Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: December 21, 2018 Guest: Chris Van Hollen, Howell Raines, Jerry Nadler; Rukmini Callimachi, Rula Jebreal, Barbara Boxer, Gordon Humphrey, Eleanor Clift
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CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Tonight on ALL IN.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: This may have been the most chaotic week of what`s undoubtedly the most chaotic presidency ever in the history of the United States.
HAYES: Bedlam in Washington D.C.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: We`re right in the middle of sort of a meltdown on the part of the Republicans.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If everybody will take their meds and be cool, we`ll get this worked out.
HAYES: The President holding the government hostage and trying to shift the blame.
TRUMP: I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down. I`m not going to blame you for it. It`s up to the Democrats so it`s really the Democrats shut down.
HAYES: Tonight, Trump reportedly in full-on tailspin trying to appease his wall hungry base.
REP. RYAN COSTELLO (R), PENNSYLVANIA: I`ve never seen somebody more scared of their base than the president.
HAYES: All this as the stock market plunges and concerns escalate over the Defense Secretary`s resignation.
PELOSI: I`m shaken by the resignation of General Mattis.
HAYES: When ALL IN starts right now.
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HAYES: Good evening from New York I`m Chris Hayes. Four hours from now, Donald Trump is set to shut down part of the government because Mexico won`t pay for his mythical border wall like he promised and Congress won`t pay for an either. All day, lawmakers have been trying to find some way to work out a deal that would head off a shutdown. The problem, of course, was a president who refused to accept political or physical reality.
Remember, we had a plan to fund the government. It passed the Senate two nights ago by voice vote which means essentially unanimously. Everyone agreed, everyone was in. But after that vote, conservative media, the small group of House Republicans flipped out is the technical term because the bill did not include money for the wall.
There was good reason for that. Trump needs 60 votes in the Senate and the Senate Democrats made clear they wouldn`t fund the wall. But even though Trump had no path forward whatsoever, he forced his own lawmakers in his own party to tear up the deal anyway. And then today Trump repeatedly attempted gamely to blame Democrats the shutdown prompting mockery and derision across Washington. After all it was just last week that we all watched literally as Trump explicitly say he`d be proud to shut the government down.
These are the exact quotes of the President. "I will shut down the government. I am proud you shut down the government for border security, Chuck. I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down. I`m not going to blame you for it.
It turns out a promise from Donald Trump is not worth much and things are getting ugly. Trump is reportedly rampaging the West Wing which itself isn`t anything new necessarily. He`s complaining about his incoming chief of staff Mick Mulvaney who`s barely started the job after a two-year-old video emerged in which Mulvaney calls Trump a "terrible human being." Now, a new Mulvaney quote resurfaced from 2015. It`s arguably even worse.
Mulvaney says the word fence here but it`s clear he`s talking about Trump`s wall. Listen.
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MICK MULVANEY, DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF BUDGET MANAGEMENT: The fence doesn`t solve the problem. Is it -- is it -- is it necessary to have one? Sure. Would it help? Sure. But to just say build the darn fence and have that be the end of an immigration discussion is absurd and almost childish for someone running for president to take that simplistic a view.
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HAYES: Absurd and the most childish. Oh, my word. Meanwhile, Trump continues to take heat for his abrupt decision to pull troops from Syria in the Middle East with a Trump T.V. host telling Sarah Sanders this morning that Trump had just "refounded Isis." And the fallout continues from the resignation of Jim Mattis, the widely respected Secretary of Defense who rebuked Trump in his resignation letter prompting expressions of concern even from GOP allies including Mitch McConnell.
Then there`s a stock market which cratered once again today and has now suffered its worst week in a decade. And once about a time, Trump-like to point to the market as the reason he would get reelected.
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TRUMP: And by the way, how are your 401ks doing? Not too bad, right? I think it`s going to be very hard for somebody to beat us in a few years. Can you imagine now we`re only talking about a few years? All you have to say is with us it goes up with them it goes down and that`s the end of the election, right?
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HAYES: It`s over, folks. It`s over now. We`ve seen Trump meltdowns before, plenty of them, but this feels different. It feels worse and it feels more serious primarily because actual things in the world are changing. Real structural things out there in the world not just Trump. He is about to lose political power for the first time in his entire political career after suffering a huge loss in the Midterms. He cannot control the trajectory of an economy that`s showing some signs of strain.
He`s making rash decisions, he`s lashing out his staff, losing key aides, and watching the markets go south on his cable news all day long. On top of all that, he`s now shutting down the government because he can`t get his way.
Joining me now Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, a Member of the Budget and Appropriations Committees. Senator, this looks like it`s going to happen. Everyone has been sent home?
SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND: Yes. Look, this has been a week where the White House has been in freefall. The President had indicated that he was going to support that bipartisan Senate agreement that passed unanimously the other night. And as you said he then pulled the rug out from under the deal when he just couldn`t take the heat from conservative talk show host.
So, the House of Representatives is actually already adjourned for the evening. They won`t come back till 12:00 tomorrow. And of course, the government shuts down at midnight. So, despite our best efforts to provide some sanity here, the President seems intent on shutting down the government.
HAYES: You represent Maryland. Of course, a lot of federal workers in your state as constituents, I think, some people think that the government shuts down, they`ll shut down for a week or so and then they`ll open it back up. At some point, people get back pay. No big deal. What do you think about that?
VAN HOLLEN: Well, the first thing is that you`ve got a lot of federal employees who are going to continue to work and then others will be furloughed. None of them, whether they`re working or furloughed will get their paycheck. And you know, these are folks like other American families. they`re having to pay their mortgages or their rent. They`re having to make ends meet.
HAYES: I mean, it`s December for the love of God. They`ve probably got a lot of expenses as well.
VAN HOLLEN: I mean, look, this is the holiday season. Obviously, lots of families are going home for Christmas. This is a terrible time to tell anybody including hard-working federal employees, sorry the money`s not going to be going into your bank account for your salary this week. So that will happen if there`s a government shutdown and the longer it goes on, the more burden and pain those federal employees will pay for dysfunction they, of course, had nothing to do with.
I will say that just within the last hour on the floor of the Senate, Senator Cardin and I did get a bill passed, a resolution passed that would at least assure upfront federal employees will get paid after the government shutdown. As you know, that often happens at the end of a government shutdown and people have all that uncertainty during the shutdown period. We`re fighting to stop the shutdown but if the House will pass what the Senate just passed, at least -- at least federal employees will know during this period of time that at the end of the day they will get paid. But that still leaves open the problem you were just talking about, Chris, people having to stretch.
HAYES: So how is -- how do your colleagues see this because here`s -- I wanted -- this is this is Bob Corker saying we have to talk radio hosts who influence the president. That`s tyranny, isn`t it? I`m talking about I guess Rush Limbaugh and Anne Coulter, although who knows. Here`s the thing. I`ve covered a bunch of shutdowns, everyone fights over who`s blaming who always. That`s sort of the way these things go. In this case, like, we all watch the President say it`s mine, and then watching him today be like this is on the Democrats and Chuck Grassley tweeting like Democrats. It just feels almost preposterous. Like we all were there. We all saw it. Like, are people on the Senate floor pretending they weren`t there?
VAN HOLLEN: Yes you know, you`re right. This is one of those things where the President will have a harder time claiming it was fake news since it`s on video. Not that that stopped him before but he said it so emphatically. I mean, he took great pride in saying he was going to shut down the government if he didn`t get his way and he took great pride in saying you know, he was going to take responsibility and of course he`s reverted to form, flip-flopping, pointing the finger at everybody else even when he had already agreed to the bipartisan ideal in the Senate. This is just pure --
HAYES: But wait a second, but that`s -- that is -- that is par for the course from Donald Trump. What`s weird to me is watching Chuck Grassley and other people go along with it. Like, are they -- are they -- are they lying? Like what is your mental model of their behavior in this situation?
VAN HOLLEN: Well, what we`ve seen is the total Trump takeover of the Republican Party and including a brain meld which is why you saw the House of Representatives totally outsourced their independent powers, a separate branch of government to Donald Trump. I mean, it`s like oh well we won`t move until we hear from Donald Trump. And to see Republican House members sort of scurrying down to the White House to get their orders is just so kind of gross when you think of our political system. I mean --
HAYES: You wanted to say pathetic is what you want to say.
VAN HOLLEN: It`s pathetic. It`s pathetic. I mean, it`s just -- these are people who are sworn to uphold their own constitutional responsibilities and yet they`ve essentially outsourced their vote to the Press the United States. In fact, it was just tonight when we`ve been working to try and get an agreement with our House colleagues, they say don`t talk to us, just talk the President.
HAYES: Yes. You guys of course -- I mean the funny thing is the numbers are there. On the first deal, the numbers there to override the veto. Of course, they`ll never do that but the actual numbers would be there to just pass the thing, send everyone for the home for holidays and the President could go golfing at Mar-a-Lago. Senator Chris Van Hollen, thank you for your time tonight.
VAN HOLLEN: Good to be with you. For more on the situation playing out today I`m joined now by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Howell Raines, former Executive Editor of The New York Times and MSNBC Contributor Jennifer Rubin, Conservative Columnist for the Washington Post.
