CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: -- do the right thing here and back the Special Olympics. You sir just had a good weekend. How about giving these kids theirs? That`s HARDBALL for now. "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes starts right now.
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CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HST: Tonight on ALL IN.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I understand healthcare now especially very well. A lot of people don`t understand it.
HAYES: Fresh off the end of the Mueller probe, the President refocuses on his priorities.
TRUMP: I hate to tell you, Porto Rico, but you`ve thrown our budget a little out of whack.
HAYES: Attacking Puerto Rico and gutting the American health care system.
TRUMP: We are going to be the Republicans, the party of great health care.
HAYES: My guest tonight, someone who is taking the Trump agenda head on, 2020 candidate Elizabeth Warren. Then --
REP. BARBARA LEE (D), CALIFORNIA: You have zeroed out Special Olympics once again.
HAYES: Trump`s Education Secretary called out for slashing funding for the Special Olympics.
LEE: I still can`t understand why you would go after disabled children in your budget.
HAYES: Plus, the man at the center of the President`s possible obstruction of justice reacts to the Mueller report.
JAMES COMEY, FORMER DIRECTOR, FBI: I can`t quite understand why he didn`t resolve the question about whether the President was culpable for obstruction.
HAYES: And Alexandria Ocacio-Cortes rips Republicans on the Green New Deal.
REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTES (D), NEW YORK: This is not an elitist issue, this is a quality-of-life issue.
HAYES: When ALL IN starts right now.
OCASIO-CORTES: This is serious.
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HAYES: Good evening from New York I`m Chris Hayes. The President is ready to move on and focus on his agenda now that his hand-picked Attorney General has temporarily at least blown away the dark cloud of the Mueller report by issuing an extremely perfunctory letter seemingly designed to get people to believe that Trump had been fully exonerated. It did not exonerate him.
He hasn`t, but until we can actually see the Mueller`s report, Trump has something of a window to focus on his agenda so let`s talk about that agenda.
One, take healthcare away from more than 20 million people and literally destroy the nation`s entire health insurance infrastructure. Two, intervene to limit federal funding for the people of Puerto Rico as they try to recover from the worst disaster in the island`s history. And three, stick it to America`s schoolchildren by cutting $7 billion in education budget and eliminating all $18 million in federal funding for the Special Olympics.
We`re going to talk to Representative Barbara Lee who grilled Betsy DeVos yesterday for more on that part of the agenda in just a little bit.
Now we know Donald Trump is not exactly a policy wonk. He`d much rather sit around during executive time and live tweet Trump T.V. but he has found an issue he`s apparently extremely passionate about screwing over the people of Puerto Rico. He doesn`t want another single dollar going to the island. That is a senior administration official talking to The Washington Post.
Trump has reportedly made up figures about how much money went to Puerto Rico to suggest the island has gotten too much recovery money. Remember a thousand people or more died there in the natural disaster -- 3000 at least in the deadliest hurricanes in American history.
The President told Republicans that aid for Puerto Rico is way out of proportion to what Texas and Florida and others have gotten and explicitly asked top advisors for ways to limit federal support from going to Puerto Rico. I wonder could -- what it could be about Puerto Rico that has Trump so laser focused on denying desperately needed funding to its people.
That`s just one plank of the Trump cruelty agenda. There`s also his decision to have his administration back a GOP lawsuit to completely eliminate ObamaCare. It`s a decision that has infuriated Congressional Republicans who are burned over health care in the Midterms. One senior GOP aide describing Trump`s move as the dumbest thing I have ever heard and the equivalent of punching yourself in the face repeatedly.
Trump reportedly made the decision over the objections of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Attorney General William Barr. And at the urging of Acting Chief of Staff Nick Mulvaney who helped convince Trump that his base would love the move. Many Republicans most certainly do not.
Here`s another quote. They are completely tone-deaf how about a few more victory laps on Mueller while you can get away with it. WTF is wrong with them.
At this point, Trump and Republicans have no plan to actually replace ObamaCare though Trump does have a slogan and plenty of empty promises.
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TRUMP: We are going to be the Republicans, the party of great healthcare. And if the Supreme Court rules that ObamaCare is out, we will have a plan that`s far better than ObamaCare.
