Trump reversed Eddie Gallagher's demotion. TRANSCRIPT: 12/27/19, All In w/ Chris Hayes.

Guests: Andrew Dyer, Leo Shane, Jon Soltz, Richard Blumenthal, NoahBookbinder

 STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST:  That`s HARDBALL for now.  Thank you for being with us.  And "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes starts right now.

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CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST:  Tonight on ALL IN.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  With Eddie Gallagher, you know that story very well.  They wanted to take a spin away and I said, no, you`re not going to take it away.  He was a great fighter.

HAYES:  Disturbing testimony from Navy SEALs about their platoon chief who was pardoned by the president and hosted at Mar-a-Lago.

TRUMP:  He was one of the ultimate fighters.  Tough guy.

HAYES:  Then, the Doral G7 Sham revealed.

TRUMP:  They went to places all over the country and they came back and they said, this is where we`d like to be.  Now, we had military people doing it, we had Secret Service people doing it.

HAYES:  Documents that show what the Secret Service actually thought about Trump`s hotel site regardless of the spin.

MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF:  Doral was by far and away, far and away the best physical facility of for this meeting.

HAYES:  And with just over a month until Iowa, my special guest tonight, 2020 Candidate Andrew Yang when "ALL IN" starts right now.

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HAYES:  Good evening from New York. I`m Chris Hayes.  We have shocking new footage of what the men in the unit of an accused war criminal thought about him.  It`s previously unreleased footage obtained by the New York Times of Navy SEALs describing actions by their platoon leader, the man by the name of Eddie Gallagher.

Gallagher has become a figure at the center of an enormous moral scandal in the Trump administration, perhaps one of its worst.  Over the summer, a military court acquitted Gallagher of most of the war crimes charges he`d been charged with, but he was found guilty of one lesser charge for posing for a picture with a man`s corpse.  And that resulted in him being demoted.

In the middle -- the military began the formal process of stripping his seal status but then Donald Trump, against the wishes of top military leaders, intervened, restoring his rank, ordering the Navy to keep him in the SEALs.  Now, it`s worth noting that Donald Trump campaigned on a pro- war crime platform in 2016

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TRUMP:  Would I approve waterboarding, you bet your ass I`d approve it.  You bet your ass. In a heartbeat.  In a heartbeat.  I would approve more than that.  And don`t kid yourself, folks.  It works.

He took 50 bullets, and he dip them in pig`s blood.  And he had his man load his rifles.  And he lined up the 50 people, and they shot 49 of those people.  And the 50th person, he said, you go back to your people and you tell them what happened.  And for 25 years, there wasn`t a problem, OK.

Now we`re talking about waterboarding.  I said, it`s fine.  And if we want to go stronger, I`d go stronger too.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES:  Given that, it`s perhaps not at all surprising that Eddie Gallagher would become a kind of cause celeb for Donald Trump and his supporters.  The president has reportedly told allies he wants to bring Eddie Gallagher out on the campaign trail with him for 2020.  In fact, get this, just this past weekend, the President and First Lady hosted Gallagher and his wife and Mar-a-Lago.  He`s at a dinner with Eric Trump and Rudy Giuliani.

Here`s the thing Eddie Gallagher, a retired Special Operations Chief of SEAL Team Seven, the guy you saw posing with the president and son, and his personal lawyer, he was accused of some very, very serious war crimes in Iraq back in 2017.  He was accused of the attempted murder of unarmed civilians including an old man and a schoolgirl.  He was accused of stabbing an ISIS captive multiple times.  He was convicted of posing for a picture with that dead man`s corpse.

Gallagher denies all the charges.  Today, the New York Times published a trove of interviews which have never been shown publicly before.  Statements made from Eddie Gallagher`s fellow SEAL team members to investigators speaking out about what they saw.  Some quotes.  "The guy is freaking evil."  "The guy was toxic."  "You could tell he was perfectly OK with killing anybody that was moving."

The Times also obtained video recordings of the interviews of SEALs describing the scene when Eddie Gallagher approached an ISIS captive that he was accused of stabbing.  A warning, the first image may be disturbing.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Gallagher comes on the scene with his medic bag and push the kid down on the ground while he checks him for wounds.  And right then you can see a hand reach up and turn off the helmet cam.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  So what did you actually see Gallagher did.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (INAUDIBLE) He just starts stabbing the dude.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I see Eddie playing over on with a knife, shaving his neck.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Did Eddie say anything while he did this or did he just literally pull out a knife and just start stabbing up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He pulled out a knife and started stabbing.  How close do you think you are when you saw Gallagher stab him?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Me, body, Gallagher.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  In one time, multiple times --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It`s probably two or three times.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES:  NBC News did not reach out to the individual SEALs for comment on that video obtained by the York Times, but the New York Times says they did reach out to every one of them and they all declined comment.  Eddie Gallagher`s defense lawyer said the video interviews were rife with inconsistencies and falsehoods and that those inconsistencies created a clear roadmap to the acquittal.

