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Alabama Senate Race results Transcript 12/13/17

Guests: Richard Painter, Matt Miller, Joyce Vance, Karen Bass

Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: December 13, 2017 Guest: Richard Painter, Matt Miller, Joyce Vance, Karen Bass

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST, "MTP DAILY": So, just 28 more seats to go to make things equal in the upper chamber.

That's all for tonight. We'll be back tomorrow with more "MTP Daily". THE BEAT with Ari Melber starts right now.

Ari, I know you're busy. Take it away.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST, THE BEAT: Appreciate it. Steve Bannon went to Alabama. Donald Trump doubled down on Roy Moore.

But last night was not about the politicians or the Breitbart pundits. It was about the people's decision and Alabama voters told Roy Moore, no means no.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And NBC News is now calling Doug Jones the apparent winner in this special Senate election in Alabama.

DOUG JONES, DEMOCRATIC SENATOR-ELECT, ALABAMA: I have been waiting all my life and now I just don't know what the hell to say.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For the first time in a quarter of a century, Alabama is sending a Democrat to Washington.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every Republican in the country this morning needs to wake up and fear for their political lives.

JONES: This entire race has been about dignity and respect. We have shown the country the way that we can be unified.


MELBER: By beating Roy Moore, Doug Jones is the first Democrat to win an Alabama Senate race since 1992. Democrats celebrating today.


SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), NEW JERSEY: When I was down there, I was calling back to people here in the senate and telling, this is not a campaign. This has a movement feel to it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I think probably some of the happiest people in America today, the Republicans in the senate.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think this was a true referendum at least in the African-American community against the Trump administration and its policies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You had a huge turnout. Not the just the Democrats, but independents. And people really rejecting the kind of crude Trumpism that we've seen.


MELBER: A new day and a new balance of power. And Democrats say tonight the time for change is right now. Their message to the GOP-controlled senate on taxes is simple. Hold up, wait a minute. Dems say the vote on taxes should be held only after Senator-elect Doug Jones is seated as senator.

The loss also, obviously, acute for that man, Donald Trump. He broke with GOP leaders in Washington to back Moore, even after multiple allegations were reported out that he had allegedly preyed on teenagers.

Today, President Trump doubling down, though, on that GOP civil war saying, OK, some people were happy that Moore is not joining the Republican senate, but Donald Trump would have liked it that way.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A lot of Republicans feel differently. They're very happy with the way it turned out. But I would have - as the leader of the party, I would have liked to have had the seat.


MELBER: He would have liked that. Other Republicans, though, not mincing words. I want to show you tonight people who sounded downright relieved that Trump's pick lost.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can we get your reaction to the election loss last tonight?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a good night.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the Alabamans, at least enough of them, basically, said we don't want a guy with so much moral baggage representing us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Alabamans didn't want somebody who dated 14-year-old girls.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a rebuke of a candidate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I'm continue glad that Roy Moore lost.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm really, really happy with what happened for all of us. I thought it was a great night for America.


MELBER: Joining me now is Joan Walsh, national affairs correspondent at "The Nation"; Jess McIntosh with, I think, a big smile, executive editor of "Share Blue", former Hillary Clinton campaign adviser; as well as Neera Tanden, president and CEO of the Center for American Progress, a former senior adviser to President Obama, as well as Secretary Clinton.

Going around the horn, what did last night mean? What happens next? Jeff first.

JESS MCINTOSH, EXECUTIVE EDITOR OF "SHARE BLUE": I think - obviously, I have a big smile. It was a wonderful night for Democrats and as Republican Senator Bob Corker said, a wonderful night for America.

I think it also really matters what happened on the other side, which was that Donald Trump and Steve Bannon and Mitch McConnell cemented the Republican Party as a safe space for pedophiles. They don't get to walk that back now that they lost their gambit.

That's something that's going to follow them through 2018 and probably for the rest of their careers and lives.

MELBER: Neera?

NEERA TANDEN, PRESIDENT AND CEO, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Well, I thought it was an incredible victory, obviously. I think the fact that you had African-Americans and millennials really turn out shows that people are tired of the daily, almost hourly assaults on the dignity of their fellow Americans and are going to come out to the ballot box.

I also think that Republicans who wake up today and think the answer to their problems is to jam through an incredibly unpopular tax bill, one of the most unpopular bills we've ever seen, are not understanding what's happening in America.

This is a rejection of not just people, but the policies of the Republican Party. Moderate women came forward as well said enough is enough. But also, this tax plan wasn't helping galvanize Republicans.