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HAYES: He`s been promising that plan for about three years now. You`re still waiting. If the Trump-back lawsuit succeeds and there is no replacement bill, here`s what happens. 21 million people could lose health care coverage between the Medicaid expansion and the exchanges, spending to fight opioid addiction will be slashed, 133 million Americans with pre- existing conditions will lose their protections in buying health insurance. 171 million would no longer have caps in the cost of expensive treatments and the entire health insurance system, the whole thing will be thrown into utter chaos.
This is the battleground on which the 2020 election will now be fought thanks to the president. Joining me now one of the Democrats who wants to take Trump on in that fight who`s rolling out policy after policy. She seeks to become her party`s presidential nominee Democratic Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. Welcome to the show.
Senator, let`s start on the health care news. What do you make of the reporting that they tried to convince the president not to do this including the Attorney General and the head of HHS and he did it anyway?
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Look, it`s been clear from the beginning that they never intended to repeal and replace right? All they wanted to do is just burn down the health care system. And I assume the principal reason is because it helps a lot of people who are not wealthy and part of the Trump energy.
And so my view on this is we just got to fight them back. We have to defend healthcare. This is -- they have put it in front of us and we said this is part of what Democrats are about. We defend healthcare. That`s one of our principle core issues and we will fight this all the way.
HAYES: You know, I`ve followed your writing and your speaking on the subject of sort of corruption in Washington D.C. and the sort of influence of corporate America and big industries. And I`m curious what you think of this move because the health insurance industry does not want this. In fact, they`ve explicitly come out against it. They have tremendous sway on Capitol Hill.
This is something that is so destructive, so out past the bounds of what people want even inside the industry with a lot of money and they`re still doing it. How do you make sense of that?
WARREN: Well, you know, I think it`s -- you have to remember. In something like the healthcare industry, there are a lot of conflicting areas. So you may be right. Some of the insurance companies don`t want it, but the flipside is shoot, a lot of the drug companies, they`re fine, right?
However, so long as they can just keep charging high drug prices and nobody`s going after them to negotiate those prices and try to pull them down, good with the big drug companies. And there`s just a bottom line ugliness about this. Take away health care from 20 million Americans and then celebrate afterwards.
You watched it, I watched it. I was -- I was in the Senate. I watched the House after they passed the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and gave each other high-fives. What kind of people give each other high-fives over taking away health care from 20 million Americans?
HAYES: Is there a way -- I saw some reporting about this. Obviously, the Democrats don`t have the majority in the Senate. It`s very hard to bring things up when Mitch McConnell runs floor time there. Is there any way to legislatively get around this in terms of some sort of defunding of the DOJ`s use of the lawsuit or anything like that?
WARREN: You know, look, there`ll be efforts -- we`ll try, we`ll also try to restore funding as part of the budget negotiations. As you say, there are a lot of Republicans who don`t want to be here. But ultimately, I see this is very different. I see this is the war of ideas.
This is about where you think this country ought to go and what you think the 2020 election ought to be about. Donald Trump thinks what it should be about is he gets his base all stirred up and he shows how tough and manly he is by taking away health care for millions of people.
I think there`s another set of ideas that Democrats need to be talking about. I`ve proposed a wealth tax and out of that universal child care and cutting the student loan debt burden, and building millions of new housing units, and attacking racial redlining head-on.
Those are changes that we should be talking about with the American people. We have this incredible opportunity during a primary to talk about ideas. And if you think that ideas are important and going to be an important part of what happens to this country going forward, then look, we`re coming to the end of the quarter.
And I could use everyone`s help on this. Go to ElizabethWarren.com. Pitch in some money. Volunteer, sign up, but be part of the notion that we need to be in a war of ideas, that we need to push our ideas forward. I need help to keep putting those ideas in the debate. We need our Democratic ideas to talk about not just being the tail on the dog that Donald Trump wants.
HAYES: You have -- you have a new policy proposal about antitrust and agribusiness which I want to talk about in a second. Before I go and get to that, I do want to talk about Puerto Rico because the President -- this is part of the budget fight. The president has zero -- like really fixated on this. All the reporting says this is the rare policy issue he`s quite obsessed with. No more money for Puerto Rico. What`s your response to that?
WARREN: You know, first of all, we have already allocated money to Puerto Rico that this administration is held up. And the money we`ve allocated to Puerto Rico is not nearly enough. So this is ugly piled on ugly.
Donald Trump has done this to Puerto Rico and it is -- it is fundamentally wrong. This is three million American citizens who are held hostage to a government right now that doesn`t want to make sure that they get basic health care, that they have decent housing, that they have enough food for their children to eat.
