Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: November 7, 2018 Guest: Elliot Williams, Richard Blumenthal, Michelle Goldberg, Adam Serwer, Barbara Boxer, Rick Wilson
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: And perhaps his liberty. This is going to be one of the great fights in the history of the American government and politics. And that`s HARDBALL for now. He`s fighting for his life. "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes starts right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Tonight on ALL IN.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Whoa, I didn`t know what happened.
HAYES: Democrats reclaim power.
TRUMP: I could fire everybody right now.
HAYES: A corner president lashes out.
TRUMP: If they do that then it just all it is a war-like posture.
HAYES: And fires his Attorney General.
TRUMP: Sessions should have never recused himself.
HAYES: Tonight why the Sessions firing represents a direct threat to the investigation of Donald Trump.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Beginning to look more and more to me, Shep, nefarious.
HAYES: What we know about the Trump loyalists now directing the Mueller probe.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can see a scenario where Jeff Sessions is replaced.
HAYES: What Democrats can do about it all with Senator Richard Blumenthal and Congresswoman Maxine Waters. And how we ended up in this crisis of democracy with Michelle Goldberg and Adam Serwer.
TRUMP: That`s enough. Put down the mic.
HAYES: When ALL IN starts right now
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Good evening from New York I`m Chris Hayes. We have now entered a dramatic new chapter in the story of the presidency of Donald Trump. Two absolutely huge developments tonight. First, there will soon finally be a check on the power of this president. A decisive electoral victory last night gave Democrats control of the House of Representatives, the party reclaiming real power after two years in the political wilderness. And then today the President immediately moving the nation towards its constitutional crisis by firing his Attorney General in what appears to be the first step in an effort to kill or throttle the throttle of the Mueller investigation into him and his associates.
At this hour, Democrats have already gained 28 seats in the House. Four more than they needed to take control of the chamber and there are still 14 undecided races left. Meaning the Democratic total pickups could potentially go as high as 42 seats when they take power in January. Overall last night, it was a dramatic national repudiation of Donald Trump. So far Democratic candidates have received more than six million more votes, the Republican candidates with several million more to count, a lot of those in California. And they have won even more now see it`s far more if it were not for GOP gerrymandering.
Today, an aggressive and resentful president gave a post-election press conference in which he insisted all of this was actually a tremendous unambiguous victory. He also sought to threaten House Democrats into forgoing their constitutional duty of conducting oversight of his administration.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re saying that if they start investigating you, that you can play that game and investigate them --
TRUMP: Better than them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you -- can you compartmentalize that --
TRUMP: And I think -- and I think I know more than they know.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you compartmentalize that and still continue to work with them for the benefit of the rest of the country or you -- or all bets off.
TRUMP: No, if they do that, then it just all that it is, a war-like posture.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: war-Like posture. Shortly after that press conference, the President fired the first missile in that war announcing on Twitter he was firing his Attorney General Jeff Sessions who Trump has never forgiven for recusing himself on oversight of the rush investigation. Now, the normal line of succession would be for the number two at the Justice Department, that would be the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein who is protecting the Mueller probe to now serve as Interim A.G. That is not what happened. Instead, in a potentially illegal move, it`s not quite clear, the President tapped a man he has long regarded as his eyes and ears inside a department he considers an enemy institution. That man is former U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker, a failed GOP political candidate and conservative activist who was practicing law in Iowa until a little more than a year ago.
Last year, Whitaker became a legal commentator on cable news where he argued for limits on the authority of the Mueller investigation into the Trump campaign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEW WHITAKER, ACTING ATTORNEY GENERAL: If Bob Mueller and his small U.S. Attorney`s Office as I`ve heard it described today does go beyond the 2016 election and get into Trump Organization finances unrelated to the 2016 election and really unrelated to Russian coordination if it even exists, I think that would be crossing the red line. I think that`s when that the Deputy Attorney General was the Acting Attorney General for the (AUDIO GAP) investigation. Rod Rosenstein who I served within the Bush administration, he needs to step in and pull the reins back on Bob Mueller if he starts to go outside of those bounds of his delegation of authority.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Two months after making those comments, Whitaker was installed at the Justice Department as Chief of Staff to Sessions. And now he`s been put in charge of the Russian investigation according to the DOJ with the power to potentially fire Mueller, greatly limit the scope of the investigation, or potentially keep his finding from the public. And that move prompted Representative Jerry Nadler who will soon Chair the House Judiciary Committee when the Democrats actually get the gavel in January to demand key officials preserve all relevant documents related to this action to make sure that the investigation and any evidence remains safe from improper interference or destruction.
