CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: There are moments when the politically expedient can be morally wise. The great civil rights leader Martin King said on the episode and its effect on deciding the election. Harris Wofford, the man who helped free King and elect Kennedy died this past Monday on Martin Luther King Day. And that`s HARDBALL for now. "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes starts right now.
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CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Tonight on ALL IN.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He should give information may be on his father-in-law because that`s the one that people want to look at.
HAYES: Obstruction in plain sight.
TRUMP: He`s a weak person.
HAYES: The man who could tell all about the President`s alleged crimes says he won`t testify in public because of presidential threats.
TRUMP: I would say he`s been threatened by the truth.
HAYES: Tonight, reaction from oversight Democrats.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel like I`m in the middle of a Godfather movie.
MELBER: And where we go from here?
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: I guarantee you, it`s sure as night becomes day and day becomes night that we will hear from Mr. Cohen, period.
HAYES: Plus Speaker Pelosi shuts the door on Donald Trump.
TRUMP: I don`t believe it`s ever happened before.
HAYES: As the pain from the shutdown continues and the president`s family says suck it up.
LARA TRUMP, CAMPAIGN ADVISER TO PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: It is a little bit of pain but it`s going to be for the future of our country.
HAYES: All that and my interview with the latest 2020 hopeful.
MAYOR PETER BUTTIGIEG (D), SOUTH BEND, INDIANA: The corruption, fighting, lying, the crisis, it`s got to end.
HAYES: Pete Buttigieg joins me exclusively when ALL IN starts now.
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HAYES: Good evening from New York I`m Chris Hayes. The President of the United States appears to have successfully intimidated a witness out of testifying before Congress in the country in an investigation centered on the President`s own misconduct. Michael Cohen has now indefinitely postponed his February 7th appearance before the House Oversight Committee citing threats by the President and his legal team against Cohen`s family.
That hearing was set to be the American public`s first-ever opportunity to hear sworn testimony about the president`s hush money payments during the campaign, about efforts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow throughout the presidential race and about the ensuing cover-up. Ever since Cohen was sentenced in December for lying to Congress about the Moscow project and other crimes, the president and his lawyer have repeatedly publicly suggested that Cohen`s father-in-law should be investigated.
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TRUMP: He should give information may be on his father in law because that`s the one that people want to look at because where does that money -- that`s the money in the family and I guess he didn`t want to talk about his father. He`s trying to get his sentence reduced.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is his father in law`s name?
TRUMP: I don`t know but you`ll find out when you`ll look into it because nobody knows what`s going on over there.
RUDY GIULIANI, LAWYER OF DONALD TRUMP: His father in law is a Ukrainian. His father law had millions and millions --
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: That`s not a crime.
GIULIANI: Of course it`s not. I`m telling you it comes from the Ukraine. The reason that`s important is he may have ties to something called organized crime. Michael Cohen is withholding it because his testifying about that would be very dangerous to the father-in-law and Michael Cohen and instead he`s going after the President.
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HAYES: Now, there may very well be other reasons that Michael Cohen does not want to testify publicly before Congress. The guy has a checkered past, I think you could say. But asked today about Cohen`s claim that he`d been intimidated out of testifying, the president appeared to take credit.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He says he`s been threatened by you and Mr. Giuliani --
TRUMP: No, I would say he`s been threatened by the truth. He`s only been threatened by the truth and he doesn`t want to do that probably from me or other of his clients.
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HAYES: His clients? Democrats Elijah Cummings and Adam Schiff, Chairman of the House Oversight Committee in the House Intelligence Committee respectively responded to Cohen`s announcement in joint statement. "Efforts to intimidate witnesses, scare their family members, or prevent them from testifying before Congress are textbook mob tactics that we condemn in the strongest terms. Our nation`s laws prohibit efforts to discourage, intimidate, or otherwise pressure a witness not to provide testimony to Congress."
Cohen is scheduled to begin his three-year prison sentence on March 6th, leaving a pretty small window to reschedule his appearance. And if the public doesn`t get to hear from Cohen directly, we may not get answers to some of the most urgent questions about the President`s conduct especially those raised in BuzzFeed`s contested report last week. Did the President direct Cohn to lie to Congress about the Moscow project and was he actively involved in talks about the project while he was running for president.
According to Rudy Giuliani, the project never progressed far enough to demand much the President`s attention. Giuliani tongue New Yorker no money was ever paid, no plans were ever made, there were no drafts, nothing in the file. And then lo and behold, wouldn`t you believe it, BuzzFeed published the contents of said non-existent file containing both plans and drafts including multiple detailed renderings of the proposed Trump Tower in Moscow, interior and exterior views with the Trump name right at the top looking overviews of the Russian capital. Plus, a proposal for a branded spa by Ivanka Trump and a breakdown of the Trump organizations licensing fee and it`s kind of condo sales commercial rent another revenue.
