Best nominee to defeat Trump TRANSCRIPTS: 2/17/20, All in W/ Chris Hayes

Guests: Donald Ayer, Paul Butler, Nancy Gertner, Asawin Suebsaeng, David Jolly, John Ralston, Natalia Salgado, Blair Kelly

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Be sure to tune in at 7:00 Eastern for HARDBALL. The debate starts at 9 Eastern. I`ll be in the spin room. Maybe I`ll get Mike Bloomberg in there. The candidates are supposed to come see me. You don`t want to miss that. And that`s HARDBALL for tonight. "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes starts right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Tonight on ALL IN.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We should all be calling for the resignation of the Attorney General.

REID: The loud drumbeat for Bill Barr`s resignation gets louder.

NICOLE WALLACE, MSNBC CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Do you join their calls for his resignation?

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Absolutely.

REID: Tonight, thousands of former Justice Department officials call for Barr`s resignation including a Republican former deputy attorney general who joins me live. Then --

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will tell you, that swap is much worse than I thought.

REID: New reporting on Trump`s ruthless search for the anonymous resistor inside the White House. Plus, is Michael Bloomberg about to make his first debate stage in Nevada. And on this President`s Day --

TRUMP: This is the crap we have to put up with.

REID: A look at how the decisions candidates make can shape generations to come.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Man, I`m going to fight for working people. Come on, man.

REID: ALL IN starts now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID: Good evening from Washington, D.C., I`m Joy Reid in for Chris Hayes. Well, it has now been approximately one year since Donald Trump got his Roy Cohn. One year and three days since Bill Barr was sworn in for his second stint as Attorney General of the United States.

The Department of Justice is supposed to be nonpartisan. That`s foundational to our entire system of democracy. But during his second time around, the DOJ has been deeply partisan under Attorney General Barr. In just one year, Barr has lied about the contents of the Mueller report to spin it in Trump`s way. He backed Trump`s absurd claim that the government had spied on the Trump campaign. And he forced justice officials to defy congressional subpoenas tied to Trump investigations. Not to mention the fact that he has been going after Trump`s enemies one by one by targeting them in deeply politicized investigations.

And that was all just a warm-up. Just this month, we found out that Bill Barr personally intervene to overrule federal prosecutors in their sentencing recommendation for Trump buddy Roger Stone who was convicted of lying to Congress in order to help Trump. That was the last straw for many former Justice Department officials of all political stripes.

More than 2000 have now signed on to a letter circulated by the group Protect Democracy calling on Barr to resign. In the letter, more than 2,000 former Justice Department officials agree that Barr`s behavior is a grave threat to the fair administration of justice, and that a person should not be given special treatment in a criminal prosecution because they were a close political ally of the President.

They add, governments that use the enormous power of law enforcement to punish their enemies and reward their allies are not constitutional republics, they are autocracies. And tonight, we`ve learned that the Federal Judges Association and National Association of Federal Judges has called an emergency meeting on Tuesday to address concerns over the intervention of Justice Department officials and Trump into politically sensitive cases.

Meanwhile, we keep getting new revelations about Barr doing Trump`s bidding. CNN is reporting over the weekend that Barr tried to block the U.S. prosecution of a Turkish bank after the president of Turkey asked Trump to intervene. Then there`s the Rudy Giuliani situation. Late Friday, The Washington Post revealed that federal prosecutors are continuing to contact witnesses and collect documents in their investigation into Giuliani and this efforts in Ukraine.

But even though the Justice Department is currently investigating Giuliani, Barr has created an intake process to funnel the dirt that Giuliani is peddling about the Biden`s directly into the DOJ. It doesn`t exactly give you a lot of faith that Barr is overseeing an honest investigation into one of Trump`s most loyal allies. But that`s just how Bill Barr does business. And my next guest, Donald Ayer who was deputy attorney general under George H.W. Bush and who worked with Barr at DOJ has had enough.

In a new op-ed in the Atlantic titled Bill Barr must resign, Ayer writes, "The fundamental problem is that Barr does not believe in the central tenet of our system of government that no person is above the law. Bill Barr`s America is not a place that anyone including Trump voters should want to go. It is a banana republic. where all are subject to the whims of a dictatorial president and his henchmen."

And joining me now is former U.S. Attorney, Deputy Solicitor General, and Deputy Attorney General Donald Ayer. Mr. Ayer, thank you so much for being here.

DONALD AYER, FORMER DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: Thank you for having me.

REID: So you -- I read your letter. I told you during the break that it frightened me, but I`m very glad that you wrote it because the premise -- the thing you presume about an attorney general of the United States is that they understand that their job is to essentially be the attorney of the people. Donald -- it has been very clear for the very beginning that Mr. Barr believes he`s Donald Trump`s personal -- sort of the Hand of the King. You called what he has tried to do un-American.

