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Four way scramble atop 2020 democratic field. TRANSCRIPT: 1/13/20, All In w/ Chris Hayes.

Guests: Ed Markey, Chris Murphy, Cornell Belcher, Dave Weigel, NicholasBagley

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Again, that`s the spokeswoman for the President of the United States making a scarless attack on leaders of the United States Congress. Your tax dollars at work. Isn`t it nice to know how your tax dollars are being spent on this kind of political garbage? That`s HARDBALL for now. "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes starts right now.



REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): This President is impeached for life regardless of any gamesmanship on the part of Mitch McConnell.

HAYES: Reports that the White House expects Republicans will defect.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): I think the President is afraid.

HAYES: Tonight, why the White House is reportedly preparing for at least four Republican to vote to allow witnesses in the trial Donald Trump, as still more evidence comes to light.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, sir, what conversations, sir, what conversations have you had with Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You`re in pictures with them.

HAYES: Then, Senator Chris Murphy on White House deception about Iran.

MARK ESPER, DEFENSE SECRETARY, UNITED STATES: He didn`t cite a specific piece of evidence. What he said is he probably, he believed, could have been.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you saying there wasn`t one?

ESPER: I didn`t see one.

HAYES: The President`s latest lies about his push to end guaranteed coverage for pre-existing condition.

TRUMP: Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.

HAYES: And three weeks from Iowa, a crowded leaderboard comes into focus as another candidate drops out.

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ): We know beating Donald Trump is the floor, it is not the ceiling.

HAYES: When ALL IN starts right now.


HAYES: Good evening from New York, I`m Chris Hayes. Well, it looks like we are going to have the third presidential impeachment trial in American history starting next week. Speaker Pelosi has remained very secretive about the process of turning over the two articles of impeachment to the Senate, refusing to make firm commitments on timing. But we do know she`s holding a caucus meeting tomorrow where she says she will consult with House Democrats.

She`s declined to say when she will name the house managers. Those are the members of Congress who will act as kind of prosecutor at Trump`s actual senate trial. Presumably, however, they`re going to discuss that in the meeting tomorrow, as well as the Senate, is preparing for the upcoming impeachment trial.

For months, we`ve been hearing about how President Donald Trump wanted a big acquittal, a showy defense on his behalf. But now he`s changed his tune, pushing for Senate Republicans just flat out dismiss the charges of high crimes and misdemeanors against him before an actual trial.

And that is probably not going to happen because that would -- they would need to make a rules change to do it. But after all the talk from Trump about how he`s innocent, one would expect him to welcome his day in court. It kind of reminds me of back in the day when Trump was so eager to talk to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, saying it over and over again. Then suddenly, when the time came, he was like, actually, I`m good, no thanks.

Trump today claimed House Democrats wouldn`t let us have one witness, no lawyers, or even ask questions, all of which is flatly untrue. And Speaker Pelosi pointed out in response, "in the Clinton impeachment process, 66 witnesses were allowed to testify including three in the senate trial and 90,000 pages of documents were turned over. Trump was too afraid to let any of his top aides testify and cover it up every single document."

And there is plenty of other evidence that we should get to see in the Senate trial. That includes the four witnesses that were requested by Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer last month. One of whom as you remember, former National Security Advisor John Bolton who announced very publicly that he would talk if subpoenaed. And in this moment, it does not seem crazy that some of these witnesses might very well be called.

CB news -- CBS News with this report tonight, "The White House is preparing for some Republican Senators to join Democrats in voting to call witnesses in President Trump`s impeachment trial. The list of possible defections includes Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine Mitt Romney of Utah, Cory Gardner of Colorado, Rand Paul of Kentucky, and Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee.

Now, this report comes as a new Quinnipiac poll shows that the American public which is basically divided about anything and everything has overwhelming support for hearing from witnesses. Two-thirds of Americans, 66 percent would like to see John Bolton testify in the Senate impeachment trial, including 39 percent of Republicans.

Then there is the other source of new information that`s still flowing into the House Intelligence Committee, and it`s worth remembering why it is so important. Remember these two guys, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman intimately involved in Trump`s plot to abuse the power of his office to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political rival.

Now, they told Congress they were part of the President`s legal team just a few months ago. They were setting up meetings for Rudy Giuliani in Ukraine. And part of what they are currently facing indictment for, the reason they`ve been indicted, is furthering the president scheme by working to get the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine removed through illegal campaign donations. They were funneling thousands of dollars of Russian money into American campaigns.

One of them, Lev was working for an indicted Ukrainian oligarchs fighting U.S. extradition, an associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Now, that guy wants to share. The lawyer for Lev Parnas tweeted last night, "we brought the contents of Lev Parnas` iPhone 11 -- I`m glad he told us which model it was -- to the House Intelligence Committee today, including a picture from Capitol Hill.

This morning he wrote, "We worked through the night providing a trove of Lev Parnas` WhatsApp messages, text messages, and images not under protective order. The House Intel did telling interactions with numbers of individuals relevant to the impeachment inquiry." This afternoon he posted, "early this morning, the court granted our request for a second modification of protective order. We have conveyed the contents of Lev Parnas` Samsung phone to House Intel while we`re working to provide the other materials as soon as possible."