So like Rudy said, nothing of the file. And their statement today Schiff and Cummings said Cohn`s postponement won`t stop them from getting to the truth.
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CUMMINGS: And I guarantee you as sure as night becomes day and day becomes night that we will hear from Mr. Cohen, period. I have not decided exactly how we will go about it but I promise you, we will hear from them.
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HAYES: My next guest is a member of both the House Oversight Committee and the Intelligence Committee, Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier of California. Congresswoman, what is your understanding of what happened here?
REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, I know as much as you do, Chris, this is a stunning declaration by Michael Cohen that his family is being threatened. He is being threatened by the President of the United States. This is called witness tampering. This is a crime and the Congress of the United States has to exert its authority against a president now who`s acting more like Putin every day.
HAYES: Exert its authority how?
SPEIER: Well, we will find a way to have Mr. Cohen come in and testify. And I don`t think there`s any question that Michael Cohen knows a great deal. For ten years he`s been doing the bidding for then Donald Trump whether it was providing hush money to his girlfriend`s or working on the many projects that really are troublesome. The Toronto hotel, the Soho Hotel, and a Panama Hotel, all had Russian connections, all had mob money and I think that`s what we need to find out more about.
HAYES: Is intimidating a witness or tampering with a witness a crime to your mind?
SPEIER: Oh, absolutely it`s a crime. That`s an attempt to silence a witness and that`s what the President`s doing because he does not want his dirty laundry aired.
HAYES: So the President -- I mean if you`re saying that intimidating witness, tampering witnesses is a crime, the President has committed that crime in a full view, I mean these are not like we got some leaked recordings, he just has been doing it in public, then the president has committed a crime. He`s doing obstruction right in front of everyone.
SPEIER: I think that will become clearer after we speak with Michael Cohen and that`s going to be very important to both Mr. Cummings and Mr. Schiff as chairs of those two committees.
HAYES: When you say speak to him, is the idea -- I mean, I guess what -- you`re not the chair here so this is something of the chair I guess is probably working out. But are there sort of workarounds would it be in private? Is any of that being discussed yet are you guys all just digesting news?
SPEIER: Well, I think at this point we`re just digesting the news. But it`s clear. You can -- there`s many opportunities. You can have a private interview much like we`ve done through the Intelligence Committee for the last year. He can be subpoenaed. There`s many avenues that can be attempted.
HAYES: What does it say about your ability to function as a co-equal branch of government providing oversight if the president is able to without facing any sanction publicly intimidate witnesses away from testifying before you?
SPEIER: Well, I think it`s a gross abuse of power. And at some point the president is going to pay for that. We have to build the case but I see his -- the extent to which he has done things to Michael Cohen beyond the tweets are things that we`re going to have to explore.
HAYES: There`s also the possibility and I just want to get your reaction to this. Michael Cohen wanted to testify for other reasons and this was essentially conveniently pretextual for him to get out of a public testimony he wanted to avoid. What do you make of that theory?
SPEIER: I actually don`t think that`s the theory. I think Michael Cohen wanted to come and testify much like he has done so publicly in a number of settings now because he`s looking for ways to hopefully reduce his sentence. That`s what I`m --
SPEIER: -- believe is the reason for it.
HAYES: So you think -- you do not think that he`s not telling the truth about the motivation that he and his family genuinely feel threatened, pressured, intimidated by the president`s words?
SPEIER: Well, that`s certainly his declaration and it`s I think that the Congress`s obligation to find out what he means specifically by all of that.
HAYES: You`re going to have to move pretty quickly though. Chair Cummings though said, even if he goes to prison that`s not a hard deadline. You can still talk to him from there. Is that your understanding as well?
SPEIER: Well, I believe if that`s what the chairman said, then that`s what will be the case.
HAYES: All right, Congresswoman Jackie Speier, thank you for your time tonight. For more on the stakes of a public appearance of Michael Cohen I`m joined by MSNBC Legal Analyst Jill Wine-Banks former Watergate Prosecutor and Pulitzer Prize-Winning Journalist David Cay Johnston, author of It`s Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration Is Doing to America, now out in paperback.
Jill, you`ve been very vocal about this as someone who served as a prosecutor during Watergate, but also really thinks there`s a vital need for public hearings. What does this mean? What does the news today means?
JILL WINE-BANKS, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: This is terrible because you were just having a conversation in which there was a question of possibly having private testimony instead of a public hearing. If that happens then President Trump has achieved his goal of suppressing information that the public should have. The public needs to hear and see this.
