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Pelosi delays sending impeachment articles. TRANSCRIPT: 12/26/19, All In w/ Chris Hayes.

Guests: Jim Manley, Walter Dellinger, Jeff Merkley, Ricky Garza, DexterFilkins, Philip Bailey, Josie Duffy Rice, Suketu Mehta

 STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT:  -- a heart attack.  I wondered then if that might be it for his campaign.  Instead, Sanders is finishing the year in better shape both physically and politically.  What surprises 2020 brings for him and for everyone else, we will soon find out and I can`t wait.

That is HARDBALL for now.  "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes starts right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST:  Tonight on ALL IN.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY):  Everything I do during this, I`m coordinating with the White House Counsel.

HAYES:  Senate Majority Leader`s collusion with the White House.

SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R-AK):  When I heard that, I was disturbed.

HAYES:  Tonight, the Republican senator bucking Mitch McConnell`s tactics and what it could mean for the upcoming impeachment trial.

MCCONNELL:  I`m not impartial about this at all.

HAYES:  Then, a new plan to thwart Russia interference amid new concerns about the security of the 2020 election.  Plus, of pushback on Trump`s border wall from landowners in Texas.  And the horror perpetrated in the world`s largest democracy by one of Trump`s favorite world leader.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Prime Minister Modi is doing a truly exceptional job for India and for all of the Indian people.

HAYES:  When ALL IN starts right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES:  Good evening from New York, I`m Chris Hayes.  We had a big development in the last couple of days over the holiday among Senate Republicans that could very well determine whether or not we get a real impeachment trial.

So here`s how things stand.  After Donald Trump became just the third president in American history to be impeached by the House, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said that she would not appoint impeachment managers over the house members will try the impeachment case in the Senate until she gets assurances from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell about what exactly the impeachment trial is going to look like.

Here`s how she put it in a letter to her Democratic colleagues "It now remains the Senate to present the rules under which we will proceed.  We can then appoint managers."  What Pelosi is effectively saying is we can`t appoint our lawyers until we know what they`re going to be doing or what kind of trial it is going to be.  And she`s refusing to send the articles of impeachment over the Senate until she gets an answer.

Now, one of the biggest unanswered questions is whether the impeachment managers will be able to cross-examine witnesses.  Are there going to be witnesses at all?  Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has called for testimony from four witnesses including former National Security Advisor John Bolton and Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, as well as the production of documents central to the case.

That testimony in those documents, of course, were sought by the House Democrats but blocked by the White House during the House impeachment process.  Now, Mitch McConnell has made it clear he`s not interested in any of that.  I mean, even before Trump was impeached, McConnell went on from T.V. to look into the camera and announced that he is essentially not going to run a fair trial, but he`s going to do whatever Trump and his allies tell him to do.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCONNELL:  Everything I do during this, I`m coordinating with the White House Counsel.  There will be no difference between the president`s position and our position as to how to handle this.  We`ll be working through this process hopefully in a fairly short period of time in total coordination with the White House Counsel`s Office and the people who are representing the president as well as the Senate.

HAYES:  It`s kind of an amazing admission, right?  I mean, he does not even pretend it.  Total coordination, no real trial, so that`s where things stand.  We have this partisan standoff between Nancy Pelosi in the House and Mitch McConnell in the Senate.  And what happens next is largely in the hands of a handful of Senate Republicans.

Here`s how the math works.  You need 51 votes to set the rules of the impeachment trial, a majority of the Senate.  There are 53 Republicans in the Senate.  So four Republicans would have to break with Mitch McConnell to set rules that could result in a real actual trial as called for by Chuck Schumer as envisioned in the Constitution.

So the big question is kind of a political one at this point.  Are there any cracks among Senate Republicans?  Are there any that are willing to cross the aisle and join with the Senate Democrats on procedural votes?  There are a handful one could imagine breaking with the White House, but so far, we really haven`t heard solid objections to McConnell`s stated position of coordination.  That`s until now.

On Tuesday, Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, declared in no uncertain terms that you cannot have a real trial if the people in charge are working in lockstep with the defense.  Listen to what she told the NBC affiliate in Alaska about her reaction to those McConnell comments.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MURKOWSKI:  Well, and in fairness, when I heard that I was disturbed.  To me, it means that we have to take that step back from being hand in glove with the defense.  And so I heard what Leader McConnell had said.  I happen to think that that has further confused the process.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES:  Further confused the process.  Now, Murkowski is an interesting case.  She has been a thorn in Mitch McConnell`s side on a number of issues, perhaps most notably, when she was one of the no votes against Republican efforts to repeal ObamaCare.

And her stance represents a crack, a real crack publicly in McConnell`s efforts to forego a real trial.  It`s a sign that McConnell`s decision to go on Trump T.V. and declare he was coordinate with the White House was a big tactical error.

