What all this means. TRANSCRIPT: 12/19/19, All In w/ Chris Hayes.

Guests: Hakeem Jeffries, Richard Blumenthal, Elizabeth Holtzman, RickWilson, Barbara Boxer

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  Think about it.  Trump can say the Republican Party is united behind him, but not one Republican member truly defended him morally.  And that`s HARDBALL for now.  Thanks for being with us.  "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes starts right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST:  Tonight on ALL IN.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA):  On this vote, the yays are 230.  Article One is adopted.

HAYES:  A distress president faces the reality of impeachment/

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  What does it feel like to be the third president in U.S. history to be impeached?

HAYES:  As Democrats plot their next move.

PELOSI:  It seems like people have a spring in their step because the President was held accountable for his reckless behavior.

HAYES:  Tonight, the mounting pressure to prevent a McConnell cover-up of Trump crime.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY):  We must get the truth.  And Leader McConnell is hiding the truth.

HAYES:  What the impeachment of Donald Trump means for the rule of law in America.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC):  I just left President Trump.  He`s mad as hell that they would do this to him.

HAYES:  Plus, DNC Chair Tom Perez on what impeachment means for 2020, how a court ruling undermining ObamaCare just became an election year time bomb, and understanding how Trump operates by way of his latest depraved attack on a deceased Congressman.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I gave him everything.  That`s OK.

HAYES:  When ALL IN starts right now.

TRUMP:  I don`t want anything for it.  I don`t need anything for anything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES:  Good evening from New York, I`m Chris Hayes.  President Donald Trump has yet another mark on him that he can never ever, ever undo.  The House of Representatives decided to use all the most extraordinary constitutional remedies at their disposal, impeachment, making President Donald J. Trump just the third president in all of American history to wear that shameful mark.

The reason President Trump was impeached for Article One, abuse of power, is because he tried very hard to extort a foreign nation into interfering in American elections.  He tried to get them to instigate a criminal investigation in a country with notoriously corrupt prosecutors to go after an American citizen, violating not just the sanctity of American elections for all of us, the sanctity of protecting them from foreign interference, but also the President`s basic fundamental duty to stand up for the Americans he represents.

The second article Trump was impeached for is obstruction of Congress.  And that`s because his posture towards the impeachment inquiry and Congressional oversight, in general, is shown by far the most blanket defiance of any president in history.

As the Democrats laid out in the articles themselves, President Trump "without lawful cause or excuse, directed executive branch agencies, offices, and officials not to comply with those subpoenas.  In the history of the Republic, no president has ever ordered the complete defiance of an impeachment inquiry or sought to obstruct and impede so comprehensively the ability of the House of Representatives to investigate high crimes and misdemeanors."

There are still numerous people that Democrats in the Senate would like to hear from actually who`ve been blocked by the president.  People the president doesn`t want you to hear from and we`ll talk about whether they`ll get to hear -- we`ll get to hear from them in just a bit.  But normally, the Articles of Impeachment would go to the Senate now in preparation for the President`s actual trial.

The Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi in a -- in an interesting bit of strategic gamesmanship is not sending them over.  In fact, she said last night, she`s waiting to see what the trial in the Senate looks like before handing over the reins.

Now, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has come out and said he doesn`t care one way or the other.  In fact, he said frankly, he`d like not to have a trial at all.  But it is clear not having the catharsis of an exoneration in the Senate is not going to sit well with the President.  Here`s what Senator Lindsey Graham said on Trump T.V. earlier tonight.

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GRAHAM:  I just lift President Trump.  He`s mad as hell that they would do this to him and now deny him his day in court.  The reason they`re denying his day -- him his day in court is they know their case sucks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES:  The President is mad.  So the President is clearly not in a good place.  He`s well aware of what being impeached means for his legacy.  Of course, you want to get a sense of how Trump, a person who`s incapable speaking truthfully about his own inner state feels about this.  This is what he hypothesized President Obama would feel were he to be impeached back in 2014.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  Do you think Obama seriously wants to be impeached and go through what Bill Clinton did?  He would be a mess.  He would be thinking about nothing but it would be a horror show for him.  It would be an absolute embarrassment.  It would go down on his record permanently.  But this thing oh, he`d love to be impeached, oh, it would be so good.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES:  It would go down in his record permanently.  He would be embarrassed.  It would be a horror show for him, Donald Trump said.  One big argument Republicans have made in defense the president, they made it for hours and hours yesterday, and this is to the extent they`ve made an argument, few of course in good faith is that this impeachment was all essentially pre-determined that the crime was pre-textual.  The Democrats were always going to vote to impeach President Trump.

