STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST: He was going nowhere for a year. Then he surged in Iowa, and he was the nominee a few weeks later. This Democratic race looks pretty simple right now. Maybe it`ll stay that way. But there`s still time for the candidates who dream of breaking out.
That is HARDBALL for now. "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes starts right now.
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CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Tonight on ALL IN.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): The President and Secretary of State are taking actions that prevent us from getting the facts needed to protect the nation`s security.
HAYES: The President stops the key witness from testifying.
SCHIFF: American people have the right to know if the President is acting in their interests.
HAYES: As the White House announces it will not comply with the impeachment inquiry.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The impeachment inquiry is a scam.
HAYES: Tonight, new reporting on why Donald Trump doesn`t want Gordon Sondland to talk.
GORDON SONDLAND, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO E.U.: I actually spoke with President Trump just a few minutes before you place the call.
HAYES: New reporting on the "crazy, frightening call that left a White House official who listened to the call visibly shaken. And what new evidence of growing support for the impeachment inquiry means for Democrats.
SCHIFF: We are determined to find the answers.
HAYES: All that and what happened at the Supreme Court today when the Trump administration argued that employers can discriminate against LGBT workers. When ALL IN starts right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Good evening from New York, I`m Chris Hayes. Well, here we are. The White House is now openly defying Congress`s power to investigate the President for high crimes and misdemeanors. Just tonight, White House Council sent an unhinge eight-page letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic House chairs investigating Trump.
It accuses them of violating the Constitution the rule of law by depriving Trump of his rights during a trial, even though to be clear, an impeachment trial is not what`s happening. It wouldn`t take place until much later in the Senate. And that`s not how any of this works.
The letter asserts, "President Trump cannot permit his administration to participate in this partisan inquiry under the circumstances. Of course, participation isn`t really optional. The Constitution is pretty planned on this. The House of Representatives shall have the sole power of impeachment.
This is the only latest instance to the President`s ever more grandiose assertions that he is fundamentally above the law. Earlier today, in a last-minute reversal, the State Department ordered a key witness a Trump appointee in the growing Ukraine scandal not to appear before Congress. There`s good reason to believe that witness is at the center of the entire scandal.
There`s already clear evidence of President Trump corruptly coercing an occupied country to manufacture dirt on his political opponent. So Congressional investigators don`t really need anything else, but there is good reasonably the Trump White House is still hiding a lot. And the key to what they`re hiding is a man that they would not let testify today.
His name is Gordon Sondland. He is the American ambassador of the European Union, and he has a close relationship with President Trump. In 2017, he gave $1 million to Trump`s inauguration committee anonymously through four LLC. And so it appears he got his job as a kind of thank you note.
Now, Sondland boasted an interview earlier this year that he was running U.S. foreign policy in Ukraine, even though there is no reason whatsoever for him to be running point on Ukraine.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SONDLAND: President Trump has not only honored me with the job of being the U.S. ambassador of the E.U., but he`s also given me other special assignments, including Ukraine as I mentioned previously. We have what are called the Three Amigos. And the Three Amigos are Secretary Perry, again Ambassador Volker, and myself. And we`ve been tasked with sort of overseeing the Ukraine-U.S. relationship.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: OK, again, he`s the ambassador of the E.U. Ukraine is not in the E.U. NBC News reports "Sondland is part of a small cadre of ambassadors who enjoy direct and frequent access to Trump," U.S. officials and others with knowledge of the relationship say. The two speak frequently by phone, have spoken extensively about Ukraine in the past.
So Sondland, a friend of the president ends up running point on Ukraine after we should know they remove the career ambassador who had the job of Ambassador of Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. Apparently, she was removed because she was an obstacle to the coercion play that Rudy Giuliani and the President were cooking up.
And the Washington reports that when others in the Trump administration tried to block Sondland`s naked power grab, "he rebuffed their demands to know who had granted him such authority with two words, the President.
Remember the chain of events at how intimately involved this guy Gordon Sondland is. He was the one texting with career foreign service officer Bill Taylor in those texts that were released last week. Remember, Taylor said to Gordon Sondland, "I think it`s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with the political campaign." And what we know is that Gordon Sondland waited five hours to respond.
Multiple news outlets are now reporting, during that period of time, he talked to Trump presumably to come up with the cover story before he responded in writing to the career foreign service guy calling him out for quid pro quo.
And here`s how Gordon Sondland response five hours later with a hilarious loaded up text. "The President has been crystal clear no quid pro quo is of any kind." He ends with this. "I suggest we stop the back and forth by text."
What we also know is that Sondland had already described what was happening to Republican Senator Ron Johnson as a quid pro quo. Gordon Sondland knew what was happening. He knew what he was tasked with doing.
He was the President`s guy implementing the President`s policy of corruptly coercing a foreign power. And that policy in Ukraine was to dig up dirt on the President`s political enemies. And Sondland worked with the President to come up the cover story.
