Barr takes control TRANSCRIPT: 2/12/20, All In w/ Chris Hayes

Guests: Val Demings, Harry Litman, Walter Dellinger, Christina Greer, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: But right now, and to his tribute, it`s Bernie Sanders and the progressives who are driving the car. And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes starts right now.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to thank the Justice Department for seeing this horrible thing.

HAYES: An embolden president threatens the rule of law like never before.

TRUMP: I didn`t speak to him, by the way, just so you understand.

HAYES: Tonight, growing outrage at the President`s interference in cases involving his political allies. The aftermath of the mass exodus at the Justice Department, and how Democrats plan to get answers from an attorney general executing the President`s wishes.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R-ME): I believe that the President has learned from this case.

HAYES: Then, Democratic frontrunner Senator Bernie Sanders on his win in New Hampshire.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This victory here is the beginning. of the end for Donald Trump.

HAYES: Senator Elizabeth Warren on her call to end Trump`s corruption.


HAYES: And can anyone really predict who is the most electable candidate? When ALL IN starts right now.


HAYES: Good evening from New York, I`m Chris Hayes. President Donald Trump has very clearly learned his lesson from the impeachment acquittal granted him one week ago today by every Republican senator save one. And the lesson is that he can abuse the power of his office and get away with it. And he has now taken in front of all of us to redoubling his efforts to do just that.

Remember this. Special Counsel Robert Mueller testified on Capitol Hill on July 24th last year. And that seemed to signal the end of the Russia investigation. On the very next day, July 25th, that`s when Donald Trump made his faithful call to the Ukrainian president, I would like you to do us a favor though, to coerce and manufacture dirt on his political opponent.

And now just within the week of Trump`s acquittal for that abuse of power, here`s what happened. President Trump has fired Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, a career military civil servant who testified about the President`s Ukraine scheme. Trump didn`t just fire Vindman, he also fired Vindman`s identical twin brother who did not testify with no explanation.

Now at first, the White House tried to pretend it wasn`t a vendetta even though it clearly was, but then Don Jr. went ahead and tweeted, "Thanks to Adam Schiff for unearthing who all needed to be fired." Trump then fired U.S. Ambassador to European Union Gordon Sondland, a man who probably shouldn`t have had the job in the first place and has basically paid $1 million bribe to the president to get the job. He`s probably the person closest to the president who gave testimony under oath about the President`s Ukraine scheme.

Now Trump is moving to corrupt and subvert the independence of Department of Justice to turn it with Attorney General Bill Barr`s liquescence and tweet personal tool of the President`s power. That is something that has been a red line since Watergate and Nixon era for a very good reason. The abuse of the Department of Justice was at the core of Watergate. And the last few days, it has become clear that President Trump and his team are corrupting the Justice Department in much the same way they approach the Ukraine scheme. Both started with a sort of sketchy dissembling until Trump just came right out and gave the game away.

Last month, you might remember prosecutors, somewhat mysteriously without explanation just walked back a previous recommendation that former Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn serve prison time. He`s still awaiting sentencing. And the prosecutors suddenly said that they would not oppose probation after first saying that they wanted him to go to prison.

Now that filing came the same day that the U.S. attorney who investigated former Acting FBI Chief Andrew McCabe was removed, and then a day later replaced by a former prosecutor handpicked by Bill Barr. Then this week, prosecutors recommended Trump ally Roger Stone serve up to nine years in prison for lying to Congress and witness tampering, both, of course, the benefit of President Trump in obscuring the conspiracy that appears to have happened during the 2016 campaign.

Now, reasonable people can make the case as to why that sentence recommendations seven to nine years is excessive or not. I happen to think it is excessive. But when the President tweets about in the middle of night, and hours later, the Justice Department officials intervene to recommend a more lenient sentence, well, that`s not good. And that led to all four prosecutors to withdraw from the case. And one of them Jonathan Kravis, career prosecutor to resign from department altogether.

Then last night, NBC News reported that Attorney General Barr has personally taken over these sensitive cases directly related to the president in violation of long-standing practice and precedent meant to keep the Department of Justice from being wielded as a sword and a shield by the president for his friends and against his enemies. Something that Trump has wanted since the day he got into office.

And then the president just came out and announced it. Literally congratulating Attorney General Barr for taking charge of the stone case. Nice work their Barr, satisfied customer. The whole episode reminded me of what Bill Barr said during his confirmation hearing just over a year ago.


WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL, UNITED STATES: President Trump has sought no assurances, promises, or commitments from me of any kind, either express or implied, and I have not given him any other than that I would run the department with professionalism and integrity. As attorney general, my allegiance will be to the rule of law, the Constitution, and the American people. This is how it should be, this is how it must be, and if you confirm me, this is how it will be.