That`s a guy with a lot of phones if the records are correct. With only days until the impeachment trial of the president, a man with connections to Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani, Vladimir Putin, and also, by the way, a man described by federal prosecutors in terms of who Lev Parnas has connections to his upper echelon associate of Russian organized crime, he`s turning over all the evidence he can to the committee that just concluded Trump should be impeached and removed from office.

Joining me now for more on the ongoing flow of evidence against President Trump, Betsy Woodruff Swan, Political Reporter at The Daily Beast, Natasha Bertrand, National Security Correspondent for Politico, both are MSNBC Contributors. Betsy, let me start on you on the significance of the Parnas information flow here.

BETSY WOODRUFF SWAN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, that`s right. I chatted with Bondy, who is Parnas` lawyer earlier this afternoon. And what he said is that they`re doing everything in their power to basically try to crack open a protective order that a federal judge issued barring Parnas from sharing any of the evidence that the Justice Department seized from him in their prosecution with anyone else.

So thus far, they`ve gone to court multiple times asking the judge to authorize them to make an exception, so they can share material with the House Intelligence Committee. And, of course, they`ve been successful. They`ve made several productions to the committee. Now very much remains to be seen what the contents of those productions are.

Remember, they`re covered by a court order. So there`s certainly going to be something that has limited access and will be shared -- likely be shared less widely than other materials. But the fact that House Intel now has this stuff is potentially significant because of course, Parnas had visibility into the work that Giuliani was doing that`s arguably unparalleled.

In fact, he was actually at the meeting in Madrid that Giuliani had with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky is one of the Zelensky senior aides Andriy Yermak. Yermak confirm that to me on the record that he recognized Parnas on TV when he saw the news of him getting indicted. So the possibility that he has lots of fascinating material is fairly high.

HAYES: Natasha, one thing I`ve always wondered here I mean, as Parnas` people to making more and more noise about wanting to cooperate is why they haven`t brought Parnas in for some kind of deposition or testimony in front of the House.

NATASHA BERTRAND, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, it`s a great question. I mean, so far, they are complying with a subpoena, right? I mean, these documents were subpoenaed by the House Intel Committee, and I think they`re trying to preserve Parnas in terms of his, you know, his indictment in the Southern District of New York. So that`s why they`re being a little bit more cautious with regard to giving any kind of testimony.

But you know, House Intel is being cautious too. You know, just speaking discourses on the committee, they are not totally positive that these documents are going to yield the kind of bombshells that the public is expecting. And they`re also wary of being duped by, you know, people in the President`s orbit and Rudy Giuliani`s orbit who may have -- who do have their own motivations.

So they are going into this very cautiously. They`re going to sift through this material. But at the same time, the reason why Lev Parnas` attorney Joe Bondy has been advocating for him so forcefully is not only because he`s trying to help his client, obviously, get a lesser potential sentence out of the Southern District by cooperating with the congressional inquiry, but also he tells me because he wants to try to up the stakes for a Senate trial. He wants to make it even harder for the Senate to say no to call them witnesses who might have more information about what happened in the Ukraine scandals.

So I think we all have to wait and see what comes out here. It could be weeks even. It could even be after the Senate trial that any of this material comes out.

HAYES: Speaking of the stakes -- so we have a CBS News` report tonight about the White House preparing for some defections on the question of witnesses. I saw Yamiche Alcindor of PBS basically with the same kind of story. I don`t know if the same source inside the White House. I don`t really know what to make of it. I can`t tell if it`s sort of expectation setting by the White House where they really have reason to believe there will be some defections on a procedural vote on witnesses. What`s your reaction to it, Betsy?

SWAN: The White House has long had complicated relationships particularly with Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins. Those two senators are fans of making noise about parting ways with Trump, although on some really important votes, most notably Collins voting to confirm Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

In many cases, they`ve ended up kind of coming back into the Trump administration fold, but they`ll sort of create -- they`ll make comments and create narratives that there is suspense about whether or not they`re going to behave like Trump loyalists, and this reporting indicates that that tension and that sort of X Factor is potentially still there.

One person not to overlook, as this reporting is indicated, as Cory Gardner, who`s going to have one of the hardest reelection bids as far as Republican senators in 2020. He`s from increasingly progressive Colorado. Of course, he`s a sort of classic Republican. He`s tried to differentiate himself from other members of the Republican Party by pushing for more sort of generous federal laws regarding marijuana.

But at the end of the day, he`s a red senator in a state that`s very blue and how he handles this is going to be pivotal.

HAYES: And polling has him up against one of his possible opponents down, you know, down 12, 13 points, his approval rating is quite low. I mean, Natasha, the thing I think, is that Mitch McConnell -- if Mitch -- if it were up to Mitch McConnell entirely, right? You just hold everyone together. You don`t call any witnesses. You don`t want anything unexpected. You don`t want to drag it out. You go through and then you acquit the guy.

