiffs everybody. You can't trust him. That's what I've learned.

HAYES: Are you been at all surprised by how he's conducting himself in this first year given the time that you -- the two of you have gone at it over lots of things, things that's happening in your district, development deals, I mean, there's been actual contentious conflict over significant substantive issues between the two of you. Has this year played out how you thought it would?

NADLER: Well, I didn't realize until he started becoming public on a national stage when he -- with the birtherism issue of his racist -- frankly his racist tendencies and his -- as we saw basically his racist tendencies. That I didn't see earlier on except I should have seen it when he took out that full-page ad back in 1989 urging the death penalty for the Harlem five who were later proven to have been convicted unjustly.

HAYES: Can you imagine a scenario in which we do get -- I mean, you may find yourself in 2018 as a minority member on the House Judiciary Committee that is essentially working overtime to kind of run a kind of parallel investigation of an investigation or to run some sort of enterprise absolving a president in the face of very contrary evidence. How do you think about preparing for that role?

NADLER: Well, I think that would be very unfortunate. We have to do our job and our job is to let this -- first of all, to let the special prosecutor do his job and I would note that all of the criticism, all of it against the special prosecutor, against the FBI, first of all, which tears down the institution that we depend on for democracy but all of it is quite beside the point. The FBI is prohibited by law from inquiring into the political opinions of its employees or its agents. How would the Republicans feel if, when it was setting up an investigation of the president or of Hillary Clinton, they asked the agents, what is your political opinion? If you want to say that the investigation is biased, you have to show that it is biased, not that the people working on it, whatever their private political opinions may be.

HAYES: But that's precisely the argument they're making. In an attempt, it appears manifestly, to either discredit it or precipitate some actual investigation.

NADLER: Well, that's exactly right. And to discredit the Special Prosecutor and to discredit the FBI is destructive of some of the institutions we depend on to get justice and to defend democracy to try to -- well, I'll leave it at that.

HAYES: Congressman Jerry Nadler, thanks for joining me.

NADLER: Thank you.

HAYES: Up next, almost 4 million people have signed his petition calling for impeachment of the President. Tom Steyer will be here next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES: One of the most prominent people calling for Donald Trump's impeachment. Billionaire, Environmentalist, and political donor Tom Steyer. You've probably seen his ad on this network and others as part of the $20 million campaign to remove President Donald Trump from office. Now, Tom Steyer joins me now. Tom, I've seen a lot of people critical of the ad campaign for the following reason. They basically jumping off of what Congressman Nadler just said. He said, look, impeachment isn't just something -- some wand you wave and gathering a lot of petitions and signatures to do it is all well and good. If there's either not the presentation of the necessary evidence or any kind of democratic legitimacy to it, it doesn't do anything. What do you say to that?

TOM STEYER, ENVIRONMENTALIST AND POLITICAL DONOR: Well, Chris, I'm not a lawyer and I've heard that criticism so we got four constitutional lawyers to do a press conference about ten days ago to go through eight different ways in which Donald Trump has definitely met the criteria for impeachment, including obstruction of justice, and we put that on the web. I listened to Congressman Nadler talks about waiting for Mr. Mueller's investigation to conclude and I'm entirely behind Mr. Mueller's investigation. But one of the lines in the sand is, if this president fires Mr. Mueller, then that would be a line in the sand to show that he was obstructing justice.

He's already fired Mr. Comey for the Russian investigation, which is the exact same thing and he said on T.V., I did it because of the Russian thing. We see today that the -- a judge in New York said only the Congress can -- has standing to go after the President on emoluments, and emoluments is when you're taking payments from foreign governments. It's absolutely forbidden and this President has absolutely done it since the very first day. So he has clearly met the criteria for impeachment and he is a danger to the health and safety of the American people and he is a danger to the health and safety of our democracy.

HAYES: OK. But let's say that -- let's say that your ultimate goal is impeachment. The numbers are still the numbers. Obviously, the Republicans are not going to impeach him, I don't think, barring some new evidence. Let's take the record as entered into evidence now. There are people who say, why would you spend $20 million on this rather than some other tactical enterprise like helping candidates in contested races or registering a lot of voters if what necessarily is a precondition to the outcome you want is greater political power for the opposition party.