Remember that lawyered up text, "The President has been crystal clear no quid pro quo is of any kind." And extend that to a career foreign service for posterity knowing full well that some investigator in some way was going to read it.
Now, just today, the president cited that very same text that Sondland presumably had cooked up with the President as an alibi for public consumption. Here`s the Presidents tweet. "Importantly, Ambassador Sondland`s tweet which few reporters stated, I believe you`re incorrect about President Trump`s intentions. The President has been crystal clear no quid pro quo is very sign -- kind. That says it all."
First of all, it was not a tweet. It was a text message. But here`s the other thing about Gordon Sondland. Gordon Sondland was planning to cooperate. Gordon Sondland flew in from Brussels. Gordon Sondland turned over text messages from his personal device, which I should know it includes a text using the encrypted messaging app, WhatsApp.
So God knows what`s in there, but he turned all those over the State Department. And now they are holding them in defiance of congressional subpoena. They`re willing to risk looking like they are engaged in an active cover-up just to not let this guy tell what he knows under oath.
And based on that, you, dear viewer can draw your own conclusions about what it is he does know. It`s worth noting there are already several smoking guns that have been produced with the whistleblower complaint which the White House released.
We have the notes from Trump`s call with the President of Ukraine which the White House chose to release, the call where Trump responded to the Ukrainian president saying he wants to buy American weapons by saying, "I would like you to do us a favor, though. And that was after Trump just complained about the relationship between the country saying, "The United States has been very, very good to Ukraine. I would not say that its reciprocal necessarily.
Every day brings us new reporting about the scope and also crucially about how freaked out people the White House where, the people were close to the call and close to the policy. Fox News, yes, that Fox News first reported that the whistleblower who tipped off Congress the scandal wrote a different memo the day after Trump`s call with the Ukrainian president.
According to that memo, a White House official that heard the entirety the phone call described it as and I`m quoting here, "crazy, frightening, and completely lacking in substance-related to national security." The New York Times added to that reporting, writing, "According to the memo, the White House official was visibly shaken by what had transpired."
In the official`s view, the President had clearly committed a criminal act by urging a foreign power in investigating a U.S. person for the purposes of advancing his own reelection bid in 2020. A criminal act, that`s a White House official. People in the White House saw that it wasn`t a perfect phone call. In fact, it was so far from perfect that a slew of people who had heard it were worried immediately the law had been broken.
Here within me now, one of the Washington Post reporters who has written about the U.S. relationship with Ukraine, two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Greg Miller who is also the author of The Apprentice: Trump, Russia and the Subversion of American Democracy. Greg, what have we learned about just how central Gordon Sondland was to this entire affair?
GREG MILLER, NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT, WASHINGTON POST: You know, he is -- he shows up over and over in this chronology here as you just laid out. I mean, he goes out of his way to put himself there. I mean, he is basically really trying to impress the President.
He donates $1 million, as you noted, through hidden channels to the Inaugural Committee so that he can get a position like this in government. And then as people in the White House told us, even though he`s ambassador to the E.U., he is shuttling back to Washington with such frequency seeking face time with the president that they start joking that he`s more of the ambassador to the West Wing than to Brussels.
And I mean, in his own words, right, in his own texts, he is placing himself in charge of this relationship with Ukraine, pursuing this transaction that the President wanted. And I think probably being the most energetic person outside of Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani in the pursuit of that objective.
HAYES: There`s two moments where we know that Gordon Sondland talks to the president once by his own admission, and once by reporting. The first is right before the call is placed, presumably briefing him and the other right before he responds to that incredibly, you know, whistleblowing text that what you guys are doing is an illegal quid pro quo basically in effect with that very lawyer up text. That suggests to me that he and Trump are coordinating at some point.
MILLER: Yes. And you would think that in that sort of position, if you -- if you were watching the events in this White House over the past couple of years, you might be inclined to consult with somebody besides Donald Trump, if you`re trying to cover tracks on something like this. You know, it just sort of backfires in a -- in a very big way.
He does have a close relationship with the President. It`s something that he worked assiduously to develop. And in this case -- right, I mean, he is -- he is interacting with the president at very crucial moments in that timeline.
HAYES: What happened today? I mean, it seems that this took the House investigative committees by surprise. It took House Republicans according to reporting by surprise. They were apparently negotiating into the night. What happened today?
MILLER: You know, it`s hard to -- it`s hard to say. I mean, we had Ambassador Volker who was also on those texts exchanges rushing in to be the first in line to meet with the committee last week and to get his testimony in.
But he quit his government job to do that. And we saw markers laid down by the Trump administration last week, in particular, Secretary of State Pompeo basically say, indicating very clearly that there would not be cooperation with this inquiry.
And so I`m not sure why it was such a surprise that Sondland was blocked from testifying today. I think it would have been to some people more surprising if he had been allowed to proceed.
HAYES: Although we should note that he was -- I think he`d fly back from Brussels. I mean, there was an anticipation among some at least I think among -- including Mr. Sondland that he was set to. He wouldn`t have flown back otherwise.
