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Trump's Iran & Huma/Comey attacks Transcript 1/2/18 All In with Chris Hayes

Guests: Keith Ellison, Evan McMullin

Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: January 2, 2018 Guest: Keith Ellison, Evan McMullin

JOHN PODHORETZ, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK POST: The voters normalized them, that`s all I`m saying.


STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: All right, we are -- we are at the end of the hour but I want to say obviously, it`s big breaking news here. This will not be the end of the discussion about this. John Podhoretz, Zerlina Maxwell, Jonathan Lemire, thank you for being with us tonight, thank you at home, and "ALL IN" starts right now.




REID: The 2018 countdown begins.

TRUMP: We`re off to a very good start.

REID: Tonight, as Democrats dig in for a fight, some big-name Republicans announce their retirements as the existential threats to Donald Trump`s presidency grow.

Plus inside The New York Times blockbuster about how the Trump-Russia investigation really began and how it destroys a key Trump defense.

TRUMP: That was a Democrat hoax.

REID: And fresh off the links at Mar-a-Lago --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you tell me the biggest single thing the President has accomplished for the American people on the golf course?

REID: New reporting on how Donald Trump is cashing in on the Presidency while nobody`s looking.

TRUMP: I could actually run my business and run government at the same time.

REID: ALL IN starts now.


REID: Good evening from New York, I`m Joy Reid in for Chris Hayes. Well, 2018 is finally here and with 307 days to go to the midterm elections, Democrats are gearing up for what could be a decisive year for the future of the Trump presidency and for American democracy. Republicans closed out 2017 with a pep rally to celebrate the one thing that they got done legislatively last year. And the thing many in the GOP say they came to Washington specifically to accomplish. Tax cuts, largely for corporations and the wealthy. It was the only thing that each of the party`s different factions has actually agreed on and it was priority one for House Speaker Paul Ryan and for Donald Trump. As for Trump, after tweeting on Christmas that he`d be "back to work" the following day, he instead proceeded to spend seven more days golfing at one of his own properties in Florida. Trump is now back in Washington where his administration laid out what they promise will be a packed agenda for the year ahead.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, PRESS SECRETARY, WHITE HOUSE: The President was elected because of his ambitious agenda and his desire to get a lot of things done. Welfare reform, infrastructure, responsible immigration reform, and health care will all be top priorities forth the administration this year.


REID: So welfare reform, a supposed trillion-dollar infrastructure bill, immigration, meaning a wall, and another crack at killing ObamaCare, all on the menu for 2018. But Trump, his party, and that 2018 agenda are already facing some powerful headwinds as this year begins. Because after a year of going after health care and after passing a historically unpopular tax bill, Republican control of Congress is in jeopardy according to most political watchers. And it`s not just control of Congress that`s at stake. A Democratic House or Senate or both would inarguably put the entire Trump Presidency in danger with Democrats in control of key committees including those investigating Russian interference in the election.

Tomorrow, Democrat Doug Jones will be sworn in as the new U.S. Senator from Alabama, reducing the Republican margin in the Senate to just one vote. Meanwhile, today two more senior Republicans announced that they`re retiring at the end of this term. Pennsylvania Congressman Bill Shuster, the Chairman of the House Transportation Committee and Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, who pushed the tax bill as Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and heaped lavish praise on the President once it passed.

SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R-UT), CHAIRMAN, SENATE FINANCE COMMITTEE: Mr. President, I have to say that you`re living up to every -- everything I thought you would. You`re one heck of a leader. And we`re all benefiting from it. This bill could not have passed without you. This President hasn`t even been in office for a year, and look at all the things that he`s been able to get done.


REID: Hatch and Shuster joining a rolling list of GOP lawmakers who aren`t seeking re-election this year, a potential omen for where the midterm momentum is heading. According to Politico, White House aides are already anxious about 2018, dreading what`s to come over the next year. And they have good reason to worry. In Iowa a state Trump won by 10 points in 2016, his approval rating has fallen to a measly 35 percent in a new poll. Just 34 percent Iowans said they would back Republicans for Congress in the midterms. And it`s hard to overstate just how much is at stake next November not just for the Republican agenda, but for the trump Presidency.

Robert Mueller has yet to wind down his Russia investigation, despite repeated insistence from Trump`s lawyers that it will soon end, and the coming months could bring new revelations or new indictments. But whatever ultimately happens with Mueller constitutionally, only Congress has the power to hold a President publicly accountable for his actions and those of his inner circle, something Republicans have notably declined to do, instead running interference for the White House on the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees. If Democrats win back control of the House, all bets are off according to the Washington Post. And the President has been informed by aides and friends that if he loses the House in 2018, Democrats would almost certainly begin impeachment proceedings against him.