AYER: Right.

REID: Can you explain why you say that?

AYEAR: Well, I do. And I think the one thing that I think we can all agree on, and I think certainly people in this generation since Watergate, when our justice system really was reformed in some pretty significant ways, have taken for granted the idea that you can count on the system of justice, and it`s going to be fair, and it`s going to be impartial, and it`s not going to be politically influenced.

And the reality is, and we know -- we know this from all the things you`ve mentioned, and some other things he`s done, but we also know from things he has said in great detail, he does not believe that the president should be above the law -- I`m sorry. He doesn`t believe that the president should have to play by the same rules that everybody else. He believes that the president should be above the law.

And he made that the clearest in a memo that he wrote back before he was Attorney General back in June of 2018. When he wrote a memo, it seems some people have said maybe he was trying out to be Attorney General. But he wrote a long memo arguing that the Mueller -- the Mueller investigation at that time was totally unsound and shouldn`t be going forward.

And the centerpiece of his argument was that constitutionally, the President has total control over all processes of the executive branch and including the processes of the -- of the Justice Department and criminal investigation. So any idea that that the President had obstructed justice, well, the President is a nonstarter because the president, he said, literally has the complete power to control all criminal investigations, including investigation of himself.

So one of the ironies that I found is that the President`s own statements in recent days when he`s talking about I have the right to interfere, all he`s doing is quoting what Bill Barr has told him. And so I think that fundamental tenet is not consistent with what I think pretty much all Americans believed to be true. And the real problem is he is getting to try and he`s making real progress on carrying it out.

REID: Well, and that`s what`s scary. So Donald -- so he was called the cover-up general. William Safire, conservative columnist called him that back during the George Herbert Walker Bush years when he was pushing Mr. Bush to pardon people who were implicated in the Iran Contra affair. So we had these tendencies going all the way back.

But what you`re describing and his speech that he gave to the heritage foundation describes someone who essentially as a monarchist, some lawyer friends of mine and said he is essentially a monarchist. What would be the difference between Donald Trump and essentially the leader of a banana republic if he can prosecute all the President`s enemies, if he can only Do the investigation into the Russia-gate by saying I will just put people in jail for trying to find out if Russia was helping him, and if he can let him Donald Trump`s friends off the hook? What`s the difference between that and a king?

AYER: Well, there may not be very much. But I think the important thing to realize in why he`s making so much progress is that he`s doing it piecemeal. And so, you`re seeing a drip, drip drip. You`re seeing an event that occurs and it seems odd. You know, when he did the whitewashing of the Mueller report, a lot of people said, that doesn`t seem right.

But it was just the one thing, you know. And then we got the report and we looked at it, and a lot of people said, hey, you know, there really is a lot of evidence of obstruction. That`s a shame. And of course, Mueller himself had written a letter about it, saying that wasn`t quite accurate. And then you wait a while, and then the next thing comes along, and it`s a series of things and they`re not all the same.

So a lot of the things that his Justice Department has done, have been in the nature of Office of Legal Counsel opinions that are justifying stonewalling Capitol Hill, stonewalling traditional requests for witnesses to appear, requests for documents to be provided, and a sort of an ironclad refusal to do it across the board and writing legal opinions to justify it, you know, refusing to turn over the President`s tax returns, even though there`s a statute saying that the Congress has a right to have them.

So a lot of these things, they seem odd. A lot of people aren`t paying attention to some of them. They accrue over time, a month later, and two months later, and something else. And if you don`t focus on the whole picture, he`s not standing out and giving a speech about saying I want a king --

REID: Yes.

AYER: He`s actually just implementing it a step at a time.

REID: Very quickly. He isn`t going to resign. I mean, he is wielding more power than any Attorney General has ever wield, so he`s helped by it. Donald Trump has the inclination to be a king. And so, he wants this kind of A.G. Do you believe that there should be -- that if a massive amounts of people begin resigning from the Department of Justice, that might be the one thing that might make a difference here because he isn`t going to resign?

AYER: Well, you know, I don`t know. I mean, I think everybody has to do what they feel right in their conscience. And, you know, I`m a citizen and I`ve watched this for a while. I reached the point where I can`t stand a watch and say nothing. And I think people have got to stand up and, and act in good faith to assert what they believe.

I believe that he should resign. I believe that if enough people in the country stand up and believe that he should resign, he might resign. It might become politically untenable for the President to have as an attorney general someone who is enabling a system of government, which I think if enough people learn that what they`re doing is they`re creating a system in which the President can be a dictator.

REID: Yes.

AYER: That`s really what they`re doing. And Bill Barr would never admit to that, but that`s what they`re doing. He admitted to what he wrote in that memo. I mean, he wrote in that memo that the President is above the law and can control all criminal investigations. And he`s argued vociferously for all of these policies that, you know, he doesn`t even want the courts to play a significant role in what he`s doing.