And I have to say, as someone who has covered this story from the first day of this Congress, night in night out, I`ve talked to dozens upon dozens of members of Congress, I`ve talked to their staff, I can tell you, the House leadership did not want to impeach the president.  They did not want to get to this point.

The Democrats have faced the question of what to do about the President`s unconstitutional actions and tendencies since the day he took office, and certainly since the day they want a House majority.  And they did everything in their power all year to avoid it even though there have been voices pushing for impeachment from nearly the moment the President took office because of his behavior.

House leadership led by Nancy Pelosi resisted those calls in the grassroots, and from many of their voters, and many of their caucus until they couldn`t resist no more, until the facts came to light about the president misusing his office to extort a foreign nation into interfering in the next election.

We`d learned that from the notes of President Trump`s phone call with Ukrainian president.  When the Ukrainian president said he wanted to buy more American weapons to defend against Russian aggression, President Trump infamously responded, "I would like you to do us a favor though."

That was what changed things.  The facts change things.  The President`s actions change things.  That`s what brought us to this point.  Despite the fact -- despite the fact the president accepts no responsibility for it.  Now, the Republicans are right, in a way that it was always kind of pre- determined, it was fated Trump will be impeached.  But that is because of Trump`s nature and his character.

All of this reminds me of a poem that Trump-like to quote on the campaign trail.  It`s actually from a 60 song that then became a kind of viral meme that he then read, and on the campaign trail was part of this really disgusting, bigoted, anti-immigrant tirade that he would do about a woman who takes in a snake as long as the snake promises not to bite her.  And then the woman takes in the snake and the snake bites her, and the snake says to her, you damn well, I was a snake before you took me in.  Confession of sorts, I think.

Americans knew what Donald Trump was when a minority of us voted to take him in.  He warned us.  So now we are here.  Joining me now is the House Democratic Caucus Chairman, New York Congressman Hakeem Jeffries who voted yes on both articles of impeachment against President Trump.  What are you thinking today having done the deed, Congressman?

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY):  Well, this is not a joyful moment.  It remains a sorrowful moment.  But Donald Trump`s own reckless behavior has brought us to this point.  Essentially, President Trump was the mastermind of a geopolitical shakedown in pressuring a foreign government to target an American citizen for political gain, and simultaneously of course, withhold without justification $391 million in military aid from a vulnerable Ukraine as part of his scheme to solicit foreign interference in the 2020 election.  That is why we are here, because that is textbook abuse of power.

HAYES:  So here`s my question.  What were the conversations?  When it became clear that these facts were surfacing?  The Speaker came out and announced a formal impeachment inquiry.  And that inquiry that moved it has intelligence committee.  When it became clear among leadership that this was the way things were going, what was your thinking about what the strategy and trajectory of this was?  What is the then what question about the day after you impeach the president?

JEFFRIES:  Well, from the very beginning, we were clear once the Speaker announced that she was going to open an impeachment inquiry that we needed to simply follow the facts, and apply the law, be guided by the Constitution, and present the truth to the American people no matter where it led.  And it led us to the moment that we arrived at yesterday where we voted out two articles of impeachment against this particular president.

At the same time, we also understood that the American people elected a House Democratic majority, to focus on kitchen table pocketbook issues like lowering health care costs or increasing pay for everyday Americans dealing with the gun violence epidemic, and things of that nature, and that we had a responsibility to continue to do that work.

And so that`s how we`re going to continue to proceed while at the same time holding this president accountable as necessary moving forward.

HAYES:  All right, so let me ask about this, the sort of transmission of the articles.  This was an idea that sort of started to percolate up.  Professor Lawrence Tribe at Harvard had sort of first floated it.  Speaker Pelosi is now saying she`s not going to appoint managers, not transmit the articles.  The votes are done, which means the earliest that could happen, I believe, is January 7th.  What is it thinking here?  What`s the play?

JEFFRIES:  Well, a few days ago, at some point last week, Mitch McConnell really influenced the trajectory of where we needed to go from this moment forward when he effectively said that I`m going to continue to cooperate with the president and make sure there`s no daylight between Senate Republicans and President Trump as it related to the trial in the Senate.

And so effectively, what you have is that the jury, Senate Republicans, are coordinating with the defendant, President Trump, to determine what exactly the kangaroo court is going to look like.  That`s an unacceptable scenario.  And so what the speaker has effectively said is, before I can designate impeachment managers, we have to have some sense of what the trial in the Senate is going to look like.

HAYES:  So does that mean this is indefinite or temporary?  Meaning, could this go on for months while this is wrestled out?  Like what is your thinking about that?

