Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: January 21, 2019 Guest: Elliot Williams, Michael Isikoff, Hunter Walker, Dorian Warren, Emily Bazelon, Joaquin Castro
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: But what does it got to do with patriotism to his country and what it stands for. That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes starts right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Tonight on ALL IN.
JAKE TAPPER, HOST, CNN: But you acknowledged that Trump might have talked to him about his testimony.
RUDY GIULIANI, LAWYER OF DONALD TRUMP: And so what if he talks to him about it.
TAPPER: Well, is he not --
HAYES: The President shifting story gets shiftier.
GIULIANI: I can`t be sure of the exact date but the President I remember having conversations with him about it. But I can also remember --
CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS HOST: Throughout 2016.
GIULIANI: Yes, probably up to -- it could be up to as far as October, November.
HAYES: Tonight, the big questions, confusion, and concern over what the President`s lawyer is admitting and then retracting. Plus, what we know about the Special Counsel`s response to BuzzFeed. And the Pandora`s box that responds as open. Then, the Trump shutdown continues.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am proud to shut down the government.
HAYES: As the White House invokes MLK to argue for a border wall.
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES: He inspired us to change through the legislative process.
HAYES: Senator Kamala Harris makes it official.
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), CALIFORNIA: I am running for President of the United States.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, that`s --
HARRIS: And I`m very excited about it.
HAYES: What we know about the campaign and the candidate when ALL IN starts right now.
HARRIS: Yes, they are diverse and we have so much more in common than what separates us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Good evening from New York, I`m Chris Hayes. Tonight, key questions about the President`s pursuit of a real estate deal in Russia during the 2016 campaign and his lawyer`s efforts to hide that deal from investigators in the public are once again front and center.
Now, things have only gotten more confusing in the wake of BuzzFeed`s explosive report last week that the President directed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about the so-called Moscow project that was knocked down in a remarkable but somewhat ambiguously worded statement from the Office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
And then since then, the President`s lawyer Rudy Giuliani has made things even worse by claiming and then retracting information material to both the Russia probe and the future of this presidency. It is all wildly confusing even frankly for someone who follows it for a living. So let`s take a step back for a second and look at what we know for sure.
Whether or not BuzzFeed`s report turns out to be true, there does seem to be widespread consensus the President instructing a witness to lie to Congress would cross an obvious bright red line. It would constitute an impeachable offense and that appears to be part of what drove the freak out over BuzzFeed story. That freaked out we now know included the President`s legal team.
A source familiar with the matter telling NBC News that on Friday morning after the story had been published, the President`s own lawyers "raised concerns in a letter to the Special Counsel`s office. That letter was before the Special Counsel released its own statement disputing BuzzFeed`s report.
Another thing we know for sure that`s clearer now than it has ever been is that the President`s company was continuing to pursue a deal in Moscow seeking Putin`s approval far later than they ever divulged to the public. We still don`t know is exactly how far those talks when or how deeply the president and his children crucially were involved. And we don`t know the truth about whether the President intervened directly with Michael Cohen to try and cover it all up. Even after the Special Counsel`s denial, BuzzFeed is standing by its story.
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ANTHONY CORMIER, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, BUZZFEED: I have further confirmation that this is right. We`re being told to stand our ground. This is -- this is -- our reporting is going to be born out to be accurate and we`re 100 percent behind it.
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HAYES: In an energy yesterday, the President`s own lawyer appeared to weirdly bolster BuzzFeed reporting when he refused to rule out the President had indeed talked to Michael Cohen before a Cohen`s congressional testimony.
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GIULIANI: As far as I know, President Trump did not have discussions with him, certainly had no discussions with him in which he told them or counseled him to lie. If he had any discussions with him, they`d be about the version of the event that Michael Cohen gave then which they all believed was true.
TAPPER: You just acknowledge that it`s possible that President Trump talked to Michael Cohen about his testimony.
GIULIANI: Which would be perfectly normal. Which the president believed was true.
TAPPER: So it`s -- so it`s possible that that happened that President Trump talked to Michael Cohen about his testimony.
GIULIANI: I don`t know if it happened or didn`t happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: By the way, not perfectly normal at all talking to someone who`s about to testify as a witness or testify before Congress. Now, today Giuliani tried to take back those very comments telling New York Daily News the President never spoke to Cohen about his false testimony. OK. In another interview yesterday, Giuliani raised a possibility that talks about the Moscow project continued well past the last known date in June 2016 lasting all the way until Election Day.
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GIULIANI: It`s our understanding that they went on throughout 2016 more a lot of them but there were conversations, can`t be sure the exact date, but the President can remember having conversations with him about it. But I can also remember --
TODD: Throughout 2016.