His lawyer told ALL IN, the New York Times failed to give context of the videos, that the supposed eyewitnesses actually had inconsistent stories.  The SEAL Team members who were the witnesses didn`t like Eddie Gallagher because he was too hard on them.  There was a lack they said of corroborating evidence.

One of the reasons that Eddie Gallagher was acquitted of murder had to do with a remarkable moment during his trial, OK, where the prosecution star witness Special Operator First Class Corey Scott, a medic who said he saw a Gallagher stabbed the eyes of a captive multiple times changed his story on the stand.  He said the Gallagher stab the captive ones, and then he, Corey Scott killed the captive by suffocation.

No one was prepared for that.  It was a shock to everyone in the room, at least for the prosecutors.  And because that witness was testifying under an immunity that had been granted, he could that not be charged for the killing, and Eddie Gallagher was acquitted of the charges murder of that captive, also acquitted of attempted murder civilians.  He was convicted of posing with corpse of that dead captive.

And we still do not know the story of what led to this medic to change his tune on the stand and basically admits to killing the captive, but we do know that after the trial, the Pentagon basically wanted to kick Eddie Gallagher out of the SEALs, and President Trump intervened.  And he ordered them to reinstate Gallagher`s rank.  And that led to the very public resignation of the Secretary of the Navy, who so disagreed with the President`s handling of the case, he quit.

And Trump clearly thinks his embrace of Eddie Gallagher as a way to ingratiate himself with active-duty members of the military and their families, but there are a lot of people inside the armed forces who are furious about this.  In fact, recent polling the Military Times shows half of active-duty troops view the president unfavorably.

Joining me now, Leo Shane, he`s a Deputy Editor of the Military Times, which of course have been covering the story along with many other issues, and Andrew Dyer, who covers the military for the San Diego Tribune.  He was actually in the courtroom for the full duration of Edward Gallagher`s trial.

And, Andrew, let me just start with you maybe about that moment.  I mean, so much happens in the moment in which the star witness of the prosecution comes in and changes his story on the stand.  What was that moment like in the courtroom?

ANDREW DYER, MILITARY REPORTER, SAN DIEGO TRIBUNE:  Well, Chris, it was really surreal.  Going into the trial, we had a pretty good idea of what each witness was going to say.  It was in NCIS records.  We kind of knew their stories.  And when he said that he suffocated the fighter, that was something new, something we hadn`t heard before.  And you know, it kind of washed over the courtroom in a wave.  I almost -- I had to replay to my mind like, did I just hear what I just heard, and yes.

HAYES:  Do we know the full story?  I`m just going to follow up and then I`ll come to you in a second, Leo.  But do we actually know the full story of what happened there?  Like what why did the testimony changed?

DYER:  Well, I talked to Gallagher`s lawyer, Tim Parlatore yesterday, and he said that in a preliminary interview with Corey Scott, he had gone up to the edge of this and Corey has got it and said something about suffocation.  And Scott`s attorney cut prohibitory off saying that they weren`t going to go any further without clarifying an immunity deal.

And in the trial, before this section of testimony, the judge told Corey Scott that he was fully immune from whatever he was about to say on the stand.

HAYES:  Leo, this case has obviously attracted enormous attention.  I wonder what from your perspective at the Military Times what -- how it is reverberated through current active duty members?

LEO SHANE III, DEPUTY EDITOR, MILITARY TIMES:  Yes.  It`s definitely a concern in case for a lot of folks because it seems as if Trump has weighed into an area where we haven`t traditionally seen presidents.  Obviously, the President has the power to pardon or to grant clemency, but in this case, as you -- as you recapped, you know, Chief Gallagher was acquitted of the most serious charges, was found to be guilty of conduct unbecoming, and maybe thought they were dealing with it internally.

And the President stepped in and said, no we should -- we should forget that.  We should look beside that.  He`s done eight deployments.  There`s a lot of good in his background.  So I`m going to intervene, you know, not just on the issue of the crime here but all the way down to the issue of his rank whether or not he`d been reinstated as a SEAL, whether or not he can call himself a chief anymore.

So you know, the reverberations are just a lot of shock as to you know, the commander in chief coming down this far on a case that`s already really complicated and really convoluted.

HAYES:  Andrew, how does the picture painted of Gallagher in the newly unearthed footage from the New York Times, how does that sort of fit or not fit with the image painted of him at trial?

DYER:  Well, it does square with their testimony.  In most cases, the SEALs testified to the same things that they had told investigators.  It`s -- I think it`s important to note that two of these SEALs that were in these preliminary interviews were not called to testify at Gallagher`s court- martialed, including one Petty Officer Ivan Villanueva who initially told investigators he saw Gallagher stabbed the fighter.  Yet after Scott, after Scott`s testimony, for whatever reason the prosecutors decided not to call Villanova which, as always stood out to me and to this day, neither the prosecutors nor the Navy have offered any explanation why a witness to this alleged stabbing did not testify.