I`m joined now by NBC News Correspondent Heidi Pryzbyla who covers politics and government ethics, as well as Jim Manley who`s chief spokesperson for former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.  Heidi, I guess I wasn`t shocked that Murkowski said that but it struck me as notable, highly notable that she said that publicly in terms of what it means for what she might be saying privately or what others in the Senate caucus might be thinking.

HEIDI PRYZBYLA, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Notable, but let`s not misinterpret this or overinterpret it.  She is a unique case.  As you mentioned, she was also the only Republican senator to vote against Brett Kavanaugh so she speaks only for herself here.  And if you look at what she actually said, Chris, she said nothing about witnesses.  She said she didn`t like coordination, and she said that she thought there should be a fair trial.

But she said, she thought that she wanted to hear from the House managers, and she wanted to hear from the president`s lawyers.  She said nothing about witnesses.  So again, to go back to the math, what you would need is four Lisa Murkowski`s to not only say they want witnesses, but to agree with Democrats on the specific witnesses that the Democrats want.  We`re a long ways from that.

In just these want these individual comments that she made here, I`ve tried to talk to her about it.  Other reporters have tried to talk to her about it, and she`s been very mom so I don`t want to discount this.  But we`re a long ways from four Republican senators saying they want the witnesses who the President`s been blocking and who we know have more information to offer because they`ve told us that, John Bolton has told us that through his lawyers.

HAYES:  Yes.  So there`s two questions to me, Heidi and Jim.  One is what is what happens in terms of process they come up with, but the other is just about where the kind of political pressure is and what the political experience of this is for the Senate caucus.

And, Jim, to Heidi`s point, if you ask me to bet, are you going to get four Republicans to break with McConnell and Trump on these procedural votes, my bet would be no.  That is far more likely they`ll stick together.  But Murkowski saying that to me highlighted what struck me as a tactical error from McConnell, which was saying out loud that he is coordinating with the White House, which to me actually puts his moderates or his more sort of vulnerable members any worse position.

JIM MANLEY, FORMER SPOKESMAN FOR SENATE LEADER HARRY REID:  I couldn`t agree more.  First of all, Heidi`s caution is absolutely correct when it comes to Senator Murkowski.  But yes, the entry to the dynamic to watch is the fact that if McConnell would have had this thing sewn up, if he would have had his caucus on board, he would have moved very quickly to try and get this thing up and organized.

And the fact that he`s still hedging his bets and the fact that he gave, you know, made these comments to Fox that are apparently, you know, boomeranging a little bit, you know, gives me pause about actually where, you know, his caucus is.  I think that there`s still a handful of folks that are really concerned about getting tied to Donald Trump in all of this, especially when news is breaking day in, day out about, you know, different facets of the case.

HAYES:  Heidi, the pause here that`s been hit by Nancy Pelosi for the stated reason that they cannot appoint impeachment managers until they know what they`re doing, the one thing that`s clear about this -- and there`s a lot of uncertainty that is driving Trump crazy.  I mean, he`s basically said as much, Lindsey Graham said as much.  This was him tweeting over -- tweeting yesterday during Christmas.  I just want to give people a taste to the juxtaposition.

His Christmas message, "Together we must strive to foster a culture of deeper understanding and respect-traits that exemplify the teachings of Christ.  Today crazy Nancy should clean up her filthy district and help the homeless there.  A primary for N."  He seems to not be enjoying this interregnum.

PRYZBYLA:  Well, maybe he`s read the polls, maybe, that shows that 70 percent of the American public is actually with Nancy Pelosi on this, not on the withholding the articles, but on wanting to hear from those witnesses which is the premise of her withholding the articles.

HAYES:  Right.

PRYZBYLA:  So look, she may not succeed in forcing the witnesses who the President is blocking, but will she -- what she may succeed in is raising public awareness that they are indeed being blocked.

HAYES:  Right.

PRYZBYLA:  So these are witnesses who are material to the question.  Now, Democrats felt that they had enough of first-hand evidence with Mick Mulvaney himself going out on national television in saying, yes, we did it, get over it, along with all of the other firsthand witness testimony, but the guys who are at the center of this are still refusing to testify, and there`s no indication that we`re going to hear from them.  The public thinks we should.

HAYES:  Final question for you, Jim, and this is sort of a blast in the past, which is that this is always a political process inherently, right?  McConnell wasn`t wrong about that.  And this interesting.  James Rogan, who was an impeachment manager I believe, I remember the Judiciary Committee back when Clint was impeached.  He had this to say, as he was talking about the Clinton impeachment.

Trent Lott who is then in McConnell position, Senate Majority Leader, he said Lott handsprings trying to make it go away.  We don`t care if you have photographs of Clinton standing over a dead woman with a smoking gun in his hand.  I have 55 Republican senators, seven of whom are up for reelection next year in tough races.  You guys in the House just jumped off a cliff.  We`re not falling you off the cliff.