Jennifer, this of course -- there`s something so fitting about this being like the final moments of Paul Ryan speakership, the final moments of unified Republican governance that they`re hung -- they`re going to close down the -- they`re going to close down the government because they all paying themselves into a corner on this idiotic wall. And I want to play you something Jeb Bush said in July of 2016 about the wall. Take a listen.
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JEB BUSH (R), FORMER GOVERNOR, FLORIDA: The tragedy of this though is that there isn`t going to be a wall built and Mexico is not going to pay for it. The reality is that`s not going to happen. And people are going to be deeply frustrated and the divides will grow in our country. That`s the heartbreaking part of this is I think people are going to really feel betrayed.
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HAYES: Called it.
JENNIFER RUBIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, he did. As do the rest of us who foresaw that this was going to be a presidential meltdown from day one. It was pathetic wasn`t it that on his last act going out the door, Speaker Ryan couldn`t bring himself to do his job which is to lead a co-equal branch of government, to keep the lights on. Even then, why does he care? He`s going into retirement. But even then he can`t bring himself to show any spine. He can`t bring himself to do the right thing. And it is pathetic as the senator was saying. It really is.
And at this point, we all know it`s going to happen. They`re going to come up with some sleight of hand so Trump thinks he didn`t fold when he did fold and eventually people will go back to work. But I do think something has changed this week in large part because of Mattis and because of Syria, and earlier even because of Saudi Arabia. I think you see the Republicans, particularly in the Senate beginning to if not throw in the towel on him, at least inch away from him a little bit. So it`ll be really interesting next year when we have a divided government.
HAYES: Howell, you`ve covered your fair share of shutdowns. I`ve cover some shutdowns as well. It`s worth noting here that shutdowns usually happen and divided government, usually got a member of one party and one house controlled by the other party and they fight and that happened under -- with Barack Obama with the Republican House, famously with Clinton and Gingrich. This is a third shutdown in unified Republican governance. What conclusion can you draw from that?
HOWELL RAINES, FORMER EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, I think you have to conclude that Abraham Lincoln must be looking down in tears. The party that saved the Union now seems intent on tearing it apart. And I think everybody in professional Washington, politicians, government employees, journalists understood what we saw yesterday when General Mattis` letter became public and everyone and rinsed instantly recognized that this was a patriotic defense intellectual writing for history. And that letter instantly will become part of the annals of the Republic for this reason.
His -- in looking at what he had to say about NATO and about relations with our adversaries Russia and China, analyzing his words brought to my mind language that I almost fear to utter. I think between the lines general Mattis, this great military mind was saying that we are seeing in the White House the functional equivalent of treason.
Now, whether this is disloyalty rooted in mental instability, personality disorder, simple ignorance, or financial compromised with foreign nations, this is General Mattis was telling us a life-threatening moment for Republic -- for the this Republic. And I think this will go down in history as perhaps the most important farewell, the most dramatic since MacArthur addressed the Congress in -- at the end of the Korean War.
But General Mattis, unlike MacArthur, was not playing to aggrandize himself. I think this was a sincere patriotic warning from a government professional who understands that this president is unhinged and incompetent.
HAYES: Jennifer do you feel -- to what Howell said, the weight and the stakes do seem higher now and what I`ve been through, this is like my 90th Trump meltdown at this point so I you know, they all kind of run together. But there are different stakes now because of the fact that he`s about to lose power. The government actually will shift hands, political power will change, the economy is not within his control. Where are we right now?
RUBIN: We`re in a very bad place. And because he is now making geopolitical decisions that have long-term ramifications for the country, he has just given both Putin, Iran, Isis, Assad a beautiful Christmas gift in leaving Syria. So he has now I think gone down in the annals of history as the worst barn on foreign policy president we`ve ever had. Excuse me. But I think that effect and the fact that there is no one around him now who is an adult, remember the anonymous op-ed editorial in the in The Herald`s old paper the --
RUBIN: New York Times. Remember all those adults that were supposed to be around Trump. Who`s the adult now? Not one of those people is there any longer. It is just Trump.
HAYES: Someone was saying let me just also just respectfully disagree with him being the worst foreign policy president at all-time. I don`t think that`s the case. I think Iraq and Vietnam were worse actually. And thank God we haven`t launched a major war under this man`s leadership. But I will say this.
In terms of the anonymous op-ed, Howell, people were saying yesterday, where is that person? Like that was the sort of first anonymous version of the Mattis letter. This was Mattis on the record. Is there anyone else left there who feels that way?
RAINES: I think the fact that General Mattis circulated 50 copies of that letter inside his old apartment is significant. He`s saying don`t give up. There are other animals in the forest. But I want to say an amen to Jennifer`s analysis of what a fraught moment this is internationally. The person in the world who is most happy that Donald Trump is president is Putin.
This is a man who spent his life dreaming of seeing a destabilized America. And now he is watching along with the rest of us as Trump acts out the Putin lifelong agenda.
