The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 11/30/2016

Guests: Eric Lipton, Seth Moulton

Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: November 30, 2016 Guest: Eric Lipton, Seth Moulton

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you, my friend.


MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy Wednesday.

Usually they do it to promote a specific thing. Usually, it`s for a cause.

So, take Woodrow Wilson, September 1919, World War I had just ended. He had met with European leaders whose countries had suffered such devastating losses in that unprecedented World War. European leaders agreed with him that there needed to be some kind of international body, some kind of international group to try to stop future conflicts before they turned into World Wars again.

But Wilson had a problem. However much world leaders liked his idea about some new international body, at home, he couldn`t get anybody behind it. After World War I, Congress wanted less to do with the rest of the world, not more. They were just super clear with him that even though he was the president and he had this League of Nations idea, they were not going along with him on this issue. Congress didn`t like it.

President Wilson said, OK, then, fine, Congress, you don`t like it. I`ll convince the people. I`ll get them on my side. And he set out on a tour in September of that year, 1919, he started a tour and his tour went 8,000 miles in 22 days.

And that`s one thing if you`re like flying around in Air Force One, right? That can take you to all those miles, but a century ago in 1919? Eight thousand miles in 22 days? That was an almost impossible thing that he set out to do.

And it didn`t work. People in this country didn`t like his idea for this League of Nations thing. They didn`t like that idea before he hit the bricks on an 8,000-mile tour to promote it. They didn`t like the idea before the tour. They didn`t like the idea after the tour either.

And worse, the tour itself basically killed him. He started that tour on September 3rd. By October 2nd, the president had collapsed from exhaustion and suffered a serious stroke. It was just a disaster at every level. It went bad in so many different ways.

And not all of them fail that seriously, but these things are genuinely known for failing. Like when George W. Bush did it after he was re-elected in 2004. After that election, famously George W. Bush decided his first priority would be to privatize Social Security. He wanted to hand Social Security over to Wall Street, give everybody a private account.

And to convince the country of the wisdom of that idea, the newly re- elected president set off on a multi-state tour, basically as soon as he was sworn in in 2005. It turns out it didn`t work. Turns the out the country was not interested in being sold on that idea.

President Bush went all over the country. He went to Arkansas and went to Nebraska, he went to New Jersey. He went to Florida. He went to Indiana.

They said it was going to be a 60-day tour. They ended up spending even longer than that, touring the president all over the country. Red states, blue states, everywhere. A full-on presidential road show blitz to convince everybody what a great idea it would be to get rid of Social Security and hand all the old people over to the tender mercies of Wall Street instead.

The country did not like the idea. And that dislike got stronger and stronger the more George W. Bush traveled around the country trying to convince us all what a good idea this was.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The fight over Social Security. It`s looking like the height of campaign season now. President Bush has been traveling the country making his pitch that reforms are needed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The president and his top aides have launched their own new campaign in support of private accounts.

KARL ROVE, BUSH AIDE: I feel very good about where we are. We`re winning the debate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s committed to the personal accounts. They`re an awfully good idea.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A point the president himself repeated at rallies in New Jersey and Indiana Friday.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: Talking about helping people build up an asset base, which I think is a vital part of the stable future.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But so far, several national polls say the public isn`t buying the president`s pitch.


MADDOW: Isn`t buying it. Even at the moment, even in that contemporaneous news coverage, people could already tell that what the president was trying to sell, the country wasn`t buying it. You could tell in the moment that he wasn`t persuading anybody.

But looking back on it after it`s over, what`s remarkable about it is not just that it didn`t work. But it was the opposite of worked. It was really counterproductive that presidential tour. It was not just that people didn`t like the idea. It was that the longer president bush tried to sell people on that idea, the more people just hated it.

Look at what happened over time. This is how the country felt when he started. The country`s views on how President Bush was handling social security was 49 percent positive when he started his tour. Once his road show was under way, that positive view dropped from 49 percent down to 43 percent, by the time he was wrapping up his tour, that positive view had dropped from 49 percent to 43 percent to 35 percent.

And just look at the other side of the number. Look at the red columns there, right? It`s even more striking. When President Bush started his tour to convince the country to privatize Social Security at the outset, 31 percent of the country was opposed to him on that. Then the road show starts and the proportion of the country that`s against him on the issue goes from 31 percent up to 48 percent. By the time the tour is wrapping up, he has turned 58 percent of the country against him on that issue, on that specific issue that he was traveling the country trying to convince us all to agree with him on.