GIULIANI: Yes. Probably up to -- it could be up to as far as October, November. Our answers cover until the election.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: OK. Today, once again Giuliani tried to take that back as well telling NBC News my recent statements about discussions during the 2016 campaign between Michael Cohen and then-candidate Donald Trump about a potential Trump Moscow project were hypothetical and not based on conversations I have with the President.
The weird thing about this is we know the President`s lawyers have already had to nail down the details on all these matters as part of their client`s written responses to Robert Mueller. For more on what could possibly be going on with Giuliani, I`m joined by Elliot Williams, a former Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Principal to Raben Group and MSNBC Legal Analyst Barbara McQuade, former U.S. Attorney of the Eastern District of Michigan.
Barbara, you are now a law professor. Do you teach this particular type of lawyering in your school?
BARBARA MCQUADE, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: No, I don`t think so. You know, it`s hard to know whether Rudy Giuliani is just being really careless or he floats these statements in an effort to diffuse them and sometimes realizes he went too far. But either way, it doesn`t seem to be serving the best interests of his client.
You know, we`ve talked about this before that he seems to be working more as sort of a PR agent than as a lawyer for Donald Trump. But I`m not sure he`s helping his cause much by making statements that he then has to retract.
HAYES: You know, Elliot, the timeline here is important for number reasons. One, if the Moscow project is an active sort of front-burner concern throughout the entire campaign, that is clearly leverage that Vladimir Putin holds over the President and that`s also quite relevant if after they know the Russians have hacked, after they`ve been briefed by U.S. intelligence officials, there`s still some kind of channel set up to talk about a Moscow deal.
I want to read what Giuliani told the New York Times since he said it was a hypothetical right? This idea that it goes through 2016. But this is what he told The Times. The Trump Tower Moscow discussions were going on from the day I announced the day I won. Mr. Giuliani quoted Mr. Trump as saying during interview with the New York Times. He also told The Daily Beast the same thing about five weeks ago. So it does seem like he`s trying to extend that window.
ELLIOT WILLIAMS, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: Yes. You know how on "MEET THE PRESS" a couple weeks ago he said truth isn`t truth? Well, apparently conversations aren`t conversations, either.
WILLIAMS: No seriously. Either they`re hypothetical or they`re not or he`s having them or they`re not. You know, I would like to second the point Barbara made that perhaps because they are rational actors, the President and Rudy Giuliani and so on, this has to be a strategy to get the information out there that you know either the conversations happened well until I guess, you know, late in 2016 or they didn`t, that something might be coming out to confirm the information and he`s trying to blunt the potential fallout or fall back for the campaign that it would come out.
It`s the only real way to explain these contradictions because he`s actually had to walk back statements and the diametrically opposed statement to the one that he made. And it`s happened I think this is like the third or fourth time it`s happened. So it`s got to be deliberate and it`s just hard to know what`s going on with them right now.
HAYES: Well, there`s also shades of a clear defense here, Barbara, which is this. That however long they went on and whatever Michael Cohen was up to, the President was only sort of tangentially involved, right? I mean, the case that Giuliani is sort of making in total which does seem to matter, right, for ultimately what we learn about this very crucial deal is essentially that whatever Cohen was doing, the President kind of knew about it, kind of didn`t but doesn`t really remember, right?
MCQUADE: Yes. I think it does seem to be part of the strategy. I also think telling the conflicting stories may be part of the strategy so the public just gets exhausted, can`t keep up, throws up their hands. But it really does contradict things President Trump himself said while he was on the campaign trail about there was no deal in Russia. He had no business negotiations with Russia.
This is at the very same time that it appears, there were these negotiations going on. And you know, the contradiction is something that always catches the eye of a prosecutor. And no doubt it`s why Robert Mueller is looking very carefully at this because shifting stories tends to show something that it gets referred to as consciousness of guilt. They know they`ve done something wrong which is why they have to lie about it.
You know, one point President Trump said something like this business was very legal and very cool. Well, if it was, then why are you lying about it? Why would you telling different stories about it? And that seems to suggest that the truth is something even worse than the risk of being caught in a lie.
HAYES: Well, and there`s also something here -- that`s a great point, Barbara. And there`s also something here, Eliot, which is that we don`t know what in the BuzzFeed story ends up being sure or not. But one of the details in there is the idea of ten face-to-face briefings with Michael Cohen and the President on Trump Tower. That`s a very front of mind kind of thing. And there`s a kind of mode of that supply`s so the way the President talks about Vladimir Putin from the very beginning which is downright bizarre.
I want to just give a flavor of how the President is talking about Vladimir Putin as a Republican nominee when he`s pursuing the Moscow deal. Take a listen.
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TRUMP: I believe I would get along very nicely with Putin, OK. And I mean well we have the strength. I don`t think you`d need the sanctions.
If Putin wants to go and knock the hell out of ISIS, I am all for it 100 percent and I can`t understand how anybody would be against it.
He`s running his country and at least he`s a leader you know, unlike what we have in this country.
JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC HOST: But again, he kills journalists that don`t agree with him.
TRUMP: Well, I think our country there`s plenty of killing also, Joe.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST, CNN: Do you think the United States needs to rethink U.S. involvement in NATO?
TRUMP: Yes, because it`s costing us too much money and frankly they have to put up more money.
I mean, I have nothing to do with Russia. I don`t have any jobs in Russia. I`m all over the world but we`re not involved in Russia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: I mean, that -- figuring out what`s behind that seems crucial here, Elliot.
WILLIAMS: Ronald Reagan must be rolling over in his grave at these statements. These are -- this is not the policy certainly of the America I grew up in, I think that any of us grew up in. And so -- and frankly, this is also around the time that the Republican National Committee was it -- was amending the -- I guess, the campaign platform right to respect to Russia.
So yes, it would seem that either Trump had a huge business interest in Russia or some interest that`s something held over him in Russia or so on so. You know, Chris I can`t explain it any better than you can here because it is absolutely perplexing that the President or I guess the president, someone who aspires to be President of the United States is speaking this favorably about Russia.
That "MORNING JOE" clip is the most instructive one. When equating whatever killings happen at the behest of the United States to the killing, the slaying of journalists particularly now what we know about you know, the execution of a very high profile reporter not long ago happening around the world. It is just -- again, it`s just not the America that that any of us are used to and it`s astonishing.
HAYES: And the ongoing deal provides a crisp and clear concrete motive if indeed we do learn the President was involved. It seems to me that`s why this is so crucial and sort of understanding all this. Elliott Williams and Barbara McQuade, great to have you both.
For more how all this fits into the big picture of Trump and Russia, I`m joined by Michael Isikoff Chief Investigative Correspondent for Yahoo! News, co-author Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin`s War on America and the Election Donald Trump, and is a veteran on this beat who`s been digging into it. What do you make of the last 72 hours?
MICHAEL ISIKOFF, CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT, YAHOO! NEWS: You know, look, I was really struck by Giuliani`s correction today or an amendment to his statement yesterday that he was speaking hypothetically and not based on any conversations he had with the President. Well, if he`s not speaking based on conversations he`s had with the client he`s representing, then why are people having him on to talk at all?
I mean, he`s only there because he`s the president`s lawyer. And if he`s just riffing on his own, you know, it does raise serious questions about exactly what he`s doing. But look, you know, to me, you know, all this only underscores the -- how really important it is for Congress to finally step up to the plate here. I mean, we`re going to have a real test on February 7th when Michael Cohen appears before the House Oversight Committee. And it`s up to Elijah Cummings, the Chairman, to hold his feet to the fire and ask every question about every aspect of this without regard to what the impact might be on the Robert Mueller investigation.
Congress has its own duty here, a constitutional responsibility to get to the facts and act on them and not outsource its investigative responsibilities to an executive branch official. I mean, Mueller has his job to do but there are other jobs and equally important if not more important job that Congress has to finally resolve you know, all these many questions we have.
HAYES: I could not agree with you more strongly. That I have to say.
ISIKOFF: It`s a point I`ve been trying to make for the last year. And it`s only in the last few days that people are starting to recognize that you know, this is -- that getting to the facts, a public -- the public responsibility here. And I`ll just ask you one question as an example going back in history. When Sam Ervin held the Senate Watergate hearings, did he ask Archibald Cox`s permission to hold those hearings? When Peter Rodino began impeachment hearings on Richard Nixon, did he ask for Leon Jaworski`s permission to do so? No. Because everybody accepted that Congress had a job to do.
And you know, we`re now going to see whether Elijah Cummings, Adam Schiff, you know, Jerry Nadler will step up to the plate and do their job here. And that means public hearings not behind closed doors.
HAYES: Right. And crucially I mean, to your point here, and February 7th now becomes even more key because Michael Cohen is going to walk into that room with all this swirling around, right? And again, the word of Michael Cohen even under oath is not ironclad as we have learned from his own plea deal, but he will have an opportunity to lay out at least what his testimony, his sworn testimony is going to be.
And your point about fact-finding is so key, because you know before you even get to anything else about the rendering of judgment, establishing a public record of the facts, which is what can start for the first time in the Trump era basically since Comey`s testimony on February 7th with Michael Cohen.
ISIKOFF: Absolutely. Look, it has been now more than two years between -- since the House and the Senate intelligence committees announced they were going to be investigating these matters and not a single hearing -- public hearing has been held with a single fact witness in the entire Russia investigation. That is astonishing to me.
You know, all the hearings that were held, all the interviews were done behind closed doors, we still haven`t seen the public release of that testimony by the way. So you know, Michael Cohen`s testimony, Donald Trump Junior`s testimony. You know, go down the list. Jared Kushner`s testimony all behind closed doors and we`re still in the dark about exactly what they said.