HAYES:  You know, part of the -- part of that sort of question here, Leo, and I think that the difficulty of this from a moral progress is, you know, the president says he`s looking out for our "warfighters."  But of course, there were members of his own unit that were so distressed by the actions, that they took tremendous risk to come forward to testify, to talk to investigators, and they have essentially been thrown by the wayside.

SHANE:  And that becomes the question here.  Obviously, he`s thrown himself in Gallagher`s corner and said that he`s standing up for warfighters by standing with him.  But as we saw from the release today, you know, a lot of the public had heard that some of the SEALs didn`t like him.  I don`t know what the effect will be of seeing just in black and white here, just, you know, how emotional some of their testimony is, and how many folks are sort of left in the wake of this.

Now, you know, if, if you`re a member of the military and you`re seeing this and you see something improper downrange, what`s your reaction going to be?  Should you report this to your higher-ups?  Is that something that you feel confident that the military code of justice is going to be upheld and going to be followed, or is it something where down the line, maybe it can be reversed and you get into trouble for being a whistleblower?

HAYES:  That is a great point about what incentives have been set up by this one action -- not just one action, there`s other pardons the president has issued as well.  Leo Shane, Andrew Dyer, thank you, gentlemen, both.

SHANE:  Thank you.

DYER:  Thank you.

HAYES:  Joining me now Jon Soltz, former U.S. Army officer and Iraq War veteran, the co-founder and former chairman of the Vote Vets Advocacy Group.  Jon, I know you feel strongly about this case.  I`ve watched some of the things you said.  What -- how do you feel about what has happened, what we learned today from that testimony and what the President`s involvement here means?

JON SOLTZ, IRAQ WAR VETERAN:  I think the first thing I took today from the testimony that come out of the New York Times, when you watch these veterans talk, you could feel the pain in their voices.  And I think we could talk about a lot today.

We talked about the ramifications of what this means for the United States and foreign countries.  We could talk about the ramifications of what this means for our troops currently on the ground in combat.  We could talk about what this means for future troops who you know, maybe have seen something wrong they should turn in.

But the pain that you hear in the voices of the SEALs as they go to explain what happened to them is heartbreaking because what they were really in my -- what I felt was that they were trying to relieve some of their own guilt of being around an incident or being around a chief, who was their senior noncommissioned officer in this deployment do things illegal, and that this really was a cry for help for them to go to NCIS.  And it`s really hard for me to watch them deal with that pain.

HAYES:  There`s also a broader question here about the way the president conceives of what U.S. policy should be about the commission of war crimes, about torture.  He talked on the campaign about killing the family members of "terrorists."  He told that apocryphal story about a U.S. general dipping bullets in pig`s blood.  He seems to relish in the kinds of things that an entire structure has been erected within the U.S. Armed Forces over decades to prevent from happening.

SOLTZ:  He`s basically telling the Navy, I don`t trust you to manage your own business.  And we`ve never seen anything like this.  We`ve never seen a scenario where the military chain of command, the military justice system basically has checkmated by the commander in chief.  So you can basically do anything wrong right now in any of the service branches, and if you can get, you know, Pete Hegseth, who`s a Fox News host to promote you on a president -- or a show the president watches, that he can certainly undermine the entire military chain of command.

So he`s damaged the military.  He`s damaged military leaders and military officers for what is essentially political drama that he wants to use for his own political benefit.  And he`s damaged an institution just like he`s damaged other institutions through his, you know, dealings during the impeachment.  He`s damaged the institution of the Armed Forces, which was - - is still a respected institution.  And I think that`s really heartbreaking for everybody who`s in the military who has served in it.

HAYES:  You know, this comes to mind this polling that the Military Times did recently, which was really striking to me.  Very unfavorable views -- this is I think about active-duty members, 45 percent, very favorable just 24 percent.  Overall underwater in favorability within the U.S. military.  Does that surprise you?

SOLTZ:  It doesn`t surprise me.  The President is on an elevator going down.  I mean, there`s a reason we have a Web site called Trump is a national security threat.  He disrespected a Gold Star family, right, Khizr Khan.  He has decided that he`s going to pay for the border wall by taking money out of the Department of Defense school system.  Just this weekend over Christmas, he decided he would depart -- deport family members of active-duty military deployed.

So it`s, you know, pardoning war criminals is par for the course with his war on the military.  And so, it doesn`t surprise me that you see his poll numbers inside the military going from, you know, where they were to down.  And I will remind you, that`s a Military Times poll.  So that`s a more conservative, you know, reader base to start.

So, you know, this is a long term sort of affected he`s head because it`s been thing after thing after thing that`s taken us to the point where I think, you know, for the first time we could see, you know, the military voter and the veteran voter really turned against a Republican president.