HAYES: Oh, if we confirm you that`s how it will be? Really? It is now clear, of course, that like so much else that has come from the mouth of the Attorney General was a lie. Joining me now, Democratic Congressman Val Demings of Florida. She was one of the House impeachment managers who presented the case against President Trump, also a member of the House Judiciary Committee that has oversight of Attorney General Bill Barr and the Justice Department.

On a scale of one to 10, the Attorney General personally intervening in cases of people personally connect to the President, how bad is that?

REP. VAL DEMINGS (D-FL): Chris, it`s really as bad as you can get. And look, revisiting William Barr`s words during his confirmation hearing, what he should do as the top cop, what he should do as the people`s lawyer, to hear those words and then look at what he`s actually doing is just very disappointing, but it`s also very scary.

The attorney general has taken the Department of Justice and is using it as a tool to basically free the President`s friends who are engaged in wrongdoing and to basically investigate and maybe even prosecute the President`s political rivals. And when we think about the sacred nature of the position that he`s in, how important the Department of Justice is to the rule of law, and to see this attorney general who quite frankly, has acted more like the President`s personal attorney than the people`s attorney, is very scary. And the thought of where it goes from here is just very frightening.

HAYES: OK. So you are -- we still have the article one branch, the United States Congress. You are in the U.S. House of Representatives of the committee that is oversight of Bill Barr. He has not testified ever if I`m not mistaken, since confirmation before your committee, is that correct?

DEMINGS: That`s absolutely correct. He was certainly supposed to testify. And if you remember, I`m sure the empty chair there with very his name, but he`s willing to come in now. And look, we`re glad to -- that the attorney general is coming in. We definitely need answers when we look at the present state of affairs.

But I also believe Chris, when we think about abuse of power, the GOP lead Senate allow this President who clearly abuse the authority of his office, clearly obstructed Congress in terms of any investigation into his wrongdoing. I think this President has been involved in.

And I also think now the Attorney General feels free to come in and say whatever he wants, because he believes with this president, he can do whatever he wants. And to Senator Collins, I hope she knows, as we all do, that the President obviously has learned absolutely nothing from this ordeal.

HAYES: The Attorney General is now scheduled to testify on your committee on March 31st. Am I crazy or is that way too far away? Like the crisis is happening right now, it`s happening before our eyes, he has defied your committee and not come to it, and now he`s agreed to come in two months?

DEMINGS: Well, let me just say this, Chris. In terms of scheduling, that deal was worked out with our leadership and, you know, of the committee, and that`s the day that we`ve settled upon. But let me just say this. We`ll be ready. When the Attorney General comes in, we have a host of questions for him and what he is engaged in what he`s doing or what he`s not doing. And so when he comes in March, the end of March, we will be ready and we will continue to do our job and as try to get as much information as we possibly can.

HAYES: Just as a factual matter, a hypothetical. Jonathan Kravis who`s got an excellent reputation in the Department of Justice who resigned over this, not just take his name off the case, resigned for the Department of Justice, career lawyer there. Presumably, he could be called to testified before the House Judiciary Committee to tell us what went down, right?

DEMINGS: He absolutely could. And you know, that`s another part that I hope every American -- every American is paying attention to. We have career prosecutors. These are people who have not spent their lives in the spotlight or the limelight. They`ve just been there reviewing the case, looking for elements of crimes, making appropriate charges, and seeing those cases through. For these career people to either step away from my case because of the unjust interference or to actually resign, what a loss that is to America. And I think it`s really sounds the alarm and sends a strong message to the American people about what is happening in the Department of Justice.

HAYES: All right, Congresswoman Val Demings, thank you so much. Joining me now for more on the breakdown the rule of law in the Justice Department, Walter Dellinger, former head of the Office of Legal Counsel and Assistant Attorney General, and Harry Litman, former U.S. Attorney and Deputy Assistant Attorney General.

Harry, I read from some of your tweets and a piece you wrote last night where you were talking about just how grave this threat is. You said it`s the biggest challenge the Department of Justice, biggest crisis there since John Mitchell under Watergate. Why? Why do you think it`s so grave?

HARRY LITMAN, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Because there are really several levels of outrage here, Chris. First, there`s the actual bulldozing, the kick in the teeth that the career prosecutors got which you wouldn`t ever get in any case. That`s for starters. Add to that now that it`s in favor of a presidential lackey who doesn`t deserve it. And then add to that, that it`s -- that Stone has been exactly the guy who`s tried to vilify and make a joke of the whole proceedings, put himself firmly on the side of exactly what the Department of Justice opposes, the absolute antipathy toward and even you know, complete disrespect for the rule of law.