Donald trump told them every day, vote against Doug Jones because he won't support the tax plan. Well, that did not work in the conservative state of Alabama.

MELBER: You make two great points that I want to get to, Neera. Number one, the Trump closing argument was taxes. The Doug Jones closing argument was CHIP, children's health care, paying for people, among others things. And he brought it up again in his speech last night.

And then, you mentioned who powered the victory, this multiracial coalition, one that Senator-elect Jones was calling a coalition of dignity.

So, getting to both those points, first, let me show Sen. Warren to Joan Walsh here. Sen. Warren talking about the tax point Neera just raised.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: We believe that no middle class family in this country should have to pay more in taxes, so that giant corporations and billionaires can pay less.

Are you ready to tell Mitch McConnell, no vote on the Republican tax scam, until Doug Jones takes his seat in the Senate? No vote! No.


JOAN WALSH, NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT, "THE NATION": Well, there needs to be a lot more of that, Ari, because I really think that Mitch McConnell is going to power through and vote without Doug Jones in the Senate which is really awful.

Harry Reid waited for Scott Brown from Massachusetts to be seated before the next vote on the ACA. There's so much precedent for waiting. It's a clear mandate. They clearly have a senator. And the idea that Mitch McConnell just thinks he can shrug it off and keep Luther Strange in there, so he has a Republican vote despite what the voters of Alabama said is really troubling to me.

And yet, this is what we saw last year. And I feel like if I have one regret about last year, I really wish I had made a bigger deal from my particular pulpit of Merrick Garland and the shocking breach of norms and decorum and fairness. Not rules. Because he did it.

And this is the same kind of thing. To steal a Supreme Court seat from Barack Obama and now to steal a Senate seat from the people of Alabama and leave a guy in there who is going to vote for this awful tax bill.

MELBER: Right. You mentioned rules. Neera, this is a seat that was vacated because Jeff Sessions joined the administration. And so, the people of Alabama got a choice. They made that choice last night. There isn't a great procedural legitimacy that I'm aware about delaying that governing.

The other point to put up, as promised - if I make a promise, Neera, to revisit both your points, I'm going to try to do with it a coalition. So, putting it up on the screen for your analysis. Fifty-eight percent of women going for Doug Jones in Alabama. A key margin for him. 96 percent of African-Americans in Alabama, Neera.

TANDEN: Yeah. And African-Americans women were actually the strongest vote. I think this is a critical issue. We saw a massive gender gap in Virginia and we did see massive gender gap in Alabama.

Women are coming out strong. Now, that is powered by women of color, particularly African-American women. But white women are switching away from the Republican Party. They are disgusted. I think they are disgusted by both the policies and the people.

I mean, obviously, Roy Moore's personal behavior, the fact that he was a child molester (INAUDIBLE) a point by which people wouldn't go beyond.

But what's pathetic, truly pathetic, is the Republican Party made a decision for like a week that he was beyond the pale and then decided to go and fund him. And I think Jess is right. You cannot live that decision down. This is something they're going to try and act like they never did it. It was some kind of brief moment in time.

But I think women are going to remember which party stood up and which party sat down on this kind of issue.

MELBER: And, Jess, I think the point Neera raises there is what closes the circle because Donald Trump doubled down on Roy Moore and said, yes, this is the future of the Republican Party. Didn't have to do it, chose to do it.

He also chose the day of this race, yesterday, to make those attacks on Sen. Gillibrand, which again, it's a weird world we live in. But we're a day out from it and you could move on from it. And I think it's striking, the parts of the country that are saying, no, we need a reckoning for that too.

And it's is an issue, literally, difficult, I think, as a journalist to cover because you don't want to give a ton of air time to what the president said about a sitting US senator, but you don't want to ignore it either.

I'm reading now from "USA Today", not known as a liberal bastion. But they write, "A president who had all but called a senator a whore is unfit to clean toilets in Barack Obama's presidential library or to shine George W. Bush's shoes." Jess?

MCINTOSH: Yes. I completely agree with the editorial board of the "USA Today". I think that we're only going to see this rift get even wider as Republicans seem intent on doubling down on alienating every single possible woman that they can here.

I'm not sure why they think that that is a winning strategy, especially as we're coming into 2018 with more women candidates than ever on the ballot. But I think that women and African-American women are the back bone of the Democratic Party. They keep showing that.

They're showing up in bigger numbers than ever before and they're delivering wins. When it comes to Donald Trump versus women, women beat him. I know that that is really, really difficult for him to understand. But he doesn't have a good track record here aside from his own election.