This is the moment that people have been warning about. The moment when the President moves to effectively place himself above the law. Nobody right now knows what comes next. Joining me now for more on that all -- what all this means MSNBC Legal Analyst former U.S. Attorney Nick Akerman who helped to prosecute Watergate. Also with me former Federal Prosecutor Elliot Williams who is Deputy Assistant A.G. for legislative affairs of the Department of Justice under President Obama.
Let me start with you Elliot. First of all, it`s just not clear legally if the President has the power to do what he did today.
ELLIOT WILLIAMS, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Right. And I wouldn`t even begin to try to lay out in the minutes we have here what the legal framework of this is because what you have is a Senate-confirmed deputy with a removed Attorney General where there`s no number three installed of the Justice Department and it`s just sort of a mess. The simple fact is, is there -- is there the appearance of impropriety? Is there the appearance of a conflict? Is there the appearance of an attempt to obstruct justice and that seems abundantly clear right now that given that you know, an hour before the announcement of the resignation, the President was at a press conference saying I can fire all these people, I could shut this down right now.
So they`re not even hiding their attempt to want to get in the way of this investigation and ultimately obstruct justice. And it`s flagrant more than anything else. Really more importantly this is an assault on the independence of the Justice Department. It`s an assault on the very notion that when attorneys have conflicts, they ought to recuse themselves and step out and they just sort of demonstrated a willingness to buck these norms of legal practice. So it`s really a shame what`s happening to the Justice Department and sort of -- you know, the way they`re treating the administration of justice right now.
HAYES: So what is -- as someone who was in Archibald Cox`s office during - - when the Saturday night Massacre was happening, Nick, what can Mueller do, what do you think he does now? How does he protect what he has found?
NICK AKERMAN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think what he protects is the evidence that he`s found and all of the reports that he`s put together. I mean, I know when we had -- when Cox first appeared was October 20th, 1973 about a little over 45 years ago. He had a press conference that day where he basically took on the Nixon administration for not providing the actual tapes of conversations at the court ordered. And so we had the feeling that day that he was going to be fired. And so what we did is we took the stuff with us. We took reports out beforehand. And even when the FBI sealed off the office, I had reports in life pants, my shirts. We took stuff out.
Today it`s a lot easier. All they need to do is put this data onto a thumb drive and you probably can take the whole Mueller investigation out and a few thumb drives. So I`m hoping that they`re keeping this stuff safe and a place where they can get it if something does happen.
HAYES: What do you think about the recusal question here? You just mentioned this Elliott. This is a CNN story two days ago that the White House has been informed Whitaker would likely have to recused from Russia investigation in light of some of his past writings and T.V. appearances. What does have to recuse mean here? I mean, I guess the question is like says who right?
WILLIAMS: Right. Well, look, it`s ultimately a judgment call as to whether there is a conflict but as you know, Nick has probably done this. I`ve had to do it and so on. It`s not just whether there`s a conflict it`s whether there`s even the appearance of conflict because the Justice Department seeks to appear to you know, did not have conflicts. And so it`s abundantly clear to everybody here that this smells fishy even if it`s you know, it`s not legally required that he refuse himself. But look, he`s been out talking about this investigation and the need to shut it down. He`s been out talking about you know, how much it`s cost and so on and he`s a loyalist of the President of the United States who has expressed that he wishes to shut the investigation down.
If that`s not even the appearance of a conflict then I don`t really know what is. And again it just gets back to that point I was making earlier. It`s this is so central to the basic principle of legal practice and the basic -- and of legal ethics more than anything else. And they`re just -- they`re flying in the face of it right now and the rules seem to just not apply anymore.
AKERMAN: That`s because our Department of Justice should be run by somebody who is fair and impartial, who doesn`t have an ax to grind, has no preconceived notion, he`s taking -- justice is supposed to be blind. You`re supposed to look at facts impartially without prejudice, without fear and make a decision. The problem here is you have somebody now who is effectively our Attorney General who has already made up his mind on what the Mueller investigation is about.
WILLIAMS: Look, I would even -- Chris, I would even question whether any political appointee in this administration at this point can oversee this investigation given how out there the President and now his new Attorney General have been, it`s it seems abundantly clear.
HAYES: By the way, I`m just not even clear that he can be installed in this position. I know it`s complicated and it`s wheezy and there`s an intersection of like Department of Justice directives and the Vacancies Reform Act, but it`s just not that clear to me that you can just make some guy who`s the chief of staff who is not Senate confirmed the Attorney General of the United States because you clearly have a corrupt intent to use that position --
WILLIAMS: Oh, and to shut down the investigation. And the simple -- the simple fact --
AKERMAN: That`s absolutely correct.
WILLIAMS: I`m sorry -- yes, and you have -- you have a deputy there in place. Even if the statute didn`t say it, it`s common sense that when you have a boss and a vice boss or whatever, the number to take you know, ascends to the role where you know, in the absence of the individual. Now, here you have something even more where there`s a statute that lays it out.
