Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: December 8, 2016 Guest: Jo Becker, Ilhan Omar
CHRIS HAYES, "ALL IN" HOST: That is "ALL IN" for this evening.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you, my friend.
HAYES: You bet.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
The only poll that counts is the poll on Election Day. That`s one of like the most grim-faced cliches in all of politics, right? But every election cycle, you can set your watch on it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GERALD FORD, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I`ll tell you what I think. The only polls that count are the polls the American people go to on November 2nd.
BOB DOLE (R), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: In any event, the bottom line is this: the only poll that counts is going to be in November.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: The only poll that counts is the one they`re going to take on Tuesday when they count the votes that these people are going to cast. And we`re going to win Florida.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: No, you`re not going to win in Florida, Senator. You are not.
But that cliche, the only poll that counts is the one in -- that is most useful in politics as a sign post to tell you who is losing in the polls at that moment. That`s who always says that cliche about the only poll that matters is the poll on Election Day. You know, but there is some truth to it. Polls in advance of an election only get you so far in terms of telling you exactly what is going on in the country and what`s going to happen next in politics.
And however you feel about the results of any particular election, one thing I think is always a little bit of a relief about watching the news after an election is that at least, finally, there`s no more polling. That`s been nice, right? There`s more polling.
And this will not tell you about who is going to win any next thing. But honestly, this new polling, this turns out to be fascinating. And I think it may actually end up being really useful information in terms of understanding what is about to happen next in our country.
And we have got this exclusively tonight. You are not going to get this anywhere else. But going through this new poll tonight from PPP, honestly, I feel like it knocked a few years off my life expectancy. This will curl your eyelashes a little bit.
Look at it. This is a national poll done by PPP. For me, this is kind of an a-ha moment. This makes some previously sort of inexplicable stuff make sense.
OK, here it is. Put up that thing that says we`ve got this thing exclusively that nobody else has. We`ve got this thing. Nobody else has this. Put up that thing.
All right. This is exclusive. You can`t get this anywhere else.
And they start with some basic questions. They ask the country, do you like Donald Trump? And the country`s answer is no. No. Fifty-one percent of the country views Donald Trump unfavorably, 51 percent unfavorable to 43 percent favorable. That`s if you ask the whole country do you like Trump.
But if you ask Donald Trump voters, yeah, Donald Trump voters love Donald Trump, obviously, 87 percent favorable. They love him.
But now look at this. Again, ask the whole country. Do you like Barack Obama? The country`s answer to that is yes, we do like Barack Obama. 50 percent favorable rating overall for Barack Obama, 45 percent unfavorable. That`s for the whole country.
But if you just ask Trump voters, do you like Barack Obama, the answer is capital N, capital O with a swear word before and after it. Look at that. Among Trump voters, Barack Obama has a 5 percent approval rating.
And, you know, Republicans have always hated President Obama, but the hatred for President Obama among Trump voters is even stronger than it is among Republicans more broadly. You ask Republican voters that same question, they give President Obama a 9 percent approval rating. And that`s still low, but that`s almost double the proportion of Trump voters who like him.
So, yes, we do have a partisan split in this country and Democrats and Republicans see things differently, blah, blah, blah. But there`s something a little special going on with Trump voters and this is where it starts to get really hairy because -- all right, look at this.
This is a snapshot of real life. See that blue line there? It`s faint. But you see that blue line there? That`s real life. That`s the performance of the stock market under Barack Obama as president. This is the Dow Jones Industrial Average when he took office the Dow was at just under 8,000 points. Today it closed at 19,615 points.
So, the stock market since Barack Obama has been president has risen by almost 12,000 points. It is considerably more than doubled since he`s been president. But if you ask Donald Trump voters about this, 39 percent of Donald Trump voters say that the stock market has dropped since Barack Obama has been in office, which is crazy. It`s way more than doubled. You guys think it`s dropped, the stock market?
Here`s another one that`s even more astonishing. This is, again, we`ll start with the snapshot of real life. This is the unemployment rate over the time that Barack Obama has been in office as president. And unemployment, it always flops around a little bit. It has little seasonal zigzags. But this is a clear picture.
There`s only one way to describe what has happened overall to unemployment in America since Barack Obama has been president. And if you ask America about that, America knows this is what has happened to unemployment under Barack Obama.