Donald Trump is fundamentally wrong on this and whether you`re Democrat or Republican and Independent, every one of us should be pushing back. The people of Puerto Rico are part of all of us. They are American citizens. They send their sons and daughters to serve in our military in higher proportions than almost any group in the United States of America.
And right now this is an island with people who are suffering. It is our responsibility as American citizens and as human beings to step up on behalf of Puerto Rico. The entire Congress Republican and Democrat should push back at Donald Trump over this.
HAYES: You do have a new policy today that you rolled out about agribusiness. And some of it takes on sort of I think using antitrust tools to go after some of the largest agribusiness concerns. One of them is a specific policy that is very interesting to me and I`ve read a bit about before which is called right to repair. Can you explain what that -- what is a national right to repair law?
WARREN: So let me just put it in the context. As you rightly said, I`ve been talking for a very long time about the importance of enforcing our antitrust laws. The idea is that these giant corporations begin to just take over whole markets, they wipe out competition, they squeeze everybody else`s profits, and that we need a level playing field. And the way we do that is we simply enforce the antitrust laws or places where they`re incomplete we need to add to them.
So Right To Repair starts with this problem. A company puts out really sophisticated equipment and then says if it breaks, the only one who can repair it is you`ve got to bring it back to the company. That means you don`t get to repair it at home the way my daddy and my three older brothers used to do. You don`t get to take it to a shop in town where there are three competing places. Both of those keep costs down for small farms. Instead, you got to take it back to the one company that sold it to you and they can charge whatever they want to charge. Because as long as the thing is broken you can`t get any use out of it.
So right to repair just basically says hey guys, you got to make the information and the parts available. You get to sell them. You can make a profit on it, but you got to make it available to everyone. So once a small farm has purchased a piece of equipment, they can either try to repair it themselves if it breaks or they can take it to repair shops in town.
It`s just one more way to try to level the playing field a little bit we`re a giant corporation is said no we`re going to scoop up all the profits for ourselves.
HAYES: Let me ask you -- this is a question about your approach here. And you have rolled out a lot of policy on red line as you said, the wealth tax, this new policy on sort of agricultural concerns. Do you believe that policy can win people over particularly a general election?
In a primary when you`ve got a lot of different kind of candidates, I understand you`re sort of differentiating yourself and is stuff you actually believe in, I`m not saying you don`t. But do you think in a general election that policy is what people vote on can you win over certain voters with stuff like this?
WARREN: So I believe -- let me do this in two parts. I believe that in a primary this is our chance to talk about policy and to be able to explain to each other and to the rest of the world these are the things we think are important and worth fighting for.
Understand it`s not policy in the abstract, it`s a statement of our values. When I say millionaires wealth tax two percent, and that we could pay for universal childcare and universal pre-k for every one of our children, we could reduce the student loan debt burden, we can actually build more housing, we could attack racial redlining head-on with that money, that`s not just a statement about budgets, it`s a statement about our values.
I think if we keep those ideas in the debate right now, that makes us a stronger Democratic Party. That`s why I said I could use help on this. Go to ElizabethWarren.com. It`s not about even at this point who you`re voting for in a year. It`s about keeping these ideas. The Democrats should be the party of ideas. We should be the party that`s driving the debate. And that`s how we do it with tangible ideas that will touch people`s lives.
You know, an example around this. That wealth tax is not only popular among Democrats and Independents, a majority of Republicans support it. And then once you see how much money it produces --
HAYES: It`s a lot.
WARREN: Go out and talk to families about what it would mean to have universal childcare, high-quality childcare available for free for millions of families, what that would mean. And for low-cost for other families, what it would mean to reduce the student loan debt burden.
These are things that touch people`s lives every day and this is how the Democrats show, not tell, show that we really are out there on the side of working people, that we don`t believe that government should just work for the rich and powerful. We believe it ought to work for all of us.
HAYES: All right Senator Elizabeth Warren, thank you so much for making some time tonight.
WARREN: Thank you.
HAYES: Next, the sweeping cuts proposed by Education Secretary Betsey DeVos including all funding for the Special Olympics. Congresswoman Barbara Lee confronted DeVos about her deep cut. She will join me here in two minutes.
HAYES: Betsy DeVos and the Trump administration are under firing -- under fire for zeroing out funding for the Special Olympics. The Secretary of Education issued a defensive and angry statement today which essentially admitted the administration wanted to zero out funding for the Special Olympics.