HAYES: Exactly. And by the way, that`s what happened in Saturday Night Massacre. They went down the chain of command --
AKERMAN: The attorney general --
HAYES: He didn`t say, here`s some guy who I saw on T.V. who liked, I think he should run the Department of Justice.
AKERMAN: No. By a pecking order that is set out in statute and it should have been Rod Rosenstein who`s a Deputy Attorney General. He is the number two man in the Department of Justice.
HAYES: That tells you everything you need to know about what happened. Nick Akerman and Elliot Williams, thank you both for being with me.
WILLIAMS: Thank you.
HAYES: Now to discuss what if anything Democrats can do to stop the President I`m joined by Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, a member of the Judiciary Committee. Is this the flagrant power play that it appears to be in your mind?
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: It is a break the glass moment, an attack on our democracy and it should precipitate exactly the kind of firestorm that we saw in the wake of the Saturday Night Master under Richard Nixon. It is in effect a slow-motion Saturday Night Massacre. And the reason that they are doing it in the slow-motion way is to avoid that uproar and uprising that I think now my Republican colleagues have an obligation to show. So first point, he must recuse himself. Whitaker has not only demonstrated hostility to this investigation, he`s also provided a roadmap for strangling the funds that are necessary for it.
Ultimately, the Congress has the power of the purge and the Democratic victories just last night demonstrate that the American public wants checks on this kind of abuse and overreach. So my Democratic colleagues and I on the Senate Judiciary Committee and on the House Judiciary Committee should press for an investigation and for legislation. I`m going to be proposing legislation that will stop the defunding or cuts and funding for the Special Counsel and also require a report.
So that all of those thumb drives that were referred to earlier are made public through a report prepared by the Special Counsel, even better indictments and charges brought by the Special Counsel which he may be on the verge of doing.
HAYES: I want to play for you what Chuck Schumer who of course is the Minority Leader in the Senate had to say on this today. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: We would hope if there`s a constitutional crisis that our Republican colleagues would join us in thwarting the President from creating that crisis. We`ll see.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: I just want to say, there are people who are watching that clip and they are screaming at the television, have you not been paying attention for the last two years?
BLUMENTHAL: And they are right to be screaming at the television and they`re right to be screaming at our Republican colleagues. They have a constitutional duty which they have been avoiding. They have been succumbing to the apparent political advantage of avoiding this crisis but there`s a reason that the President waited until after the Midterms to fire this Attorney General. He knew how deeply unpopular would be.
BLUMENTHAL: And my Republican colleagues have to recognize they are going down a very, very dangerous path here.
HAYES: What do you mean by that?
BLUMENTHAL: Well, they`re embarked on a policy of undermining the rule of law, thwarting the will of the American people. The American people want this investigation to be completed fairly and fully and the Special Counsel is just finishing a kind of quiet period which everyone expected before the Midterms. There are reports and reasons to believe that he may be on the verge of indicting some of the President`s closest associates, maybe even members of his family. So those indictments will speak louder than any of our words. And I think that the Special Counsel has always been one step ahead of the rest of us. He has prepared for this moment. It is a break the glass moment and I`m hoping that all of my colleagues will rise to the occasion.
HAYES: All right, Senator Richard Blumenthal, thank you for being with me tonight.
BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.
HAYES: Coming up. He is the Trump loyalists and political operative Donald Trump just installed to oversee the Mueller probe. What you need to know about your new Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker next.
HAYES: Trump has installed a loyalists as Acting Attorney General, a man who authored a blueprint on how to starve the Mueller investigation. Matthew Whitaker, before becoming Jeff Sessions chief of staff of the Justice Department was just a failed Iowa politician practicing law. He was a U.S. Attorney in Iowa for five years, the Southern District Iowa. He ran for U.S. Senate and he lost that race. He worked on the Iowa State Treasurer campaign of the one-and-only Sam Clovis a man who`s been interviewed in the Mueller investigation.
So why would Whitaker wind up being a person "whom Chief of Staff John Kelly has privately described as the West Wing`s eyes and ears" according to the New York Times? Well, because he sees that the Mueller probe is a lynch mob perhaps. And as a CNN Commentator said that if Mueller kept looking into Trump`s finances, "this would raise serious concerns the Special Counsel`s investigation was a mere witch-hunt."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WHITAKER: Jeff Sessions is replaced with a recess appointment and that Attorney General doesn`t fire Bob Mueller but he just reduces the budget so low that his investigation grinds to it almost --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: To get the fuller implications, let`s bring in Julia Ainsley NBC News National Security and Justice Reporter and Natasha Bertrand, Staff Writer at the Atlantic. Julia, I`ll start with you. What -- I can`t imagine how this is landing at justice.