If you, in this new national poll, if you ask Hillary Clinton voters, they understand this. Unemployment rates under President Obama have dropped. You ask Gary Johnson voters, they understand this. Unemployment rates under Barack Obama have dropped. You ask Jill stein voters, they get it. You ask people who voted for someone other than Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Jill Stein, or Gary Johnson, like people who voted for vermin supreme, you ask people who voted for other, even they freaking know this.
Everybody knows that unemployment has dropped under Barack Obama but not Donald Trump voters and not by a mile. Look at that. By a 47-point margin. Donald Trump voters, look at that graph on the right and say, yes, unemployment has gone up under President Obama by a 47-point margin.
The whole country gets that. But look at that among Trump voters. That`s insane. That`s plainly wrong.
And this is not even one of the things that`s widely misunderstood among the American people and Trump voters seem to be more confused than other people. No, everybody gets this, but Trump voters don`t by a huge margin. They`re in a fantasy world about this. They do not know what is true when you ask them about this issue even though the rest of the country does know what`s true.
And that`s what I think is really important and interesting about this poll. I know it`s a poll after an election. But I feel like this is an important bit of data. This is not predicting any election result here. There`s no reason to go to the bank in terms of who is going to win something of any kind.
But just take a peek into the mind of Trump voters, of Trump voters nationwide, from this new data that we`ve got exclusively tonight, 40 percent of Trump voters believe that Donald Trump won the popular vote. Donald Trump did not win the popular vote.
Donald Trump voters by a huge margin, 60 percent of them, believe that millions of people voted illegally for Hillary Clinton in the presidential election. Millions of people did not vote illegally for Hillary Clinton in the presidential election. Donald Trump voters, by a huge margin, huge margin, 73-6, Donald Trump voters believe that George Soros is paying people to protest against Donald Trump. George Soros is not paying people to protest against Donald Trump but 73 percent of Trump voters believe that he is and only 6 percent say that is not true.
Again, let me reiterate. That is not true. He`s not paying people to protest against Trump but among Trump supporters it`s an absolute article of faith.
Here`s a weird one. Nearly a third of Donald Trump voters, 29 percent of Trump voters say they do not think that votes from the state of California should be included in the national popular vote. What`s that about? The logical follow-up to that is asking Trump voters whether or not they think California should be forced out of the country, right? Or are they saying that California should stay in the country, it should still be seen as part of the United States of America, but maybe California still just shouldn`t have its votes counted.
I mean, honestly? You shouldn`t count California`s votes as part of the national vote total? I don`t know. Maybe that is what they want. This is strange stuff.
But again this is exclusive to us. PPP is going to release this national poll tomorrow. We`ve got this exclusive first look at it tonight. And I think it shows that even after the election, what Trump voters believe about the world is distinctively different from what the rest of the country believes and from what is true.
And this alternate reality that they`re in, it is weird enough and specific enough that you can`t say it just springs from broader misunderstandings or from, you know, a broader ignorance on the issues that afflicts the country. This is a specific alternate reality that was created by the Trump movement for a political purpose. And so, now, as the Trump administration takes shape, they have to know that they`re in power thanks to their voter base that has these false beliefs about the country. False beliefs about the country and false beliefs about the economy and false beliefs about the outgoing president and false beliefs about what California is.
So, in terms of what happens next in our country, it seems important to know that the incoming president basically created this fantasy life for his supporters and as he sets about figuring out how he`s going to govern as president, he`s got to know that this mind-set among his supporters is what he has to work with. And in terms of what that will mean for how he will govern and how he will behave as president, there`s one last finding from this poll tonight that we have exclusively.
And I want to show you tonight this one last thing. I think this might give us an important preview, an important reality check, as it were, of what to expect from the new president. And it`s this question from the poll. It`s question number ten. Quote, "Do you think Donald Trump should release his tax returns or not?"
Now, when you ask the country that question, the country responds yes! Yes, we do. Donald Trump should release his tax returns, by a 30-point margin. When you ask the country that. 59-29, the country says Donald Trump should release his tax returns.
But look at how that breaks down. Hillary Clinton voters very clearly want him to release his tax returns. Gary Johnson voters want him to release his tax returns. Jill Stein voters want him to release his tax returns. People who voted for none of these. People who voted for vermin supreme or your mama or deez nuts or whatever, those people all want to release his tax returns.