JEFFRIES:  Yes, it`s my expectation that this will get resolved sooner rather than later, in part because as you`ve indicated, Donald Trump clearly wants his moment to be exonerated by his folks over in the Senate to the extent that that`s in the cards, and he will likely put pressure on Mitch McConnell to come to some resolution.

HAYES:  All right, Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, thank you for your time tonight.  Have a great holiday.  Now joining me one of the 100 people who will try the president in the Senate next year, Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut.  What is your feeling about this action by the Speaker to withhold transmission of the articles and naming of impeachment managers until some announcement about the basic framework for Senate procedures are announced?

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT):  This decision is Nancy Pelosi`s and it is perfectly understandable that she wants some assurance of a full fair proceeding.  After all of the extraordinarily good work and the courage that it took to reach this result, she wants to make sure that we`re going to avoid that sham and charade that Mitch McConnell has said in effect, he is going to engineer.

Remember what he said.  There`s no chance the President will be removed from office.  He`s going to take his cues from the White House, in effect, putting the defendant in charge of the trial.  And he has enablers here, equally complicit, or my Republican colleagues because he could not get away with this charade without their at least 51 votes.

HAYES:  One of -- one of your Republican colleagues, of course, Lindsey Graham, who says the whole thing is a sham, he wants to get through it as soon as possible, doesn`t want to call witnesses, as Chuck Schumer has proposed, particularly those four.  I want to play what he had to say in 1999 as a House impeachment manager about to go over for the Senate trial.  Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRAHAM:  Why do you need a witness?  The whole point that we`re trying to make is that in every trial that there has ever been in the Senate regarding impeachment, witnesses were called.  So what I`m saying about witnesses is that if you take them off the table in the Senate, the next Judiciary Committee, the next independent council ought to do everything because they may lose the chance to present their case.  That would be bad for impeachment law.  That would be against precedent and I hope that doesn`t happen here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES:  He seem to want impeachment witnesses then.  What do you think has changed?

BLUMENTHAL:  I think what`s changed is the party of the President.  They want a partisan show trial, not a real trial with real evidence, witnesses, and documents.  They say they want more information, but they`re blocking that information.  And you referred earlier to the Trump cover-up.  That`s exactly what it is.  They are becoming complicit in it.  And history will judge them harshly.

But there is a court of appeals in this trial.  It is the next election.  Ultimately, the court of public opinion is telling them 70 percent of the American people want those documents and evidence, more than 60 percent of Republicans.  So they are going to be joining harshly by the voters as well as by history.

And there`s one more point here and Lindsey Graham knows it.  Every day or always, often in America, juries are instructed a party that blocks or conceals evidence or gags witnesses can be in effect judged by an adverse inference.  You can conclude that the evidence that`s blocked would have been harmful to the party blocking it.  That`s exactly what Trump is doing here.  He`s blocking evidence that would be harmful to them, not helpful.

HAYES:  Final question about something that relates to impeachment and news today.  One of the things the President is being impeached for is that one of the two investigations he wanted to extort, Ukraine undertaking, was an investigation of a truly insane conspiracy theory on the level of the moon landing being faked, or 9/11 was an inside job, about a server being in Ukraine, that the Ukraine hacked the DNC with the DNC`s helped and then tried to frame Russia.  It`s nuts.

But the Washington Post today has a long report of peace that essentially says senior White House officials believe that Putin himself influenced the President`s thinking about this.  That Putin even told an official at one point that Putin told him that Ukraine was out to get him.  What do you make of that?

BLUMENTHAL:  What I make of it is that that kind of report is very credible, dangerously -- so because obviously, Putin is continuing to attack this country, the threat of the criminality that is involved in this impeachment is continuing, the danger to our national security because Putin is playing us, he`s playing our president, but he`s also continuing to spread disinformation and propaganda.

And this idea, this crackpot conspiracy theory that Giuliani is fueling by his trip to Ukraine recently, is in effect, endangering this country and it is a threat to our national security.

HAYES:  Senator Richard Blumenthal, thank you very much.  Next, what the impeachment of President Trump means for the country and the rule of law.  We`ll talk about the implications in two minutes.

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PELOSI:  We`ve been hearing from people all over the country in the last -- since last night and this morning.  It seems like people have a spring in their step because the President was held accountable for his reckless behavior.  No one is above the law and the Constitution is the supreme law of the land.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES:  It is just the third time in the nation`s history a president has been impeached.  It was largely a party-line vote yesterday.  Democrat showed pretty remarkable unity on the vote given that they have the majority and many more folks in vulnerable seats.  There are a few exceptions.

