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Norms and the DOJ TRANSCRIPT: 2/14/20, All in W/ Chris Hayes

Guests: Chuck Rosenberg, Andrew Zimmern, Ben Wikler, Tory Gavito, Rahna Epting

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That our generation passes this democracy intact at least and if not in better shape to the next generation of Americans.


CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Well, not always poetic of course but generally truthful, sometimes the best speech of the campaign. And that`s HARDBALL for now -- HARDBALL for now. Happy Valentine`s Day especially to the guys that dropped out. "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes starts right now.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you speak to the justice --

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, I didn`t speak to the judge. I`d be able to do it if I wanted. I have the absolute right to do it.

HAYES: New alarms over the president`s abuse of the Justice Department.

TRUMP: Hopefully, somebody`s going to look at the other side.

HAYES: Tonight, Chuck Rosenberg on what separates America from an authoritarian spiral. Plus, is there really such a thing as a moderate and progressive lane in the Democratic primary. Organizers attempting to lay the groundwork for 2020 success. And Chef Andrew Zimmern on the politics of food in Trump`s America.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The strawberries that you picked are being served in the congressional dining room in Washington D.C. on Capitol Hill.

HAYES: Live from Studio 6A in Rockefeller Plaza, ALL IN starts right now.


HAYES: Hello, everybody. Thank you. Good to be here. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Welcome back. It`s been just one week. It just seems crazy to me, but it`s only been one week since our impeached President was acquitted in the Senate one week ago, and the abuses of power just keep going, intensifying.

In fact, this week, President Trump has been openly assaulting the independence of the Department of Justice, and the behaviors become so routine. But what he is doing now, I would say, is even more destructive than anything he`s done before, even the -- what he was impeached for.

And amidst all this, as you watch these headlines that are kind of dizzying I think it`s fair to say in the last week, it`s really important to understand that the only thing standing between the rule of law and the kind of authoritarian decline is us. It`s not any law anywhere, and it`s certainly not the words as written in the Constitution.

The laws we have, the institutions we have, those are all vitally important. But fundamentally, we are what stands in the way. And here`s what I mean by that. The Department of Justice, right, it`s currently being openly subverted and corrupted in front of our eyes by the President and his handpicked bagman, for lack of a better word, Attorney General William Barr.

But here`s the thing. The Department of Justice is not in the U.S. Constitution. That phrase, the Department of Justice, it doesn`t exist in the text because there was not a Department of Justice for almost another century at the ratification. There was not an FBI. There were barely any federal crimes right around the time the Constitution was adopted. It was the states that did all that.

And that was the case for nearly the first hundred years the country. The Department of Justice was actually created by statute of the Civil War. And over the years it`s grown in scope and power. And when it was created, there was no constitutional delineation or demarcation about the relationship between the President and this massive law enforcement body that he started to run.

It`s interesting, the first mission of the DOJ was actually to bring the rule of law to the post confederate itself where local juries and local investigators would not prosecute violent white terrorist. Federal investigators had to do that. But over the next 100 years between when it was created in the 70s, and the Watergate scandal in the 1970s, the Department of Justice gets very, very powerful.

In 1908, the FBI is created, and then J. Edgar Hoover, who you know of, right? He takes it over in 1924. He runs it for almost 50 years, five decades. Think about that. And Hoover, of course, turns it into his own personal fight. He starts his incredibly intrusive surveillance system, targeting many of his personal enemies. He uses his power to essentially blackmail politicians including presidents, right to retain his power.

His subordinates tried to get Martin Luther King Jr. to kill himself because Hoover was convinced he was a commie. Hoover abused his power, never left the post until his death in 1972, 1972. And then we get Watergate investigation 1973 when President Richard Nixon actually tries to use the Department of Justice as a weapon to wield against his enemies.

Remember, what became known as the Saturday night massacre, right, when Nixon tries to fire the special prosecutor that`s investigating him, and when the Attorney General and then the deputy attorney general refused to carry out his order, they resigned in protest. And there`s a realization after this right, after Hoover, after Nixon in Watergate, that the misuse of the Department of Justice is just unbelievably dangerous, existentially threatening to the rule of law and democracy in general.

And the government needs to have some kind of restraint on it because we cannot have the rule of law and we cannot certainly have impartial justice with the Department of Justice using its power to aid the agenda of one man be it J. Edgar Hoover, or Richard Nixon, or Donald J. Trump.

So the post-Watergate era included a number of reforms. Instead of being FBI Director forever, for instance, they created a 10-year term, probably good idea. And the 10-year term, the idea was that presidents would not fire the FBI Director when they came in, right, so they would cross administrations. But of course, we saw that too, was basically just a tradition.

And one of the biggest reforms was establishing a wall between the President and the Department of Justice, on certain matters, right. Some of those are written into DOJ regulations that are internal to the department. But the crucial thing about all these reforms that are established post- Hoover and post Nixon, they didn`t come as amendments to U.S. Constitution, most of them are not laws at all.

