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President signed spending bill. TRANSCRIPT: 12/20/19, All In w/ Chris Hayes.

Guests: Jim Wallis, Ruth Graham, Jaime Harrison, Maxine Waters, MehdiHasan

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  Home to a country whose leaders stand guard on the country`s moral dignity rather than assault it.  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):  Frankly, I don`t care what the Republicans say.

HAYES:  The impeachment of Donald Trump.

REP. MAXINE WATERS (D-CA):  History will remember those who were willing to speak truth to power.  Yes, I call for Trump`s impeachment early.

HAYES:  Congresswoman Maxine Waters on what happens now, what happens next, as the president stews in the White House.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  It doesn`t feel like impeachment.

HAYES:  Then, new reporting on just who might have put the Ukraine server conspiracy in Trump`s head.

TRUMP:  I have groups that are wondering why the FBI never took the server.  Haven`t they taken the server?

HAYES:  Plus, the Evangelicals now are centering the president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Our President is doing things that are not merely unconstitutional, but blatantly immoral.

HAYES:  And Lindsey Graham now --

REP. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC):  If there`s a witness request by anybody, I`m going to say no.

HAYES:  Versus Lindsey Graham then.

GRAHAM:  The idea of not being able to call witnesses is crucial.  How would you like to do this show without guests?

HAYES:  When ALL IN starts right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES:  Good evening from New York, I`m Chris Hayes.  We`re heading into the holidays.  Congress is done for the year and for the decade.  The President has been impeached for just the third time in American history.  And what comes next is unclear.  The uncertainty exists right now because of the following sequence of events.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell before the House even voted to impeach Donald Trump went on Trump T.V. to promise total coordination with the White House and Trump`s defense team in the upcoming impeachment trial and Senate.  McConnell then reiterated that he is not impartial, despite the fact that he will literally have to swear to be impartial when he takes a special oath before the impeachment trial, his solemn constitutional duty.  But McConnell basically now says OK, the fix is in.  We`re just not even going to pretend to go through all of the pomp and circumstance.

Then in response, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, fine, I`m not going to send the Articles of Impeachment to the Senate until you, Mitch McConnell in the Senate agree to set some guarantees for a fair trial.  When asked if she is too afraid to send the articles over to McConnell, Pelosi to Politico today, "Fear is never a word used with me.  You should know right away.  I`m never afraid and I`m rarely surprised."

With all this still unresolved, today Speaker Pelosi invited President Trump to give the State of the Union speech on February 4th.  Probably not by chance, she begins the invitation "In their great wisdom, our founders crafted a constitution based on a separation of powers, three co-equal branches acting as checks on each other."

The State of the Union will be the day after the Iowa caucuses. It will also probably happen after the President`s impeachment trial, although who knows really.  It`s also a reminder what happened with the last State of the Union Speaker Pelosi had just gotten troll the House, the government was already in the midst of the longest shutdown in the nation`s history, when Pelosi rescinded her invitation to the president and sent Trump through the roof.  Remember that?

And it was clear then and it`s clear now that Pelosi has Trump`s number psychologically.  And I got to say. it appears to me that part of holding back the impeachment probably comes down to extracting some kind of psychological toll on the president.  I mean, at one level holding back the Articles of Impeachment does seem kind of petty or, or small or not really clear what the endgame is.  But on another level, Trump is someone so ruled by his grievances and very weird psychology that essentially trying to restrain his behavior via psychodrama is one of the only tools that Pelosi or anyone else has left.

The uncertainty is likely to be ironed out.  It is still driving the president nuts.  This afternoon, the commander in chief tweeted, "Nancy Pelosi is looking for a quid pro quo with the Senate.  Why aren`t we impeaching her?"  OK.  Members of Congress can`t be impeached, but that`s not the point.  President is clearly bothered if not tortured by this a lot.  And for the next few weeks, until Congress comes back from recess, he`s just going to sit there and stew. 

Join me now for more on what happens next in the impeachment of President Trump, one of the House chairs who has been investigating him, Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters of California.  She is the chair of the House Financial Services Committee.  Let`s begin with the speaker`s decision to withhold sending over the articles of impeachment and appointing managers until some guarantees of some kind of process from Mitch McConnell.  How do you understand this move?  Do you support it?

WATERS:  Absolutely.  We had a discussion about it.  And it`s not that she`s withholding, it is that we need to know what the rules are because we have to and she has to determine who the managers are going to be from our side.  And a lot of that has to do with the rules that will be adopted by the Senate.

So what McConnell should be doing is he should be working with the Democrats an audit to develop the rules so that they can make it very clear very known exactly how they`re going to proceed with this trial.  And so she`s not withholding.  She`s ready to transmit as soon as we know what the rules are and how it`s got to be conducted.

HAYES:  You came up quite a bit in the debate the other night -- on the other day on the floor about Democrat support of impeachment.  One of the articles that Republicans returned to time and time again, is that some portion of the Democratic caucus favorite impeachment, even before the Ukraine facts came to light.  You are one of them, you were name-checked quite a bit, and you responded on the floor.

WATERS:  Yes.