But if you ask Donald Trump supporters, the answer is no, he should not release his tax returns. By a 36-point margin, Trump voters say no way should President-elect Trump release his tax returns. And that`s important, right? That`s kind of an aha moment, because I think the beltway common wisdom on this issue, the beltway common wisdom is sort of looking at the country as a whole and oh, yes, people want him to release his tax returns.
The beltway common wisdom about the corruption issue with this incoming president, corruption worries about the incoming administration and the incoming president in particular, the beltway common wisdom about this unprecedented thing where we do not know what his financial holdings are, we do not know if his proposed tax policies are designed to benefit his family business and himself, we don`t know. We don`t know what his ongoing business relationships and his pending deals are, so we don`t know if he`s taking official actions in the name of the United States of America that are actually motivated by a desire to get a financial benefit for his family or himself.
The beltway common wisdom about the snowballing concerns about his ongoing business deals and what appears in several instances to be him already trying to personally profit off the presidency, the beltway`s take on all of that is that, hmm, that`s going to create a political problem for him. That`s a really embarrassing thing to be caught doing. There will be so much political pressure on him to not do those unseemly things eventually he`ll have to stop those things. That`s the common wisdom.
But look at those numbers. Those are the people that put him in the White House. His supporters by a very large margin don`t even want to know what his financial ties are, which is the only way to know if he`s taking actions as president that are designed to line his own pockets. They don`t want to know! And he knows that.
That 36-point margin among his own supporters, that`s his cushion. That`s what he can throw up at the beltway common wisdom and say, oh, yes, you think I`m feeling pressure. When he looks at that number, do you think he feels any pressure whatsoever to dial it back a little bit on continuing to make money off his name and his position and his celebrity now that he`s in the White House, you think he looks at that number, you think he looks at what his voters believe and thinks, hmm, I`m going to face a lot of pressure on this. Better do the right thing.
MADDOW: Variety.com was the first to report tonight that we`re in unprecedented position as a country once again. The news tonight is that our president-elect has a new TV show coming out. He apparently will be credited as an executive producer on the new series of the "Celebrity Apprentice" which is apparently coming out in January and will star Arnold Schwarzenegger. But it will be brought to you by the president of the United States, Donald Trump.
Remember when he said a week and a half ago to great fanfare, right, and all these news organizations everywhere writing it down like it was true, remember when he said nine days ago or something, that he`d be leaving his great business in total? It`s not even a week and a half later and now we`ve got the news that, well, maybe he`s leaving it in total but he is in the meantime launching a new TV show the same month he`s going to be sworn in as president, and he`ll get an on screen credit and presumably he`ll get paid because he`s an executive producer of the show. He`s retained his ownership and he`s involved in producing the new for-profit.
Today, we also learned that the Republican National Committee is giving the president-elect a very nice Christmas present. Did you ever get a Christmas present from like a favorite aunt or from your grandma or something and it was like a card that was designed with either a little slot in it or a little embedded envelope and there would be like five bucks in it? And you`d be like, oh, grandma just got me a card. You`d open it up. No, grandma got me money!
Now, it turns out the RNC is giving the president-elect money for Christmas this year. Money always fits, never gets returned. The RNC announced today that they will be holding their annual holiday party at Donald Trump`s hotel. He, of course, remains the majority owner of the hotel so, you know, profits made by the hotel end up going to him. So, you book an expensive room at his hotel, you`re putting money in his pocket.
We`re seeing a lot of this. The conservative group the Heritage Foundation just spent a gazillion dollars to hold a big gala at the Trump Hotel this week. The vice president-elect just spoke at that event. That again will be more money that goes to the president-elect personally as the majority owner of this business.
It`s not just American organizations. Foreign governments are doing this too. The government of Azerbaijan will be spending a ton of money to host a holiday gathering at the big Trump Hotel in D.C. next week. That follows a very successful Trump Hotel gathering by the kingdom of Bahrain, which we reported on last week. That event has now happened. Bahrain National Day celebration took place in the presidential ball room or some such thing of the Trump Hotel.
Only downside apparently of that great and very successful event is that the investigative reporting team from ABC News showed up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Just down the street from the White House the president-elect`s new luxury hotel seems to be the new in spot, the place for foreign governments and special interests to show loyalty to Donald Trump. Today, the kingdom of Bahrain rented out the presidential ballroom at an estimated cost around $100,000 to celebrate its national holiday. So, we showed up to ask why here.