I mean, he would have been better off -- he would have been considerably better off doing absolutely nothing. That tour was just a disaster. And that is kind of how these things go for presidents.

I mean, presumably there are some good examples in history of presidential road shows, presidential tours working out, maybe. But basically, the known history of presidents trying this stunt of going out physically touring around the country, trying to convince the country to do something, that history is a history of presidents trying and failing. It`s, you know, Woodrow Wilson not selling his league of nags and basically killing himself in the process of selling it.

It`s W. going out after his re-election victory and putting a bright spotlight on something he wanted to do that the country really hadn`t paid all that much attention to before but now that he was putting such a spotlight on it and he was making such a big deal about it, the country was wow, yeah, hey, thanks, we hate that idea. We hate that about you. Thanks for reminding us.

Back even in the civil war era, there was terrible -- Andrew Johnson, 1866, going off on a speaking tour around the country to try to get the Confederate states back into Congress. And you know, Andrew Johnson thought, hey, I`m president. I`ll go out and convince people.

He decides to go on tour, travel the country, try to bring everybody along to his way of thinking. But instead, he gets out there on his tour and he horrified everybody with his behavior and his demeanor and with what he was asking for. Johnson in that tour, he would get up on the stump and harangue people. He called everybody traitors. He said his political opponents should be hanged. Hecklers started shouting him down everywhere he went, he would swear at people from the stage, to the point where some newspapers at the time speculated that he was drunk or that he was crazy or both.

Andrew Johnson, on that presidential tour, famously told a screaming audience in Ohio, "You may talk about the dignity of the presidency. I care not for dignity."

"I care not for dignity" -- and that became the single-most famous thing he ever said as president. And then they impeached him.

Presidential tours are a thing. Presidential tours have been a thing for a very long time. But they are not a thing with a history of great success.

That said, one thing the presidential tours generally have had in common, whether they work out or whether they don`t, and they mostly don`t, whether they become famous debacles or they just fade away in history, one thing they all have been is about something. They`re about the League of Nations idea, or the idea of privatizing Social Security, or they`re about the support of the compromise of 1850 or readmitting the Confederate states to the Congress.

They`re always for something that a president wants the country to do or that a president wants the country to get behind. All of these things when previous presidents have done them, back to the very beginning of the country, they`re always for a thing. Presidential tours for better or for worse, usually for worse, they`re done to try to sell the country on something. That has been true throughout the history of our country back all the way to George Washington.

And tomorrow, we are going to get another one. Except this one, we don`t know what it`s for. Tomorrow, the president-elect will kick off what is apparently going to be a multi-state series of campaign rallies, except there`s no more campaign. So, maybe it`s more like a concert tour but without a band?

When they first announced plans to do this, people thought maybe that it would be their victory tour? Now, they tell us they no longer want us to call it a victory tour. They want us to call it a "thank you" tour.

Okay. Honestly, I don`t know what to call it because who knows what this is? I mean, in other countries, you have sometimes seen stuff like this. That comparison is not a heartening one. You know, in other countries in other eras of history, strongmen type leaders have liked to hold mass rallies to demonstrate their support among the people and often to intimidate their opposition. There`s no reason to think that that is what President-elect Trump is starting tomorrow, right?

But we honestly do not know what this is for, what it is. It`s not apparently about selling a particular idea, trying to get the country on board with any particular proposal. It`s not apparently selling a thing at all. It`s definitely not a press conference which he hasn`t done in four months.

This isn`t even billed as a speech. It`s a Trump rally for Trump, because he likes rallies maybe. And it`s not just one. We`re told this event tomorrow in Cincinnati will be the first of a whole bunch of these.

And we checked with some presidential historians. Nobody has been able to point us to any previous presidents-elect embarking on a series of mass rallies after an election. People have done public events on the way to their inauguration and stuff, but just rallies to celebrate their victory? This is new. This is new.

Presidents go out in public. They go tour around the country to sell a thing, to get the country behind an idea, to launch a plan. But just going out to say, come celebrate me? This is new. This is a new thing. This is a new thing.

And we have to get used to new things. We are learning this year in politics, there`s a first time for every ridiculous thing.

Meanwhile, though, the new administration is taking shape, and here is part of how you can tell that.

This is a stock price that we can see chugging along over the course of this year. This is the stock price for the calendar year starting with first business day of the year. You see there are ups and downs, chugs along over the course of 2016, but in the end, it ends up roughly about where it started, roughly about at the beginning of the year.

