Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: January 15, 2018 Guest: Catherine Rampell, Matt Miller, Nick Ackerman, Josh Barro, Keith Ellison, Christina Greer, Ben Howe, Cristina Jimenez
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Well, on this day for Martin Luther King, let's get our head and hearts around the reality that we're either making progress on race or we are falling back. Our leaders need to stand for progress. This is me talking, as we've seen as standing against it. Saying you're not a racist is not enough, Mr. Trump. And that's HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes starts right now.
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ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Tonight on ALL IN.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, no, I'm not a racist.
MELBER: The President finally answers his critics.
TRUMP: I am the least racist president you have ever interviewed. That I can tell you.
MELBER: As his allies carefully parse what he said in the Oval Office.
SEN. DAVID PERDUE (R), GEORGIA: I'm telling you, he did not use that word.
SEN. TOM COTTON (R), ARKANSAS: I didn't hear that word either.
KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, SECRETARY, HOMELAND SECURITY: I don't recall that specific phrase being used.
MELBER: Tonight the pushback on that.
SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: I am stunned that this is their defense.
MELBER: And the fallout for the entire country.
Then the President backtracks on DACA.
TRUMP: I don't think the Democrats want to make a deal.
MELBER: What it means as the DREAMers run out of time.
Plus, as a spurned Steve Bannon heads to the hill tomorrow --
TRUMP: Sloppy Steve is now looking for a job.
MELBER: A preview of his potential testimony. And how the President spent his traditional day of service.
TRUMP: Golf, golf, golf. More, more!
MELBER: When ALL IN starts right now.
TRUMP: Oh, I want more!
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MELBER: Good evening from New York, I'm Ari Melber in for Chris Hayes on this Martin Luther King Day. The White House and its allies now trying to convince the nation and the world the President of the United States is not a racist. With the fate of a group of Americans commonly known as DREAMers hanging in the balance, and now this government shutdown looming, the President spent this holiday basically holed up at one of his golf properties. And while people around the country gathered to do public service to commemorate Dr. King's life of service, outside Mar-a-Lago hundreds of Haitians and supporters were protesting this President, demanding he steps up and apologizes for those reported remarks at that immigration meeting last week.
Trump rejecting a bipartisan immigration deal that would have kept dreamers as long -- including 60,000 displaced Haitians inside of America. The President's reported comments calling these African nations, S-hole countries, and saying, "why do we need more Haitian," and advocating instead for what he wanted, more European immigrants specifically from Norway continue. These comments continue to draw condemnation, not only here but around the globe. After the White House didn't initially deny them at all, there's a new strategy. Two Republican Senators, both hard line on immigration, going out on those Sunday talk shows, not only defending the President, which anyone can do on policy but also to turn it around and impugn the honesty of their colleague Senator Dick Durbin on the Democratic side. He gave a full account of the President's comments last week.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're saying flat-out, definitively, the President did not say those words?
PERDUE: I'm saying that this is a gross misrepresentation. It's not the first time Senator Durbin has done it. It is not productive to solving the problem.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So what did the President say?
PERDUE: Most people in America, George, want us to solve the DACA situation.
COTTON: John, I didn't hear that word either. I certainly didn't hear what Senator Durbin has said repeatedly. Senator Durbin has had a history of misrepresenting what happens in White House meetings, though. So perhaps we shouldn't be surprised by that.
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MELBER: And asked last night about this outrageous response to Donald Trump's remarks, the President himself then pointed to Senators Cotton and Perdue.
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TRUMP: Did you see what various Senators in the room said about my comments?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you say to people who think you are a racist?
TRUMP: No, no, I'm not a racist. I am the least racist person you have ever interviewed. That I can tell you.
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MELBER: If you're keeping track or you have a calendar, you know we're only about halfway through the first month of 2018 but already the President has had to reassure the public that he is, "a very stable genius" and that he is, "not a racist." His words. The President may have felt vindicated in some way by these Senators' partial denials. Let's be clear tonight on the facts. Their partial denials are at odds with almost everything that we have learned and reported out about that meeting. Here is, for example, a conservative commentator Erick Erickson.
Let me show you what he tweeted. It's weird that people in the room don't remember Trump using that ward when Trump himself was calling friends to brag about it afterwards. And here is the key part. I spoke to one of those friends, this conservative rights. The President thought it, these comments would play well with the base. As for Republican Senator Jeff Flake, he was told about the President's comments before they were ever reported publicly in the press.
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SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: I was in a meeting directly afterwards where those who presented to the President our proposal spoke about the meeting. And they said those words were used before those words went public. So that's all I can tell you, is I heard that account before the account even went public.
