Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: January 3, 2019 Guest: Leigh Ann Caldwell, Michael Steele, Cornell Belcher, Carrie Dann
ARI MELBER, ANCHOR, THE BEAT: Good evening, Chris. Thank you very much. We have a special show tonight on a truly newsworthy day for the nation. Politics is always about power; who has it, who`s taking it. So when you look at this scene in Washington today, the people sworn into office now. Make Donald Trump and his party less powerful. The result of a blue wave which began cresting on election night and crashed right into town today.
Democrats are running the House for the first time in eight years and more Democrats in the House means more diversity in the House and more women in office than at any point in American history. Donald Trump rose in politics by infamously promoting the race baiting birther theory. So tonight it`s worth noting that in his first election here since 2016, the nation`s first election, we see voters responding by making the Congressional Black Caucus the largest it`s ever been in history now 55 members.
Tonight it`s worth noting that while Donald Trump ran on banning Muslims and issued a travel ban limiting immigrants from several Muslim majority countries, voters responded by electing the first Muslim American woman ever to the United States Congress. And while Trump continues to bait Elizabeth Warren over Native American issues, tonight it is worth noting that voters also elected the first Native American woman to ever serve, yes, in the U.S. Congress.
You look at this and you look at what`s happening, you look at a historic day for America, and I can add that sometime we may reach a point where this type of diversity is not worth noting. Someday the people in power may so thoroughly reflect the people of this nation that we don`t even think to note it. But tonight we do note it and as someone reporting the news I can tell you people in both parties today gave the requisite and merited props to a legislator who made history as the first woman ever to be Speaker of the House and the second woman to ever be Speaker of the House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HAKEEM JEFFRIES, U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: Let me be clear, House Democrats are down with NDP, Nancy D`Alesandro Pelosi. The once and future speaker.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The total number of votes cast is 430 of which the Honorable Nancy Pelosi of the State of California has received 220.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And to the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, I extend to you this gavel. Thank you and good luck.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Pelosi returns to this speakership with even more experience and fame than when she first took the gavel in 2007. Pelosi`s path to this day stretched back decades when she shattered a glass ceiling that had capped a long journey learning politics from her father, the former Mayor of Baltimore. Here they were with JFK at the White House in 1961, the future speaker, taking in the scene right there behind the President. She learned how power worked and rejected the sexist argument that a woman`s place isn`t in the house.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NANCY D`ALESANDRO PELOSI, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: When I was running for office, the comment even in progressive San Francisco was, "Well, who`s going to be taking care of your children?" We need many more women in Congress.
For our daughters and our granddaughters, today we have broken the marble ceiling. I`m particularly proud to be a woman Speaker of the House of this Congress which marks the 100th year of women having the right to vote. We all have the ability and the privilege to serve with over 100 women members of Congress. The largest number in history.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: A hundred years of the right to vote, a hundred women in the House, and this midterm voter turnout was the highest in over a hundred years. Meaning, you have to go back to before women could legally vote to find a higher turnout and of course that means you have to go back to a time when half of the country wasn`t allowed to vote at all. As her allies stress Pelosi`s many accomplishments obviously go beyond breaking barriers on policy. She passed Obamacare, the stimulus financial regulation, and ended restrictions on gay soldiers in the military.
On politics tonight, she`s the first politician to win another stint as Speaker in over 60 years. And that`s a whole other thing, when you think about it, this job does tend to grind people down ask Newt Gingrich or John Boehner or Paul Ryan, none of them had this support within their party to return to the speakership. So, yes, tonight Pelosi is the first speaker to come back to the title in 60 years. You might say Pelosi has become the Drake of the Democratic Party back to back like I`m on the cover of Lethal Weapon, back to back like I`m Jordan `96, `97, and as Drake will tell you sometimes all of those haters are a sign you`re effective. In fact, Pelosi will tell you that too.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, CO-ANCHOR, NBC NEWS: You yourself are quite the lightning rod.
PELOSI: The Republicans have spent over $100 million, 137,000 ads had my name in it in the last election.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: So what comes next, today Pelosi drew two key lines in the sand for Trump; his power is equal to the independent judiciary in her house which includes incoming investigative chairs like Adam Schiff and Elijah Cummings sworn in today. And even if he doesn`t care about when the government reopens, she does.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PELOSI: If the legislative branch is Article 1, the first branch of government co-equal to the presidency and to the judiciary. Democrats will be offering the Senate Republican appropriations legislation to reopen government later today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: I`m joined now by Katrina vanden Heuvel, Editor and Publisher of the Nation Magazine. The latest issue highlights some of the new progressives in the House and she`s my former boss. I`m also joined by former DNC Chair Donna Brazile who actually was meeting with Nancy Pelosi today and also spoke with Chairwoman Maxine Waters. Thanks to both of you. Donna, what is your view of the importance of all of this?
DONNA BRAZILE, FORMER DNC CHAIR: This was a historical day in many ways not only to Speaker of the House again, Nancy Pelosi, receiving the gavel, but clearly the record number of women in minorities serving in Congress not just in terms of their numbers, their experience. The fact that they are going to bring much-needed change in terms of the legislative agenda to Capitol Hill, they will chair powerful committees, science and technology appropriations, Homeland Security. This is a remarkable day. I haven`t seen not only the speaker today, her family sitting up in the gallery. I bought my ticket because this is a historic day but going up to Mr. Clyburn`s office.
I`ve known Jim Clyburn for well over three decades. The new whip of the House. Imagine that, the whip, and in his office there are pitches of all of the African-Americans who have served on Capitol Hill starting the reconstruction and then passing by to go over to see Steny Hoyer. Another great friend and seeing the Honorable Shirley Chisholm. I had a chance to work for Mrs. Chisholm back in the day, Ari, to be an intern on Capitol Hill when interns were not paid to now go into office after office and saying, "I`m back. I`m ready to be an intern. Will I get $15 an hour?"