STEYER: So, let me take that in two parts, if you don't mind, Chris.

HAYES: Sure.

STEYER: First of all, we're a huge grassroots organization. In 2016, we knocked on 12.5 million doors, we registered about a million three people in the United States of America and we were on 370 college campuses. So all the things that those people are suggesting, we're doing. We're already on the ground doing those things. But the fact of the matter is if you look at what has happened since we started this petition drive on October 20, at that point, there were two Congresspeople talking about impeachment openly. They held a vote a couple weeks ago. That number went from 2 to 58.

If you look yesterday, there were 171 Congresspeople who said that firing Mueller would be something that they absolutely couldn't stand. So, in fact, if you look at where the movement is to judge this President as absolutely unfit and absolutely dangerous to the American people, we can see it not only in the overwhelming response, really the surprising response from American citizens to sign our petition but also you can see movement even inside the Beltway from the people in Congress and the Senate as they realize the American people are scared of this president and they realize that he's a danger to them and their families and their communities.

HAYES: All right. Tom Steyer, thanks for your time tonight.

STEYER: Thanks, Chris.

HAYES: Coming up, the really early polling shows dramatic swings in favor of the Democratic Party. Steve Kornacki is here for a really early 2018 breakdown right after this break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES: Right now, in a generic ballot, meaning people were asked whether they would vote for a Democrat or a Republican in next year's congressional races, Democrats are winning by double digits. The latest RealClearPolitics average shows a generic Democrat beating a general Republican by 13 points, which is big. It's the biggest lead so far this year.

As far as what that would actually mean for the balance of power in the House after next year's election, I want to bring in our own national political correspondent Steve Kornacki. Steve, how are things looking right now a little less than a year before the midterms?

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, we have a couple of different metrics we can look at. You just gave us one of them, that generic ballot, that speaks for itself. When the party is up 13 points, double digits, anywhere near there, historically that's great news for the party. Here's something else we look at, and we can compare a lot to history here.

The approval rating of the president, that matters a lot in midterm elections. Donald Trump in the most recent Gallup tracking poll in this, he clocks in at 35 percent. Look at the past mid-term wave elections, look at the approval ratings you're seeing here. Obama in in 2010 when Democrats got wiped out. He was sitting at 45 percent in Gallup. Bush in '06, the Iraq War, post-Katrina, remember that midterm. Republicans lost the House. He was sitting at 38.

You see, look, Trump's very much in line here with what you'd expect to see from a president whose party takes a shellacking in a midterm election.

So, you've got the approval rating. You've got the generic ballot. We've seen a number of special elections this year where the story has been Republicans have won a lot of those House special elections, but the Democrats have cut into the Trump margin by double digits.

So, you've got those three factors working. Put it all together. Look, 24. We know that's the magic number for Democrats. If they want to win back the House, net gain of 24. So, what does the playing field look like? If it's going to be a wave, where would they look?

First of all, here's sort of the first wrung you would look at. This is kind of the first line, you want to say. These are 23 districts here almost gets you to that magic number of 24. But there's 23 districts here that are held by Republicans that Donald Trump lost in 2016. So, you'd think these were the most vulnerable.

Some of these -- look down here in Florida, Ros-Lehtinen, she is retiring. This is a seat Trump got crushed in. This is one where Democrats really like their chances. You've got Republican incumbents running like Barbara Comstock here in the D.C. suburbs, D.C. suburbs where Ralph Northam in that Virginia governor's race did so well. This looks like a prime target.

How about the motherload out here, 7 -- 7 Republicans in California, a state where Hillary Clinton won big in districts that Hillary Clinton won, so that's sort of the first tier here. Now, not all of these probably would even go in a wave, some of these incumbents are very entrenched locally. But this is kind of the first line. 23 there.

Next, here is this. You've got 13 districts here where Donald Trump won, but his margin was less than five points. And again, take a look at New Jersey, you've got two in particular with this tax bill with the implications for a state like New Jersey. These are two right here. This is Rodney Frelinghuysen. Frank LoBiondo, he's actually retiring. But these are districts, especially the Frelinghuysen district, when you talk about those college-educated traditionally Republican white suburbanites, this is what you're talking about with Frelinghuysen.