And there`s a sense I think among those who constitute what I would call the most active members of the majority anti-Trump coalition in the country, that this is meaningful for what it says about the country and the Constitution and the rule of law even though Donald Trump`s removal in the senate trial seems unlikely.  So, what was the meaning of yesterday`s vote, his impeachment?

Joining me now to talk more about this, Liz Holtzman, former Democratic Congresswoman who served on the Judiciary Committee when they recommended articles of impeachment against President Richard Nixon, the author of The Case for Impeaching Trump, and Maya Wiley former Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Civil Division, the Southern District of New York, and an MSNBC Legal Analyst.  I`ll let be the first.  What was the meaning of yesterday?

ELIZABETH HOLTZMAN, FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE FROM NEW YORK:  Well, it was important step forward.  Congress has given under the Constitution a responsibility for impeaching a president who is a threat to our democracy.  It`s not easy for Congress to get mobilized to do something like that.  It requires really serious dangerous actions on a part of a president.  It`s rarely done, virtually unprecedented.  It`s only the third time in history.  But Congress did act and I think it was really important to the American people and to the rule of law.

And kind -- the idea that it`s it shouldn`t be bipartisan, sure we`d love to have everything bipartisan.  But Congress can`t be held back from doing its constitutional responsibility because the Republicans won`t do theirs.

HAYES:  That to me was part of what I think has made this -- the last few weeks I think bitter to a lot of folks who have supported the Presidents impeachment who thinks he did something very serious and impeachable is coming to a realization that there is no persuasion possible here, that this is -- there are no gettable votes, right.

And I guess my question to you is like, what is your thinking about that stark reality in the wake of the fact that the Republicans did vote party line the way they did?

MAYA WILEY, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST:  Yes, well, I would say two things.  One, it`s extremely concerning that any member of congress no matter their party would not take seriously.  The refusal of Donald John Trump to give any evidence over to Congress, any evidence --

HAYES:  To Congress, to their body.

WILEY:  To Congress.  So this notion that they would concede their own oversight authority as created by the founders of the country, I find astounding.  I mean, I think that`s a shocking thing.

HAYES:  That`s a good point.  They`re giving away their power or attempting to.

WILEY:  They are giving away power.  And since this is a constitutional act, and it`s fundamentally about protecting the Constitution, and in this case, we`re literally seeing impeachment on trial I think.  The question about the degree to which impeachment remains a real tool in the toolbox of the Congress in holding a president accountable for serious violations and abuse of power which amount to crime is something that I think really is it`s beyond -- it`s better.  It`s better.

I will say that I think the importance of the House demanding to hear how this trial is going to play out is one step that becomes a demand for the protection of that power and authority particularly to just make sure that people see the evidence.  I mean, at the end of the day, however, anyone votes, the issue is do the people get the knowledge they need about what`s happening in their government?

HAYES:  Yes.  It`s a great point that the cover-up here is both being done in front of everyone and with the full consent of one of the two parties, and continues to cover up evidence.  I mean, the actual mechanics of how the aid was withheld in OMB and all these things, we don`t have specifically those facts, though I think there`s sufficient facts to still impeach him, that they`re -- they are actively attempting to block presumably because they think it will make the president look worse.

HOLTZMAN:  Right.  And it`s -- it seems to be not just the Republicans in the House, but the senators, the Republican senators as exemplified by Mitch McConnell, who saying we don`t need witnesses, Lindsey Graham, we don`t need witnesses, and beyond that -- first of all, I think not hearing the evidence, not requiring the President to produce what could be operatory evidence but evidence, firsthand evidence of what happened, it`s taking a sledgehammer to the Constitution.  What is left of the impeachment power if Congress can investigate?

It`s not only Donald Trump today could be Donald Trump tomorrow or Donald Trump and the future or another Donald Trump down the road, Democrat or Republican.  It is a destruction of the people in power.  And that was the central power that the framers created to protect our democracy.  So it is really serious.

And it`s not just the refusal to call witnesses, but it`s a statement of McConnell, I can`t be impartial, I`m not an impartial juror.  Not only am I working hand in glove with the White House, but I`m not going to be impartial, and it`s a great thing I`m not going to be impartial.  And Lindsey Graham too says I`m not impartial.

WILEY:  I completely agree with that.  And I think going back to this point about what does it mean for the rule of law, I mean, remember that this is essentially the most powerful position not just in the country in the world, but certainly in the country.  Which means, you know, a lot -- a lot of the members of Congress when they were speaking yesterday were talking about their children.

Well, you know, we have a mother who was being prosecuted because she falsified her address to send her child to a better school.  She`s being prosecuted that.  Yet Donald Trump doesn`t have to be accountable according to the Republicans for serious violations of our national security and endangering our elections for his own personal gain.  That`s something that we should not tolerate.