Yes, it`s an incredible day for the country and it`s an important period for Democrats and I believe Pelosi has a good agenda. She has the caucus behind her, the reform efforts that they`re about to undertake starting with reopening the government, and then next week a bill that will come on the floor, HR 1, to strengthen voting rights to strengthen the Democratic reforms and onto gun violence. This is a Democratic Congress that is ready to work and ready to reopen the government.
KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL, EDITOR AND PUBLISHER, NATION MAGAZINE: This is a new day in America. This is an extraordinary day. As most days, there is history that lies behind it. These women who or have been elected stand on the shoulders of other women. I think back also to the women`s March of 2017 and how many women were moved not just to march but to run the electoralization of movements is critical. Picking up on what Donna said, I`m very excited not just by the diversity, but by how progressive the incoming women representatives are.
The Progressive Caucus, the largest values-based caucus in the House now house about 90 members. It is going to control 13 committees and a passel of subcommittees. And it can drive the issues of our time, whether it`s Medicare for all of green new deal, higher free tuition education, taking on the gun violence issue, and I think empowering workers because there`s going to be oversight. There must be oversight of this predator`s ball of an administration, the corruption is rampant. But don`t lose sight of providing markers to counter and offer alternatives to Trumpism. And in oversight, don`t lose sight of the damage how Trump and Trumpism hurting working people in this country.
So I hope today is a day of celebration. It is a year of the Woman 2.0, but let`s not lose sight of the issues that elected so many women, so many progressives to this historic Congress.
MELBER: Well, and Katrina what does it tell you that some of the most popular new members are young people including young women who challenged incumbent Democratic establishment figures, many of them were men, and challenged the Democratic Party saying that you`re evil or you`re as bad as Trump, but we don`t have to wait ...
HEUVEL: We don`t have to wait.
MELBER: ... to don`t get rid of Trump to have an intramural debate that as you said is increasing Progresses power.
HEUVEL: Change is coming. I mean I think about Ayanna Pressley in Massachusetts who being a good Progressive of Michael Capuano. But she said, "I am change. I represent change. I look like change and I think you have a -" tell me I`m wrong, but I think this Congress is 10 years, the new incoming class is 10 years younger over ...
MELBER: Over a decade younger, yes.
HEUVEL: ... over a decade younger.
BRAZILE: That`s good.
HEUVEL: It`s very good and I think it`s time. It reminds and Donna knows this history, it`s like `74, 1974, younger generation comes in, but you know youth - Nancy Pelosi got hammered for age and I think you need all shades of blue at the table and you need all ages at the table.
BRAZILE: That`s right.
HEUVEL: And I think that AOC as we call her at the nation, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, she`s going to - I say with humility, it`d be wise for her to really work with a whole network of older generation and younger generation. But to me the other exciting thing I have to say about this new Congress and we saw it in the close of the last one, Congress is once again reasserting its role in matters of war and peace. I think Nancy Pelosi is going to put a War Powers Resolution on the floor in the next few days and people like Ro Khanna and Chris Murphy, and those in the House who fought so hard to reassert Congress` role as it should be have played a major role as have activist groups and movements to get to this moment.
MELBER: Well Donna speak to that and let me play a little more of Speaker Pelosi in that big interview she did with Savannah Guthrie where they talked about how Donald Trump is going to reckon with a woman in power. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PELOSI: I hope he recognizes that a new day has dawn in America.
GUTHRIE: You said in August you thought he might be afraid of you and afraid of the women that are coming to the Congress.
PELOSI: Well I don`t know if he knows how to deal with women in power and women with strength, but we`ll see. Let`s hope for the best.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRAZILE: Well Maxine Waters is on the cover of National Journal. Yes, he`s going to have to deal with women who are extremely confident.
MELBER: Donna, I have to note, I`m going to let you finish, I have to note I could tell you are excited from your time on the Hill because you`ve brought visual aids for each of your answers.
BRAZILE: Look, I am a creature of - as I tell people, I`m a Hill read (ph). I started my career there in 1981. So for me it`s like going back to the place where I learned so much and the members there are just incredible. One of the things I want to pick up on is the freshmen members. I was worried that they might not be able to get on Capitol Hill and find the officers, and hire staff and get ready. They are ready. They are so anxious to help lead this country. And I don`t think that President Trump is capable of understanding that these members are coming from districts that want to have good representation. They want to see good leadership in Washington D.C.
They are not coming to rubber-stamp his agenda and by the way they are not frightened of his name calling, his bullying tactics, and the nastiness that he projects on Twitter and other venues. They are experienced and they`re about to get down to business. The business of the American people. It`s about the people. I want to also say that I saw who you call AOC. Well, AOC ran over today to John Lewis and she said - and I could tell what she was saying. She said, "I have a seat. Would you like to take my seat?" And he said, "No. You take this."
It was incredible seeing the old members, the OGs, because I`m an OG and all of the new members just working together, sitting side by side. Lucy McBath was sitting next to Marcia Fudge and Joyce Beatty. This was a great day to see people coming together and many of the veterans who - many of us helped to elect across the country. Again, they were sitting next to people who I would call a couple of doves but you know they`re working together, arm services. So this is a new day.
MELBER: You call them OGs, Donna?
BRAZILE: I`m an OG.
MELBER: But wasn`t it Ben Franklin who said you need the OGs and the new school.
BRAZILE: Amen. You know I got my speckles here too, you don`t want me pulling them out because I got it all. This was a great day.