Congressman Keith Ellison is a Democrat from Minnesota and the Deputy Chair of the DNC. Let`s start on that last point. John Dean, who was the White House Counsel to Richard Nixon, tweeted in the last 24 hours, nothing, absolutely nothing -- this is John Dean, former lifelong Republican -- is more important in 2018 than taking the U.S. House from the GOP and beginning the end of Trump`s horrific Presidency. The well-being of the nation depends on it. Don`t let a day pass without doing some act to help Democrats win control, stop Trump. Are Democrats explicitly, at least for the advice of yourself as the leader of the DNC, running on the idea that if they get control back, House Democrats will impeach Donald Trump?

REP. KEITH ELLISON (D), MINNESOTA: No, we`re running on an explicit program to put the middle class and working people first. We`re running on an explicit program to say that if you put Democrats in, we`re going to focus on your family budget, we`re going to focus on human and civil rights for you in your neighborhood. Now, look, nobody should relish impeachment, it should be something that we go into with a tremendous amount of trepidation because it represents failure, you know. But if the facts revealed by the Mueller investigation and other sources reveal it, then it`s the constitutional duty to investigate it and to look into it. Personally, I think he deserves it but I think this is a process that we have to look into.

If Democrats want a reason -- if rank and file folks across the nation, you know, there`s plenty of reason to get involved apart from just talking about impeachment. He`s trying to take away -- he`s gotten rid of the DACA program, he`s gotten -- he`s tried to take health care away, he`s redistributing wealth from the middle and working glosses up to the richest people. There`s plenty of things he`s done that are not impeachable and we will investigate and do our proper oversight if that becomes a possibility.

REID: What about on the idea of Donald Trump just as a sort of, in and of himself, person that destabilizes the country if not the world? There is a tweet he just sent out that I want to call to your attention, I don`t know if you`ve seen it yet. This is Donald Trump a few minutes ago saying the following.

ELLISON: I saw it.

REID: "North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un just stated that the nuclear button is on his desk at all times. Will someone from his depleted and food- starved regime please inform him that I too have a nuclear button, but it is a much bigger and more powerful one than his, and my button works." Your thoughts, Congressman?

ELLISON" Threatening a country with nuclear attack, which is annihilation of literally hundreds of thousands of people, boasting, that`s incredibly destabilizing, unimaginably irresponsible and it just really -- you just wonder whether any head of state of any size would do this, let alone the most powerful military in the world. I mean, it really is shocking. But shocking for Trump is just, I don`t know, Tuesday, you know? Every day --

REID: Well, you serve in you know, the House of Representatives with the majority, the Republican majority. Do you detect any similar alarm on the part of your Republican colleagues that this is the way the President speaks through his Twitter account?

ELLISON: Well, yes. I mean, you know, when I talk to people privately, I mean, he is sort of a joke among you know, all kinds of colleagues on both sides of the aisle. But, you know, a lot of my Republican colleagues think, well, is he popular in my district or not? is his -- do people want a tax cut or not? I mean, they kind of look toward those things but you know, just Trump in his behavior, you know, is not regarded in a highway at all, no. He`s not.

REID: And very quickly before we leave you, I would very much want to ask about the possibility of Michele Bachmann running for the United States Senate from your State, what are your thoughts?

ELLISON: My thoughts are that it would be -- it would important to juxtapose our agenda of economic empowerment for working people all across this country, (INAUDIBLE) human rights, immigration, justice, with her program of rifling money up to the richest people, denying everybody human rights, and her trying to impose her personal religious views on everyone else. I would love to have that kind of battle go on. I think it`s -- I think it`s a very debatable and inviting prospect.

REID: All right, well, Congressman Keith Ellison, thank you very much for joining me. I appreciate it.

ELLISON: You bet.

REID: Thank you. And for more on the high stakes of 2018, I`m joined now by Journalist and Author Anand Giridharadas, an MSNBC Political Analyst and Evan McMullin, former Independent Presidential candidate, also happens to be from Orrin Hatch`s home state of Utah. Anand, I`m going to come to you first on this interesting thought from Donald Trump about the size of his nuclear button and the threat that he just put up against the North Korean Leader, your thoughts?

ANAND GIRIDHARADAS, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: As we saw all through 2017, men with profound sexual insecurity can wreak a lot of havoc in the lives of women, in the lives of their families. But perhaps never have we seen a man whose profound sexual and masculine insecurities are literally threatening to annihilate the planet. I mean, the way he`s literally capitalizing in that tweet his nuclear button, I mean, any psychiatrist or psychologist would have a field day with that. But we all live in a world that could literally be ended in terms of a habitable planet because of the sad man`s insecurities.