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MELBER: Senator Lindsey Graham, who also attended the meeting and was basically reported to have privately tried to confront the President about it at the time is now telling a local paper this. "My memory hasn't evolved. I know what was said, and I know what I said." Later he said this about the President's language.
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SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Those of us in my business need to up their game. It's pretty embarrassing when you have to take your children out of the room just to report the news.
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MELBER: Tell me about it. You know what else is embarrassing? Look at this report from The Washington Post's Josh Dawsey, a theory that Senators Cotton and Perdue have an alternative version of the meeting. The word alternative has come up a lot in the Trump era. "White House official told me tonight there's a debate internally on whether the word Trump said had hole or house at the end of it. Perdue and Cotton seem to have heard the latter, this person said, and are using to deny. Senator Durbin was asked this morning about what his two colleagues said.
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DURBIN: I know what happened. I stand behind every word that I said. I don't know that changing the word from hole to house changes the impact, which this has. I am stunned that this is their defense. That is -- that's their choice. I don't know if there was some other recording device that was being used within the Oval Office. If there was, I want to just call on the White House right now, release whatever you have.
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MELBER: Congressman Keith Ellison, a Democratic from Minnesota and the Deputy Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Thank you for joining me here on this Martin Luther King Day evening.
REP. KEITH ELLISON (D), MINNESOTA: Hey there, Ari. Glad to be here.
MELBER: Who is lying?
ELLISON: You know, I'm not sure it even matters. I mean, the point is that Donald Trump has a long history of racism. And whether he said shithole or shithouse, he has deprecated people and people of color, people who are Muslim people who are Mexican. And he has done it for literally years. And so the real question for me is not house or hole. The question is what are we going to do about it. The chief executive of the United States, the Commander in Chief has racist ideas about America and this country, and the American people, all 320 million of us, better figure out what to do about it because if somebody is just some regular person who holds his attitudes, maybe it doesn't make that much of a difference. But this guy is a Commander in Chief. He controls the largest military economy and surveillance in the world and so his racism is dangerous to people. And we've all got to step up and deal with that.
MELBER: I hear you. Some are drawing a line about what they want to associate with the President. Are you planning to attend the State of the Union?
ELLISON: You know what? I invited a DREAMer to join me. If she still wants to come, I will be with her. But the point will not be in any way to honor or recognize Trump. It will be to honor and recognize the fight of DREAMers and young people who are trying to fight for justice in the only country they have ever known. You know, over the weekend, Ari, I tell you, I was in New Haven, Connecticut, sitting with a guy who is being pushed out of this country. He's lived here for 30 years. His wife and his children are from here. They're citizens. And this guy is in a church seeking sanctuary.
He is telling me these heartbreaking, tender stories about just what it means for him to be an American. And now that he is out of status, he's worried about his family. We're hearing about people at 7-elevens being raided. I mean, are we heading toward an America where law enforcement immigration officers are raiding churches and synagogues and mosques and are raiding 7-elevens? I'm worried about this. And if the president I thought was a fair-minded person, I wouldn't be as worried because I think we could appeal to his reason as to why this is bad policy. But given what he clearly holds in his mind to be the case about himself and others, it does alarm me quite a bit.
MELBER: I want to ask you about your colleague Kevin McCarthy and his approach of using candy to appeal to the President. I know that's what we call a hard turn in the business, a hard transition but I'll read the account and get your reaction.
MELBER: Kevin McCarthy says we're there having a little dessert, and he offers me some starburst, McCarthy recalled. Just the red and the pink. A bit later, a couple of his aides saw me with those colors and told me, well, those are the President's favorites. So days later, this is the number two Republican in the House, he bought accordingly to this report. A plentiful supply of starburst, asked the staffer to sort through the pile, placing only those two flavors in a jar, and McCarthy made sure his name was on the side of the gift. Benjy Sarlin, a Reporter we work with calls this a sort of romantic comedy theory of appealing to the President where if you can make a grand gesture. In this case, sorted starbursts, you might win over the President through ego stroking what you couldn't win over through other negotiation.
ELLISON: Well, I don't think that brown nosing the President is the proper way for a member of Congress to engage the President. You know, the Congress is a quo equal branch of government. We're not lesser than the President. Together the Congress is a coequal branch of government and we should not have to suck up to the President to get him to do his job, which is to analyze policy and to either sign or not sign legislation that we pass. That's the way it's supposed to be done. Now, look, in Washington people often try to find ways to curry favor with each other. But it certainly is a sign of, you know, the corruption of the place, not how it should run. I mean, the way it should run is he have a job, we have a job. We're supposed to pass legislation to help the American people. He is supposed to sign it. That's the way we're supposed to operate together. That's why I'm disappointed.