But it seems to me that there is some logic that some senators might have that some kind of show of process would make it easier to cast that vote in the end.

BERTRAND: Yes, and there`s also the argument which Democrats have been making as well, particularly Chuck Schumer that these witnesses might not actually be all that helpful to the Democratic cause.

HAYES: Right.

BERTRAND: So that`s why several Republicans, that`s a way that they could potentially cover themselves here by calling for witnesses saying, look, John Bolton, if he testifies, he might fall in line with the White House. He might refuse to testify about conversations that he had with the president that might be deemed privileged, for example.

So this is not guaranteed to play well, for the Democrats. And that`s a point I think that they`ve been emphasizing as they try to convince Republicans that not only do they have to have a fair trial here, but that also this could actually serve their purposes as well.

HAYES: It`s a great point. John Bolton has been at war with the lives his entire adult life. So the idea that he would deliver them some sort of shocking victory in the 11th hour seems slightly unlikely. Either way, I think we should do. That`s my feeling. Betsy Woodruff Swan and Natasha Bertrand, thank you both.

Joining me now one of these people who will serve as a juror in Trump`s impeachment trial, Democratic Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts. What do you make of that reporting about the possibility of some of your colleagues on the Republican side voting to allow witnesses?

SEN. ED MARKEY (D-MA): Well, you know, that`s far been hopeful, but not optimistic that we can find for Republicans who will break with the president so that they join with the 47 Democrats so we have a majority, to hear the witnesses, to get access to the documents which we need to have a full and fair trial.

So this is -- this is a new development. And perhaps we will have enough Republicans who stand up to the president. But I`m going to wait to see if it actually does happen because it is going to require a lot of courage on the part of these senators to break with the president and to ensure that we have the witnesses which can cast direct light on what the President knew and when he knew it about this withholding of money from the Ukraine and return for investigation of the Biden family.

HAYES: Speaking of an investigation into the Biden family, new reporting out from the New York Times tonight that`s really -- it`s both not surprising and shocking at the same time. This is a private forensic digital firm that has determined that Russians have already hacked the Ukrainian gas company Burisma at the center impeachment.

I`ll read you a key paragraph here. "It is not yet clear what the hackers found or precisely what they were searching for. But the experts say the timing and scale the attack suggests the Russians could be searching for potentially embarrassing material on the Biden`s, the same kind of information that Mr. Trump wanted from Ukraine when he pressed for investigation, the Biden`s and Burisma setting off a chain of events that led to his impeachment."

The article also includes details about a very similar spear-phishing attempt, like the one they use to get into Podesta`s e-mails and hack the DNC. And this is all apparently, you know, happening right now in front of us all.

MARKEY: Well, again, you know, Mark Twain used to say that history doesn`t repeat itself, but it does tend to rhyme. So this rhymes a lot with 2016. It rhymes a lot with the Russians trying to handpick Donald Trump as their favorite to become the president of the United States. And now we have these additional reports that are just coming in, that perhaps there is an attempt to hack into Burisma so that they can get more information, that is the Russians, in order to help Donald Trump.

So this is all the more reason why the American people need all of the evidence, all of the witnesses that can testify as to what the President was trying to accomplish, because ultimately at the bottom of this whole case, is that the Russians were occupying part of the Ukraine and the Ukrainian government needed $380 million and another thwarted.

So this always comes back to Putin. Nancy Pelosi is so right. All roads lead to Putin with Donald Trump. And this is just one more piece of evidence that that is still happening and that the Russians are just obsessed with ensuring that Donald get reelected.

HAYES: There`s something -- I mean, to my mind, there`s something sort unnerving -- more than a little unnerving, quite unnerving of watching essentially the same play be run again. I mean, are you confident that the system of American elections is essentially fortified against, essentially a repeat of 2016?

MARKEY: We have to be on high alert. We have to just assume that the Russians and others are going to be trying to hack into our elections, influence the outcome, handpick Donald Trump as their president. I think there is no issue which is going to be bigger than whether or not we can protect our election from outside interference.

And this is just one more piece of evidence that it has already begun, that the Russians are intent on helping Donald Trump. And if we`re not absolutely paying attention 100 percent, then I`m afraid we could see history repeat itself.

HAYES: Yes. It sure looks like it after this reporting from the New York time. Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts, thank you, sir.

MARKEY: Thank you.

HAYES: Next, admits the changing explanations behind the Trump administration`s decision to assassinate Qassem Soleimani, one thing remains the same. There is no evidence of an imminent threat. Senator Chris Murphy on their apparent efforts to reverse engineer one in two minutes.


HAYES: We still really do not have a straight answer from the U.S. government about why they assassinated Iranian General Qassem Soleimani by U.S. from 10 days ago. It was an act that risk plunging the U.S. into a hot war with Iran, the fallout of which we are still looking at.