HAYES:  What is your feeling about having been sort of out front calling for this before this moment changed about what actually did happen among your colleagues who were not listening to you and then were?

WATERS:  Well, first of all, when I started my speech, I said that the rules of the debate did not allow me to cite all of the reasons why he should be impeached.  However, there are many.  I had begun to notice him and pay attention to him doing the primary campaign in the way that he conducted himself.  And then my staff and I did our own kind of investigatory work to the degree that we could.

And we saw the connection between Putin and our president, and Manafort, and Manley, and Papadopoulos, and all of these individuals who are in this little group of people who were connected in some way to the oligarchs of Russia, to the Kremlin, and to Putin.  And we thought, something`s wrong with what we`re seeing.

And then, of course, when they hacked into our DNC, and this president refuse to condemn them, to call him out, as a matter of fact, he defended Putin and said, well, maybe it was him, maybe it was somebody else.  And so, I`ve known that this President was a danger to our democracy, that he was not sitting ending up for our democracy, and that he was aligning himself in ways that I thought would be detrimental to us and disregarding the constitution altogether.

And so yes, I started early.  And I wanted to create this discussion.  And I wanted us to get more involved in investigating him.  And of course, the Mueller report came out and did not absolutely do what people wanted it to do.  And it was only when he made the call to Zelensky in the Ukraine, the new president, that people began to see, oh, my goodness, he`s using the power of the presidency, to try and get this new president to come up with a phony investigation on Biden, because of his son and the work that he had done with a company there.

And so this seemed to trigger a lot of belief that yes, this man is dangerous.  There`s something wrong with him.  To abuse his power in that way, absolutely flies in the face of the Constitution of the United States.  So I was right that something was wrong with him.  That he did not deserve to be president, that he was potentially dangerous, that he didn`t care about the Constitution.

When I came to those conclusions early and started the discussion, I wanted to sound the alarm, that we`d better pay attention, and finally, it came to that.  And I really knew that it would because of his character that he would not stop.  And if he`s exonerated by the Senate, when they do the trial, he`s going to get even worse.  And I tell you, and I will predict he`s going to bring Putin into the White House for a meeting.

HAYES:  That`s an interesting prediction.  Let me ask a follow-up question on the investigation that you talked about.  Your committee subpoenaed financial records from Deutsche Bank.

WATERS:  That`s right.

HAYES:  The President went to court to stop Deutsche Bank from turning over some of those financial records.

WATERS:  That`s right.

HAYES:  That court case, he lost in the district court, lost in the appellate court.  That court case is now headed for the Supreme Court.

WATERS:  That`s right.

HAYES:  And I haven`t gotten a chance to talk to you since that happened about how you interpret the Supreme Court granting cert on that petition, and what your expectation is of their case before the Supreme Court?

WATERS:  I`m extremely hopeful that based on what the lower courts have done, that should in some way, influence what happens in the Supreme Court.  These are legitimate subpoenas.  And for this president to try and block them, to fight against them to not respond, and he has been very unresponsive in every way that he possibly can, not only to our subpoenas, but he`s directed all of those people who work with him and around him not to respond to our requests.  So I think that Supreme Court, I really think that they will rule in our favor and say that they have got to be in compliance, and they`ve got to respond and answer those subpoenas.

HAYES:  Yes.  Well, this is going to be a very, very interesting case to see how that goes down.

WATERS:  Yes, it is.

HAYES:  Are you confident, finally, that there will be some resolution?  I mean, I asked Hakeem Jeffries who`s also a member of leadership this question last night, I`m asking it to you.  I asked him, is this withholding, essentially, by the Speaker of the articles of impeachment as to now, is that temporary or indefinite?  Meaning, do you think that that will be resolved and we will move to a trial in January?

WATERS:  Yes, I do.  I do believe that.  I think that Speaker is going to transmit the Articles of Impeachment over to them.  And that`s just a matter of trying to find out what the rules are, how it`s going to work.  And please remember that the selection of the managers have a lot to do that -- with that rather.  Are there going to be witnesses?  Who are those witnesses going to be?  Who on our team is best prepared to deal with cross-examining those witnesses?  And so we need some information.

It`s not that this is just some kind of petty play.  This is real, this is substantive, and it makes good sense that we transmit the articles at the time that we understand what they`re going to do and how they`re going to do it.

HAYES:  All right, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, I hope you have a wonderful holiday.  Thank you for time.

WATERS:  And the same to you and thank you.

HAYES:  Be well.  Joining me now for more on the political gray area of withholding the articles of impeachment, are two people who have been following this process extremely closely, New York Times Columnist and MSNBC Contributor Michelle Goldberg and Mehdi Hasan, Columnist and Senior Contributor at The Intercept, also a present for Al Jazeera English UpFront.

So it was interesting that Congresswoman Waters made that point.  Basically, she`s saying, look, this isn`t some petty thing.  There`s a legitimate question here about what the trial looks like if there are witnesses or not.  And I guess it is true.  If there are witnesses or not probably does play some role in the drafting of the -- of the managers in terms of personnel.  But it also does seem to me that like Pelosi has his number and knows this will drive them crazy.  And one of the ways you deal with Donald Trump, it`s a sad state of affairs, but it is what it is, is that you deal with his psychology.