HAYES: All right, Howell Raines and Jennifer Rubin, thank you both for being with me on this evening and have a great holiday if you`re celebrating. Thank you. The end of complete Republican control is mere days away. Up next Congressman Jerry Nadler on inheriting a government in chaos and what Democrats plan to do about it next.
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PELOSI: I am shaken by the resignation of General Mattis, for what it means to our country, for the message it sends to our troops, for the indication of what his view is of the Commander-in-Chief.
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HAYES: The combination of the abrupt resignation of Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and the President`s temper tantrum over the wall has led Washington a distinct era of panic and worry these last two days. But while the President watches cable news and tweets and we hurtle towards a shutdown, Democrats in the House are preparing to govern for the first time in eight years and are inheriting a country that feels like it`s on the precipice of real honest-to-god crisis.
One of the people who`ll be taking over the gavel, taking on the mantle is my next guest Democratic Congressman Jerry Nadler of New York. You know, heady times for you Congressman as you`re about to take this over. First on the shutdown, if there`s no deal is the -- what`s the plan? Like you`re going to -- the first day that you get the gavel, the Democrats running the House will be with a shutdown government.
REP. JERRY NADLER (D), NEW YORK: Well, the plan is to -- is to open up the government but that requires the president to deal reasonably. And the president is not being rational now at all. He obviously feels abandoned, all the people are abandoning him. The wheels are coming off the bus whether it`s the voters who abandon him in large numbers, gave a great victory to the Democratic Party or all the people around them who were testifying to Mueller and turning state`s evidence, his campaign manager, his deputy campaign manager, national security adviser, his Secretary of Defense who resigned, his chief of staff who resigned.
He -- and now Fox News and the conservative talk radio, he feels very beleaguered and that`s why he -- I think he`s turning to his base. Every time he feels beleaguered he turns to his base to try to do something that will rally them to him and that`s what this wall fight is all about. It`s purely him trying to rally some support from his base which is otherwise deserting him.
HAYES: You`re going to take order the Judiciary Committee and it`ll be the first time there`s any real oversight exercised in the Trump era. And one prime concern is the acting Attorney General the United States who is not Senate confirmed despite the fact he has had that position now for a while. He has decided unilaterally did not recuse himself from oversight of the Mueller probe despite the fact that he said all these things about it. He created this very convoluted process.
In his letter, he says after completing his review and considering all relevant views which was the professionals in the ethics department and his other pals, the acting Attorney General has decided not to recuse himself from the Special Counsel investigation. What are you going to do about that?
NADLER: Well, the first thing we`re going to do -- first of all, he has to recuse himself. The professionals told him so. They had first lied about it and then they came clean later today saying -- or later yesterday saying that they had -- that he had decided to ignore their advice and to assemble this at our committee of non-professional ethics people, of nonprofessional people to give him the advice he wanted. And it`s crystal clear that he`s put there for the purpose of sabotaging the Mueller investigation. And that`s why he can`t recuse himself because the President doesn`t want him to and that`s why the president got rid of Sessions whose only sin was recusing himself.
Now, we have -- we had a conversation with Chairman Cummings of the Oversight Committee and I had a conversation with him about two weeks ago following a number of letters and he agreed to come before our committee -- before my committee in January to testify about this and other questions. And we -- and we agreed to that and he agreed to that. Now they`ve been backtracking. They won`t agree to a date. They won`t agree to a time.
So he sent the letter -- I sent the letter to him today demanding that he set up a time and a date in January when he can appear before our committee and I said that I hope we didn`t have to use compulsory process to bring him there. But if we have to we will.
HAYES: Wait. There now trying to not -- I mean he`s -- you`re the Oversight Committee. You`re the appropriators for that department if I`m not mistaken. You -- I mean you set the budget and stuff like that. Like he`s got to show up right?
NADLER: Well, he should show up. And we will -- we will subpoena him if we have to. They have not said they won`t show up. He said he would in this conversation with us two weeks ago but we cannot pin him down to a date at a time and they seem to be backtracking on that.
HAYES: So, do you think they`re just going to ride that out till then? I mean -- what it seems to me like he learned his lesson from Sessions. It`s obvious why he`s there for the reasons you indicate and they basically feel like they can get away with it indefinitely.
NADLER: Well, he can`t get away with not appearing before the committee indefinitely because we`ll subpoena him.
NADLER: And he has to respond to that and he will. I`d rather he come before the committee on a less compulsory basis but he will come before the committee and we will ask him these questions and we`ll take whatever necessary measures we think appropriate.
HAYES: How do you --
NADLER: And we will -- and we will on the related matter, we will as one of the first orders of business in January report out of the committee and pass the House the protective legislation to protect the Mueller investigation.