But actually, look at the right side there. That`s actually not the whole calendar year. Look at the end date there. That end date is not today. That actually -- what was shown there was only ten months of the calendar year. That graph of that stock price ends on November 4th.

Let`s extend it. Look what`s happened. Ooh, look what happens after the first week in November. Look what happens just after Election Day. Nice for that stock, right?

But hold on a second. The end date there still is not all the way there. It doesn`t go through to today. Let`s extend this one more day.

Look what happened to that stock price today. See right at the very end there. Boink, see how that goes straight up there at the end?

That`s how you know the president-elect has gotten the band together and touring around the country again because the president-elect`s administration is really taking shape. The way you can tell that is because that stock graph we`re looking at there, that is Goldman Sachs. That`s Goldman Sachs` stock right now. Why it is doing that?

The president-elect, of course, picked a senior adviser and chief strategist who is from Goldman Sachs. Today, he picked a new treasury secretary who is from Goldman Sachs and whose dad was a Goldman Sachs partner, a second generation Goldman Sachs guy.

News was also floated that the deputy to the billionaire banker who was just named commerce secretary, that deputy commerce secretary will also be from Goldman Sachs and for good measure, the president-elect today personally met with the current president of Goldman Sachs. So, yes.

Yes, Goldman Sachs. This is Goldman Sachs stock now. They hit an eight- year high today. They haven`t flown this close to the sun since the financial catastrophe of 2008. Good times.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: My contract with the American voter begins with a plan to end government corruption and to take back our country and to take it back swiftly from the special interests who I know so well.


MADDOW: One other interesting announcement today. President-elect today also named one of the billionaires from the Ricketts family to be the deputy to the new billionaire commerce secretary.

The Ricketts family, funny story there, not that long ago they almost single sourced financing behind the presidential campaign of Scott Walker for president. When Governor Scott Walker`s presidential campaign died a fast and expensive death, the Ricketts family briefly flirted with going never-Trump.

But a very interesting moment in the campaign when they did that. Donald Trump responded by publicly threatening the Ricketts family against spending money against them. He misspelled their name in the tweet, but you get the point there. He said, "I hear the Ricketts family are secretly spending money against me. They better be careful. They have a lot to hide."

After Trump publicly threatened the Ricketts family over what they have to hide and spending money against him, after that, the Ricketts family decided that they would spend money to support Trump after all. And now, one of the billionaire Ricketts sons will be deputy secretary of the treasury.

And so, things are shaping up. The administration is starting to staff up with it top names. It`s turning into quite an employment program for the nation`s billionaires. Goldman Sachs has taken all of the seats around the table as Goldman Sachs intended. Everything is falling into place. Plenty of time to take off on a concert tour without a band.

We do not know what the Donald Trump mass rally will be like tomorrow, but the fact that he`s doing it is already an unprecedented thing. We really don`t know how this goes from here.

Watch this space.


MADDOW: We think we have figured something out tonight that was previously a mystery in our current American politics. Basically about a week after the election, there was a decision made by one very important American political figure that really made no sense at the time. Nobody has ever offered an explanation for why he made this unexpected decision, nobody has ever offered any sort of connection to anything else going on in the news, but now, we know why he did it. At least I think I know why he did it. Mystery maybe solved. That`s next.


MADDOW: A-ha, I think we have figured out a thing. A previously unexplained and strange thing that nobody had offered up any sort of explanation before now. But I think we figured it out.

You might remember during the presidential campaign, while the campaign was still happening before the election, the Trump campaign put New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in charge of what would be the Trump transition effort if Trump won, and then Trump won the election and all of a sudden, Chris Christie was fired, out. They pushed him out of that job once the transition thing wasn`t some theoretical make work busy work job that was never going to come to fruition. Once it became a real thing and a really important thing, Christie was out, got rid of him.

And who did they put in charge instead? They put in charge of the transition the vice president-elect, Mike Pence, which I`m sure was very exciting for Mike Pence. It`s also a huge amount of responsibility. It`s tons of work. And he was starting late, right? Because they had to undo everything Chris Christie had done and start over. And on top of that, Pence has to get ready for being vice president as well.

So, him being put in charge of running the transition, that`s a huge, huge, huge deal. That`s why it was weird when we saw this. Mike Pence decided to keep his day job as Indiana governor. He got named chief of the transition on Friday. On Monday, he said he was staying on as governor. What`s that about?