MELBER: Do you think -- do you think the starburst thing works? Does that work?
ELLISON: Well, who knows? I mean, if it does work, it means that he is a person of such incredible vanity that he doesn't deserve to be in the White House. By the way, he doesn't deserve to be in the White House. But the fact is it's a scary, ugly sign. I mean, look, you have eighth-grade social studies teachers all across the United States explaining the three branches of government and how they work. I don't think starbursts comes up in the conversation. The bottom line is he has a job to do, he's -- and he is not serious about it. And whenever we -- all we see out of this President is that he's doing mean and hateful things to people, or he is demanding that his vanity be assuaged. This is -- we are in a constitutional crisis right now, folks. And 2018 is a year where if you love this country and the people in it, everybody has got to organize, organize, organize, and get very busy, figure out how you can be involved to restore the proper balance in our country.
MELBER: Congressman Keith Ellison, thank you for joining me tonight.
ELLISON: Thank you, sir.
MELBER: For more on this fallout from the President's comments, Ben Howe, Senior Contributing Writer for the conservative site RedState and Christina Greer, a Political Scientist at New York University. Christina Greer, I will say the red starbursts are the most flavorful.
CHRISTINA GREER, POLITICAL SCIENTIST, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: They are.
MELBER: Everyone knows they're the strongest.
GREER: Everyone does.
MELBER: I don't even mess with the yellows. Sometimes the yellows all that left that I don't eat the yellow.
GREER: No, the orange is the worst. But I think --
MELBER: But the Congressman raise his point, I'd like you to speak to which is, is it that bad and is it just flattery at this point?
GREER: I think he -- I think he's right on. I mean, I've said, you know, we've had this conversation for a year and change now. The executive legislative and judicial branches are an equilateral triangle. That is what the constitution mandates. And we're seeing members of the House and members of the Senate completely abdicate to this President not just in their behavior of sucking up and giving starbursts but this is a real policy issue now. The House and the Senate, they're supposed to make laws that the President then signs. And so we know that this President is a racist. We don't have a few years of knowing this. We have four decades of knowing this. We can look to his father and see where he got it. So this is -- it's not something that the President has just discovered now that he reads his you know, two-sentence memos. We know that he really genuinely is a -- believes in eugenics. He consistently during the campaign talked about his good genes.
We know that he believes the only certain Americans are truly worthy. Those are Americans with white skin from particular countries of a particular faith, even though his faith is himself, right? And so, we know that if Congress does not do their jobs, we're in a real situation. I think that we've reached a point where we have to have protests and electoral politics. I think it's great that people are outside of Mar-a- Lago and the White House and in New York City demanding that we have changed and demanding that our elected officials stand up for us and do the jobs that actually we elected them to do. We also need to recognize it's not just about November 6, 2018. We need to make sure we pay attention to all the primaries in our various states, whether it be September, whether it's May or June to make sure if you're a Democrat, you get the people in who are actually going to do the job and fight this wave of hatred that the President is setting forth in policy, not just language.
BEN HOWE, SENIOR CONTRIBUTING WRITER, REDSTATE: You know, the whole story about the starbursts is -- that's exactly what the Republican Party I think thinks they have to do and has since the beginning. They thought of this as a management situation. They have to manage this President like he's a toddler. And unfortunately, you know, if he's being a brat, the last thing you should the do is appease to that by trying to bribe him. But that seems to be their solution. And I don't think that it's working, I don't think it can work a long term. The American people see what's going on. People in the middle see what's going on. And in 2018 they're going to suffer the consequences of that. So long-term, it's going -- it's going to hurt the Republicans to only try to appease to Trump now. Because there's allegedly going to be a Republican Party after he's gone. And I don't see how they survive if everything has been catered to just making one man happy.
MELBER: Yes, and Ben, speak, then, to what Republicans do if they want to just say well, wait we have better ideas than Trump. Why can't they find some momentum there within the party?
HOWE: Find momentum in terms of policies that existed preceding Trump?
MELBER: Yes, or even the Trump seeming right. I mean, it's sort of funny that nobody is -- you know, there are a lot of other times where the Republican Party has had internal fights and they found positions within the party that still endear them to some other part of the base. Why is the assumption always that there's no room anywhere around Trump within the Party?