And I think, frankly, we're starting to see the backlash to the fact that that was allowed to happen. I think you're going to see more DOJ calls. His come-uppance is coming also.

MELBER: Let me take that to Joan, which sometimes there's a saying in television of a tease, where we tease ahead to something later in the show. And Jess McIntosh is teasing something that I'm going to talk about in a special comment at the end of the show, which more people did vote for the woman than the man.

More people did vote for the Democrat than the Republican last year, which is a huge statement about where America was, which is separate from the particular rules of the electoral college that was set up 200-plus years ago.

So, take us home, as we would say at a concert, for our final point here from Jess to you that Donald Trump has lost to women. He lost in a big way in the popular vote. And in a way, I think the argument here is, yes, Doug Jones happens to be a white man with a good record on choice, on feminism, on civil rights, on voting rights, on prosecuting KKK.

So, the identity politics aren't just about what you look like, are they? Maybe they're also about what you stand for.

WALSH: Absolutely. It's not about what you look like. And I think it's really important to remember that. The resistance is powered by female anger and pain.

Donald Trump did lose to Hillary Clinton in the popular vote last year. He got elected. He is in the White House despite 16, maybe now it's 18, women with credible sexual harassment or assault claims against him. That was really intolerable for a lot of us. And that's what you're seeing now.

My favorite - I'm sad for my white sisters because, once again, we did vote for the Republican. However, the best number I heard today, is that Mitt Romney won white college educated women five years ago by 55 points. Roy Moore won them by 11.

So, there has been a huge sea change, even if they haven't totally shifted into our column. So, the women have powered the resistance, they will power it again in 2018. And anybody who ignores that will be sorry.

MELBER: Joan, Jess and Neera, on a big night to take it all in. Thank you for being part of THE BEAT's coverage. I appreciate it.

Up ahead, there is an Alabama hangover for some Republicans, in particular, with knives coming out publicly for that man, Steve Bannon.

And one day after Donald Trump's lawyer calls for a second special counsel, Republicans unloaded on Mueller today, but you'll never believe who had his back. I'm going to show you that.

And later, Donald Trump Jr. was testifying, did you know this, for hours today to Russia investigators about some key questions. I've got prosecutors to dig into that.

I'm Ari Melber. You're watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.


MELBER: Big night in American politics here. And the other fallout from Alabama there is about the road ahead. This roiling GOP civil war on Steve Bannon pushing the party so far right that they lost a safe red seat.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about Steve Bannon? Was there a message to Steve Bannon?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) he certainly didn't win.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Steve Bannon went 100 percent behind this guy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is what happens when Republicans don't sit together.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think Steve Bannon has anything positive at all to the dialogue in the country. He looked like some disheveled drunk that wandered in off the street. To have him become the face of politics and to have a major voice in politics, I think, is wrong. I think we should shun him. I think we should cut him off.


MELBER: Shun him. But this debate is not about who should be just shunned or snubbed at a holiday party. It is about defining the boundaries of a conservative political project, which is now under strain in red Alabama.

Consider that Democrat Doug Jones outperformed the Democrats presidential ticket not by a few points or 10 points, but by 16 points.

That may not be a fluke. Since Trump election, there have been elections in seven states, including Alabama, and in everyone, even when Republicans won some of them, Democrats were outperforming the 2016 results.

I'm going to dig into the politics on that with my panel in a moment. But, first, I'm joined by Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut in a body that has just added a Democrat.

I want you to give it to me straight, senator. We always expect the truth from you. A year ago, would you have thought we would be talking about a new Democrat joining your Senate caucus from Alabama?

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: No way. No way I would have predicted a lot that has happened in this very, very unpredictable year. But last on the list would have been a Democratic senator from the State of Alabama. And I think it is a stunning testament to the fall of Donald Trump, or at least his process of falling in many, many parts of the country that voted for him last time.

MELBER: So, you say it's partly the rejection of Trumpism. I just showed the Republicans' concern about Bannon, someone who initially was not considered fit to work in a White House by many people, many Democrats raising those issues, as you know.

Walk us through how much of this was a rejection of that, how much of it was a potential embrace of Doug Jones. And then to the issues, taxes, and should there be this vote without him; CHIP, which I mentioned he campaigned on, where do you see all of this going?

BLUMENTHAL: Well, the first point is, Doug Jones is a supremely well qualified candidate. I know of his record intimately because both of us served as United States attorneys. And he has tremendous, well-justified admiration as a public servant as well as someone of integrity which, of course, Roy Moore utterly lacked.

If you were to select someone far down the list in terms of integrity, quality, basic ethical standards, someone who was removed twice from the state Supreme Court, you would have picked Roy Moore.