HAYES:  Last question for you has to do with the implications of what the President has done in this case and a few other cases reaching into the military justice system.  What that will mean for someone in a unit who sees something they think is wrong or witnesses what is genuinely an atrocity or maybe something that just seems sort of off, and what`s going to go through their mind when they think about whether to report that?

SOLTZ:  It`s really hard what they did.  The SEAL community is a very close-knit community.  There is a case in Bamako, Mali in 2017 where a SEAL was involved with a murder of a Green Beret.  And this had to do with the telling of misconduct.  And so we have a scenario in the Special Operations community that`s a little bit different where people fear now, hey, if I break this code, what are the ramifications across the military as well.

So I think now when people see misconduct that should be reported that they know that that`s their duty and obligation, there`s going to be a fear going forward and whether or not they should report it at all.  One thing is for certain, and to the SEALs that we met today on that video, they are heroes and they can rest assured tonight that the American public knows that, and that the American public in 10 or 20 and 30 years will look at them in even a better light than they do today.

HAYES:  All right, Jon Soltz, thank you so much for making time tonight.

SOLTZ:  Thanks a lot, Chris.

HAYES:  Up next, the president once again moving the goalposts as his impeachment trial approaches.  Senator Richard Blumenthal joins me on that in just two minutes.

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HAYES:  From the very first month of the House announced an impeachment inquiry, President Trump and his allies have been making the series of self-contradictory internally inconsistent, constantly evolving process critiques.  It has now reached a new level of insanity with the president tweeted out a critique he saw on Trump T.V., that it is the House`s job to get witnesses.  "Look, the House is supposed to do all this work on witnesses and documents before they send the articles over the Senate, not to call a new witness, go through new documents, that work is supposed be done in the House."

Here`s the thing.  The House tried to do that.  The reason they were not able to get those witnesses to testify is because they tried to and the White House ordered them not to testify.  But that`s Donald Trump`s latest argument.  Because we stop those folks from testifying the House, they can`t testify in the Senate.  That was the House`s job.  It`s just absurd on its face.

Joining me now to try and make sense of all this Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democratic of Connecticut.  He sits on the Judiciary Committee among other committees as well.  Senator, first, I think you agree these process critiques are absurd.  But I`m curious what you make of comments yesterday or on Tuesday by your colleague Lisa Murkowski expressing some disapproval of McConnell`s statement that he would essentially be working in coordination with White House.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT):  I think Chris, what those comments reflect is that it is impossible to make sense of this position that they need more information and evidence, but they don`t want it to be presented in the Senate.  That position is essentially untenable.

What is striking, and what Lisa Murkowski`s comments reflect is that the message is really breaking through to the American people.  That`s why 70 percent of them think that witnesses and documents should be presented in this trial.  That`s why this comment by Lisa Murkowski that the McConnell strategy of in effect coordinating with the White House or working hand in glove is essentially a violation of the oath and that`s repugnant to the American people.

So more and more, I think we will see the American people get it and that this cover-up by McConnell and Trump is understood by them that my Republican colleagues are complicit in it.  And they will be held accountable in the court of appeals.  It won`t be legal Court of Appeals, it will be the court of public opinion, eventually in the election and by history.

HAYES:  Do you anticipate that we`re going to get some resolution?  There was talk, reports today that whatever talks there had been between Schumer and McConnell on setting some ground rules, which by the way, in the last impeachment trial were adopted by unanimous consent.  There were no sort of individual votes on that, that they had broken down.  What is your sense of the state of play right now?

BLUMENTHAL:  The ball is really in Mitch McConnell`s court.  We have made a very reasonable proposal for witnesses who have direct knowledge.  Again, direct knowledge not hearsay of the events that show conclusively Trump`s abuse of power and is obstruction of Congress, and documents, such as notes of phone calls and e-mails and other kinds of messages that again, are direct evidence that the American people deserve to see and hear.

So, I fully understand the Speaker`s position that she wants a full fare proceeding before she will send over the articles of impeachment.  She wants bad assurance before she appoints her managers.  And I think that`s what the American people want too.  And I think that Mitch McConnell eventually will be forced by these cracks in his implacable was reflected in these Murkowski, his comments and by other colleagues who are saying it privately.  The question is, will they say it publicly?  Will they act on it?

HAYES:  I want to ask you a question about the story we just did with Chief Gallagher and the President of the United States reaching in to restore his rank, to overturn and circumvent the military justice system.  What are the implications of that?  What do you think that does to our armed forces?

BLUMENTHAL:  The implications are really deeply disturbing.  These reports are absolutely repugnant and will be regarded as such by our military because in no way does it reflect their integrity, discipline, or values.  And President Trump`s interference in the military justice system is absolutely reprehensible and outrageous.  It erodes trust in the command structure and the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

And now our obligation as members of the United States Senate, I hope my colleagues will join me in condemning that interference by the president but also in reaffirming our commitment to strict prosecution of war crimes, respect as well for the military professionals who have to administer this system of justice, and for our military in general.