Many of them are norms and traditions and precedents. There are rules that presidents of both parties have more or less honored for decades. The most important of all of these norms, the most important is the separation between the White House and the President and the Department of Justice on criminal matters and investigations.

And the reason for that is very clear. Look around the world right now. Dozens of countries, the prosecutorial function of the government is used by strong men everywhere as a tool of pursuing and harassing and purging political opponents. In Russia for just one example, right, the leader of the main opposition party there is a guy named Alexei Navalny. Maybe you`ve heard of him. And lo and behold, when he runs against Russian President Vladimir Putin, he gets nabbed by Russian Federal agents, basically, their version of the FBI, and gets brought up on charges over and over again.

Now, do we think that`s because Alexei Navalny is an incorrigible crook or because Putin is clearly using the prosecutorial power to target his political enemies? And that is what is so dangerous about where we are right now as I`m talking to you. There is nothing specifically and explicitly in our Constitution that says you can`t do this.

There are not laws that say the president can`t, for instance, hand Attorney General Barr, a list of all the people who`ve, I don`t know, contributed to Democratic presidential candidates the maximum level and tell him the DOJ should open up investigations into those people. It`s not technically illegal. It would obviously be an absolute descent into tin pot authoritarianism. We all know that.

It would violate a whole bunch of Department of Justice regulations. It would violate establish norms and decades of precedents of both parties. It probably violates the Fourth Amendment constitutional right to due process. But who`s going to enforce that, right? Congress has oversight, of course. They could defund the Department of Justice. They still have the power of the purse. They can even impeach and remove the president over it. Although that does not seem particularly likely today.

And there are really two ways to wield the power of the Department of Justice as a kind of authoritarian tool, right? You can use it as a shield for your friends and you can use it as a sword for your enemies. We`re watching right now in front of us just in broad daylight, Attorney General Barr is using it as a shield for Donald Trump`s friends.

So first, there`s the intervention to the Roger Stone case, right? They rescind a sentencing recommendation and then they replace it with a much lighter sentence against the recommendations of the prosecutors working the case that leaves all four of those line prosecutors to withdraw from the case one even resigned from DOJ all together.

Today, today, we get news that lo and behold, Attorney General Barr has installed an outside prosecutor to review the case against Michael Flynn, Trump`s former National Security Advisor, a man who himself pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. And Roger Stone and Michael Flynn, they are the President`s friends and allies and associates, the crimes they committed were committed in part at least to benefit the President himself.

So the President does not want the law to touch them. So that`s happening. Now the much more terrifying precipice that we have not totally crossed, yet is using the DOJ as a sword against Trump`s perceived enemies, right? That`s an evolving example in Russia. But we`ve known from the time that he was on the campaign trail, Trump wants to do that. He wants to use the Department of Justice against his enemies the same way Putin does. He literally ran on lock her up.

He tweeted at the first Attorney General Jeff Sessions all the time, time and time again to investigate his political rivals. We know the President wanted James Comey prosecuted. We know that thanks to Washington Post, that Trump hit the roof when the DOJ declined to prosecute Comey. Quoting from the article, "can you effing believe they did not charge him," Trump reportedly said.

And then Trump wanted Comey`s successor Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe prosecuted because he opened up a counterintelligence investigation into Russian interference in the election and the campaign`s possible ties and also because his wife is a Democrat. That is some like real authoritarian stuff.

Today, we got word that after months of extended back and forth about whether they would or would not actually indictment McCabe, the DOJ said they are not going to prosecute him. And there`s reporting today that Trump flipped out about that too.

But the thing is, here`s the thing. An investigation itself or the threat of an investigation, even without prosecution creates unbelievable pressure and coercive force on political enemies. Just ask Andrew McCabe what the last two years of his life has been like being under federal investigation. Heck, asked Joe Biden, if just the threat of investigation can change the trajectory of your political fortunes. And that threat is a tool that authoritarians use as well.

Earlier today, President Trump tweeted that he has the legal right to ask the Attorney General to intervene in federal case. And again, here`s the thing. In the most literal sense, he is not strictly wrong. There is nothing spelled out in the constitution or spelled out in the law that for business. There is no Department of Justice in the Constitution. But that does not mean there is no check.

The restraint, the thing, stopping the president from doing whatever he wants are people. People mobilizing and organizing and calling switchboards of Congress and civil servants resigning inside the Department of Justice, like those folks did, and then telling us what they know. Heck, people marching and protesting outside the Department of Justice if that`s what it takes. Because the only thing to stop him is us.

That said, I am just a cable T.V. host. I did not work in a Department of Justice. One of the things that we`ve seen this week is that people who did who spent years there, who know how powerful and important that institution is, and how dangerous it is to see it corrupted, they are speaking out.

One of them is Chuck Rosenberg. He wrote an op-ed this week that`s titled, this is a revolting assault on the rule of law. So I want to bring in a former senior FBI official, former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, please welcome Chuck Rosenberg.