The latest reporting today from NBC News is that President Donald Trump authorized the killing of the Iranian general seven months ago with conditions. There was also the reporting that at the Pentagon briefing the Mar-a-Lago, Donald Trump was presented with "a list of options on a PowerPoint slide and officials were then reportedly shocked when Trump chose the assassination of Soleimani."

And then last week there were multiple reports the president wanted to appease hawkish Republican senators in the lead up to his impeachment trial. According to The Wall Street Journal, "Mr. Trump after the strike told associates, he was under pressure to deal with General Soleimani from senators he views as important supporters in his coming impeachment trial in the Senate."

So I don`t know. Those all seem somewhat mutually contradictory. And there`s not been a particularly transparent presentation by the administration. The one thing that seems super clear is the President`s sudden assertion that the Iranians were looking to, blow up our embassy, which then suddenly morphed into four embassies is just not true.

That intelligence was not presented to members of Congress in a classified briefing and the Pentagon Chief, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said over the weekend, he had not seen any intelligence to that effect.


ESPER: Well, the President didn`t say that there was a tangible -- he didn`t cite a specific piece of evidence. What he said is he probably, he believed, could have been --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you saying there wasn`t one?

ESPER: I didn`t see one with regard to four embassies? What I`m saying is I share the President`s view that probably my expectation was they`re going to go after our embassies.


HAYES: I did not see one with regard to four embassies. And expectation they were probably going to, I mean, that guy would presumably be briefed on that kind of stuff. For more on the White House deception about Iran, the latest in Iran, I`m joined by Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Senator, I saw you expressing skepticism about -- I mean, we`ve been litigating these President`s embassies claim and I think it`s almost not even a litigatable claim because it -- right? I mean, is that how you`re seeing it?

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): Yes, it`s not -- it`s not true. It`s not true. Donald Trump made it up.

HAYES: Right.

MURPHY: Make all of his lies are unforgivable, but this one is the most unforgivable because he`s lying about the pretext for war. He`s lying about the reason why he put our troops in harm`s way overseas. Remember, it was you know, probably a miracle that none of our forces were hit and killed in the missile attack on the base in Iraq and we`re all thankful for that today.

But the idea that the President is making up intel because he feels some pressure to come up with a better explanation than the one that he had is, you know, it`s just unacceptable.

HAYES: There`s a remarkable scene that`s developed in Iran over the last three or four days. The Iranian Government admitting under I think pressure essentially caught by the facts that in fact, the Iranian military had shot down that civilian flight from the Ukrainian airline. And then protests erupting.

Demands for government resignation spread Monday from hardliner, this is from New York Times, who supported Iran`s clerical government and called for officials to step down over the weekend to members of the more moderate reforms parties, we`ve seen people in the streets. What`s your reaction that?

MURPHY: Well, I think it`s incredibly positive that the Iranian people are out protesting their government in the streets. They`re holding them accountable for just this string of lies that have been presented to the people, the worst of them being ultimately their attempts to try to cover up the real reason that this plane got shot down.

The Iranian regime has been very successful in the past in brutally cracking down on this kind of dissent. But we are all rooting for the Iranian people to be able to adequately and successfully speak truth to power. And we`ll be watching closely to see how these protests turn out. We hope that the Iranian regime doesn`t do what they`ve done in the past, which is to essentially slaughter hundreds if not thousands of peaceful Iranian protesters.

HAYES: Next door in Iraq, of course, there have been protests -- there were protest last week against U.S. domination and Iranian domination. In fact, sort of the slogans often twining the two together, right? Iraq for the Iraqis. My understanding is you got a chance to speak to the Iraqi Ambassador as that country has basically said, we want a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. troops. The State Department has basically said, no. Where do things stand now?

MURPHY: So I don`t think the Iraqis have changed their position. I believe that they want a timetable for withdrawal. I think they understand that this is a complicated endeavor. But the Iraqi Ambassador said to me today that their goal is to ultimately have the only amount troops in Iraq being those that are guarding our embassy.

And that is an extraordinary statement to hear from a government that desperately needed our troops there just a month ago. And it shows how quickly the political reality has changed to the detriment of U.S. national security in a very short period of time.

And, you know, there`s a broader worry here, in which, as the Shia radical groups get more and more powerful inside Iraq as a result of the attack on their sovereignty that they will further marginalize Sunni populations which will once again create the predicate for the rebirth of ISIS coming right at the moment when U.S. troops are leaving.

So there`s a perfect storm in Iraq that`s happening right now that was all a notable consequence of the administration`s decision to take out Soleimani.

HAYES: What are the big sort of big picture ramifications of this? I mean, someone said this. Michelle Goldberg, I think on the program talked about 2003 and said, you know, the Bush administration sold this bill of goods, but they put a lot of effort into it. And it was a very thought out strategy and they, were like leaking things to reporters, and then they were citing it on "MEET THE PRESS," yadda, yadda.

This just seems utterly haphazard. Like the Trump administration justification here is internally contradictory, but they can`t even really marshal themselves to make a convincing case as if they don`t really care.