REID: Well, I`m wondering how then Democrats are supposed to -- what do they do with that? I mean, a record number of women running for state offices in 2018, a lot of women who are actually running either for Congress or in their states. How do you even message about somebody that is that extreme in his speech if you were the Democrats trying to win back control of the Congress?

GIRIDHARADAS: I mean, I think what`s remarkable, and you teed it up well with that -- with that segment. Never has there been -- 2018, to follow John Dean, never has there been probably a better opportunity to save a republic in our lifetimes. Never has there been a more important thing to do for this country. But at the same time, it`s not going to be easy. It`s not going to be as easy as a lot of the people who want to do it. Think. One, he is popular with a certain shrinking group of people who are revved up by the very campaigns against him. The more certain people hate him, the more they`re revved up.

But more importantly, I think those of us who believe in a kind of new America, America that`s more inclusive, more tolerant, more diverse, more colorful, which women have more power and voice, have to do a better job of selling that to people who are not die-hard Trumpers, but are not die-hard for the new America either, who are in that kind of middle. And there`s a lot of them. And they`re decent people, afraid of change, maybe a little bit racist, maybe not a little bit racist but for some reason or another ambivalent between this kind of man and a movement that frankly doesn`t make them feel warm and fuzzy either. And I think the central drama of this year is going to be, can the people who believe in that new America, want to fight for it, are sometimes self-confident and self-righteous about it, actually reach out to people and persuade?

REID: Well, let`s talk about Utah in that-- in that very same vein, Evan McMullin, was the most anti-Trump state during the primaries. You managed to capture 22 percent of the vote in the general election and order the vote going to you which would normally gone to whoever the Republican nominee was. It`s a state where Orrin Hatch, who was not necessarily -- I mean, he wasn`t very popular, I would say his polling was very low, but even at -- the power he held as the fourth in line to the presidency felt that sycophancy toward Donald Trump was the right way to go. In a state like Utah, how do Democrats or do Democrats even have a shot at messaging in a place like that? And if Mitt Romney is the guy who comes in, what will his posture be toward something like what we just read from Donald Trump?

EVAN MCMULLIN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I think Democrats should compete as they should everywhere. But realistically, I don`t think they have much of an electoral opportunity in Utah. I think the more realistic approach would be to try to find someone to replace Hatch who is going to be committed to fundamental American ideals, equality and liberty chief among them, somebody who will come to Congress, come to the Senate, and uphold the constitution, fulfill the Article One responsibilities of Congress, meaning hold the executive branch accountable. That`s where -- that`s where I think most of the energy should be in Utah. I`m hopeful that Governor Romney will step forward and enter the race and pursue the seat. I expect that he`ll decide to do that and I hope to support him. I think he would do exactly as I`ve described.

REID: But you ran as an Independent, would you consider running yourself? I mean, you actually tried this other option, if the Democrats have no chance, what about an independent run? And would somebody that`s independent feel freer to push back against Donald Trump? I mean, if he tweeted something like this and the Senator from Utah was Mitt Romney, would his response be any different than Orrin Hatch?

MCMULLIN: I think it would be. I mean, look, sure, if an independent were elected out of Utah, they might feel more freedom to stand up to Trump at important times. But someone like Mitt Romney has enough gravitas, enough history, enough knowledge, enough support in Utah to do that exact same thing and perhaps even more effectively as a Republican. So I think it`s, you know -- I think the best thing as I said to do is support someone like Mitt. I really expect that Mitt will enter this race. I think that he will probably go along with Republican policy initiatives, many of them as you would expect a Republican to do.

But when it comes time to hold the executive accountable, to make sure that our Democracy remains independent from foreign interference that we`re taking appropriate precautions to prevent countries like Russia from interfering and holding Americans accountable if they cooperate with the foreign powers intervention like that, I think we`ll find that Mitt Romney will do that if her pursues the race and if elected.

REID: Very quickly before you go. In your view, is Donald Trump dangerous?

MCMULLIN: Absolutely.

REID: In your view, Anand, is that idea of Donald Trump being dangerous something Democrats should message toward or is it something that would actually hurt them in trying to --

GIRIDHARADAS: This is -- this is a big country. And I think part of -- this needs to be an ambitious, creative movement to protect this country. I don`t think about this as a Democratic movement, I think of this as a protect the country movement. And I think the movement needs to be able to speak in San Francisco and New York, when people are running there, and maybe purely run on impeachment if that`s what you want to do. And I think it needs to run in places like Utah and Oklahoma and elsewhere on the kind of language you heard from Keith Ellison about we want to help your paycheck be strong and actually give people the freedom to speak to Americans where they are because this is not a time for purity tests. This is a moment -- this is a moment, actually, to set aside pet causes, pet issues, litmus tests. This is a moment to protect the republic. Take it from John Dean, who worked for Richard Nixon and knows something about what can go wrong when republics corrode and are corrupted.