MILLER: And he also -- there was also an important distinction between his testimony and Ambassador Volker`s and that Volker brought all of his documents with him. He turned over all those WhatsApp messages to the committee, in addition to the State Department. Sondland didn`t do that.
Sondland turns them over to state. And so those are things that are the committee desperately wants to get at as well, that it will now have to fight for. And that letter that from the White House today, the communication from Secretary of State Pompeo suggest this is going to be a brutal fight.
HAYES: Yes. I mean, it seems pretty clear that Gordon Sondland knows a lot about what happens and that there`s a bunch of evidence about what happened sitting in the State Department, which is now sitting on them and not allowing Congress to see them. Greg Miller, thank you very much.
I like to turn out to two people who have seen how the national security apparatus and diplomatic apparatus work from the inside. Matt Miller, former Chief Spokesperson at the Department Justice and an MSNBC Justice and National Security Analyst, and Ambassador Nancy Soderberg former White House Deputy National Security Advisor and alternate representative to the United Nations.
Nancy, let me start with you. When I first started to see this story, I thought to myself, I must be missing something. Why is the ambassador of the E.U. the one who`s in the middle of this? Ukraine is not in the E.U. But the more I`m learning, the more it seems like it had nothing to do with his portfolio and everything to do with his relations for President. Is this a strange setup from your perspective?
NANCY SODERBERG, FORMER DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER, WHITE HOUSE: It`s very strange. I`ve worked with a lot of political appointees. I was one. And Ambassador Sondland was new to the game, got sucked into the awe of being in the President`s orbit. And Trump was pretty good about picking out this is someone who could get to do his bidding.
So the President`s got the authority to tell him to do whatever he wants and he will at any appointee who works for the President. And the president choose -- chose to have him take over the Ukraine portfolio because he knew he would do what he wanted.
And the fact that he didn`t testify today, frankly, was not a surprise to me. I was done that they got as far to the end before they pulled the plug. And it just shows you what the chaos is going on here. But I think it`s important for your listeners to see what the real story is.
We know what happened. We have the text messages. We have the president`s admission. We know the President asked the Ukrainians to investigate a debunk theory about e-mails and to investigate Biden and held up the aid to do so. We know that, and that`s enough to move forward on an impeachment effort.
But they`re also trying to figure out what else happened. Is taxpayer money being used to have Giuliani and all these other lawyers flying around? Who actually held up the aid? What was told for the rationale for the military?
And I also think the three amigos that we heard about earlier on the show, they`re all going to have to lawyer up and ultimately will be casualties of this administration and resigned. Gordon Sondland cannot continue in his job as the Ambassador. Rick Perry is on his way out the door and Volker has already resigned. And everyone who`s caught up in this web is going to have to lawyer up and eventually resign. They cannot do their job.
And the president doesn`t care. He`ll find someone else to do the bidding. But the truth will come out. They cannot -- they -- what the president doesn`t understand is the Congress is a co-equal branch of government, and he can delay and execute and attack but ultimately, this is not like running his business. It`s a co-equal branch of government and he`s going to lose this fight in terms of access to information.
HAYES: Do you -- Matt, do you agree with that, that the truth will come out?
MATT MILLER, MSNBC JUSTICE AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think it will mostly come out. I don`t think it`s going to come out through the subpoena process or because of the House requesting documents, at least not through any official channels with the White House.
I think the White House has made the decision that, you know, the political costs of obstructing this investigation, the political cost of executing a cover-up is lower than the cost of turning over information that would reveal --
HAYES: That`s right. Yes.
M. MILLER: Right, that would reveal what actually happened.
HAYES: Well, we should say that, you know, the one -- they have one day, one news cycle of one guy that goes in Kurt Volker, and it`s massively, massively incriminating.
M. MILLER: Yes. You get evidence of a direct quid pro quo where the -- where the Ukrainians were told, if you want the meeting with the President, you need to open these investigations. So I think the White House is never -- you know, I think the -- Greg Miller was right.
If a week ago, the White House had said that, you know, they weren`t going to let Sondland testify or the State Department said, no one would be surprised. The thing that was surprising was the way it happened today, because, as you noted, he flew to the United States, he hired a private attorney, he had been prepping for testimony.
And the fact that he decided not to -- that the White House pulled his testimony at the last minute tells me that something in the prep process told him that they had a problem. Either he was going to have to talk about his conversations with the President, and those were incriminating, or his conversations with Giuliani or Mick Mulvaney.
And I think the White House is going to make that, you know, decision over and over again, and what`s going to happen. The truth, if it comes out, it will come out because of whistleblowers, or people like Kurt Volker, who decide that, you know, my career and my, you know, ongoing viability, my ability to work again in Washington or professional life is more important to me than going down with the ship with the White House.
SODERBERG: I think it`s important for the press, the Congress, those who care about the national security of our country also to push away the smoke that the President keeps throwing up about what`s happening and look at what`s really happening.