JULIA AINSLEY, NBC NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY AND JUSTICE REPORTER: That`s a great question, Chris. I mean, we`ve called around to a lot of people there today. There wasn`t too much surprised that the Attorney General would be out. They knew he was probably short-lived there especially after Midterms. It was quite abrupt. You know, less than 24 hours after the results were in last night. There`s a lot of talk about Matt Whitaker and what it means that he is the Acting Attorney General rather than following the normal line of secession which would appoint Rod Rosenstein, the Deputy Attorney General who has a lot more experience than Matt Whitaker in these issues, who`s been there longer, who`s been part of the day-to-day.
And from what I understand, Rod Rosenstein has also been someone who the White House has gone to other agencies have had to go to get things done at the Justice Department for some time. He is you know, more than just a number two there. he really takes over a lot of the day-to-day operations and does more in a lot of cases than Jeff Sessions. So to really pull the rug out under him not just on the Mueller Probe but on other things and hand it over to someone that so clearly has this political position, has a lot of people who are these career servers at the Justice Department, these career lawyers who are already worried about the politicization of their department, they`re very worried about this in this case.
But there is an idea here, there is a silver lining that he`s short-lived. He doesn`t seem like someone who could be confirmed by the Senate but that doesn`t -- that doesn`t mean that he can`t do a lot -- do a lot of damage to the Mueller investigation in that short period of time.
HAYES: Well, that`s the question, Natasha. I mean, again, this looks to all the world like a loyalist who only has his job because he`s a loyalist, whose paper trail on Twitter and elsewhere is a mile long about talking about squeezing the Mueller investigation, about it being a witch-hunt if it crosses over into finances. Like what happens now? What is this trigger from your -- what does your reporting say it triggers in terms of what happens with Rosenstein and Mueller in the investigation?
NATASHA BERTRAND, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, Whitaker is now Mueller`s boss right, so he oversees the entirety of the Mueller investigation at this point. So if Mueller went to him and said hey, I want to indict this person or said hey, I need more funds to do this or you know, whatever it may be that Mueller wants to you know take a next step on, Whitaker could feasibly say no.
Now, the caveat there is that if Whitaker were to deny any requests by Mueller then it would require Mueller to go to Congress and essentially disclose that this has been denied. So there is kind of a check built in there which is -- which is you know, it`s definitely comforting.
BERTRAND: Right. It`s comforting for people who worried that this political loyalist and that is exactly what he is, he`s a loyalist to the core to Trump in the White House, overseeing the Russia investigation. But I think that it remains a little bit premature. I think that we`re going to have to wait and see whether or not he is you know, nominated by the President to fill this position on a full-time basis. And what -- he might be you know, playing his cards close to his chest at this point you know, leaving aside all of the things we`ve already seen that have been written by him about the Mueller investigations so that he does stay in this position where he could receive a Senate confirmation.
If he proves that perhaps he`s not meddling in the Russia investigation on the first instance that he may actually stand a chance. But it`s important to underline the fact that he has been seen by the west wing as the eyes and ears of the Justice Department. That speaks volumes. I mean this is someone who made his way in his career based entirely on his political connections. I mean, he was not even an Assistant U.S. Attorney before he was appointed U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa by George W Bush in 2004. That was entirely because of his political connections. So he`s known as kind of a mover and a shaker and people in the Justice Department say that he now has managed to ingratiate himself in the Trump White House to such a point where it doesn`t really matter if he has the experience necessary to do this.
The fact of the matter is, is that he is uniquely now positioned but in a way that Trump has always wanted this kind of loyal loyalist in the Justice Department. Now he`s the one that`s ready to serve that up.
HAYES: Let me -- let me show -- there`s a law professor, Julia, I think from Iowa who posted this on Twitter which I`m sort of reeling at and it kind of makes perfect sense. He says Whitaker told me in June 2017 he was flying out from Iowa to NYC to be on CNN regularly because he was hoping to be noticed as a Trump defender and through that to get a Trump judicial appointment back in Iowa. So here`s this guy who`s like, I got to get back in the game. I got to get in front of the President. I`m going to go on CNN and talk about -- and here`s the kinds of things that he said on CNN. This is him in July 2017 defending Don Junior for taking a meeting whose explicit purpose was for foreign government to give them dirt on their political opponent. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WHITAKER: To suggest that there`s a conspiracy here, I mean, you would always take that meeting. If you have somebody that you trust that is saying you need to meet with this individual because they have information about your opponent, you would take that meeting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: That was an audition and it worked.
AINSLEY: That`s right, Chris. I mean, we know that that is a good way to audition for this President. We saw Jay Sekulow the President`s attorney do the same thing. A lot of people know that they can get in front of this president by going on cable news because he watches a lot of it. And in this case what he`s showing is that he`s a loyalist. He knows that something that appeals to this president particularly at the Justice Department where Trump has had such a hard time finding this loyalist and I think where it could be a real problem.