MELBER: People forget that Ben Franklin also had those shades. It wasn`t just the clear spectacles. Both of you stay with me.
BRAZILE: Wait a minute.
MELBER: Okay, go ahead.
BRAZILE: I just want you to know ...
MELBER: What do we got here?
BRAZILE: I got ...
BRAZILE: I got it. But this was a great day and I want to also give a shout out to Hakeem Jeffries because he made it. It was like church in there, church.
MELBER: Yes, there was a lot. I saw that. We played a little bit of that energy. With the spectacles, you look right for the hundred dollar bill if they`re making any nominations for new faces. What I`m going to do is that both of you stay with me for more from the Washington perspective and how this all relates, of course, to the race to replace Donald Trump. We have Jason Johnson camped out as well in front of the Capitol, editor for theroute.com. He was also at the CBC swearing-in today.
I want to ask you about that and those historic numbers, but first take a listen to Elizabeth Warren in her first interview with Rachel Maddow since declaring her candidacy as she talks about the road to not just what Pelosi is doing today, but ultimately vanquishing Donald Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST, THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW: How do you fit in with the Democratic Party and where do you see your party right now?
ELIZABETH WARREN, UNITED STATES SENATOR FROM MASSACHUSETTS: I don`t of this so much in terms of party. I think of this as people who want to see change and the kind of change they want to see. This is going to be the fish or cut bait year for the Democrats and it`s going to be how do we think government should work and who do we think government should work for.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: What does Elizabeth Warren there doing in your view, Jason, and what does it say about the where the field is at that she didn`t even wait the few days for the Pelosi spotlight today, because the view is you got to get out and start running against Trump.
JASON JOHNSON, EDITOR, THEROOT.COM: Yes. And so she threw down the gauntlet and threw down the mic. Look, Elizabeth Warren has been silently running for about two years. She`s been having private off-the-record meetings with black press and everything else like that. I`m faculty at Morgan State where she gave the winter graduation speech just a couple of weeks ago, clearly establishing herself as, "I can talk to minority voters." But I think what she`s also doing is she`s laying out an ideological line. She`s saying, "Look, whoever ends up running in 2020, you`re going to have to show that you`ve gotten something done. You can`t just be a pretty face. You can`t just be a good name. You`re going to have to be a candidate who shows that you can both demographically and policy-wise carry this party."
I think Warren being the first bird to announce, given her long background, given her intellectual background in consumer protection and everything else like that, it really sets the bar high. I think you`re going to get a lot more people who decide to run. If you had asked me six weeks ago who would be the first person to announce, I would have said Cory Booker. So the fact that someone who I think was on the fence was the first person to announce speaks volumes about how many people are probably going to get into this race. It`s going to be a good 2025.
MELBER: Well, let me bring in Katrina. I think it`s fair to say that Donna is about the party. She used to run the party.
MELBER: You`re known to be about policy and as you put it earlier what`s the progressive agenda. Do you see Elizabeth Warren as the most likely progressive leader in that part of the primary?
HEUVEL: You know we started something that the nation, just this week, called the "Ideas Primary" and that`s what we`re covering. And I think Elizabeth Warren is going to be a key player in what I might call the sort of building out the inclusive multiracial populism. She`s someone who was the godmother of the Consumer Financial Protection Board and more important she has stood with people who feel shafted in this country, who feel left behind. She speaks against a rigged system that leaves people behind and I think she has very strong powerful ideas. I don`t think she`ll be alone though, Ari.
I hope the media and we talked about this earlier, media malpractice we saw in 2016 is supplanted by more coverage of ideas because she wins big in that. I do think you`ll see Bernie Sanders and I think you`ll see Sherrod Brown, the Senator from Ohio play in the same space. There may be others. But Elizabeth Warren cannot be discounted. She persists, she perseveres and she has very powerful strong ideas for these times.
MELBER: Yes and what you`re calling ideas is also what in politics people call kitchen table which is who`s going to ...
HEUVEL: She`s the classic kitchen table candidate.
HEUVEL: And when you look at the midterms I think Donna would agree, I mean those bread and butter kitchen table issues propelled Democrats in parts around this country you wouldn`t have expected to victory and that`s part of what we`re witnessing today. So I think to lose sight of those issues is a mistake. I also think what we`re witnessing is people who`ve come into Congress, this is an exciting day. But boy let`s not lose sight of connecting a vision to bold policy that will drive into 2020 and that`s going to be a key to work for the people in this country.
MELBER: We`re over on time and Donna and I still had three or four other wild statements we wanted to make. We`re almost out of time. But Jason take a look before I let you go as we talk about the intersection on what Pelosi is doing at 2020. Look at the new members of Congress. We talk a lot about the year the woman, but it`s also the year to be clear of the Democratic woman. I would love to report a 35 and 35 in both parties. I would love to but that`s not the facts today, Jason.
What we see is the diversity in this Congress overwhelmingly on one side of the aisle. Your thoughts on that before I let everyone go.
JOHNSON: Well, it`s clear that the Republican Party has been getting older and wider. We`ve seen that. But it`s not just that you`ve got women who have come in as part of the freshmen. They`re engage women. Contrament Ulman (ph) as like 1.2 million Twitter followers. These are people who are getting on Instagram to talk about their first day at the job. These are a group of women who are coming into Congress who say, "I`m going to take you through this process with me."
And one thing that impressed me about what I saw this morning and other people I`ve talked to, I talked to people who were here in 2006. A lot of the Democrats who came in `06, they were people who had always planned to run. The people coming in now, they were inspired. They saw Trump, they saw Obama. They said, I got to get in this fight right now, and I think the women are leading the way. It`s going to be a great opportunity. And I think this is going to engage even more people to run in 2020. You may say Democrats put some of the most powerful candidates possible in the senate races, in the gubernatorial races in 2020.