MANLEY:  You know, Senator McConnell was no Trent Lott, nor is he quite frankly Ev Dirksen to even go back even further.  It`s purely political to him and he`s just -- he`s up for reelection, as you know, and he`s doing everything he can to try himself to Donald Trump until you know the polls go south on Trump.  Which is why it`s going to be interesting to see if some of those Republicans that are out there, the so-called moderates are going to stick with McConnell through all of this.  I`m not so sure they are but we`ll have to wait and see.

HAYES:  All right, Heidi Pryzbyla and Jim Manley, thanks to you both.  For more perspective on this, I want to bring in former Acting Solicitor General and head of the Office of Legal Counsel Walter Dellinger, as well as MSNBC Legal Analyst Jill Wine-Banks, who was an assistant special prosecutor and Watergate.

Walter, let me start with you on not the political question but a set of procedural ones.  I mean, at some level, I guess all this is up for debate, but there are actual Senate rules and there is precedent about trials.  What can we glean from those two sorts of bodies of knowledge?

WALTER DELLINGER, FORMER ACTING SOLICITOR GENERAL:  You know, we can learn a lot from it, Chris.  There are permanent roles.  They can be varied by the Senate, but it takes 60 votes, as McConnell himself is acknowledged to change the rules.  They were -- they were altered somewhat for the Clinton probe but that was by unanimous consent 100 to zero when the leaders worked it out.

But here -- but one of the -- one of those rules provide, they make it clear that testimony is anticipated on behalf of the House managers.  There are three rules.  Rule 6, Rule 17, Rule 18, all deal with the fact that witnesses may be called by the House managers and the Senate may compel their attendance.  They may provide that if a senator is called, he shall give testimony from his standing desk.

They provide most relevantly that when a witness is called, one person may examine the witness on behalf of those who call the witness and then one person may examine the witness on behalf of the other party.  So the rules themselves completely reject the notion advanced by the majority leader that finding facts is for the House and not for the Senate.  That is simply repudiated.  Unless you have you no witnesses, no real trial.  No real trial, no exoneration.

HAYES:  Jill, how central do you think the question of witnesses is to the nature of what kind of process this ends up being?

JILL WINE-BANKS, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST:  I think it will only be a fair trial if there are witnesses that are relevant to the issues at hand.  And what`s happened here compared to the past, in the past, you`ve had full special prosecutor reports, you had the star report, you had the Watergate report.  You had all the 16 materials that we in Watergate turned over to the House Judiciary Committee.  It never got to the Senate because the evidence was so clear that the President Nixon resigned rather than face the trial.

But in the case of Clinton, there was a ton of evidence, there was an extremely full report, so full that I think the next rules were changed so that we wouldn`t have to endure that kind of report.

HAYES:  Right.

WINE-BANKS:  Here, you`ve been denied witness after witness after witness.  And it`s clear that people with direct knowledge of the exact things that we are looking at have been prohibited from testifying.  And the standard at impeachment is very different than it is at conviction.

Just as in a trial, you need probable cause for an indictment.  You need beyond reasonable proof, beyond a reasonable doubt in a trial.  And to get that, we need these extra witnesses.  The President deserves it, and the American people deserve to have the full trial.  And he cannot be exonerated if there isn`t a full presentation of the evidence and a full rebuttal.

So far, there has been no rebuttal and doesn`t seem to be a rebuttal.  All there`s been is don`t let these people testify who actually have knowledge.  And that says to me, you cannot exonerate the president.

HAYES:  You know, Walter, there`s kind of a deeper constitutional issue here which is interesting to me, which is what is the Senate in this incarnation, right?  I mean, in a political sense, the Senate with a majority of Republicans is an ally of the President.

They don`t bring up bills that he doesn`t want to sign, they are essentially -- they`re -- particularly McConnell is a kind of adjunct in some ways.  He certainly turned himself into that.  What is your understanding of how the constitution both in theory and practice envisions the role the Senate in this undertaking?

DELLINGER:  Well, I think they are not exactly sure, is that if they have a broader scope of a -- broader scope of discretion, I think, then jurists would have.  But on the other hand, they take an oath to be impartial, which means they should try to do their duty under the Constitution.

And the idea that they would not hear from witnesses when we know and in every trial in this country, there are witnesses called, a trial who are not part of the indictment or in this case, the impeachment process.  There`s just no argument not to hear for four hours, you know, from the chief of staff and the national security officer.

HAYES:  Well, particularly -- Jill, to your point, I mean, when you`re talking about someone like Mick Mulvaney, I mean, presumably this is a sympathetic witness for the president, right?  He`s being called by the, you know, the prosecutors I guess in this case, but he is -- he works for the President.  He`s an ally of the president.  He defends the president.