Natasha is absolutely right there`s a lot of checks and balances about things that he could block that would then get red-flagged. But what might not necessarily get red-flagged is his ability or his ease to hand over documents. So far Rod Rosenstein has said these documents are crucial that they`re -- that they become -- the stay classified and that they not be handed over to the Congress or to the President to try to undermine the Mueller investigation. People who sign these documents, they`re -- they should remain confidential. And to have someone in a position who not only doesn`t have that backbone to stand up to the president but who might actually be looking for more of those documents, that could be problematic.
HAYES: All right, Julia Ainsley and Natasha Bertrand, thank you both very much.
BERTRAND: Thanks, Chris.
HAYES: Next, as the President makes a move that could endanger the Mueller investigation, what the Democrats do with their newly won power? Congresswoman Maxine Waters on the firing of Jeff Sessions and the big Democratic win last night.
HAYES: Democrats won the House last night for the first time in eight years and the new majority will take effect in January which means that a large number of committees like Judiciary, Intelligence, Ways and Means, all which have the power to subpoena Trump`s tax returns will be chaired by Democrats in 2019. The question now becomes do the Democrats have a unified strategy for what to do with all that power? Joining me now Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Democrat from California who slated to become the chair of the House Financial Services Committee.
I guess the first question to you is, you have been a very vocal critic of Jeff Sessions, extremely vocal critics, has said he should resign, don`t like what he`s done at the Justice Department, your reaction to his firing today?
REP. MAXINE WATERS (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, you know, this action by the president of the United States to fire him is directly connected to the investigation that is being led by Mueller. This president is interested in undermining that investigation, stopping that investigation. He has threatened to fire him.
Of course many of us have been opposed to Jeff Sessions for a lot of reasons -- his racist background, et cetera, et cetera. But this president is focus on him and firing him literally because I think he`s putting into action the plan by which to stop the investigation by putting Whitaker in as the acting attorney general. So we`re talking about a difference situation here.
But this is very dangerous. Nancy Pelosi spoke about it today. For those of us who were willing to see what could be done, to work with this president now that we have the majority in the house, this is very disappointing. For all of the people out there in America who say to us, well, try and work with him. We want, you know, both sides to get together, here he starts off one day after the midterm election, showing us what he thinks about working with us when it`s apparent that what he`s putting into action is a plan by which to get rid of Mueller. How do you work with someone like this?
HAYES: Well, I want to play you something he said today specifically on this question about oversight and whether oversight would be related to any kind of bipartisan work between the House Democrats and himself, take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you offering a my way or highway scenario to the Democrats? You`re saying that...
TRUMP: Negotiation -- not at all.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If they start investigating you, that you can play that game and investigate them.
TRUMP: Oh yeah, better than them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you compartmentalize that...
TRUMP: I think I know more than they know.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you compartmentalize that and still continue to work with them for the benefit of the rest of the country?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Or are all bets off?
TRUMP: No. If they do that, then it`s just all it is is a war-like posture.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: What does that phrase mean to you, someone who`s about to be a chair and member of House leadership? What does war-like posture mean to you, congresswoman?
WATERS: Well, let me just say this, I have always maintained that Donald Trump would never be presidential. I am not really shocked or surprised by anything that he may say or do. He has been absolutely outrageous in the way that he has called names, outrageous in the way that he has threatened, outrageous in the way that he`s promoting himself all the time. He wants to act like a dictator, and so here we are.
We find ourselves at a point in time where there are a lot of people who really believed that we could work together. So now he`s talking about investigating those who would in any way be involved in an investigation that is ongoing, that has been under way with special counsel, who has been given the mandate to get it done.
So I think what we`re seeing is a continuation of a president who likes the authority, the ability, the wherewithal to have an appreciation for the constitution, for a way that the protocol dictates that we work, et cetera, et cetera.
HAYES: Well, then let me ask you this.
HAYES: You`re part of house leadership. Has there been meetings among house leadership, among the committee chairs today, about what to do now? I mean, what is the strategy? Is there a unified strategy? Do you have meetings today? Do you have phone calls today?
WATERS: There will be ongoing meetings about this issue. We cannot help but develop a strategy. I have nothing I can share with you at this moment about that strategy given the unveiling of the firing of Jeff Sessions. But I guarantee you we really do have to get together and determine to have a unified approach to dealing with this issue.
HAYES: All right, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, thank you so much for joining us.
WATERS: You`re so welcome.
HAYES: Ahead, while the the Dems take the House, Donald Trump is emboldened by the whittling down of the Republican Party to the party of Trump, that`s next.