(INAUDIBLE) because Donald Trump is the president-elect?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have no comments.
REPORTER: Outside today, as Bahrain diplomats left, they still weren`t talking.
You want to say anything at all?
As security men blocked our cameras.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Brian, President-elect Trump has promised to cut ties with his business when he takes office. We`re going to hear from him on this in the coming days?
REPORTER: That`s right. Some time next week, David. He said he`s leaving his business to focus fully on running the country, but of course as long as he continues to own his company, every dollar profit this hotel makes goes into his pocket.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: This is not an esoteric thing, right? This is not like a complicated business rules thing that`s hard to grasp.
As long as he continues to own properties around the world, as long as he continues to own his business now that he`s president-elect, all sorts of people will spend money at his businesses, will spend money on his business that they wouldn`t otherwise have spent on his business because they want a way to give him money. They want to give the president money. They want the president to know that they have given him money because they want to try to affect his actions as president. It`s very simple. It`s as simple as that. It`s true regardless of all of the nonsense and all of the ink spilled about which of his children is running the business that he still owns.
I feel like finally today we did get to a breakthrough moment with the press on this very, very simple issue. "The New York Times" finally put out a genius headline on this which said it exactly the right way, that did not continue to make this blurrier than it needs to be, that didn`t follow the Trump spin like so much of the news coverage on this issue has.
This was the front page of "The New York Times" today. Trump is said to be intending to keep stake in his business. Right. Keeping a stake in his business, and it`s as straightforward as that.
He`s planning on, reportedly, being president and making money for his business and himself simultaneously. Whether or not he hands it to his kids doesn`t matter if he`s still got a stake in his business. As "The Times" notes today even some, quote, "on the transition team have privately expressed concern over how foreign and domestic interests could seek to curry influence with the president by doing business with his adult children."
Doing business with his adult children that ultimately accrues to Mr. Trump`s financial benefit. Right.
In a normal world, this is an almost unimaginable corruption scandal. This is something that you know happens in other countries but you can`t imagine it happening here. But you know what? The politics of this are we now have the data. Trump voters just don`t care.
That said, we also know from the date that tonight that we got from this new poll that Trump voters think that down is up and up is down and California is not part of the country. So what happens next here? What`s the intersection of politics, real politics and the law?
Joining us now is Jo Becker, investigative reporter for "The New York Times." She also won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for her reporting on Vice President Dick Cheney while she was at "The Washington Post."
Ms. Becker, it`s real pleasure to have you here. Thank you.
JO BECKER, NEW YORK TIMES INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: So, Mr. Trump`s transition team, you`re able to report, is expressing some worry that money spent at the Trump businesses which ultimately will go down to him if he keeps a stake will effectively be people -- I mean, can you say trying to pay a bribe, trying to curry favor with the administration? They`re worried about this --
BECKER: I think that there is concern, sure. There was -- if you read Mr. Trump`s tweet where he said he was going to leave his business in total, one could be forgiven for thinking that there was a dramatic announcement in the offing coming next week, in December 15th as he said, you know, as a date that he`s going to explain how this is all going to work.
And what we found out was the plan doesn`t actually change all that much. Mr. Trump intends at the moment to retain his financial stake in his business. Now, they`re going to set up some kind of a legal structure undefined to somehow separate him.
How is that going to work? He knows what his assets are. Foreign governments know what his assets are. I mean, typically presidents put -- wealthy presidents have liquidated their assets. They put it in a blind trust, they let someone manage it. They don`t even know what it`s invested in, so that when they`re making decisions, you know, they don`t even know if it`s --
MADDOW: The only way to ensure that a president in that circumstance can`t make a corrupt decision.
BECKER: And the Office of Government Ethics went on this very unusual tweet storm saying exactly that last week that that is the only path for Mr. Trump. Mr. Trump is apparently rejecting that path. I`ve been told that he`s concerned about the tax implications.
MADDOW: He`s going to lose money.
BECKER: Well, he`ll have to pay capital gains if he sells. And you can defer that, but that`s -- you know, that is said to be motivating his concern. Now, he has -- Ivanka Trump is going to step aside from Trump Organizations --
MADDOW: This is new reporting today. We haven`t heard this before. We previously thought that he was maybe going to have all thee adult children in the business. But you`re saying that it would be the sons running the business.