That to the political forces a day after, forced the Department of Justice to take a stand in favor of. There`s a crescendo on all sides, whatever party how -- whenever they served of career prosecutors and former U.S. Attorney saying, we haven`t seen the likes of this and we are really gone a whole different level. It`s one thing for Trump to do this, but for the department to have cast is lot firmly in this way is abysmal.

HAYES: Walter, I`ve heard a lot of people close the Justice Department who are talking to people inside or have recently left basically all saying the same thing what Harry said, Now I`m biased as a journalist because I think people should always talk to reporters. But it seems to me that it`s important that people talk, that we need to know as citizens what is happening inside that building. There are people who have left and I wonder if you agree that people need to actually start speaking out about what exactly is happening behind the scenes there.

WALTER DELLINGER, FORMER ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: I think that`s right. I think whatever protocols or professional decorum normally applies does not apply in this crisis situation. I think -- I agree with everything Harry said. Someday, someone is going to write a book about this period. It`s going to be called seven days in February where I think we obliterated the idea of equal justice under law, where the President has been threatening those he opposes, who have done nothing wrong but testified truthfully, and then he seeks to exonerate those who have done serious criminality.

Now, if I could make one more point. I don`t agree with the sentences out of line. You could argue with the margins. But what you have is not a good- faith disagreement among prosecutors, you often get that. And Harry will recall that as well. This is not a good-faith disagreement. This is a 26- page thoughtful memorandum, going through the five categories of lies, the (AUDIO GAP) multi-year campaign to get Credico testify falsely and impede the investigation. And the -- this three-page piece of nonsense that was filed in its place is not a good-faith disagreement.

And if you look at the two documents, you know, one can -- that part -- yes, sometimes prosecutors get overruled by hired officials. This is not a good status agreement.

HAYES: Yes, I completely agree with you on that score. And then those two documents --

LITMAN: Can I add something quickly there?

HAYES: Yes, please go, Harry.

LITMAN: The time for that would have been before they filed it. Those discussions can occur. Everyone is in the room. And remember, this was literally by the book. You could argue about it, they might have before. But once they came down for the head of the department, the political head of the department to take it away from them and bulldoze them in this way, and to get those resignations, Walter is right, this is -- there will be books about this, and this is the biggest crisis since at least the Saturday Night Massacre.

HAYES: Follow up on that. We know -- yes, go ahead, Walter.

DELLINGER: Just one example of how they`ve got nothing in this three-page memorandum to call into question the previous sentencing memo that had been submitted. They say that one of the enhancements is for threatening physical injury and ensure that this part of this relentless campaign to get Credico to testify falsely or to refuse to testify at one point when it appears he`s going to testify. He gets an e-mail message from Roger Stone saying, prepare to die blank, blank sucker.

HAYES: Right.

DELLINGER: And the department doesn`t quote that, but tries to excuse the notion that there was a threat of physical injury.

HAYES: Well, and there`s also -- Harry, I mean, the other thing that`s so astonishing here is that this isn`t just -- I mean, it`s not just that the person in question being prosecuted by the department is connected the president, right? Like let`s say it was his cousin, or it was a friend`s nephew who got caught up in a drug deal, right? And it would be entirely corrupt for the President to reach down to help out a friend or associate.

The thing that the man is about to be sentenced for is obstructing an inquiry that pertains to the behavior that he undertook on the President`s behalf in furtherance of his campaign.

LITMAN: That`s exactly right. This isn`t Billy Carter or whatever. This is part and parcel of the whole fight the President has been carrying on that has been exactly in derogation of the rule of law. So, for him to be on that side, we know that from him now he`s unhinged. For the department to weigh in, not just this specific dispute, but the general contempt for the rule of law (INAUDIBLE)

HAYES: Walter Dellinger and Harry Litman, that is the refrain of 2020 thus far. Thank you very much.

LITMAN: Thank you.

HAYES: Ahead, The President is turning the part of justice into his own personal revenge operation. Carol Lee broke that really important story of how the Attorney General is effectively doing the President`s bidding. She joins me to talk about it in two minutes.


CHRIS: Remember back in October 2016, the day the Donald Trump Access Hollywood tape surfaced. It was that exact same day, few hours later, the WikiLeaks dropped its first batch of e-mails stolen from the Clinton campaign. And the timing there was crucial because those e-mails distracted from that catastrophic tape of Trump bragging about sexual assault.

Shortly after, according to federal prosecutors, an aide to Trump`s campaign chief Steve Bannon sent a text message to Trump`s longtime friend advisor, Roger Stone that read, "well done." Well done, what do you think were meant by that. Now, Roger Stone had been telling the campaign that he was coordinating through back channels with WikiLeaks, that they knew what they had and when it was going to drop. But he lied about that to Congress and investigators. That is what he was covering up. And he was tried for lying and witness tampering and convicted.