HAYES: Donald Trump is clearly feeling emboldened by the Senate victories last night. As we enter the lame duck session before the new congress, the main constraints on the president will be fundamentally political ones. But knowing the GOP is fully the party of Trump what do those constrains actually look like now?
Joining me now, Republican strategist Rick Wilson and former Senator Barbara Boxer of California, host of the Boxer Podcast.
Rick, you`re here, I`ll start with you. This is a key period, these two months. And there`s going to be a temptation, I think, on the part of the White House to shoot the moon.
RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Absolutely.
HAYES: What boxes them in, if anything?
WILSON: Right now, there`s zero restraint from the Republican Party, zero restraint from congress at all. In fact, I think you`re right, they`re going to shoot the moon. They`re going to burn down the entire building before the adult supervision arrives in January. They`re going to do everything they can, particularly to impede the Mueller investigation. They`re going to do everything they can to try to block and tackle on everything against the corruption investigations of Zinke and many of the others, because there`s a lavish culture corruption in this White House. They know that`s coming.
And I think they`re going to try to mitigate some of the damage the president took, but it`s going to be, it`s a fool`s errand. I mean, one way or the other they`re going to just drag out the pain.
HAYES: Well, Senator, do you think -- I want to read you -- this is Jeff Flake who is there for another two months before he retires and says Jeff Sessions did the right thing by recusing himself nearly two years ago. He paid a heavy price for his independence ever since. We owe him a debt of gratitude. He also calls for the bill to save Mueller`s investigation should be brought to the floor.
The problem is Jeff Flake tweets are worth exactly what you`re charged for them, do you see him or Collins or Corker or anyone doing anything proactive in this period?
BARBARA BOXER, (D) FORMER SENATOR CALIFORNIA: I really do, because...
HAYES: You do?
BOXER: Jeff Sessions -- yes. Because Jeff Sessions still has some people who really care about him.
BOXER: And to bring in and to bring in this new person who is nothing more than a kiss-up operative is such a slam, you know, at the whole institution that a lot of the senators still respect. So I think if people in this country stay engaged, and one of the good things, you know, about this presidency is, because of Trump so many got engaged on all sides. People don`t like obstruction of justice as a general rule.
And I want to just say one quick thing, if I could, we call it a point of personal privilege in the Senate, and that is thank you America for a blue wave in the House, for a blue wave on the governorships, and a little mini, I would call it, you know, red wave in the Senate, but not as much as we could have seen.
And also, all the women who got elected. So anyway, I thought I`d say that because Donald Trump changed the subject so fast no one had two minutes to reflect.
HAYES: That is true. And of course part of the strategy, and we`re going to talk in the next segment a little more about what happened, happened last night. But there is a relationship between the two.
HAYES: Which is politics do still exist. I mean, I think there`s a sense sometimes that people think, well, nothing matters. But you look at, you know, ACA repeal did not happen because people mobilized against it. It was politically unpopular. Child separation as an explicit policy stopped because people mobilized against it. It was extremely unpopular.
And they lost 37, 35, 34 something like that seats, because the president is unpopular, and as Richard Blumenthal said, he didn`t fire Sessions three days ago, because he knew it was politically unpopular.
WILSON: Correct. He is aware -- I think he sees the shadows on the wall at least that there are political storms ahead, there are political problems ahead and that his actions have several times now in the last year gotten him into water he can`t get out of easily.
I mean, the child separation policy is one of the few times he lost total control of the narrative, post Helsinki, total control -- lost control of the narrative. And so I think he`s worried about that. I think he knows that his future now is in some peril, not only because the Democrats are taking over congress, but because he got blown -- and Republicans got blown out in a bunch of the states he needs to win in 2020.
HAYES: You know, you said this, Senator Boxer, about sort of people`s levels of engagement in talking about what happened last night. There`s calls now from -- there`s a protect Mueller protest page calling for protests Thursday at 5:00 p.m. local time, MoveOn and a bunch of coalition of organizations are calling for that. How important do you think it is to sort of civic involvement, civil society to show up in these moments?
BOXER: It is so critical. And the fact is, people -- many for the first time are totally engaged. They brought about a change in the house. And by the way, I don`t think Trump really gets it. He can do all he wants to try and cover everything up. And any kind of conspiracy with the Russians, or any kind of, you know, activity that is illegal. But now with a new congress, and I mean by that the House -- and I served in the House for 10 years, the oversight responsibility is what you have to do. And so no matter what he tries to do to say to Mueller, sorry, you`re out, and he might well do that, and people will rise up about it, all of that work is going to come forward. It is going to come forward, because the Republicans did something when they were in charge of it they said it doesn`t take bipartisanship to issue a subpoena.
BOXER: So the Democrats can do it without the Republicans. And guess what? The materials will come forward. The truth will out. It will.
HAYES: Do you think the politics of the House, when it does take control, how do you think the politics of that play out as that fight obviously is going to escalate very quickly?