We know what happened in Ukraine. We don`t really need a lot more investigation on that. But look at what else is happening. My guess is it had less to do with what Sondland was going to say, than more to do about this letter. They decided they were not going to cooperate at all, therefore, no one`s going to testify.
But look at what`s happening in the rest of the world. We have this crisis with the Kurds where we learned today that the President has on his own decision with no consultation from the rest of his government invited President Erdogan on the verge and perhaps after he`s slaughtered Kurds, who are our allies, and helped us defeat ISIS in Syria.
I mean, constantly you have one man just making his own decisions without involving his core national security team. And that`s what happened in Ukraine. And that`s why Sondland was brought into this because he`s outside the norms, why Giuliani is flying around Europe.
He doesn`t want to work within the system. He had the extraordinary state where Senator Johnson on Sunday morning talk show says he doesn`t trust her own FBI and the CIA. If there`s something there, those are the professionals that should be investigating this, and it`s just going to be crisis of chaos. It`s not going to end well for any of the parties that are participating in that.
HAYES: Finally, Matt, do you think all these people are ultimately going to have to layer up?
M. MILLER: Without a doubt.
SODERBERG: They already have.
M. MILLER: I mean, somebody -- some of them will have -- they obviously have access to attorneys that are provided them by the administration. But I think ultimately, this is the decision I was talking about a minute ago. If you`re someone who`s been subpoenaed by the House and who`s seen, you know, some of -- you know, seeing yourself implicated by -- through leaks to the media or from testimony that other witnesses give, eventually, you have to decide. Am I going to take advice from lawyers at the Justice Department, lawyers at the State Department who have the President`s interests at heart, or am I going to get my own attorney and have -- who has my interests at heart? I know if I were in that position what -- you know, what choice --
SODERBERG: I was in that position and the lawyers -- I have been through that in some of the 1996 and investigations. The lawyers and the government advise you to hire your own lawyer because they can`t represent you. Every one of these are going to have to buy their -- hire their own lawyer.
HAYES: Boom times for the law firm firms on K Street. Matt Miller and Nancy Soderberg, thank you for sharing your time. Next, the Trump administration argues they`re basically above the law and the process makes it make a case so flat out bananas that even the judge needed to take a beat. What they said in two minutes.
HAYES: Of all the days for Donald Trump`s Department of Justice, to walk into court and basically argue that the Watergate cover-up should have been allowed to happen, today was the day they chose to do that, the very same day that the White House notified the House that the Trump administration will not participate in Democrats` "illegitimate impeachment probe.
Today, the DOJ was in court fighting over the grand jury material from Robert Mueller`s investigation. Remember, that`s a bunch of stuff that was redacted in the Mueller report along with additional materials presented to the grand jury. And what the DOJ argued for today made the judge sitting in the courtroom do a double-take.
Here`s what happened. House Democrats said that the grand jury materials from the court should be handed over Congress in the same way they were in 1974 during Watergate. Now, one argument the DOJ could make in response to that is just to say these are different situations. That is not the argument they made.
The argument that William Barr`s Justice Department made instead was effectively that the courts got it wrong in 1974, that the Watergate materials should have been allowed to stay out of the hands of Congress. And who knows how history would have turned out.
The A.P. reported, that argument "briefly left Judge Beryl Howell in silence." Here`s how the judge responded when they made that argument. "Wow, OK. As I said, the department is taking extraordinary positions in this case." It is just yet another example of judges being genuinely shocked by arguments this administration is making court, arguments that they are basically completely above the law.
I`m joined now by the former Acting Solicitor General, now MSNBC Legal Analyst, Neal Katyal. Neal, did you have the OK, wow, response to the DOJ`s argument?
NEAL KATYAL, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: I think it was way past that. I mean, honestly, Chris, when I teach constitutional law, we use this Nixon oral argument back in 1974, as an example of a preposterous legal argument, like it`s up there with like Korematsu and stuff like that.
And to have our Justice Department lawyer say that he`s trying to reinvigorate that, and that decision from 1974 is wrong, is just so laughable. I mean, it`s a constitutional monstrosity. And I think Chris, you`re exactly right to put the argument today about the grand jury and Mueller in with the other things that we`ve just learned in the last 24 hours, like they won`t cooperate at all with impeachment inquiry, because they self-deem it a legitimate, and all of this -- you know, all the not letting Ambassador Sondland testify and the like.
And altogether, you know, I know there`s a lot of stuff about Russia, and Mueller, and Ukraine, and Sondland, and this, and that, but at bottom, this is all just one simple, impeachable offense. It`s called obstruct of justice. It`s not turning over material to Congress. And pointedly it`s both article one and article three of the Nixon impeachment. That`s exactly what it was about.
And indeed, when Clinton was being impeached, there was a guy named Lindsey Graham, who took to the floor of the House and this is on my Twitter now, and says, that is an impeachable offense if you don`t turn material over to Congress. That`s exactly what the White House did today.