Well, it sounds like the sort of thing you wouldn`t do if you were really worried about the amount of work you had to do. It would seem that the sort of thing you really wouldn`t have time to do, particularly because your successor is lined up and ready to go in Indiana.

Now, I think we might know what was going on there. Now I think we might know why Mike Pence decided to hold on to his job as Indiana governor right after he got named chief of the transition.

Tomorrow, the president-elect is going to go to Indiana to announce that a company called Carrier is keeping a thousand jobs in this country that they were going to otherwise ship to Mexico. You were seeing tons of headlines about it today. You`ll see more about it tomorrow.

On the campaign, during the campaign, candidate Trump, he talked about what an amazing negotiator he was going to be in situations like this with companies like Carrier. He said it was going to be super easy once he was president to convince companies like that that they should stay in the country, thanks to this one neat trick he would do once elected. It would be so easy.


TRUMP: We`re going to lower taxes. We`re going to keep our companies and if our companies want to leave, they`re going to pay a nice big beautiful tax to get their product back in. OK? That`s what`s going to happen. I`ve watched as politicians talked about stopping countries from leaving.


MADDOW: Trump went on to say that when politicians talked about stopping companies from leaving, they`d say, here`s a zero interest loan you don`t have to pay, here`s a tax abatement of any kind you want. We`ll help you.

It doesn`t work, folks. That`s not what they need. They have money. They want to go out. They want to move to another country because our politicians are so dumb. They want to sell their products to us and have no consequences and no retribution, that`s over.

He said, I would love telling some guy, you`re not moving. Well, Mr. President, sir, we`d like to move to Mexico. You`re not moving and if you do, you`ll pay a 35 percent tax.

And that business owner will say, well, in that case, I`m not moving, I`m not moving, in that case I`m not moving. It will be so easy.

That`s how Trump portrayed dealing with problems like this on the campaign trail. That`s how he would keep companies from going to Mexico.

You wouldn`t do all this nonsense about tax abatements. He would do all these nonsense about offering them loans and incentives and stuff in the tax code. They don`t want that. What you do is you tell them, you move to Mexico, you`re going to pay a 35 percent tax bringing these products that you make in Mexico back into the country.

That`s what he specifically said he would do to keep this company Carrier from taking its jobs to Mexico, tell them if they did go to Mexico, he would tax their products 35 percent to bring those products back in. That`s what he said he would do.

That`s not at all what he has done. And now, I think we know why Mike Pence didn`t quit his day job as governor of Indiana, because the way they persuaded this company Carrier to keep a thousand jobs in Indiana was not by doing what Trump said he was going to do, was not by threatening Carrier with some 35 percent tax when they wanted to bring those products back into the United States and sell them there. They didn`t do that at all.

Instead, what they did is they just gave the company $700,000 in taxpayer money. They just paid them. And that`s something you don`t have the power to do as president-elect. You can`t just hand over federal taxpayer money.

This wasn`t federal taxpayer money that they gave to the company. It was taxpayer money from the state of Indiana. And that`s why Mike Pence had to still be governor.

Mike Pence gave them Indiana state taxpayer money, $700,000 in tax incentives. They just paid the company to not move those jobs yet. So, Trump and Pence can get their photo op tomorrow.

The money they`re paying them is controlled by a state board in Indiana. It`s taxpayer money. That state board doesn`t have to approve anything through the legislature. Governor Pence made himself chair of that board. So, it`s taxpayer money but he gets to spend it as long as he`s governor.

So, as governor and the chair of that board, on December 13th, the next day that board meets, Governor Pence will get to approve that flat-out payment to this company with his state`s taxpayer money. And that`s why he had to not give up his day job so he could make sure he was still governor on December 13th, so he could give away Indiana state taxpayer money to make it looked like Trump did something that he did do and said he would never do.

It`s amazing. Trump is like these weak politicians we`ve got that hand over tax abatements, doesn`t even work. Companies don`t even want that. They`re handing over a tax abatement.

And because Trump doesn`t have the power to do that, he had Mike Pence do it to screw his state. $700,000 in tax incentives free to that company. That`s how they did it. And I think that`s why Mike Pence stayed governor. Tada! That`s not going to work for four years.


MADDOW: Behold, Bahrain National Day.

Every December, the nation of Bahrain celebrates the day on which it achieved its independence from Britain in 1971. There are fireworks over the desert, there are picnics and music. And because every country gets to celebrate its independence however it wants, in Bahrain every year, there are people running around in masks writing on cars in shaving cream to celebrate that day. Tada!