HAYES: Michael Isikoff, that is a great point. You know, it`s funny I think there`s a divide between journalists and prosecutors on this because all the prosecutors say well, you got to leave him alone. It`s a criminal inquiry. He`s got to do his job. Leave him alone and I think the journalists and others are you know, tend to want public transparency are saying, and you saw Chris Murphy say this, I thought it was interesting on Friday after the BuzzFeed story and I think it`s even more important in some ways after the car statement to say look, we got to do something here over here in Congress publicly about what the heck is going on in this country and with respect to this President.
ISIKOFF: Absolutely. And you know, with all due respect to all your legal analysts who come on MSNBC who talk about the sanctity of the Mueller investigation and nothing could interfere with the Mueller investigation. Yes. Fine. Robert Mueller has a job to do. He should do it but other actors in our democracy have jobs too that are just as important.
HAYES: Michael Isikoff, I couldn`t have said it better myself. Thank you.
ISIKOFF: Thank you.
HAYES: Next, what to make of the special counsel`s rare move of commenting on the news. Why did they speak up about the BuzzFeed article and only about the BuzzFeed article? Why now? Should we expect to hear more? A look at what Robert Mueller was up to in two minutes.
HAYES: Until Friday, the Special Counsel`s office was probably the most notoriously silent major operation in all of Washington D.C. Not only did it never leak, Peter Carr its official spokesperson basically never even give a comment. So notorious was his tight-lipped approach, Yahoo even wrote a profile calling Carr a man of mystery.
Well, that changed in a big way on Friday when Carr issued a statement on the record disputing the accuracy of the BuzzFeed story about Trump directing Cohen to lie to Congress. It`s been followed now by a number of stories that appear to be sourced two people inside Mueller`s office explaining their rationale off the record.
Now the question becomes since Mueller`s office has spoke up in response to one story, what to make of their silence for all the others, and do they now change their approach. Joining me now is the author of that Peter Carr man of mystery profile, Hunter Walker White House Correspondent for Yahoo! News, has also broke some major parts of the Trump Moscow story.
What do you as someone who wrote about Peter Carr and has a sort of fascinating take on the nature of the oracular non-pronouncements by that office make of what happened Friday and what it does now?
HUNTER WALKER, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, YAHOO! NEWS: Well, I should note, I wrote that profile with my colleague Lupe Luppen better known on Twitter as nycsouthpaw. And we had just been fascinated with Peter Carr much as basically half the journalists in Washington because you know, he is in one of the most highly scrutinized and important offices there is. He`s one of the only ways Mueller speaks apart from court filings. And yet it`s usually Sounds of Silence. I mean, his typical refrain is will declined to comment.
And so that`s what`s made you know, what we`ve seen in the past couple days, so amazing as you point out because this statement from him was nothing short of extraordinary compared to the just chorus of no comments we`ve seen before.
HAYES: Well, it now puts them in an awkward position too because if they don`t comment on anything, then not commenting can`t be interpreted anyway is ascent to the basics of the story or denial. Now, they have come out to dispute a story on the record. You got to wonder what happens from now on. Because if they don`t do it with the next story and it`s wrong, there`s a sort of presumptive sense of 0like well they came out against the last one.
WALKER: Exactly. And you know, I think due to the importance of the allegations here, and also due to the rarity of cars statement, you saw a lot of people trying to parse you know, what does this punctuation mean? What does -- what does it mean that he said it this way and not that way. I would assume that`s part of why you`ve seen them participate in these follow-up stories just to really send a clear message that they disputed the central thesis of this story. But I don`t want to assume anything with Peter Carr. And I think you know a lot of people are trying to parse him because he`s so interesting and says so little, but given that he gives you very little, I don`t think there`s that much there to analyze.
HAYES: But -- OK, here`s my take on this. I find it fascinating and bizarre, frankly, to watch what appears to be participation by this office in correcting the record on their own statement to make it clear and unambiguous when they could have written a statement on Friday that says the central contention of the article that the president directed Michael Cohen is wrong, period. You could write that sentence in plain English they chose not to do so for some reason.
WALKER: Well, part of the problem here is that there`s just so much that`s really technical and really sensitive about this situation and this story. There`s the question of whether President Trump directed Cohen to do this which is totally separate from some of the stuff that was included in the reporting on Friday which is that you know Cohen told that to the Special Counsel and even the suggestion that the special counsel may have had documentary evidence of this.
That seems to be something that car was really trying to refute. I don`t know. I mean, look, we all are so interested in Peter Carr and sort of treat him as this you know voice of Mueller, but I don`t know whether we can say that he would know one way or another whether Trump directed Cohen. He would just know what his office has.