HOWE: Because he -- look, you know, I'm no fan of Steve Bannon and I think a lot of people, you know, don't find him to be the greatest guy in the world. But the swiftness with which he was completely ousted and all of his former friends and colleagues were trotted out on television to kiss Donald Trump's ring and make sure that he knew where their allegiance was is a frightening thing to people in politics. And so whether or not they could speak to the right of him or whether or not they could speak in such a way that says I look at this differently than the President does and I don't agree with him. They know that they're going to be put on notice, they're going to be put on blast and they don't want to lose their election. So it's a lot of self-interest and it's not going pay off.
MELBER: Yes, I mean, Christina, I wonder if we could speak to that because there's a long-running debate, regardless whether you like trump or not about whether --
GREER: I don't.
MELBER: -- whether he's some kind of genius or he is underrate or his overrated, which I guess works in some sort of competence assessment. I think Ben is referring to something else which is important which is a deep and abiding ruthlessness that shows almost no care for anything.
GREER: Right. Except for himself.
MELBER: Except for himself. But personal relationship's ideology, anything. And so it's sort of like, yes, should Darth Vader run the universe? Probably not. I mean, there's a lot of issues, you know, not just on immigration with Vader, but a whole bunch of issues.
MELBER: But is Darth Vader good at holding on to power? Yes, that might be the one good thing he's good at.
GREER: Right, I'm glad that I'm dressed as Princess Leia this evening. So I mean, the thing that I think you're getting is like where are the factions in this party? And so, we're seeing one faction of the Republican Party cash out. They're not even worried about running for reelection because they passed this tax bill. So they're going home and they're -- you know what, whatever happens in the primary or the general, it really doesn't matter. I don't care if the blue wave or the blue typhoon comes through my state. I'm out like I'm going get my money. The others are just -- we're seeing that they're Lilly livered weak men primarily who refuse the stand up to this President because he goes after your Achilles heel, right, and he does this very sort of whole merit branding of you.
And so he gives you that adjective before your name that sticks and it's very fourth grade, I might even argue third-grade bully, right? And so many of the leaders just they don't know how to behave in this -- in this manner. And so they completely cower whenever he's around. And I think there is another faction that really does believe and respect the office of the President. So even though they disagree, they just -- they don't know how to deal with someone who's not embodying the real importance and dignity that the office should hold and has held in several decades prior.
GREER: I was a classics minor.
MELBER: I would say -- I would say you've given me food for thought. Really this whole segment has been starbursts for thought. Ben Howe, Christina Greer, the red ones, always the red ones. Thank you for your time. Up next, President Trump getting exactly what he asked for. Yes, this bipartisan deal on immigration. Why is he refusing to sign it? We have that important breakdown in two minutes.
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TRUMP: I will say when this group comes back, hopefully with an agreement, this group and others form the Senate, from the House comes back with an agreement, I'm signing it. I mean, I will be signing it. I'm not going say, oh, gee, I want this or I want that. I'll be signing it. Because I have a lot of confidence of the people in this room that you're going to come up with something really good.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: He'll be signing it. Note Dick Durbin was sitting right to the right of the President there. But two days after that meeting, and after Donald Trump said he would sign whatever agreement they reached on a bill to protect the undocumented immigrants that people in that room came up with, a bipartisan group of six Senators actually came up with something, at least in principle on such a bill. And in a joint statement, they now said we're now working to build support for that deal in Congress. The two lead negotiators on that deal then went to the White House to get the President's approval. And as you know, he didn't give it. Instead, he asked, yes, why are we having all these people from S-hole countries come here? The next day, Trump went on Twitter to publicly denounce the deal calling it "so-called bipartisan and a big step backward," and of course, then the President goes on to blame Democrats and says DACA is probably dead because the Democrats really don't want it.
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TRUMP: We're ready willing and able to make a deal on DACA but I don't think these Democrats want to make a deal. And the folks from DACA should know the Democrats are the ones that aren't going to make a deal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: I'm joined by Cristina Jimenez, she is a former undocumented immigrant and Co-Founder and Executive Director of the advocacy group United We Dream. It's important to go through the history there and the ALL IN producers put it in that context because the conflagration of the past few days which is important to address and shouldn't be ignored and is not a "distraction" when you think about all the international consequences actually was the ridiculous completely illogical consequence of the people putting together the deal that he said he would have sign.
CRISTINA JIMENEZ, CO-FOUNDER AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, UNITED WE DREAM: Well, absolutely. Let's be clear about something. The fact of the matter is that we have over 800,000 young people that were protected by the DACA program from deportation, people like my own brother Jonathan who is 23. And we have many families who have been here for a very long time protected by the TPS program. And Trump terminated those programs. He did not have to terminate those programs. He terminated those programs. He has created this crisis. And on the issue of DACA, he was very explicit with Congress. We're going give you time to come up with a solution so that young people like my brother could live here and stay here in this country that is our home. And now you have a bipartisan group of Senators have come together to put a solution together exactly doing what the President wanted and now he's blowing this up and actually confirming what everyone has known all along.