Two days ago, federal prosecutors recommended he`d be sent to prison for up to nine years. But then yesterday, President Trump tweeted that the sentencing recommendation with horrible and very unfair. Within hours, the Justice Department said it would change that sentencing recommendation and all four prosecutors, one after another, withdrew from the Roger Stone case.

Now the Trump Justice Department is recommending "far less than the original recommendation." So now it is in the hands of U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson who the President is now attacking on Twitter, and who just today denied Roger Stones new request for a new trial.

Joining me now is NBC News Political Reporter Carol Lee, who just last night reported that Attorney General Bill Barr has taken control of legal matters of interest to Trump, including the Stone sentencing. Carol, it was -- it was a great scoop. A, were you surprised to see the president just completely confirm it after you reported it?

CAROL LEE, NBC NEWS NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Not, usually -- I mean, it`s either -- it`s one or the other, right? He`s either going to confirm it or call it fake news. So it`s a tossup every time.

HAYES: So what do we know about how involved Barr and his associates and deputies are directly in the Stone case and when that came about?

LEE: So what we know is that there was a lot of back and forth behind the scenes where the prosecutors in the Stone case wanted to have a tougher sentence, then senior officials at the Justice Department did. There are Justice Department -- senior Justice Department officials say that they were blindsided by this, that there was some breakdown and communication between the U.S. Attorney`s Office in D.C. and main Justice.

And so the prosecutors filed what they said the memo that they wanted within the sentencing guidelines that they backed. And almost immediately, the Justice Department said, you know, was furious. Attorney General Barr was furious, and they said, we`re going to reverse this. And they moved in to take over. It`s all really happened just in the last few days.

HAYES: When we -- what do we know about the earlier iteration of this? Because one of the things I think is so key here is this happened weeks ago with the Flynn sentencing memo, and everyone kind of scratch their heads. But again, the Justice Department was not on the level about it. They didn`t publicly announced their rationale. This was all happening -- we were all just seeing from outside the box.

LEE: Right. And no one resigned. There wasn`t this public sort of spectacle about it. But what happened was -- and this is you know, in those story that we did last night, the officials outlined to us what they see as a pattern of Barr moving in to try to exert more control over these sorts of cases that President Trump is very interested in.

And so what happened in the Flynn case is that, you know, that things have gotten very contentious between Flynn and the prosecutors. He`s accused them of setting him up. He`s asked a judge to withdraw his guilty plea of lying to the FBI. And so, on January 7th, the prosecutors came back with a new sentencing recommendation, which is tougher than the original one when they were all getting along with Flynn.

And this one said, you know, maybe he should serve some jail time, potentially up to six months. Well, two weeks later, last -- about two weeks ago, the government came back and said, actually, no, never mind, we think he should just serve probation. And what I`m told that happened in the two weeks between the first memo and the second one is that there was a lot of pressure from senior officials at the Justice Department to basically pull back on the Flynn sentencing recommendation and that`s what happened.

So it`s very similar, just played out in a little less of a public way, and it also over a little bit more of the timeframe then we saw with the Stone case.

HAYES: I can`t help but note that just yesterday, I believe, Attorney General Barr gave a speech excoriating progressive DAs for undercharging crimes and not seeking long sentences on the same day that we found out about this. Carol Lee, Thank you very much.

LEE: Thank you.

HAYES: Coming up, two big interviews with two of the top Democratic contenders including the frontrunner Senator Bernie Sanders on his win in New Hampshire last night, and Senator Elizabeth Warren on what`s next for her campaign.



SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): Even if everything that the House is alleged is accepted as true, number one, removing the president is not a last resort. We have an election in November which is a far better and a lot less damaging remedy.


HAYES: That was the refrain of a lot of Republican senators during the impeachment trial. Why would you want to impeach the president during the election year, remove him from office when voters can decide whether or not he will remain in office in November. But of course, Democrats were impeaching the President and seeking his removal because he was soliciting foreign interference in this election. And there is every reason to believe he would actively, is actively welcoming it now. In fact, he said so on camera. And also that Republicans are totally fine with that.

In fact, there is clear evidence they`re fine with it. Just look at what happened yesterday on the Senate floor. Democrats tried to advance three election security bills, which among other things, would simply require campaigns to notify the FBI and the FEC, Federal Election Commission, about any offers of foreign assistance. And sure enough, the Republican majority blocked all three of them.