HAYES:  We live in the most punitive democracy in the world by far where people are run through a system with very little process and punished day in and day out and left to rot in jail cells for years.  The most powerful person in the world should be held to some account.  Liz Holtzman and Maya Wiley, thank you so much.

HOLTZMAN:  Next, DNC Chair Tom Perez on what the impeachment means to Democratic voters and for the Democratic Party.  That interview right after this.

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HAYES:  Tonight`s Democratic Party debate will feature just seven people on the stage.  That`s the smallest number yet.  The last debate, of course, happened at the end of a long day of testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, what you`re hearing from impeachment witnesses.  This debate happens one day after the third-ever presidential impeachment in the country`s history.

In the span of that time, opinion hasn`t shifted much.  The country basically evenly divided on whether the President should be impeached and removed from office.  But as the Democratic candidates prepare for the final sprint towards the first vote counted, there`s a real question about where the party stands in this moment.

And here to talk to me about that, the Chair of the DNC Tom Perez.  What is your feeling about what happened yesterday and what it means for the Democratic Party and for the candidates that will be on stage tonight?

TOM PEREZ, CHAIRMAN, DNC:  Well, I think yesterday was a solemn day.  Nobody takes any solace in impeaching a president.  But when you start -- you take an oath of office to uphold the constitution and laws, the United States, and this president abuses authority, and they had to do that.

And what they also have to do and what they are doing, Chris, as you well know, is we`re walking and chewing gum.  You know, what we also saw in the last couple days is a decision out of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, putting a fork in the Affordable Care Act.

And so Democrats did their job yesterday.  They did it with courage.  They did it with a very even hand. And what we also saw now is the need also to the to gum and that`s what we`re doing.  And this is going to be a healthcare election.  And this president wants to do away with it, Democrats want to make sure you can keep your health care.

HAYES:  Is that -- when you say it`s going to be a health care election, is that an aspirational statement on your part?  Do you think that -- is it your sense that if the election comes down to health care, a president who`s in court right now trying to invalidate the entire regulatory structure of American health care is on the defensive?

PEREZ:  Health care has been the number one issue in 2017, `18, and `19.  There`s a two-word answer to the re-elected governor in Louisiana and the elected Governor Andy Beshear in Kentucky, Medicaid expansion, making sure that we are fighting for health care in Kentucky, Louisiana and all over the country.  We won at scale in 2018, because the voters understand who`s on their side on health care.  If you have a pre-existing condition, they understand it`s Democrats that are trying to protect you and Republicans aren`t.

You look at prescription drug costs, this president has done nothing, and the Democrats passed HR3 a few days ago, which is going to bring down the cost of prescription drugs by allowing Medicare to use its purchasing power, and that`s why voters are voting Democratic.

HAYES:  Let me just follow up on that, because this will feature in the debate tonight I imagine because it`s been featured in every debate, and I feel like I`ve been through this debate a million times on this question, but there is no consensus position in the Democratic candidate field right now on this question that you`re saying is going to determine the election.  Does that matter that the candidates themselves have very different views about moving to a Medicare for all system, or including a public option or something else?

PEREZ:  Look, every Democrat running for president, Chris, as you know believes that health care should be a right for all, not a privilege for a few, and we should have access to quality affordable health care.  Thanks to LBJ and Barack Obama and other Democrats, you know, we`re 80, 85 percent of the way of the mountain, and we have the summit in view.

We have disagreements on how to get from 80 percent to 100 percent, but we have no disagreement about the imperative of getting to the mountain summit.

Republicans on the other hand -- and we see this court case -- they want to take us to the  bottom of the mountain.  And that`s what I remind voters of every day.  If you have a pre-existing  condition, the Democrats are fighting for you, the Republicans are fighting to hurt you.

HAYES:  You`ve got -- we`re in the part of the primary where the elbows get sharpened a bit, the attacks get sharper.  It is a natural part of the process.  I mean, elections are about contrast, they`re about conflict.  I think the people who get upset by this are a little weird, because that`s what it is.  But from your perch as someone who is trying to kind of maintain an even-handed approach to this, like do you worry the more intense that conflict and attacks get in this field?

PEREZ:  Chris, I agree that there`s a lot of hand-wringing and nervousness now.  And you`re exactly right, back in 1991, President George Herbert Walker Bush, I think his approval ratings were 70, 75 percent after the Iraq War and hand-wringing all over the place.  We don`t have candidates.  What are we going to do?  Who`s this guy from Arkansas?  And we know what happened there.