All too often, as that poll that you cited reflects our military really has been disregard and disrespected by the President, as when he withdrew troops from Turkey when he sent troops to the border, in effect politicizing our great United States military.  And I think the implications, therefore, really are very, very disturbing.

HAYES:  All right, Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, thank you very much.

BLUMENTHAL:  Thank you.

HAYES:  Coming up, the President`s rationale for putting the G7 at his own resort debunked in black and white.  That`s next.

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MULVANEY:  It became apparent at the end of that process that Doral was by far and away, far and away the best physical facility for this meeting.  In fact, I was talking to one of the advanced teams when they came back, and I said, what was it like?  And he said, you`re not going to believe this, but it`s almost like they built this facility to host this type of event.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES:  I love that piece of tape.  Do you remember when acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney went out there and with a totally straight face tried to convince everyone that the president was just forced to award himself a multimillion-dollar government contract to host the G7 and have a bunch of world leaders come to South Florida in the middle of the summer, because no other place was as good as Doral.  The President even tried to make the case that the Secret Service preferred Doral.

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TRUMP:  They went to places all over the country and they came back and they said, this is where we`d like to be.  Now, we had military people doing it, we had Secret Service people doing it, we had people that really understand what it`s about.  It`s not about me, it`s about getting the right location.

HAYES:  Well, the folks at the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington formally requested government records on the Doral selection, and you`ll never guess whether that story holds up.  Here with me now, Noah Bookbinder, the executive director of CREW.  Noah, what did you ask for and what did you get?

NOAH BOOKBINDER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CITIZENS FOR RESPONSIBILITY AND ETHICS:  Well, look, we asked for what the Secret Service had, the documents that showed their internal deliberations when they were considering sites, and lo and behold what we found was far from what Mick Mulvaney and the president reported, which is that out of the Secret Service`s process came Doral as the clear choice, instead Doral was added into the process very late in the game.  It was added from the outside, and the Secret Service had concerns about it.

So it certainly was not that they came in and begged for this, this was something that -- you know, we only got really one email and we know there`s likely more out there, but this was enough to show clearly that the president`s version is made up, and this is something that clearly benefits his businesses and him personally.

HAYES:  One of the most striking things about this at the time, and I`m still sort of not over  it because of how brazen it was, and how obviously corrupted it is to award yourself a multi-million dollar government contract, was at the time the mayor of Doral didn`t even know, that David Farenthold said, "I just talked to the mayor of Doral who now needs to plan to host eight world leaders and thousands of diplomats.  He learned this when we did, by watching Mulvaney on TV.  He s till hasn`t gotten a call from the White House."

I mean, that itself sort of shows you something.

BOOKBINDER:  Well, that`s right. 

We also requested documents of communications between the Secret Service and the police department in Doral and we got nothing.  Well, we got a lot of documents, but nothing showing that there was any communication about the G7.

We can`t conclusively say there was nothing, but certainly based on what we have, it doesn`t look like the city was ever given the heads up about this.  So this was hardly a thorough process that lead inexorable to the president`s club, rather what it looks like is the president wanting to bring this multi-million dollar world event that would be incredible publicity for his business to his property and using the levers of government to make it so.

HAYES:  It also strikes me that -- when I was reading the email that you guys unearthed and the FOIA request you have is just how much, because the Trump organization is a private business, despite the fact that it is owned by the president and his entire financial fortune rests upon it, that we don`t have a window into that, right.  There are FOIA rules, and there are public records access that you can get, but we just don`t get anything about the Trump Org.

BOOKBINDER:  That`s right.  The Freedom of Information Act lets you get government documents, now this administration fights us and fights reporters and others tooth and nail to make it hard to get those, but we do ultimately get a lot of information about what`s going on within the government.

But the Trump organization doesn`t have to turn over documents.  And congress and we have in  litigation and many others have been fighting to get information about the president`s finances from day one with very little success.  And we have very little idea of the scope of his use of the presidency and abuse of the presidency to benefit his businesses.

HAYES:  This remains this sort of great untold story, and it`s something that has been told sporadically at the edges by Farenthold and others, but we can`t really get to peer into it, and the Supreme Court is going to rule on some cases pertaining to  financial record subpoenas coming up.

Noah Bookbinder, thank you so much for joining me.

BOOKBINDER:  Thanks for having me.

HAYES:  Coming up, the race to replace President Trump, 2020 candidate Andrew Yang joins me ahead.

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HAYES:  For years now President Trump has used the city of Chicago, an incredible vibrant and amazing city, and the tragedy of hundreds of people who have been killed there by gun violence, as a gross and racist inflammatory political talking point.  He helped make the rise in shootings in Chicago, which really did go up quite sharply, a number one story across the country.  We did a town hall on violence in Chicago back in 2017.