MELBER: Well, you make such an interesting point because of course, the political mood around that meeting was he needed to show that he was somehow in charge. Commanding was the word that White House aides were using, right? And the truth is, had he been able to be "commanding" over a span of several days, right, and actually finish the job and sign the bipartisan deal, I suspect whatever your opinion of him in general, you would say that that deal itself would be good. You'd be crediting him, no?
JIMENEZ: Well, look. I think he is being completely unreasonable and he is playing games right now. I mean, him basically showing as what's underneath his policy-making agenda --
MELBER: Would you give him credit if he -- if he protected DACA?
JIMENEZ: Well, I will give credit to everyone who is ready to provide a solution.
JIMENEZ: What you saw is a bipartisan group of Senators that put together a solution. And now he's going back to play games. So I think that the choice that we have right now, it's very clear. We want people to be very clear about where their position is at in terms of the comments that the President made.
MELBER: And he doesn't need Congress. If he just looked at all this mess and realized it was problematic and wanted to simply extend DACA through executive power, he could do that.
JIMENEZ: Completely. And we know also that we cannot trust him, right? Like in the meeting you actually showed earlier, he even said he wanted a bill of love. Look, that bill of love is the bipartisan DREAM Act and the clock is ticking. We can get this done by actually this Friday which is the deadline on the C.R. and you see bipartisan support. Over 86 percent of Americans support the DREAM Act. So it's really simple. We are to condemn the racist comments made by the President but beyond condemning the comments, it is very clear the Republicans are going to have to show that they disagree with the President by taking action --
MELBER: Final question to you. What did you think of Republican Senator Lindsey Graham today saying to Donald Trump, when you tell them, "to go home, the only home they know is America."
JIMENEZ: And that is true. This is home for all of us, for people like my brother. And we're not backing down. This is why we're going to continue to push for Congress to do the right thing. And what you're seeing in Senator Durbin and Senator Graham is a good-faith effort to get a solution done. And that's why we're going to be pushing to get that solution this week.
MELBER: Cristina Jimenez, I appreciate you for your expertise and also for you telling and sharing some of your family story which is important for us to hear.
JIMENEZ: Great to be here.
MELBER: Thank you.
JIMENEZ: Thank you.
MELBER: Still to come, we are now hours away from Steve Bannon, spurned by Donald Trump, now facing, yes, Russia investigators. What happens when you take the book Fire and Fury and you put it under oath?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One person who is heavily featured in this book is Steve Bannon, who was just let go as Head of Breitbart News. Here to talk about it is Steve Bannon.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks for having me. I never said Don Jr. was treasonous.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, you did.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I certainly never said that he would crack like an egg on T.V.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, that sounds exactly like you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, that does sound like me, yes. All right, thank you. Good reporting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: The hood finally came off. Bill Murray, of course, playing the role of two-shirted strategic genius Steve Bannon on SNL this week end. But there will be no studio audience tomorrow when Bannon himself testifies behind closed doors at the House Intel Committee. Now, this has been even by Washington's cruel standards a rapid fall from grace for Bannon. He attacked the first family in the book Fire and Fury. Bannon had said Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with the Russians is "treasonous" which isn't legally true. He also called it unpatriotic, his opinion.
And then the President fired back that Bannon not only lost his job, he lost his mind. There was a cease and desist letter from Trump's lawyers to Bannon. There was consideration by Bannon of a defamation suit against Trump after the party comes all the lawsuits. Now that Donald Trump has formally dumped Bannon, what might Bannon say, though, in front of the Russia investigators? If you're on the committee, what would you want to know of a person who up until now was one of the closest confidantes of Donald Trump? Those interesting questions I think, well, they're coming up next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I don't know this man. I guess Sloppy Steve brought him into the White House quite a bit, and it was one of those things. That's why Sloppy Steve is now looking for a job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Sloppy Steve: Donald Trump's nickname for Steve Bannon. It feels a little lazy. It feels a little phoned in.
But the serious news is Steve Bannon tomorrow will be in front of the House Intel committee. This is the first time that Bannon testifies before any Russia probe that we know of. And it comes just weeks after Donald Trump was bitterly denouncing Bannon in the wake of of course Fire and Fury in which Bannon attacked the Trump kids, Ivanka and Don Jr.
As you can see here, our guests are ready to go: NBC legal analyst Nick Akerman, a former Watergate prosecutor; and MSNBC Justice Analyst Matt Miller, former chief spokesperson for the DOJ under President Obama.