MURPHY: Yes. I mean, I guess, you know, in retrospect, you know, people can claim to have had one pulled over on them by the Bush administration that they, you know, believe the consistent withering argument that was being made about weapons of mass destruction, and they ultimately voted based on that intelligence.

Nobody can make that argument today. I mean, there`s really nobody here that can credibly believe there was actually an imminent threat. That is the only way that the executive branch can take a military action abroad without coming to Congress.

HAYES: Right.

MURPHY: So if you aren`t standing up for the right of Congress, the right of the American people to declare war right now, then it just is this big telegraph to the executive branch that they don`t have to put much effort in the future into taking action overseas that might dramatically compromise American Security without talking to the American people about it first. So I think the consequences are pretty big.

HAYES: Are you going to get -- the War Powers Resolution, my understanding is that it`s privileged and so that can -- meaning, under the rules of the Senate, it has to get a vote. Is it your anticipation that sometime amidst the impeachment trial there will be some movement on that in the Senate as well?

MURPHY: I don`t think anybody knows right now. The impeachment trial takes precedent. And so there is some talk about trying to take the first series of steps on the War Powers Resolution, which can be a series of votes and amendments, at least get that started before impeachment begins. It might be that we aren`t able to finish that up until after the trial is done. I would hope that we would demand, at least Democrats would demand that we do it before the trial begins.

HAYES: All right, Senator Chris Murphy, thank you so much for your time.

MURPHY: Thanks.

HAYES: Ahead, the President`s lie about protecting coverage of people with preexisting conditions, and the Republican Party playing politics while the lives of millions of Americans are on the line. We`re going to talk about that next.



TRUMP: And Republicans will always protect Americans with preexisting conditions. We protect you, preexisting condition, right?


HAYES: Right? Did I read that right? We all know the president lies all the time. He lies about big things and he lies about small things. But among the most consequential lies that he is told from the very beginning, one that he told again today is about health care. The lie is I am protecting your guaranteed access to health care if you have preexisting conditions.

"I was the person who saves preexisting condition in your healthcare." That was Donald Trump just today. That is an absolute lie and millions of people`s lives are at risk. People right now battling cancer or out of a job, these are very high stakes, and what Trump is out there saying is just the opposite the truth, because the facts are this:  the Trump administration`s Department of Justice argued in federal court in an attempt to try to strike down the entirety of the Affordable Care Act.

The Trump administration right now is on the record wanting to get rid of the ACA, the whole thing, root and branch, all 2,200 pages, everything. And that includes young people staying on their parents` insurance under the age of 26, stopping health insurance companies from denying care to people with preexisting conditions, whether that be cancer or diabetes, lifetime caps on the amount of insurance company has to pay for your care, that used to happen, it doesn`t under the ACA. They want to roll it back. They want to destroy all of it.

But the people pushing for that also recognize that it would be a political disaster for the Republican Party, because all those things are popular, extremely popular. So, the way they go about it is they do one thing in court, and then in public the president just lies about it.

But now it`s gotten even more disingenuous, because after a lower court improbably and somewhat preposterously actually struck down the entirety of the ACA, a bunch of blue states called the Republicans` bluff. They said, you know what, the legal reasoning on this is incredibly thin, let`s ask the Supreme Court to review it once and for all. Let`s have it out and decide whether the law has to be struck down and let`s do it this year.

And in a move of just astonishing bad faith, Attorney General William Barr`s Justice Department, which has said the law was unconstitutional and needs to be struck down, they just filed before the Supreme Court to say, you know what, no rush. No rush. No need to do it in an election year. Yes, it`s all unconstitutional, you`ve got to get rid of the whole thing, but let`s wait until after the election.

So what they`re trying to do is hide the ball as they try to strike down the ACA and do it after the election and lie about what they`re doing.

Here with me now, with me is Nicholas Bagley, the University of Michigan law professor, who writes often about health care law and has been the one voice I followed the most on this particular case.

And you`ll notice, Nick, I did something -- I didn`t actually get into the details of the case, because they`re complicated, but I want you to walk through what it is. And I said they struck it down. Obviously, that`s been -- that holding is sort of paused right now. Why did a lower court, what is the lawsuit ultimately about?

NICHOLAS BAGLEY, UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN PROFESSOR OF LAW:  Yeah, the lawsuit is ultimately about an alleged constitutional defect that congress created when it zeroed out the penalty for going without insurance. So Donald Trump said we`ve repealed the individual mandate, but the lawyers for the red states said, wait, hold on, if you look carefully, the language requiring to you buy insurance is technically still on the books, it`s not enforceable, there is a $0 penalty for going without insurance, but those attorneys general said, hey, you know what, that language is so coercive that actually it exceeds congress`s powers under the constitution. And by the way, not only does it exceed congress`s powers, but it`s such an important flaw, this meaningless mandate, that the entire rest of the law has to fall.

Even describing the lawsuit is kind of an exercise in absurdity.

HAYES:  So, right. So, you have the individual mandate that says you have to buy health insurance and if you don`t you are penalized. The Republicans in their biggest tax bill, they get rid of the penalty. So, now the mandate doesn`t exist, because the penalty is $0.