WINE-BANKS:  Absolutely.  And if he can`t come forward, it is easy to reach a conclusion that that`s because what he would say is worse than his remaining silent.  And I want to point out that during Watergate, it was a pre-trial subpoena.  After the indictment, after the House had already started impeachment proceedings where we got the extra tape we got the smoking gun tape.  So it is not unusual to have evidence for trial that you did not have before an indictment.  And people are forgetting that.

HAYES:  Well, that`s a great point.

HAYES:  That`s a great, great point.  I had forgotten that.  Walter Dellinger and Jill Wine-Banks, thank you for your time tonight.  Up next, the new tactics to prevent Russian interference in the 2020 election by targeting personal data.  That story next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES:  As we head towards 2020, a big question looms about the conditions under which we will undertake that election.  Will the Russians or other nations or foreign entities attempt to sabotage the election the way they did in 2016?  Will they even try to escalate?

We know thanks to a bipartisan Senate Intelligence report that came out earlier this year, Russia targeted election systems in all 50 states.  But were they in a position to actually penetrate all those systems?  Will they in the next election?  The answers of that are maddeningly unclear.

And the Washington Post is reporting that some the U.S. government are considering a sort of warning system to counter this type of interference by Russia.  "The new options contemplate targeting key leaders in the security services, in the military, and potentially some oligarchs.  The messaging would be accompanied by a limited cyber operation that demonstrates the Americans access to a particular system or account and the capability to inflict the cost.  The message would implicitly warn the target that if the election interference did not cease, there would be consequences."

Is that a good idea?  I don`t really know.  It seems like there`s a lot of arguments we had on both sides.

And here with me now, a U.S. senator who has been focused on digital election security for years and who`s one of the co-sponsors of the protecting American votes and Elections Act of 2019, Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon.

Senator, what do you think about this idea of some kind of preemptive sort of digital cyber warning shot to Russian actors to kind of warn them off further interference?

SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D-OR):  Well, I think it`s envisioned in a similar frame to the Deter Act which is passed in the Senate, which says, look, if you mess around in our elections, there`s going to be significant consequences.  The Deter Act lays out those consequences in terms of additional sanctions.

In this case, what the more or less has been said we`ll have a special cyber unit that will provide cyber consequences for key actors inside Russia.  Now, the details just aren`t really clear to me yet exactly the extent of what they`re talking about or the impact or the breadth of it.  But the idea of saying to Russia, you mess with our election, there will be consequences, that certainly has broad bipartisan support in the Senate.

HAYES:  There`s there seems to me a kind of question here about the nature of these actions on the international stage sort of cyber intrusion and cyberwar.  And I hearken back to obviously, the sort of world wrestling with what to do about nuclear weapons, very different category, but creating some kind of international regime to guide their use and treaties, the non-proliferation treaty in the sort of logic and deterrence.  It does seem like some bigger architecture is necessary here, given just how dangerous in some ways escalation could be in this sphere.

MERKLEY:  Well, and this is a good point because the act in the Senate anticipates using established mechanisms that are very public mechanisms such as sanctions.  But here we`re talking to about a host of possibilities that can range from attacks on people`s personal information, all kinds of impacts on the operation of their governmental systems, who knows, just as we`re concerned about the breadth of possible Russian impact on us.

We had in the 2016 election, a series of examples.  We had the Russians setting up a bot network to overload messages for Facebook to have certain stories trending.  We had them creating fake news to help and then help drive that fake news.  We had them as you mentioned on your program, exploring how to penetrate election systems in all 50 states.

We had all of that going on, but there`s also a lot of concern about the ability of countries to mess with operating systems of things like pipeline systems or utilities or electric grid.  So there`s a huge house.  And that`s where you`re where we`re talking about things done privately, how might that escalate back and forth, and to what degree are these acts of war, because this is really outside the frame of anything we face before.

HAYES:  You know, there`s -- on the question of sort of penetration of election systems, you know, there has been reporting about this, but no public declarations about exactly what happened in where some of the states have been informed.  You know, Florida, for instance, is one of those states.  There`s a firm there called VR Systems.

There`s an article in Politico about it which basically is about whether VR Systems was in fact, penetrated or not.  They say they weren`t.  They ran analysis.  They wouldn`t turn it over to Politico.  Do you feel like we have a full public accounting of actually what did happen in 2016, and how far it got?

MERKLEY:  Absolutely not.  There is significant information available that the VR Systems was targeted.  We have certainly a lot of concern about what happened in Durham, North Carolina, where were their electronic poll books were messed up on election day and didn`t function properly.  It`s never been fully explained but that was done through VR Systems.

VR Systems has similar sorts of poll books, electronic poll books, in counties -- many, many counties around the country.  And I know that my colleague who serves as the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, Senator Wyden has been very forthcoming in saying we`re not getting the full story and the public deserves to know.