HAYES: Yes. Here`s the -- I want to play that bit. This is Lindsey Graham who was one of the House managers of impeachment, basically making the argument that Nixon kind of signed his own political death when he refused to hand document over to Congress. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): Article three of impeachment against Richard Nixon, the article was based on the idea that Richard Nixon as president failed to comply with subpoenas of Congress. Congress was going through his oversight function to provide oversight of the president.
The day Richard Nixon failed to answer that subpoena is the day that he was subject of impeachment because he took the power from Congress over the impeachment process away from Congress, and he became the judge and jury.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: So speaking of became the judge and jury, Pat Cipollone, the White House Council writes this eight-page letter today where basically he says - - I mean, it`s mostly political documents that we shouldn`t -- I don`t think take it that seriously as legal argumentation, but essentially like we have deemed everything you`re doing a legitimate because we have deemed it so and ergo we won`t cooperate. What is the meaning of this document?
KATYAL: None legally. I mean, it is -- it`s laughable. Maybe politically it has some benefit but I`m not even sure of that. Because, you know, I never thought it`d be saying this, at least up until recent days, but Lindsey Graham was right.
So Lindsey Graham identifies the core kind of constitutional sin which is, you know, taking a coordinate branch of government charged with the most solemn function imaginable, impeachment, and saying, no, I`m not even going to bother turning over information. That is a quintessential impeachable offense to Graham, and he`s right about that.
And so, you know, it does kind of further this, you know, truth, which is I think Trump wants to be impeached in a way. I mean, he doesn`t have a domestic agenda. His foreign policy is in shambles as the whole Kurd example shows. So at least on impeachment, there`s something to talk about, and some things for him to run against.
But, you know, in this document, this eight-page memo, I think, can only be explained as please impeach me because I got nothing else going on.
HAYES: Well, and there`s also the fact that -- I also think it seems likely to me that they`re making a calculation about what would be further revealed if they furnished documents. I mean, they furnished the call notes and the whistleblower complaint which were massively incriminating. One person testified for one day and turned over documents, which are massively incriminating.
It seems to me they`ve now decided we`re just going to stop doing that because it`s not going to be good.
KATYAL: 100 percent agree. I mean, something and I think Matt Miller just said this, something must have happened in the prep sessions that made them think, Oh, my God, he`s not going to come in, even though he`s our Million Dollar Man and he`s given us all this money in our inauguration. He`s not going to totally take our side and exonerate us.
And this is all against the backdrop of hugely incriminating evidence. I mean, you don`t need this. If you`re a House prosecutor or if you`re in the senate trying this case, I mean, there is so much damning evidence from the President`s own people themselves. So it`s not like you got to go and read some Mueller report or something like that. It`s all there in black and white. The President sold out our foreign policy interest to benefit his campaign.
HAYES: Neal Katyal, thank you so much for being with me tonight.
KATYAL: Thank you.
HAYES: Still ahead, new polling shows an increasing number of American support to the impeachment inquiry. What that means for Democrats leading the charge after this.
HAYES: Despite the best efforts of Donald Trump and the White House, polls are showing support among the American people for impeachment and an impeachment inquiry is growing. According to new polling out today from The Washington Post and the Schar School, a startling 58 percent of Americans say the House was correct in opening an impeachment inquiry, 49 percent say Trump should be impeached and removed.
And that`s not just on the left, nearly 30 percent of Republicans support the impeachment inquiry, as do 57 percent of independents.
Also today, new polling from NBC and Wall Street Journal and Quinnipiac as well, show a plurality of the public still opposing removal from office, which is the most extreme position at this point, but even those numbers are moving in the wrong direction for Trump. In the Quinnipiac poll, only 34 percent of respondents say they approved of the way that Trump has handled the impeachment inquiry.
All in all, as FiveThirtyEight`s Michah Cohen points out, support for impeachment in their polling average is now 4.5 percentage points up after being under water for a long time.
So what does all this mean for the very rapidly changing political calculations of both parties? Joining me now to to discuss, Donna Edwards, former Democratic congresswoman from Maryland; and Rick Wilson, Republican strategist and columnist for The Daily Beast.
Donna, let me start with you. I mean, obviously the political considerations of this have hung over it all the time. It`s fundamentally a political process, and it`s not weird or wrong to make -- for folks in the House to be thinking about the politics. I`ve got to think that Nancy Pelosi, House leadership and front line Democrats are feeling some relief from the polling they`re seeing this week.
DONNA EDWARDS, (D) FORMER CONGRESSWOMAN: Well, I think that they are, but I think it was really in my view very predictable that once the House leadership, in particular Speaker Pelosi, put herself out there and explained to the American people what was going on and also obviously the Ukraine story helped that tremendously, that people would begin to come on board, and I think that you can see that. And I think the stronger case that Democrats make in a very sort of, you know, studied way, you know, not rushing into it, that the American people will come on board even more.
And so I think the politics get better for Democrats, but it`s not going to be easy. The president, on the other hand, with his stonewalling as you`ve just described, actually is going to make it harder for him because he`s going to have to go out there and make the case to the American people that he doesn`t have anything to hide while he`s hiding things.