That was the fourth time since last summer Senate Republicans have rejected Democrats` attempts to pass new election security measures. This election is probably going to be the most intensely fought with the highest turnout in recent memory. And Democrats now have two contest down with 55 less -- left to go on the road to choosing who they want to take on President Donald Trump. The winner of last night`s contest of the New Hampshire primary joins me next.



SANDERS: What I can tell you with absolute certainty, and I know I speak for every one of the Democratic candidates, is that no matter who wins -- and we certainly hope it`s going to be us -- we`re going to unite together. We are going to unite together and defeat the most dangerous president in the modern history of this country.


HAYES: Bernie Sanders won the New Hampshire primary last night by a fairly narrow margin, amid a recordsetting turnout, though, for the Democrats. He picked up 9 delegates, but is still in second place in the overall delegate count behind Pete Buttigieg. And Bernie Sanders joins me live tonight.

Senator, it`s good to have you. Congratulations on your win last night.

I wanted to ask about some of the exit polling we have. It`s clear in both New Hampshire, national polling everywhere, that you`re lapping the field among young voters, both in preference and also turnout, right. This has been a huge area of strength and focus.

I wonder about the flip side, though, you have shown relative weakness among voters 65 and older. And given that that is just a very reliable voting bloc in both primary elections and general elections, does that concern you? Do you have a theory for why that is?

SANDERS: It does concern me. And I think we`re going to do better, and I think we are doing better. I think the New Hampshire results were a little bit better than where we were before.

But here is the main thing, it is one thing to be talking about how senior Democrats, older Democrats are voting within the Democratic primary process, but poll after poll shows that when I am up against Trump, those senior Democrats will come with me.

And I think as I mentioned last night, at the end of the day, while there were obviously divisions within the Democratic primary process, a lot of competition going on, at the end of the day, 98, 99 percent of all Democrats are going to come together to defeat Donald Trump.

What I have been saying, Chris, is that the way you beat Trump is to expand the voter universe, that means bring in working class people who are disillusioned, have given up on the political process, maybe in some cases see through Trump`s fraudulent behavior, bring in young people in a way that we have never done before, and that`s the kind of coalition that we are putting together.

HAYES: Let me ask in terms of the first two contests where you`ve had some proof of this concept, what grade do you give your campaign in terms of doing that? Because I think obviously you put a lot of effort into it and I think the data is a little mixed, frankly, about just how big that sort of turnout boost has been.

SANDERS: Well, let`s answer it in two ways -- and again, you know, we`re just -- the election have just occurred, and we don`t have all the results. But this is what exit polls told us about Iowa -- the turnout there was not particularly high, I think it was similar to what it was in 2016, but according to exit polls, for younger people 29 years of age or younger, there was a 33 percent increase and, in fact, it was the highest turnout for younger people in the history of Iowa caucuses, higher than when Obama ran his great campaign in 2008.

Yesterday there was a record-breaking turnout, I believe, in New Hampshire. And I`ve heard that the turnout among younger people, according some exit polls, was not that high, when I have heard among college campuses, I am told the turnout was very high, so I can`t give you a definitive answer on that.

HAYES: You`re headed to Nevada next. I know that you have organization in place there, have been working on that state. You`ve -- there`s been a sort of interesting development in the last few days, the culinary union, of course, the most powerful union there in Nevada, putting out a flier that seemed to sort of attack your Medicare for All position, talking about how union members have fought very hard for their health care, and it shouldn`t be taken away from them.

And then Pete Buttigieg kind of piggybacking on that attack, saying this is why labor unions are skeptical or even opposed to your Medicare for All position. What`s your response to that?

SANDERS: My response is that I have a lot more union support than Pete Buttigieg has, or I think ever will have, and that many, many unions throughout this country, including some in Unite Here, and the culinary union is part of Unite Here, absolutely understand that we`ve got to move to Medicare for all.

And the reason is if you talk to union negotiators, they will tell you they spend half their time arguing against cutbacks for the health care that they have. They`re losing wage increasing because the cost of health care is soaring. When everybody in America has comprehensive health care, and when we join the rest of the industrialized world by prices are soaring when we join the rest of the industrialized world by guaranteeing health care to all people, unions can negotiate for higher wages, better working conditions, better pensions.

So, I think the future for unions is through Medicare for All.

HAYES: I had David Plouffe on the program the other night in Manchester. And he`s of course campaign manger for Barack Obama. He said something interesting. He said, "whoever has a plurality of delegates, as long as it`s not four delegates or five delegates -- he said say 50-100, OK, going into the convention that the party essentially, both as a political and moral matter, has to give the nomination to the person with the plurality of delegates going into the convention."

I`m curious if you agree now, from the veil of ignorance, as a principle, would you agree with that as a principle, that whoever goes in with, say, a plurality of delegates, if it`s 50 to 100, that should be the nominee?