HAYES: Have a seat. You have spent so much of your career inside this institution. So I thought maybe we would start with you describing when you`re inside the institution, how these norms get communicated, acted up to diffused through the organizational culture of the place.

ROSENBERG: They get passed down to you, Chris. It`s almost like stories that your grandparents would tell you about their lives and wherever they came from. When you start, when you`re new, when you`re green, right, the senior people in the office behave a certain way and talk a certain way. And I wrote this in my article. It always seems weird to quote yourself. But we never talked about politics in the office ever.

I don`t know, to this day, the politics of my colleagues. I don`t know how they voted. I don`t even know if they voted because it didn`t matter. The concern was that if that type of thing seeps into your culture, it would corrode your work.

HAYES: This sort of red line that we`re dealing with here, which is -- which is post-Watergate, which is the Department of Justice and the White House are naturally going to have a lot of interaction on a variety of matters, right?


HAYES: Civil rights enforcement, right, things like.

ROSENBERG: The nomination of judges.

HAYES: The nomination of judges.

ROSENBERG: Perfectly OK.

HAYES: The sort of broad -- the broad policy goals of the attorney general who was appointed by the president and serves his administration. The red line is criminal matters, is that correct?

ROSENBERG: Criminal enforcement?


ROSENBERG: Because as you described. I mean, that`s where the President can exert such great authority and to change the lives of enemies, right? So, imagine if Nixon didn`t just have a list, but actually had the Department of Justice putting people in jail on his behalf, right. The power of prosecutors, and I learned this when I was new, and it developed over the years, is so immense, right, that you have to have constraints on it.

And as you said, the constraints aren`t really constitutional or even statutory. The constraints are people, policies, and norms. Those are the constraints. And by the way, they`ve worked.

HAYES: Have they worked? That was going to be my next question.


HAYES: Are they working now?

ROSENBERG: I think so. I worry -- I mean, I wrote the article because I`m worried that we`re beginning to see this wall erode, right. The canary in the coal mine has always been the men and women of the Department of Justice, the agents, the prosecutors, the analysts, right? The Folks at the base of the pyramid, that`s the canary in the coal mine.

I always believe that if something was really, really wrong, we would hear from them. And we just did. Four people resigned from a case. One of the four resigned from the Department of Justice. They felt that there was something wrong. This thing I talked about earlier, the norms that are handed down to you from the, you know, the elders in the office, they knew something was wrong, and they had to leave. And that`s the way you do it.

If you`re -- if you`re confronted with an issue in an office, and your choices are either to abide it, or leave, and you leave, you know, there`s a problem with the order.

HAYES: You know, one of the ironies here is that the federal government and the Department of Justice has often taken the lead in prosecuting corruption at political levels below the federal level.


HAYES: And that`s because often at the local level, the way the corruption works is that it corrupts the justice system, right? So I mean, I came up as a reporter in Chicago and this was, you know, all the time.

ROSENBERG: Fertile ground.

HAYES: Very fertile ground. And there was a place where you had local appointed judges who are appointed by the machine. They look the other way. And so, the whole idea is that Department of Justice comes in and prosecute these. And I`ve seen Republicans and Democrats prosecuted on corruption charges. Right now, we`re dealing with a situation which there`s no other thing up there. That`s -- it`s just the Department of Justice. That`s what we have.

ROSENBERG: That`s all there is left. You know, the rule of law is a construct. And I think it`s important for people to think of it that way. You know, the law of gravity exists everywhere. You know, you drop a pencil in Russia, and, you know, I presume it hits the ground. It hits the ground in every failed state in the world.

So the law of gravity is a constant. The rule of law is a construct. It was designed by people. It`s nurtured by people. It`s preserved by people. And in the end, it can be destroyed by people. If we don`t enforce these norms, if we don`t abide by these policies, and if we don`t make sure that the Department of Justice remains and other in American life away from politics.

HAYES: Last question, but It`s a challenging one. I really want to hear responses. There`s lots of people who look at the American justice system, who look at the history of the FBI and Department of Justice and don`t see equal justice. They see unequal justice.

ROSENBERG: I understand.

HAYES: They see --

ROSENBERG: Because we`re imperfect. I mean, we make mistake.

HAYES: Yes, but more than perfect, systematically imperfect, right? They see -- they see a war on drugs at the federal level that has massive disparities in terms of black and white folks, like things like that.

ROSENBERG: All human endeavors are imperfect.

HAYES: Right. But I guess the question to you is like, what do you say to someone who`s skeptical that the thing you`re saying we`re losing we ever have?

ROSENBERG: Fair enough. I mean, there may be some number of people that I could never convince. But what I want people to know, in particular, your viewers and your audience, is we try pretty damn hard to get it right. We make mistakes. Of course, we do. One of our obligations as federal prosecutors, when we make a mistake, is to go tell the judge, right? Who else does that? The media.

If look at the second page of any major newspaper in America, and they print corrections the next day. But there aren`t a lot of industries where you front your mistakes. One of the things we were trained t0 do as young prosecutors when you get something wrong, is you tell the judge and you go tell the defense attorney, and you try and fix it. And that`s the important norm too.