BECKER: The two sons will run the business and how you will wall that off? Like nobody will talk about that at family dinners? Or you know -- I`m not sure. We`ll have to hear from them next week about exactly what they intend.
But Ivanka Trump is going to step aside and it`s unclear whether she, too, is going to retain her ownership stake, but that is because her husband is trying to clear a path for an official role at the White House, our sources are telling us.
MADDOW: But stepping -- but to be clear and to get to the nature of my praise for the Trump headline for your piece today -- "The New York Times" headline today, stepping aside means getting out of an operational role in the business. If she retains her stake in the business and if he retains the stake in the business, the stepping aside stuff is basically immaterial from an ethical point of view?
BECKER: Well, we talked to Jan Baron who said this will be a four-year ethical challenge. I mean, legally, there`s nothing in the law that says he has to sell his stake. But other presidents have when they`ve had significant wealth. They`ve gotten -- they put everything into blind trust.
And there are legal issues -- I mean, real legal issues. Nothing says he has to do it, but, you know, there are bribery statutes. There is a clause in the Constitution that says you can`t take gifts from foreign governments.
Now, how is that going to work? Let`s say a hotel, they want to open up a new hotel somewhere. Let`s say a state bank wants to give them the financing. Let`s say the financing is at x and so rate, there`s going to be questions about is that a gift? What about if they want to extend the period of the loan? They want to roll the loan?
All of this is going to be a question. And I find it really interesting. I did a lot of the reporting on the Clinton Foundation, a lot of the investigative reporting. It`s all the same questions except that in this case, you`re talking about a for-profit business. I mean --
MADDOW: Going to the principal.
BECKER: They did have some charitable endeavors. Here you`re talking about a for-profit business. We`re going to see the same kind of questions over and over again in every instance of people`s, you know, throwing parties at hotels as you were showing earlier. This is just -- I don`t see how they get around this for four years. It`s going to be a constant thing that dogs them.
MADDOW: Part of the way they may get around it is by having absolutely no embarrassment about it whatsoever and having political backing for it. But the way it gets maybe litigated or prosecuted in other ways is going to be really interesting question.
Jo Becker, investigative reporter for "The New York Times" -- I really appreciate you coming in to talk to us about this.
MADDOW: Thank you. Nice to meet you.
BECKER: You too.
MADDOW: We`ve got much more to come tonight. Please stay with us.
MADDOW: There`s very rarely an imperative at this job, in my job, to use half naked photos. With one or two notable exceptions, politics is usually a keep your clothes on in public kind of sport. But tonight, we have to go full cheesecake because that`s where the news has gone.
I`m apologizing in advance. We have no choice. Please take this next commercial break to hide the babies.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: This is interesting. December 1980, so a month or so after winning the presidency in November, president-elect Ronald Reagan announced his nomination for secretary of labor. He announced a New Jersey construction executive named Ray Donovan would be his labor secretary.
Donovan was announced on the same day as Reagan`s choice for secretary of state, Alexander Haig, and at the time Alexander Haig got all the headlines. He was seen as a controversial pick. So, Raymond Donovan was kind of an afterthought. He didn`t really get much mention. The day he was nominated to run the Labor Department under Reagan, "The Washington Post" just reported Donovan as, quote, "unknown to most labor leaders."
He did not stay unknown for long, though, because a month later, a month after he got named at his confirmation hearings, he just got raked over the coals in the Senate about his alleged ties to organized crime and it turned out that was just the beginning. He did get confirmed but toward the end of Reagan`s first term, he got indicted on fraud charges. He became the first cabinet secretary ever indicted while in office. And that led to his resignation in 1985.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Donovan went to the White House to submit his resignation to President Reagan shortly after noon. Later, talking on the White House lawn, the president once again endorsed Donovan.
REPORTER: What are your feelings about him?
RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I still have faith and confidence in Ray Donovan.
REPORTER: Donovan`s lawyer said he quit voluntarily.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To my knowledge, there was no pressure whatsoever at any time by anyone.
REPORTER: Donovan`s four years in the cabinet have been controversial. Questions about organized crime raised at his confirmation hearings. A special prosecutor`s investigation which cleared him twice, finally the fraud charges last fall, giving Donovan a dubious place in history as the first cabinet member ever indicted while in office.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: First cabinet member ever indicted while in office. Two years after the indictment, after he quit the Reagan administration, Ray Donovan was acquitted at trial. But that was the last time somebody with zero government experience was ever put in that particular cabinet job. That was the last time. Before today, when the president-elect announced that a fast food executive named Andrew Puzder will be his choice for that job for labor secretary.