Matt, you have done the job of legal spokesperson, so you've -- you've done your fair share of onion peeling and parsing. And it is true to say that Steve Bannon's claim that this was treasonous, right, is not legally correct. It's not technically treason.
MATT MILLER, MSNBC JUSTICE ANALYST: Yeah.
MELBER: And secondly, Don Jr. is not actually a shell with a yolk inside. He is not technically an egg.
And yet both of these overstatements seem to have really struck a nerve in the White House. Walk us through why? And what you see tomorrow.
MILLER: You know, I think you're right about that. And the other important thing about the Steve Bannon quotes from that Michael Wolff book is that that time period when that meeting happened, early June of 2016, Steve Bannon was not yet a member of the Trump campaign. So any knowledge he has what did or didn't take place -- and of course he claimed it's hard to believe that Natalia Veselnitskaya wasn't escorted up to meet with the candidate himself.
But any knowledge he has would be secondhand, would be after the fact, he wouldn't have been a key participant to those meetings.
So I think what we're going to -- what Hill investigators, or I should say Democratic investigators, will want to find out is does Steve Bannon actually have some reason to believe that the candidate himself was informed about that meeting, if he didn't meet with them, was he informed about it afterwards? Or was that just kind of bluster as a way of denigrating some of his rivals inside the Trump orbit, particularly Jared Kushner who he has had a longstanding rivalry with.
MELBER: I think you put it well.
And Nick Ackerman, you to take this with a grain of salt, because Steve Bannon, as we know, is just verbal napalm on anyone he doesn't like. It's one of the things that earned him so many enemies across the spectrum. And so how do investigators, in your view, separate -- if they're serious, and they're fair-minded, they're not just looking for negative information, right? They have to be looking for true information, evidence. How do they do that tomorrow?
NICK ACKERMAN, FORMER WATERGATE PROSECUTOR: Well, first of all, the elephant in the room is really Michael Flynn.
ACKERMAN: It's a very interesting situation, because the prosecutors, Mueller's office knows what Flynn can say about Bannon. None of the individuals on that committee have a clue about what Michael Flynn has told the prosecutors; however, Bannon knows what Michael Flynn can say about him. And if he says anything that basically contradicts what Michael Flynn can say about him, that can form the basis for a false statement charge to congress and get him in bigger trouble.
ACKERMAN: So, that's one big dynamic here.
But there are two areas where he really does have some knowledge that is of interest to the investigators. The first has to do with this Cambridge Analytica, which in May of 2016 he introduced to the campaign.
MELBER: And which his billionaire backers also...
ACKERMAN: The Mercers.
MELBER: ...are invested in.
And the allegation that they're investigating is whether or not that micro- targeting of data used to suppress the Hillary Clinton vote was provided or coordinated with the Russian government.
MELBER: But do you think the Mercers are either that sloppy or that bereft of legal advice that they would get themselves mixed up in that?
ACKERMAN: Not a question. Absolutely they would do that. And it's a question of can you show that the Facebook buys, the Twitter buys.
MELBER: Right, the targeting overlap.
ACKERMAN: The targeting overlap that's really a matter of comparing the data.
MELBER: Well, and you put your finger on it, and you're one of the people I heard speak about this first out of the many analysts who talk about this, which was look at the targeting. And that was so interesting when Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg, Matt, when pressed on this repeatedly, well, did you find the Russian targeting specifically overlapped in detail with the Trump targeting. And the answer could be I don't know, or it could be no, but she just kept ducking it in the one public interview she's done. We'll be awaiting the answer on that.
And the other thing I want to get you on, Matt Miller, is this quote also from Fire and Fury from Bannon. Again, he is pretty direct. He says, "the investigators' path to F-ing Trump goes right through Manafort, Don Jr and Jared." That could be true or just his laundry list of enemies that he doesn't like.
MILLER: Yeah. This could again be bluster and score settling and not based on actual facts. I think that's a very important thing for investigators to suss out.
The other important thing, though, I think we need to remember is that for all -- for the fact that Steve Bannon wasn't around for some of the important events we know about on the campaign, he was there for the very critical period in the White House that we know Bob Mueller is looking at hard for o obstruction of justice, that beginning period from January 20 through the time that Jim Comey was fired. Steve Bannon was one of the top two or three advisers to the president during that time and would be able to testify to, you know, what the president knew, what the president said, what he directed people to do.
Now there has been some reporting that part of the deal his lawyers struck with the intelligence committee is that he is not going to answer questions on those subjects. And, of course, he could invoke executive privilege for them. But I think if he hasn't met with Bob Mueller's team yet, we can expect to hear from him very soon to talk about those that key chain of events inside the White House.