In fact on that panel there`s the current mayor, Lori Lightfoot, who was not the mayor then.  We did extended reporting on policing in Chicago as well through the years.  But both Donald Trump and largely the national news media have been silent on the second half of this story.  According to newly released data from the Chicago Police Department shooting incidents are down 40 percent over the past three years, murders are down 14 percent just this year, and 36 percent over the past three years.

Now with progress like this, one can easily imagine a world in which Donald Trump, having smeared Chicago for years and having absolutely no shame, turns around and takes credit for the  improvement.  But he won`t do that because he fundamentally does not think Chicago is part of the country that he represents.  It`s a foreign land to him, it`s not Trump land.  And that says far more about Donald Trump than it does about Chicago.

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HAYES:  Over the past year or so, there have been at least 28 candidates in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, including a bunch of very prominent people with very serious bios who have just come and gone, people like Senator Kamala Harris, who entered the race as one of the front-runners, but dropped out earlier this month, or the current mayor of the largest city of America, New York City`s Bill de Blasio whose candidacy barely registered as a blip.

Amid all the comings and goings, there have been two genuine surprise stories.  One is the rise of Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of a city of about 100,000 people, who won his last election with just over 8,500 votes.  And he`s now polling in the top four nationally and is highly competitive in the first two states.  And the other is Andrew Yang, who very few people had heard of before he decided to run for president.  The 44-year-old entrepreneur has built, basically completely from scratch, out of nothing, a robust campaign operation, attracted a genuinely enthusiastic base of support, has raised lots of money, and it has all allowed him to outlast and out-poll numerous sitting governors and senators and has repeatedly propelled him on the debate stage even as many of his bigger name rivals have failed to make the cut.

It`s a really pretty remarkable story.  And joining me now is Andrew Yang, Democratic candidate for president.  It`s good to have you.

ANDREW YANG, 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Chris, great to see you.  Happy holidays.  Thank you for having me on.

HAYES:  OK, so I want to talk about health care.  The first -- this has been obviously the  subject of a lot of debate.  You`ve talked about it on the debates, you`ve talked about it on the campaign trail, but I`m slightly confused about your position.  The first ad that your campaign ran was with your wife and talk about your son and she says that you would fight for Medicare for all, it`s been sort of a part of the platform, along with the Freedom Dividend, which you talk about.

You recently put a health care -- some language on your website where you say you support the spirit of Medicare for All, which leaves me slightly confused about what actually programatically you`d want to see happen.

YANG:  Well, what Medicare for All means to many Americans is universal health care that`s high quality and low or zero cost, and that is exactly what I`m championing.

We need to provide health care to all Americans, but I would not get rid of all private insurance plans immediately, because millions of Americans are on those plans, enjoy those plans, in many cases negotiated for those plans in lieu of higher wages.  The goal of the government has to be to demonstrate that we can out-compete the private insurance plans and squeeze them out of the market over time.

HAYES:  So is that something along the lines of positions taken by Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg and a few others in which there would essentially be the availability of buying into Medicare for  people?

YANG:  Yes, it is quite similar, but our plan has lower minimal costs for many Americans and then co-pays just so that you have a little bit of skin in the game.  So it is similar, but we think that we`ve improved upon some of the other proposals that are out there.

HAYES:  The other big issue that you`ve talked about, and I think has been some -- one of the kind of engines of your campaign for a while, I think it was a thing you were known for, is some version of a universal basic income, you call it a Freedom Dividend of a thousand dollars a month.  There`s a lot of people who are -- there`s two questions about that.  One is the sort of confusion about how that would interact with other things the government does -- the Earned Income Tax Credit, or other benefits, for instance, like would those go away and be replaced by that, leaving someone worse off.

And second of all, the question of, you know, for people that are in dire poverty or really have problems with low income work, that`s not enough money.

YANG:  So the last thing I would ever do is take something away from Americans or leave someone worse off.  The Freedom Dividend is universal and opt in.  And if you decide to opt in, you would be foregoing certain cash and cash-like benefits that do not include health care, do not include housing vouchers.  When I talk to Americans around the country, those who are receiving government benefits often are very anxious about losing those benefits.  I love the Earned Income Tax Credit, but 30 percent of Americans who are eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit don`t actually receive it, because they don`t understand how to file for it, and there are massive timing of payments issues, because if your car breaks down now and I tell you you`re going to get a tax refund next spring, it doesn`t help you get to work.

So I would never do anything to leave Americans worse off.  We have to build a foundation, or a floor, that elevates us all and starts to move us forward in the 21st Century, because we`re going through the greatest economic transformation in our history right now.