HAYES: So that`s a priority. You know, as we were in break, I was looking at you up here on the screen and I`ve known you and interviewed you over the years for quite some time. And you now find yourself it`s sort of a pivotal moment, a kind of fulcrum of history. I mean, you`re the chair of the Judiciary Committee in 2019 and a year one some very important things and matters of the greatest constitutional and historical import can come for your committee. Like, how are you thinking about your role right now?
NADLER: I`m thinking about my role that I have a job to do and that job is to protect the rule of law, to vindicate the rule of law, and to protect the United States insofar as we can against the anti-democratic impulses of the Trump -- of Trump in his administration. We see this anti-democratic movement in many places around the world and the President has allied himself with tyrants and other places. We have to make sure that democratic processes work here, that the rule of law is paramount, that no one is above the law, and that is what we`re going to do.
HAYES: All right, Congressman Jerry Nadler, incoming Chair of the Judiciary Committee. Thank you for being here.
NADLER: Thank you.
HAYES: Ahead, how Turkeys strongman leader muscle Donald Trump into leaving Syria. The incredible story of how the President of the United States shocked his own staff by quickly capitulating to Turkey next.
HAYES: New details tonight about the president`s extremely sudden decision to pull U.S. troops out of Syria. The Associated Press reporting today the decision was made after only one phone call with Turkish President Recep Erdogan last week. Even though President Trump came to the call with talking points prepared by his staff, including, he essentially abandoned those talking points once his Turkish counterpart pressed the question of U.S. troops in Syria.
NBC News confirming the president took everyone by surprise when he decided suddenly on the phone to withdraw troops. In fact, his decision was so sudden that the AP reports caught off guard, Erdogan cautioned Trump against a hasty withdrawal.
Here to talk about what that decision means with Rukmini Callimachi who is a foreign correspondent for The New York Times, and an MSNBC contributor, and Rula Jebreal, a journalist and foreign policy analyst.
The geopolitics here, let me start with you, in terms of why is Erdogan pushing so hard for U.S. withdrawal from Syria?
RUKMINI CALLIMACHI, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I think Erdogan understands that the Kurds are nothing in Northern Syria without American backing. When I was last embedded with them a couple years ago, they had a large desire to take out ISIS, but they literally could not move an inch without the help of U.S. forces who were calling in air strikes for them.
So they are impotent without the U.S. The Turks consider the Kurds to be an existential threat to them, because of the fact that the Kurds that are in Syria are allied with the PKK, which Turkey considers to be a terrorist group.
HAYES: Yeah, so you had at one period of time, which the U.S. forces were embedded with the Kurdish fighters, the YPG and others, right, who are in eastern Syria, and they`re fighting ISIS, teamed together, and all the while Erdogan is sitting there watching the U.S. increase the fighting power of the Kurds, freaking out and furious essentially and has been waiting for this moment forever.
HAYES: What was it mean, Rula, for the Syrian conflict for those 2,000 U.S. military personnel to be withdrawn, particularly in this hasty manner.
RULA JEBREAL, JOURNALIST AND ANALYST: We give the country to Putin, the winner of this conflict, which I call genocide because it`s a slaughter house that President Assad unleashed against his people. It`s a war on civilian.
The revolution started in 2011, it was a peaceful revolution. People wanted bread, democracy, dignity, and social justice. He gave them barrel bombs and others, but couldn`t win the war because there`s a moment where people were -- millions going to the streets.
Then he went to his backers, the Russians, and the Russian intervened, the Iranians, so it`s a victory for the Iranians, for the Russians and for the Assad regime, and for every tyrant around the world.
This is a message that America does not care anymore about human rights, about violation, about war crimes. It`s an open season.
HAYES: OK, but let me push back on that, because I`m watching people like Lindsey Graham and others -- and sort of bipartisan consensus say, you can`t just pull out. And I`ve now been covering politics in my adult life since 2001. We`re in the longest war we`ve engaged in in the history of the republic in Afghanistan for 17 years. And it`s always the same thing, you can`t pull out, you can`t pull out. You`ve got to stay. And I`ve watched people say this about Afghanistan for 17 years.
And so when I hear people say that about Syria, like, yes, that seems legitimate, but also it seems to me that at some point we`re going to have to leave.
JEBREAL: I agree, but not in these conditions, especially when we now -- the balance of power is in favor of Bashar al-Assad and Iranians and others.
Plus, if we really -- if Trump wanted to leave, why leave Syria and not Yemen? I don`t understand. I mean, Yemen, because of his friend, MBS, he`s sending a terrible message that America is not reliable. This creates instability and this creates a vacuum that will be filled by somebody. And who`s somebody? That is Putin and China and others. This is a real risk.
HAYES: What does it mean for those Kurdish fighters you embedded with?