It helped dramatically during Watergate to have public support based on their knowledge of what the witnesses were saying and who was credible and also to answer one question that you asked her Section 1512 of Title 18 gives a 20-year penalty for tampering with witnesses and threatening a witness making them feel that their family is in danger is definitely witness tampering and a federal felony.
HAYES: You know, it`s remarkable, David, that the tactics being described the President, mob-like by the two chairs of the committee, they just scan as -- I mean no one even objects` to it, right? You can imagine a universe in which the two chairs of the committee saying the President is acting like a mobster would raise a great hue and cry but that doesn`t even ruffle any feathers now because the President does act like a mobster in this regard.
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, PULITZER PRIZE-WINNING JOURNALIST: Well, because he is. And if you just go back two years, what was one of the big discussions we had on your show. Don`t normalize this behavior you`re going to see. And unfortunately, that`s what`s happening. So Donald Trump is engaging in witness tampering. He`s engaging in trying all sorts of things that should be absolutely improper for any President.
He`s behaving like a banana republic dictator and it`s sort of like yes, well, that`s what Donald does. We shouldn`t relinquish to that.
HAYES: Well, and the logic there, Jill, that you saw when I was talking to the Congresswoman, right. This is a crime the President`s committed and he`s going to have to pay for it. I mean, did Nixon ever publicly intimidate witnesses in the way that Donald Trump has done just in his tweets and pronouncements about Michael Cohen?
BANKS: Nothing could compare to what`s happening now in terms of the public knowledge of it. But the other difference is that Nixon used more of the carrots whereas Donald Trump seems to be dangling pardons but also using sticks. He is definitely threatening. So it`s -- yes, I don`t think Nixon ever did anything quite as dramatic as this. I don`t know that behind the scenes he wasn`t doing it. We know that he was had an enemies list and he was going after people but it wasn`t like this.
HAYES: How important is Michael Cohen`s testimony to your mind, David, as someone who`s covered the Trump Org for decades.
JOHNSTON: Cohen has enough information that with a skillful examination he could be sitting there for weeks. They have -- he has a lot of information on many different deals. Many of them go right back to Russian mobsters. As Jackie Speier noted, three of the hotel deals, Toronto, the Soho, which I`ve written a lot about in the Panama deals, all have Russian mobsters involved in them.
And so there`s plenty that Michael Cohen can talk about. We`re going to see is how skillful is the examination by Elijah Cummings committee and by the lawyers for that committee.
HAYES: Well, and there`s also a key question here it seems to me, Jill, two things. One is that BuzzFeed report which is disputed of course by the spokesperson for Robert Mueller, it was unclear what was being disputed. It`s still unclear. BuzzFeed has said they`re standing by their reporting. One of the details in that piece was that the President received face-to- face briefings ten times during the course of that campaign on the Moscow Tower deal.
If that is true that an enormously consequential fact and it would be good to hear from Michael Cohen under oath whether he would attest to that.
BANKS: Absolutely. There are so many questions I hope that the Congress will get good legal prosecution advice, good litigators to draft the questions and the follow-up because that`s what`s important. It`s not just the initial question but it`s the follow-up that`s so important, and I think there`s a lot of there-there and it needs to go forward.
HAYES: And this gets to the bigger question, David, it seems to me is, the old word of what the President known when did he know it. How involved is Donald Trump with these deals? How involved according to the reporting is he generally been on deals and the deals that you`ve looked at?
JOHNSTON: Well, Donald doesn`t know the details of his own deals. I`ve had lunch with him about one where he became very disturbed that he realized I understood the deal better than he did. But he`s the motivating person here in these deals. And Donald works in symbolic ways. As you saw, for example, today where he in gross offense to our Constitution announced he was just going to go to the House of Representatives to give a speech when he has no right to walk on that floor because it`s part of a co-equal branch of government.
When he`s doing business deals with people, he keeps cries of you know, where is it? Who do I need to pressure? Who do I need to do a favor for? What kind of money am I going to get? Not any of the fine detail work. Those ten meetings if they actually took place, that`s deeply damning because he was claiming no business of any kind while running for president. That compromises our national security. It makes us less safe.
HAYES: And it`s a key point that we don`t know whether that`s covered by the denial of the Special Counsel`s Office at this point that`s just hanging out there and Michael Cohen under oath would be someone that might be able to resolve that at least or lend some kind of evidence one direction to the other. Jill Wine-Banks and David Kay Johnson, thank you both for being here.
The most powerful woman in the United States tells the president he cannot come in our House. Nancy Pelosi`s power move ahead. And on day 33 of the Trump shut down, why the Trump campaign is telling the millions who are suffering to just deal with it, in two minutes.
HAYES: President Trump`s campaign advisor and daughter-in-law Lara Trump, the wife of Eric Trump is offering a Marie Antoinette style message to the 800,000 federal workers going without pay because their wealthy father-in- law shut down the government.