But beyond that question, now, is the very relevant one that you just raised. The people of Alabama deserve to have a voice and a vote from a senator they elected. Not from a gubernatorial appointed one. And that's why we have called on Mitch McConnell to delay the tax vote and to enable Doug Jones to also push for the Children's Health Insurance Program, a major issue in that campaign, of concern to the people of Alabama and he should be given the opportunity to vote.

MELBER: And that's something we're going to keep tracking because it is the big economic debate in town right now. Sen. Blumenthal, thanks for making time for us.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.

MELBER: And now, as promised, I turn the conversation to lawyer Maya Harris, who was a former senior policy adviser to the Hillary Clinton campaign, and Max Boot, former adviser to John McCain's presidential campaign, and writes in a new piece about Republican struggles with this Russia probe, saying the GOP has made it clear, it is committed not to the rule of law, but to the rule of Trump. He is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Maya, beginning with you, how big is this for Democrats as a template?

MAYA HARRIS, FORMER SENIOR POLICY ADVISER TO THE HILLARY CLINTON CAMPAIGN: This has been a huge election just yesterday. But when you put it in the bigger scheme of things and look at the trend has been, what we have is a situation where Democrats are literally supercharged.

And Republicans have a kind of malaise that's setting in. They're losing ground with college-educated white voters. And when you look at the last two election cycles, two consecutive elections, you wouldn't find a more quantitative and qualitative rejection of the kind of Trump-Bannon vision of America, both when you look at November, the young people who have elected, the diverse group of people who are elected.

Just this last election cycle -

MELBER: And this is not symbolic. When you go from 52 to 51, you're getting pretty close to 50 and 49 in a Senate that's got a lot of Trump issues on the agenda, which, of course, brings up the question of free range chicken.

What am I talking about? Well, that's how Sen. John Kennedy explained what is at stake and what happens when you get closer to 50. Take a listen.

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R), LOUISIANA: I wouldn't read too much into it. I mean, obviously, you'd rather have 52 votes than 51 because you can lose an extra free range chicken. We'll make it work.


MELBER: How much, Maya, a danger is there when you count these votes in the Senate that you do have these free range chickens, to use the senator's term, and I guess they go walking off away from McConnell and that means you don't pass your Trump bills.

HARRIS: Well, that's what we've seen this entire cycle. I mean, there hasn't been yet a single major legislative achievement despite unified government. Now, they've lost one more seat. The Republicans are in complete disarray and I think that what we're going to see going into 2018 is it's very likely now that they've lost one more seat, that they're not going to be able to have many, if any, legislative achievements to show to the voters.

And when you look what they tried to do with healthcare, that was rejected on the ballot in November of 2017. And their tax plan is wildly unpopular.

MELBER: Right. It might be good for the chicken because it gets to walk around. It's not good if you're trying to control the chickens.

Max Boot, you have been exploring the real tensions undergirding this Republican Party with a leader in Donald Trump, who isn't just skirting the law and these euphemisms you hear, but is really flouting it. And his embrace of Roy Moore, who was someone who literally was willing to lose his judgeship over violating the law.

I mean, I was covering Roy Moore, I don't know, as the kids say, back before it was cool. And he was just someone who you couldn't trust to be a judge because Republican judges had to remove him because he wouldn't follow the rules. Put this Roy Moore rejection in the context of what you've been writing about, which is rule of law in today's Republican Party.

MAX BOOT, FORMER ADVISER TO JOHN MCCAIN'S PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: Well, Ari, I'm glad you put it the way you put it, and putting the finger on Donald Trump because what bothers me is that a lot of Republicans are trying to make Steve Bannon the fall guy for what happened here.

And believe me, I think that Steve Bannon is a loathsome human being and a malign influence on American politics, but he did not make 90 percent of Republicans vote for Donald Trump. He did not 90 percent of Republicans in Alabama vote for Roy Moore. He did not force these Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee to make these specious, offensive charges against Robert Mueller to essentially justify the firing of the special counsel by Donald Trump.

This is not all Steve Bannon's fault. Steve Bannon is more a symptom than a cause of what ails the Republican Party. And I'm afraid there's a deep, deep sickness in the Republican Party that caused them to put forward candidates like Roy Moore and Donald Trump and many others and causes them to have this assault on the rule of law, which they are engaging in now by raising one ridiculous charge after another against Robert Mueller.

There's something deeply wrong with this party. I was a Republican for my entire adult life until last November. But now, I have to say, I devoutly hope that every single Republican running for election next November loses because we cannot count on this Republican Party to hold the Donald Trumps of the world accountable.