HAYES:  I agree with that.  Senator Jeff Merkley, thanks for being here.  Coming up, one of the many reasons that Trump has failed to deliver on his signature campaign promise, the landowners are blocking the border wall, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES:  I heard a lot of reasons why Donald Trump`s promise of a border wall stretching all the way across the southern border was both a bad idea and ridiculous.  I mean, for one thing, Mexico, of course, was never going to pay for it.  That was just a lie.

For another, there are just huge stretches of the border where it is either impractical or downright impossible to build a wall, like the parts of the southern border that cut through impassable desert or stretch across the Rio Grande, or the parts that are crucially private property that Texans are fighting tooth and nail not to give over to the government to build a wall.

And as a New York Times reports, those landowners are a key obstacle to getting the so-called border wall built.  Here with me now, a lawyer representing nine Texas landowners currently fighting in court to keep their land from being taken for a border wall, Ricky Garza of the Texas Civil Rights Project.  Can you tell me who your clients are and what their cases against the government?

RICKY GARZA, TEXAS CIVIL RIGHTS PROJECT:  So our clients right now are nine landowners in the path of the border wall who live in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas.

HAYES:  And they would have their land -- they would have to give over the land, my understanding is somewhat actually find themselves essentially on the wrong side of the fence were it to be constructed?

GARZA:  Yes, that`s exactly right.  So I`ve been able to look into this a little bit and there is so much land that would be, if this is ever built, between the border and the actual border wall, between the international boundary and where they want to build the wall.

And we`ve measured it up and it looks like it would be about the size of Washington D.C. that would be left between the river and the wall if this is ever going to get built.  And because of the efforts of landowners, like my clients, and like the clients of the Texas Civil Rights Project, that is unlikely to be the case, given the ten months that we have between now and the election and 2020.  Assuming we do get somebody else in the White House at the end of the year.

HAYES:  Well, but here`s -- so just to -- just to be clear on the details here.  They want to build part of the wall, the Rio Grande is the international border.  You can`t build a wall through the water.  So they would build it like half mile or a mile in from the river but then that`s a huge chunk of land between the wall and the river.  That`s America and on the wrong side of the wall.

GARZA:  Yes, it would essentially divide entire communities that make up the Rio Grande Valley.  And that`s where I live and that`s where I work.  And I`m originally from McAllen, Texas in the border region of the United States, and we`re as much a part of the United States as anywhere else in the country.  But the way landowners are being treated by this administration, the lack of respect that we`ve seen, both to my clients, and to everyone in the path of this failed project, really just shows the lack of -- the lack of due care that`s being given to people who are really having their livelihoods taken away if this project were to go forward.

HAYES: Have you been successful so far?

GARZA:    So, the law is extremely favorable to the federal government, but at the same time everyone does have due process rights regardless of the emergency declaration, of how many billions of dollars that we`ve seen appropriated just for this project, the federal government and the Trump administration cannot waive the U.S. constitution, and that says that every single person in the path of the wall, if they do not consent to their land being taken, they have the right to take it all the way up to a jury trial of their peers in federal court.  And for us, that`s what we do for our clients.

There are so many people who don`t understand that they do have a right to refuse the government`s first offer and to refuse to consent to this project entirely. We know that in south Texas this is highly Democratic area, this is an area that`s almost universally opposed to the border wall project, and we understand that most people don`t want this, but this hasn`t stopped the Trump administration from driving this project through the border lands and attempting to bulldoze our homes.

So the Texas Civil Rights Project has a commitment to represent every landowner in the path of the border wall who does not consent to a taking and cannot afford a lawyer on their own.  And we represent people for free.

HAYES:  All right, Ricky Garza, thank you so much.

Still ahead, the reticence of many state governors to use their pardon power, and the investigation into potential abuse of that power in Kentucky next.

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HAYES:  America has just about the highest incarceration rate of any nation on Earth.  And one way to start reducing the number of people that we have in prison is for governors across the country to more aggressively start using their pardon power.  In most states, governors can issue clemency or pardons or do it with a parole board`s approval.

Generally, however, the politics of that decision are terrifying for governors who don`t want to  be attacked for being soft on crime.  The end result is that they vastly under-use their ability to pardon folks. 

So now comes along the strange case of Matt Bevin.  He`s the former Kentucky governor who, almost seems to have gone about his mass pardons and commutations in a way designed to produce the worst kind of discrediting of the project.  After losing his re-election bid last month, Bevin spent his lame duck weeks pardoning more than 600 people.

What made these clemency moves so controversial was the lack of public stated rationale from the outgoing governor, that and at least one of the convicted murderers pardoned by the -- was the brother of a man who had helped a campaign fund-raiser for Bevin, something that sparked the attention of the FBI, according to Louisville`s Courier Journal.