REID: Yes, well, for McMullin who just declared yes, absolutely to the idea whether the current President is dangerous. Anand Giridharadas and Evan McMullin, thank you, both, happy New Year.


MCMULLIN: Happy New Year!

REID: Thank you. And up next, explosive new reporting on what actually led to the FBI investigation into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. What a trump campaign aide reportedly let slip about the Clinton e-mails after a night of drinking in two minutes.


REID: Huge news that dropped over the holiday weekend about a guy who may be about to become a lot more famous. Former Trump Campaign Adviser George Papadopoulos who pleaded guilty in October to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russians, and who is now a cooperating witness in the Mueller investigation. The New York Times reported that last May, during a night of heavy drinking at an upscale bar in London, Papadopoulos told an Australian diplomat that Russia had political dirt on Hillary Clinton.

According to court documents, Papadopoulos learned about the supposed dirt from a professor with connections to the Russian government who told him that Russia had "thousands of e-mails that would make Clinton look bad." Cut to a few months later, and WikiLeaks starts releasing hacked e-mails from the Democratic National Committee and John Podesta, thousands of them. According to the Times, this prompts Australian officials to tell their American counterparts what Papadopoulos said during that drunken night in London. And that tip along with the belief that Russia was behind the hacking were driving factors that led the FBI to open an investigation into possible Trump-Russia collusion. So this is a really big deal.

For one, it`s hard to imagine that Papadopoulos told an Australian diplomat about the Russian dirt on Clinton but somehow didn`t mention it to the fairly notable -- mention a fairly notable piece of information to other members of the Trump campaign. It undermines one of the right wing`s key arguments in its attempts to discredit Mueller and the FBI, an argument you`ve seen a lot from congressional Republicans and Trump T.V. that it was the Steele dossier that prompted the FBI to begin looking into the Trump campaign. It turns out not true.

And here with more on all of this is MSNBC Justice and Security Analyst Matt Miller, who was Chief Spokesman for the Justice Department under President Obama. So Matt, the idea George Papadopoulos brags to Australian diplomats that Russia has dirt on Hillary Clinton and does not mention that at all to anyone else in the Trump campaign, does that seem realistic to you?

MATT MILLER, MSNBC JUSTICE AND SECURITY ANALYST: No, not at all, especially when you pair it up with everything else we know about George Papadopoulos, which is that he was a climber who was very interested in moving his way up the campaign, was trying very hard to impress other campaign officials. It seems very hard to believe that he didn`t share that information that would have rocketed up the chain of command probably to the candidate himself, the future president of the United States. And that is critical because if the President knew -- I think it`s one of the key questions is that when did the President find out that the Russians had these stolen e-mails?

You know, George Papadopoulos, his campaign staffer found out on April 26th. If he found out shortly after that, it colors all of his actions over the spring and the summer in a whole new light. For example, his comments that the United States might not defend its NATO allies against Russian aggression. His campaign`s changing the platform to make it softer on defending Ukraine. All of these things you know, start to look like a quid pro quo who`s staring us right in the face all along.

REID: You also have to I guess wonder when he hears e-mails, what he was hearing. Because you had several people in the Trump campaign that seemed to think that out there somewhere in the ether were Hillary Clinton`s 33,000 deleted e-mails. And one wonders whether he thought that`s what the Russians had. Do you think that`s germane to the question in the investigation, was this more of the hunt for those e-mails or did he have knowledge that these were the hacked DNC e-mails?

MILLER: We don`t know. I mean, we don`t know exactly. We know -- I think Bob Mueller will know, obviously because as George Papadopoulos is a cooperating witness. But he`s been very discreet in information that he`s released. He put just enough information out in that plea agreement that Papadopoulos signed off on several months ago so that we knew he was cooperating, we knew -- you know, we knew that he had something about e- mails, but not anything more. But it doesn`t necessarily even really matter.

Look, the Trump campaign had inside information about stolen e-mails, whether they were the DNC e-mail that were released in July, whether they were the Podesta e-mails that were released in October, you have to ask not only you know, why was the Trump campaign behaving the way it did to Russia, but why didn`t they go to the FBI? Why didn`t they do what any you know, American citizen ought to do when they see a foreign government you know, committing a crime in the United States and that`s reported to authorities. I think we know the answer, it`s because they wanted the help.