REID: That`s right. No one can stop him because in his mind, I do believe that he does want dictator. He seems to. Donald Ayer, thank you very much for coming forward. Thank you for the piece. I recommend everyone read it. Thank you for being here.

AYER: Thank you.

REID: Now, I want to turn to former U.S. district -- former U.S. District Judge Nancy Gertner, Senior Lecturer at Harvard Law School, and former Federal Prosecutor Paul Butler, professor at Georgetown Law School, was one of the signatories of the letter from more than 2,000 former DOJ officials calling for Mr. Barr to resign. And Paul, I`ll go to you first. I find it hard to believe that he would resign. If he doesn`t, what can be done?

PAUL BUTLER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: So there could be oversight hearings by the House Judiciary Committee. They could subpoena Barr and have them come in and explain why he is enacting policies that benefit the President`s friends and punish the President`s enemies. So why is he already a do-over on investigations that clear the President`s enemies and why is he directing prosecutions against people who Trump perceives as his enemy.

So, you know, there`s a concern that if things carry on, we might be drifting towards political prosecutions. Joy, we`re there right now. The president is ordering and the Attorney General is implementing investigations on behalf of the President that are inconsistent with the rule of law.

REID: And you had -- Miss Gertner, former judge Gertner -- Judge Gertner, I should say, you know, Donald Trump get on Twitter and ask, why hasn`t person X been prosecuted, and names people in his Twitter account. And it`s hard to have any faith that William Barr won`t just turn around and prosecute them.

What happens if Donald Trump decides to find ways to use his executive power to go after whoever the nominee is, to say that, well, this person is a criminal, they should be investigated, they should be in jail. That`s what happens in the Congo. That`s what happened -- used to happen in the Congo or other states that are -- that we know as autocracies. What if he does that? Who could stop that?

NANCY GERTNER, FORMER U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE: Well, presumably Barr would be the one to stop him. But he`s obviously not interested. You know, what happened this the past week is not just the fact of Barr`s interference, but the way that he did it. You know, you have to step back and say it`s not unusual for main justice to call up the, you know, prosecutor and say, you know, maybe you should soften the recommendation. But to do it as a second memo the way he did it now is a shot across the bow saying, I`m in charge and you guys are not.

To your point about if you went after other political enemies, you know, I think -- I think that in addition to what Paul is talking about, there could be impeachment proceedings. There could be impeachment proceedings against Barr. I think we`ve been down this road against Trump, but this could be impeachment proceedings against Barr for basically doing what he said he wouldn`t do, which is enact political interference and prosecutions.

REID: But the problem, Paul, is that even if William Barr, Bill Barr was impeached by the House, Republicans are in on this as well. They have also decided that the President is essentially a king. So if you have Donald Trump`s political party in control of the Senate, they will never convict any Republican or any member of this administration.

Then you have William Barr, who will not enforce subpoenas, who has said that the President is essentially above the law, he doesn`t have to be -- he doesn`t have to listen to court, they don`t have to listen to Congressional subpoenas. What is the check then on this executive?

BUTLER: There is no check. So under the Constitution, attorney generals may be impeached just like the president. Good luck with that. We saw what happened with President Trump. And so, Donald Trump wants to be a dictator. Whether it`s ideological or political Bill Barr is enabling him. And the concerns are that the stakes are extremely high.

Barr claimed last week that Trump`s tweets and interference make it difficult for him to do his job. Well, Trump has continued to tweet and interfere. And so, I think when Barr complain last week, all he was saying is that he wants -- when he takes directions from Trump, he wants it to be on the down-low so it`s not as obvious and blatant that what he is doing is acting in a corrupt way to enable the President`s own venality, his own obstruction and his own, again assistance erosion of democracy.

REID: And let me play for you, Judge Gertner. This is Kamala Harris, Senator Kamala Harris questioning Mr. Barr. And this was on May 1st, 2019, and let`s listen to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA): Attorney General Barr, has the President or anyone at the White House ever asked or suggested that you open an investigation of anyone?

WILLIAM BARR, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: I wouldn`t -- I wouldn`t --

HARRIS: Yes or no.

BARR: Could you repeat that question?

HARRIS: I will repeat it. Has the President or anyone at the White House ever asked or suggested that you open an investigation of anyone? Yes or No, please, sir.

BARR: The president or anybody else --

HARRIS: Seems you`d remember something like that and be able to tell us.

BARR: Yes, but I`m trying to grapple with the word suggests. I mean, there have been discussions of matters out there that they have not asked me to open an investigation, but --

HARRIS: Perhaps they`ve suggested.

BARR: I don`t know. I wouldn`t say suggests.

HARRIS: Hinted.

BARR: I don`t know.