BRAZILE: Amen. By the way, great ...
MELBER: I`m going to - I`m so over - okay, go ahead.
BRAZILE: ... it`s God`s plan. It`s great. It`s God`s plan. It`s God`s plan. Come on, let`s go with Drake, it`s God plan.
MELBER: You believe that God has reached down and created this blue wave?
BRAZILE: I`ve always known that God was bipartisan, so thank you.
JOHNSON: It started at the bottom, but not here.
HEUVEL: She is looking down and understanding today.
MELBER: You know Donna there`s a Dead Sea reference somewhere in here with the blue wave, but I`m going to leave it and I`m going to say I don`t believe to my knowledge at least that we`ve been able to confirm that God is in either party. But my thanks to everyone, Katrina, Donna and Jason. A big news tonight coming up. Pelosi dropping a bomb into the debate about indicting the President. And later I`m going to interview a lawmaker fighting for Donald Trump`s tax returns. Plus, we`re going to break down how Pelosi has Republicans already in a corner on a vote that`s looming on the shutdown. I`m going to be joined by the one and only Lawrence O`Donnell tonight and a special behind-the-scenes look on this historic day. I`m Ari Melber. You`re watching The Beat on MSNBC.
By taking power in the House today, Democrats are handing promotions to these chairs who will be leading the investing, subpoenaing and scrutinizing of Donald Trump. Top judiciary Dems also have a new bill to protect Mueller. They say Congress must act. Pelosi also now saying the indictment of a sitting President is an open possibility.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GUTHRIE: Do you believe the Special Counsel should honor and observe the Department of Justice guidance that states a sitting President cannot be indicted?
PELOSI: I do not think that that is conclusive. No, I do not.
GUTHRIE: So you think it`s possible that Special Counsel Mueller could legally indict a sitting President.
PELOSI: Let`s just see what Mueller does.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: I`m joined by Texas Congressman Lloyd Doggett who stirs in the Ways and Means Committee as the new chair. That committee has also separately said that they plan to get Trump`s tax returns. Pelosi says it`s one of the first things we`d do. Let`s get to all of it, Congressman, starting with the Speaker`s statement there. Why do you think she is choosing this week to say the President can be indicted? Do you agree? Is that part of how the House is going to look at the potential legitimate outcome of the Mueller probe?
LLOYD DOGGETT, STATE OF TEXAS CONGRESSMAN: Well, Ari, as you`ve been discussing with Donna and Katrina, this has been an exciting and hopeful day here in the House, but we are already at work at this moment on the work of trying to end the shutdown. And the next step is ending the impunity and demanding some accountability from President trump and his corrupt administration. I think the speaker is correct, but the basic principle is not all the fine details that probably you need some more study of the legal memos but the principle that no person, not even Donald Trump is above the law. And that`s what we need to be speaking out about and I don`t think we ought to write off the possibility that the President could be indicted.
MELBER: That`s quite a statement and not a normal way to start the Congress talking about indicting presidents, having the government shutdown but that`s the Trump era. On the taxes, this is one of those things your committee can do under law without the Republican Senate. There`s been talk about it. I just said Pelosi says she supports it. When do you see this committee led by your chair actually pulling the trigger on demanding his taxes?
DOGGETT: Well, I hope that it will be very soon. Over the course of the last year and a half, I`ve made motions that Republicans have blocked about half a dozen times in our committee. As you indicate, we no longer need a motion. We just need the signature of the chair of the Ways and Means Committee on a letter to the Internal Revenue Service. It`s an almost century old statute. It doesn`t require a subpoena but it`s reasonable to be thorough and careful in the way we submit this and make it clear. It`s part of our legitimate legislative responsibilities to ensure public confidence in the tax code to take a look at how big, a huge tax break estimated maybe more than a billion dollars that Republicans have already given the trump family through their huge tax bill last year. And to take look at whether they --
MELBER: Would you say you`ll do it by the end of the month?
DOGGETT: Well, I`d like to see it done that soon. It`s up to the chair as to when he makes the formal request, but that`ll certainly be an encouraging prompt action because though Secretary Mnuchin indicated in one interview that he was ready to release this, one could expect only obstruction and delay from the Trump administration. So the sooner we make the request, the sooner we can begin the process. And I think we also need to see as we look at those records, whether the IRS has properly audited Trump. That`s the excuse we always use that he needed to get the audits complete. Well, we need to look at how that auditing has been done as a part of our work.
MELBER: Do you think he might have been misleading the country about whether the audit was a reason to hold it back?
DOGGETT: I think Donald Trump misleads the country just about every day on the hour, lies and more lies. It`s a way of life for him. So, yes, part of the misleading, part of the accountability and an end to impunity is to get the facts and let people see what they are. Initially with our careful and thorough nonpolitical review and eventually, perhaps, to releasing some of this information after a vote to the public.
MELBER: Yes. Well, Congressman Doggett, as you`ve mentioned you`ve been involved in this Earlier, now you guys have the power so it`s very interesting. We`ll be keeping an eye on you and your chairman. Thanks for your time tonight.
DOGGETT: Thank you very much.
MELBER: Now, what does Speaker Pelosi mean for Trump and the GOP? We have a Congressional expert, my colleague; Lawrence O`Donnell, to discuss when we`re back in just 30 seconds.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Democrats ruled back to power in the House today, but there are several big developments unfolding all at once. You have Speaker Pelosi addressing the new Congress. You see that over there in the corner. But you also have the unusual backdrop of a closed federal government. Stocks also plummeting today with uncertainty about the close federal government among other issues. And then over in the corner, Donald Trump trying to squeeze back into the frame with a hastily called border security press conference.