And everything Bevin has done to defend decisions has been, frankly, a PR disaster, including  this when he was asked during a radio interview about a child rapist whose sentence he pardoned.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATT BEVIN, FORMER GOVERNOR OF KENTUCKY:  These girls, both, were examined medically.  They were examined physically.  There was zero evidence, zero.  Both their hymens were intact.  This is perhaps more specific than people would want, but trust me if you had been repeatedly sexually violated as a small child by an adult, there are going to be repercussions of that physically and medically.  There was zero evidence of that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES:  Joining me now, one of the Courier Journal reporters who broke this story, Philip Bailey and Josie Duffy Rice, lawyer and president of the non- profit criminal justice publication, The Appeal.

Phil, let me start with you.  There`s a what and a how here.  There`s the actual pardons and commutations offered by the governor, there`s also the way that he did it.  And I want to just talk about that for a second.  My understanding is there was no public rationale, no comprehensive paper, put out about these by the governor as he went out and instead reporters like yourself just sort of learned of them case by case.

PHILIP BAILEY, COURIER JOURNAL:  Right, when Governor Bevin lost his election by about 5,000 votes here in Kentucky, he was never someone who was friendly with the press or really had an open door with the Kentucky media.  We began to see, through the secretary of state`s office, these pardons coming through.  And looking through them, you know, and beginning to cross-reference them, a pattern began to develop. 

Governor Bevin would often explain and say in his pardon letters these persons changed.  They`ve turned their life around.  He would then in some of the other pardons, really deride the whole criminal justice process saying it was a shoddy investigation.

So when we looked further in the documentation, there was no real evidence of that.  It was just sort of the governor`s discretion.  And that`s what it is in the constitution, Chris.  The governor has god-like powers to pardon whoever he wants.  The Baker case was one that has obviously drawn attention because of the fund-raising connection.  The Schulte (ph) case is another one where the governor`s comments seem to be outside the realm of anatomy and science, but there are some ones that have also drawn our attention as well, even amongst the low-level, non-violent drug offenders, which most people agreed with, those 300 plus people who were pardoned, myself and two investigative reporters of the Courier looked at those number, we found that 95 percent of those pardoned were white, right.  So, even within the context of criminal justice reform, the governor`s pardons did not meet the standard many criminal justice advocates had called for.

HAYES:  So, that`s interesting, so 300 of those are low level non-violent offenders, 95 percent of those are white, which is interesting.

Josie, I wanted to have you on, because I`ve been following your writing on this case, and among folks in criminal justice reform movements who I respect a tremendous amounts and have learned from and written about, that the backlash here, there`s like sort of two things going, one is I think the way that Bevin did this, the how, and the other is the fear that the backlash is being driven by some of the same impulses that stop governors from using their pardon power in the first place to the full extent that they should be in states across the nation.

JOSIE DUFFY RICE, PRESIDENT, THE APPEAL :  Yeah, I think I would start by saying that there are a couple of decisions that Governor Bevin made that I would not have made and that I think absolutely are deserving of scrutiny, and some of the statements, including the one we just heard, do kind of defy the laws of science.

That being said, I think that the media coverage of this issue has been extremely concerning and so reflective of what we see driving mass incarceration continually today even among populations that say they support change and the way that we think about criminal justice system.

And when we talk about pardoning 600 people, right, and we focus on just 6 or 7 of those cases, we are doing a major disservice to the actual power of the pardon and refusing to contextualize it in the history of American executive power, right?

Historically, the pardon power has been used thousands of times over a president or executive`s tenure, and now we`re seeing that it`s used hundreds, maybe dozens.  Andrew Cuomo, for example, has commuted no sentences this year.  We just saw Brendan Dassey from making a murderer, his request to be pardoned was denied.

And what we`re seeing with Governor Bevin is in part why that might be.  I agree that 95 percent of those low level drug offenders, 95 percent of them are white is a major problem in a system and in a state where the disproportionate racial effects of the criminal justice system are significant.

What I worry about, on the other hand, is that the implication then is that those people should not have been pardoned versus should Matt Bevin have gone further.

HAYES:  Well, here`s the question I have for you, Philip, final question part of what is strange about this case is the incongruity between like Bevin`s public profile and these actions.  This is not someone who had sort of, as far as I understand, Philip, and correct me if I`m wrong, sort of been someone who talked about criminal justice reform or talked about due process or talked about Kentucky`s incarcerating too many people, and then this seemed to sort of come out of -- like literally come out of nowhere from someone who had just lost an election and was not really like commensurate with the way that he generally had talked about his public project.

BAILEY:  Well, Matt Bevin`s records have been mixed up in that, Chris.  I mean, he was certainly at the White House and was I think the only governor there when President Trump signed a criminal justice reform package.  But many Kentuckians have been at the forefront of criminal justice reform -- Senator Rand Paul.  I think of Holly Harris, an advocate for criminal justice reform, during the holidays on July 4 and Christmas Day, Governor Bevin would often issue criminal justice reform or pardons during those times, but remember his very first act as governor back in 2015 was taking away the voting rights of those 140,000 folks his predecessor put in place.