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L. TRUMP: It`s not fair to you and we all get that, but this is so much bigger than any one person. It is a little bit of pain but it`s going to be for the future of our country. So I would just tell them please stay strong. We appreciate everything that you`re sacrificing. We`re behind you and we`re going to do everything we can. I know the President is doing everything he can to resolve this quickly.
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HAYES: Just hang in there. In Washington D.C. today, hundreds of citizens marched on Capitol Hill holding up empty plates and chanting we need paychecks not more food banks. It is now date 33 of the Trump shutdown, and with unpaid TSA workers calling out at record rates, the president of the flight attendants union is now suggesting the idea of a general strike and warning of possible gaps in safety and security in air travel.
According to the Washington Post, hundreds of IRS employees are skipping work which of course could delay tax refunds. And Trump`s former chief of staff John Kelly has now joined a letter appealing to Trump and Congress to fund the Department of Homeland Security. In addition, the Coast Guard`s top officer is telling the world that enough is enough.
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ADMIRAL KARL SCHULTZ, COMMANDANT, U.S. COAST GUARD: Ultimately, I find it unacceptable that Coast Guard men and women have to rely on food pantries and donations to get through day-to-day life as service members.
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HAYES: As the shutdown drags on, Trump`s approval rings are falling to levels not seen since he effectively defended the white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville. A new A.P. poll which reflects what we are seeing in other polling shows Trump approval rating down from 42 percent just one month ago to 34 percent now.
Joining me now, one of the New Democrats in the House, Congresswoman Katie Hill of California. I guess I`ll start with this, Congresswoman. You have spent the first 30 days of your life as a member of Congress in a government shutdown. What is that experience been like?
REP. KATIE HILL (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, it`s certainly not what we expected but it`s also very much emblematic of coming into what we saw as a broken government. And so you know, here we are. We`re ready to start working and I think part of that is exactly the kind of activism that we`ve begun to do since everything else is kind of on hold right now.
HAYES: When you say activism, my understanding is you were one of those members of Congress that went over to a seek meeting with Mitch McConnell.
HILL: I was. `
HAYES: Yes. Why did you take part in that?
HILL: Well, for me, you know, it stops with him, right? This is where it`s stuck right now, is that he needed to call a vote and we`re glad that he did. But we were -- our plan was just to go over and say listen, as members of the freshman class, people who were sent here with a mandate to do something, we need -- we need a vote. We need a chance for us to see who`s voting to reopen the government who`s not and we can you know take our course of action based on that.
But it`s -- I think there`s a couple things at play. The first is that you know, that`s who was holding things you know at that point in time. But the second is that this is -- these kinds of symbolic gestures are really meaningful. We have to -- we have to do more than just sit around and wait for you know, him to finally decide when he wants to do something. We have to actually take the steps that t are going to put that pressure on him.
HAYES: Well, and you have passed in the House I think nine different times --
HILL: Nine times.
HAYES: Nine different bills that would reopen the government. Is this radicalizing in some sense? What I mean by it is this. People go to Congress and they have some sense of how you`re going to interact with people across the aisle, how things get done, how the committee process works, and what you`re walking into is this sort of buzzsaw of intransigence. What is that -- what does that taught you in the first 30 days?
HILL: Well, we`ve all learned that the norms are just not there right now and I think that the goal of the Democratic Congress is to -- is to try and restore a lot of that. But I don`t think that that means that we have to follow all the traditions and keep put the same kind of you know, sense of oh wait your turn, stand in line, be quiet etcetera, because that`s just not going to happen with this class.
So you know, I think that`s kind of -- I don`t think that there`s a playbook at this point with everything that`s going on with government, with Trump, with the shutdown. This is all unheard of and we have to react accordingly.
HAYES: There`s a lot of worrying news about the shutdown`s effects. Today news that Mulvaney is asking agency is what would suffer if they went into March and April. The President has already said he`s willing to keep the government shutdown for a year. This came from the National Air Traffic Controllers today just about an hour ago and really made that hair on the back of my neck stand up.
We cannot even calculate the level of risk currently at play nor predict the point at which the entire system will break. It is unprecedented. What`s your reaction to that.
HILL: Yes. Well, first of all the Regional Air Traffic Control Center that controls all of the flights coming into Southern California and surrounding areas 6,000 flights a day is in my district. It`s in Palmdale. And I met with those air traffic controllers this past weekend and it`s truly terrifying. I mean, you know, you don`t want to say that it`s going to take a disaster, a catastrophe of some kind to end this thing but if this continues, it very well could hit that point.