MELBER: Matt Miller and Nick Ackerman, thank you both.
Still ahead, as we think about Dr. Martin Luther King, who was a pastor, of course, well, now a pastor used his own sermon to directly renounce Donald Trump's comments on those countries from last week. And guess who was sitting there, Vice President Mike Pence and his wife confronted with that. We want to show it to you. That's just ahead.
And the president failing to follow his own advice. Thing One, Thing Two, that's next.
MELBER: Thing One tonight, President Trump spent today at his golf resort, which he did as well yesterday and the day before that. In fact, today marks the 94th day President Trump has visited one of his golf clubs, that's over 26 percent of all the days of his presidency. This day is a little different, though, it's Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Congress designated this federal holiday as an official day of service.
And a lot of other presidents in both parties have taken that seriously. President George W. Bush chose to greet children and volunteers at a school in Washington on an MLK Day. President Obama planted seeds for a garden and talked to students about service on MLK Day.
President Trump going a different route. He wanted to go golf and promote his own golf club. Maybe he just didn't know what Martin Luther King Day is supposed to be about.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I will now sign the proclamation making January 15th, 2018 the Martin Luther King Jr. federal holiday and encourage all Americans to observe this day with acts of civic work and community service in honor of Dr. King's extraordinary life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Uh-huh. So how does that square? That's Thing Two in 60 seconds.
MELBER: Back to our quick look at how Donald Trump is spending tonight's holiday. Considering that he spent most of the day at his golf course, we began considering that he spent most of the day at his golf course, we began to wonder around here if maybe President Trump never got the memo about Martin Luther King being a day of service. Maybe if you want to be charitable he just didn't know what this whole day is about. He is new to politics, as his allies often say.
But then of course we looked into it, and we saw he had just literally signed the MLK Day proclamation on Friday with all of those words about civic community service.
OK. But maybe he just signed it without reading it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: And encourage all Americans to observe this day with acts of civic work and community service in honor of Dr. King's extraordinary life, and it was extraordinary indeed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Extraordinary. So he did read it. But maybe he didn't understand it. Maybe he has a different interpretation of service, and he thinks promoting his golf club counts. Maybe there was nobody there with the actual knowledge to explain to him why he shouldn't spend MLK Day doing self-promotion of his business at a golf resort.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ISAAC NEWTON FARRIS JR., MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.'S NEPHEW: As a matter of fact at the King Center we refer to it as a day on, not a day off. It's not a day to hang out in the park or pull out the barbecue grill.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Amen.
FARRIS: It's a day to do something to help someone else. Bottom line, you're doing something that benefits someone other than yourself.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Now to something worth seeing. Yesterday, Vice President Mike Pence attended services at the Metropolitan Baptist Church out in Maryland, this is right near D.C., and he was welcomed by Pastor Maurice Jackson.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PASTOR MAURICE WATSON, METROPOLITAN BAPTIST CHURCH: We're particularly honored today to have the vice president of the United States with us, the honorable Mike Pence.
WATSON: And his wife, Karen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: A warm welcome and some warm applause. But then Pastor Jackson (sic) got pretty substantive, because he had some things to say. And in his sermon, that was reportedly a problem for Mike Pence. He was reportedly, quote, visibly red-faced in the front row. Jackson said he had no choice, but to address the issue, the moral issue that everyone was talking about this week. And he said it was in part because some members of his own church, what you're seeing here, were people who hailed from Africa and Haiti.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WATSON: It is alleged that a hurtful, dehumanizing, visceral, guttural, ugly adjective that I cannot repeat in church was allegedly used to characterize some of the nations of Africa. And a statement was made that we ought to welcome people from Norway more than we welcome people from Haiti.
I stand today as your pastor to vehemently denounce and reject such characterizations. Whoever said it is wrong, and they ought to be held accountable.
WATSON: You're owed an apology but you probably won't get one. But even if you don't get one, I as your pastor and your Metropolitan family will stand shoulder to shoulder, heart to heart and breast to breast with you as we acknowledge your worth, your dignity, your humanness.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: There is no silver lining. There is no upside to degradation, but there are those right now who are seeking to uplift. It's good for us to listen to them. We have more on that when we come back, next.
MELBER: We're back with MSNBC Contributor Josh Barro, senior editor at Business Insider and Katherine Rampell, an opinion columnist with The Washington Post.
And before the break we were watching Pastor Watson there and what we can only know from descriptions are Mike Pence's reaction. Your view of that relatively unusual moment?