MICHELLE GOLDBERG, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR:  Right?  And I don`t think it`s petty because they`re not talking about holding them indefinitely, right?  I mean, if we weren`t going into this break, it would probably just be a few more days.  It`s just kind of a trick of the calendar that has led it to be this long stretch of time.  Although it does matter that Donald Trump is going to be sort of dangling uncertainly in that time.

And the reason it matters is because Mitch McConnell has already basically talked about how he`s going to fix this trial.  And what they want to do is make it very short, call no witnesses, and essentially, you know, acquit him as quickly as possible.  And the weird thing is, is that in some ways, Pelosi and Trump are both aligned in wanting an actual trial, right?  So what Pelosi --

HAYES:  This is the play, right, yes.  Good point.

GOLDBERG:  Right?  So what Pelosi has done is kind of hang back and let Trump demand a trial, demand to call witnesses.  And you know -- so that when they`re kind of making this decision in January, it`s that much harder for Mitch McConnell to just shut it down.

HAYES:  It`s a great point because you heard noises from somebody.  Like Lindsey Graham A while back was like I`m going to call Rudy Giuliani and I was like, by all means call Rudy Giuliani.  And Chuck Schumer started saying this line alleging as smart and saying none of the President`s allies will defend them under oath, right?  They will defend it but not under oath.  And that what they`re trying to do essentially is bait Trump into pushing McConnell into having witness.

MEHDI HASAN, COLUMNIST AND SENIOR EDITOR, THE INTERCEPT:  And if you`re acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney is not going to prison for Donald Trump, to be acting chief of staff, no matter how loyal and slavish these people behave on cable news, on Trump T.V., as you put it.

I think you`re right.  It`s the baiting of Trump.  He just said in his tweet last night when he attacked Pelosi and said, you know, we were wronged.  And he keeps talking about we never had any witnesses.  The obvious response.  You don`t have to be a lawyer.  You can be a member of the public.  He say, OK, you didn`t have any witnesses in the House.  You keep complaining about that, right.  Well, let`s have some witness in the Senate.

HAYES:  Right.

HASAN:  Chuck Schumer has named the four people.  They`re people who work for you.

HAYES:  Mick Mulvaney.  I mean, if there`s a  guy who should be exculpatory, it`s the guy who`s literally your staff.

HASAN:  Yes.  If you did nothing wrong, send your chief of staff to make the case.  I mean, he did such a great job on T.V. a few weeks ago.

HAYES:  He`s obviously --

HASAN:  You don`t have to hold back any of that stuff.  I think in the holding back of the articles, as someone who wanted a slower process and a bigger process, I`m delighted by this.  You know, you talking about it`s not indefinite because (INAUDIBLE), I`m like, take your time.

HAYES:  Right.

HASAN:  Go along than Christmas and New Year`s because number one --

HAYES:  Take something to that, I agree.

HASAN:  Number one, you know, they should be doing that.  It`s a serious issue.  Number two, yes, because Trump is losing his mind over there.  And one thing -- Pelosi gets lots of praise for liberals about how she`s handled this.  One thing that really annoys me and I keep tweeting about this is early this year when she was being, you know, dragging, dragged, kicking, and screaming into impeachment, she was like, Trump wants us to impeach him.  She went -- she went on T.V. and she said he`s goading us into impeaching him.  And anyone including Nancy Pelosi believes that`s the case.

HAYES:  I don`t think you believe it then.  I mean, what she was trying to do I think was hold --

HASAN:  No, there was a school of thought, that thought of you know that he`s going to -- even know some people today it`s like, oh, he`s going to be acquitted and it`s going to help him in the election.  Whether it helps him in the election is not a matter.

He`s clearly not enjoying this.  That six-page letter this week was deranged even by deranged Trumpian standards.

HAYES:  As was the Trump rally which was sort of unhinged even by --

HASAN:  I don`t feel like I`m being impeached.

HAYES:  -- unhinged standard.

HASAN:  Facts don`t care about --

HAYES:  You now, there`s -- as it goes to the Senate, there`s an op-ed today from Jeff Flake, former Republican Senator who, you know, sort of mildly would criticize the president then he retired.  And you know, it`s fine.  It is what it is.  All these people kind of when they`re out of the game, they want to like get high mighty.

But he does have this line he addresses to his Senate Republican colleagues.  And it`s just a simple point that`s so obvious.  He says, my simple test for all of us.  What if President Barack Obama had engaged in precisely the same behavior?  I know the answer that question with certainty and so do you.  And that`s just irrefutable.  There`s not a person on earth I don`t think you can --

GOLDBERG:  But I think it`s refutable in the same way you showed that clip from Lindsey Graham basically talking about how they needed witnesses for the Clinton impeachment.  I think that in their heart of hearts, they do not believe that Republicans should be held to the same standards as Democrats, right?  They can`t make that that that argument publicly.