And it`s not because these men and women aren`t doing their jobs, it`s because the ancillary supports aren`t there. They don`t -- you know, the inspections aren`t able to occur. They`re short-staffed. People are having to choose whether to stay home or you know, what they`re going to do when they can`t pay for childcare or pay for gas. I mean, it`s really, really scary. And people should be worried and that`s why it`s so important for us to mobilize right now.
HAYES: Final question is on news today that the Homeland Security chair -- Thompson who`s the chair of the Homeland Security Committee in the new Democratic House, that he and the speaker are working on a letter to POTUS with 5.7 billion for new border security and judges, money possibly to prepare current walls, but no money for new barriers.
Is the thinking now in your caucus that basically he -- we have to give him a way out because otherwise this thing is just going to go on and something will break?
HILL: Well, I wouldn`t -- I mean, I would say that we were going to always put forward some kind of a plan around our own border security package along with immigration reform and it`s -- you know, this is saying like look, this is -- this is what we believe based on evidence-based practices. We should be doing to secure our borders and it`s not a wall, it`s not a 2,000 mile long you know, concrete barrier. Frankly, it never was going to be but here`s what we`re proposing.
And you know, at the end of the day, I think that it -- we`re going to have to see what comes out of it, right, and what the final product looks like, but we do we really do need to have a place to go, right, and we recognize that not everybody`s going to be happy. But right now the pressure has to be on the Senate. It has to be on the people -- you know, Mitch McConnell thankfully has brought it to a vote. But whoever doesn`t vote for reopening the government tomorrow needs to be getting that pressure and I`m saying this from my you know, personal capacity.
I can`t tell people in my -- in my you know, official capacity to activate but I come from an activist background and this is the moment where Senators need to hear from people and there`s this day of action happening on the day that the State of the Union was supposed to be on the 29th coordinated in large part by Indivisible and Move On and these other activist groups that got us elected, and I would just encourage people. And whatever way you can we need to hear from the people, not the President on that day.
HAYES: That`s on January 29th, the day of the scheduled State of the Union in a mobilization that Move On, Indivisible and others are putting together. Congresswoman Katie Hill, new to Congress and getting to quite the introduction, thank you very much for your time tonight.
HILL: Thank you so much for having me.
HAYES: Next, President Trump`s very public attempt to sideline Speaker of House -- Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi backfires miserably. The details next.
HAYES: The Congress of the United States as you may well know is part of a co-equal branch of the government under our Constitution. The person in charge of one half of that branch, the House of Representatives is the Speaker of the House. The Speaker has a lot of power over what happens in the House, who is permitted in, under what conditions, and who will speak to the assembled members. She even controls the cameras and the lights inside the gallery.
And today, Speaker Pelosi flexed those constitutional muscles after the President unable to take a hint informed her by letter he would be showing up on the 29th less than a week from today to give his State of the Union Address. That despite her asking him quite pointedly to reschedule.
Speaker Pelosi responded with basically you will do no such thing. "I am writing to inform you that the House of Representatives will not consider a concurrent resolution authorizing the President`s State of the Union Address in the House chamber until government has opened."
Joining me now former Senator Barbara Boxer, host of the Boxer Podcast and former Congresswoman Donna Edwards, Opinion Columnist for The Washington Post.
Donna, I`ll start with you. What do you make of this back and forth?
DONNA EDWARDS, (D-MD) FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: Well, first of all I think Speaker Pelosi continues to teach President Trump a lesson about the constitution and about the separation of powers and about the co-equal branches of government and she did that again today.
She does control the lights, the microphone, the locks on the doors, and so this is a nonstarter for the president, just the way his border proposal is a nonstarter.
HAYES: You know, it`s striking, Senator Boxer, as someone who worked with Nancy Pelosi as from the California delegation, you know, there was $50 million for the congressional leadership fund put into making her enemy number one during that last election. Here`s the polling right now from CBS News, better job handling shutdown negotiations, 47 percent Pelosi, Trump 35 percent. The president`s approval ratings, down in the basement, basically at what is his floor. AP has him at 34 percent, CBS at 36 percent.
She is politically besting him right now amidst this tremendous unnecessary suffering. It is wild to see.
BARBARA BOXER, (D-CA) FORMER U.S. SENATOR: She`s doing the right thing, and in politics I`ve always believed, and I know Donna believes it because I`ve watched her, when you do the right thing, you`re rewarded. The people may not get it at first, but they come around.
Look, I went to 35 State of the Union addresses in my time in the House and in the Senate. And you know they are big productions. They are security challenges. And the constitution doesn`t say that president shall go to the House, it says from time to time he should make a report to the congress on the state of the union. There is no necessity for him to do that. These are not normal times. We are in a national emergency, because Trump will not open up the government.