Red state attorneys general come in, joined by the Trump department, says you know what, now there is that zero there, the entire thing has to fall, like pulling out one block of the Jenga tower that`s everyone`s health insurance.

BAGLEY:  That`s exactly right. And the argument has been derided by folk on both the left and the right, but it`s found a sympathetic audience in some pretty highly partisan judges at the district court in Texas and now in the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals where two Republican appointed judges wrote a really kind of blistering partisan opinion saying that, yep, the individual mandate is now unconstitutional, but saying that for the moment they won`t invalidate the whole act. They wanted the district court to take another look at just how much of the Affordable Care Act has to fall, and there is that decision that the blue states are trying to get reviewed at the Supreme Court right now.

HAYES:  Right. So, there`s three levels of courts -- there`s the district court, there`s the appellate court,and the Supreme Court, right. And so it gets struck down in the district court, and then the appellate court, it gets -- that -- striking it down gets upheld, but they say, you know what, why don`t we look more at this? Why don`t we -- we don`t have to rush, because it seems to me like there is this like unbelievable political calculation that suffuses all of the judicial ruling that everyone understands like we want to get rid of this thing, but it would be a disaster, so like everyone just take your time.

BAGLEY:  Yeah, it`s hard to read the opinion from the fifth circuit and not think this was done for strategic reasons.

And, look, this is the broader strategy of the Trump administration and the Republican Party going into the 2020 election, which is our position on health care is deeply unpopular, but we`re committed to it and so we`re going to lie to you about what we`re up to and hope that nobody does anything too drastic before the voters go to the election booths in 2020.

But I have to say, if Donald Trump wins again, this lawsuit, which looks preposterous today, starts to look a little bit more concerning, because the president is likely to have an opportunity or could have an opportunity to replace a liberal justice with a hard line conservative right wing judge who might be more sympathetic to this lawsuit than a more sort of centrist judge would be.

HAYES:  All right, so the status right now is like a bunch of blue states, right -- so, the red states are trying to strike it down, but also slow walk at the same time, that`s the state of play, right.

BAGLEY:  Right. That`s exactly right.

HAYES:  The blue states come in, the blue state attorneys generals say, you know what, let`s have it out. Let`s do it in front of the Supreme Court in an election year. And then the Trump administration, what was that filing last week? I couldn`t -- I really, my jaw dropped.

BAGLEY:  Yeah, they said, look, there`s no problem here. There`s nothing -- the law hasn`t been struck down yet. Sure, there is an enormous cloud over it, and tens of millions of people are worried about whether they`re going to get kicked off of their insurance plans, whether they`re going to be able to afford their health care, whether their kids are going to be able to get coverage for the care they need, and the Justice Department says, ah, it`s no big deal, it will all get resolved a couple years, three years, who knows, let`s just wait.

HAYES:  That really seems like the ultimate tell to me. I mean, for the DOJ to go to court and say that in this circumstance just seems to me like, you have declared essentially intellectual bankruptcy about the entire con that you`re running.

BAGLEY:  I think what I really want to try to convey is that this is not -- like the lies that the Trump administration is telling about health care are not sort of just a reflection of the fact that President Trump has a loose connection to the truth. It`s the strategy.

HAYES:  Yeah, right.

BAGLEY:  This is the game plan for the 2020 election. We are watching it right now.

And, look, health care is really complicated, and this lawsuit is really complicated. And so folk at home can be forgiven for scratching their heads when people they trust tell them something that sounds plausible to them.

And to convey the pants on fire Orwellian sort of night is day, up is down nature of these lies it`s really hard.

HAYES:  Yeah, Nick Bagley, you`ve been doing a great job of it, and thank you for coming out tonight. Appreciate it.

BAGLEY:  Thank you for having me.

HAYES:  Coming up, as the top four candidates prepare to battle out in Iowa, polling from the other early primary states shows another campaign on the rise. We`ll talk about that ahead.

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


HAYES:  Thing One tonight, it`s been more than six months since White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders left her job. Her replacement has still not worked up the nerve to do a press briefing.

Stephanie Grisham is the current press secretary and she has never held a single briefing in her entire tenure. In fact, most Americans, unless they`re watching Fox News or browsing the, wouldn`t have any idea what she even looks like.

The other day, a group of seven former White House press secretaries along with six former State and Defense briefers, published an op-ed arguing for the resumption of regular press briefings across our government, and Stephanie Grisham, unsurprisingly, fired back telling Axios in part, quote, "this is group think at its finest. The press has unprecedented access to President Trump, yet they continue to complain because they can`t grandstand on TV. They`re not looking for information, they`re looking for a moment."

Again, it wasn`t the press, those were former press secretaries complaining there, people who held Stephanie Grisham`s job, but were less afraid to take questions from fellow Americans.

So, the American people will just have to get their communications from the White House as they are issued in social media, like this one from 70 degree Washington, D.C. yesterday:  "first snow of the year." That`s Thing Two in 60 seconds.