As a country, Bahrain is best known right now for its terrible human rights record, for its brutal crackdown on an attempted Arab spring uprising.

But once a year, Bahrainis who are not being unlawfully imprisoned or tortured or shot for peaceful protest. They do get to celebrate Bahrain National Day. It happens on December 16th every year, which means it`s right around the corner this year.

For the Bahrain embassy in Washington, they also, every year for Bahrain National Day, they host a celebration, diplomats and military attaches and Washington`s friends of Bahrain, they come by invitation only to hobnob with Bahraini officials in D.C. and for most of the last few years the reception for Bahrain National Day in D.C. was held at the Ritz Carlton Hotel. Very nice hotel in Washington, D.C. Mostly they`ve held these things at the Ritz. One year, they held it at the Four Seasons.

This year, though, they`ve decided on a new venue. This year, a week from today, according to an invitation obtained by, this year, the Bahrain National Day celebration in Washington, D.C., is going to be held in a new spot. It`s going to be held at Donald Trump`s D.C. hotel because, of course, because why not?

I mean, of course, you book your big annual party at the hotel owned by the president-elect, wouldn`t you? Right? You have to have it somewhere. You like having it at hotels anyway.

You`re going to go meet with the president-elect in the new administration and say, we really enjoyed meeting you at the Bahrain National Day celebration we held at the Ritz. I mean, why not put a little cash in the new president`s pockets. You`d be crazy not to if you had the option, right? So, Bahrain National Day, December 16th, celebrate at the Trump hotel.

The day before that there`s also going to be some interesting news. President-elect tweeted this morning that he`ll hold a, quote, "major news conference" on December 15th. At that news conference, he`ll discuss leaving his business, quote, "in total". It is, quote, "visually important as president to in no way have a conflict of interest with my various businesses. He says legal documents, quote, "are being crafted which take me completely out of business operations." The presidency is a far more important task.

Business operations? President-elect has already said the way he plans to deal with his business interests and his real estate holdings and all the rest of his assets is he`s just going to allow his kids to run his business once he takes office. So, this announcement, these tweets today didn`t seem all that different from what he has said before.

There`s an office called the Office of Government Ethics that sets rules about conflicts of interest in the executive branch. They responded to Mr. Trump`s early morning announcements today with great excitement and great sarcasm.

They started a bit of a tweet storm in response. Quote, "@RealDonaldTrump, Office of Government Ethics is delighted that you decided to divest your businesses. Right decision. "

And there was another one. "Bravo, the only way to resolve these conflicts of interest is to divest. Good call."

Then there`s another one. "This divestiture does what handing over control could never have done."

And another one, "We can`t repeat enough how good this total divestiture will be."

And they kept going on and on like this. What this is about, of course, is that Donald Trump is not saying he`s going to divest his business interests. He`s not saying anything about rescinding his ownership in his businesses. All he`s talking about is handing over control to his kids still. That`s still all these planning on doing.

If he was announcing divestiture, yes, that would be a huge deal in terms of neutralizing his conflicts of interest. Anything short of that, all those conflicts of interest still exist. Trump`s big announcement today doesn`t deviate from anything he said all along. He doesn`t plan to sell his businesses, he doesn`t plan to divest, he doesn`t plan to insulate himself in any way from his own financial interests which will be affected by his presidency except for the fact that he`s going to have his kids running things for him on a day-to-day basis.

But you know what? If you own -- if you still own the hotel where, say, Bahrain decides to hold its annual national day celebration because they want to spend money on your business as a way of getting in good with you, which lots of countries and lots of countries will do, then unless the president is divested from that company, he`s still in essence kind of taking a bribe.

I mean, you`re still benefiting from this business, this private business that your family business is getting specifically because you`re president. That is the definition of a conflict of interest, right? In the case of a foreign government doing the spending, it`s a conflict of interest that`s explicitly prohibited by the Constitution even if you are the president.

And so, I mean, maybe the president-elect was just inartful in his tweeting. Hard to believe. Maybe he does intend to sell everything and put it in a real blind trust. Maybe so. But that is what he would need to do to get right with the law here, to get right with these conflicts of interest.

If it is what he needs to do, so far, neither he nor his transition team are saying anything like that.

Joining us now is Eric Lipton. He`s a Pulitzer Prize-winning national correspondent for "The New York Times." He and his colleague Michael Shear wrote an in-depth article about all this today.