And the people who we rely on for safe skies, for safe food, for safe drinking water -- and I could go on, safety at sea, the coast guard. They`re standing in food lines. We are not going to have a fancy State of the Union where everyone is smiling and standing and applauding when this is going on.
So he needs to get a life, his family needs to get a life, and they need to understand people are suffering, many more than a million are suffering, because of this
HAYES: And yet, Donna, I mean, what`s so bizarre about this is the president has defied political gravity in many ways. He defied it throughout the primary season, he won an election through a very narrow electoral college win. Here he is, he is losing altitude. This is unpopular. His ideas are unpopular. The shutdown is unpopular. The wall is unpopular and yet here we are.
EDWARDS: Well, and it`s exactly the reason that Democrats should stand their ground on the question of opening government first, negotiating around border security, and then at the end of the day doing smart border security that really will secure the borders. And I think that that`s what the American people are seeing is that the president`s ideas are not ideas that will work, and so that accounts for the -- his negative showing, apart from the fact that he really is acting like a child when it comes to these negotiations. I`ve likened it to having a bully on the playground take all your marbles and come back a few weeks later and say by the way you can have your marbles back for a little while if you give me your lunch money. Democrats should not be held hostage like this.
HAYES: You know, the polling here is -- when you dig into it, Senator Boxer, is pretty striking. This is some new numbers. Among women, all women, of all races, ethnicities, education levels, he has a 71 percent disapproval rating, 71 percent of women in the country disapprove of the president. Among independents, 71 percent disapprove. Among college grads, 76 percent. Those are really striking -- have you seen numbers like that for a president, senator?
BOXER: Well, personally I have not, but I know when Nixon was going down the tubes, he hit about 32 percent.
And let me tell you why I think it`s so smart of you to bring up the poll numbers, because when I was asked a week ago when is this all going to change? It`s when the Republicans in the senate crack. And they are beginning to crack. Mitch McConnell came out of his shell. He`s going to offer up open up the government. I don`t know how many Republicans will vote for that once their proposal goes down, but I am telling you watch those numbers because at some point it`s too much pain for the Republicans, many of a whom face tough reelections.
HAYES: That`s a great point. Donna, there`s a few people like Susan Collins and Cory Gardner, everyone should be looking at what their vote is on these two votes Mitch McConnell has the president`s proposal of wall money and radically changing asylum and then the clean CR, just reopen the government. What do you think we`ll see?
EDWARDS: Well, I think that -- you know, Mitch McConnell said he wasn`t going to put show bills on the floor of the Senate, well that`s exactly what he`s doing, because there`s going to be a failure.
There are 10 bills that have been passed in the House and sent over to the Senate that would reopen every part of government and negotiate again on border security. Here`s where -- I think that there is no end really for this president, and I think what Republicans are seeing is that they`re going to go home yet another weekend and it`s a weekend that should be another pay day, it`s a weekend where 800,000 people aren`t getting paid plus contractors and plus all the misery out there.
Republicans, especially the ones who are going to be up for reelection, will not be able to continue to tolerate this kind of insanity.
HAYES: Prediction: Susan Collins, Cory Gardner are both yea votes on the clean CR tomorrow, that`s what I think. Senator Barbara Boxer, and Congresswoman Donna Edwards, thank you.
Still to come, former South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg declared his candidacy today and he joins me exclusively for his very first interview tonight.
Plus, the president`s obsession with Mars is tonight`s Thing One, Thing Two next.
HAYES: Thing One tonight, everyone who works in President Trump`s orbit has to develop a very particular survivor skill: the ability to pretend that the nonsense he`s saying is totally normal and makes perfect sense.
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TRUMP: It`s all heading out to space, I hate to say it, whether we like it or not, it`s all heading out to space. So we have tremendous support. We have tremendous support. Remember all that support, Tom. We have great support. Everybody loves the space. This is where it`s at. This is where it`s at.
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HAYES: Space is where it`s at.
Now, the problem with everyone just going along like that is normal is that is how you get this.
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MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: President Trump will also sign a new space policy directive that will lay out our plans and our timeline to create a new six-branch of the armed forces, the U.S. Space Force.
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HAYES: Yes, they`re actually doing Space Force, or at least they`re pretending to keep Trump happy, who knows. But give him an inch and he`ll want to put a man on Mars in time for the 2020 election. That`s Thing Two in 60 seconds.
HAYES: For someone so obsessed with space, you`d think the president might have actually learned something about it by now. He can even watch a sci-fi movie and pick opting or two about how space works. But Donald Trump ain`t much for learning, not even from real astronauts.
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TRUMP: Tell me, on Mars, what do you see a timing for actually sending humans to mars? Is there a schedule? And when would you see that happening?