HAYES:  Have you ever noticed how nearly every winter when it gets cold, Donald Trump tweets about global warming, like that time it snowed January and Trump said, wouldn`t be bad to have a little of that good old-fashioned global warming right now.

On November 2018 when it was cold, and Trump said, whatever happened to global warming? Or when the forecast called for chilly New Year`s Eve in December 2017 and he thought, perhaps we could use a little of that good old global warming.

Wow, that`s a really worn bit there.

We were interested to see what he`d have to say yesterday, January 12, when he saw record-breaking high temperatures across the northeast, the climate change denying White House tweeted this, "first snow of the year -- snowflake emoji."

It`s a lovely photo, but that`s definitely not how the White House looked yesterday, because it was 70 degrees at the White House yesterday, 27 degrees above the normal high temperature for the weekend. There was no snow. There were people out in shorts, and not just shorts guys, eating ice cream. But no, no snow, just insanely unseasonably, unnervingly warm middle of January.

There`s not yet been a good explanation for this official communication. Maybe it`s the White House`s version of "this is fine" moment, pretending all is well while the planet melts, or perhaps there`s some other perfectly reasonable explanation, like a social media snafu and we will be sure to ask about that at the next press briefing.


HAYES:  On a Friday in New Jersey, Senator Cory Booker was here in studio for a very first live audience show of the year. I interviewed him as a presidential candidate who was also facing an impeachment trial, and despite juggling his senate duties with a grueling campaign schedule, he seemed like a man unburdened.


SEN. CORY BOOKER, (D-NJ) 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  So, before we jump in...


BOOKER:  Before we jump in, this is -- I love Friday night you.

HAYES:  Oh, thank you.

BOOKER:  You have got an amazing, very Jersey-influenced audience here.

HAYES:  This is someone fresh off the campaign trail, who is just pandering to voters all the time, so it`s just automatic.

BOOKER:  I`m just happy that Chris Hayes got me to sleep on my own bed tonight in Newark.

This is really awesome.


HAYES:  So, now we have a sense of why Senator Booker seemed so unburdened. Today, in a video message to his supporters, three weeks before the first ballots will be cast in Iowa, Cory Booker announced that he is dropping out of the 2020 race.


BOOKER:  Today, I am suspending my campaign for president with the same spirit with which it began. It is my faith in us, faith in us together as a nation, and we share common pain and common problems that can only be solved with a common purpose and a sense of common cause.


HAYES:  Cory Booker has been talked about as a future presidential candidate ever since he was a 32 Rhodes Scholar running an insurgent campaigning for mayor in Newark, New Jersey back in 2002. But like so many other campaigns of people who look like plausible top tier presidential material on paper, Booker`s campaign just never quite took off. As far as who is left, right now the latest polling suggested there are two things happening in the primary. The top four candidates are clustered together in Iowa and New Hampshire, and two billionaires are just pumping unbelievable amounts of money into the race. We`re going to talk about all that next.


HAYES:  There are only three weeks, 21 days left until the Iowa caucus where the latest polling shows a four-way scramble at the top of the field between Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Pete Buttigieg. The same largely holds true in New Hampshire with Buttigieg seeing a drop-off, but still a margin of error cluster at the top.

But for the next two states, South Carolina and Nevada, something interesting is happening, at least in the polling that we have. A name that barely registers nationally, or in the first two contests, Tom Steyer, is suddenly garnering 15 percent and 12 percent, bringing him into the top four in both races.

While the Democratic primary has been largely characterized by national stability for the top candidates, it`s been a rocky few weeks for Mayor Pete Buttigieg. In the latest Monmouth poll, he sits at half of what his national support was in November, his polling currently back around mid-October. Joining me now to discuss, Democratic pollster and MSNBC political analyst Cornell Belcher in Washington and Dave Weigel, Washington Post political reporter live in Des Moines, Iowa.

Cornell, there is sort of a few different races happening here, right. So, there is the national polling, there is the first two states, and then there`s the states after them. It seems to me like the national polling has been fairly stable, and the first two states have been competitive for a while. What`s your read on it?

CORNELL BELCHER, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER:  My read is that, you know, Joe Biden would want a national primary election, but unfortunately, there is not a national primary election, and what you see is where the campaigns are sort of pitched in the battles the most in the first two states, you`ve seen a lot of volatility. You have seen in Iowa and New Hampshire, you`ve seen, you know, Mayor Pete rise, Warren looks like she gets momentum, and then they get hit and they fall back. And right now both of those states are sort of toss-ups.

So I pay very little attention to the national numbers at all; however, for Mayor Pete and for Elizabeth Warren, I think there is this national number from The Washington Post that I think is interesting, and because I think when you turn to March, it becomes really problematic for them because you are talking about a broader swathe. of the electorate where in the Washington Post African- American poll, they ask which candidate do you think sort of trust mostly to deal with issues dealing for African-Americans, and Elizabeth Warren I think was at 7 percent and Mayor Pete was at 1 percent.

When you get beyond Iowa and New Hampshire, I think these candidates will really struggle.