HAYES: What is your feeling about the folks that are in that department right now who might be listening to this? The Department of Justice is massive. It`s not just located in D.C. There`s main justice. There`s U.S. Attorney`s Office across country, there`s FBI field offices --

ROSENBERG: There`s agents all over the world.

HAYES: What is your message to those people about what they should be doing right now?

ROSENBERG: Look, again, the base of this massive pyramid is fine. It`s always been fine, right? These are the folks that come to work every day and do their jobs, whether it`s ATF, or DEA, or FBI, or the U.S. Attorney community, I`m not worried about them. And in most offices, right, routine cases are routine. They`re not getting the attention of the attorney general or the president.

And so, you have to remember, we`re talking about you know, a fraction of a percent. But it`s a really important fraction of a point.


ROSENBERG: And what worries me is that when we see this outside interference and influence and it`s wielded politically, I worried that it erodes that base. I worry that people say, this is not what I signed up for. I had always been proud at my neighborhood block party to tell people I was an FBI agent or an Assistant U.S. Attorney and I don`t feel that way anymore. And if that sort of corrosion seeps into our system, then those policies and norms that we talked about, I worry about that.

HAYES: All right, Chuck Rosenberg who`s got a great podcast called The Oath which you should check out, thanks so much for joining.

ROSENBERG: Thanks for having me.

HAYES: All right, we got lots more to come including the 2020 phrase. And the people that are on the ground in pivotal states trying to do something about it. Stick around. Don`t go anywhere.


HAYES: After Iowa and New Hampshire, there`s been a kind of conventional wisdom that`s taken shape about the race that there`s essentially a central defining dynamic of the Democratic nominating race. That Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are on the progressive side of this dynamic and Senator Amy Klobuchar, and Joe Biden, and Pete Buttigieg, and then Michael Bloomberg out there somewhere are on the more moderate side.

But if you look at data on Democratic primary voters, and it`s really all we have, right, they are not thinking about the race and these ideological terms. For a great example of that, take a look at this data we got today. It`s just pulling Bernie Sanders against the rest of the field, right? So one on one matchups. And here`s the thing. The person who comes closest to knocking them out one to one is Elizabeth Warren, right? Who`s the closest to him ideologically, which doesn`t make sense if you`re thinking about it in this sort of moderate versus liberal way.

It`s also borne out by the fact that the data we have on say people`s number two choices, doesn`t fit into ideological lane. Sanders is the number two choice of a plurality of Biden voters, right? Someone else who sort of thought of on the other part of the flank. Here to talk about how ideology is not the defining framework for this race so far, Maya Wiley, former Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Civil Division of the Southern District of New York, and Sam Seder, the host of the Majority Report and an MSNBC Contributor. Great to have you guys here.


HAYES: I thought that -- I thought this head to head data was so useful because there has been so much talk that sort of has been grouping, you know, Buttigieg and Klobuchar and not -- it`s not crazy to group them together because they are closer ideologically. But it does seem to me that like at a base level, Democratic voters are not thinking those terms.

MAYA WILEY, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, I think Democratic voters are thinking anybody but Trump by and large. I mean, I have people saying to me, I`ll vote for your left shoe if it will beat Donald Trump. And it is a nice left shoe. But I -- but I think what that translates into is they are -- they`re looking at who they think is both going to be Trump that they like.

HAYES: Right.

WILEY: And there`s a lot to like about a lot of these candidates. And sometimes what you like about one candidate is different from what you like about another candidate. And so it`s not so strange if you think about it that way.

HAYES: It`s funny too, because I feel like there`s this elemental truth about politics that we forget, which is that like, a lot of politics is being likable. Like it is not ideological. Like people that succeed in politics, like have a certain kind of charisma or charm, or they have a way of communicating and favorability and things like that matter a lot. And for a lot of voters, like someone who`s familiar that they like, is what is at the top of their list.

SEDER: Right. And I think you know, we tend, because we talk about politics all the time to look at it in terms of ideology. And I don`t think a lot of people do that necessarily who are voting. But I think, you know, there may be some other qualities, you know, sort of like, authenticity, whatever that means. I mean --

HAYES: Which is loaded in its own way.

SEDER: Which is loading in its own way, or just a sense of confidence that people exude at different times. I mean, I think a lot of times, when we see people dip or change in the polls, it`s less a function of decisions they make about policies and more sort of the meta-narrative that`s around the idea that they`re deciding based upon pressure, or they`re deciding because they`re responding, as opposed to just like laying out their vision.

HAYES: Yes. And I think that`s -- what you end up with is a little bit of a kind of like autocatalytic cycle where, oh, you`re going down the polls, therefore, you`re weaker, therefore, you`re not going to beat Trump. Therefore, I`m not going to support you, which has its own kind of, I think, kind of pervasive and also insidious logic.