HAYES: Well, and we also -- we also have the situation now in which you have reporting that Rod Rosenstein had put a call into that office that the President`s lawyers sent a letter that the statement was crafted without them but that Rosenstein got a heads-up courtesy call before was issued. And there`s this now this sort of question about you know, the degree to which were they -- were they leaned on and did that affect them as well.
WALKER: Yes. And I just reached out to Rudy Giuliani to ask him you know, why did you contact the Special Counsel`s Office. I haven`t heard back from him yet but you know, that really is a central question as we watch this situation going forward.
HAYES: There are also ways -- I mean, we`ve -- there`s a few on the record statements they made but I also wonder the degree to which what we are now into a new phase in which if it is the fact or if it is the case that they are moving towards some kind of public presentation or private presentation of the report of some final endgame, if necessarily more people will be read into that and that will precipitate more leaking from an office that has been essentially leak free.
WALKER: Yes. This office has been really closed mouthed. But you know, as I was saying before, any analysis of Carr or Mueller is sort of grasping at smoke, and I think that has led to a lot of fevered speculation. And there`s sort of a whole cottage industry now of you know, Mueller prognosticators and predictors, some of whom were still listening to after they`ve been proven wrong.
And one of these things that you know, is thrown out a lot is this idea of a Mueller report. And Lupe and I have also analyzed that a bit. And the regulations forming a Special Counsel`s office don`t necessarily require a public report. Mueller could just do a private report sent to the Justice Department or he could just speak through indictments. So we really don`t know what we`re going to see next.
And the only thing we as journalists and the public should do and I know it`s so difficult given how important and big this story is, but we`ve just got to be careful, sit back, and wait, and take a measured approach to the information we put out there.
HAYES: All right, Hunter Walker, thanks for joining us.
WALKER: Thanks for having me.
HAYES: Still to come, President Trump tries to end his own shutdown by setting up another hostage situation and his vice president tries selling the idea that Martin Luther King Jr. would have wanted the wall. Well, not precisely but kind of. The details next.
HAYES: It is now day 31 of the Trump shutdown and the negative effects continue to ripple throughout the country. Over the holiday weekend, there were long lines at airport security checkpoints as a record ten percent of screeners for TSA called out on Sunday resulting in closed checkpoints and longer wait times. The screeners have now gone a month without regular pay.
The TSA said in a statement that many employees are reporting they are not able to report to work due to financial limitations.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDREW VAZ, TSA OFFICER: As long as there`s a lapse of funding in our agency, you know, fundamentally it`s going to become more and more of a burden on officers to really try to come to work, do their job, and still find a way to financially take care of themselves and their families.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How many paychecks can you go without?
VAZ: Well, it`s going to be two now. I don`t even want to think about the third. I just don`t want to think about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: On Saturday, Trump unveiled what he casts as a compromise to end the shutdown though he did not consult with any of the relevant parties with whom he would be compromising. The President deals instead hammering out between himself, his vice-president, and his own son-in-law. What Trump offered in exchange for $5.7 billion for his border wall was temporary protections for a limited number of formerly protected immigrants, immigrants the Trump administration itself has taken steps to throw into limbo. The far right greeted the proposal as some grand betrayal. Ann Coulter tweeting, "Trump proposes amnesty. We voted for Trump and got Jeb."
Remember, Trump reversed course and insisted on this shutdown in order to appease Coulter and others on the far right, which prompted Democratic lawmaker Jackie Speier to plead with Coulter to give Trump permission to reopen the government, although no luck just yet.
Mitch McConnell, for his part, plans to bring Trump`s offer up for a vote this week, although he said that the deal has to be worked out with Democrats and the White House. And it`s exceedingly likely to get the 60 votes necessary to pass the Senate.
Not a single Democratic lawmaker has said they support Trump offer, and the party remains unified around a very simple message: stop holding the American people hostage and reopen the government, and then we can negotiate.
Joining me now for more on where the Democrats state, Congressmen Joaquin Castro, Democrat of Texas. The president basically give us the money, the $5.6 -- $5.7 billion, and we will temporarily protect a variety of classes of immigrants that we have put in jeopardy, Haitians with temporary protected status, Hondurans and DACA recipients. What`s your response to that?
REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO, (D) TEXAS: Well, the first thing is that it wasn`t a serious offer. First of all, basically every part of that proposal was rejected last year. And as you mentioned the president is holding hostage the paychecks of hundreds of thousands of government workers in order to get a wall that most people in America, and in my state of Texas, don`t want.
And so he should reopen the government. We should be able to reopen the government as the senate voted -- a Republican senate voted to keep it open in December and then the House voted in January on the same thing -- we should be able to reopen the government and then negotiate.
And also, Chris, people have been asking, well, what`s the compromise? Well, if you think about it, the purpose of a border wall is for border security. So we know that adding a border wall to these rural areas of the border is not the most effective strategy. In fact, this past week we saw, I think it was 376 migrants tunnel under a portion of the border wall and then present themselves to CBP officers to be considered for asylum.