Now, the shutdown is the story that immediately impacts the most people. Pelosi`s first action is pushing for support for a vote tonight to reopen the government. And not just any vote. Pelosi serving up a top choice here for Republicans because she`s using her power to make the House vote on the same plan that Senate Republicans passed just two weeks ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All in favor, say aye.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Those opposed, no. The ayes appear to have it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: The ayes have it. And that GOP backed plan is what Pelosi could send tonight for the Senate to vote on putting Republicans in a bind because many backed off the very same plan after Trump`s shut down the government in that bizarre effort to hold the federal government hostage in order to break his promise to get Mexico to pay for the wall.
I`m joined now by my friend and colleague, the one and only Lawrence O`Donnell, host of the last word and I guess I should mention also a former Senior Staffer to Senator Moynihan, and Chief of Staff of the Finance Committee, so you know a thing or two about how this works.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Yes. I`ve seen some of this shutdown in action on -- from the -- respective of the Senate floor. But Ari, you know, we`ve never seen it like this before.
MELBER: Not like this.
O`DONNELL: Which is what we say in every Trump situation. So the big difference in this one is with all the past shutdowns is, there wasn`t a single participant in the processes that led to the shutdown who wanted a shutdown.
O`DONNELL: For example, the Republicans Speaker of the House John Boehner didn`t want a shutdown. Barak Obama didn`t want a shutdown. None of the players wanted to shut down but for various reasons and they`re -- Boehner and others, Speakers and Senate leaders found themselves locked into positions that they couldn`t move out of in time for the shutdown, and so you had a shutdown. But everyone -- every minute of the shutdown was trying to figure out their way out of it.
There`s no evidence that Donald Trump has spent one second trying to figure out his way out of this shutdown that he created and promised to create on that extraordinary video from the Oval Office with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer where he said I will do it and I won`t blame you.
MELBER: So with that in mind, walk us through what Pelosi strategy here because she`s pushing the vote to hold them accountable to what they claimed they were for on the in the Senate.
O`DONNELL: So no one has ever been better equipped in a shutdown than Nancy Pelosi is now. In the past, that would mean she`s on her way to winning the shutdown. But in the Trump world, you have no idea what he`s capable of. But here she is bringing to a vote something that every single Republican in the Senate voted for except for the freshmen who weren`t there to vote for it last month, and all of whom would obviously vote for it.
And so they then have to say here`s why we`re not going to vote for the thing we already voted for. So I`ve never seen anyone with a stronger hand than Nancy Pelosi has when you look at this through all of the previous versions of shut down. But this is a Trump shutdown so we have no idea --
MELBER: So all bets are off. There`s something else I want to ask you about because you`ve been developing this point long before Donald Trump was even the president, and that is the misunderstanding by so many people, some in his party, some in the media that he would be some kind of ideological figure. And you`ve argued very persuasively against that interpretation and I don`t know if Speaker Pelosi watches the "LAST WORD" but she --
O`DONNELL: There`s absolutely no evidence that she watches. I just want that on the record.
MELBER: But she --
O`DONNELL: She never once quoted the "LAST WORD." I don`t know why.
MELBER: But she made a point today that does overlap with the point you`ve made and she did it very artfully by quoting Ronald Reagan to make the larger American argument that when we have a country that welcomes people and that`s not left or right, that`s actually part of America`s founding spirit. And so I want to -- I want to get your analysis on that looking at both her and the late President Reagan. Let`s take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If we ever closed the door to new Americans, our leadership in the world would soon be lost.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: He said if we ever closed the door to new Americans, our leadership role in the world will soon be lost.
REAGAN: We draw our people, our strength from every country and every corner of the world. And by doing so we continuously renew and enrich our nation.
PELOSI: I hope you all to read. It`s a beautiful speech.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: What is she doing they`re taking a moment out of her day, her spotlight to tip her hat to Ronald Reagan which isn`t the easiest thing for her to do. He`s not supremely popular with the young base coming into this Congress. What is she doing there?
O`DONNELL: His words are popular. Everything he said in that clip are popular with the Democratic base, and she got applause from the full body if we had continued to roll the tape there, including the Republicans for quoting Ronald Reagan on that point. And so it`s one of those crucial reminders of how far the Republicans have moved from what was once in effect their leader even after he was president.
I mean, there`s no one in Republican history during my lifetime has been quoted more than Ronald Reagan by Republicans, by current Republican, even after he was president, they`ve all stopped that now. You notice how you get up in the -- you can watch your Senate speech with Republicans, you can watch your campaign speech with Republicans, House Republicans, there`s no quoting of Reagan anymore. Donald Trump destroyed Ronald Reagan and destroyed Ronald Reagan`s power even after holding office and even after death in the Republican Party which was an extraordinary power that Ronald held for a very long time.
MELBER: And you`re -- and you`re talking about the power of examples.
O`DONNELL: Of his ideas. You were -- Republicans were living under Reaganism for a few decades, decades. They were they were living under Republican principles that Reagan lived by and they were -- they were narrowing them all the time. I mean, Reagan, for example, was in favor of raising taxes when it made sense to him and it sometimes made sense to him. He`s not one who said we should absolutely never raise taxes.
O`DONNELL: But the inheritors of the Reagan -- of the legacy did. So they refined it a little bit but not much. They didn`t refine Reaganism very much. It`s Trump who came in and just blew it away and Pelosi showed that today.
MELBER: Yes. And that was an interesting moment today and it`s interesting to get your views on it. Lawrence O`Donnell --
O`DONNELL: I could go on and on.