HAYES: You know, Rick, I saw someone make the point today that the reason Republicans are trying to press Nancy Pelosi for a vote now is that they think the politics of this will get worse the longer it goes, and the vote margin now, if they can sort of lock in an impeachment vote inquiry now it would look better for them than down the road. What do you think of that?
RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Look, a dead fish never smells better a week later. It`s going to get worse. It`s going to get more political consequences as time goes by. And so that`s why they`re rushing to try to say bring it to the floor, bring an impeachment vote, do it now.
These guys recognize also that Donald Trump is the greatest advocate and argument for impeachment. He keeps doing things in broad daylight that are impeachable. They keep doing things to obstruct congress. They keep doing things to reveal the depths of his malfeasance on these foreign calls.
And so none of the Republicans right now that are bravely pounding their chests and saying do it now, do it now, really want it to happen at, but they`d rather try to tear the Band-Aid off sooner and pop this bubble of anticipation. And if the Democrats are smart, which is always an open question when it comes to these kind of hardball maneuverings, they`ll delay this, they`ll stretch this. They`ll get evidence into the record. They`ll begin to move the public dialog.
Look, the reason these numbers are moving in the polling, and if you look at all these poll the numbers have moved with independents and soft Republicans. Democrats had already made up their minds. Independents and soft Republicans are moving toward impeach, toward the investigation, very quickly. And so these guys would like to stem that tide as quick as they could, but I don`t think they`re going to get their wish on this one, especially because Donald Trump will keep making the case that he`s a president who likes to continue to obstruct justice and do things in office that should be -- justify his expulsion.
HAYES: Well, you know, that point, Donna -- you know, I think there`s some worry. And I think there`s lingering worry about Democrats about, you know, when 2020 comes they want to run on a substantive agenda, they want to run on drug prices and protecting access to affordable health care and things like that, and I get that, but on the flip side I think if you talk to -- even in my interview with Ted Cruz last week, president`s defenders are people that are sort of so-so on the president, everyone hates the tweets, everyone hates the outbursts, everyone hates the tone -- I mean, accept for the hardest of hardcore base -- and it strikes me that this impeachment inquiry is just bringing more of that out of Donald Trump than even normal. What do you think, Donna?
EDWARDS: Well, I think it is. But here is where Republicans go wrong, I mean the fact is that they don`t want to vote right now, because many of their members will have to take that hard vote as well. And what I see is Democrats doing the right thing. Don`t let the executive branch call the rules for the legislative branch. I think that`s really important here and Democrats need to stick to that.
HAYES: All right, final question to you, Rick, here. The president`s biggest -- the one thing he wants to get done this year, and could possibly get done, is the renegotiated NAFTA 2.0. Congress would have to pass that in the House.
Richard Neal, the chair of the weighs and means committee, which is being obstructed in its inquiry to the president`s tax returns, was (inaudible) Mexico for a delegation to talk about this. Nancy Pelosi is talking about bringing to a vote before Thanksgiving. Merits aside, am I crazy that Mitch McConnell wouldn`t do that in a million years if the shoe were on the other foot?
WILSON: If the shoe were on the other foot, Mitch McConnell would freeze that place like Antarctica. There will never -- I mean, look, the Democrats are out of their minds if they think they`re going to accomplish anything politically beneficial by passing an infrastructure bill or a trade bill, none of that matters. All elections are a referendum on the incumbent. This is a referendum on Donald Trump. This is not going to be about drug prices or infrastructure or anything else.
HAYES: All right, Donna Edwards and Rick Wilson, thank you both so much. Still ahead, the Trump administration today went before the Supreme Court arguing it is legal to fire workers for being LGBT. I`ll talk to an ACLU lawyer who argued -- helped argue against them today coming up.
And the desperate flailing to defend President Trump in tonight`s Thing One, Thing Two next.
HAYES: Thing One tonight, as Republicans try their best to defend the indefensible behavior of Donald Trump, the talking points have come to a strange and rather sad place: reducing once proud U.S. senators to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: Salem witch trials have more due process than this. How do you know she`s a witch? Somebody told me she`s a witch. How do you know she`s a witch? I read articles thinking she might be a witch.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: See, it`s a witch hunt but not a fair one like the Salem witch trials.
We don`t know if Lindsey Graham got his talking points straight from Rudy Giuliani`s envelope of wacky ideas or the other way around, but this is the argument Rudy tweeted, quote, "even Salem witch trials don`t use anonymous testimony. The accused had to be confronted by a witness willing to put their name and reputation behind the charges and then had to be available for cross-examination."
This was the moment we relearned that our friend Josh Marshal happens to be something of an expert on the subject. He responded, "the Salem witch trials allowed the testimony of the spirits of the accused, you so crazy your making my PhD relevant."
Oh, Josh has a PhD in witch hunts, and you just got taken to school, bro.