Mr. Lipton, thanks very much for being here. I really appreciate it.


MADDOW: Do we know with any specificity how Trump intends to differentiate himself, create at least the appearance of distance between his own bottom line and his presidency?

LIPTON: The statement today doesn`t make it any clearer. All he has said so far and what we can only rely upon is that he`s going to turn over control to his children. And what he said today was he was going to completely remove himself from involvement in the business, but as you indicate, he did not say that he was going to sell his assets and then put those assets into a blind trust. So, you know, across the board from the left to the right, what we`re hearing is that is really the only step he can take to eliminate the appearances of conflicts of interest.

Although, I don`t -- I have to say, I disagree with you. By having the government of Bahrain, you know, take a room in his hotel because they want to impress him, to me that doesn`t represent any kind of a bribe. That`s just them showing a signal to him that he want to impress him.

MADDOW: And to that point -- and I`m glad you mention that. What I`ve been trying to sort of spin out in my mind is the Trump Organization, even if you set aside the hotel in D.C. and we`ve already seen a lot of people talking about how they want to spend money at that hotel as a way to try to get in good with the president and the incoming administration.

If you imagine Trump businesses around the world, if Trump Towers, Trump real estate interests start getting green lit all over the world, if foreign governments start approving building permits, if foreign banks start lending very -- you know, on favorable terms to green light all of those projects and so the Trump Organization, the Trump business empire grows but in a noticeable way specifically because he`s president, is there any sort of consequence for that in American law? How much is he -- could he stop that if he wanted to so that he wouldn`t benefit from it?

LIPTON: I think that`s the single biggest problem that he faces, even if he acts completely ethically and his family acts ethically and that all the executives at his companies never make any request from the federal government or the foreign governments to do anything to benefit them or accelerate permits, if other parties simply trying to impress him offer them things, give them land, accelerate permits, then he`s receiving benefits he shouldn`t be other than for the fact that he`s president. And unless he divests his assets, that`s going to be a problem.

But, you know, is there any federal law that prohibits that from happening? Not in terms of his domestic operations, but in terms of his foreign governments, if foreign governments are in fact giving him things of value either, you know, financially or even an act of a government agency that benefits him, that could in fact be a violation of the Constitution. It`s a provision that hasn`t been tested fully and we`ll see whether or not someone is able to bring a case in court to allege that.

But there is this provision in the Constitution which says you shall receive no gift or payment from a foreign government and it applies to the president, as well as any other federal employee.

MADDOW: Eric Lipton, Pulitzer Prize-winning correspondent for "The New York Times" -- I really appreciate your time tonight. Thanks for being with us.

LIPTON: Thank you.

MADDOW: All right. We`ve got much more to come tonight. Stay with us.



REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), RE-ELECTED DEMOCRATIC LEADER: I have a special spring in my step today because this opportunity is a special one to lead the House Democrats, bring everyone together as we go forward.


MADDOW: Say what you want about Nancy Pelosi, one thing she knows how to do better than anybody on this planet, perhaps anybody -- perhaps better than anybody in the history of Congress at least, one thing she`s really good at is counting votes.

Ahead of today`s vote in the House Democratic conference, she`d been saying he had the support of two-thirds of the Democratic caucus, two-thirds, that`s 67.7 percent. That`s what she said she`d get. She got 68 percent of the vote today to stay on as the Democratic leader in the House.

She did face a surprisingly strong challenge from Congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio. He got the other third of the vote. But Nancy Pelosi`s allies say that now is not the time to switch somebody like her out ahead of what promises to be a cage fight with Donald Trump and the incoming Republican Congress.


REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: This is a time when we need, I think, someone who has been battle tested. We`ve got President-elect Trump who has on his agenda trying to destroy many of the things that Democrats have stood for over the years. And I think we need our "A" team.

At this point in history, I think that she, without any doubt, is the leader that we need right now.

REPORTER: Will she be weakened at all by what`s happened today?

CUMMINGS: No, no. As a matter of fact, I think she`ll be strengthened.


MADDOW: Nancy Pelosi will be strengthened as a result of this challenge says Congressman Cummings. And that may be so.

Of course, the other way to look at this vote is that a full third of the Democratic Caucus didn`t vote for Nancy Pelosi today. They had a secret ballot today. Under cover of that secret ballot, there are 63 Democrats who voted against Nancy Pelosi. That`s interesting -- 63 voted that way in secret. Only a dozen or so of them were willing to come out publicly ahead of the vote and say they were going to cast their votes that way.