HARRIS: Inferred. You don`t know. OK.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID: Judge Gertner, that sounds like somebody who`s trying very hard not to perjure himself in front of Congress. Could Mr. Barr be subject -- there are previous attorneys general who have been prosecuted, could he be subject to criminal liability in a next administration should that next president decide to investigate him?

GERTNER: You know, he could be. The question is -- her question was a little bit -- he was playing around with her question in a way witnesses sometimes do. You know, she said suggested anybody in the administration. He certainly -- he could be. The question is whether the question was clear enough. But as someone has reported recently, the president doesn`t any longer have to direct him to do anything.

Barr knows what the President wants. And so even with respect to what just happened in the Roger Stone case, Barr insisted that he had not been directed by Trump to do anything with respect to that recommendation. I don`t -- I mean, that could well be the case, but he understood the significance of a heavy sentence on Roger Stone, and he was going to act accordingly.

So, whether that, you know, back and forth would lead to impeachment is one question that he is clearly accepting directions from the president. Well, that`s an entirely different one.

REID: Yes. The only sort of adjective that was left out by the senator that might have caught him was tweeted. Maybe someone tweeted to him that he has to investigate people.

GERTNER: Right. That`s true.

REID: Because he clearly takes directions from Donald Trump`s Twitter feed. Nancy Gertner, Paul Butler, thank you both very much for being here with me. And up next, the search for the most infamous White House leaker of the Trump administration. New reporting on the behind the scenes hunt for anonymous and who is leading the charge. That`s in two minutes.

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Folks, you may have seen an anonymous column written in the New York Times. Are you any closer to knowing who did it and what should be done if you find out who did it?

TRUMP: Well, number one, The Time should never have done that because really what they`ve done is virtually, you know, it`s treason. You can call it a lot of things. But it`s very unfair to our country and to the millions of people that voted really for us. They voted for us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID: Well, that was Donald Trump crying treason back in 2018. A few days after a senior official in his administration published an anonymous op-ed in the New York Times claiming to be part of an active part of an in house version of the resistance. About a year later, that same anonymous author published a book titled A Warning.

At the time, the White House mocks the book. But we now know that since the start of the President`s impeachment, Donald Trump has been obsessively trying to find out the identity of the author. The Daily Beast is reporting today that the President tasked his point man on trade Peter Navarro with uncovering anonymous.

"People familiar with Navarro`s efforts said he has zeroed in on at least one likely suspect and that he has compiled his findings in a written report that he has shared with White House Counsel Pat Cipollone who is leading official internal efforts to unearth anonymous` identity."

Joining me now is the co-author of that report Asawin Suebsaeng, White House Reporter for The Daily Beast. He`s also the co-author of a new book out tomorrow entitled, Sinking in the Swamp: How Trump`s Minions and Misfits Poison Washington. Asawin, thank you very much for being here.

ASAWIN SUEBSAENG, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE DAILY BEAST: Thank you.

REID: So let`s start with this weird choice. Why is the trade guy searching for the leaker?

SUEBSAENG: Well, it is unclear if Trump specifically tasked Peter Navarro with this, but we do know based on our reporting it`s starting at least during the impeachment process. Peter Navarro who is Trump`s top trade guy in the administration, he`s not a private investigator who`s tasked with figuring things out in the administration or anything like that, but he took it upon himself to conduct his own little personal investigation into figuring out who this mysterious anonymous is, which is a question that`s, of course, bedeviled Trump and the administration for about a year and a half now.

And in doing so, he has gone about his investigation with forensic linguistic analysis into the writings of anonymous, and basically trying to pair that with matching the language of public figures. Some of whom, of course, have ended up working in the Trump administration. And in his process, he went about compiling this written official looking report.

And again, this is basically on his free time. This is not a function of Trump administration trade policy, of course. So he has compiled this report. It`s unclear to us at this point, if he is shared it directly with the president, but he has shared it with the White House Counsel`s Office, specifically White House Counsel Pat Cipollone who on an official capacity is leading the charge in figuring out exactly who this man or woman is.

So this gets at the heart of how Trump`s top lieutenants, even if their job description has nothing to do with the sort, have enlisted themselves or have been enlisted in figuring out who this what they would probably call a snitch is in their midst.

REID: Yes. And I`m glad you put it that way, because there is a certain sense in which Donald Trump is sort of running what sort of -- it seems like a sort of a mafioso style organized sort of operation. A friend of mine that is a Republican essentially commented that at this point, they`re down to the sycophant. That`s all that`s left.

And talk a little bit about where Donald Trump is getting these people. There was a certain point -- your book is about the swamp, the Donald Trump swamp, that he claimed he was going to root out when he came to Washington. When he first got here, he arrives sort of trying to bring in RNC type people, the Reince Priebus types. He pretty soon got rid of all of those. Those were the Paul Ryan folks, right? Those were all gone.