MELBER: Well do you have an hour later? Let`s --
O`DONNELL: Well, I`ll be back at 10:00.
MELBER: We -- let`s play it up. I got this ready. Look at this. It`s called "THE LAST WORD" with Lawrence O`Donnell. It`s one of the most popular, highly watched shows on cable news and I`m happy to say you`re hosting it tonight. We`ll see you there.
O`DONNELL: That is -- that is embalmed.
MELBER: Is that a -- it was a kid joke -- do I join in this joke or not?
O`DONNELL: Well, there`s -- that photograph was taken at that some years ago.
MELBER: I think it`s a beautiful photo.
O`DONNELL: I look embalmed.
MELBER: You know what it says to me. I`m running over on time. They`re going to kill me. But for me, it`s very West Wing actually. It`s very West Wing that face.
O`DONNELL: I`m sure it is.
MELBER: It is in more ways than one.
O`DONNELL: Oh yes. You`re very kind.
MELBER: Lawrence O`Donnell, always good to see you, as we say, 10:00 p.m. And we be right back with how Donald Trump has some Republicans on the run and worried about their jobs.
MELBER: You`re looking at the scene late today as Speaker Nancy Pelosi took back that gavel. She leads the 116th Congress of the United States. This is a legislative body that as we`ve reported tonight has more women, more diversity, and now fewer Republicans than the recent Congress is. Now, in a moment, I`ll be joined by two men who served together over 30 years in Congress, one whose tenure ended today.
When Donald Trump took office, there were 241 Republicans in the House. That`s quite an edge. Now they`re 199. You see the flip. The big question going forward is how does this new majority and minority handle a Trump administration that has bedeviled Washington like no other. I can also tell you something that I just got here in the newsroom. You`re looking at a live shot and the microphone, we`re zooming right in on it -- you know, that`s the mic. We`re getting our shot ready -- where speaker Pelosi will be speaking.
Now, she has just announced through her office this press conference is going to be in a few minutes so we`re going to monitor to see if she makes any additional news on the shutdown. We already reported what the vote plan is based on what we got from the new Speaker`s office tonight. Now, let`s get right to it Florida -- former Florida Congressman Carlos Curbelo and former North Dakota senator Byron Dorgan who serve in the house for 12 years before going on to the Senate. And as I say we`re going to monitor Pelosi in the corner of the place.
Let me start with you now former Congressman Curbelo. Did Donald Trump help reduce the number of Republicans in Congress?
REP. CARLOS CURBELO (R), FLORIDA: Ari, good evening from Miami. And no question. Look, when Donald Trump came on the national stage there were I think 247 Republicans at the time. John Boehner had just helped elect of the largest Republican majority since the Great Depression. And today Republicans are down to 199. So no question that the Trump effect has been bad for House Republicans.
MELBER: I think the big question you write on that before I bring in Senator Dorgan, is that something that you think Donald Trump deep down knows and is basically denying or is it something that he doesn`t even get as we look at this new Congress coming in tonight which you`re saying as the Republican which is interesting hearing from you has changed hands and because of Trump`s mistakes?
CURBELO: Well, I`m not really sure. I think what the President would probably tell you is that now the Republican majority in the Senate is larger and he`d like to take credit for that. but without question, in suburban districts all across America, there has been a backlash against the President and that`s why Republicans have lost all those 50 seats since he came on to the national stage and became the Republican standard-bearer back in 2016.
MELBER: Senator Dorgan, your view. You certainly have a lot of experience but not within this kind of president?
BYRON DORGAN (D), FORMER SENATOR, NORTH DAKOTA: No, and let me say that he declared victory after the election. And you know, it`s not much of a victory. I watched your coverage about today. Listen, this is a political earthquake. It really, really is. And I -- and I understand that the speaker and the Democratic majority in the House which is new and really important, they need to come up with a positive agenda that that talks to the hopes of the American people. I understand all that. But it`s also very important to have oversight.
And that oversight means the first three words of almost any oversight hearing which we haven`t had for a long time now is how do you justify it? How do you justify weakening election laws? How do you justify weakening laws that protect on a clean air and clean water and so on? How do you justify a tax cut that allows corporations to buy back their stock and inflates the deficit while they do that?
I think those how do you justify questions are so important because the oversight role of Congress has not been done now for the last several years. The Republicans had no interest in providing any oversight on all the big issues. And then if I might make one more comment.
DORGAN: The reason all of this happened is quite clear. The American people wanted to create a set of brake pads with respect to this president and the worst impulses of this president. And I think that`s why there`s a majority in the U.S. House and I expect that Nancy Pelosi and the new majority in the House will do really important things for the country.
MELBER: And as you`re speaking, we`re looking at what power on the move looks like. Speaker Pelosi walking here with her security retinue and members leadership Steny Hoyer flanking her shaking her hand as she approaches the microphone. Any minute she`s going to hold this press conference.
I think we`re going to listen in and see if she makes some news on the shutdown and then come back to our panel. Let`s listen in.
PELOSI: House Democratic Leader Mr. Hoyer, our distinguished Chair of the Appropriations Committee Nita Lowey, and our chair of the government -- Homeland Security Subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard. OK, I know Mr. Clyburn had come from that area. We -- as you are aware, we have -- we are diligent and persistent and trying to open up government. As I said today on the floor we will take ideas, good ideas from wherever they come including the idea of the appropriations bills passed by the Republicans in the United States Senate.