They have just shown that they have no willingness to uphold to constitution and their oaths of office. So, the only way we're going to get accountability in Washington is by electing Democrats.

And I don't care if I (INAUDIBLE) on a few other issues. The Democrats are sound on the number one issue that we face, which is the threat to America and the world from our own president.

MELBER: Wow! And, Max, you are making such an important point because in the narrow politics of the day after Alabama, there are people who might focus on or rejoice around Steve Bannon, perhaps, finally getting his. You're saying, be careful because you think that's actually a ploy to distract from what you call the real accountability moment the Republicans should have for Trump.

BOOT: Absolutely. Sure, I mean, Steve Bannon is a bad guy. But it's a way for Republicans on Capitol Hill to basically deflect from their own blame as enablers of Donald Trump. And the fact that so few of them are even willing to speak up against Roy Moore.

I have to give kudos to Sen. Shelby who did yeoman work on Sunday by blasting at Moore. But so few other Republicans were willing to come out. The RNC when it locks up with Donald Trump to support this accused child molester.

And Roy Moore, at the end of the day, he probably would have won if it hadn't been for the child molestation charges. The fact that he is opposed to the rule of law, that he wants to criminalize homosexuality, that he thinks America (INAUDIBLE) evil in the world, that he thinks that slavery was the good old days, all his stuff wouldn't have been held against him in the end by the voters of Alabama.

So, I'm very glad that Roy Moore lost and I'm very glad that Steve Bannon was embarrassed. But let's not pretend that all of a sudden this one victory has solved a deep, deep sickness that plagues today's Republican Party.

MELBER: You make such an important point, particularly about the 48-plus- percent of Alabamians who still stood by what you detailed, that lawless and well-documented record.

Max Boot and Maya Harris, thank you both.

Ahead, Alabama and the African-American vote. How did Jones actually exceed Obama's turnout records?

And the day after Donald Trump's lawyer pushes for a new special counsel, the person who actually hired Mueller defending him in an important hearing today.

And Donald Trump, Jr. behind closed doors on the Hill, again, that secret meeting with Russians.

And later, my special breakdown of what else you need to know about Alabama tonight.


ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: The arguments against claims of bias against Bob Mueller and against firing Bob Mueller was made on Capitol Hill today by Donald Trump's handpicked Acting Attorney General for the Russia Probe Rob Rosenstein. Jeff Sessions deputy who you probably have seen by now is the top cup for Russia because of Sessions recusal. And today, he backed Mueller up all the while as Republicans attacked him. This before the hearing the DOJ had released anti-Trump text messages from an FBI agent who Mueller removed from his team.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sent between August 2015 and December 2016, most were exchanged before either party secured its nominee. But many were harshly critical of Donald Trump. One sent by Page to Strzok on March 2016 reads, "God, trump is a loathsome human." In other messages, the couple shared pro Clinton views. Strzok telling Page, God Hillary should win 100 million to nothing. When Mueller learned of the e-mails last summer, he removed Strzok from the team.


MELBER: Government employees are allowed to text their political views but Mueller removed him there for any appearance of bias. Several Republicans raised those texts today as well as other reports to call for a second special counsel.


REP. DARRELL ISSA (R-CA), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: The elements necessary to ask for a special prosecutor to in fact see what was done wrong already exist.

REP. BOB GOODLATTE (R-VA), CHAIRMAN, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: While we continue to call on you to appoint a second special counsel as you are aware, we have also opened our own joint investigation.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: The country thinks we need a second special counsel. 20 members of this committee, the Judiciary Committee with primary jurisdiction over the Justice Department thinks we need a second special counsel. What kind of text message did you have to see before you say it's time for second special counsel?


MELBER: These calls coming just today after Trump Lawyer Jay Sekulow also made that call for a second special counsel while insisting it had nothing to do with Bob Mueller or Bob Mueller's team. I'm joined by Matt Miller, former Chief Spokesman for the Justice Department and Richard Painter, a White House Ethics Lawyer under George W. Bush. Richard, is there under the requirements, just so people understand the law, any basis for a second special counsel?

RICHARD PAINTER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ETHICS LAWYER: Well, I would be tempted to appoint a special counsel to investigate why the members of Congress are covering for President Trump on the Russia investigation. This is a serious threat to our national security. What happened in 2016 and this investigation needs to go forward. There's just absolutely no credible argument that Robert Mueller, or anyone now on his staff, has violated any ethics rules and that they've done anything other than conduct this investigation professionally. President Trump feels threatened by it for obvious reasons. His son-in-law, and maybe his son are in trouble.