So, again, these are districts Trump almost lost, certainly in a wave election, these come into play and then the next tier, Trump won but it was a single digit margin. We're talking less than ten points. You could tack on almost another two dozen there, 23 more.

You add all these up and what do you have here, sort of in that radius of either Trump lost or he won by less than 10 points you're looking at 59.

Now, obviously to actually get a 59 seat gain, that would be historic. It was 54 for Republicans in 1984, but that gives you the targets you're looking at here.

And one thing to note as well, we have to say, there are these 59 potentially -- and these three tiers, there are a few out there, there's about ten seats out there that Democrats hold that Trump won. So, another piece of that, Chris, would be defending those seats as well.

HAYES: You know, it's interesting that -- you talk about the motherload in California, which is where I've been focused, California's going to get hit. Those districts, those seven districts, are relatively affluent districts in a high real estate areas, in a high tax state, where those voters are most likely going to take a hit from this tax bill. They only lost one or two votes in that California delegation, which speaks to Kevin McCarthy working over his fellow Californians, but might open them up to additional exposure in 2018.

KORNACKI: Absolutely. Look, California, New York, New Jersey, and the northeast, same story. And the other lesson, one of the lessons from 2010, remember, there were Democrats who voted against Obamacare thinking this is going to be unpopular. I'll say it myself. Didn't see much of a difference between the Democrats who voted for and against it. There was a national wave against it. There was some kind of national wave against Trump and that tax bill? Maybe those votes don't even end up mattering.

HAYES: Right now we've got a generic ballot which is maybe the most sort of top-line reliable indicator a year out. It's coming in at 11, 12, 13. It's opened up this week in the polling average. That has been a really reliable indicator even a year out of generally the direction things are going to move.

KORNACKI: That and the approval rating. When you see an approval -- and the thing with Trump is -- look, it is a year out. So, yes, it can go up. But here's the thing, with Donald Trump, his top number approval this year is 46 percent.

HAYES: Right.

KORNACKI: His first week in office, his honeymoon, you want to call it, he hit 46 percent in Gallup, that's where he peaked. He'd have to get above his peak for his entire presidency so far to get even close to the range where these things don't turn into waves.

HAYES: All right, Steve Kornacki, thanks for that.

Coming up, it's tough out there for a never Trump Republican, especially when he's just signed huge tax cuts. But you'd be surprised how deep the GOP divide really is. That's after tonight's Thing One, Thing Two next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES: Thing One tonight, now the Republicans have jammed through their tax bill and they need to figure out what exactly they just made into law. The Huffington Post Matt Fuller discovered the day of the vote that many Republicans couldn't answer basic questions about the bill.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you no he what the brackets are on this bill?

REP. JEFF DENHAM, (R) CALIFORNIA: This is an amazing bill that is going to help the entire country, especially the middle class in my district. But you know I've got to run to vote.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you know what the tax brackets are?

DENHAM: I have the (inaudible) in my office.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you don't know?

Do you know what the tax brackets are in it?

REP. DIANE BLACK, (R) MARYLAND: I do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Which are.

BLACK: (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you know the brackets, though?

BLACK: I do know the brackets.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Which are?

BLACK: I do know the brackets.

REP. BILLY LONG, (R) MISSOURI: I'm getting more familiar with it every day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you though what the tax brackets are in this bill? Nothing?

Do you know what they are, though?

REP. LYNN JENKINS, (R) KANSAS: Yeah.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are they?

JENKINS: Yeah. Yeah. I have to go back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not off the top of your head?

JENKINS: Yeah.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: A good thing they're not up to be federal judges.

18 lawmakers hater, he found one who knew the answer. But beyond the specific details, one of the most senior officials in the White House doesn't seem to understand fundamentally what the bill does or, more troublingly, how tax filing works in general. And that's Thing Two in 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ivanka, good morning to you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good morning to you. Congratulations.