REID: I think you also have to sort of wonder why then as late as October was The New York Times reporting -- you know, citing FBI sources essentially denying that there was an investigation into the Trump campaign and ties to Russia or that they had found such links. Can you make any sense of that at all?

MILLER: You know, it`s hard to know. I tend to put more blame for that story on the FBI than the New York Times. That was one of the -- I think the worst stories and most misleading stories that came out during the campaign, and it really shut down a lot of reporting that reporters were starting to do at that time on what was then really a burgeoning investigation. I`m not sure whether The New York Times -- whether the FBI was trying to wave the times off of that story because they -- you know, they really didn`t think there was anything there, or it might have been what law enforcement will sometimes do, which is try to downplay something because you`re worried it`s going to mess up investigative steps you`re trying to take. We don`t know the answer to that. The FBI has never really explained it, but it is one of the key questions I know a lot of us would sure like to know.

REID: And the last question, does this revelation about Papadopoulos and what he told those Australian diplomats closed the door on this idea from Republicans that it was the Steele dossier, which was initially paid for by Republicans then picked up by Democrats, that that was the source of the investigation?

MILLER: It sure blows a massive hole in that argument. Look, this was always a silly argument anyway. It doesn`t matter where the information comes from. Hillary Clinton could have walked into the FBI herself with information about Donald Trump with a tip. And as long as it was credible information, the FBI would have been obligated to act on it, so it didn`t - - doesn`t really matter where it came from. But that conspiracy theory, I think you can put it now you know, on the ash heap along with you know, the wiretapping of Trump Tower, the unmasking scandal, the Uranium One scandal, you know, looking at Hillary Clinton`s e-mails again, all of the distractions they keep trying to come up with to divert people from the actual investigation. I think this one can go by the wayside as well.

REID: All right, Matt Miller, thank you very much for being here tonight.

MILLER: Thank you.

REID: Thank you. And up ahead, the White House today is defending the President`s conspiracy theory aimed at his own Department of Justice. Donald Trump and the so-called deep state after this quick break.


REID: Protests sweeping Iran enter their sixth day today. Largely in reaction to a poor economy but also to an authoritarian regime. At least 20 people have been killed in clashes between protesters and the Iranian government. And the President of the United States has taken notice tweeting, "the people of Iran are finally acting against the brutal and corrupt Iranian regime. The people have little food, big inflation, and no human rights. The U.S. is watching, exclamation point." Now, normally such statements from an American president would carry a certain moral force, but in this case, the President making those statements is Donald Trump.

And just about 30 minutes after urging Iranians to fight against the authoritarian regime, Trump unleashed an attack against his perceived enemies in the United States that sounded something that might come -- sounded like something that might come from an authoritarian leader. "Crocked Hillary top -- Hillary Clinton`s top aide Huma Abedin has been accused of disregarding basic security protocols, she put classified passwords into the hands of former agents. Remember sailors pictures on submarine? Jail, deep state, Justice Department finally -- must finally act, also on Comey and others." Not surprisingly Trump`s tweet about Huma Abedin appears to be a reaction to a "Fox & Friends" report. But when Trump once again attacks his own Justice Department, it`s not a joke. But White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders had to say about the White House`s deep state obsession next.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does he believe the entire Justice Department and its more than 100,000 employees are part of this deep state?

SANDERS: Obviously, he doesn`t believe the entire Justice Department is part of that.

You know, one of the things that the president has done is appoint Christopher Wray at the FBI because he wants to change the culture of that agency and he thinks he`s the right person to do that.


REID: White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders today responded to more than one question about Donald Trump`s latest tweets, including the suggestion from an American president that individuals working for his political adversaries should be jailed.


UNIDENTIFEID MALE: Is the president requesting that the Department of Justice investigate Huma Abedin? And how did he reach this conclusion that she should be in jail given that she hasn`t been indicted or convicted of any crime?

SANDERS: Look, obviously the facts of that case are very disturbing. And IU think the president wants to make clear that he doesn`t feel that anyone should be above the law in terms of any investigation, that would be something the Department of Justice would need to decide and I would refer you to them on whether or not they move forward.


REID: Trita Parsi is the president of the National Iranian-American Council, and MSNBC national security analyst Ned Price is a former special assistant to President Obama and former senior director of the National Security Council. Gentlemen, thank you for being here.

Trita, I want to go to you first, because the notion of Donald Trump standing up for those protesters on the streets in Iran -- you know, typically we would say, well, that`s the president exercising a certain moral authority. Do Donald Trump`s words carry any moral authority among the citizens of Iran?