I have no idea why Members of Congress are fronting for the President here. Does he have something over them? What's going on? We have a Republican Deputy Attorney General who has to defend a Republican. Robert Mueller is a Republican. He was the Head of the FBI when I was in the George W. Bush White House. And have to defend him against these ridiculous attacks by Republican Members of Congress who I would think would have no dog in the hunt unless they've got something going on with the Russians. So I don't know, I don't understand any of this.

MELBER: Right, and it's not -- it is not clear whether this is a shift in the winds because of an actual goal, meaning they want to do something to the way the Russia probe functions, or simply a craven political desire, Matt Miller, to appear to match what is now being dialed up instead of conservative media. You work for Eric Holder who was a lightning rod for some conservatives and I don't think there was ever substantiated evidence that they wanted actually to change a lot of things. They want to just get on record. I mean, they famously held him in contempt which didn't actually do anything in government but it put them on record. So with that in mind Matt, take a look at this exchange today where what you get from a Republican is teeing up an answer that helps Bob Mueller because Donald Trump's handpicked Deputy Attorney General says Bob Mueller is doing A-OK.


GOODLATTE: Why after you've heard all the concerns expressed here today, why are you satisfied with the course of the investigation so far?

ROSENSTEIN: Well, I'm satisfied, Congressman, because based on what I know, which is different from accounts may appear in the media, based on what I know, I believe Director Mueller is appropriately remaining within the scope and conducting himself appropriately.


MELBER: And Matt Miller, I mean no insult to Rod Rosenstein when I will translate the boring speak of a lawyer there to say, when he says, unlike what's in the media, I know Mueller on the facts to be doing well. What he's saying is don't believe Sean Hannity, he's wrong.

MATT MILLER, FORMER CHIEF SPOKESPERSON, DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE: Yes, that was a very important statement for the Deputy Attorney General to make. Look, I don't think there's any doubt what the Republicans in Congress are doing here, what Fox News is doing here, what the White House is doing here. They're set go the table for Bob Mueller to either be fired or to be ignored if he concludes that the President violates the law. That's what all these attacks on the Justice Department, on the FBI and on Mueller himself are all --

MELBER: So Matt, you don't think it is simply posturing at this juncture. You think they are trying to engineer and rig the game for later.

MILLER: I think that's absolutely right. And it may not be to support his firing. It may just be that at the end of this investigation, he concludes that the President broke the law and sends a report over to Congress, that they will have set the table so that enough voters, Republican voters are convinced that had Bob Mueller can't be trusted, that that report can be ignored. And I think that's why it was so important what Rod Rosenstein said today. Look, when you have Republicans doing this to undermine the rule of law, it is one thing for Democrats to defend Bob Mueller and they need to do that. It's more important that other Republicans stand up for him. And Rod Rosenstein is a high profile Republican who I don't think is always necessary to handle this investigation in the past. I think his handling the Comey firing was a huge mistake. But did he today what Jeff Sessions has been unwilling to do and that's defend the work of the career men and women in the Department and defend Bob Mueller.

MELBER: Yes, it's a great -- you make a great point in that contrast. And Richard Painter, the final question to you is, while federal employees and FBI agents have the right to talk politics. It's not necessarily a fireable offense. What do you say to the concern here raised by Republicans and other outside groups that it does look bad for them to be privately trashing candidate Trump?

PAINTER: I don't understand that. We have many people are appointed as United States Attorneys who are pro-Trump. And we have many people in the Justice Department who are pro-Trump. The fact that there might actually be some lawyers out there, I believe there are quite a few, who have serious concerns about Donald Trump and his approach to the rule of law going back to 2015, 2016, when he was a candidate. That shouldn't be surprising at all. I think we're going to have a lot of those people. And they, of course, should serve the government as well. But we have a lot of prosecutors, I want to emphasize, who are staunchly Republican, very partisan, including many of our United States Attorneys and all of us are still subject to prosecution by those people if we violate the law. This idea that somehow the President is entitled to something different, I don't get it.

MELBER: Richard and Matt, thank you both. Coming up, Donald Trump Jr. was behind closed doors on top of the Hill today and later, my special report on the extraordinary outcome in Alabama and what else it means for the future.


MELBER: Welcome back. I'm with Joyce Vance, a former Federal Prosecutor, and a lot to talk about. Donald Trump Jr. back before investigators as he has had to continue to explain why and how he was so involved in so much communication from the Trump Tower meeting to the WikiLeaks stuff. So I wanted your view on that and also as we have your expertise, if you could handicap for us a statement that made a lot of waves yesterday among people following it but has sort of been blown out by Alabama political news .which is a White House lawyer, Ty Cobb, saying all the White House interviews are over. So start us up with where you like.