And we have a very deep field here.  And if you think -- and whoever wins this election, the primary, Chris, is going to be battle tested because they would have gotten through a gauntlet of 25 candidates.  And in addition, Chris, what I would add is that when you look at this compared with say 2007, watch Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in those debates.  That was a spirited, spirited debate, and at the end of the day they came together. 

The same thing is going to happen next year, because every single candidate, whether they`re on the debate stage tonight or not, they understand that it`s bigger than them.  This is about our democracy as we know it.  And we must and will come together.  And I am 100 percent sure that every candidate knows that.

So to all the folks that expressed nervousness, I get it.  But you know what, folks, we`re going to win.

HAYES:  OK, final question for you, I have said this on the air before and I`ve said it because I believe it, which is you have a very difficult job and I think you`ve handled it well.  You know, no one goes to the game to cheer for the ref.  Everybody hates this call or that call that didn`t go against them.  People complain about it, and I get that.

What grade do you give the DNC...

PEREZ:  I don`t know what you`re talking about.

HAYES:  What grade do you give the DNC and yourself in how you have managed this very difficult and unwieldy process with the record number of candidates thus far?

PEREZ:  You know, Chris, I`m going to leave it to others to give us the grade, but what I`ll say is from the moment I was elected DNC chair, literally a minute into the my tenure when I asked my good friend Keith Ellison to join us so that we could complete this journey of bringing the party together, that we could complete it together, all the way through the work we did to reform super delegates and return power to the people, to the work we did in creating the Democratic primary process that was more inclusive than ever before with a grass roots fund-raising threshold to the debate stage, giving people earned media with the help of folks like you, allowing for town hall meetings.

People have gotten unprecedented opportunities, these candidates, to make their views heard, to make their case to the American people.  And now we`re 45 days away from the first voting.  And I feel proud of the work we`re doing.  And we`re going to continue our journey to make sure that we are conspicuously neutral, and that we make sure we treat everybody fairly.

HAYES:  And you are not done yet, there`s a lot more work for Tom Perez and the DNC as we head into this year.  Thank you so much for making some time tonight.

PEREZ:  Chris, always a pleasure.

HAYES:  Still to come, what was the president doing at the very moment he was being impeached?  We will show you ahead.

Plus, tonight`s Thing One, Thing Two starts next.

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HAYES:  Thing One tonight, for years people have been getting weird stuff in the mail from Donald Trump.  It goes back at least a quarter century when the writer Graydon Carter first wrote that Trump was a, quote, short fingered vulgarian.  In the years since, Trump has occasionally mailed to Carter photos of himself in which he circles his hand in gold Sharpie in a valiant effort to highlight the lengths of his fingers. Wow, what a person.

Just this week, professor and Time Magazine columnist Ian Bremmer received an official White House envelope with a copy of his own article with Sharpie writing all over it.  Ian, so wrong. 

But yesterday Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut alerted us to this strange mailing.  Apparently, every member of the Senate received a packet from the White House that included three things -- a big white Christmas card, a little red Christmas card, and a copy of the crazy six page letter Trump sent to Nancy Pelosi the other day.

Now, Trump was very proud of that letter.  He tweeted earlier this week that he got, quote, good marks and reviews on it. 

Wow.  Good job, Mr. President.

But it`s more than just the letter that had people scratching their heads, it was Melania`s signature on the Christmas card which looks super similar to her husbands.  An investigation is Thing 2 in 60 seconds.

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HAYES:  Now, no one would ever accuse Melania Trump of copying someone else`s work or style or anything like that, although there was that one time when she delivered Michelle Obama`s speech at the RNC.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHELLE OBAMA, FORMER FIRST LADY:  Your word is your bond that you do what you say you`re going to do, that you treat people with dignity and respect.

MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY:  That your word is your bond and you do what you say and keep your promise, that you treat people with respect.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES:  That`s a thing that happened in our lives that we saw that we forgot about I guess.

But now everyone`s wondering what`s going on with her signature on the White House Christmas card, like, wait, did he sign that for her or did he sign her name with the exact same Sharpie and font as Trump?  And it turns out, yes, that`s it.  Elle magazine actually first noticed this back in 2017 in an interview with a handwriting expert who called it absolutely amazing and explained, quote, this is stylized.  Maybe they brought someone in to show her how to do it or it`s a stamp, but it is definitely stylized.  And so there you have it, just a normal stylized Christmas card from our very, very, very normal first family.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES:  As Tom Perez and I discussed earlier in the show, there`s something that lurks ominously in the background of this upcoming presidential campaign, and that`s the simple fact that the Trump administration is using the Department of Justice to actively try to destroy the entire regulatory structure of all of America`s health care system in the courts.