CALLIMACHI: It`s an absolute disaster for them. I`m speaking to them every day. They were completely taken off guard. On Monday, they were speaking to coalition officials who reassured them that America was there for the long haul. A couple days later, Trump`s tweet comes out. They were so confused about this decision.
I think that you`re right, that we`ve been in a forever war in Iraq and Afghanistan, et cetera. But I think that our viewers are forgetting that these conflicts are different and have a different cost.
In Syria, the 2,000 or so troops that have been there have been there for only a couple years. And to date, only four Americans have been killed, two in combat, two not in combat. The Kurds, on the other hand, who are the ones who are actually doing the grunt work and the dirty work of trying to push back ISIS, they have lost upwards of 10,000 troops. They are the ones who were really fighting ISIS, not us.
HAYES: And they are now going to be rewarded for the victory against ISIS by watching them possibly be slaughtered by Turkish forces.
JEBREAL: Or by ISIS.
HAYES: Yeah, so ISIS -- yeah.
JEBREAL: By the way, I mean, America is responsible of this, of paving the way for radicalization in the Middle East. ISIS was never in Syria, was never in Iraq. The 2003 Iraqi invasion that created a vacuum opened the door and paved the way for the radicalization of an entire generation. Do we have a responsibility to protect others? Do we or not?
HAYES: Final question about where ISIS is right now. I mean, the idea is they`re gone, over...
I think the problem is, and we see it in AP`s reporting of the Erdogan call, Erdogan says to Trump 99 percent of ISIS has been defeated. It`s 99 percent of the territory in Iraq and Syria, this is not a group that is only synonymous with territory. In its first decade of its existence in Iraq, it had almost no territory at all and yet has killed thousands of people.
The latest estimate is 20,000 to 30,000 fighters just in Iraq and Syria for ISIS, not counting Afghanistan, not counting the Sinai, not counting West Africa, not counting Libya, and I could go on. So, it`s an enormous number that is still active there.
CALLIMACHI: I just did Jerablos (ph), the area liberated from ISIS by the Turkish Kurds, it`s not only the liberation, it`s what they did after. I visited with Fatima Shaheen (ph), the governor a year ago exactly. She built hospitals. She built schools. She opened schools. It`s also nation building. It`s not only that you`re bumping an area and leaving, it`s what you do after, and this is what matters. We don`t want troops forever, but we want engagement in America to lead, not to retreat and be defeated as it is today.
HAYES: Rukmini Callimchi and Rula Jebreal, thank you both very much.
Panic in Washington, worry across the world, after Defense Secretary General Mattis quite. Much more on that next.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) HAYES: There was bipartisan panic yesterday over the resignation of Secretary Defense Jim Mattis and his stunning rebuke of the president. Today, we`re getting word of the world`s reaction, and it`s not any better. In The Washington Post, a retired colonel in China (ph) said, quote, "our concern is who comes next. If Trump chooses a lackey who isn`t willing to serve as a balance to his instincts, the worry is that the world becomes even more unstable."
The New York Times reporting a former Australian government defense strategist said, quote, "I had a discussion with a senior government official this morning and he asked who`s left in the U.S. cabinet who we regard as an adult? We both scratched our heads."
And a former Belgian prime minister tweeted, "Mattis checked President Trump`s worst instincts, is a strong supporter of NATO and multilateralism. His departure is bad news and makes it look like Putin`s plan is being delivered on."
I want to bring in Barbara Boxer, a former Democratic senator from California, and Gordon Humphrey, who is both a former Republican and a former senator from New Hampshire.
Senator Boxer, do you share the sort of feeling of surprise, dismay, even panic yesterday when you saw the news?
FORMER SENATOR BARBARA BOXER, (D), CALIFORNIA: I`m dismayed, I`m sad. But I also have to say to General Mattis, if he`s listening, he did the right thing. He could not change this president`s mind, a president who has no sense of history, no understanding that you don`t betray your allies like the Kurds. I thought your former guests were incredible teaching the American people something you know we really don`t think about. They`ve lost 10,000 Kurds fighting ISIS, and we`re walking away.
And this president doesn`t understand that. He doesn`t get the fact that you`re loyal to your allies and you don`t hang out with tyrants. For god`s sake, this is America. and when Mattis saw he could not teach that -- those two lessons to this president, he did the right thing and he memorialized it in a letter I view as an open letter not only to America, but to the world.
HAYES: Senator Humphrey, Mark Salter, a long time adviser for the late Senator McCain and writer said of the Mattis letter this is pretty close to flying the flag upside down, meaning the sort of call of distress. Is that how you read it as well?