Mr. Puzder runs Carl`s Jr. He has no government experience but he and his wife did donate several hundred thousand dollars to elect Donald Trump president.
In terms of his labor views, he`s been vocally opposed to getting -- having more workers be eligible to get overtime pay, which is a key policy of the Obama administration. He`s also against raising the minimum wage. He aggressively wants to get rid of all of Obamacare. And interestingly, he`s also a fan -- where you can do it -- of getting rid of employees altogether.
Earlier this year, he did a business profile about the prospects for automating many of the jobs in his fast food restaurants. He waxed rhapsodic about how great it would be if he could just have robot workers instead of humans. He said, quote, about robots, quote, "They`re always polite, they always upsell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, and there`s never a slip and fall or an age, sex or race discrimination case."
So, if the Carl`s Jr. CEO had his way, all burgers in the United States would be made like this. Look, ma, no hands. Because no people.
So, he doesn`t like overtime, doesn`t like Obamacare, doesn`t like the minimum wage, and he doesn`t mind his minimum wage and low wage employees all that much but he would mind them less if they were no-wage employees who were made of metal.
Interesting choice for labor secretary. But there`s one use for human beings at his business that`s he`s very gung-ho about and famous for and it`s these particular humans. This is the aforementioned cheesecake that I warned you about.
The one thing Carl`s Jr. CEO is famous for beyond anything else, what he`s most famous for outside the business press is what he did to Carl`s Jr.`s public image. He`s the one that oversaw Carl`s Jr. turning its ad campaign into this decade-long series of skinny ladies not wearing much clothing, if any, making something approaching love with food. This is what Carl`s Jr.`s ads became under him.
Our nation`s could be next labor secretary has explained his philosophy around this ad campaign saying it`s the only ad campaign in our nation that reflects the personality of the company`s CEO, namely him. He also explains that very simply, quote, "I like beautiful women eating burgers in bikinis. I think it`s very American."
Carl`s Jr. CEO was asked right before the election whether he wanted a job in the Trump administration after he became a very outspoken Trump donor and Trump surrogate. He replied when he was asked, quote, "I think it could be the most fun you could have with your clothes on to be in this cabinet."
So, that`s what we knew, what we sort of thought we knew about the guy who has now been picked to be the next U.S. secretary of labor. But now that he`s been picked to be the next U.S. secretary of labor, now there`s this other thing from his past that has come up that will probably require an explanation. And that`s next.
MADDOW: Before he became a fast food mogul, the CEO of Carl`s Jr., who is now Donald Trump`s pick to be the next labor secretary for the United States of America, he spent many years as a crusading anti-abortion lawyer in Missouri. He was sort of a high profile figure on the anti-abortion issue.
And today, once he was named as a choice for the new cabinet in the new administration, one local Missouri paper who remembered him from his activist days, they went digging in their archives for any stories they might have run about Andrew Puzder`s time in their state.
Turns out this was the front page of the "Riverfront Times" in St. Louis, Missouri, on July 26, 1989. I`m just going to quote to you from what they published at the time. Quote, "One of the key people picked by Governor John Ashcroft to craft Missouri`s next anti-abortion statute was accused of physical abuse by his ex-wife in their divorce case. That`s according to documents filed in St. Louis County Circuit Court. Among the items in the public record, Puzder`s ex-wife alleged that he hit her and threw her to the kitchen floor and then unplugged the phone when she tried to call police for help during an altercation in 1986."
Puzder in a deposition denied using physical violence and said that his wife was yelling and coming at him so he grabbed her by the shoulders and pushed her back to prevent her from hurting herself. Puzder said that his wife ended up on the floor. I don`t know if her foot caught or what happened, but she went down on her back and stayed down on the ground.
Puzder acknowledges that police responded to that altercation. His ex-wife sought a protective order against Puzder alleging that he, quote, "attacked me, choked me, threw me to the floor, hit me in the head, pushed his knee into my chest, twisted my arm, dragged me on the floor, threw me against the wall, tried to stop my call to 911 and kicked me in the back."
Puzder told "The Riverfront Times", quote, "There was no physical abuse at any point in time."