And now he seems to be just sort of cherry-picking people he sees on T.V., like his trade rep who I guess he got off television, or you know, people that he`s seen on Fox or CNBC. Where is he getting these people and are they actually technically qualified for the jobs they`re doing for the most part?

SUEBSAENG: Well, some of them are, and some of them aren`t. And you`re right that the most sycophantic you are to Donald J. Trump, the higher chances you have of surviving within his inner sanctum. I mean, we call it in the book, the autocratic game show personality cult which I`m sorry, as comical as that may sound, it`s a perfectly apt description for how to survive in Donald Trump`s -- within Trump world.

And to go back to your earlier point about the mafioso aspect, about how Trump likes to conduct himself policy and his administration, to go to the premise of the book for a moment. Funnily enough, the inspiration for the premise of the book was itself mafioso literature. The book on which the Martin Scorsese classic Goodfellas is based wise guy by veteran crime reporter Nicholas Pileggi was the model for this book.

It wasn`t any piece of political nonfiction. It was a book about La Cosa Nostra as told through the eye of the foot soldier Henry Hill. So we went about trying to find as many Henry Hills within Trump world as we could and tell the story of Donald Trump and his presidency from the worm`s eye view up.

REID: Yes. And what you find is that A, you have to first start -- unless you`re related to him, because that`s another great way to get a job in the administration, because that`s one way to get in. The other way is that you have to -- you have to praise him, you know, sort of -- in sort of almost ridiculous manner and prostrate yourself in front of him. And once you`ve done enough sucking up, then he`ll let you into the circle.

Did you find when you`re looking at these figures that they genuinely respect Donald Trump, or that they`re doing it in much the way people believe like Lindsey Graham is doing it in exchange for power and proximity to power?

SUEBSAENG: Totally. And even Republicans who came into the Trump administration or ended up -- excuse me -- buddying up to the president in the way that Lindsey Graham did, who obviously was no fan of his during the election and the Republican primary, there is a certain aspect where they`re doing it for policy ends. And then there are others who actually do buy into the MAGA agenda and Trumpism. I think it`s a mistake to downplay the amount of support he actually has within official Washington.

REID: Yes, and -- but it`s all quite a game show and it sounds like a really good read. Asawin Suebsaeng, congratulations on the book. It`s called Sinking in the Swamp: How Trump`s Minions and Misfits Poisoned Washington. Get yourself some water and thank you so much for joining us. I really appreciate it. And good luck with the book.

And still ahead, the Democratic presidential race heads to Nevada where the first day of early voting sees huge voter turnout. And what that means coming up.

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NICOLLE WALLACE, NBC NEWS:  We have been talking about the letter signed by more than 2,000 former Justice Department officials of both political parties calling on Attorney General Barr to resign. Do you join their calls for his resignation?

BIDEN:  Absolutely positively. This has been the most -- the greatest abuse of power I have ever seen at the hands of this president who has no, no sense of decency or understanding of the constitution.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID:  Former Vice President Joe Biden spoke with Nicolle Wallace today. And besides calling on Attorney General Bill Barr to resign, he also talked about the race for the Democratic nomination.

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WALLACE:  Are you ready to take on Mike Bloomberg`s money in the Super Tuesday states should you win in South Carolina?

BIDEN:  Well, the answer is should we we win in South Carolina going into Super Tuesday, in every one of those states, from North Carolina to Georgia to the whole range of them have significant minority populations, and right now that poling data shows I`m doing incredibly well in all those states, including Texas and Florida as it relates to the primary, but also as it relates to the general election.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID:  Well, that`s an important point. While a lot of people have been quick to pronounce the Biden campaign over, the reality is his campaign is no more dead than Senator Elizabeth Warren`s, because almost no one has voted yet. And the people who have voted, as lovely as they are, are completely unrepresentative of the Democratic Party, a party that is almost entirely dependent of people of color.

We have no idea if Joe Biden is viable or not until the next several states when more of those voters have their say. And one of those states has already started voting. The Nevada caucus is coming up. We`ll talk about it next.

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REID:  The next contest in the race for the Democratic nomination is this Saturday in Nevada. It is a caucus, but early voting kicked off this weekend, and so caucus-goers have already started heading to the polls.

John Ralston, the editor of the Nevada Independent, who closely follows this stuff tweeted, quote, "56 percent of voters on Saturday were first- time caucus-goers," meaning they did not participate in 2008 or `16 caucuses. That would seem to indicate it could approach or surpass 2008 levels by the end of the day Saturday.

John Ralston is here with me along with Natalia Salgado, the national political director for The Center for Popular Democracy, a progressive group that has endorsed Bernie Sanders. Thank you guys for being here.

John, I`m going to start with you please explain to me how this caucus has early voting? How does that work?

JOHN RALSTON, NEVADA INDEPENDENT:  How much time do you have, Joy?