PEGGY WHITSON, NASA: Well, I think as your bill directed it`ll be approximately in the 2030s. Unfortunately, space flight takes a lot of time and money, so getting there will require some international cooperation to get it to be a planet-wide approach in order to make it successful, just because it is a expensive endeavor but so worth while doing.
TRUMP: Well, we want to try doing it during my first term or at worst my second term, so we`ll have have to speed that up a little, okay.
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HAYES: Just speed it up a little bit, LOL. No, I`m sure he was just kidding, except that there`s new reporting the president offered the acting NASA administrator an infinity budget to get us to Mars by the end of his first term, to which the administrator had to tell the president gently no, sorry, but he didn`t think it was possible, like even if we left right now.
Anyway, the good news is the president learned from this interaction and it never came up again. No, of course I`m kidding.
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TRUMP: It was our first Catholic president, John Kennedy, himself of Irish descent, who set our nation`s sights on the moon. We`re looking at Mars, by the way, in case anybody has some -- trying to top him. We`re going to get there. It`s going -- moving along pretty good. A lot of things have happened having to do with that subject. Way ahead of schedule.
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HAYES: Michael Cohen`s February 7 hearing in front of congress is off for now, but House Democrats still have a lot in the works. Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker is due to appear appear before the judiciary committee on February 8, and Chairman Jerry Nadler is already warning Whitaker he would view with considerable skepticism any effort to his declining to answer his questions.
Today, the House Oversight Committee is announced it is launching an in-depth investigation into the security clearance process of the White House and the Trump transition team. This is one of those things that got a memory holed, but remember senior adviser to the president Jared Kushner had to refile his ethics disclosure at least 40 times. It`s unclear whether Kushner actually ever got top level clearance, but The Washington Post reported last summer he was granted only top secret status, a level that does not allow him to see some of the country`s most closely guarded intelligence.
There`s also the issue of former White House staff secretary Rob Porter. Remember him? He was the gentleman who was accused of violence by both of his ex-wives. And the White House knew that about him and was warned by the FBI and kept him in there without a clearance doing his job.
And don`t forget President Trump`s personal assistant, John McEntee. He was fired after more than a year on the job when an investigation found he was a frequent gambler whose expensive habit posed a security risk.
Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings has also requested that the NRA send everything it has on current National Security Advisor John Bolton`s interaction with foreign nationals, that is in response to Bolton`s appearance in a video organized by none other than admitted Russian agent Maria Butina.
Separately, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross will testify before the Cummins oversight committee on March 8. He is expected to be asked about his previous outright lies under oath before congress about his motivations to add a controversial citizenship question on the 2020 census.
One Trump official who says he won`t testify before congress, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. HHS is the parent agency of the Office of Refugee Resettlement. They are the ones that oversaw the ripping away of thousands of migrant children from their parents, and, according to an inspector general report, had no means of reuniting them again.
At last count, there are there are about 160 kids that still have not been reunited that man, the person that oversees all that, Alex Azar, was overseeing the humanitarian disaster imposed by our government, and is now refusing to come before congress to explain himself, but now facing Democratic control of the House, it`s unlikely he`ll have a choice.
Coming up, meet your newest candidate for president. Peter Buttigieg joins me next.
HAYES: Early polling in a crowded primary field is notoriously unreliable and fickle. More often than not, it`s a proxy for name recognition.
There is one poll recently that I think gives a sense of just how wide open the Democratic race for the presidential nomination is. A plurality of voters in a recent USA Today/Suffolk University poll named someone entirely new as their preferred candidate in the field.
Well, today we got the presidential announcement of someone almost none of the Democratic primary voters has ever heard of, in other words, someone entirely new.
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PETER BUTTIGIEG, FORMER MAYOR, SOUTH BEND, INDIANA: I belong to a generation that is stepping forward right now. We`re the generation that lived through school shootings, that served in the wars after 9/11. And we`re the generation that stands to be the first to make less than our parents, unless we do something different.
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HAYES: Pete Buttigieg is the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Indiana, with a bio that reads like it was written by Aaron Sorkin: an out, married, gay, Afghanistan vet and Rhodes Scholar who was elected mayor of his hometown at the age of 29. Today, he announced he is forming an exploratory committee to run for president.
And joining me now is Pete Buttigieg.
Good to have you on, mayor. Why are you running for president?
BUTTIGIEG: Well, I believe that we need new voices. It`s time for a new generation to step forward to offer leadership. And as you noted, people are looking for something entirely new.
HAYES: Of all the people in the United States, why should you have the most powerful job in the world?
BUTTIGIEG: Well, I get that you wouldn`t expect to hear this from the youngest person in the conversation, but a lot of it has to do with experience. I have a different experience from a lot of the other people stepping forward, the experience of being an executive, being responsible for the well-being of the 100,000 residents in our city, the experience of being sent overseas on the orders of a president, experience that helps me understand how the decisions that are made in Washington affect people at the level of everyday life.