SANDERS: Well, I think in general what Plouffe said is right, but I think it has -- you have to take a look at the whole nature of the campaign and a whole lot of factors within the campaign that we don`t know yet.

But in general, I think it is a fair statement to say that it would be very divisive. I mean you would have to -- the convention would have to explain to the American people, hey, candidate X, you know, kind of got the most votes and won the most delegates in the primary process, but we`re not going to give him or her the nomination, I think that would be a very divisive moment for the Democratic Party.

HAYES: Final question about some business on Capitol Hill today, I noticed that the budget committee chair in the senate said he was not going to have a hearing in the Senate on the president`s budget, this is his own Republican Senate Committee chair not having a hearing on the president`s budget because it would turn into, I think he said like an anti-Trump fest. What do you make of that?

SANDERS: Well, I know, isn`t it terrible that opponents of Donald Trump can criticize him? Gee, what kind of world do we live in? I mean, my goodness, Republicans understand that we all have to bow down to our supreme leader who is the president of the United States and not criticize him.

Look, Trump is a fraud, his budget is a fraud. He promised the American people among many other things, he wouldn`t cut Medicaid, he wouldn`t cut Medicare, he wouldn`t cut Social Security. Of course in the budget there are massive cuts to those programs, as well as environmental programs, and you name it.

So I understand why the chairman, and I`m the ranking member of that committee, doesn`t want a hearing, because we would expose Trump for the fraud that he is and for the tool of the billionaire class that he truly is.

HAYES: All right, Senator Bernie Sanders, thank you so much for making some time today.

SANDERS: Thank you.

HAYES: Don`t go anywhere, we`ve got presidential candidate and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren standing by. And she`s going to join me next.



WARREN: Americans of all political stripes are gravely concerned about the corruption of a Trump Justice Department that abandons the rule of law to give sweetheart deals to criminals who commit their crimes on behalf on Donald Trump. And yes, Roger Stone, I`m looking at you.


HAYES: Elizabeth Warren zeroed in on the corruption of the Justice Department in her speech to supporters last night. She finished fourth in the New Hampshire primary, was unable to net any delegates.

But despite that, Warren she`s still in third place in the overall delegate tally as we move on to Nevada, and she joins me live tonight.

Senator, a bunch of your Republican colleagues on Capitol Hill today were asked about the reporting about Barr`s involvement about Roger Stone and a number said something of -- to the effect of, well, it`s in the judges` hands anyway. I don`t think this is that big of a deal. Why is it such a big deal to you?

WARREN: This is a huge deal because this is about the president and then his attorney general interfering with the operation of justice, making it about something personal. You know, this is about the rule of law in the United States.

We have an independent Justice Department that goes through, it makes decisions about who`s guilty, who`s not, what recommendations, what they`re going to prosecute, what they`re going to make suggestions for on sentencing. And we don`t do it based on, hey, this is somebody who knows somebody.

For the president to interfere in this, and for the attorney general to evidently carry out his wishes, was so outside the way the justice system operates that three career justice officials resigned on the spot. Think about what that means.

We are watching in front of us a president who now feels like he can do anything. And that means we are watching a descent into -- into authoritarianism, that`s where we`re headed.

HAYES: You have proposed a task force were you to be elected president at the Department of Justice to look retroactively at the possible criminal conduct among the Trump administration. Some people I saw today criticizing you for essentially doing the thing that you`re criticizing, right. This would essentially be using the Justice Department to pursue political vendettas. What do you say to that?

WARREN: No, that`s exactly backwards. It`s an independent task force, has nothing to do with the presidency, the president cannot interfere in any way, that checks to see because look at what the alternative is, especially with Donald Trump right now. The alternative is that Donald Trump is effectively saying by his actions, hey, look, do whatever it is that Donald Trump tells you to do, including breaking the law, and Donald Trump will then bail out the person, make sure that there is no punishment, or that the punishment is light.

We have to reestablish rule of law. Part of that will be independent investigation, so everyone understands, when you switch from Republican to Democrat, or Democrat to Republican, everyone is supposed to have been following the law.

But the second is we can`t let this moment go unremarked.

What the attorney general has done, we should all be calling for the resignation of the attorney general. If he won`t resign -- remember, the attorney general can be impeached.

And also we should be using the other tools of congress, and that is we can put budget constraints so that Donald Trump is not able to have any funding to be able to interfere into actions that affect Trump, the Trump family, Trump buddies, Trump campaign workers, we can`t just sit on our hands.

This president will be in control through the November elections, and he has indicated that he feels no constraint.

We got to get out there and fight back. And if we don`t have has many tools as we wanted, then we just got to pick up what we`ve got and use them. We cannot just sit on our hands.