WILSON: Well, look, what Trump has to be thinking about, and Republicans that remain in the House have to be thinking about is 2020. Because in 1974, we had a blowout, a 49 Republicans in the House and eight in the Senate, because they were assumed to be or believed to be part of the corrupt scheme of President Nixon. These guys recognize right now they got blown out, because the ones this year because of Donald Trump`s affect.
This is edging much closer to Donald Trump engaging in obstruction and criminality. And if that`s the perception of the Republican Party we`re down to a much smaller minority in the House very quickly.
HAYES: All right, Rick Wilson and Senator Barbara Boxer, thank you both for joining me.
Coming up, the biggest election night headlines, the Trump loyalist voted out, the white nationalist still in office, the face of the new Democratic coalition, that`s next.
HAYES: There was a lot of news today, all of which I was processing, on about three hours of sleep. But there was also an election last night with some notable Republican defeats we didn`t get a chance to talk about earlier in the show.
Kris Kobach, perhaps the most anti-immigrant politician short of the president lost the gubernatorial race in Kansas. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker lost his bid for a third term. Congressman John Faso ran a racist campaign in New York, and lost. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, staunch Trumpist, Putin`s favorite congressman as well, will leave his office in California.
Incumbent Senator Dean Heller lost in Nevada, Virginia Congressman David Brat, who once beat Eric Canter and shocked the world, is now out of office.
Longtime Texas Pete Sessions also lost his seat. And Dan Donovan, Republican congressman of Staten Island, who we`ve had on the show a number of times, was also defeated.
There were some embattled Republicans who were victorious last night. White nationalist Steve King, who won reelection to congress in Iowa, and two Republicans currently under indictment, one reelection, Chris Collins in New York, who has been charged with securities fraud, and Duncan Hunter, who is accused of spending more than a quarter of a million dollars on campaign money on personal expenses.
Greg Gianforte, the Montana congressman who once body slammed a reporter and then lied about it, also kept his seat.
There was good news for Democrats in the House too, Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez became the youngest woman ever elected to congress, in Georgia Lucy McBath declared victory, although the race hasn`t yet been officially called. In New Mexico, Deb Haaland became one of the first Native-American women elected to congress, and Sharice Davids in Kansas became the other.
In Michigan, Rashida Tlaib became one of the first Muslim American women elected to congress, along with Somali-American Ilhan Omar in Minnesota.
Ayanna Presley will be the first African-American congresswoman from Massachusetts. And in New York State Antonio Delgado beat a, as I said before, truly disgusting campaign against him to win a seat in congress.
Those incoming Democrats are a striking change from the Republicans they beat. And the only way that kind of change can happen is if people can and do vote.
When we come back, what should be the biggest issue for Democrats for years to come? Getting those votes to count. That`s next.
HAYES: The two big stories of last night are record turnout, and example after example of an electoral system designed to make it harder for people to vote. Voter ID laws, broken machines, registration problems and insanely long lines, including crucially in Georgia, where the state`s Republican secretary of state oversaw his own election.
As Secretary of State Brian Kemp`s office has purged over a million voters from the state`s rolls, and just last month, put over 50,000 voter registrations on hold.
His race for governor against his opponent is now separated by just over 60,000 votes. Kemp`s campaign has declared victory, but Stacey Abrams is not conceding, instead she is vowing to stay in the race until every rote is counted.
Now, voter suppression as an issue comes up every two years in every election, and in every election many Democrats are rightfully outraged, and then often, when they get positions back to very important substantive policy issues they want to focus on.
But if one thing was clear last night is that if Democrats want long-term political viability, they must invest political capital in making -- in ensuring the people have the right to vote and easy access to ballot.
Joining me now is Michelle Goldberg, op-ed columnist for the New York Times, and Adam Serwer, staff writer at The Atlantic.
And Adam, you wrote about this in the case of Texas, which has put all sorts of hurdles in place, and that`s a place where you recently registered to vote. It strikes me that what we`re seeing in Georgia, what we`re seeing in Texas has to be almost a priority, like front and center, for Democratic politicians as a means of ensuring Democratic viability.
ADAM SERWER, THE ATLANTIC: Well, it has to be prioritized by Democrats, because it`s increasingly a crucial part of the Republican strategy for maintaining political power.
Their constituency is shrinking, and the way that they`re going to keep winning elections is not by being the majority, but by ensuring that the rules of the elections favor their constituencies, so that they can win a majority even when they don`t have one.
So I think the only way that Democrats are going to be able to win elections is if they counter that by ensuring their constituencies have as much a right to vote as Republican constituencies do.
HAYES: And I think there are two -- three things that happened last night in that direction. So, of course, there`s amendment four in Florida, 1.5 former enfranchised -- people with felony convictions now enfranchised who were disenfranchised, and in Nevada and Michigan also approving essentially automatic voter registration. This seems to be part of a wave of a sort of states take this seriously.