The federal fund -- government cannot fund every worthy program." I got to say it`s a bizarre thing for the administration to do given that the budget is fundamentally a messaging document. It`s going to get changed a lot in Congress. And the amount of money for Special Olympics $18 million is absolutely minuscule in the terms of the entire federal budget.
And all might have escaped notice but for Democratic Congresswoman Barbara Lee who called out Secretary DeVos when she testified about the budget yesterday.
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LEE: Your cuts here specifically target students of color, it`s unbelievable low-income students, and I just have to say, Madam Secretary, you have zeroed out Special Olympics. Once again, I still can`t understand why you would go after disabled children in your budget. You zeroed that out. It`s appalling.
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HAYES: Joining me now is Congresswoman Barbra Lee of California, senior member of the Committee that has the power to fort some of the Trump administration`s worst instincts, the House Appropriations Committee.
Congressman, what flag this for you and what is your understanding of the rationale of cutting the $18 million that currently goes to Special Olympics?
LEE: Chris, I`m glad to be with you tonight. Let me tell you, this isn`t the first year that this administration proposed to eliminate federal funding for Special Olympics. This is the third time we have seen this very unbelievably appalling proposal. And we, of course, did not go along with it and Congress rejected it.
And so I don`t know when the secretary and the Trump administration will understand that we`re not going to allow them to take away federal support for children with special needs. This support gives them a real chance to shine, Chris. And it`s no way that we`re going to let them do that.
HAYES: I literally don`t understand. Is there some staffer at OMB who just really has it out for the Special Olympics and every year keeps zeroing out their funding? Like what -- of all the things in the universe, what is -- why?
LEE: I don`t know why they would do this. Because remember, Chris, a budget reflects our values, it`s a moral document. And you know when you look at this, is this what the values of this administration speak to.
We know that they presented a budget that really decimates public education and I suspect this is a continuation of their effort to privatize public education and they`re just taking federal support and the federal role out of the public sector and trying to as Steve Bannon ta reminded us they want to deconstruct the administrative state. They wanted dismantle government.
HAYES: You had another exchange on an issue that you`re quite passionate about in terms of reporting requirements if I understand them correctly, the Department of Education about school discipline. I want to play that exchange and how do you explain what it was about. Take a listen.
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LEE: Students of color are suspended three times more than white students. We put into place some requirements that would begin to turn this around. You rescinded those requirements.
DEVOS: The letter amounted to quotas. Children are individuals, they`re not --
LEE: Madam Secretary, this didn`t -- this didn`t involve quotas. This gave direction on how to correct this horrible problem that we have throughout the country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: What happened there, Congresswoman.
LEE: Well, under President Obama, the Department of Education began to look at our urging the disciplinary issues as it relates to black and brown kids and the huge numbers of expulsion and suspensions of young people.
Actually, I remember one report that showed that 40 percent of African- American babies, preschool children were being expelled from preschool. And so we wanted to wrap our hands around this and figure out what was going on.
And so the Obama administration issued some direction to how to begin to address the issues around school suspensions and expulsion so that children could have a shot at receiving a quality public education without being expelled or suspended. So we gave direction as to how the schools should do this.
And so what happens under Donald Trump, they come in and they rescind all of those efforts to begin to close these gaps on suspensions and expulsions. And the secretary for the life of me doesn`t seem to get why all children deserve civil rights protections in our schools. And she just sidesteps all of the answers when we asked the hard questions about low- income children, children with special needs, children of color, children who are poor. It`s amazing that their agenda becomes very evident when it comes to their education agenda.
HAYES: Final question. The chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee Roy Blunt today said that the Special Olympics zeroing out was dead on arrival which has happened in the past as well and I`m not surprised here. Is generally the entirety of the cuts that the -- that are proposed by the Department Education DOA to your mind?
LEE: I believe so. When you look at the draconian cuts to public education, it`s very -- they`re very sinister and they really do show that this administration wants to privatize public education. When you look at -- there are at least 30 programs that address low-income children, children of color, special-needs children that they totally eliminated.
And so yes, this is dead on arrival and I wish this administration would step up and really present a budget that reflects a moral document which puts children first.
HAYES: All right, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, thank you very much.
LEE: Thank you.
HAYES: Still to come, fired FBI Director James Comey`s first interview since the release of the Barr letter about the Mueller report, his reaction to Special Counsel`s non-decision on obstruction next.