REID:  Let`s see. Not enough. Explain it quick.

RALSTON:  So, the DNC mandated this cycle that they had to expand access. So the Nevada Democratic Party chose to do that by having four days of early voting starting the weekend before the actual caucus day.

Now, it is somewhat complicated, and I don`t want to get in the weeds, but -- and they haven`t explained all of it yet, by the way. But basically, all of these votes, you have to choose at least three candidates when you go to vote in these four days, and then those results are going to be transferred to the correct precincts, we hope, on Saturday to establish viability. You have to get to 15 percent viability to continue forward in a caucus.

So it was done to expand access. And so far, by the way, Joy, it appears to, you mentioned the large turnout, 26,000 people in the first two days.

REID:  Can we just confirm, John, that they are not using that app that they used in Iowa?

RALSTON:  No. In fact, I think the word app has been banned in Nevada completely, Joy.

But they are using, they are using something akin to a calculator. They`ve called it a tool, but don`t call it an app.

REID:  You know what I suggest they use? Paper and a pencil. It never gets you wrong, you can even erase stuff if it`s wrong and you can fix it.

Let`s go and get you both in here. Natalia, your guy, your candidate, at least in the latest polling, is leading. Senator Sanders is at 35 percent, Warren 16, Buttigieg 15, and it goes on from there. The fight with the union, with the largest union in the state, the Culinary Workers Union, did not seem like a wise political move. Do you believe that the Sanders campaign has that under control, and have their fans under control regarding, you know, reaching out in negative ways to those union members?

NATALIA SALGADO, CENTER FOR POPULAR DEMOCRACY NATIONAL POLITICAL DIRECTOR, :  Yeah, I think that for me, just being on the ground here in Nevada, one of the things that has been so telling for me, spending time with Make the Road Nevada, and going out and talking with people at the doors, I ran into someone by the name of Angelica Romero (ph), and she`s also a Culinary Union member as well as a Make the Road member, and she says she`s voting for Sanders. And she says she believes in Medicare for All.

I think at the end of the day what we don`t want to do is pit union member versus non-union member. Ultimately, the union decided to not endorse in the primary, and their members are going to go out and they`re going to vote their conscience. And they`re not going to just vote for their plan, they`re going to vote for their spouses, they`re going to vote for their families, they`re going to vote for their neighborhoods, they`re going to vote for the community, and what is best for the body at-large.

REID:  And John, that sometimes is a conflict, right? But you may have a union member whose kids really love Sanders, but who also like the plan the union spent five years getting for them and may say they don`t want to vote for a president that`s going to remove it and replace it with government health care, so that doesn`t seem like such an easy decision in some families.

RALSTON:  I think that`s right. And I think that anecdote that you just heard is -- I picked that up as well, and the Sanders folks are pretty confident, Joy, that they have some support inside the Culinary Union among the rank and file.

Listen, some of this is unfair to Bernie Sanders. He didn`t pick a fight with the Culinary Union as much as some of his very extreme supporters -- and I keep saying this, Joy, they`re not the majority of Bernie Sanders` supporters, but they got very upset -- yeah, you`re sighing, too, I hear it -- I hear it, you`re sighing -- and you and I talked about this four years ago, remember, after the state convention ended in chaos.

But some of these folks are really out of control. And after the culinary said that Bernie Sanders is going to end their health care. They went berserk on social media, which is their hobby, right, Joy, or maybe it`s their job -- and so then the culinary union does not believe that Bernie Sanders has done enough to disassociate, to condemn, what his supporters have done. They`re upset about it.

But, they did not turn that anger into an endorsement of Joe Biden, which I think Joe Biden hoped for. That could have really made an impact in this race. They did not do that.

And I do think that some union members are conflicted, because they do like Bernie Sanders, but they love their health care. The Culinary here has negotiated amazing health care for its members with the casinos.

REID:  Yeah, and let`s talk about some of the other -- I know you have a candidate that you prefer, Natalia, but what has been the on the ground presence in general? Are these candidates pouring attention on Nevada the way they did Iowa and New Hampshire?

SALGADO:  I mean, my general sense is that, yes, I think that people, moderates like Bloomberg have bucket loads of money and they are willing to burn through it.

REID:  Are there a lot of Bloomberg ads on TV?

SALGADO:  Yeah. I`ve seen a lot of Bloomberg everywhere.

Now, I`ve been in three different cities in the past like 72 hours, so, you know, I can`t recall exactly where I saw the last Bloomberg ad, but I think i saw it everywhere.

And, so, you know, Pete Buttigieg -- it`s constantly playing, Joy. You know, Tom Steyer, Pete Buttigieg, we`re seeing the money being poured in.