So the compromise, I think, is more money for border security that doesn`t include a wall, including technology that would be anti-tunneling technology to detect these kinds of things.
HAYES: OK. So, if that`s the compromise, though, then there`s two messages here, right. Because right now Democrats are saying there is no compromise. We will not be taken hostage. This is an unreasonable approach to governing. Open the government based on the bills that pass the senate unanimously and are out in the House and they`re just sitting there, and then we`ll talk about whatever you want to talk about. That`s one position.
The other is, some kind of deal where we do border security, but not the wall and that`s what we strike to get the government reopened. Which is it?
CASTRO: No, I think that we should reopen the government and then we can talk further about border security.
HAYES: And that`s the position of the Democratic caucus. And are there cracks in that if we go into -- I mean, people are in real trouble, obviously, federal workers and also there`s food inspections not happening, environmental sites are going without being inspected, national parks being torn to shreds. I mean, is there a point at which the cracks start to show up in the Democratic caucus?
CASTRO: Well, a rational, reasonable president would not be doing this. And the problem that we have is that they`re going to be other things like the debt ceiling that will come up, and the budget again. And so if you show Donald Trump that he can -- if you affirm to him that he can hold you hostage for $5 billion for a wall, then he will probably do it again when the debt ceiling comes up or when the next budget comes up, and that`s the problem.
HAYES: Right. So you see it -- and this is something that I`ve been told by numerous Democratic lawmakers on both sides of Capitol Hill, it`s almost existential, like you cannot negotiate under these conditions, because the incentives for what it produces from the White House going forward are just untenable.
CASTRO: Yeah, I mean, this is somebody who once he finds a way to get his way, even though the overwhelming majority of people disagree with him, he will keep going back to that. And that`s the danger here.
HAYES: So, I want to get your reaction to this threat tweet of his. He says, "no, amnesty is not part of my offer," the president. "It is a three year extension of DACA. Amnesty will be used only on a much bigger deal, whether immigration or something else" -- I don`t understand that -- "likewise, there will be no big push to remove the 11 million plus people who are here illegally, but be careful, Nancy."
Do you read that as a threat to start to move to deport the 11 million people here?
CASTRO: Well, I think that it`s a threat that he`s already tried to deliver on. He tried to go after the DACA recipients, the Dreamers, and the courts have held him up.
CASTRO: So yeah, I think he would continue to do that, absolutely. He`s tried to go after the TPS holders, for example, again, it`s in the courts. So, yes, I think the president is intent on churning up his deportation machine and he`ll keep at it.
HAYES: How much communication is there inside the Democratic caucus on the House side about holding the line on this? Because the speaker has to hold together a big new majority caucus. It`s the first thing she`s doing. How much are you talking to leadership? How much are they talking to you?
CASTRO: Almost every day, especially when we`re in Washington. Folks are talking to each other. You know, it`s tough, especially for the freshmen members that have just come in, some of them have never served in an elected position before. So, it`s a very strange position...
HAYES: Or in an open government.
CASTRO: Yeah, that`s right. It`s been closed down since they came in in January.
So yeah, I mean so I think that`s kind of tough. But I think we`re doing what we need to hold the line there.
HAYES: I haven`t seen any cracks myself. Joaquin Castro, many thanks.
CASTRO: Thank you.
HAYES: Still ahead, Senator Kamala Harris is running, a look at the latest 2020 entrant coming up, plus tonight`s Thing One, Thing Two starts next.
HAYES: Thing One tonight, it was like more than a quarter century ago when Graydon Carter, then the co-editor of Spy Magazine, began referring to Donald Trump as, quote, "a short-fingered vulgarian." And it has bothered Trump ever since.
Carter, who went on to run Vanity Fair, wrote about it in 2015, quote, "to this day I receive the occasional envelope from Trump. There is always a photo of him. On all of them he has circled his hand in a gold Sharpie in a valiant effort to highlight the length of his fingers."
When Marco Rubio mentioned Trump`s short fingers during the campaign, Trump brought it up himself in the debate.
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TRUMP: I have to say this, he hit my hands. Nobody has ever hit my hands. I`ve never heard of this word. Look at those hands. Are they small hands?
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HAYES: That was a real low moment in our collective public life.
Later in an interview with The Washington Post, Trump wanted to once again set everyone at ease about his short fingers.
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TRUMP: I mean, people were writing, though, how are Mr. Trump`s hands? My hands are fine. You know my hands are normal, slightly large, actually. In fact, I buy a slightly smaller than large glove, OK?
(END AUDIO CLIP)
HAYES: OK. You definitely don`t seem to have any issues about them.
Well, now after all these years it seems President Trump and a social media propagandist may have found a cure for short fingers, and that`s Thing Two in 60 seconds.