JOYCE VANCE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, I think the Trump Junior interview, this is today in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Of course, last week he was with the House Intelligence Committee and there he tried to exert the attorney-client privilege to protect him from disclosing conversations with his father, the President. Apparently today he is not exerting privilege. He's now been in there for more than nine hours. That's a lot of time to answer questions and it is clear that Senators and their staff are going over his Russian contacts and connection with a fine tooth comb today.

MELBER: Yes, and as you say, hours and hours of that discussion, so fascinating to imagine what they've -- what they've uncovered or delved into today. Do you think Ty Cobb is being a parsimonious lawyer which is part of the job? Because as I understand, if you say all White House interviews are over, by that you mean out of the ones that have been scheduled and requested by Bob Mueller, that might be true. But you can't possibly accurately mean every future interview, if this investigation ultimately includes more senior interviews, for example, with say, the Vice President or a request to interview the President.

VANCE: Right. If his statement simply meant everything that was scheduled was done, that's fine. That's one thing. If he is trying to say that the White House won't permit any additional interviews, well, they can't do that. Obviously, Bob Mueller can subpoena witnesses and compel their presence. We're told that his statement followed two days of intense questioning of Hope Hicks. Two days is a long time for a witness to be going over information with prosecutors. It is likely that they found something of value in her comments, given that amount of time and also her close contacting with the President. Perhaps Ty Cobb's statement were -- was a reaction to that situation.

MELBER: Right, and as you say, sometimes what you get out of one interview leads to even more. But it certainly turns some heads for those following Russia. Joyce Vance as always, thank you for your expertise.

VANCE: Thank you.

MELBER: Ahead, my special report on why Roy Moore lost and whether Trump's political power is waning and how does it compare to what Democrats did last year. That's ahead.


MELBER: Widening our lens from the shock wave in Alabama last night, considering that there was a man there who said America was last great during slavery and who was backed by the most prominent birther this country has ever seen, lost to a man who actually made his name prosecuting the Ku Klux Klan in a court of law. Doug Jones went after the men responsible for that infamous 1963 Baptist church bombing. Now Black Americans showed up in record numbers as we've been reporting especially Black Women. African-Americans made up 29 percent of Alabama voters compared to a lower number for Obama. And almost 96 percent black -- backed the Democrat, 98 percent of African-American women meanwhile supporting Jones as well.

I'm joined now by California Congresswoman Karen Bass who serves on the House Judiciary. We should also note, she's second Vice Chair for the Congressional Black Caucus. Thanks for joining me. I wonder what you think because sometimes -- tell me if you've seen this happen -- sometimes we get up and say, here's some news and it is not very new because it's been happening for a long time. And as you have pointed out, African- American voters and African-American women, in particular, have powered a lot of change, social and electoral in this country. So putting aside whether it is news, I wonder if you could educate us on what was important about this coalition last night.

REP. KAREN BASS (D-CA), HOUSE JUDICIARY: Well, first of all, what you just described, this was sweet justice considering who and what Moore said. So the idea that African-American women turned out 98 percent voting for Jones, I think, was absolutely sweet justice. But understand that African- American women have been doing this, like you said. It is not news. What was news was the phenomenal turnout? But the fact that the majority of African-American women voted for Jones is no surprise. The majority of African-American women voted for Hillary Clinton too, over 88 percent.

And so, to me, if anything, this is a strong message and signal to the Democratic Party that when it comes the future elections, be very clear about where you should invest your dollars, where you should invest your time, and where you should you invest the boots on the ground. But let me just say that Alabama, seven years ago, elected its first African-American woman to Congress, Representative Terry Sewell and be sure that she was leading the charge in Alabama. And so to have somebody like her who is so inspiring to people in Alabama, again, it was no surprise, wonderful evening last night.

MELBER: And briefly, what does it tell you that the turnout was even higher than it was for Barack Obama as a share of the electorate now available.

BASS: Well, I think it just says that, you know, just because Obama is not on the ballot, doesn't mean that African Americans won't be inspired to vote. And so I think we can set that myth aside. That myth is over now. We know that African-Americans can turn out to vote, and especially if you make us mad. And so voter suppression, having an over-racist like Moore on the ballot, these are things that inspire folks. And unfortunately, given the direction of the Republican Party, I don't think it's going to be the last time we're going to be so inspired.

MELBER: You heard it here, some news on that. Congresswoman Karen Bass, thank you so much.