SEDER: Well, yes. But I don`t know if it`s necessarily insidious. I mean, in this context, people are really talking about -- you know, they want someone who`s going to beat Trump. I mean, for instance, like, you know, there is a narrative, I think, amongst like politico`s that Warren dropped in the polls because she adopted Medicare for all. And I think there`s no data that suggests that.

She went up right as she was adopting Medicare for All. But it was only when she came out and offered sort of like more sophisticated plans about it where it looked like she was responding criticism that I think people start to lose confidence a little bit that she wasn`t as sure about what she was doing, and I think that`s what really hurt her.

HAYES: Well, and there`s also this way in which no one knows -- everyone is trying to make these decisions in a world in which they feel like all the rules have been thrown out. I mean, I think this is part of what the appeal of Bloomberg is, right? Like, we can have a billionaire of our own and like, yes, in any other universe, like the 75-year-old plus Jewish mayor of New York, who`s got like -- who`s known throughout much of the country is like hating guns, wouldn`t be like Mr. electable.

But people are like, well, I don`t know. He`s got a billion dollars. Same thing with Bernie Sanders where people were like, I don`t know, the old Jewish socialist, but it`s also like he`s polling pretty well in head to head matchups. So without the rules there, right, the rules are all thrown like the 38-year-old gay mayor from South Bend, Indiana is plausible natural. Like all these things that you couldn`t imagine just five years ago are imaginable now.

WILEY: You know, I think part of what`s happening is everyone -- there`s a lot of fear and concern, obviously for the future of the country and for people`s own personal futures, right. There`s still a lot of voters out there who are trying to understand how their lives are going to be lived after this election in some pretty basic ways. Which is why the Medicare for all versus are we building on Obamacare, very wonky way to have a conversation of, do I still get my doctor?

HAYES: Right.

WILEY: Is my deductible going to be so high that I can`t actually take care of my rent? I mean, that`s really a very fundamental consideration for folks. I think part of what that means is that -- and I think Bloomberg is going to learn this very soon, is people -- there`s so many candidates in the field. They`re -- a lot of them are very strong candidates, and the scrutiny changes as candidates rise.

HAYES: That`s right.

WILEY: And what -- in Bloomberg --

HAYES: High scrutiny.

WILEY: And then they fall off, right? And so what`s happening for Bloomberg right now is you got the hype, and he got the hype, because he had a lot of ad dollars. And people love the ads because they`re so Trump-attackee and they`re effective in that. But now all of the inconsistent statements are coming out. And I`m -- I don`t -- I actually think authenticity matters a lot in the sense that people want to know who you say you are, and then do you have some understanding of what my life is like, so that I can at least trust that when you get in that office, you`re going to --

SEDER: Have my best interest.

WILEY: Have my best interest.

SEDER: Yes, I mean, at this point, he`s been basically like a bar of soap that has been able to spend literally hundreds of millions of dollars advertising on how --

HAYES: Being like how it cleans and smell good.

SEDER: This is great soap and there`s nobody around, frankly, to say like, oh, you know, there`s some stuff in there that`s problematic.

HAYES: I didn`t know where you were going with the metaphor. I mean, I also think that -- the key point about Bloomberg, right, is that it`s not, I think -- again, to get back to the sort of like opening conceit here about ideological -- it`s not the ideological heterodoxies, or heresies, right, like oh, you are against minimum wage, it`s the are you authentic, can we trust you questions, right? There`s his own line about like, it`s not what the candidates say about the policies, it`s what the policies say about the candidate, that like that`s the stuff that reads to people more than the specifics on policies.

For some people the policies really matter, I don`t want to discount that. But in the broader sense, I think what we`re seeing in this race is this sense of like I`m powerful and strong and can take this guy on is a very fluid thing from moment to moment.

SEDER:  Yeah, I mean, I think, you know, there`s a tendency in our society to assume that because you have a lot of money, that means that you have the ability to hold your own in that environment, and that`s, you know, what I think brought Donald Trump to the fore, at least in the Republican Party.

I don`t think in the Democratic Party you have that same sense of money as an ascendant value and an indication of your moral strength and competence.

HAYES:  Yeah, we`re going to see -- that`s going to be tested in the next few months. Maya Wiley, Sam Seder, thank you both for joining me.

All right, so how do you defeat Donald Trump in 2020? With a lot of hard work. Coming up, we`re going to talk to some people on the ground doing just that. That`s next.


HAYES:  I notice that there are some Democrats out there feeling a bit demoralized these days with the Democratic presidential race still extremely unsettled and the president going after his enemies, after Senate Republicans let him off in the impeachment trial. And they`re worried, understandably, that Trump could get reelected despite the overwhelming evidence that he does not belong in the White House.

But it`s important to remember two things. One, as I`ve discussed before, Trump is much weaker than he wants you to think. Look at his approval rating, which, as you can see, is underwater, as it always is, or the fact that a majority of the country literally wanted the senate to convict Trump and remove him from the White House, 51 percent.