HAYES:  Well, let`s talk about that.  You talk about the threat of automation, and I think you  connect that in some ways -- and there are a lot of people who have a similar school of thought, some people have written about UBI in other contexts, that automation is going to take away a lot of peoples jobs in the future, it`s going to get progressively more ambitious and what jobs are automated.

You know, the counter to that, and Paul Krugman wrote this up, and other people said it, and that threat has always loomed at every moment in industrial development, and there`s something called lump of labor fallacy, right, the idea that there`s like a set number of jobs and if the robots or the machines or the factory machines take some of them, there`s less for everyone else, which has not borne out to be the case.

Why do you think it`s different this time?

YANG:  Well, the rate and pace of change and the scope of technology is much, much more extreme this time.  It`s going to impact many more parts of the economy than past transitions.  I`m here in South Carolina and they lost 90,000 manufacturing jobs, now a third of their stores and malls are closing and being a retail clerk is still the most common job in our country.

So we have to recognize that, yes, there are going to be many new jobs that get created, but these jobs are going to tend to be for different people with different skills in smaller numbers than the jobs that are being lost in communities around the country.

HAYES:  But isn`t that partly just a question of like labor bargaining power and also a little bit of redistribution, right?  Like, there was no reason that, for instance, making a car was a good middle class job until the UAW unionized and basically made it a good middle class job.  It seems like there`s lots of jobs that get created and the question about how much power workers have over their wages ends up being really the determinative one.

YANG:  Yeah, you hit the nail on the head.  Where unions have been this massive force for better compensation and benefits, but union membership has declined by50 percent over the last number of years, and as a result most Americans are not benefiting from that kind of collective bargaining power.  If you put this foundation of a thousand dollars a month into workers hands, it actually makes workers much, much harder to exploit and push around. 

And this plan that I`m championing is not originally my plan, Andy Stern, who used to be the largest labor union leader in it country, proposed this as a  response to automation in his 2015 book "Raising the Floor."  And so this idea has been with us for a long time, it`s just overdue that we actually put it into law.

HAYES:  Final question I want to ask you about your trajectory here and your relationship to the Democratic Party.  It seems to me that from the folks that I meet that are supporters of yours and people online that you`re reaching a lot of people who haven`t traditionally either been involved in politics or part of the Democratic Party.  How do you view your relationship to the Democratic Party?  What do you view as your role in the larger sort of ecosystem of the party in whose primary you`re running?

YANG:  Well, thanks for asking, Chris.  I`ve been a registered Democrat for a long time.  I served as an honorary ambassador in the Obama administration.  To me, the Democratic Party needs to try and dig deeper and figure out how we`re going to solve the problems that got Donald Trump elected.

But I`ve been a loyal Democrat for years, I`m just trying to provide new energy and new ideas to the Democratic Party to help us all move forward in the 21st Century.  I would certainly never do anything that would increase the chances of Donald Trump becoming president again or staying president. 

And I am thrilled that I`m bringing independents and libertarians and disaffected Trump voters into the fold, that`s how we`re going to grow the Democratic Party and that`s how we`re going to beat Donald Trump in 2020.

HAYES:  All right, Andrew Yang, who is in South Carolina where he`s campaigning, running for president.  Thank you so much for making time tonight.  I appreciate it.

YANG:  Thank you, Chris.  Yang Gang in South Carolina.

HAYES:  Coming up, the state of the rest of the 2020 field.  How things have changed and how they`ve stayed the same next.

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HAYES:  As I was just saying, a lot has changed in the Democratic presidential field this year.  Candidates have come and gone, and then once we thought we were done with all the new candidates, other new candidates have shown up.  There`s been a lot of fluidity and twists and turns, but it`s also actually been an incredibly stable race in some ways.

Consider this, as New York Magazine correspondent Gabe Di Benedetti (ph) pointed out on Twitter in December of last year, a year ago, 2018, Joe Biden was polling at 27.5 percent and Bernie Sanders was at 19 percent, that`s in an average of polls.  One year later, Biden is polling at 27.8 percent and Sanders is at 19.3.  It is also identical.

Joining me now, a pair of veteran Democratic pollsters, Celinda Lake, who is president of Lake Research, and MSNBC political analyst Cornell Belcher.

I was so struck by that little factoid from Gabe, and I want to go to each of you.  At some level it`s actually not that surprising.  I mean, Bernie Sanders was the runner-up last time and it`s huge name recognition.  And following Joe Biden is probably, you know, the most famous and well-known Democrat, because he was the vice president for Barack Obama.

What do you think about those two and the stability of so far, Celinda?

CELINDA LAKE, PRESIDENT, LAKE RESEARCH:  I think stability is exactly what`s marked the election.  And, you know, Democratic primary voters kind of flirt and date with a number of people and then they come back to think about who are they going to marry.  And who they`re going to marry is really important this time, because who they`re going to marry has to beat Donald Trump, and that`s lent a certain stability to the people who had the broadest, most diverse and longest term coalitions, and those were really Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders.