HAYES: Donald Trump has gone to great lengths to make sure that everybody knows he does not have stubby little short fingers. And now eagle-eyed folks at Gizmodo have examined his social media accounts and found that on a number of occasions Trump`s photos appear to be altered around the fingers area.
So, for example, Gizmodo shares this side by side comparison of an image release by President Trump`s Instagram and Facebook accounts. At left compared with the original photo on the right. The site found other examples of the social media photo and the original, and if you find it hard to tell the difference, Gizmodo helpfully created these dissolving GIFs. The original photo morphing into the altered photo. Look at it, watch as their raised shoulder gets cleaned up so the jacket has a much cleaner line, and watch as Trump`s pointed finger seems to get just a little longer. It`s like magic. And pointing is so much better with an extra longer finger.
Here`s another one of Trump pointing. In this one, the jacket under his arm gets trimmed down. And even though it`s more subtle, that pointed finger seems to get a tiny, tiny, tiny bit longer. There you go. Normal size. Because as the always truthful Trump has told us again and again, he has normal-sized hands.
And finally, just for good measure, this one, the finger seems to stays the same, but that -- that belt line, well that belt line sure does change, just a little bit as if that junk food extravaganza that Trump hosted at the White House had never happened.
Because after all, if you`re going to alter something up here, you might as well alter something down there.
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TRUMP: And he referred to my hands. If they`re small, something else must be small. I guarantee you, there`s no problem. I guarantee you. All right. OK, moving on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Honestly, you know, the hearts and minds of the American people today are thinking a lot about it being the weekend where we remember the life and work of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. One of my favorite quotes from Dr. King was "now is the time to make real the promises of democracy," that`s exactly what President Trump is calling on the congress to do, come to the table in a spirit of good faith.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: There`s a moment right before the vice president started that thoroughly preposterous riff, comparing Donald Trump`s wall shutdown strategy to MLK, where he glances down at his notes and looks like a diver taking a peek off the platform to the water far below. Am I really going to do it? Well, he did it. And I guess the nicest thing you could say about it is points for chutzpah, I guess?
Because no, Mr. Vice President, the point of making real the promises of democracy was not bringing different sides together to cut legislative deals for a wall, it`s bearing moral witness through agitation and direct action that forced people to be uncomfortable, to polarize the population to either defend or abandon the evil of the status quo.
There were people who took the come to the table in good faith approach, but they were quite literally the people King was arguing against. His famous "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," in which he so persuasively makes the case for his approach of non-violent direction action, was a direct response to an open letter from local white clergy in Birmingham chastising his approach to achieving desegregation in that city.
The pastors who signed the letter were not ardent, outright segregationists and white supremacists, they were, at least they said, sympathetic to King`s goals, it was just the way he was doing it that was wrong.
"We recognize the natural impatience of people who feel their hopes are slow in being realized," they wrote, "but we are convinced that these demonstrations are unwise and untimely."
Instead the clergy called for "honest and open negotiation of racial issues in our area between citizens of our own metropolitan area, white and negro, meeting with their knowledge and experience of the local situation."
Or, in other words, come to the table in a spirit of good faith, as Pence put it.
You know, every MLK Day, I go back to that letter from the clergy, because it`s a reminder of how seductive the language of social peace and comity and compromise are, even in the face of the most obviously violent evil. I mean, you hear an awful lot of that format of critique today, about whichever group it is from Black Lives Matter protesters to trans-activists to young people fighting to end fossil fuel use and save the planet from warming, that sure, what they are doing is admirable, but they`re just going about it all wrong.
It`s worth asking ourselves on this day, will history view you and me in this moment as standing on the side of the Birmingham clergy saying go slow and don`t rock the boat or on the side of King and his vision?
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SEN. KAMALA HARRIS, (D) CALIFORNIA: The future of our country depending on you and millions of others lifting our voices to fight for our American values. That`s why I`m running for president of the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: California Senator Kamala Harris is officially running for president, joining a Democratic field that will have more women running than any primary field ever before in the nation`s history.
Harris is the first African-American woman and the first Indian-American woman in the 2020 race so far. And with only two years of tenure in the U.S. Senate, Harris will likely get a lot of scrutiny over her record as a prosecutor and also California State Attorney General.
Here with me now, Emily Bazelon, staff writer at The New York Times Magazine, senior research scholar at Yale Law School, who wrote a profile of Kamala Harris more than two years ago; and Dorian Warren, president of Community Change Action.
Dorian, it`s remarkable just to take a step back and look at the Democratic field so far in terms of how much -- how different it is from any previous field ever.
DORIAN WARREN, PRESIDENT, COMMUNITY CHANGE ACTION: The most diverse ever field for presidency in this country, Chris. And it`s really exciting.