Having failed to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the ACA twice, the Republican Party did manage to repeal the tax penalty that came with the individual mandate that said you had to buy health insurance, and if you didn`t you got a little tax increase.  And then a bunch of attorney generals, joined by the Trump administration, went to a court with a really tortured legal theory. 

It was like this, there`s no longer a tax penalty for refusing to get health coverage, therefore it`s no longer a tax, and that means the individual mandate itself was unconstitutional.  And this is where it gets really crazy, and that means, so you take away the individual mandate, so that means the entire ACA, all of its nearly 2,000 pages, the protections on pre-existing conditions, the Medicaid expansion, insurance exchanges that brought coverage up to 20 million more people, the ability of young people to stay on their parents health care, all of it has to be struck down immediately, gone, done.

The argument is in the estimation of most legal experts, nuts, also politically toxic.  And yet here we are.  One year ago, a Republican appointed federal district judge found in the Trump administration`s favor, struck down the entire law, and that decision was halted from going into effect until appeal.  And then yesterday in the middle of the president`s impeachment a three judge panel on the fifth circuit court of appeals ruled 2-1 to back up most of that ruling.

It did, however, send the case back down to the district court judge to figure out if, you know, do you really need to scrap the entire law. 

Now here`s where things get interesting, the most cynical view of all this is that conservatives and Republicans, including those sitting on the federal bench, realize that a big high profile Supreme Court case that would consider getting rid of all the ACA would be absolutely toxic in an election year, and so two Republican appointed judges on the appellate court decided instead to delay that by sending the case back down to the district court judge, see if you can figure it out, and lo and behold it can`t get up to the Supreme Court in 2020.

But California and 20 other states who are suing to keep the law intact now have decided to call the bluff of those seeking to kill it, and they are asking the Supreme Court to consider this case striking down the entire ACA, this year, which would mean the third time the Supreme Court would face such a choice.  But this time, if the Supreme Court takes the case, it would be in the 2020 election year when literally the most unpopular thing Donald Trump has done in his presidency, based on approval ratings, is try to repeal the ACA.  It`s anyone`s guess whether the Supreme Court wants that hanging in the balance in 2020, but Donald Trump definitely does not.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES:  At the very moment he was being impeached by the House last night, the president was holding a campaign rally in Michigan, because when his feelings get hurt, which is often, he likes to be around people that love him unconditionally.  And there was this moment that was really gross even by the already gross standards of a Trump rally.  The president was on a riff about Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, she`s a Democrat from Michigan, who supported Trump`s impeachment and whose husband, John Dingell, died in February.

Now Congressman John Dingell was a beloved towering respected figure across party lines.  He represented a district outside Detroit for 59 years, which made him the longest serving member of congress in U.S. history.  Last night, Trump said that after Congressman Dingell died he got a call from his widow and then decided to give John Dingell the, quote, A plus treatment for his memorial services.  Trump said he did this even though he didn`t ask Debbie Dingell to give him anything in return -- very big of him, I guess.  And then he went onto suggest that John Dingell may now be in hell.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  I gave them everything.  That`s OK.  I don`t want anything for it.  I don`t need anything for anything.  She calls me up.  It`s the nicest thing that`s ever happened, thank you so much.  John would be so thrilled.  He`s looking down, he`d be so thrilled.  Thank you so much, sir.

I said that`s OK, don`t worry about it.  Maybe he`s looking up, I don`t know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES:  And the crowd sort of laughs.  They like the transgression of it.  And put aside for a moment Trump`s cruelty there, this is who the man is, that`s the human being that he is.  And we have seen this all the time from him.

But think for a second about why he`s upset in this story, right.  He`s mad that Congresswoman Debbie Dingell supported impeachment, even though Trump lowered the flags to half-staff for her late husband.

It`s such a perfect example of the kind of thinking that literally got him impeached.  Even when it comes to something like a memorial service Donald Trump wants a quid pro quo.

I`m joined now by Republican Strategist Rick Wilson, who has launched a super PAC with a group of other Republicans focused on defeating Trump and his enablers in 2020.  Also with me, former Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer of California, co-host of the Boxer podcast.

Senator, I`ll start with you.  Obviously we know the kind of man that Donald Trump is.  He shows himself all the time, multiple times a day, what was striking to me was watching the degree to which he has transformed the Republican Party both in his rallies and in congress into a kind of cult of personality around that individual with that character.

BARBARA BOXER (D), FORMER CONGRESSWOMAN:  Here you go.  You know, I know Rick will agree when the Republicans said they were a party of family values, how horrific to mock -- and he imitated and mocked a sitting congresswoman who is grieving for her husband, and who I knew  them both well so it`s almost, for me it`s quite personal.  He loved her so much, and she loved him so much that every time he was with Debbie before she was a congress he`d say here is the fabulous Debbie, here is the beautiful Debbie, here is the lovely Debbie, and then to see this president, he is going to lose Michigan. 