MICHELLE GOLDBERG, NEW YORK TIMES: Right. And I think that one of the less noticed, but more important developments is that progressives are taking state politics really seriously, in a way they didn`t during the Obama administration. So we want a substantial way last night to recapturing at least a third of the state legislative seats that were lost...
HAYES: 333 out of the 900 that were lost.
GOLDBERG: That were lost over Obama`s entire eight years in office. And so once you recapture state legislatures, you recapture control of the redistricting process, you can recapture control of election rules. But right now, you have so many egregious violations. I mean, Brian Kemp is doing everything he can to try to shut down both transparency about even how many votes are still outstanding in his race, about Stacey Abrams. Stacey Abrams campaign doesn`t even know how many votes there are out there.
HAYES: There was news today that the clerk reported that number just to him?
GOLDBERG: Right. And it`s kind of giving her some numbers, but won`t give them any sort of data or information about where the numbers are coming from. And so in Wisconsin, you have a situation not unlike one we saw before in North Carolina where we have a Democratic Governor who finally unseated Scott Walker and some Republicans in the legislature are saying that they`re going to move to curtail his powers...
HAYES: In the lame duck session.
GOLDBERG: Yeah, I mean, so you have -- you know, I think the story of our time is Republican minority rule and a Republican Party that has increasingly given up on democracy. And the challenge of our time is for Democrats to rebuild democracy.
HAYES: What do you think of that, Adam?
SERWER: I think that`s exactly right. I mean, look, the 15th amendment of the constitution refers to the right to vote. And the fact is what we have right now is a government that is uninterested in protecting that right. The Justice Department under Jeff Sessions hasn`t filed a single voting rights case since he took office.
HAYES: Not one?
SERWER: Not one, not a single one. And the Republican Party is simply, as Michelle said, increasingly reliant on a minority of the electorate that is ideally geographically distributed in such a way that they can maintain majority control of the government even when they don`t have majority of support of the population of the United States.
HAYES: Yeah, you saw -- I mean, of course you have written about this, Adam has written about this, right. Election night 2016, Hillary Clinton wins by 3 million votes, Donald Trump is elected president.
The House margin last night was probably -- will probably be between 6 million and 7 million votes probably.
GOLDBERG: More democrats -- and more Democrats voted for democratic -- more people voted for Democratic senators last night than voted for Republican senators.
HAYES: Although that`s a little complicated.
GOLDBERG: I know, by California. I think even without California, you see kind of the hugely disproportionate power of a state like North Dakota where you are talking about 10,000 voters determines the makeup of the United States senate.
And so this is going to be a problem. I can`t remember when the exact date is, but we`re heading towards a point where 70 percent of the country has 30 senators, and 30 percent of the country has 70 senators.
And as long as those two populations are kind of polarized and at each other`s throats...
HAYES: That`s the thing that`s dangerous, right. For a long time those were sort of lattice work crossed up enough. But if you get the situation where it`s like where all these kinds of voters are in these kinds of states with big populations.
GOLDBERG: Right, there is 30 percent of a kind of like white, rural, aging conservative minority, you know, sort of like controlling and refusing to cede power -- or refusing to share power with 70 percent of the country, that`s younger and more diverse and more urban, that`s a recipe -- I don`t know what happens then.
HAYES: Adam, it strikes me that blue states that have unified Democratic control need to put their money where their mouth is on this, too.
SERWER: Oh, yeah, I agree. I mean, the voting system in New York is a disgrace. There`s no early voting. There is a sense -- and this is something I tell people all the time when a party has voting rules that are rigged to its advantage, it doesn`t want to change them. And that`s a real problem.
And that`s -- I mean, that`s one of the reasons why one party rule in any area is bad, but in this case, what you don`t see from Democrats, though, is you don`t see Democrats deliberately targeting Republican constituencies in such a manner as to restrict the electorate so that Republican couldn`t vote. But these days what you see is Republicans trying to ensure that the electorate to their benefit.
And that`s something that has a long history in the United States of America. Once upon a time, it was Democrats who were violently trying to restrict the electorate so that Republican couldn`t vote. But these days what you see is Republicans trying to ensure that the electorate is older and whiter so that they can continue winning elections even though the majority of the people in a given state don`t actually support what they`re doing.
And part of the way they do that is they run on white identity politics. When you look at like progressive initiatives, Medicaid was expanded in three red states yesterday. It`s not that Americans don`t like -- don`t like those kind of things, it`s that they -- it`s that they...
HAYES: I`ve got to cut you off there, Adam. Michelle Goldberg and Adam Serwer, thank you for joining me. That is ALL IN for this evening. "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.
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