One of the ones who is willing to go public is the young Democrat Seth Moulton of Massachusetts. He`s a relative newcomer to the Congress. He`s an Iraq War veteran. He beat a nine-term Democratic incumbent to win his seat for the first time in 2014. He was just re-elected to a second term.

And he was among the dozen or so Democrats who were willing not just to vote against Nancy Pelosi but to openly explain that they were voting against her. Even if that constituted what Moulton called a huge political risk, even if that means he could lose his coveted seat on the House Armed Services Committee. He said it was worth it. He said it was worth that risk.


REP. SETH MOULTON (D), MASSACHUSETTS: The American people sent us a message loud and clear. We need to listen to that message and we need to respond.

REPORTER: You said you were sent a message loud and clear. What is the message that they sent you?

MOULTON: Well, look, I mean, we don`t have the house, we don`t have the White House, we don`t have the Senate. We hardly have any --


MOULTON: -- governorships, state legislatures we`re in the minority. We have lot of work to do as a caucus and a party.


MADDOW: Up and coming Congressman Seth Moulton of Massachusetts, that was him speaking ahead of today`s vote. What does the re-election of Nancy Pelosi mean for how the Democratic Party is going to operate in opposition against what appears to be a remarkable new administration coming in? Should we expect Democratic tactics predicated on things we`ve seen in the past? Will there be some innovation?

Did today`s vote with a third of the caucus voting against Pelosi, did that challenge fundamentally shift the debate as to what happens next and how Democrats comport themselves in this strange new era?

Congressman Seth Moulton joins us next. Stay with us.



REP. TIM RYAN (D-OH), LOST LEADERSHIP RACE: We need to talk about economics. We need to talk about things that unite us. Not -- we`re not getting rid of our progressive values. We talk about them, too.

But the emphasis needs to be on the issue that unites everybody and that issue is economics. It`s jobs. It`s wages. It`s pensions. It`s benefits.

And it`s not just talking about the minimum wage. It`s talking about middle class incomes that haven`t gone up in 30 years. And we got off that message.


MADDOW: Congressman Tim Ryan talking today about the way forward after he lost a vote against Nancy Pelosi to become House Democratic leader.

Standing alongside Tim Ryan today, I see him on the left side of your screen there in front of all the flags. That`s Democratic Congressman Seth Moulton of Massachusetts. He`s a marine veteran, who`s a member of the Armed Services Committee.

And Congressman Moulton joins us now.

It`s nice to see you, sir. Thanks very much for being with us.

MOULTON: Good to be back, Rachel. Thanks.

MADDOW: So, overall, what`s your reaction to today`s vote? Leader Pelosi gets re-elected but minus a third of the votes of House Democrats including yours. Why is that?

MOULTON: The strongest standing against her ever. And it sends an important message. I mean, if you think about it, she`s been in office for 13 years -- as leader for 13 years where she`s been able to gather the support of the members of the caucus.

And Tim Ryan ran for two weeks. And in two weeks over Thanksgiving break, he was able to gather the votes of a third of the caucus. And what that says is that the status quo isn`t working, that we`re not going to bin back the House in 2018 by continuing to do what we`ve done in the last several elections which have been disastrous.

MADDOW: And that said, we`re not in an election cycle right now, right at this second except to the extent that it`s always an election cycle. It seems to me that the challenge for Democrats now is not the same as it was before November 8th. Now, there`s this very interesting political situation in this country where we`ve got an incoming administration with complete control of the levers of power in Washington, and it`s going to be a very unusual administration, it`s going to be unprecedented in some ways.

It seems to me like, now the question is how the Democrats are going to distinguish themselves as the minority in the era of Trump. And I don`t know if that`s a different imperative as far as you see it compared to what you want to see during the election.

MOULTON: I think it`s totally different. I think the world has changed. I think the American people know that. And that`s why they`re looking for new leadership.

Clearly, our message didn`t resonate during this during this campaign. Democrats lost across the country. We only gained six seats in the House, which was below even the lowest estimates for how we would do. About half of those are due to redistricting everywhere, anyway.

So, our performance was terrible. We got a clear message from the American people. And now, we have a mandate in the House of Representatives to win it back, because Donald Trump is going to be out there to destroy so much of the progress that we have made.