But in a way, that was the subtext, and I wrote about this, that was the subtext of them going on and on about the 63 million.  Someone think of the 63 million.  Let`s have a moment of silence for the 63 million, right?  Inherent is that -- is that the 63 million deserves a degree of deference that the 65 million who voted for Hillary Clinton don`t, right?  So saying, yes, of course, they would do this to Obama.  But Obama was a Democrat.  That`s the difference.

HAYES:  Right.

HASAN:  You know, when they have executive power as well, the President has unlimited power when the President is a Republican.

HAYES:  Right, of course.

HASAN:  But on the point about, you know, you said that any person on earth.  I actually interviewed the Trump campaign advisor the other day, and I asked him this.  I said, President Bernie Sanders, or Joe Biden Democratic candidate says next year, Iran investigate Ivanka Trump and Don Jr.  And he said, that`s fine.  That would be fine.

That is the line they`re going to take if you push them because they`re shameless.  But I think the more important point is the Democrats need a very clear messaging strategy over this period, which is this trial is rigged.  Use Trump`s favorite word.  It is rigged.

HAYES:  Right?

HASAN:  The jurors have said that they`re not -- Lindsey Graham said it openly.

HAYES:  Yes.

HASAN:  I don`t plan to be an impartial juror.  As you point out, rules going back to 1868 say you have to be an impartial juror.

HAYES:  Or at least you have to swear it.

HASAN:  Or pretend.

HAYES:  I mean, you have to pretend.  That`s the thing.

HASAN:  McConnell goes on Fox and says we will be coordinating with the White House.

HAYES:  Yes, we won`t pretend.

HASAN:  There will be no change.

HAYES:  We won`t pretend.

HASAN:  So the jurors are telling people live on T.V. that we`re going to coordinate with the defendants.  Look, that`s what I think every American understands.  That`s mad.

HAYES:  And there`s also -- there`s new polling out today that shows -- Morning Consult poll 51 percent support impeachment and removal.  Again, that`s quite high.

HASAN:  And 70-something want witnesses.

HAYES:  Yes.  ABC`s polling had 70 percent.  That`s down in 54 percent in the Morning Consul but still a strong majority.  Like we should have witnesses.

GOLDBERG:  Right.  I think they`d went down because it sounds like if you just kind of say it on the nonpartisan basis, yes, of course, we want witnesses.

HAYES:  Yes, of course.  Then we get the message from --

GOLDBERG:  They want -- they want people realize that the Republicans` message or at least the Senate Republicans` messages is no witnesses than a whole bunch of --

HAYES:  I love when that happens -- that happens in polling sometimes where like before the message machine catches up and ask people and they`re like, yes, witnesses, that might be good.  And then the message is like, oh no, no, no, we don`t want witnesses.

HASAN:  Do you believe the crowd size at Trump`s inauguration is bigger Obama`s.  In that polling, everyone says Obama`s was bigger until you tell them that not.  When you tell them who the photos are, they said no, Trump`s is bigger, Trump supporters.

HAYES:  Michelle Goldberg and Mehdi Hasan, thank you both.  Have a great holiday.

GOLDBERG:  Thank you.  You too.

HASAN:  You too.

HAYES:  There`s new reporting tonight that suggests Trump was sold the bizarre Ukraine server conspiracy theory, which in part lead to his impeachment by Vladimir Putin himself.  That story coming up in just two minutes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES:  The President was impeached over attempting to shake down the Ukrainian president into starting two investigations.  And people always summarize it as an investigation into the Biden`s and an investigation into 2016.  But an investigation in 2016 really cleans up the sheer insanity of what Donald Trump actually wanted investigated.

He does not say 2016 in his call with the Ukrainian president.  He said something very specific.  He says CrowdStrike and the server.  I`ll quote him here.  "I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine.  They say CrowdStrike.  I guess you have one of your wealthy people, the server.  They say Ukrainian it."

That refers to an absolutely nuts conspiracy theory, and it basically goes like this.  That the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton`s campaign was actually a false flag inside operation pulled off by the DNC themselves to themselves, along with Ukrainians in order to frame Russia.

Now, it`s not only not true, it`s nonsensical.  First, CrowdStrike is an American company with a Russian American co-founder.  They`re the ones that did the forensics for the DNC to find out who hacked them.  They`re based in Sunnyvale, California.  It`s not owned by Ukrainians.  The server`s not in Ukraine, I could go on.

But as the Washington Post reports in this great new piece that is based on 15 interviews with former administration and government officials, President Trump himself started bringing this very crazy conspiracy theory up as early as July 2017, his first year in office, a time when this nutty idea was very hard to even find on the internet.

Where did he get this idea?  According to the Washington piece, "The blamey is cast on arrival country led many of his advisors to think that Russian President Vladimir Putin himself helped spur the idea of Ukraine`s culpability."  One former senior White House official said Trump even stated so explicitly at one point saying he knew Ukraine was a real culprit because Putin told me.