HAYES:  It`s interesting you emote (ph) that, because Nate Silver I thought had an interesting point.  He said  what`s really going on, Cornell, is that there`s been an extremely stable primary among the 60 percent of Democrats who did not graduate from 4 year college, and mostly love Biden and Bernie, and then a relatively volatile one among the 40 percent who did graduate college, and the media only covers the 40 percent.  What do you think of that, Cornell?

CORNELL BELCHER, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER:  What I think of that is two things.  One, I think -- I have to comment on this before I go for it.  I love that Yang interview.  It was fantastic.  By the way, Chris, I`m sure he`s in South Carolina, he went out and found every black Yang supporter he could possibly find...

HAYES:  Well, I don`t know if that`s true, but they were there.  That`s politics, dude.

BELCHER:  But it also, it tells a sort of a broader conversation about sort of your ability, you have be able to compete for people of color.

But to the larger point, look, and I have David Plouffe`s, you know, voice still in my ear from 2007, 2008, it is a state by state race.  Yes, it is incredibly stable at the top, but it`s not a national election, right.  And this was sort of David Plouffe`s argument, you know, when we were battling against Hillary Clinton is Hillary Clinton was always sort of the national front-runner, but state by state by state contest.

And if you look at some of the other states, it`s a lot more volatile in Iowa, and it`s a lot more volatile in New Hampshire than it is nationally.  And those states will matter as well as South Carolina and Nevada in the long-term.

HAYES:  One of the things that -- one of the sort of new wrinkles and what could have been a source of volatility is these two people who were running, Tom Steyer, and now Michael Bloomberg, who are just spending unreal amounts of money.  I mean, each over a 100 million.  Together they`ve lapped the field multiple times in total spending.  It`s really almost, Celinda, like they`re running a political science experiment about the marginal effect of a marginal dollar of TV advertising, I mean, it`s almost like you cook this up in a lab.

And so far it`s been enough to like give them a pulse in the polling, but not much more than that.  What do you think?

LAKE:  Yeah, and it`s not just the TV ad, it`s the marginal impact of an online ad, and the marginal impact of a piece of mail.  Well, I think Amy Klobuchar had it right when she said, you know, the Democratic Party doesn`t like billionaires, even the billionaires don`t like billionaires.  So I`m really not sure you can buy the primary in the Democratic primary and caucus system.

That said, no one would sneeze at someone who could spend $100 million and still barely tapped into their resources.

HAYES:  Well, that`s really the question to me what I find just like in sort of dispassionate, descriptive sense, fascinating is like I don`t know Cornell, like, if Bloomberg decides to spend literally $1 billion, is that enough to like make you, or is it literally you can spend all the money you have and it doesn`t matter?

BELCHER:  Now, look full transparency, I have done work for Everytown, so I have taken some Everytown Bloomberg money, but that said, look, I don`t think you can -- and, look, Celinda knows this, one of the things that we worry about in politics all the time is how much our candidate is going to be outspent.  And if our candidate is outspent tremendously, it absolutely has an impact on the race.  And when a guy like Bloomberg -- look he wasn`t supposed to be mayor of New York, but he has a track record and he has deep pockets, and he has something to say, I don`t think you can completely count that out.

If he`s going to spend $60 or $70 million in those Super Tuesday states, I think we`re at a different point and different time in our elections.

HAYES:  That`s the open question.  I mean, I honestly don`t know the answer.  I will know right now he and Andrew Yang are essentially tied in national polling, just to give a perspective of where things are just in the polling averages.  I guess the last question for you, Celinda, is the degree to which Warren, who has just sent out an email saying that her campaign fund raising has slowed a bit, they might miss their targets, you know, that campaign, because they don`t have the stable base of Bernie Sanders quite as much, they haven`t built that list over as much time, and because they don`t take big dollar donors, they are much more susceptible to momentum, even if the momentum is essentially an invented thing, than other campaigns.

LAKE:  That`s exactly right.  And they don`t have a trick really.  I mean, Andrew Yang actually one of the ways he got into the place that he got into was because I think personally he had the most brilliant online strategy, that`s why he came out of nowhere.  And he`s known how to balance it with serious things, and kind of whimsical, almost foolish things in some ways.

Elizabeth Warren is very, very serious.  And I think that it is subject to the ups and downs.  I also think she`s subject to the ups and downs, because she has more women donors.  And more women donors get riskier about their investment.  They tend to make smaller contributions, so there are a lot of things going on here that can make her more subject to ups and downs.

HAYES:  I will say that she has definitely she was going up for a while, sort of came down a little, has plateaued, but I think the downward trajectory has been a little overstated as well going back to our stability -- our stability theme.  Celinda Lake and Cornell Belcher, thank you both for being with me tonight.

BELCHER:  Thank you.

LAKE:  Thank you.

HAYES:  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