HAYES: It`s worth remembering the reason there is a Mueller report is because Robert Mueller was appointed special counsel nearly two years ago after the president abruptly fired FBI Director James Comey and claimed at the time it was because of Comey`s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton`s use of a private e-mail server, namely that he was too tough and disparaging on her.
But then two days later in an interview with Lester Holt, Trump confessed the firing was actually about Russia instead.
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TRUMP: But regardless of recommendation I was going to fire Comey knowing there was no good time to do it. And in fact when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it`s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.
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HAYES: Today Lester Holt sat down with James Comey for a Comey`s first interview since Robert Mueller submitted his report and asked him about Mueller`s decision not to reach a conclusion about whether or not the president obstructed justice.
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LESTER HOLT, NBC NEWS HOST: Mr. Mueller decides not to make a judgment on that particular issue. Does that alone surprise you?
COMEY: It does. The purpose of a special counsel is to make sure that the politicals, in this case, the Attorney General, doesn`t make the ultimate call on whether the subject of the investigation, the President of the United States, should be held criminally liable for activities that were under investigation.
And so the idea that a special counsel wouldn`t reach the question and hand it to the political leadership doesn`t make sense. I don`t -- I don`t -- prejudging and I`m just saying it doesn`t make sense on its face, and so I have a lot of questions.
HOLT: But do you think --
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HAYES: Joining me now are two MSNBC Analyst, people who know the former FBI Director well. Chuck Rosenberg, former U.S. attorney, and Senior FBI official. He was counseled to then FBI Director Robert Mueller and Chief of Staff, and Senior Counselor to then FBI Director James Comey. And Ben Wittes, Editor-in-Chief of the Lawfare Blog and a personal friend of James Comey.
Chuck let me start with you. Do you share that same reaction that Comey has to what is described in the Barr letter about Mueller declining to reach a decision on that question?
CHUCK ROSENBERG, FORMER SENIOR FBI OFFICIAL: I`m certainly curious, Chris. So, yes, I do share Jim`s curiosity and his concern. But let me add -- and let me hasten to add, I don`t attribute anything nefarious to Bob Mueller. I had the privilege of working for Bob and for Jim, both men of tremendous integrity, and so I assume, I presume, that there`s a perfectly good reason why he didn`t reach a conclusion.
We have to read the report in order to understand what that reason is.
So, curious? Absolutely. But I want to reserve judgment until I see why he did what he did.
HAYES: I mean, Ben, one possible explanation, which seems like the obvious one to me, and maybe I`m not getting this right, is that if the president can`t be indicted, it`s unclear what the point of reaching some decision about a crime is, because you can`t charge him anyway, so what does that mean in the context of a sitting president of the United States, which seems like an obvious --- I mean, that that`s something clearly that was front of mind for Mueller.
WITTES: So I share that. My -- one of the reasons I`ve spent a lot of time this past year trying to get the Jaworski Watergate road map released was that I was interested in it as a model for Bob Mueller, that is what Jaworski did is he presents to congress just a kind of set of facts about what President Nixon had done. And I thought that`s an interesting model for Bob Mueller.
And so when I read this letter, my first reaction to it was, wow, it seems not like he was deferring to Barr, although Barr appears to have interpreted it that way, but that he was trying to lay this out potentially for congress, at least that`s my working hypothesis. And in that case, if that`s the case, my instinct is it may be a very reasonable and defensible set of judgments. And so my instincts here are, to the extent that Jim Comey is potentially criticizing Mueller for this, my instincts may be a little bit closer to Chuck`s, that I really want why he did what he did, and I`m not averse to the idea that it may have been a very smart and reasonable thing for him to do under the circumstances.
HAYES: So Chuck, George Conway wrote a piece today. He says Trump is guilty of being unfit for office. And he cites one -- again, very few -- we don`t know how long the report is, although it appears to be quite long, and there`s 42 words quoted in the letter. One of the things quoted is the idea that it does not exonerate the president.
And Conway says, "the report does not exonerate the president? That`s a stunning thing for a prosecutor to say. Mueller didn`t have to say that."
I should note, also, that Barr presumably didn`t have to include that in the letter. Do you agree with Conway?
ROSENBERG: Well, I agree that it`s an unusual thing a prosecutor to say. I was a prosecutor, Chris, for a long time and I`ve never said that. Then again I`ve never had a case involving a sitting president of the United States.