TRITA PARSI, NATIONAL IRANIAN-AMERICAN COUNCIL: I really doubt that they do. I don`t think any one of the protesters or anyone else in iran are taking their cues from Donald Trump. If you just look at what as happened in the last year, almost everything Donald Trump has done vis-a-vis Iran has actually really negatively affected the Iranian people. Let`s start off with the Muslim ban, which is affecting Iranian nationals more than any other nationality, and that is despite the fact that there`s not a single case of any terrorist attack conducted on U.S. soil, a lethal terrorist attack conducted on U.S. soil, by an Iranian national.

94.1 percent of all of the terrorist deaths on U.S. soil have been conducted by foreign nationals from UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. None of them are on that list.

So the Iranians have taken that as a tremendous insult. They`re essentially assumed to be terrorists until proven otherwise. Moreover, when ISIS hit Iran for the first time, they managed to actually strike Tehran, the president`s statement came out essentially blaming Iran for it. I think it`s the first time I`ve seen the United States essentially giving a free pass to ISIS.

All of these things are really insulting ordinary Iranians who actually really dislike the Iranian government. For Trump now to think that he`s actually -- has any moral authority or credibility with them is quite a fantasy.

REID: And Trita, I wonder if -- you know, and maybe it`s my lens of looking at Donald Trump from this side looking outward. But the way Trump sounds, I wonder if your view, sounds more like the authoritarian governments that he`s purportedly criticizing than like a typical American president. This is from Ben Witties (ph), he wrote a brilliant piece today. And he said, in part, this. He said "Trump has not merely advocated for the notion of law enforcement as a mechanism for political attack, he`s campaigned against those within the bureaucracy who have resisted his vision. He`s adopted an active policy of institutional attack on the FBI, public discrediting of intelligence community findings inconvenient to him on Russia, the question is whether this style of politics, or aspects of it, catches on. He`s brought much of his party with him."

So, you have not only the president but his party behaving in a way to say that any institution that does not personally serve the president is delegitimized, is illegitimate.

I wonder if that rings similar in your vein to some of these authoritarian regimes?

PARSI: It certainly does. And we have to remember, the people that are protesting in Iran right now have real grievances, both economic and political. They are facing a very, very tough situation. And I think it is not the right thing to do for the president to actually try to turn those things into political football over here in which he`s trying to score points against Obama administration, et cetera.

In fact, there`s things that need to be done to actually make sure that the situation in Iran doesn`t get worse. But what he seems to be doing, because these tweets seem to be carefully written, actually, unlike much of the other stuff that he does, seems to be aimed, not at helping the protesters, but rather fanning the flames so that the situation gets more inflamed and more destabilizing.

REID: And, Ned, you know, I think for a lot of people when they hear that the situation getting more inflamed and destabilizing, they worry about war. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, as well as State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert were asked today if the Trump administration was calling for regime change in Iran. Here was the response.


SANDERS: We support them giving basic rights to the people of Iran. And we support them stopping being a state sponsor of terror. And we want to see those actions take place.

HEATHER NAUERT, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: I think what the president is talking about is exactly what the Iranian people are saying, that they want change. They want the government to start taking care of them.


REID: Ned Price, does that sound like a government calling for regime change?

NED PRICE, MSNBC NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Joy, I think the concern here that some have articulated is that what we`re seeing is a 2002 playbook. We are seeing the same playbook that the George W. Bush administration used in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq the following year in 2003. There has been an effort by President Trump, by U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, by H.R. McMaster, by Secretary of State Tillerson, to really play up Iran`s ties to terrorism, to attribute to Iran all sorts of malign behavior, much of which they are in fact responsible for, but to inflate Iran`s destabilizing role in the region and to cast it as this global villain, perhaps in an effort to prepare the battlefield both physically and metaphorically to actually start a conflict with Iran.

There are some hardliners in this administration, which also includes CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who has continuously faulted the Iran deal, has sought to remove the United States from that pact which verifiably prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. And I think the concern is legitimate that all of this could lead to a situation in which we are inching closer to military conflict.

REID: And if you could please just spell out for the American people, those watching, how much more catastrophic it would be to attempt to go to war with Iran than Iraq?

PRICE: Well -- right. I think catastrophic is exactly the right word. It would be an invasion, a mission for which we would have little to no international support, possibly with the exception of Israel. It would be an invasion that would wreak havoc not only on the region, but also on the globe, because Iran is a government that is indeed a state sponsor of terrorism. It also has organs that have global reach, including both Hezbollah and the IRGC, the Iranian Guard Corps. It does indeed have a global presence.

And so I think we would not only have to be concerned with the reaction in the region what would happen in Saudi Arabia, what would happen in our other allies including Jordan, but also the implications for Israel. And then on top of that, you have the tentacles that Iran has developed in other countries around the world, networks that could be activated, networks that could be activated to effect revenge against the United States and any other country that is foolish enough to join us in such a folly.