Unfortunately for them, I think that when it comes to my community that makes up 30 percent of the electorate here, that is only going to take you so far. We very much believe in the sort of human-to-human touch ,as I like to say gente y gente. We like to talk to our people. We like to know the source of the information and we like to look at someone in the eyes and know what we`re getting, the information that they`re giving us. And I think the Bernie campaign has gone in deep and really found Latinos on the ground who are not just speaking the literal language, they`re not only speaking Spanish, but they`re speaking to the issues that our community cares about.

REID:  All right, well we shall see what happens. John Ralston, Natalia Salgado, thank you both very much.

And still to come on this Presidents Day, a look at one of the most important decisions that a candidate has to make, picking their running mate. That is next.

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REID:  Today is Presidents Day, of course. It`s a day that some states originally use to honor America`s first president George Washington and our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln, both of whom were born in February, and both of whom are frequently ranked as two of our greatest presidents.

And being a great president has a lot of components, it`s about the tone that they set for the country, it`s about projecting American leadership around the world. Most importantly, however, it`s about the decisions -- it`s the decisions that presidents make that make a great president.

And in a year when we are once again picking a president. And when choosing a Democratic candidate for president is what we are thinking about, one of the ways to judge a president is by the very first decision that they make, namely, who they name as their running mate. That`s one of those decisions that doesn`t really seem to matter very much until it really, really matters.

Which brings us to Mr. Lincoln. His first vice-president was a guy Hannibal Hamlin, the former governor of Maine. Hamlin was a radical Republican, which unlike today meant that he was really, really anti-slavery, not anti- science, not against making Republican presidents listen to congressional subpoenas or obey the law.

In fact, Hamlin was so hardcore, that he not only wanted to just emancipate enslaved African-Americans, he wanted to arm them for the civil war.

But Lincoln, who made some great decisions in his six years as president, made one really, really bad one, he dropped Hannibal Hamlin as his vice presidential running mate when he ran for reelection in 1864, and instead he chose this guy, Andrew Johnson, Tennessee Senator and former governor who was pro-union, but very much anti-racial equality. Lincoln swapped him in as VP to help himself with southern voters.

And then he was assassinated a year after the election. And then, Andrew Johnson became the president. And he preceded to defy the radical Republican congress who were trying to vindicate the 600,000 plus deaths in the Civil War, not to mention Lincoln`s death by doing things like passing the first civil rights act of 1866, which President Johnson vetoed.

The congress also passed a law saying the president could not fire the secretary of war, who was in charge of the union troops who were occupying the south to protect the formerly enslaved. Andrew Johnson promptly fired him anyway, and got impeached.

It`s hard not to wonder on this Presidents Day how different American history might have played out if Lincoln had not made what had turned out the worst decision of his presidency and Hannibal Hamlin had become the 17th president instead of Andrew Johnson.

And when can he come back, the daunting choice the Democratic primary electorate is facing in trying to defeat Donald Trump.

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HAYES:  Today, former president Barack Obama just might have found a way to troll the current president with this tweet, quote, "11 years ago today near the bottom of the worst recession in generations, I signed the Recovery Act, paving the way for more than a decade of economic growth and the longest streak of job creation in American history."

Which president deserves credit for the economy?

Donald Trump hasn`t yet responded to that, but he did mark Presidents Day with a simple missive, "happy president`s day," but oops, he inserted an apostrophe before the s, which could either be a sign of a guy who did not listen to his teachers in expensive private school, or maybe he thinks today`s holiday is all about him.

Meanwhile, Democratic primary voters appear to be far more preoccupied, or might I say stressed out, about how to decide who the next president should be, and what qualities they should be looking for in a nominee to ensure that Donald Trump is a one-term president.

And joining me now to help guide us all through that is Blair Kelly, an associate professor of history at North Carolina State University, and David Jolly, former Republican congressman in Florida and an MSNBC political analyst.

Thank you all for being here very much.

And professor, I`m going to you first, Professor Kelly. People are stressed. Everywhere that we`ve gone, myself and my producers, people are freaking out trying to decide how do I pick, what kind of a person do I need to pick in order to make them president and for them to be a president who can clean up the mess Trump is making. How would you advise somebody who is afraid?

BLAIR KELLY, NORTH CAROLINA STATE UNIVERSITY:  So fear is an interesting motivator. You know, thinking back to the Obama election, hope was the theme of so many people at that time, a vision for something different, something that would be possible.

This time I think we`re in a very different place, but we have a lot of folks who are still in that space of hope, who are still imagining what might be possible. And then you have other folks who are too fearful to hope, right? Really worried about what the odds are on any given candidate.

As a historian of the African-American experience, it makes me think about African-American voters through the years, since they had the right to vote in the American south, for example, many generations of people had to vote for the lesser of two evils, or the person they figured would best meet their goals, but not ever match their ideological outlook.

And so I think America might be in that place of, you know, coming out of a hard time and really trying to figure out who is the closest who can win.