HAYES: I want to ask you about last night. I want to ask you a theoretical question, which you may or may not engage in, but I`m going to give it a try. Here is my question to you, so we know that among Democratic voters there`s a high import put on the ability to beat Donald Trump, in fact that`s the number one thing people talk about. And we know that various candidacies have made their cases to voters about why they have the ability to be Donald Trump and would be the best suited to go against him.

Do you think that is a knowable thing? Like in your head do you think there is an actual one among you that is the dragon slayer and only that one can defeat Donald Trump, or do you think that multiple people in the field are capable of beating him?

WARREN: So, it may be that there are multiple people, but it still doesn`t mean that you don`t want to look to see who has the best chance to do it. And that`s the argument I was making. I think I`ve got the best chance.

But what it takes is a united party. We can`t have a repeat of 2016 when we roll into the general election with Democrats still mad at Democrats, Democrats still angry, some Democrats staying home, we need to have a party that is united.

We also need to have party that is fighting clearly for America`s working families, for America`s middle class. That`s why something like my two cent wealth tax that actually let`s us give universal child care to every baby in this country age zero to five, and universal pre-K for every 3-year-old and 4-year-old, and cancel student loan debt for 43 million Americans and raise Social Security by $200 a month, all by just asking those at the very top to pay a little more.

I`ve got clear plans for that, plans that let people see, gee, this is how it would affect my life. That`s something all Democrats can run on up and down the ticket. And it`s something that pulls in Republican support and independent support.

We need to be the party that`s out there fighting for working people, not the party that`s helping the rich get richer. And I think if we make that fight, we make that argument, we pull our party together, that`s how I`m going to beat Donald Trump, that`s our best chance.

HAYES: All right, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, thank you so much for making time tonight.

WARREN: You bet.

HAYES: Coming up, we`ll dig more into the potential dangers of prioritizing so-called electability over anything else. That`s next.


HAYES: So I got a chance to talk to a bunch of voters in New Hampshire, including folks who came to the show -- thank you -- when I was there for the primary. And bunch of folks who were undecided, some late deciders.

A few things really struck me. One is that people really have strong and positive feelings about multiple Democratic candidates, that came up time and time again. And two, the thing that people are obsessed with, and this is borne out by the data, is beating President Donald Trump. Of course.

They are obsessed with the idea there`s a single correct answer to the question who is the best to take on Trump. And a lot of voters feel like it is their job to figure out the answer to that question.

NBC News exit polls, 63 percent of New Hampshire Democratic primary voters said the most important thing was that the nominee can beat Trump, only a third said it was more important the nominee agree with their views.

But the evidence when it comes to who is the best to beat Trump, who is the most, quote, electable candidate is just, and I`m telling you this, having poured over this, very muddled, and not really clear.

So, is this electability focus driving Democratic voters insane?

Joining me to talk about what is going on is Nick Confessore, national investigative reporter from The New York Times; and Christina Greer, associate professor of political science at Fordham University, was a fascinating and very well-timed new piece focused on electability in The Daily Beast titled black voters turn to Mike Bloomberg.

Let`s start there, because you wrote this piece the day before a bunch of national polls came out that showed Bloomberg surging with black voters. And you said I`m picking this up among people I`m talking to. What is your understanding of the calculation that`s happening there among certain black voters who are sort of leaning towards Bloomberg?

CHRISTINA GREER, FORDHAM UNIVERSITY: Right, so to be clear, this is not an endorsement of Bloomberg, I`m just having conversations with folks.

HAYES: Descriptive.

GREER: Exactly. And I felt like in a multi-class series of conversations, there are a lot of people who are saying, well, you know, Bloomberg versus Buttigieg, I choose Bloomberg. Bloomberg versus Klobuchar I choose Bloomberg. And so I felt like the conversations we`re having were black folks in 2020 sort of the year I voted for Bloomberg reminded me of white folks in 2016 sort of quietly supporting Trump but not feeling like they could say it in mixed company because it just wasn`t the polite thing to say.

HAYES: And that is because of calculations about his formability against Donald Trump.

GREER: That and -- I mean, we know that black voters are not single issue voters, right. But the single issue that seems to keep emerging is to beat Donald Trump, and that seems to be -- as Michael Bloomberg sort of picks off mayors left and right who understand local politics, who understand the electorate, who are galvanizing pastors, and we can define that however we need to define that, financially, or, as far as politics are concerned.

But it seems as though he`s building a grassroots effort. And as Joe Biden appears to be declining before our very eyes, Klobuchar and Buttigieg are relatively unknown, it sort of creates -- it seems like it`s creating this window for Bloomberg to make inroads with the black community, even with this past record of stop and frisk, and so many other things in the city of New York.