FORMER SENATOR GORDON HUMPHREY, (R) NEW HAMPSHIRE: It is indeed a distress signal and, in fact, we are in a national emergency in my opinion. We`ve seen once again dramatic evidence that the president is impulsive, the president is erratic, the president is reckless, reckless, dangerously reckless. Endangering our national security, and that of our allies, in this case the Kurds.
Our troops on the ground in Syria, our troops on the ground in Afghanistan, our troops everywhere outside the U.S. are now endangered because our foes, Putin and company, see the U.S. as lacking leadership, lacking resolve, lacking courage, lacking clarity of purpose, lacking persistence.
We`ve given Putin a very cheap victory. I think the president is -- president`s mind up is so helter-skelter that I believe he`s afflicted with a seriously sick psyche, such that the provisions of the constitution transferring his powers to the vice president should now be brought to bear.
Do you think -- that`s not something I think that there`s going to be a lot of takers for either in the cabinet or among members of the United States Senate or congress from your former party.
HUMPHREY: Well, let`s bear in mind that it`s part of the constitution. It is therefore a purpose, it`s meant to be used when an extremist, I contend we`re in extremist, requires seven members of the cabinet, half of the cabinet plus the vice president, that`s a total of eight out of 15 to inform the House and the Senate in writing that the president is unable to discharge the powers and the duties of the office.
And by that, you know, discharging in what manner one might ask? Well, discharging sanely and prudently I should think would be the standard, sanely and prudently and safely. This president is not capable. He`s reckless. And he`s dangerous. And it`s time for the cabinet to intervene in my opinion.
HAYES: Do you feel that sense, Senator Boxer, of crisis, of acute crisis? Obviously, crisis is kind of the status quo, equilibrium for this president, but a lot of people feel like the last two days and Mattis`s departure, particularly, are different. How do you feel?
BOXER: Well, it`s been growing every single day. You know, you`re the one that sits there every day planning a show and you have to now just change the whole thing, because every day since this man took over there`s another terrible issue that hits the country.
But I do want to say to my colleague who is on the show, he says it`s time for the cabinet, you know, good luck with that. But I want to say it is time for the Republicans in the House and Senate not to run away, as Paul Ryan did -- my god, he ran away because, you know, Fox News told this president what to do. This president`s like the Wizard of Oz, when you pull back the curtain what you realize is, he is a puppet, you know, for Fox News. He is a puppet for Putin, for the Saudis, for the dictators. It is a frightening moment.
If the cabinet wants to take this on, fine. But the congress, under the constitutional Article 1, as everybody says, where I served for so many years, wake up. We are seeing a few signs of life, but not enough. They have to save the country. They really do.
HAYES: There`s agreement between the two of you as Senator Humphrey nods his head.
Barbara Boxer and Gordon Humphrey, it`s a great pleasure to talk to both of you, thank you very much.
HUMPHREY: Thank you.
HYES: Here`s a question, has a defense secretary ever quit in protest over a president`s foreign policy before? Putting this chaotic week and Trump`s first two years into historical context ahead.
HAYES: The Supreme Court just dealt Donald Trump yet another immigration setback today, refusing to allow the administration to implement rules that would bar people who cross the southern border between ports of entry from asking for asylum when they got here. A lower court had previously blocked that ban. But even for migrants who make it to the ports of entry, gaining asylum is really, really hard right now. And one of the reasons is called metering.
You see right now, U.S. border officials are limiting how many migrants can come through any given port of entry in a day. And this has created a huge backlog with people sometimes living in inhumane conditions on the border camping out for days on bridges or near ports of entry.
While reporting on some of those desperate asylum seekers this week, we made an error here on All In that I want to correct. On Monday night, we showed you this NBC News footage of migrants in Mexico getting numbers written on their arms as they wait ask for asylum in the U.S. And I said that, and I quote, "Mexican officials are writing numbers on people`s arms, something with some obviously awful historical connotations." Now, the first part of that is incorrect, and I regret the error. The people writing the numbers are not Mexican officials, instead they work for nonprofit organizations.
According to NBC reporter, Red Cross doctors voiced their concerns about the living conditions long the border. It led to a coordinated effort with local Mexican officials and NGOs to get those people off bridges out of the elements and into shelters.
The nonprofit workers came up with a system of writing numbers on migrants` arms to try and keep their place in line for entry back into the U.S., in other words to try and help them, something this administration appears rather reluctant to do.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, (D) NEW YORK: The events of the past week should concern every American. This may have been the most chaotic week of what`s undoubtedly the most chaotic presidency ever in the history of the United States.
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HAYES: The Trump era routinely leaves many observers grasping for historical precedent. As you can hear, Senator Schumer thinks this is the most chaotic presidency in American history, though personally, I`m pretty sure Andrew Johnson, among others, has Trump beat on that score.