REID:  David Jolly, I think that`s a really good point. African-American voters have been voting for presidents who are demonstrable racist, who -- I`m thinking Woodrow Wilson was not exactly a fan, neither was Abraham Lincoln, not that black people could vote for him. But, you know, going to the 20th Century, most of these presidents were not exactly great, you know, promoters of racial equality or fairness, or very few.

So, does the rest of the electorate need to become as sort of clinical as black voters have been and say just vote for somebody who can get elected and somebody who is reasonable enough to deal with once they`re there and not always look for the kind of hope you got with Obama?

DAVID JOLLY, FORMER REPUBLICAN CONGRESSMAN FLORIDA:  Yeah, clinical is an interesting term you use there, Joy, because I`m not sure I would express it exactly that way. But I would say recognize the context in which we`re going into this election and how Donald Trump has intentionally tried to create the anxiety that we`re feeling, because as an American people we are stronger than the anxiety that he`s injecting upon the November election.

And what I mean by that is Donald Trump often leads with two tactics, disinformation and division. And we know that disinformation, you use the Obama jobs tweet, if you will. We know that jobs under Obama were created annually at a higher clip than Donald Trump, but he would tell his voters and the nation otherwise.

Gary Kasparov, the Russian freedom activist, has said the point of disinformation isn`t to manipulate the truth, it`s to exhaust your critical thinking, to exhaust your critical thinking, that`s what we`re experiencing as voters.

And he also relies on division. I had a colleague that was in a meeting in the Roosevelt Room with Donald Trump and he`s -- Trump said have you ever seen the nation so divided? My colleague and others said no, we haven`t. And Trump said I love it that way.

This is the currency that he is peddling as a political strategy, but it`s not one that voters have to accept. We don`t have to accept the anxiety that comes with Trump`s disinformation and division.

REID:  But, you know, Professor Kelly, I think there is anxiety and there is division even on the Democratic side, despite what David`s saying being true. You know, even with -- you talked about black households. You have a lot of households, like my godmother`s household, where she is saying we need the pragmatism of a Joe Biden. I feel comfortable with him. I know him. He rode with Barack Obama. I trust him.

And then her grandkids are saying, no, you have to vote for Bernie Sanders, because they want to flip the tables and turn the economy upside down, because they don`t think there`s a hope they can have what she has economically. So, how are people dealing with those sort of intergenerational fights even within -- you know, you talk about the black community, that`s one that`s there.

KELLY:  Yes, absolutely. I think in my intergenerational household I have an Obama kid, a kid that went with me and sat on her dad`s shoulders, talking about yes, we can, at age 4 who really loved Andrew Yang, who really was like what`s possible, what`s different. She`s intrigued by Sanders. She`s intrigued by a new possibility, because that`s the world she grew up in.

And then you have the older people in my family who are not so sure. They were like we tried Hillary Clinton, the electorate maybe doesn`t like women, maybe that`s not a safe thing to do in this election. And so -- and I think I sort of fall somewhere in between in that spectrum.

And so what`s possible even across a black household is complicated in this election season, and I think a lot of people are completely and honestly torn.

REID:  Yeah, absolutely.

And, you know, David, how does Michael Bloomberg then disrupt and complicate this? Because he is somebody who all of his positions other than on guns and climate change are Republican positions. The things he`s talked about in the past would be perfectly fine -- had he run as a Republican, he might have actually been more of a disrupter and more of a threat in a lot of ways to Donald Trump than if he ran as a Democrat. How does he factor in in your view?

JOLLY:  Yeah, look, Democrats have a tough decision to make between Sanders and Klobuchar, Mayor Pete, Warren, Bloomberg, Biden perhaps. And I`m a never Trumper but not a Democrat. It`s not my place to tell Democrats to nominate, it`s my place as a never Trumper to support who they nominate. So, I want to make that very clear.

I will share an observation, Joy, and it actually does have to do with the issue of race that I think is critical. To my Democratic friends, don`t lose sight of the chief offender here in Donald Trump. When Joe Biden came out, he got hit on his actions on the crime bill, for what it meant for race. Mayor Pete, over firing or dismissing the law enforcement officer, Bernie Sanders things he said 40 years ago, Bloomberg stop and frisk. But you know what all four of those people have in common? They apologized for it, said hold me accountable, I want to do better and I work with communities of color.

The person who hasn`t apologized is Donald Trump, who had the Central Park Five, who had birtherism and had to settle with the Department of Justice for racial discrimination lawsuit. Focus the ire on them, don`t tear down your own candidates on this race issue that we know could be a fatal blow ultimately to the Democratic nominee.

REID:  Yeah, he is sui generis, Donald Trump, no matter who you nominate, they ain`t him, they ain`t that.

Blair Kelly, David Jolly, thank you both very much.

That is all for this evening. "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now.

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