HAYES: But to me the Joe Biden experience thus far is an illustration of some of the perils of the conversation around electability. And this is not to say, like Joe Biden is still very much in the race. We`ve only done two of 55 contests. The two states that have voted are 90 percent white and don`t represent the diversity of the Democratic coalition, so I`m not saying -- like I`m not writing any epitaphs here, but there was this idea that like, oh, Joe Biden is the best to take on Trump and then voters that got to see him up close came to a different conclusion, I think it`s fair to say, and now the question is like were the pundits wrong? Was the polling wrong? Were the voters in the early states wrong? And the answer is who knows, because you`re not shooting at a fixed target.

NICK CONFESSORE, NEW YORK TIMES: Look, his brand was I can win. And if your brand is I can win and you keep losing, it`s not going to hold for very long.

I think voters have been chasing their own tails on this question. Everyone`s their own James Carville, and they look at the same poll numbers and say, well, he`s best in head to head match-ups, you know...

HAYES: He was for a while.

CONFESSORE: If there`s a stumble, or a bad debate performance -- well, he`s still leading. And then all of a sudden people see him take a beating in these first two states and they`re like, well, I guess someone can beat him, what now?

HAYES: And this, to me, is part of what`s driving Bloomberg. There`s a sort of electability sense that I think, a, because he`s on the early part of the sort of hype scrutiny decline that happens -- it happens to every candidate. Candidates get hyped. They get scrutinized they come down a little bit. We`ve seen multiple cycles of that for some candidates.

But there`s also this way in which the money he`s spending is a message he`s sending. It`s not just that he`s or not air with $350 million, he`s saying to people in the Democratic Party, wouldn`t it be nice to have a billionaire on your side? Wouldn`t it be nice for a guy to roll in here and maybe spend a few billion to beat Donald Trump? Wouldn`t you like to see that? And that itself is a message about his own electability.

GREER: That`s part of the message, but also he has been in so many of these states since Thanksgiving or before, right. And so it`s also the power of suggestion.

If I hear your message time and time again, if I see your face -- and the only that I`m hearing are the positives and the policy perspectives that have been detailed just for me, right. He has been targeting specific voters in particularly states.

HAYES: Very specifically.

GREER: Just for them. And so for those of us who are in New York from 2001 to 2013, we know we saw all those Bloomberg ads when our lobbies were littered with Bloomberg literature that was just for us specifically, I think that that also power of suggestion is really strong.

CONFESSORE: Look, I think there are people who say that a billionaire shouldn`t buy the election, and they`re mostly Sanders and Warren voters. I think the vast majority of Democratic voters, if you could he can buy the election for you tomorrow, they would say, god, please buy the election.

HAYES: I think that...

CONFESSORE: He`s like the (inaudible) daddy of 2020.

HAYES: I think there`s more conflict than you`re giving it credit for.

CONFESSORE: I`m just saying I think people are so focused on beating him that the idea that they`ll say on principle as far as his money being spent on their behalf I think is hard to...

HAYES: But this gets to the mental models people have. Like, it was so fascinating to me that Quinnipiac had these head to heads the other day, right. The top two performers are the two polar opposites in the field, like Bernie Sanders and Mike Bloomberg. So, what are you supposed to make of that? Like how do you make sense of that data.

And then down at the bottom was Pete Buttigieg, who I think a lot of people, and for totally defensible reasons, think is like very electable, and he`s got good centrist cred, and he`s a fresh face, and he`s coming from the Midwest, like there`s arguments to be made on behalf of his electability.

But no one has a model that like very -- that rigorously explains. We`re asking everyone to be political science in their own head.

GREER: Well, I think -- there are a few problems, right. We haven`t seen South Carolina, but Bloomberg`s not in South Carolina. So now we have to wait until Super Tuesday to see if this Bloomberg influx actually works.

But I think also, I mean, when you said you know, people are like please, buy the election today, I think people are of two minds. That`s a long-term and a short-term hustle, right, buy the election today to get this maniac out of the White House, but we`re setting a really bad precedent to say billionaires come and buy elections in the future.

CONFESSORE: If a billionaire builds a shadow party, history shows that it sticks around and they do things with it later.

HAYES: I will just say that if you came from another planet or from another country to study America as a society and you saw Donald Trump`s presidency followed by a Michael Bloomberg presidency, your conclusion about the strength and vibrancy of American democracy would not be particularly strong.

GREER: Well, maybe if you saw a Barack Obama presidency and then a Donald Trump presidency, you might have those questions.

HAYES: Nick Confessore and Christina Greer, thank you both for being with me.

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