And so, the most important thing we can do as Democrats in the House of Representatives is win back seats in the next election. So, it may not feel like an election cycle, but it should. Our work has got to start on that today.

And that`s why I`ve been pushing to have this conversation about changing our message, talking about the economy, and perhaps having new leadership.

MADDOW: If things get really radical on policy. If the Trump administration and the Republican Congress do what they say they`re going to do. If they pry to privatize Medicare by this summer, if they try to abolish/privatize the V.A., if they try to pursue issues like on gay rights, on reproductive rights in some of the ways that real radicals in the administration like Tom Price have said they want to do that.

What will House Democrats do in response? In the minority, there is not much you can do in procedural terms.

MOULTON: Well, that`s the big problem. And that`s why it`s so important that we win back the majority in 2018. But what we will do is we`ll stand up every single day for the values that are important to our constituents, that are enshrined in our Constitution that fundamentally make us Americans.

But it is a lot harder to do that when we`re not showing a new way forward. You know, we`re not talking about how Democrats can be the party of the future at a time when Donald Trump really wants to take us backwards. And that`s why I think that today`s vote showed us that we`ve got to make some changes in our caucus.

And there is more going on than just this leadership vote. There are discussions now happening because we had this leadership challenge that I think will make some important changes.

And, look, we`re going to unite behind Nancy Pelosi because she is our leader for the next two years. But that doesn`t mean we`re going to keep doing things the way they`ve always been done. And that`s the important result today when you saw an entire third of the caucus vote for change.

MADDOW: Congressman Seth Moulton of Massachusetts, your -- I enjoy talking to you no matter what you`re in the middle of because you never say exactly what I think you`re going say. And you bring a lot of clarity to every discussion. Thanks for being here tonight, sir.

MOULTON: Thanks, Rachel.

MADDOW: Good to have you here.

All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.


MADDOW: Being a member of Congress may not seem like it`s a lot of fun. Here is why you want to be a member of Congress. This is how they work. This is next year.

The days that are highlighted in blue on this calendar are as of today the days they are officially planning to work next year. Anything not in blue is a day off.

So, it looks like that`s not a lot of days at work. That`s not a lot of days at work. They`re only planning on working 145 days next year out of the 365 days on the calendar.

In fairness to them, though, that`s actually them really getting after it the first three months. That`s almost like a normal American`s work schedule. It`s no time by the time April rolls around, they`ll be so exhausted, they will only be able to muster up the appetite for eight whole work days in that month.

But in all fairness, there are over the course of the entire year five weeks in 2017 where they`re planning to work five whole days in a row. Five days in one week. And that is a big deal for a member of Congress. Last year, they only did that twice in the full year.

And it`s no wonder why they`re planning to work so much more next year. I mean, they are planning on privatizing Medicare by the summer and privatizing the V.A. and taking away health insurance from tens of millions of people, and maybe making it legal to fire somebody because they`re taking birth control.

And there is the work of undoing all the Wall Street reforms, and there is building the border wall, which they say they will start doing the first day they are sworn in. So, that`s a lot to do. And they suddenly decide they`d are willing to work an occasional Monday in order to try to get it all done.

I`m sweating right now just thinking about it.


MADDOW: That North Carolina`s governor race still not over. But tonight there is news. As of tonight, the incumbent Republican governor is now so far behind that he is no longer close enough to legally qualify for a statewide recount. The Democrat`s lead in the governor`s race in North Carolina is now over 10,000 votes. Under state law that would seem to mean that that margin is too big there is no recount and this thing therefore should be done. Of course, then it wouldn`t be North Carolina this year, would it?

Late tonight, the Republican-controlled state elections board ordered a recount in one heavily Democratic county in North Carolina, Durham County. Now, the local elections board in that county, which is also Republican- controlled, they said that there is no problem with the vote there that would justify a recount. But the state board says, whatever, we still want a recount, in half a dozen precincts in that county.

Now, the Republican incumbent Pat McCrory, he had been leading on election night until the votes came in from this one Democratic county. That county will now be the one that is recounted. The state board tells us they don`t have an estimate yet for how long this is going to take. We also don`t know how the candidates will react to whatever this recount finds.

The only thing we do know is the incumbent Republican Governor Pat McCrory, he does now trail by more than 10,000 votes. But he is still not giving up. And because he is still not giving up, North Carolina still has no next governor, which is now basically right at the inflection point between alarming and exciting in electoral politics.

That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow.


Good evening, Lawrence.