I think your instincts are precisely right. The notion that you can`t charge a sitting president, might mean that you ought not to recommend that you charge a sitting president, and that makes sense to me. You know, as I try to puzzle through why Bob Mueller did what he did or didn`t do what he didn`t do, that strikes me as a very plausible explanation.
And so, look, I don`t want to get into Conway`s, you know, political leanings or his political diatribe. I have my own views on this president, and I`ll keep them private. But it is strange, I do agree with that, to say that, you know, our findings neither implicate or inculpate him on one hand or exonerate him on the other. Curious.
HAYES: I want to play for you, Ben, Jerry Nadler had a conversation with Barr tonight, and some developments in the back and forth between congress -- that congressional chair on the Judiciary Committee, and Barr about the delivery of that report. Take a listen.
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REP. JERROLD NADLER, (D) NEW YORK: I had a phone call with the attorney general and I asked him about the length and breadth of the Mueller report. He told me it was a very substantial report, a very substantial report, one, that in my judgment, a four-page summary cannot begin to do justice to.
I asked him when we would see it. And he couldn`t get specific. He said weeks not months, as we have heard before.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Do we learn anything there, Ben?
WITTES: Well, so I -- you know, we had heard the word comprehensive before, very substantial is a slight advance over comprehensive. I don`t know how think -- look, my working assumption has been that we are dealing with many hundreds of pages, and I think it tends to support that. I don`t know that -- and I also think week, not months, is a reasonable -- it`s not a precise time frame, but it does say that Barr is committing himself to this not dragging out in a protracted sort of way.
And so I do think we can reasonably expect based on the letter, based on what Justice has said and based on this, that in a relatively brief period of time, we are going to have a capacious set of disclosures about the substance of what Bill -- of what Bob Mueller found. And I think that will be a very salutary thing whether or not the results of that make us admire the four page summary that Barr issued or be annoyed by it.
HAYES: I agree with everything you just said there.
Chuck Rosenberg and Ben Wittes, thank you both.
Still ahead, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez rips apart a Republican argument on the Green New Deal in a tight two minutes. Watch ahead.
Plus, the lengths President Trump will go to for Kim Jung-un in tonight`s Thing One, Thing Two next.
HAYES: Thing One tonight, we all know how Donald Trump feels about the brutal North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I got along very well with Kim Jong-un, really well.
We get along.
We`ve developed a good relationship, very good.
He`s quite a guy and quite a character and I think our relationship is very strong.
You know, there`s a warmth that we have.
Our relationship is a very special relationship.
I like him, he likes me.
You know, we have a good chemistry together.
I think we have a very good relationship. We understand each other.
We have a very good relationship.
He likes me, I like him, we get along. He wrote me two of the most beautiful letters.
We go back and forth, and then we fell in love, OK. No, really. He wrote me beautiful letters. And they`re great letters. We fell in love.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: They fell in love. It`s deranged. Which may seem to explain why the president tweeted last Friday he would be withdrawing new sanctions on North Korea which were, quote, announced today, except there had not actually been any new sanctions announced that day.
The White House later explained, and I`m quoting here, President Trump likes Chairman Kim and he doesn`t think these sanctions will be necessary.
Well, wait, what sanctions and likes? I thought it was love.
Administration officials later tried another explanation, which said that Trump was referring to a future round of previously unknown sanctions scheduled for the coming days, and if that all sounds confusing and sketchy, it is because it is. The truth is Thing Two in 60 seconds.
HAYES: So President Trump sparked massive confusion last week with this tweet. It was announced today by the U.S. Treasury that additional largescale capital "S" sanctions would be added to those already existing capital "S" sanctions on North Korea. I had today ordered the withdrawal of those additional capital "S" sanctions.
Despite the obvious weirdness of the president tweeting a policy change that totally undermined his own Treasury, the other problem was there weren`t any new sanctions announced that day. The Treasury had announced some sanctions on two Chinese shipping companies for trading with North Korea the previous day. So maybe that`s what he meant?
At first Press Secretary Sarah Sanders seemed to validate that theory with a vague statement, noting how much the president likes Chairman Kim, but soon the typically leaky White House started leaking out a different line saying that Trump was actually talking about a future as yet unannounced round of sanctions against North Korea.
Well, today Bloomberg news reports that story was actually just an attempted cover-up to hide that the president in fact intended to remove those penalties Treasury had announced the day before against two Chinese shipping companies. According to Bloomberg, officials in his administration persuaded him to back off, but Trump stunned current and former government officials by tweeting that he ordered their withdrawal anyway.