The other thing to remember is this, the way to beat Trump isn`t by lamenting the way things are, it`s by doing the hard work to change how they are -- getting out, fighting for what you believe in, doing what it takes on the ground every day to change the course of this country`s history. And I wanted to talk to three people who are doing just that.

Joining me now from Madison, Wisconsin Ben Wikler, chair of the Wisconsin Democratic Party; from Washington, D.C. Rahna Epting, who is executive editor of MoveOn; and from Austin, Texas, Tory Gavito who is in Texas organizing voters with Way to Win Progressive Donor Network. It`s great to have you guys all here.


HAYES:  I want to start -- so, Ben, I want to start with you in Wisconsin. People talk about a tipping point state where they look at the electoral college and they look at sort of the sort of likelihood of different candidates to win it. And a lot of people think that Wisconsin is the tipping point state, which is to say the person that wins Wisconsin will win the election most likely.

And I wonder if you agree with that and what it looks like there on the ground in terms of what the kind of current state is of your state?

BEN WIKLER, CHAIR, WISCONSIN DEMOCRATIC PARTY:  So every analysis that I`ve seen, and apparently every analysis that the Trump campaign has seen, suggests that whoever wins Wisconsin will be our next president. In a secretly recorded Trump campaign briefing, his senior council said if we win Wisconsin we win the election, if we lose Wisconsin, we lose the election. So, it really does feel like it comes down to what happens here.

And what that means for us, even as we watch, there are dozens of Trump staffers on the ground in Wisconsin right now -- what it means for us as Democrats is we that can cut through the noise, the propaganda, the attacks on democracy, all this stuff with our most power weapon, which is organizing.

This last weekend it was 18 degree outside in Madison, it was colder in northern Wisconsin, and yet we had more than 100 different communities where neighborhood teams launched door-to-door canvasses and talked to voters, listened to voters in every corner and every community of this state. That was the kind of thing we saw maybe in September, October of 2016. We`ve never been this mobilized before in the history of the state as far as we can tell.

And there are people going to from other states and saying they are ready to retire early and move to Wisconsin or take a year off in the middle of college and come help us.

We say welcome.

HAYES:  Classic, retire to northern Wisconsin gambit.

Tory Gavito, you`re in Texas. I have to say, I think -- Texas, I`ve always been fascinated by Texas and Texas politics. I love the state of Texas. I know a lot of people down there.

I want to start out with some polling I saw today that just kind of blew my mind actually. So, this is Texas head-to-head polling, in the state of Texas, Bernie Sanders losing to Trump by two points, Warren losing to Trump by three points, Biden losing by four points, the rest of the field losing the most by five points. This is in the state of Texas.

What is going on in that state right now?

TORY GAVITTO, CO-FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT, WAY TO WIN:  Thanks for having me. I am so happy that I am actually on with colleagues out in Wisconsin, because all the data points to the fact that if we win Texas, Trump will be the last Republican in the White House for a generation.

HAYES:  That is true, let me say as a long-term project that basically everything about American politics changes if and when Texas goes blue, like the entire...

GAVITO:  It does.

HAYES:  In an almost irreversible way.

GAVITO:  Here`s the truth, it`s a long-term project that started many years ago. In Harris County, we`ve been organizing voters, new voters, to come out and vote, and we`ve been tipping the state forward.

And really it`s that model that I`ve used to pull into Way to Win. We have a plan for 2020 that is tracking 293 races across battleground states from Arizona to Texas to Florida to Virginia to Pennsylvania. It`s these local elections with local organizers who are going to mobilize new voters, and we`re going to win.

HAYES:  You just mentioned...


HAYES:  I know you guys have done a lot of funding and organizing in Harris County, which is around Houston. I just want to -- just so folks know what that -- the math looks like. 2020 (sic) Obama and Romney tie Harris County by 49 percent, by 2016 Clinton wins by 12 percent in Harris County, and O`Rourke beats Cruz 58-41, by 17 points. So, this incredible gap has opened up in Harris County, it`s actually one of the most important sort of changes in Texas politics.

Rahna, in D.C., I know that you guys have -- MoveOn has members all over the country. And I guess my first question to you is for people that are sending you emails or part of your group or getting your emails or going to meetings who right now feel a lot of angst, frustration, sometimes even despair because Democrats are sort of inclined towards that, like what is your message to them?

RAHNA EPTING, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, MOVEON:  Is, I first of all, I won`t lie to you. I understand how you can feel that way, especially when we have a man in the White House who is clearly not our friend. He`s been taking a wrecking ball to our constitution, our rule of law, our government for three years now. And MoveOn members have had enough. They`ve watched -- they`ve not just watched President Trump attempt to, and sometimes be successful in destroying our democracy, but they`ve stood up time and time again since his first day in office to push back and to defend the communities under attack, to defend our democracy.

And it is that energy that we are ready to galvanize and take from resistance into action and move forward in 2020 to defeat Trump, to protect the House, and take the Senate.