They passed six bills, four of them on the floor with over 90 votes, two of them in committee unanimously, and those six bills could cover eight agencies departments of government that could be opened just by the stroke of the pen of the President of the United States. Separate from that, we are sending what the Senate set also passed which is a bill to extend -- to have a continued resolution until February 8th taking their exact date from the Senate. That would cover Homeland Security and give us the weeks needed to negotiate an agreement to open up government in that department.
Again, we`ve taken words forward and I`m going to yield in a moment after Mr. Hoyer to our distinguished Chair of the Appropriations Committee to demonstrate how purely Republican and senatorial these measures were. And so we`re -- we`ve separated it out. There are two votes one on the eight departments of government that could be open now to meet the needs of the American people, to meet the needs of the American people, to protect our borders and to protect our workers. And again the other bill is mostly about protecting our borders.
So in that spirit, I want to yield to our distinguished Democratic leader of the House Mr. Hoyer to talk about our -- the need for us to open up government.
REP. STENY HOYER (D), MARYLAND: Thank you very much and congratulations Madam Speaker on your --
MELBER: We`ve been listening to what you just saw Nancy Pelosi in her first press conference since returning to the speakership. She just handed off to Steny Hoyer. I want to bring back our panel. We have the perfect panel to help us understand what we`re seeing as Pelosi says there`s a new dawn, there`s a new Congress and she`s putting pressure on Donald Trump to reopen the government. Senator Dorgan, having worked with her, having served in the House, that what are we seeing there?
DORGAN: Well, she`s going to send back to the Senate. She`ll get passed by her majority in the House and sent back to the Senate a piece of legislation that the Senate passed nearly unanimously in fact by voice vote. You might remember a politician, it was a Democrat in fact, some years ago who said I voted for it before I voted against us.
MELBER: Well, John Kerry, Tester --
DORGAN: Yes, well, well, you might be in a situation here where if Senator McConnell would bring that bill to the vote -- to a vote a bill that`s going to pass the House tonight or tomorrow, it would put every Republican Senator in that position saying, well, I voted for it but then I -- before I voted against it. That`s not a very good position to begin.
MELBER: So Senator, what you`re talking about there is exactly what I was just discussing with Lawrence O`Donnell and Hoyer`s sort of backing up Pelosi right now making the case and as I mentioned we`re going to keep listening if they take live questions or make new, we`ll dip back in there. But right now they`re just giving more volume to what we`d heard earlier today which is this plan.
And so senator Dorgan, at a certain point, is she forcing the Senate Republicans to do what they didn`t have to do as often and as publicly in the first two years which is answer whether or not they share Donald Trump`s strategy of often contradicting himself and being full of it? Because as you as you were explaining they weren`t forced to take as many hard votes like this when the Republicans were in charge of both chambers.
DORGAN: Sure. I mean Senator McConnell and the Republicans that he leads in the Senate are trying to protect the President. And what Senator McConnell is apparently said is we`re not going to bring anything to the floor of the Senate that doesn`t have the President`s blessing. Yet they brought -- two weeks ago they brought it to the floor of the Senate and passed it unanimously because they thought the president supported it because the President said he supported it.
And if I may make one other point. Obviously, this shutdown is very troublesome for a lot of people. And back in the Gingrich days when there was a shutdown, I was one of the negotiators that went to the White House. We sat around the cabinet table with the President and the leaders of the House and the Senate day after day negotiating how we might open the government. It`s really interesting to me there`s almost none of that kind of discussion going on anywhere. And it`s important that we find a way to resolve this.
MELBER: Well, Senator you`re pointing something out. I`ll bring the former congressman, your Republican counterpart back into the conversation. Congressman, the Senator points out the grinding sort of complete disregard by the Trump administration for the impact on people`s lives. And we`ve been reporting this out and will continue to do so.
Whatever one thinks of the size the government or the ideological debate, there isn`t even an effort to appear to be spending each workday, each weekday negotiating over how to reopen the government as farmers lose disaster assistances, people lose food programs for the hungry as people lose access it`s all sorts of other federal lands and national parks and everything else. For what? And they`ll miss paychecks for what? For something that according to every other shutdown they usually get paid afterward and becomes a huge waste, Congressman.
CURBELO: Ari, here`s the bottom line, and I agree, shutdowns are a waste of resources. They make the economy more inefficient and obviously they hurt federal employees. But I think the broader question here is will these new members of Congress or this new 116th Congress show a willingness to do what these days is courageous in politics, which is to compromise. We know that any bill to pass requires a majority of votes in the House, 60 votes in the Senate, and the President`s signature unless of course both chambers can override a veto with two-thirds of the membership of both chambers.
If we`re going to break this impasse, there has to be a compromise. If we`re going to pass immigration reform, there must be a compromise. If we`re going to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in this country, there must be a compromise. So that is the relevant question. I think that what this new Congress getting sworn in today, a lot of people on the Left are celebrating the new Democratic majority in the House. I understand that. Maybe some people on the right are celebrating an expanded Republican majority in the Senate. What most Americans want is for all of these politicians to compromise.
CURBELO: To meet somewhere in the middle, to get something done, and to get government out of the front page for all of the wrong reasons. And that`s what I hope for this new Congress. A lot of people out there I think on the extremes want Democrats and Republicans to fight. What I think most Americans want is Democrats and Republicans to meet somewhere in the middle and get something meaningful done. In this case that requires - - means opening the government.
MELBER: Senator, I think -- well, you`re the House member and he is the former senator. I think the senator is concerned you may be beginning a filibuster. But Senator, you get in and we`ll keep it going.
CURBELO: They never thought us that in the House.
DORGAN: My point -- my point is the power the purse as you know, belongs to the Congress. That`s really important. And it`s going to be hard to compromise for Democrats especially to reach a decision to build a wall we don`t need with money we don`t have, especially when the President campaigned on it. This is all about politics, you know. It`s about his campaign promise.