He`s going to lose Michigan, because John Dingell -- you know, here`s the thing, John Dingell and I agreed 75 percent of the time, but we went at it on fuel economy for cars, we went at it on the NRA.  So, he had crossover.  He is in trouble.

I want to thank Fred  Upton, the only congressman I saw -- now there could be more, Republican, who really criticized Trump for this disgusting rhetoric.

HAYES:  Well, it was -- I think Fred Upton, I think Dan Crenshaw said that it was inappropriate, others sort of say, oh, it`s bad.

But to me this is part of the ritual, Rick, of, you know, it`s like when you`re with someone and you`re at a party and, you know, their partner is a horrible human being and making a mess and being profane and saying bigoted things, and the person is like, oh, he`s n ever like this.  It`s like, yes, well, he is like this.  This is who he is.

RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  He`s always like this.

HAYES:  And it`s not like...

WILSON:  This is -- yes...

HAYES:  The party has become not just a kind of tolerance of it, but actually -- and you saw this yesterday in eight hours of live, you know, debate, there`s an iconography built out of this.  This is actually what the party now represents.

WILSON:  Of course.

They have a splendid avatar of all their petty grievances, and that`s Donald Trump, that bright -- that umber colored lump on the stage last night ranting and spitting and screaming.  And that`s what they want.  That`s what they care about.  They don`t call about limited government or individual liberty or the rule of law or low taxes or strong defense, they care about the show, and the cruelty of the show is the center of it.  The cruelty is the purpose of the show.

And so Donald Trump when he`s out there acting like the petty sadist that he is, he`s exploiting -- the worst kind of sadism is to exploit the pain of the grieving, which is exactly what he did.  He knew what he was doing.  His audience knew what he was doing. 

And yes there`s been a couple of Republicans who made some anodyne statements tonight of I would have said it differently, but not saying this guy is a low person.  He should not be our president. He is an awful representative not only of the Republican Party but the human race, I`ve had enough.  They won`t say that because they recognize the base has changed, and it`s now weaponized cruelty.

HAYES:  Someone has said that.  I want to ask you about that, but first, senator, I want to ask you a question about watching yesterday, right, the president`s character is at the heart of this.  And we know that he did what he did because it`s in the call transcript, but we have a lot of testimony.  I was struck, and Chris Matthews made this point about the difference between the Clinton impeachment and this is that Bill Clinton was contrite, he apologized for what he did.  And he also, correct me if I`m wrong, people in the Democratic Party said what he did was wrong, that was kind of stipulated.  The question wasn`t like, well that`s perfect.  What you did with Monica Lewinsky was perfect and we love it and we want to celebrate it.  It was this is wrong and should you be impeached.  That was not present in yesterday`s debate.

BOXER:  Oh, no.

I can tell you, because I sat through the Clinton impeachment, it was an awful experience.  Everyone, you know, on the Democratic side was just horrified at what had happened.  We didn`t think it rose to the level of impeachment, but it was pretty brutal.  And I watched these Republicans, they were like a cheering section.  They were -- they were cult-like, Rick, you`re right about that.  And all they could do was slam Democrats and defend a man who literally -- well, first of all I think he`s a clinical narcissist, we don`t time to go through it, but the cruelty emanating  from this man.

And I think this Debbie Dingell thing, you know, we always say it`s a bridge too far, it`s a bridge too far, I just will say this is swing state.  They love that family in that state.  You know, John Dingell was an exceptional man.  And to do this to Debbie when she`s facing her first Christmas without him in 38 years, my heart breaks. 

And I`ll tell you there`s a lot of women out there, you know, women out there who are going to say, no, no.  And maybe they`re in the suburbs, wherever they are, this is wrong.

HAYES:  The cross tabs on the polling indicate that.

Quickly, Rick, Christianity Today comes out in favor of removing Trump from office, the rare break saying exactly the thing you said that Republicans should be saying.

WILSON:  It is a rare break, but we`ll see what happens when the evangelical leaders, who are really the controlling factor, the normalizing factor in the party, have to respond to this.

I`m going to be very surprised if it moves the numbers very much, honestly, Chris.

HAYES:  I am, too.  Although, kudos to the folks there for doing what I think the right thing and the difficult thing.

WILSON:  Yes, it`s an impressive piece.

HAYES:  Rick Wilson and Barbara Boxer, thank you both for being with me tonight.

That is All In for this evening.  The Rachel Maddow Show starts right now.  Good evening, Rachel.

 

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END