REID: Now, and as Trita Parsi just did, the Iranian people do not appear to be looking to Donald Trump`s administration for leadership anyway.

Trita Parsi, Ned Price, thank you both. Appreciate you guys.

Ahead, Donald Trump taunts North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on Twitter saying that he, too, has a nuclear button on his desk, but wait for it, his is bigger. The implications ahead.

And remember when Roy Moore`s wife boasted one of their lawyers was Jewish? Well, about that. Thing One, Thing Two is next.


REID: Thing One tonight, Alabama Senator-elect Doug Jones will be sworn in tomorrow on Capitol Hill, officially becoming the 49th Democrat in the upper chamber and the first Senate Demcrat from Alabama in 25 years. The Republcian who Jones defeated three weeks ago, Roy Moore, has yet to concede, despite losing by tens of thousands of votes, and after a judge threw out his lawsuit alleging voter fraud.

In the official tally reported when Alabama`s governor and secretary of state certified the state election. Doug Jones` margin of victory actually increased to nearly 22,000 votes.

But today we got a little more information on the returns from that race, and it has to do with the voting ballot for one particular Alabama lawyer.


KAYLA MOORE, ROY MOORE`S WIFE: One of our attorneys is a Jew.


REID: Well, do you wonder who that attorney voted for? That is Thing Two in 60 seconds.



REID: Remember that really weird moment in the Alabama Senate race in which the wife of the failed Republican candidate Roy Moore attempted to offer some sort of proof that her husband isn`t anti-Semitic.


MOORE: Fake news would tell you that we don`t care for Jews. And I tell you all this because I`ve seen it all, so I just want to set the record straight while they`re here. One of our attorneys is a Jew.


REID: Well, there was a lot of speculation about who that attorney might be until last week when The Forward reported it is a lawyer named Richard Jaffe, an attorney who defended Roy Moore`s son against drug charges in 2016.

And today, Richard Jaffe told The Washington Examiner that he voted for his long-time friend Doug Jones.

There could not be more passionate supporter of Doug than me, Jaffe said, also confirmed that he both donated to and raised money for Jones.

Jaffe says he plans to be on Capitol Hill tomorrow to witness Doug Jones` official swearing-in.


REID: Donald Trump has started 2018 with a Twitter rampage. And if you had questions about his stability in 2017, tonight`s tweets will be of no comfort to you.

This is from moments ago.

"I will be announcing [all caps] most dishonest and corrupt media awards of the year on Monday at 5:00. Subjects will cover dishonesty and bad reporting in various categories from the fake news media. Stay tuned." Exclamation point.

But even more troubling was a tweet he directed at North Korea, quote, "North Korean leader Kim Jong-un just stated that the nuclear button is on his desk at all times. Will someone from his depleted and food-starved regime please inform him that I, too, have a nuclear button, but it is a much bigger and more powerful one than his and my button works." Exclamation point.

Trump comparing nuclear button-size with Kim Jong-un, putting the world at risk in the process. We`ll discuss next.


REID: Joining me now Catherine Rampell, Washington Post opinion Columnist who writes about the Trump administration often; and John Harwood who is a CNBC editor-at-large.

Catherine, I`ll come to you first. On these two tweets, the button, with capitals, and the media awards Donald Trump is tweeting about. Your thoughts.

CATHERINE RAMPELL, THE WASHINGTON POST: Look, this is more trumping Trump except now the survival of the entire planet is at risk, of course. The nuclear button tweet. I mean, it`s like too on the nose for being Freudian, right? It`s like I have a bigger button and mine works and his doesn`t. It`s like somebody hasn`t told him how this is reading to the rest of the world. And for all that we heard months ago, a year ago about how Trump was playing this game of 3D chess, this isn`t 3D chess, this is a child getting angry and knocking the board over and the rest of us have to pay for it.

REID: And, you know, John, you know, there is ample evidence from all of the write-ups on Donald Trump he doesn`t care how the rest of the world is reading it, that he doesn`t do what he does for history, for posterity, for the rest of the world. He specifically just does it to entertain his fans.

This is -- is there any sort of real world example that you can point us to of any president viewing his job this way?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNBC: Definitely not. There has never been one. And, you know, one of the great achievements of U.S. diplomacy over the last half century has been managing nuclear tensions in the world, and that`s because presidents have viewed their responsibilities as awesome, as grave, that they have exercised discernment and judgment and not engaged in reckless behavior, you know, the Teddy Roosevelt maxim of speak softly and carry a big stick. As Kathryn just indicated, the president does the opposite.