Not to be outdone, Congressman Matt Gaetz stepped into the fray and he`s gotten an associates degree in wracking himself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MATT GAETZ, (R) FLORIDA: What we see in this impeachment is a kangaroo court and Chairman Schiff is acting like a malicious Captain Kangaroo.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: A malicious Captain Kangaroo is Thing Two in 60 seconds.
HAYES: Today, the shameless Trump defenders caucus gathered in a dimly lit corner of the Capitol and really laid it on thick for the boss man.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JIM JORDAN, (R) OHIO: When you have a speaker of the house who says we need to strike while the iron`s hot, when you have a chairman of the committee who is so biased against this president...
REP. LEE ZELDIN, (R) NEW YORK: This whole thing is fairytale. Adam Schiff is misleading you. And you`re playing along with it.
If they don`t want to send Ambassador Sondland here because this is a kangaroo court, this entire thing is a political charade. It is a clown show.
GAETZ: What we see in this impeachment is a kangaroo court and Chairman Schiff is acting like a malicious Captain Kangaroo.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: And that moment there is why Captain Kangaroo is trending on Twitter all day. It was the congressman from Florida getting roasted, because apparently he thinks the term kangaroo court came from beloved Captain Kangaroo children`s television show that ran from the 1950s to the 1980s.
Even the comedy duo of Democratic Senators Chris Murphy and Brian Schatz got in on the act. Senator Murphy: Hey, Brian Schatz, I will buy you lunch next week if you somehow work malicious Captain Kangaroo into your next floor speech.
Senator Schatz responds: I don`t do quid pro quo, Murph. Call me.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOB KEESHAN, ACTOR, CAPTAIN KANGAROO: What`s this nonsense about you running for president?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, it`s a free country, why can`t a moose be president?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: The president today is desperately trying to spin his abject capitulation to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Syria policy by announcing that Erdogan is now coming to D.C., to the White House. 48 hours after a sudden announcement the United States would basically allow Turkey to push into Syria and clear out Kurdish fighters, the Kurdish allies of the United States who fought ISIS, it`s still totally unclear what U.S. policy is.
We`re getting wildly mixed signals even as Reuters reports that a an aid to the Turkish president says the Turkish military is right now about to cross the border with Syria. Back at home, President Trump is facing enormous bipartisan backlash from congress.
But it`s also the case that Trump has had an Erdogan soft spot for awhile, as is so often the case when it comes to the president and illiberal strongmen.
Here`s Ivanka back in 2012 tweeting thanks to then Prime Minister Erdogan for helping launch Trump Towers Istanbul. And Trump himself when he was running for president admitted he had a conflict of interest when it came to Turkey because of his business interests there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I also have -- I have a little bit of conflict of interest because I have a major, major building in Istanbul. And it`s a tremendously successful job, it`s called Trump Towers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: To be clear, the president has not divested from his business interests and presumably continues to profit from them and continues to have a conflict.
And to top it all off, here`s what happened the last time Erdogan came to the White House: his besuited thugs beat protesters in the streets just blocks away as Erdogan got out of his car and watched the violence.
By the way, those protesters, those are Kurdish protesters, the same ethnic group Erdogan is dead set on making sure do not get a stronghold along northeastern Syria, the same group that Erdogan`s military is now going to wage a violent campaign against.
And even though the Kurds fought alongside the U.S. against ISIS, Trump is supporting Erdogan instead, which tells you a lot about exactly what kind of person and president Donald Trump is.
HAYES: Today, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in what is likely to be one of the most sequential and most-watched cases of the term. Question, does federal civil rights law allow employers to fire people solely for the infraction of being gay, lesbian, or transgender?
Now, it is clearly against the law to fire someone because of their gender. Title VII of the civil rights act made that illegal. You can`t, for instance, tell a high school history teacher he is fired because of a man or tell a female hospital administrator, thank you very much for your service, but we want a man in this job. Can`t do it.
Right now it is an open question as to whether you can do that to gay, lesbian, and transfolks. Today in oral arguments, the ACLU and others, on behalf of the several clients fired explicitly for their orientation or gender identity, argued that protections against sex discrimination also must logically include protections from LGBT discrimination.
And on the other side of that argument, well, the Trump Department of Justice arguing that federal law says it`s completely fine to fire people because they`re gay, lesbian, or transgender, that federal law just doesn`t have anything to say about it.
Joining me now to talk about what this means for the Supreme Court that is quite different from the one that legalized same-sex marriage four years ago, Ria Tabacco Mar, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU`s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and HIV project, and who is on the team that presented oral arguments today. It`s good to have you here.
RIA TABACCO MAR, ACLU: Thanks for having me, Chris.
HAYES: All right, maybe start with, you represent one of the plaintiffs, Amy Stevens. Tell us her story as a way of setting up what the question is here.
MAR: Sure. So, Amy Stevens was a valued employee. She worked for six years as a funeral director and an embalmer at a funeral home in Michigan. After that time, Amy realized, she could no longer hide who she was. She had known since she was a young girl that she`s a woman and she spent many months carefully crafting a letter to her boss that she is, in fact, a transgender woman and she would be returning to work after vacation as her true self, Amy.