HAYES:  Yeah, that is great point.  And those have now -- a large percentage of those have been restored by Governor Beshear, who defeated him in that election.

Philip Bailey, thank you that was great reporting, and Josie Duffy Rice always great to hear from you.  Thank you both.

BAILEY:  Thanks, Chris.

DUFFY RICE:  Thank you so much.

HAYES:  Coming up, one of the president`s favorite world leaders, and what he`s doing to his own people next. 

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HAYES:  In September of this year, in Houston, Texas, President Trump appear at a somewhat strange event that might easily have been forgotten.  It looked a lot like a Trump rally, but it wasn`t a Trump rally per se, it was organized instead by supporters of Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India to celebrate the re-election of the leader of the world`s biggest democracy.

Now, that`s interesting because before Modi became prime minister of India in 2014, before he spoke to tens of thousands of people at that football stadium in Houston with the president of the United States there, Modi had literally been banned for nearly a decade during much of the Bush and Obama administrations from even entering the United States, that`s because he was implicated in the 2002 anti-Muslim riots in the state of Gujarat, where he was chief minister.

Those riots killed up to 2,000 people.  Credible evidence points to Modi encouraging that religious ethnic violence against Muslims, or at the very least, turning a blind eye to it as well as covering up the role of his state government in it.

But then Modi ran for prime minister on a right wing populist platform and won for the first time back in 2014, and after he became prime minister he was, of course, invited to the U.S. by the Obama administration.  He`s been the subject of friendly press and elite praise in the U.S. and Davos, and now President Trump has warmly embraced him, because Modi with his hard right politics, open bigotry, and constant rhetorical war against those he views as his domestic enemies is the kind of foreign leader Trump praises a lot.

And Trump`s Muslim ban is nothing compared to what Modi has actually done.  Modi right now is in the midst of an audacious attempt to destroy the pluralistic governing vision of India that dates back to Gandhi, and replace it, instead, with Hindu naturalism and Hindu supremacy.  It has occasioned the largest protests in India in years amid terrifying incursions on civil liberties.  And we`re going to talk about all that next.

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HAYES:  Since becoming prime minister of India in 2014, Narendra Modi has used his popularity and his position to move in an increasingly authoritarian direction.  He`s launched a full-scale assault on the basic pluralistic multi-religious principles of a democratic India enshrined by Gandhi and the Congress Party.

Modi has unilaterally revoked a part of the Indian constitution that gave autonomy and self-determination to Kashmir, India`s only Muslim majority state.  He sent in troops, put it under curfew and surveillance, cut off access to the Internet in certain areas for months.

In a country of 1.3 billion people, Modi has pushed for things like citizenship registries meant to disenfranchise much of the country`s 200 million Muslims, and now in the most brazen move yet, he has pushed through passage of a law that would provide citizenship for immigrants of literally every religious minority except Muslims.  That law has provoked massive protests around the country. 

And for more I`m joined by Suketu Mehta, associate professor of journalism at NYR, author of this land is our land, an immigrant`s manifesto, originally from India, and Dexter Filkins, staff writer for New Yorker who recently visited India and published a piece of his investigation Blood and Soil in Narendra Modi`s India, which is a phenomenal read.

Suketu, let me start with you as someone who was in India, came to the U.S., came back to write an incredible book about it there, who gave a speech about Modi just a few months ago in India, this citizenship law, which seems just so cut and dry and explicitly bigoted, has provoked some kind of reaction in India that we hadn`t seen yet.  What`s going on with that?

SUKETU MEHTA, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY:  So, for the first time in independent India`s history there`s been a law, which has specific religious test.  So as you mentioned, citizens of persecuted minorities in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh can come into India, as long as they`re not Muslim.  And this is -- has never really happened in independent India, and it`s sailed through parliament without much protest. 

Then an interesting thing started happening, young people in universities started protesting, and now it`s all across the country.  I mean the protests are led by the young, but along with other measures the government wants to put forward like a national registry of citizens.  They want to Indians to produce documentary evidence that they`re citizens and anyone who has been to India knows how hard it is to get any kind of documents from a government office.

So the idea is the messaging at all levels, whether it`s Kashmir, whether it`s the citizenship act, whether it`s this national register of citizens, is to send a message to the country`s 200 million Muslims, this is a Hindu country, you`re here by our sufferance, that`s why I think it`s the greatest threat to India since the founding of the democracy.

HAYES:  Dexter, before this -- before protests over the citizenship law, there was the move on Kashmir, and obviously that`s been contested territory for a very long time, since before partition, post-partition.  You filed an incredible story for The New Yorker where you went with an Indian journalist there to document what it was like.  And what has Modi done in Kashmir?