Now, why would he do a thing like that?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We would go back and forth and then we fell in love, OK. No, really.
He wrote me beautiful letters and they`re great letters.
We fell in love.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: This Friday, we`re hosting our special on the Green New Deal with Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the Bronx. And the reason we`re doing it in the Bronx isn`t just because the Congresswoman and I are both from there, though that is part of it, it`s because climate in the abstract is too often treated as either some remote problem or an environmental issue divorced from its affects on human beings.
But the climate is quite literally everywhere, and will quite literally effect each and every one of us, particularly those already struggling the most, which is why it`s patently absurd to call the issue elitist as Republican Congressman Sean Duffy of Wisconsin did yesterday during a hearing of the House Financial Services Committee.
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REP. SEAN DUFFY, (R) WISCONSIN: We should not focus on the rich, wealthy elite who look at this and go I love it, because I`ve got big money in the bank.
It`s kind of like saying I`ll sign on to the Green New Deal, but I`ll take a private jet from D.C. to California. A private jet? Or I`ll take my uber SUV, I won`t take the train, or I`ll go to Davos and fly my private jet.
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HAYES: Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the co-sponsor of The Green New Deal, was sitting right there listening to Congressman Duffy and had this response.
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REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ, (D) NEW YORK: Now, when we talk about the concern of the environment as in elitist concern, one year ago I was waitressing in a taco shop in downtown Manhattan. I just got health insurance for the first time a month ago. This is not an elitist issue, this is a quality of life issue. You want to tell people that their concern and their desire for clean air and clean water is elitist? Tell that to the kids in the South Bronx, which are suffering from the highest rates of childhood asthma in the country, tell that the families in Flint whose kids have their blood is ascending in lead levels, their brains are damaged for the rest of their lives, call them elitist. You`re telling them that those kids are trying to get on a plane to Davos?
People are dying, they are dying. They are dying. And the response across the other side of the aisle is to introduce an amendment five minutes before a hearing and a markup? This is serious.
This should not be a partisan issue. This is about our constituents and all of our lives -- Iowa, Nebraska, broad swaths of the Midwest are drowning right now, underwater. Farms, towns that will never be recovered and never come back, and we`re hear and people are more concerned about helping oil companies their own families? I don`t think so. I don`t think so.
This is about our lives. This is about American lives. And it should not be partisan. Science should not be partisan. This -- we are facing a national crisis, and if we do not ascend to that crisis, if we do not ascend to the levels in which we were threatened at the Great Depression, when we were threatened in World War II, if we do not ascend to those levels, if we tell the American public that we are more willing to invest and bail out big banks than we are willing to invest in our farmers and our urban families, then I don`t know what we`re here doing.
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HAYES: Well, the entire Green New Deal debate has revealed is that for whatever real policy divisions there are on the Democratic side, and they are there, the other side basically has nothing. We`ll discuss, ahead.
HAYES: One of the many problems for Republicans in rejecting, or outright mocking, efforts to combat climate change with the Green New Deal is the fact that people quite like the Green New Deal, at least right now.
The New York Times points to recent surveys showing support for the Green New Deal in three states where Republican senators are up for reelection in 2020. In Colorado, Cory Gardner`s state, 60 percent of likely voters supported the Green New Deal. In North Carolina Thom Tillis` state, 56 percent did. And in Maine, where Susan Collins is likely to face a pretty tough reelection battle, 57 percent of likely voters supported the Green New Deal.
And climate change isn`t the only issue Republicans are increasingly having a hard time coming up with any affirmative policy of their own.
I want to bring in two veteran reporters on Republicans, conservative movement and their policies, Jane Costin, who covers conservatism in the GOP as a senior politics reporter for Vox, and McKay Coppins, who is on the same beat as a staff writer for The Atlantic.
Jane, I`ll start with you, I think the Green New Deal attacks have been interesting, because there a lot of ridicule, but there is very little desire to substantively engage.
JANE COSTIN, VOX: Right, right. When you have Senator Mike Lee making the point that what needs to happen is more people need to have children in order to combat climate change, I think that that`s a particular challenge, but I think it does go back to the basic issue that the Republicans are having right now which is that they are acting as if they are not in power while in fact being in power.