IVANKA TRUMP, DONALD TRUMP'S DAUGHTER: Thank you, thank you. What a day to be here to celebrate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No kidding.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: President Trump's senior adviser and daughter joined Trump TV today to talk about the tax bill, making several strange and misleading claims, including this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

IVANKA TRUMP: I'm really looking forward to doing a lot of traveling in April when people realize the effect that this has, both on the process of filling out their taxes, the vast majority will be doing so on a single postcard.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES; So first off, the process of filling out your taxes doesn't change this April. If you have ever, ever filled out your own taxes or understand the most basic thing there is to understand about tax filing, you know that when you file your taxes in April, it's for the previous year. So in April 2018, you file your taxes for 2017 taxes, which are not affected by the new law that the president's daughter was talking about.

After hours of ridicule as people explained taxes 101 on Twitter, Ivanka Trump tried some damage control. "Correct, all across America people will be thinking about how cumbersome the old tax code is an energized about upcoming simplification."

Ah, right, yes, that's of course what she meant there as you can tell from that context.

Which brings us to the second point, it seems no one told senior adviser Ivanka Trump, again senior adviser in the White House, that the whole tax simplification postcard thing just didn't happen.

As FiveThirtyEight analysis notes, the bill doesn't actually simplifies the tax code. In many ways it adds more complexity, which is why tax experts say you should not expect for a postcard-sized return.

That was, well, just a prop.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Great job. Thank you -- I didn't know I was going to be given a prop.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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HAYES: On inauguration day of this year, several hundred protesters gathered in the streets of Washington to, in the words of the organizers of the protest, disrupt Trump's first day in office.

You can see them there. Now, some participants, likely a small handful, engaged in vandalism and property destruction, breaking shop windows and perhaps most memorably setting a limousine on fire. Cameras really seemed to like that one.

And police ended up arresting a huge mass of people throughout the day, who were around the protests and charging over 200 of them with crimes.

In a trial this past month against the first six defendants, Trump's Department of Justice originally attempted to prosecute those first six defendants for felony incitement of riots only to have the judge throw out those charges because, wait for it, the government had no evidence they had incited a riot.

But the judge still let the government proceed with a variety of misdemeanor charges. All six defendants, among them an oncology nurse, a photographer, a PhD student, say they never engaged in any property destruction. And here is what made this entire enterprise so weird, the assistant U.S. attorney who was prosecuting conceded that, conceded there is no evidence the defendants caused any of that damage directly.

In fact, the most memorable act of destruction, the limo fire, was lit on fire after the defendants had already been arrested, so they probably weren't the ones that lit that on fire.

No, instead, the government's theory of the case was that because the defendants had attended the protest peacefully, they were guilty of a crime. The whole government case rested on an idea attending a protest where sole break windows nearby makes you a criminal even if you just happen to be standing on the street corner when the cops by come.

Well, luckily today, sanity and the first amendment prevailed and a jury found all six defendants not guilty on all of their charges. There are still, however, 166 defendants waiting for trials and the DOJ is vowing to proceed. But Jeff Sessions should take the L and throw in the towel on the rest, that is if he has any respect for the constitution he claims to so dearly love.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) HAYES: With me now, two of the leading conservative voices of never Trump movement, such as it is, who are now facing criticism for their ostensible ideological allies, Jennifer Rubin, conservative columnist for The Washington Post, and Bill Kristol, editor-at-large of The Weekly Standard.

And I've been wanting to have this conversation with both of you. Jennifer, you particular because you've been on the show a lot about where you sort of are ideologically in the Trump era. And I thought it was germane today, because there's a piece attacking you from conservatives basically saying you're no longer a conservative. You -- that Trump has caused you to essentially abandon your principles. The things you liked before, like cutting the corporate tax rate you don't like now because Trump is doing them, or moving the embassy to Jerusalem, and that essentially you've left conservatism and Trump has driven you mad. And I wanted to get your response -- no, because I'm actually genuinely curious how you define yourself politically in this moment?

JENNIFER RUBIN, COLUMNIST, "THE WASHINTON POST": Alone right now without a party. Actually, I've been pretty consistent in all my views. I do like corporate tax reform, I don't like this dog's breakfast of a bill. I do favor generally moving the embassy to Israel, but not in these circumstances, particularly not at a time that Israel is getting along nicely with its Sunni neighbors.