I have to say, you know, a lot of us have thoughts about Kamala Harris, but the fact she basically hat-tipped to MLK and Shirley Chisholm, who we might remember, ran for president in the `70s as a black woman, I think is a good sign that we`re going to have an intense debate around these Democratic primary candidates in terms of issues official justice, gender justice, immigrant rights, economic justice, trans rights, everything is going to be on the table. And so I`m excited to see how she`s going to tell her story of evolution from her days, of course, as a prosecutor to an official who had statewide office of course to being a senator and now wanting to run for president.
HAYES: Well, it`s funny. Her days as prosecutor is sort of referred to in the campaign slogan Kamala Harris for the people, which is the way that the prosecutor is announced in court when she was the district attorney in San Francisco.
Emily, what did you learn about her career before she became a U.S. Senator when you were writing that profile?
EMILY BAZELON, THE NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE: Well, I learned that when she came into office in San Francisco as district attorney, she was really interested in trying to reduce re-offending. The whole problem of the prison is like, you know, open door, revolving door.
So she had a program for first-time drug offenders, an alternative to prison. It was pretty small but had a low rate of re-offending, and that was the kind of program she was promoting then.
You know, since then, there has been a real movement in this country to elect progressive prosecutors as district attorney, and she was really before that movement. So I think the movement has kind of moved on from where she was then.
HAYES: Well, and that`s -- Dorian gets to the point you made, and I think this is an interesting thing we`re seeing happen today, Joe Biden I think was going around saying, you know, the crime bill, that he was wrong about the crime bill, and we`ve seen Kirsten Gillibrand say that her earlier both policy positions and rhetoric on immigration, which was very hard line on back in her House campaigns, that she was wrong on that, she`s grown from that.
It will be interesting to see how Kamala Harris talks about her record as a prosecutor, because the problem she faces is one very similar to other people in the field, which is that the center of Democratic Party has moved pretty considerably over the last, say, six years.
WARREN: Yeah, but none of her -- I think that`s all true, Chris, and on a range of issues. So, you mentioned Gillibrand and immigration. I would throw in Cory Booker and, say, you know, Wall Street and the economy. And he`s one -- he has a big idea proposal out there around guaranteed jobs. Kamala has a big idea proposal around income support.
So, the movement has actually shifted. I wouldn`t even say the party, the movements have shifted the party. So, we`re going to have a very different kind of debate among all of these candidates, all of whom, I would say, have to tell a story of how they evolved to match the movement energy today.
It is our job not in the party to actually push all these candidate and to go over their records, but also to ask them where do you stand today on the key issues defining especially folks who are experiencing injustice in this country? And what do you plan to do about it?
I think she`ll have a good answer, but I think it`s going to force all of the candidates in the Democratic primary to have a really strong story about their evolution and what their platform is today and tomorrow.
HAYES: There is also -- Harris just has a fascinating background, Emily. She was the children of academics. She did high school in Montreal. She went to Howard University. She goes into the prosecutor`s office. She really does have a very distinct life story to tell in this race.
BAZELON: That`s true. I mean, I was spending time with her for my profile. She talked a lot about helping folks like the folks I grew up with. And she grew up in African-American working class Berkeley. Her Indian-American mother chose to raise her there. So, that`s certainly on her mind.
And, you know, you see some contradictions here. You see that kind of focus, which could have a lot of appeal for a progressive Democrats, and then you see her identity as a prosecutor, which I think as Dorian said, she`s going to have some reckoning that we haven`t quite seen from her yet, and the left is going to push her on that.
HAYES: Yeah, there was an op-ed by, I believe, your sister Laura Bazelon (ph) in The New York Times saying that she was not a progressive prosecutor. I know there are defense attorneys in California who feel that way. There is also the a question of how the primary calendar works this year around, Dorian, which I think people haven`t quite gotten their heads around how different it is.
Super Tuesday includes California, Kamala Harris` home state where, according to the polling I`ve looked at, she`s quite popular. South Carolina is up there early. She`s actually in South Carolina for her first event,. And I think South Carolina in some ways will be a real testing ground, Dorian, because it`s the first state with a large black voter base in the primary calendar.
WARREN: Yeah, Chris, and Emily for that matter, remember, we`ve lived through `07, `08 with Barack Obama and we know what happened in both Iowa, right, but South Carolina was really important.
California will be incredibly important because the game has changed in this primary season. So, if she can figure out a way to appeal to black voters in South Carolina, that gives her momentum going into California, which could be a total game changer in a way we`ve never experienced, at least in the Democratic primary calendar thus far. So, it is going to be very interesting -- grab your popcorn, this is going to be fun to watch.
HAYES: Yeah, and it is interesting to me that she`s sort of doing her first big on the trail event in South Carolina as opposed to say Iowa and New Hampshire, which we`ve seen with other folks go there first. I think that signals something.
Emily Bazelon and Dorian Warren, thank you both.
That is ALL IN for this evening. "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END