And so obviously, you know, Republicans don`t have control of the House, but they do have control of the White House. And I think it`s interesting that the Green New Deal has not -- has being rejected, but there isn`t an effort by either in the Senate or in the House to say, OK, here is what we would propose doing.
You know, we`re seeing more and more Republicans agreeing that climate change is an issue, and that humans have been impacting climate change, but there is no real effort to come up with a policy solution because I think that for a lot of Republicans in congress, the idea of finding a policy solution at the government level is anathema.
HAYES: I think -- what you just said there, Jane, I think is a really smart point that they`re acting like the opposition party as opposed to the party in control.
And McKay, you know, I remember Newt Gingrich and the contract with America. I remember Tommy Thompson`s governorship in Wisconsin, even the Reagan administration. It was like we`ve got all these ideas, we`re going cut back the welfare state. We`re going to change the way government works. We`re going to do this, we`re going to do that. What does the Republican Party want to do? It`s just completely unclear what the actual affirmative agenda is.
MCKAY COPPINS, THE ATLANTIC: It`s strange. I read a news story today, and I`m not going to name the publication of the reporters, because it`s not necessarily their fault that there is so much ambiguity here, but it was about how President Trump had met with Senate Republicans at a private lunch today to discuss a sweeping ambitious new legislative agenda.
And it took until the fifth or sixth paragraph before it actually got at any of the policy items on the agenda. It basically amounted to a couple of trade deals, get a couple of nominees confirmed, and then a fairly far- fetched proposal to create a new Republican health care plan to replace Obamacare with, which I think they`ve already been down this road and it didn`t go so well.
I mean, it is actually quite strange how few new ideas we see coming out of the Republican Party at a time when they`re actually positioned to implement them.
HAYES: And Jane, I would say at a time when, you know, for the third year in a row, 2015, 2016, 2017, U.S. life expectancy declined for the first time since the flu pandemic in World War I. It`s been 100 years. Something is going on in the country. And you can imagine a Republican Party that felt a fidelity to the, quote, so-called Trump base, coming up with some ideas for something to do about that, and yet there just doesn`t seem to be much.
COSTIN: Right. And you`re starting to hear kind of ideas percolating, especially along with members of congress who are interested in conservative populism specifically. You`re starting to hear representatives talking about expanding Earned Income Tax Credits and just kind of taking on this idea of, like, OK, government should be involved in some means, but then again, you know, you also have -- they have to reckon with House Freedom Caucus. They have to reckon with the conservative members of their own party for whom the problem here is government intervention in the first place.
And so I think that there is a sense that, you know, a real difference of opinion in what is the government supposed to be doing. We are in charge of the government, what are we supposed to be doing? And they`re not really getting much leadership from the White House when the White House is saying we`re going to become the party of health care when that`s clearly not been the case over the last couple of years.
HAYES: And one of the things, McKay, is that the White House never actually called the shots on the two big domestic policy priorities, which was health care repeal and the tax cut, those were both things that President Marco Rubio would have pursued probably in that order. That was Paul Ryan and McConnell and the establishment, and sort of now that that`s done, you can feel this kind of nihilistic listlessness, aside from confirming nominees in the Senate, emanating from congressional Republicans.
COPPINS: Yeah, I mean, something Jane said is true, which is that from the very beginning, the Republican control of government has really been more like a coalitional government that you would see in British parliament where you had various factions with distinct ideologies that were working together sort of, especially on the tax cut, like you mentioned. But other than that, they just frankly disagreed on a lot of issues.
The one issue, the one area where the Trump administration has been quite successful is in appointing federal judges. And they`ve been moving at a rapid pace compared to past presidents. And this is in keeping with the Republican strategy that the party has been pursuing for decades, which they realized frankly earlier than a lot of Democrats and liberals that shaping the judiciary was a way to implement their agenda on social issues, regulatory issues, economic issues, and that`s where I think that you see a lot of the movement.
But even that is not really coming from President Trump, it`s being led by Mitch McConnell and a very kind of ambitious, aggressive way of confirming these nominees.
HAYES: Yeah, I`m reminded -- there`s a Grover Norquist line -- I think it was back in 2012 -- when he was trying to rally the faithful around Mitt Romney who -- and the said faithful were not particularly excited about Mitt Romney, that said all we need is someone with a hand to sign stuff, right. And like it`s sort of like that with the judges at this point.
Jane Costin and McCay Coppins, thanks so much for joining us.
COSTIN: Thanks for having me.
HAYES: 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