You know, at the end of the day, I have more years of government experience than the president of the United States. I have more executive experience than the vice president, and I have more military experience than the two of them put together.
My experience, my perspective, and, again, that of a new generation with a different outlook from the industrial Midwest, and a city that in my view proves that resentment and nostalgia is not the formula for the middle of the country. I can`t wait to share that with the rest of America.
HAYES: What does that mean? But new -- there could be new visions or new approaches that are good and new approaches that are bad. New doesn`t necessarily mean good. What does that concretely mean, the newness or the sort of fresh eyes you bring, being 37 and coming from where you`re coming from?
BUTTIGIEG: Well, for one thing, I think you just look at issues differently. I`m thinking a lot about 2054, that`s the year when I`ll be the current age of the current president. And I think if you`re making plans for what it`s going to be like then, you have you a different sense of urgency around issues like climate change.
If you know that your generation is going to be picking up the bill for reckless tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires, you have a sense of urgency around getting our policies right when it comes to taxation.
HAYES: I know you`ve run for statewide office once before, if I`m not mistaken, state treasurer, and were defeated in that race. Why not run for statewide office, seek some other office? It is fairly unusual for someone to go from, well, it`s unprecedented I think in American history to go from being the mayor of say a town of 100,000 to president of the United States.
BUTTIGIEG: A lot of things right now in American politics are unprecedented. And I don`t believe running for an office so you can some day run for another office. I ran for mayor of my hometown, because I looked at what the city needed, I looked at what I brought to the table and I thought that there was a match. That was the same reason I ran for the chair of the DNC. I didn`t become chair of the DNC, but I`m glad we got in there, and I`m glad we were able to introduce different ideas into that conversation.
And right now when I look at what`s going on in our country, when I look at what`s going on in our party, I think we need a different kind of voice, a voice, for example, that`s comfortable talking about themes like Freedom, which we`ve allowed conservatives to kind of take from our party rather than insisting that there is a lot more than government that can make you unfree, that you`re not free if you can`t sue a credit card company that gets caught ripping you off, that you`re not free if you`re a woman and your male boss gets to tell you what your health care decisions are going to be based on his politics.
We need to be ready to come with a different kind of vocabulary that will answer that question that hand-wringing Democrats keep asking, how are we going to fit our values on a bumper sticker? I think we can do it. I think it`s freedom, democracy, and security, and I`m eager to share that message with the country.
HAYES: You`re in Washington for your launch today. This is a question I think is the most important question for every Democratic candidate in the field. What is your first big piece of legislation if you got elected president with a Democratic House and Democratic Senate?
BUTTIGIEG: Well, we`ve got to make fundamental repairs to our democracy, that means legislation to secure access to the vote and a package that could also include some profound structural reforms. The electoral college is at this point indefensible, and there are a lot of other things happening in our political structure that make it so difficult to deal with any of the other issues from climate to health care, to economic security that we`ve got to make sure that we have repaired our democracy at the outset.
HAYES: Should we leave Afghanistan immediately? And if not immediately, when should we leave?
BUTTIGIEG: We`ve got to bring an end to endless war. We are getting to the point where people will be sent to Afghanistan very soon who weren`t even alive in 2001.
Now what you don`t do is notify your Pentagon by tweet that you`re going to be pulling out, but there is no question that we need to bring a close to that engagement. And all of our...
HAYES: Wait, let me just stop you there, because I`ve heard that for most of my adult life. What does that mean concretely?
BUTTIGIEG: Well, I think concretely it means engaging with the parties on the ground, making sure there is some hope of stability there, but also recognizing that we can`t be the indefinite guarantor of economic development and democracy in the AF-PAC region. It`s just not realistic.
Obviously, we have a counterterrorism mission that explained how we got there in the first place. Now it`s time to make sure that we`re focused here at home.
BUTTIGIEG: You came out in public life as a mayor. What do you learn from that experience?
BUTTIGIEG: Well, one thing I learned is that people really will look at you based on what you have to offer. I came out at a time when Mike Pence was the governor of my home state of Indiana. I was in the middle of a reelection campaign, but it was a time when I wanted to get on with my personal life, and I realized that meant coming out. And I wound up getting re-elected with 80 percent of the vote.
So I think it shows that if you give people a chance to evaluate you on your merits, then people will do right by you. But I`m not naive either. I know that there is a struggle for LGBTQ equality that continues to this day. In fact, there are a lot of parts of my home state where you can still get fired just because of who you are.
HAYES: Pete Buttigieg, thank you so much for taking some time to join us tonight.
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