But in a week that really does feel profoundly ominous, how should we think about where this president and this country are at this particular moment? Joining me now, Michael Beschloss, NBC News presidential historian, author of the new book "Presidents of War," and Eleanor Clift, who covers politics for The Daily Beast.
Eleanor, let me start with you, you know, it`s always hard with this president to separate the wheat from the chaff, the sort of trivial from the profound in terms of what`s going on. The Mattis letter felt like a big deal, as someone who has covered Washington did it feel like a big deal to you?
ELEANOR CLIFT, THE DAILY BEAST: Oh, very much feels like a big deal. In fact, in the green room talking to Michael I said could I compare it to Washington`s farewell letter? Books have been written about that. He said well, that`s a little bit much, but he said Washington after all was president.
But he said, yes, it will go down in the annals of history. And I think future generations will be reading it as a road map to what this country was going through in the early 21st Century dealing with the most chaotic presidency probably in our history.
And I came to Washington covering Jimmy Carter. And I remember he reassessed his presidency when his poll numbers were low. And he went to Camp David and he came back and said there was a crisis of confidence in the country. And he asked for the resignation of every member of the cabinet. And the media thought he`d absolutely lost his mind.
You know, Bill Clinton lied about sex. Richard Nixon basically conducted a cover-up and paid hush money. President Trump has done all of those things and many more, so it just boggles the mind of anybody who has been watching Washington politics for the last 40 years.
HAYES: Michael, just in terms of the specific point, has the secretary of defense over quit over policy differences before?
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, NBC NEWS PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: No, not even close.
And, you know, Chris, the two big resignations and protests in this country over the last, let`s say the last little bit more than a century, would be first was William Jennings Bryant, a name on everyone`s tongue I`m sure today.
HAYES: Because he opposed World War I.
BESCHLOSS: Opposed World War I, 1915 out of principle disagreement with Woodrow Wilson, who he saw as lurching toward war, but it was tempered enough that Bryant said I disagree with you on foreign policy, but I`m going to support you for reelection in 1916, which he did.
And other one was Cyrus Vance in 1980 when he resigned from Jimmy Carter`s administration. He disagreed with Carter using a military operation, Desert One, to try rescue our hostages in Iran. And that was on a pretty minor technical, tactical move by Carter. You know, the rest of Carter`s foreign policy he basically agreed with.
So compare that to James Mattis who is secretary of defense, much more sensitive position, essentially with this screed against Donald Trump saying you`re against alliances, you are too nice to countries who are our strategic rivals. I mean, that was about as anti-Trump a document as you could possibly imagine from someone who you have to assume, Chris, over the last two years the things we haven`t heard about. Can you imagine the number of things he has saved us from.
HAYES: Eleanor, that -- whether he saved us from them or not what is clear here from that letter is here is someone who has been the most sort of intimate high level conversation of the president whose judgment of the president is what our judgment is -- I don`t want to put anyone`s -- anyone`s words.
What my judgment is, what people who watch the president I think sensibly- minded folks who are outside the 38 percent of the country that really love the guy think which is that, Eleanor, he`s not up to it. He`s bad and wrong.
CLIFT: If you talk to anybody in Washington who has dealt with him they will use various words to say he is erratic, unsettled, some will say he`s crazy, some will say mentally ill. Everybody has their view.
We are not dealing with a president who reads, who listens to advice, who evaluates things.
BESCHLOSS: Remember those days?
CLIFT: We`re dealing with a president does what feels good.
Right, remember those days when we said Barack Obama took too long to decide things. He had to weigh everybody`s advice on every side.
It`s frightening. And the fact that Mattis has gone -- he was -- I think much of the country knew he was there. And he was a hero. He was a hero in his in his personal life and how he saved his country. I think people are really yearning for heroes. I hope some emerge over the next year as the Democrats begin to seek their nominee, but larger-than-life figures we don`t -- positive ones we don`t have any of them and that`s why we miss John McCain so much.
BESCHLOSS: Yes, sir.
HAYES: Part of it is the difference in method. I mean, whatever president has been, even Nixon. Nixon was a serious person who thought seriously about things, I mean, even if he was a crook. That`s just not evident here.
Yes, and there`s now probably a big Nixon revisionist movement thanks to Trump that perhaps he wasn`t as bad as we thought.
But the other thing was Nixon nor any other previous president was suspected of having this secret relationship with a hostile power. First thing that many people thought the other day -- you know, we`re getting out of Syria, this is a gift to Putin. Is this something that Trump promised Putin in one of those secret meetings? We`ve never seen anything like this before.
HAYES: Michael Beschloss and Eleanor Clift, thank you for joining me. Have a great holiday.
BESCHLOSS: Thank you, you too.
HAYES: That is All In for this evening. The Rachel Maddow Show starts right now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END