And when her boss received that letter, two weeks later she was fired, told your services are no longer needed. The reason: the fact that Amy, an employee he had believed to be a man, was in fact a transgender woman.
HAYES: The government`s argument today before the court and up through appellate is that that`s fine, that whatever you think about it personally, that like federal civil rights law, and particularly protections against sex discrimination at work, simply don`t apply to Amy or don`t apply to folks that tell their bosses they`re gay or lesbian and get fired for it.
MAR: That`s exactly right. And I think the Trump administration`s position in this case is so shocking for a number of reasons. The first of it is that the federal government actually filed Amy`s case under the Obama administration. It was the federal government that filed this lawsuit on Amy`s behalf. Now the Trump administration, switching sides and throwing Amy under the bus...
HAYES: So DOJ was on -- was filing the lawsuit on Amy`s behalf, saying that the federal law doesn`t allow you to do this, and then Trump came in and switched the sides of the DOJ?
MAR: Exactly. So, the DOJ and the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, which was the agency that originally filed, but DOJ was right there with them, agreed that Title VII protects workers who are fired simply because they`re transgender. Now they`ve switched sides, essentially making a series of arguments that I think did not work very well today.
So their first argument is essentially, it`s fine if we fire transgender women, as long as we also fire transgender men. Somehow they said...
HAYES: Right, this is their equality -- the equality idea is that like you can`t discriminate, but you can fire them all.
MAR: Yes, exactly. I think, you know, any kinderg„rtner can tell you two wrongs don`t make a right, but there`s also a reason this doesn`t work is a matter of law, and that`s because if you think about what it means to be transgender, it`s inherently based on the person`s sex. The very definition of what it is to be transgender is someone whose gender identity is different from the sex they were assigned at birth. So, it`s just impossible to fire someone for being transgender without taking into account their sex.
One of the very qualities that congress said in 1964 should wholly irrelevant to our opportunity to succeed at work.
HAYES: There`s a case in 1989, I think, with Price Waterhouse Cooper, which is a really interesting case, in which essentially I think a female employee is told to like femme it up, basically like, you should wear lipstick and skirts and like act more feminine or you`ll be fired. And she takes that all the way to the Supreme Court. And what does the Supreme Court say about that back in `89?
MAR: So in `89, I mean, you`re sort of pantomiming it up, but in fact the actual words told to Ann Hopkins -- she was told to walk more femininely, talk more femininely, have her hair styled, wear makeup and take a course in charm school, which is unthinkable today that an employer would actually take that argument to court and say, hey, what we did here is perfectly fine.
HAYES: And allowed by federal law and Title VII.
MAR: And the employer`s argument in that case was, look, it wasn`t the fact that Ann Hopkins was a woman, she was essentially she was the wrong kind of woman, right, it`s not her sex, it`s these other traits. And what the Supreme Court said in 1989 is those traits go to the very heart of our expectations about what it is to be a woman.
If we can be fired for not being the right kind of woman, then our protections against sex discrimination really are meaningless.
HAYES: What do you say to people that say, OK, this is what`s called a statutory interpretation case, because what you`re arguing over what the meaning of the federal law, the Civil Rights Act, Title VII means.
People say, look, I`m with you on this, but you should just pass legislative protection. Like, you can add into Title VII, you can just add gay, lesbian, and transgender into the law.
MAR: Yeah, so that`s really the Trump administration`s second argument. And I think the answer there is, right, congress has already prohibited this form of discrimination, because when you look at the words of the statute, just the words of the statute, because of such individual`s sex, it`s impossible to describe what happened to Amy without taking into account her sex.
HAYES: It makes no sense, otherwise.
MAR: Exactly. And the Trump administration is essentially trying to go outside the words of the statute and say, hey, let`s think about what congress was doing in 1964. And the response to that is, right, we don`t try to read congress` mind. We look at the law that congress actually passed and the words they used.
HAYES: Final question, how big are the stakes for gay, lesbian, and transgender employees and workers in this country?
MAR: The stakes could got be higher. This goes to our very freedom to work, to support our families, to keep a roof over our head.
One in four LGBTQ workers say they have experienced discrimination at work in the last year alone. So this goes to the very heart of what it means to live and work in this country.
HAYES: All right, Ria Tabacco Mar, well you made a very good case here. I wish I was at the Supreme Court. It`s good to have you.
MAR: Thanks for having me.
HAYES: If you want to learn more about this case, we did an hour-long deep dive with Chase Strangio (ph) on our podcast Why is This Happening? He`s a member of the same ACLU legal team, provide some amazing insight into this moment. I can`t recommend it enough.
We also have a new episode out today with Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor about her research into the public and private forces at work that destroyed black home ownership in the 1970s.
And don`t forget you west coast fans, come join us for a live recording of WITHpod Monday October 21, in Los Angeles. If you`re thinking, yeah, I`m down, but I`ll wait to buy tickets until it`s closer, that time is now. They`re going fast, so get tickets at msnbc.com/withpodtour.
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