HAYES:  Do you have -- do you feel like -- do you feel like the energy has carried through? I think there`s a lot -- like you have objective metrics, obviously, internally more than most people have. Like, you`ve got a control panel that`s looking at the open rate on your emails. You`ve got a control panel that`s telling you like how many calls people are making and how many people are responding to you.

When you`re looking at that. When you are sitting there in your control room on your computer, are you seeing flagging, diminishing enthusiasm or are you seeing it straight or are you seeing it intensify?

EPTING:  We`re seeing it morphing. You`ll see high points of energy to resist, you know, whether it`s Republicans` attempts in 2017 to repeal the Affordable Care Act, very high energy of actions rights throughout the country.

We had hundreds of thousands of people day after day in their local districts taking action.

And then in 2018 that energy changed and it focused on taking the House and winning the election.

And now in 2019, I think you`re seeing people continue -- sorry, last year was 2019 -- and we saw people continue to take action day in and day out. We moved forward with impeachment proceedings. And now we`re seeing our members in 2020 really wanting to move forward and unify and get behind the Democratic nominee and do everything we can in our power to defeat Trump in November.

HAYES:  All right, Ben Wikler, Tory Gavito, Rahna Epting, that was fantastic. Thank you all. Good luck.

EPTING:  Thank you. Thank you.

HAYES:  Up next, the man behind the fascinating new documentary series titled "What`s Eating America," debuting right here on MSNBC this weekend. And he`s going to join me right after this. Don`t go anywhere.



ANDREW ZIMMERN, CREATOR, WHAT`S EATING AMERICA:  From the strawberries on the salad bar, to the watermelon in the gazpacho, every ingredient, no matter where it comes from, traces its way back to immigrant and migrant labor.


HAYES:  There`s not a food you can eat in America that immigrants haven`t part in getting to your table.

In the first episode of this great new series, "What`s Eating America," Andrew Zimmern traces meals from places like the Nation`s Capital and Trump Tower back to the farms and the migrant labor that produced it.

The series looks at American social and political issues through the lens of food. And it starts with immigration, in particular the actual people who are working to get that food to your plate.

As the president of the United Farm Workers explains, these are some of the very same migrants who are living in fear.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  They don`t want to speak. They don`t want to say anything, especially with the atmosphere that is happening right now, they want to be in the shadows, which is exactly what Trump wants, and that`s exactly the wrong thing to do.

ZIMMERN:  What do you think when you hear those words coming out of our president`s mouth?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It is infuriating. We have people who feed not only Democrats or Republicans, men, women, everybody in this country, and the world. These lawmakers are enjoying the fruits and vegetables that are harvested by undocumented workers. I would invite all of them to come in the fields and work one day so they could appreciate the contribution of this community.

I can guarantee you that none of them would last a day.


HAYES:  And joining me now, four-time James Beard Award-winning chef, host and producer of the NBC series, "What is Eating America," Andrew Zimmern.

Great to have you here.

ZIMMERN:  Glad to be here.

HAYES:  I got to say the series is fantastic. This opening episode. Everyone I think knows abstractly this truth, that the American food supply chain depends on immigrants, both in picking the food and in the restaurant industry.

What did you learn that you didn`t know? What sort of surprise or revealed to you in actually doing this piece?

ZIMMERN:  The nobility of the people who have been in the shadows, the depths to which intellectually we`ve learned in shows like yours and newspapers that we read, about the fear of deportation, the fear of retribution against family members -- you talked earlier at the top of the show about the sword and the shield, and you talked about what stands in the way of authoritarianism are people.

Well, the people who are suffering as this ramp-up begins, as we`re in this in-between place wondering if we`re going to get past that tipping point, are all those people who put food on our plates. And even scarier to me is that if those people -- and we are dealing in a nation that wastes 40 percent of its food, the majority of which is pre-retail, but we also have 23 to 24 percent of Americans who are food insecure. If we lose any more workers in our system, and every farm owner, every crab house picker, every meat company we spoke said they need more workers, H2B and A visa workers, they need more people to work in the food industry, if we take away any more documented or undocumented workers, you know, go back to a lottery system that was a mess three years ago, our food system is going to collapse.

And I would hate to see us become more food-insecure, but that certainly is a very, very real threat.

HAYES:  It was palpable in the interviews you did, and this has been true in the reporting I`ve done in touch with both immigrants rights groups and immigrant lawyers, particularly, that this sense of fear, persecution, the thing I was talking about at the top of the show about government officials is the everyday lived reality for immigrants in this country under Donald Trump. It`s not an abstraction.

ZIMMERN:  Yes. And what`s amazing to me, and I talked about the nobility, you know, to be with the crab pickers in Maryland and have them tell me that -- you know, without the money that they`re able -- first all of, by the way, paying taxes. You know, they`re taking their checks, they`re helping build our roads and pay teachers in our schools. But without the money they get, they`re not able to put their kids through college. And I asked one of them, you know, do you have kids you put through college? She has three. She`s from Oaxaca, you know, spent her life barefoot in a dirt floor home, and one son is a colonel in the Mexican Air Force, another daughter is a lawyer, and a third is a business executive.