So, I think of myself, frankly, as I always have which is a small liberal or a neoconservative who believes that some government, not a lot of government, but some vigorous government is necessary, that America needs to lead in the world, and that things like the rule of law, the character of our elected leaders matter. And I think I've stayed pretty much where I've been for awhile now. I've always been on the free trader, open immigration side of things.

The party in my view has sort of lost its mind. And they will either come out of it, although, I have a lot less confidence than perhaps Bill does that the fever will break, so in the meantime I'm where I am and I give it to the Trump sycophants and they don't like it so they hit back and that's good. That's good to have an argument.

HAYES: Well, so bill, first of all, I feel like the neoconservatives have formed a kind of crucible of a lot of the never Trumpers, the two of you and Max Boot who is another. There's a number of people I think who I think of as sort of the neoconservative school. They were very, very supportive of the Iraq war. They were supportive of George Bush's foreign policy. And after a year, I think in many ways you can make an argument that George Bush -- that Donald Trump, rhetoric aside, the way he talks about freedom and democracy and Vladimir Putin aside, rhetoric from trying to undermine the Iran deal to moving the announcement about moving the embassy to Jerusalem to the new agreement that we're going to sell weapons to Ukraine has actually governed in foreign policy kind of like a neoconservative. What is not to like?

BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: No, I don't think so. I think some of his advisers have pushed him in good direction on some discrete choices and I support some of those.

But I was in Japan a couple weeks ago, gave a couple talks to see sights, really a fantastically interesting country, but you talk privately to the people there and they've gotten along with Trump. Prime Minister Abe has done a very good job I think of managing the relationship with Trump, but you talk privately to them and they are very worried about the alliance, about Trump's reliability, the backing out of TPP, which both Clinton and Trump ended up supporting, it was a real blow to our leadership in Asia. So, I think from a traditional if you want to call it neoconservative Bush, McCain, Romney type of foreign policy view, there is a lot to worry about in Trump's foreign policy. It hasn't been as bad as some of us feared, but it still could be bad, very bad.

And the real crises are coming in the next year or two, I think. In a way we've had sort of a funny year. A huge amount of turmoil, a lot that Trump has done that I very much disapprove of, but it's been kind of, you know, the economy has chugged ahead. The world hasn't blown up yet. We'll see what happens next year.

HAYES: There is 1,000, I will note -- I know you're not putting this out, there is like 1,000 dead people in Puerto Rico and they don't have power, which has been the sort one big crisis that happened this year that he had to deal with and has not borne out very well.

Jennifer, you were going to say something.

RUBIN: Yes. I was just going to say that saying that except for Russia is sort of like the except for that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play? That is a big deal.

The fact that we have a president of the United States who goes around embracing not just Putin, but the Chinese leader, the Turkish president, all of these sort of potentates, these thuggish characters, embraces them, won't recognize an attack on our democracy, that's kind of a big deal with me.

So I think for that reason, also for his complete disdain for any kind of values based foreign policy, I might not have agreed with President Obama on a lot of things, but he never, I think, diminished or denigrated the sense that democracy is a good thing and having democratic allies is a good thing. This president couldn't care less, frankly.

KRISTOL: But, Chris, the interesting question, I guess, is -- it seems to me the institutions have checked Trump quite a lot in the first year. I mean, the informal and formal institutions, separation of powers, the courts, the legal system, but -- federalism.

HAYES: Public opinion actually I think a little bit.

KRISTOL: Public opinion, the media.

But also, inside the government and even inside White House, I think, it's turned out he hasn't been able to do a lot of things he might have instinctively wanted to do or thought he could do. So, that's been good from my point of view.

It's a very interesting question going forward -- he's done some damage, on the other hand, to those institutions and to democratic norms. But look, this is where I come back to things like the special counsel, the rule of law. I mean, those things really matter the most. And that's worrisome, I would say. And I hope the institutions can win against Trump, but I think that's going to be a very interesting year, a very tough year.

HAYES: That's a big question. I look forward to both of you writing essays in the future version of the god that failed, about leaving conservatism set to be published in about four years.

KRISTOL: Only when you write your essay about how progressivism is a myth.

HAYES: No, I don't think that's going to happen. Jennifer Rubin and Bill Kristol, thank you both. That is ALL IN for this evening. The Rachel Maddow Show starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

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