In fact, go back and watch Trump and Putin`s infamous Helsinki press conference from July 2018.  At the time, everyone reacted to Trump refusing to back his own Intelligence Community on the question of whether Russia had interfere with the election.  But listen to it again.  There he is having just met one on one with Putin, right?  They just had a conversation, continually dropping a word which would come to me closely associated with this utterly debunked Ukraine conspiracy theory, the server.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  You have groups that are wondering why the FBI never took the server.  Haven`t they taken the server?  Where is the server?  I want to know where is the server and what is the server saying?  I really believe that this will probably go on for a while, but I don`t think it can go on without finding out what happened to the server?  Where are those servers?  They`re missing.  Where are they?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES:  None of that`s true, by the way.  They`re not missing.  For more on this, I`m joined by the former U.S. Ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, an MSNBC International Affairs Analyst.  What went through your head when you read the Washington Post article, when you read those quotes from former senior officials, including one saying the president told him Putin told me?

MICHAEL MCFAUL, MSNBC INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST:  This is a pattern.  This is not news.  We`ve known it.  And Thank you, Chris, for going back to Helsinki.  And thank you, Chris, for unpacking that phrase 2016.  Because when you dig into it as you just did, you realize just how incredibly crazy the story was.  And that that reflects, I think, on the president that he could believe such a crazy story.

But there is a pattern here.  Remember, in Helsinki, he stood right next to Putin and he said there was no interference in our election.  I don`t believe my Intelligence Community.  In other words, believing Putin over the Intelligence Community.

By the way, in Helsinki, there was also a story about me and several American colleagues.  Putin told him that we allegedly, in some crazy theory, had broken Russian law regarding the wrongful death of Sergei Magnitsky, and he wanted to interrogate us.  The President believed him.

The President believed him I think about Montenegro.  Remember that story when he said, Oh, I think World War III might start in Montenegro.  That sounded like a lot like putting disinformation.  And there was even this incredibly obscure story about revisionist history about what the Soviets did in Afghanistan, that even for me as a Stanford professor that follows this stuff pretty closely, I`d never heard until Donald Trump said it.  And I don`t know for sure, but that sounds like another crazy conspiracy theory.  And the author is most likely Vladimir Putin.

HAYES:  So, is your -- I mean, again, we`re hypothesizing here but we`re hypothesizing based on evidence in front of us, right, the evidence.  Like we know that they talk and world leaders talk all the time, and that`s fine and they should even if they have adversarial relationship, they should talk.  I want to wholly endorse that talking to world leaders.

Is it your hypothesis that Putin is just kind of like feeding them this stuff basically like, oh, you know, you should ask about this server, the server is not there?  Like, is that the kind of thing that would happen on a -- on a conversation between two world leaders?

MCFAUL:  Well, I`ve been in meetings with Vladimir Putin many times when I served in the Obama administration.  He definitely pushes the envelope.  He likes conspiracy theories.  He likes to talk about secret information that only the FSB, the successor organization to the KGB has acquired.  And he takes, you know, he takes good measure.  He`s a former counterintelligence officer after all.  He understands the weaknesses and strengths of his interlocutors.

And there`s a record of President Trump, candidate Trump, businessman Trump spinning conspiracy theories as he did about my former boss, Barack Obama.  So I`m sure that he has decided this is a way to use leverage and to make the president look bad and to pull the president towards his side against people like you and me who are committed and trying to talk about facts.

HAYES:  There`s an interesting story that relates to this in Politico that the Senate panel that looked into the Russian interference and also Ukrainian interference, alleged, came up short.  Some Republican senators recently questioned whether Kiev tried to sabotage Donald Trump`s campaign in 2016, the GOP lead Intelligence Committee looked into the theory and found scant evidence to support it.

Rachel Maddow reporting that release of that part of the report is now being held up by the DNI`s office.  Do you think that should come out?

MCFAUL:  Of course, I do.  Because there`s no -- there`s no there there.  We know the stories that have been spun out of control to say that there`s a conspiracy.  As you rightly pointed out, there`s no evidence whatsoever about CrowdStrike and the server.  And I just think that we need to have the facts out there because again, this is also classic Putin.  It`s disinformation throwing out there to suggest that there are no facts, that there is no truth, it`s all relative.  And then what about-ism?  You know, you throw it out there so that we`re chasing this other weird thing.

And what is surprising to me is that the President of the United States, and many of his defenders are willing to chase these crazy theories.  So anything that can be put on the record to disabuse us of those theories, I think would be very welcome.

HAYES:  How do you understand -- how do you understand Barack Obama`s relationship with Vladimir Putin and how do you understand this President`s relationship with Vladimir Putin?

MCFAUL:  Well, President Obama, you know, we met with him many times.  The first meeting was in July 2009.  I was there.  I think he`s got a pretty good understanding of his motivations and what drives him.  But President Obama also has a commitment to facts and evidence and hypotheses tested with evidence.  His briefing sessions that I did with him were always very rigorous.

And number two, when we went into those meetings, President Obama always had his advisors with him.  The President -- even Obama is not capable of knowing everything about everything with respect to foreign policy.  That`s a good idea.

HAYES:  Right.

MCFAUL:  It`s a bad idea to go into a meeting with Vladimir Putin one on one for anybody, and I would say, especially for somebody like President Trump who`s eager to seek his favor.  Remember, that`s the context within which they are meeting.  I think that`s very dangerous.