CATHERINE RAMPELL, THE WASHINGTON POST: I thought it was brave of the pastor to make those comments given who was in the audience. I would love to know what was going through Pence's head, right, what was he reaction? Was there any takeaway? Does he have any shame left?
MELBER: And the pastor, Josh, did something that I think the political class often forgets to do which is not just say what will the consequence be in November or where do we all go electorally, but to sort of stand up and take a different approach that there is value to building people back up who feel he says his members felt denigrated.
JOSH BARRO, BUSINESS INSIDER: I mean, I think that gives the political class actually a little bit less credit than they deserve. I think there has been a lot of reaction to the president about how unacceptable his remarks are because of the specific people they denigrated, including apparently Lindsey Graham in the Oval Office in response to the president responding quite strongly to his remarks.
MELBER: Does Lindsey Graham get that much credit if he only issued his rebuke privately?
BARRO: Well, I think in practice Lindsey Graham has issued a rebuke publicly as well...
MELBER: Over a longer basis, you're saying?
BARRO: Yeah. Well, no, and I mean, Lindsey Graham has been doing this strange thing that I don't fully understand over the last year and a half where he alternates between severely criticizing the president and trying to butter him up in various ways. I think he had been hoping that he would get the president to go along on an immigration agreement. In part with that I think he's trying to get him to go along with certain things on Iran.
But the public statements that came out of Graham's office out of this meeting, I mean, you had other Republican senators out there going along with the White House trying to deny the president had said this, playing some word games.
RAMPELL: Lying on his behalf, essentially.
BARRO: And not only has Lindsey Graham effectively telegraphed what the president did say this. He also, you know, Tim Scott, the other senator from South Carolina said Lindsey Graham had told him that the president said substantially what he said.
So, I think, you know -- but I more broadly than that, I think, you know, the president, you know, periodically says horrifying things and I think people in Washington periodically say that. But I think, also -- I think it's sort of the remarks are what they are and their horribleness is obvious, at least to people who are decent.
And so I think, you know, it's obviously, there is value in saying that, but it's also known.
Is the office of the presidency fundamentally degraded at this point?
RAMPELL: How can it not be?
And the issue, to be clear, is not the expletive, right, it's not that he used the specific word that keeps on getting repeated. If he used heck hole or something like that, you know, that would have neither been quaint nor cute. The problem was the sentiment behind it, which the office is supposed to be standing behind. You know, he's the leader of the free world.
He was effectively saying not that we should have skills-based immigration system, which is what Republican lawmakers have tried to defend him as saying, he was saying we need a skin-color based immigration system.
No matter how much you study, if you're from Nigeria you cannot become as white as a Norwegian. And that's the very problem with these comments. And they degrade not only the office, but our standing in the world.
MELBER: What does it say to you, Josh, that even those goals are not for the president something that he has a long enough attention span to delve into, that it's all a kind of an animus, an emotion for him?
BARRO: Yeah. I mean, it's a very strange thing. Because -- I mean, this piece of legislation that, the reform the RAISE Act, which would reform the immigration system, which he has endorsed, wouldn't quite do what he seemed to be saying in this meeting that he wanted to do. African immigrants to the U.S. are very disproportionally educated compared to the residents of the countries they're emigrating from. Nigerian immigrants to the U.S. have, you know, extremely high levels of education and income. And if you move to a system that evaluated people purely on things like English proficiency and degrees, you would have a lot of Nigerian immigrants passing those measures and immigrating to the United States.
So, I think, you know, I think he thinks of what he has proposed on immigration as a proxy for basically a whiter immigration system going back to the pre-1960 system where we actually had quotas based on country of origin, that it would be something that would work something like that. I think it's another example where the president doesn't have the policy depth, doesn't realize the thing he's proposing isn't quite the same as this idea he has, which is fortunate because the idea he has is so bad.
Now, there are other problems with the RAISE Act. It would greatly reduce overall immigration, so I'm not saying it's a good policy, but I don't think it would do quite what the president thinks it would do.
MELBER: So how much comes back to the idea that these Republican primary candidates, basically, a lot of them were right about what Trump would be like?
RAMPELL: I think everyone was right. I thought what Trump would be like, right, it wasn't only the Republican primary candidates.
RAMPELL: The Democrats were saying this, too. They've all just lost their nerve. You know, you talk about, you asked this question about is he degrading the office? I think he's degraded the entire party, as well.
What's the expression that nobody can make you lose dignity without your consent? Effectively, Trump has backed all of these Republicans into a corner having to defend the indefensible.
MELBER: The point we'll close on. Thank you both.
That is the end of All In. I can tell you, big night tomorrow because Chris Hayes makes his return. Be sure to tune in for that.
The Rachel Maddow Show starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.
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