And it`s frightening to think that the leader of the free world, or the leader of the most powerful country in the world, has so little regard for the responsibilities of his office. And we were talking last week about the interview he gave to the New York Times where, again, it does not seem that he understands the responsibilities of the office, the limitations of the office, what he has to do and, you know, I can careless about the media awards, that`s, you know, ridiculous, but harmless. This other is not harmless.

REID: And you know, Kathryn, so you just had Democratic representative Eric Swalwell of California just tweeted the following in response to what Doanld Trump said. He said if you love our country, help me put this lunacy in check. Tell @realDonaldTrump this is not normal behavior. Any House GOP members want to make sure congress has some say before he pushes that button?

There is no evidence, unless you have some reporting to bring to the table, that Republicans see this as dangerous enough to do anything about it. Am I wrong?

RAMPELL: We don`t know what is going on behind the scenes, but certainly in front of the scenes, they have not done very much to stand up to the president on really any issue, whether it comes to Mueller, whether it comes to foreign policy, and incredibly damaging things that he`s putting out as formal presidential statements via Twitter or really whether it`s in regard to anything he`s doing to damage our reputation around the world.

So I`m loathe to be hopeful that we would imagine that congressional members, Republican congress men and congress women are doing much, and care very much. I think that they are talking to one another about, oh gee, this seems terrible, what are we going to do? But they don`t really seem to be having the spine to actually stand up and criticize this president. They are all too worried, from what I can tell, about being primaried from the right if they criticize a president who is still popular, amazingly enough, amongst the Republican base.

REID: And you know, John, then it leads to the question of whether or not, the problem is Donald Trump, who obviously has his own sort of own version of reality that he lives in and feels completely free to say whatever is on his mind and doesn`t care about the ramifications, is the problem him or is the problem, quite frankly, the Republican Party that is going along with this, that is being, you know, sycophantish (ph) toward Donald Trump, that is changing its own language to match this. Is the problem broader than Trump?

HARWOOD: Well, sure. And it`s not just in the realm of irresponsibility with national security sensitive situations, you know, the whole issue of President Trump using the office to make his businesses healthier or to make money, you know, appearing at Trump properties and charging people high fees to go to parties with him, that sort of thing. That is, that`s behavior that the Republican Party is not stepping up and speaking out against, but it`s fueling what is happening in the country right now, which is a reaction against the Republican Party and a reaction against Trump and the desire of voters, which we saw in Virginia, we saw in Alabama, and the polls tell us that voters getting ready to make this statement nationally of people wanting to put the brakes on what they are seeing out of this president.

REID: Kathryn, I think probably what is the most tragic for a lot of people is that none of this was unanticipatable. Donald Trump has been a public figure for a really long time. During the campaign I can`t resist playing this little sound byte from one of the debates in which his opponent, who he very -- a various times wants to have locked up, or have her aides locked up, said the following about Donald Trump.


HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And in fact, his cavalier attitude about nuclear weapons is so deeply troubling, that is the number one threat we face in the world and it becomes particularly threatening if terrorists ever get hands on nuclear material. So a man who can be provoked by a tweet, should not have his fingers anywhere near the nuclear codes as far as I think anyone with any sense about this should be concerned.

TRUMP: That line is getting a little bit old, I must say. Listen.

CLINTON: It`s a good one, though. Well-describes the problem.

TRUMP: It`s not an accurate one at all. It`s not an accurate one.


REID: Is the tragedy compounded by the fact so much of this was anticipatable?

RAMPELL: Yes. And for months, we heard he`s going to pivot. He`s going to become more presidential. He`ll grow into the role. None of that has happened, none of it has happened.

We have seen him just get bored and restless and, you know, he`s watching Fox News and gets agitated and decides that I need to tweet something that could cause immeasurable damage around the world just because I feel like it. I`m going to tweet something that`s going to cause immeasurable damage here in the United States and degrading and wearing down on our democratic norms.

No, he hasn`t improved. He hasn`t gotten better. Many of the worst fears have come true. And -- in that clip, actually, I was very much hoping that when Hillary Clinton said that he shouldn`t have his -- what did she say, finger near the nuclear codes, I was hoping she would say the nuclear button, but sadly that phrasing didn`t come to pass.

REID: Very quickly before we go, John Harwood, does the media need to change the way it treats this person? Because he`s still being treated as relatively normal by much of the media.

HARWOOD: Well, I think the coverage, Joy, is beginning to reflect concern about his behavior, his mental functioning, his maturity level and his fitness for the office. so, I think events have taken the press to that place. And we`ll see how that -- where we go from here.

REID: Catherine Rampell, John Harwood, thank you guys. Appreciate you.

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



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