DEXTER FILKINS, THE NEW YORKER STAFF WRITER:  Well, I think what`s so depressing about what we saw -- and we snuck in.  I mean, foreigners are prohibited so I just managed -- I got on an airplane and put on a local costume and I got through.  But what I think is most remarkable about it is that when you pick up most Indian newspapers or you turn on the television it tells you -- they tell you everything is fine, it`s normal, like everybody supports this.  And Kashmir is fine.  Go home.

And what we found is that it`s essentially an open air prison.  The people are cut off from the rest of the country.  There`s no Internet.  There`s no telephones.  They`re cut off from each other.  There are soldiers everywhere, they`re on every street corner.  It is a really, really grim situation.  I mean, I was there for about -- a little less than a week, and I was -- I mean, just personally I was going crazy, because it was so claustrophobic and so intense, and really fearful.

And that`s -- so they` locked it down.  And I think -- I got a really bad feeling when I was there.  It was creepy.  And I really -- and I`ve seen a lot of bad things and gave me a bad feeling.  I don`t know where that`s going, but it`s not good.

And so these demonstrations have actually been kind of encouraging, because it`s really extraordinary to see the Indians rise up.

HAYES:  Yeah, so there`s two things happening here.  I mean, one is this sort of vision of Hindu supremacy, India as a sort of ethnoreligious state fundamentally, like India for Hindus, which is obviously at odds with what Gandhi literally gave his life to avoid.

And then also this authoritarian turn a little bit, like pressure on the media, pressure on academics in the universities.  We`ve seen some arrests in universities.  How much have you seen Modi sort of moving in these illiberal directions to get to?

MEHTA:  Well, it really has been an all out war against intellectuals, against people who -- dissenters in -- it`s you see this on social media.  I`m sure my Twitter feed is lighting up right now with people saying I`m a traitor to India at this kind of experience before.  I`ve given other talks about the situation.

It`s a kind of weaponizing of  this Hindu card, the idea that there are all these countries.  They -- and different religions have their different countries.  India should be for Hindus.  You know, and these people who were always there throughout India`s history, but now they`re in power and Modi just got elected with a thumping majority.

But the issue is that the economy is really in the toilet.  Modi claims to have built tens of millions of toilets, he`s actually dragged the economy into the toilet.  Unemployment is at a 45-year high.  The growth rate went from 7 percent last year to 4.5 percent this year.  So some of this is meant as a distraction from the terrible performance on the economy.

HAYES:  But there`s -- Dexter, there`s also, as you documented in that great piece in The New Yorker, this is very gifted and also popular politician, Modi.  I mean, this is someone who if you look at other folks, particularly Trump or Bolsonaro in Brazil, sort of somewhat similar styles, obviously very different countries, they`re not as popular.

Modi`s approval rating is like 65 percent.

FILKINS:  No, they`re really -- he`s really smart.  And I think what was the thing that was most the disturbing to me when I was there was how much it felt like the United States, except worse, and how much -- and how much Modi resembled Trump except he was worse.  And so many Indians said that to me when I spoke to them.  They said, this is what -- you know, we`re going through the same thing you did, the difference is, your institutions, yours in the United States, the press, the judiciary, the military, you`ve withstood the assault.  Our institutions have collapsed.  And that`s what - - I think Modi has been extremely deft at that.

You know, they`re not shooting people in the streets.  You`re not going to see a Tienanmen Square there or anything like that, they`re too smart for that, and that`s so even in Kashmir, they`re kind of flying under the radar screen and they`re doing it in a very insidious fashion.  And it`s very calculated.

And, you know, so far he`s been in power for five years.  He`s been re- elected in a landslide earlier this year.  It`s worked for him.  It`s worked by taking a segment of the population, Muslims, and demonizing them, he`s been able to organize a majority around that.  And they`ve -- a majority of people have been able -- they`ve been willing to give him really unchecked power, and that`s what`s so scary about it, because you kind of feel that here a little bit.

HAYES:  Yeah, and to me it`s the lesson here for everyone in many countries where something like this is like just the importance of civil society in the face of this...

MEHTA:  Civil society has actually been reacting.  The students, and I mentioned, are out in the streets, and India`s federalist structure might actually save the country in the long run.  12 prime ministers -- I mean, 12 chief ministers at last reckoning, have said they will not support this national registry of citizens. 

So there is a lot of resistance, and you know, it just -- I really have hope in India in the long run, because democracy has been around for a long time in the country.

HAYES:  This was really important conversation.  Suketu Mehta and Dexter Filkins, thank you both so much for doing it with me tonight, I really appreciate it.

That is All In for this evening.  The Rachel Maddow Show starts now with Ali Velshi in for Rachel.  Good evening, Ali.

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