HAYES:  Michael McFaul, thank you so much.

MCFAUL:  Thanks for having me.

HAYES:  Up next, the brazen hypocrisy of Senator Linsey Graham on impeachment, the efforts to boot him out of office next year.  His challenger in the great state of South Carolina joins me next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC):  The idea of not being able to call witnesses is crucial.  How would you like to do this show without guests?  What if you sat here and read transcripts based on questions you asked?  Your ratings would go down.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES:  You could probably spend an entire hour just documenting the hilarious hypocrisy of Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina on the impeachment trial process.  He was famously a house manager during the Clinton impeachment, and he has now basically done a 180 on literally everything he said then about what constitutes an impeachment offense and how to  run an impeachment trial.

Senator Graham is up for re-election next year, and likely understands that defending the president plays fairly well in a state where Trump`s approval rating is 52 percent.

Cook Politico Report rates the seat as solid Republican.  There are rather interesting polling tidbit from a private poll, so a grain of salt, Senator Graham`s favorability rating among likely voters in South Carolina was at 38 percent earlier this month, which is music to the ears of his likely Democratic opponent Jaime Harrison.

Harrison is the son of a single mother in South Carolina, whose family occasionally received food stamps and welfare as he grew up as a kid.  He went onto go to Yale and then Georgetown University School of Law.  More recently Harrison was the first African-American man to head the South Carolina Democratic Party.  He`s now running for senator, Graham`s senate seat, and he joins me now.

Mr. Harrison, it`s good to have you.  Let`s start on this question of impeachment.  What do you make of the flip-flopping that the senator has done in his stances about witnesses and impartiality and the like?

JAIME HARRISON (D-SC), SENATORIAL CANDIDATE:  it`s so sad, Chris, to look at Lindsey Graham where he was and where he is now.

Listen, at the end of the day, senators take an oath of office to protect and defend the constitution of the United States.  And very soon they`ll take another oath of office of being an impartial juror.  In my House, we were taught that you have to have character and values, strong values, and integrity and that you kept your promises and you stood by your oath.

But right now what we`re seeing with Lindsey Graham is that his word is like mud.  There is no value.  He doesn`t keep it.  And he won`t keep that promise to the people of South Carolina, and he won`t stand by his oath of office -- his oath of office and the oath that he will take very soon.

HAYES:  Do you understand -- I mean, lots of Republican Senators apologized for President Trump`s conduct.  A lot of them really do genuinely support him.  I think some of them genuinely really like the guy, think he`s a model. 

Senator Graham was someone who a really cutting critic of Donald Trump`s for a very long time and is now probably his most foremost senatorial defender. 

What do you make of that?  What is your understanding of why he has been so outspoken in the president`s defense?

HARRISON:  Well, part of it, Chris, is Lindsey Graham is in for it for Lindsey Graham.  He is not doing this for President Trump, he`s not doing it for the people of South Carolina, he`s doing it for himself.  He wants to be relevant.

You know, for him being relevant in Washington, D.C. is the most important thing.  For me, being relevant in South Carolina is the most important thing.  There are people in this state that are suffering every day.  There was an article today that talked about North Charleston being the city with the highest rate of evictions in the nation. 

There`s so many things -- we have rural hospitals closing.  That`s why we are building a movement focused on the people of South Carolina.

This is a senator that we have who hasn`t been back home in this state in almost three years to do a town-hall.  And so I`m asking everybody -- you want to join me to send Lindsey Graham home?  Join me, go to JaimeHarrison.com, because we are building a movement to change the leadership that we have in this state.

HAYES:  So, where are votes?  Where are issues you think you would contrast with the record that Graham has amassed, particularly in the Trump era?

HARRISON:  Oh,  there are so many issues.  For health care, here we have four rural hospitals that are closed over the past few years.  We have 12 counties in this state that have no OB/GYN`s.  That`s a huge issue.  Three -- almost 300,000 people should have health care, but the Republicans, with the support of Lindsey Graham, have refused to expand Medicaid.  It`s a huge, huge issue in our state, and Lindsey Graham has proposed legislation, Graham-Cassidy -- and you know how he came up with this bill, in a barbershop sitting with Rick Santorum.  This guy is not someone we can take seriously.

There should be a big flashing sign above Lindsey Graham`s head that says voters beware.  This guy doesn`t keep his promises, he doesn`t standby his oaths, and he doesn`t come to deal with the issues that people are dealing with here in South Carolina.  I`m going to be different, because I`m going to be focused like a laser on issues of South Carolina and making sure that the American dream is available for all of us.

HAYES:  All right, Jaime Harrison running for that senate seat in South Carolina, thank you so much.

Still ahead a huge smack down for Trump as a major evangelical publication calls for him to be removed from office.  That`s coming up.

But first, tonight`s Thing One, Thing Two is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES:  Thing One tonight, the president just signed the massive year-end defense spending bill, part of a $1.4 trillion package.  But according to new reporting from The Washington Post he almost didn`t do it.  There was a standoff, because Democrats were initially insisting on including language in the bill, quote, requiring prompt release of future military aid for Ukraine, and that, that provision was apparently a nonstarter for Trump.