People have to understand that to support the immigrants in this country is a national security program, it is an economic development program, it is something that not only benefits communities and puts money into our communities and takes care of our roads and our highways, but it also makes us a safer country, that engaging with other people makes us safer, that honoring those people makes us safer.


HAYES:  It`s interesting to me, too, that I first started working in the food industry when I was a teenager. I had a job at a bakery where I would sometimes stay at night and bake with the bakers there...

ZIMMERN:  Were you any good?

HAYES:  No. I was terrible.

ZIMMERN:  You went down the right path.

HAYES:  Yeah. But they all came from Puebla in Mexico. And, you know, kitchen environments are intensely multilingual environments, multilingual environments. I`m curious how that sort of -- your experience in the industry made you want to tell this story or think about it.

ZIMMERN:  Well, I think it`s fascinating. I mean, the history of food -- and we see it in food television, and certainly as we put chefs as cultural icons in this country and put them on pedestals, and I`ve certainly been part of -- receive some of the benefit of that.

HAYES:  You`ve been on said pedestal.

ZIMMERN:  In my career -- well, thank you. But, you know, chefs were anonymous in the `50s and `60s. Everyone knew the name of the restaurant, but not the chef, and then chefs came a little bit out of the shadows themselves, and they were able to promote farmers and farmers and ingredients, now chefs are some of the most famous social justice warriors in the world. Jose Andres, my friends who is in this episode, was nominated for Nobel Peace Prize.

And the reason that chefs, you know, Tom Colicchio, Marcus Samuelsson, Jose, and I can go on and on, are such leaders in the community for different causes is that we`re at the intersection of so many of our biggest issues right now, whether it`s immigration, whether it`s addiction, whether it`s health care, because we`re trying to give it to our employees in restaurants. Restaurants are still the number one employer in the nation of returning citizens, people coming from jails and institutions, they`re also the number one employer of single mothers.

Chefs and restaurant owners, we`ve been dealing with this in the food business for years and years and years in a very unique way. And I think it`s why I always have this passion for social justice.

HAYES:  There`s a grant irony here, of course, which is that the president of the United States, who has created this condition of fear, runs a bunch of hotels and service venues that employ immigrants. There`s a great clip. I want to play this, because you and Jose Andres, you go to the Trump Grill. And I`ve got to say the food does not look great, at Trump Tower. Take a look.


ZIMMERN:  We brought in our cell phones and some small cameras to document our lunch.

JOSE ANDRES, CHEF:  How are you? Como estas? How are you?

So you`re Espagnol?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I am from Estudia (ph), but I grew up in Barcelona.

ANDRES:  And where are you from?


ZIMMERN:  Our friendly Mexican-born server takes our order.

He`s going to have the taco bowl, what am I going to have -- the Maryland crab cakes.

Steps away from where Trump said this.

TRUMP:  When Mexico sends its people, they`re not sending their best.


HAYES:  And we know that a variety of folks that come forward under great duress. I hope that guy is OK.

ZIMMERN:  It`s absolutely OK, although his -- Jesus Lira (ph), Trump`s chef at one of his country clubs, is -- came out on our show and said some -- you know, watch the show, it`s a big news breaker.

HAYES:  Well, that gentleman, and many folks that have worked on the properties have come forward under -- tremendously courageously and say...

ZIMMERN:  Everyone in his Virginia winery, I think they had 30 or 40 undocumented workers there employed just at the winery alone.

HAYES:  How do you make sense of it?

ZIMMERN:  You can`t make sense of it. And I think that`s the real point. We struggle to do that, and I think that`s one of the things that I`m most passionate about this series. I think, you know, everyone -- you`re dealing with a child and you`re trying to teach them something, and you know -- I know you`re a parent, right? And you`re, no, hold the cup this way, honey. And then your spouse comes along and says just have fun with it and then your kid learns. Everyone hears things a different way, right?

So we need all of us to contribute to this message, because so much of this is nonsensical that I`m hoping that some people will see our stories and if they don`t learn the lesson of why the sword and the shield are so dangerous and why this slip into authoritarianism is such a reality in our world on shows like this, I hope that they`ll also learn it and get it reinforced on shows like ours.

HAYES:  They should definitely check it out, it`s really, really excellent. It`s a two hour premier of "What`s Eating America." It airs this Sunday 9:00 p.m. right here on MSNBC. Andrew, thank you so much.

ZIMMERN:  Oh, thanks Chris.


HAYES:  Don`t go anywhere, Rachel Maddow is next.


HAYES:  Thank you all so much for joining us tonight at home and here in New York. It`s great to be back here in 6A. We have such an amazing time on the road ahead of the New Hampshire primary that we thought we would do it again.

So, South Carolina, are you ready? Pay attention. We`re coming your way. Thursday, February 27th, and Friday, February 28th we will do live audience shows at the Cedar Room in Charleston, South Carolina. Tickets are free and they are available right now. Head to for all the details.

That does it for All In tonight. The Rachel Maddow Show starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.