But his campaign promise was twofold. I`m going to build a wall and Mexico is going to pay for it. Well, the fact is Mexico is not going to pay for a wall. And I think I agree with Nancy Pelosi that we don`t need a wall. There`s plenty of ways to provide border security.
MELBER: Let me -- let me press -- let me -- let me take -- you make an important point Senator Dorgan. Let me put it press your Republican counterpart on that because, Congressman, isn`t that what`s different? You talked about compromise. But Donald Trump is the first president not only in history but quite possibly -- I rarely talk about the future but quite possibly for the past and next hundred years too loudly, brashly, embarrassingly self-owned and humiliate himself by shutting down the government to break a promise rather than uphold it. To break the promise that the U.S. would never have to pay for the wall.
CURBELO: Ari, I voted against the bill to increase funding for the wall two weeks ago in the House chamber. The reason I did that is because there`s an obvious compromise out there that I wanted to protect, and that is to increase border security funding while at the same time granting DREAMers, DACA recipients a future in our country. That is a very obvious compromise. Lindsey Graham is now talking along those terms. That is the way out of this.
And that`s why I voted against an extra $5 billion for the wall. But there is a reality here that we have to accept, Ari.
MELBER: Well, let me -- let me push you. Before we go to the reality, let me put you on this and then I`m going to give you time. Viewers watching might think, wow, this seems like a reasonable, thoughtful former legislature, fair?
CURBELO: I hope so.
MELBER: I hope so. OK. And yet the leader of your party publicly treated you with such disdain and so I hate to be the one to play the tape for you as it were but that`s part of my job. So let`s look at that and wonder what did you do to him to make him act like that or what is it inside him that treats other people like that even when they`re on the same team ostensibly. Take a look at what he said about you after the election.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So, on the other hand, you had some that decided to let`s stay away, let`s stay away. They did very poorly. I`m not sure that I should be happy or sad but I feel just fine about it. Carlos Curbelo.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: He put you there with some mispronunciation on the list of Republicans who lost. Was he wrong in what he said there?
CURBELO: Ari, the President gets zero points for style. He`s extremely divisive. He can be very petty. He takes everything personally. So there`s no defending that. And I don`t know very many people who do. But there is a reality here. This is a president who ran on this border security promise. Of course, he did say Mexico was going to pay for the wall.
MELBER: He ran on a promise, sir -- he ran on a promise that Mexico would pay for it. That was the promise. I mean. I can tell you -- both of your politicians --
CURBELO: No question.
MELBER: The government now hangs in the balance. The Democrats here taking our trying to reopen the government and we have a president who shut down the government to break a promise. And I just wonder whether that`s getting through. I give you -- I give you -- as we say on the Hill, I`ll give you the balance of your time back.
CURBELO: This this is very simple. And again --
DORGAN: Ari, let me --
MELBER: And then I`ll go to the Senator.
CURBELO: -- I don`t -- I voted against increased funding for the wall because there`s an obvious compromise out there. And this is where Republicans get to prove if they`re serious about increasing funding for border security and Democrats get to prove if they`re serious about supporting DREAMers, the young undocumented immigrants that I worked so hard for every day during my four years in Congress because I do want a solution for them and this is the perfect opportunity.
MELBER: All right, Senator Dorgan -- let me be fair. Let me let Senator Dorgan in as well, sir.
DORGAN: Ari, as I said, this is a political earthquake. The U.S. House controlled by Democrats and we`re going to be -- we`re going to be seeing oversight hearings that are significant and difficult but important for the country. And let me say this, I hope someday very soon we get back to the central questions that affect people around the dinner table. Do I have a good job? Does it pay well? Do I have job security? Do my kids go to good schools? Do grandpa and grandma have decent access to health care? And do I live in a safe neighborhood?
I mean look, all of these things, we know are the most important things to people who live in this country and have hopes and dreams for the future. And the quicker we get back to really addressing some of those things, the better for our country.
MELBER: Well, Senator Byron Dorgan and Congressman Carlos Curbelo, different parties, different houses of Congress, I appreciate you both being part of our special coverage tonight.
CURBELO: Thank you, Ari.
MELBER: Thanks to both of you.
DORGAN: Thank you, Ari.
MELBER: Let me tell you where we are here as we wrap up an hour on the first day of this new Congress. As I report for you tonight and as we wrap up THE BEAT, we have the Democratic leadership addressing reporters tonight. They`re working obviously late into 7:00 p.m. in Washington D.C. and making the argument that the Senate Republicans now have to choose between whether they agree with themselves and the funding bill that they put forward recently just two weeks ago, and whether they agree with Donald Trump who doesn`t agree with himself as they argue and still wants to keep the government shutdown. That is a very big fight that we`re going to keep covering.
The other piece of this as you look at the array Democratic leadership there is something that we discussed with several guests tonight and it`s our closing thought tonight which is there is so much division in politics and there is so much discussion about whether anything matters anymore particularly the Trump era. You`ve heard us cover those stories I think throughout the year. Today we can sit back and whatever your politics, whatever you think about which parties should have more or less seats. We have a Congress that looks more like America, that has more young people, and that is now back to work in a very different way divided government which may be a good thing for holding power accountable.
It`s something to think about as we reflect on why does this Congress look a little different. Well, this is as we mentioned at the top of our show the highest Midterm turnout in over a century. So we`re hearing for more Americans and this is the Congress they chose. I want to leave you with that final thought. As always thank you for watching THE BEAT. I`ll be back here at 6:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow, but don`t go anywhere on a busy night as Congress continues working, as the government remains closed, "HARDBALL" is up next.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END