BASS: Thanks for having me on.

MELBER: Up next as promised, my special report on where Alabama takes the country from here.


MELBER: Now, to my final word on the political narrative on what happened in Alabama last night. Democrats beat a Republican bathed in Bannonism who was explicitly testing whether there's a conservative appetite to out-trump Trump. So Democrats showed a clear path to beat him in a red state so red the word doesn't fully capture Alabama's hue. This state was scarlet last year. It was deep crimson in 2012 and it's been hot lava for the past 20 years when Republicans won every Presidential and Senate race by over 60 points. That red hot passion handed Trump 62 percent of Alabama's vote last year. But notify last night, Trump approval dropped to 48 percent. That is big. It shows that even in a red state Trump is sinking among the most pivotal people in politics for the next 11 months.

The people who vote in off-year elections. Those voters, even those who disapprove of Trump, backed Jones by 93percent. But the Democrat also won a crucial nine percent of voters who still approve of Trump. Without just those people, Jones would not be Senator-elect today. So that's one path for Democrats, tapping the majority of voters who are anti-Trump and winning over some of his supporters. The second path is what we were just discussing tonight and what Scott Douglass talked about last night on THE BEAT, uniting a multi-racial coalition powered by black turnout to do what was just done, shatter Barack Obama's turnout record which Jones touted last night along with holiday cheer.


DOUG JONES (D-AL), SENATOR-ELECT: The African-American community, thank you! My friends in the Latino community, thank you. To all of my Jewish friends, Happy Hanukkah!


MELBER: Doug Jones mobilized a larger black turnout than Obama, which puts another nail in the coffin in the myth that black voting is just monolithic or just focused on skin color. Top Republicans did say that accounted for Obama's black endorsements like this claim about Colin Powell from former Bush White House Chief of Staff John Sununu.


JOHN SUNUNU, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: When you take a look it at Colin Powell, you have to wonder whether that's an endorsement based on issues or whether he's got a slightly different reason for preferring President Obama.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What reason would that be?

SUNUNU: Well, I think when you have somebody of your own race that you're proud of being President of the United States, I applaud Colin for standing with him.


MELBER: Barack Obama won Republican Colin Powell's endorsement just like he won other voter's support on his record and policy. And so, the Democrat's second path, again on display last night, builds the coalition with many identities even regardless of identity politics. But there's more. Before everyone over-interprets what last night means for the nation, let's resist boiling everything down to one polarized narrative. Since the moment the race was called for Jones, pundits have made some sweeping claims about what this all means for America. Many saying Jones supports good because it shows Alabama rejecting Roy Moore's lawlessness, extremism, and sexism. Let's pause on that for a moment.

Last night, Alabama backed jones by about 1.5 points. Unusual for a Democrat, but very narrow. Last year America backed Hillary Clinton by 2.1 percent, a wider margin and a lot more votes since it included 49 other states. So every time you hear someone talk about Alabama rejecting the Republican last night, recall that far more Americans rejected Trump by an even wider margin last year. Two very different elections in two very different years where most people voted against Trump and Trumpism. In the last year, winning more votes did not determine the winner because of our Constitution's rules, while last night winning more votes did determine the winner. Similar election results, different election outcome.

Reporting those facts is not an insult to Doug Jones or a gift to Hillary Clinton, they're just facts. But politics puts pressure on facts. Tell your friends that Jones' victory was narrow and they may think you are saying something about him. Mention that more people voted for Clinton and you'll find yourself in a debate about her. But the larger point is not blue or red, it's that the attempt to fit everything into one narrative is a mistake. Trump's narrow second-place victory did not define who we are all as Americans any more than Roy Moore's narrow second place loss defines the true Alabama. When just under half the electorate backs those candidates, society has to reckon with why. When the electorate college turning the runner-up into president, this has happened five times now, a Democracy has to reckon with whether it's very democratic. And ultimately, our desire for simple stories to explain the world runs deeper than our politics or our media. It's actually in our minds.

As a neurologist, Oliver Sacks wrote, "Truth is important but it is not in our DNA, the brain has no mechanism for ensuring the truth, no way that events are directly recorded in our brains. Our only truth is narrative truth, the stories we tell each other and ourselves." Our stories matter. Last night was a story of change, a story of light, a story of Roy Moore pushing the limits and the people saying no. That's one narrative truth but like Trump it was also a story of someone pushing the limits and getting almost half the vote and almost getting a reward for conduct once deemed shameful and of almost getting away with it. We simplify that truth at our own peril. That is our show. "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews starts now.




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