As The Post put it, the White House could have issued a public veto threat and raised the prospect of an imminent government shutdown in the days before Democrats moved to impeach the Trump.

In the end, Democrats agreed to drop the offending lines and now the Trump is in love with the bill.  His tweet this morning, quote, "I will be signing our $738 billion defense spending bill today.  It will include 12 weeks paid parental leave, gives our troops a raise, importantly creates the space for southern border wall funding, repeals Cadillac tax on health plans, raises smocking (sic) age to 21.  Big.

Well, that is big.  And not everybody is so happy about the smocking thing, especially this guy.  That`s Thing Two in 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)           HAYES:  If you were on Twitter this morning, you might have noticed an odd word trending, smocking, that was thanks to our president completely butchering the word smoking in a tweet he later deleted.  It`s not actually the first time he`s misspelled the word smoking.  Clearly, the man just think it`s spelled smocking.

But he is apparently raising the smoking age to 21, which I think is probably a good thing, although not everyone is so excited about it.  Take the senator from Texas, Ted Cruz, who made his feelings about the bill pretty clear in a video he posted last night on Twitter which looked like one of those old beer commercials with the most insufferable man in world.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TED CRUZ, (R) TEXAS:  So now our soldiers at AJT, you can be drafted to go into war, you can be sent to the front lines, you can face machine gunfire, but god help you if you want to have a smoke.  And this pile of trash belongs in an ashtray.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES:  It was the front page of the Seattle Times that residents of Washington State woke up to this morning, quote, "inquiry finds state lawmaker engaged in domestic terrorism."  That`s a pretty memorable headline.  Probably want to read that article.

A 108-page report commissioned by the Washington state house of representatives found that state representative Matt Shae had been involved in not one, not two, but three armed conflicts against the U.S. government.

Starting in 2014, with the standoff between rancher Cliven Bundy and the bureau of land management workers in Nevada, the report found that Matt Shae put out a social media call for militia members that resulted in, quote, "turn out of approximately 1,500 armed militia members."

And fast forward to 2015, Idaho.  Veterans Affairs workers were headed to the home of a veteran deemed ineligible to purchase firearms by a health care professional, and the report found that Shay participated in an operation that, quote, "resulted in the use of armed militia members who blocked access to the veterans home and prevented the lawful retrieval of the guns."

And in 2016 when Cliven Bundy`s son Amon led the takeover of an Oregon wildlife refuge, Matt Shae, quoted, quote, "created a detailed military style operation plan entitled Operation Cold Reality."

But here`s the thing Shae`s extreme ideology has been on full display for years now.  Just last year, he admitted to authoring an absolutely crazy document titled Biblical Basis for War, which is basically a manifesto for Christian holy war, quote, "if they do not yield -- kill all males."

When that document came to light, Matt Shea said it was just a summary of sermons on war in the bible, no big deal.  But that is not how the Republican sheriff of Spokane County described the document, quote, "it is a how-to manual consistent with the ideology and operating philosophy of the Christian identity/ Aryan Nations movement.

Now, despite the fact that Matt Shae`s views are well-known, it was not until last night when that report was released that Washington State Republicans decided to finally cut ties with Shae calling on him to resign.  Better late than never I guess.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES:  In poll after poll the biggest base of support for President Donald Trump comes from white evangelicals.  And yet many, many, many, many people have noted the inherent contradictions in people who prioritize biblical righteousness supporting someone as flagrantly godless and morally incontinent as Donald Trump.

And then yesterday that tension hit a snapping point for one of the most important publication in the evangelical world: Christianity Today.

Founded in 1956 by legendary evangelical preacher Billy Graham, Christianity Today published an editorial yesterday calling for the president`s removal in the Senate after his impeachment and saying, quote, "to the many evangelicals who continue to support Mr. Trump in spite of his blackened moral record we might say this, remember who you are and who you serve.  Consider what an unbelieving world will say if you continue to brush off Mr. Trump`s immoral words and behavior in the cause of political expediency."

That editorial crashed the magazine`s website yesterday, sent genuine shockwaves through evangelical circles.  It now has people asking is this the start of something, or just a one off?

To help answer that question, I`m joined by Reverend Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourner`s Ministries, author of the book "Christ in Crisis;" and Ruth Graham, staff writer at Slate who wrote about this today in a piece titled "Trump is freaked out by Christianity Today`s support for impeachment."

Ruth, I really like your piece, as I like everything you write, you`re a fantastic writer.  What do you see as the significance of Christianity Today publishing this?

RUTH GRAHAM, SLATE:  I think this was a huge deal.  I was stunned when I saw this appear online on Thursday.  And it`s not so much that anyone who`s reading Christianity Today would be surprised that this is what the editors thought, but it was really surprising to see them put it so forthrightly and so clearly in print.