HAYES:  OK, so I want to talk about the sort of controversy of the day, Dave, right now which is between the Sanders campaign and the Warren campaign, two campaigns where despite some kind of logic that they were fighting over the same voters, although I think that`s not particularly necessarily true in the aggregate, they have both been very warm towards each other. They have sort of teamed up on debate stages defending Medicare for All. The first time we`ve really seen sort of contra temps (ph) between the two is in the last few days.

And today, there was a reported story that Warren and Sanders when they met to discuss their plans, that people around Warren saying that she said that Bernie Sanders said that a woman couldn`t win. The Sanders campaign denied this on the record, and then an on the record statement from Elizabeth Warren saying this, "among the topics that came up during this meeting, what would happen if Democrats nominated a female candidate. I thought a woman could win. He disagreed. I have no interest of discussing this private meeting any further, because Bernie and I have far more in common than our differences on punditry."

What do you make of this point?

DAVE WEIGEL, THE WASHINGTON POST:  Well, there actually is an overlap between what Warren put out tonight, really just an hour ago, and what Sanders said initially to CNN, which broke the story, which was that he talked -- Sanders statement said that sexism came up, racism came up, and the fact that Donald Trump would exploit any issue came up. You can see in what he said initially that maybe he brought up whether Trump would use sexism. You can get from that point to whether a woman could win.

Later in the day -- after that statement initially the Sanders campaign was going on camera, flat-out denying anything like what was said, what we were discussing from this meeting. And I think that`s probably the next day question, if this lasts to the next day, which it feels like it will, is whether the Sanders campaign really denies that this topic came up in any way in that meeting.

HAYES:  Yeah, it does seem like there is a sort of Roshomon aspect to this. Clearly they talked about something having to do with this. And I think, you know, Cornell, the thing I keep thinking it is striking that Sanders and Warren I think campaign narratives have very much overstated the fluctuations in the race, but they both have significant chunks of the electorate, and there is some thinking one like plus one equals two, right, that like if they were combined, if you put together both those candidates` supporters, that would probably be the front-runner at this point.

And so there has always been this question of what is their relationship to each other`s candidates, and what are the relationship of the people that like them are to each other as the campaign goes forward?

BELCHER:  Two quick things. One is I`m guilty because I`m campaign hack. I earn my living from campaigns, so I`m not at all surprised that at some point the knives would come out, especially in the pitch of battle. And I think sort of them cutting each other back and forth, they understand that both of them are vying for the same space. So, I`m surprised it`s actually taken this long for the knives to come out.

But the broader point on women electability, Chris, it`s is oh my god, did you see 2018? I mean, men got their tails kicked all up and down the ballot these days. I think so the idea that sexism is playing a prominent role is actually reverse effect for sexism right now going into 2020.

HAYES:  Although, Dave, you have written a lot about this in your fantastic newsletter, The Trailer, which everyone should just subscribe to about the fact that this kind of punditry aspect of many high information Democratic voters in early states who are thinking about who can beat Trump, and who have taken the kind of analytical frame about the ways in which he has marshaled racism and sexism to his benefit as essentially guide posts for who can win.

WEIGEL:  Yes. And that`s very stark in Iowa where in 2016, Hillary Clinton loses by a gigantic margin for Iowa, a swing state. In 2018, Democrats flip two House seats with female candidates, with Abby Finkenauer and with Cindy Axne.

There was I think is an assumption by a lot of Democrats, and people making these arguments for Warren among them, that a party that just elected a wave of women to the House might have shaken off some of its panic about whether women were less electable. And that hasn`t really happened. There has -- I think maybe one party autopsy wouldn`t have done this, but there really wasn`t a concerted, coherent Democratic look back at why they lost in 2016, and things metastasize, so people think it was that Hillary fell during an pneumonia attack. It was that she was a woman, et cetera.

The female thing really stuck in a way that I think has been hurtful to Warren, hurtful to Harris, hurtful to some extent to Amy Klobuchar. And if there was any strategy in what the Warren campaign`s respond to tonight, it is to remind Iowa women, look, you really want to give up chance to elect a female president. Are you that terrified? Do you want a all male primary after Iowa?

It is something we hear all the time from voters who say I like this candidate, I like -- I think it`s time for one president, but I`m worried, maybe we can elect Joe Biden or elect Bernie Sanders, and then some day my daughter or granddaughter will have a female president. That I think is what Warren is trying to get at.

HAYES:  Yeah, I mean, I say this all the time, I`ve said it before and on the record, you should vote for the candidate you want to be president of the United States, because no one really knows. And even the people who are professional pundits don`t know. I mean, god, they don`t know. And no one really knows, and the future is unpredictable, so vote for the person you want to be president, whoever that is. That`s my -- seriously, that`s my...

BELCHER:  That`s crazy. That`s crazy talk.

HAYES:  That`s the crazy thing, but just like first order of thinking, who do you like? Cornell Belcher, Dave Weigel, thank you very much.

That is ALL IN for this evening. "THE Rachel MADDOW SHOW" starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.