I think one of the most important things about this is that it opens up space for the significant, probably minority, but a significant share of evangelicals who know that there is something, you know, profoundly uniquely wrong with this presidency and who haven`t -- you know when they looked around to see who are the loudest evangelicals sharing their voices, their opinions on Trump right now, it`s not institutions like Christianity Today, it`s not even some of the leaders who were opposed to Trump during the primary, it`s Jerry Falwell, Jr., it`s Franklin Graham, you know, these are the voices that have been sort of the loudest, clearest voices on Trump.

Meanwhile there`s a lot of conversations.  You know, I`m part of them and I hear them, conversations going on from -- you know, among people who know something`s wrong, but they haven`t seen it articulated this forthrightly by such a respected publication and really using evangelical language to make the case against Trump.

HAYES:  You know, Jim, I was struck by both how forthright and actually how courageous it was in its own way.  I mean, this is writing something that you know a lot of your audience does not want to hear.  There`s no real upside.  I was struck that the editor who penned it is actually retiring.  It reminded me a bit of what happens to Senate Republicans right before they retire.  What do you make of it?

JIM WALLIS, FOUNDER, SOJOURNER`S MINISTRIES:  Ruth is right, this is, I think, a crack in the wall of white evangelical support for Donald Trump.  And this crack could grow.

I`ve just been on a book tour in 27 cities, including evangelical colleges and churches, and I love, Chris, the way you read that line, "remember who you are and who you serve."  This isn`t finally just about politics, this is about Jesus.  And the religious right, those people that Ruth mentioned, they have cashiered Jesus, they have sold him out for Donald Trump in a transactional political deal.  But we`ve been having conversations about Jesus all over the country, who he is, what did he say, what are the questions he asked?  And I think the wonderful thing here is evangelicals could come back to Jesus in this crisis.

And when the media says evangelicals, they mean white evangelicals.  Chris, you know that.  And evangelicals of color have been against Donald Trump from the beginning.

HAYES:  Of course.

WALLIS:  Racial bigotry is a deal breaker for the gospel.  And white evangelicals haven`t said that, and they should have a long time ago.

HAYES:  You just used the word transactional.  And Ruth it was so striking today, the president`s response to this, which he`s very enraged.  The funniest part of his tweet, aside from calling Christianity Today ET, was also saying he`s going to stop reading it.  And I just had this lovely image of Donald Trump waiting for the next issue of Christianity Today to come out to like get it in the residence and like recline to read it, like it`s so obviously preposterous, but, of course, that bad faith transactional nature is understood on both sides, that`s what`s so weird and corrupt, and it seems to me, not to outstep my lane, godless about this.  Like this is just transactional.

GRAHAM:  Yeah, it`s so hilarious to see -- I think the cover story this month is on the Virgin Mary as like the first Christian.  Christianity Today is actually not a terribly political magazine, which is what makes this so significant...

HAYES:  It`s actually quite a good publication, I should say, by the way.

GRAHAM:  It really is.  I`m a subscriber.  And it`s much more engaged with spiritual, social, cultural things, and of course they`re willing to engage with politics, much like Billy Graham you know willing to engage with politics, but also trying to keep somewhat of a remove.  There`s some tension there.

But, you know, no, it`s -- I truly cannot imagine Donald Trump reading  Christianity Today in his spare time.

HAYES:  What do you think -- do you see this, Jim, fundamentally as essentially just the kind corrupt politics that keeps like a city machine together, right, that it`s not ideological, it`s that you get something and we get something and that`s the deal?

WALLIS:  Well, it`s actually a Faustian bargain, it`s even the worst kind of transaction -- it`s compromise with evil.  So, Jesus said how you treat the stranger, the immigrants is how you treat me. Who is my neighbor, the one who is different than you?  What is truth?  These are questions Jesus has.

So Mark Ellie (ph), I`m really proud of what he did, because it isn`t about politics for him.  It`s about -- I love that line where he says the country is in great moral and political danger, because of the grossly immoral character of Donald Trump.  And he must be removed from office, the editorial said, because of a moral imperative, and in fact a matter of faith -- this is matter of faith.  We all have to see this, 2020, as a matter of fate.  A test of democracy, yes, but also a test of faith.

And I think there`s some good news today that some people are rediscovering Jesus instead of  how he`s been sold out for a long time.  I`m saying it`s time to come back to Jesus.

HAYES:  Final question for you, Ruth, you talked about creating space.  I mean, obviously no group is monolithic.  What does that space, what does that look like, you think, those conversations as we get into the election year?

GRAHAM:  I just think there are a lot of evangelicals who know because of what they hear in church, because of what they see when they read the bible, that the Trump presidency poses a unique threat, an allegiance to Trump, you know, the kind of slavish devotion that some faction of white evangelicals have shown for Trump that that is going to be profoundly damaging to the Christian witness.

I mean, frankly, it may be too late in a lot of quarters, but there may be some way to rescue that.

And I think there are some people who have been voting Republican now for generations, at least 40 years, and so it`s a big deal to break from that, but I do think there`s starting to be this kind of challenge where people are seeing that something needs to change.

HAYES:  Reverend Jim Wallis and Ruth Graham, thank you both for joining us.

That is ALL IN for this evening.  The "Rachel Maddow Show" starts right now.  Good evening, Rachel.

 

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