In his deposition he called his ex-wife`s allegations about abuse, quote, "baseless".
Now that he`s the nation`s nominee to be secretary of labor confronted with this material, Andrew Puzder told a reporter at the time, we should tell you what he said at the time, quote, "This is what normally happens in divorce cases. You`re blowing it out of proportion."
In terms of what happens now, I mean, whether or not he still thinks it`s being blown out of proportion, which is what he said back in the day, honestly, it`s not every day that a proposed cabinet secretary has been accused on the record multiple times of domestic abuse and has been subject to protective orders to prevent domestic abuse. So, the questions about these things aren`t going to go away because he deflected questions about them when they happened in years past.
We contacted the Trump transition office tonight to get a comment from them on this history of allegations against the new pick for labor secretary. We have not yet heard back from the Trump transition office in terms of that request for comment.
But I should also tell you that the "St. Louis Post Dispatch", they report tonight that they`ve heard from a spokesman for the labor secretary designee. They`ve heard from a spokesman for the Carl`s Jr. CEO, and what the spokesman has provided "The St. Louis Post Dispatch" is what he says is a copy of an e-mail that was sent to the Carl`s Jr. CEO by his ex-wife dated a week ago.
Nobody has confirmed this. We just got what the spokesman says it is, but what it says is, quote, "I impulsively filed for a divorce without your knowledge and was counseled then to file an allegation of abuse. I regretted and still regret that decision and I withdrew those allegations over 30 years ago. You were not abusive. I will most definitely confirm to anyone who may ask that in no way was there abuse."
"Post Dispatch" reports that although they got that from the Carl`s Jr. CEO spokesman, they say that they were not able to reach his ex-wife directly. They just got what is supposedly this e-mail from her.
But again, we`ve just learned of these allegations today, the day that he was announced as the nominee to be the nation`s next secretary of labor. We`ll update you as soon as we hear back from the Trump transition team. We`ll update you as we learn more. Let us know.
MADDOW: Every so often we have a guest on this show who really connects, who makes a big impact. And we can tell that because you guys out there let us know by all the means by which you have to get in touch with us.
Well, we`ve got a return visit from the last guest that we had that really caused our viewers to react, to e-mail us and tweet us and write to us like crazy. We had her on this show and the response we got was unbelievable, we just had a huge response.
Well, tonight, she`s coming back to the show. She has just returned from Washington, D.C., and what happened to her in Washington, D.C., is unsettling and personally frightening and it`s a pretty incredible story about what happened while she was there. These are not the circumstances under which I expected to have her back here, but she`s back here tonight. You`ll want to hear this. That`s next.
MADDOW: The week after the election, the first-ever, Somali-American legislator in the country came here to be a guest on this show. Her name was Ilhan Omar. She was born in Somalia. She and her family fled Somalia when she was a child.
For a time, she lived in a refugee camp. But then she was able to come to this country, she has thrived in this country. She`s a U.S. citizen. She`s now an elected official.
And because she made history in this election as a Somali-American, as a Muslim American, as a new state representative in Minnesota, Ilhan Omar really has become a symbol of hope for a lot of people. She`s a real trailblazer.
You might remember two days before the election, Donald Trump made a point of traveling to Minnesota, to Minneapolis, and while he was there whipped up fear and anger about Somali Americans who live in Minneapolis.
I should note Donald Trump did not win the state of Minnesota. And I think in part by that visit by Trump, it was inspiring when they sent their Somali-American candidate to the statehouse. Ilhan Omar won her seat.
Well, this past week as a newly-elected state rep, Ilhan Omar was invited to the White House as part of a strategic planning session for lawmakers to help prepare for their political lives particularly now in the era of President Donald Trump. And that trip to the White House included a session with President Obama`s senior adviser, Valerie Jarrett. It also included things like selfies with New Jersey Senator Cory Booker.
But when all that fun was done on Tuesday, two nights ago, Representative Omar jumped in her cab to make her way from the White House back to her hotel where she was staying in D.C.
And this is how she describes what happened on that ride. Quote, "I spent yesterday afternoon at the White House, learning about policy ideas states could implement in the areas I`m passionate about. On the way to the hotel, I got in a cab and became subjected do the most hateful, derogatory, Islamophobic, sexist taunts and threats I have ever experienced. The cab driver called me ISIS and threatened to remove my hijab.
I wasn`t really sure how this encounter would end. I attempted to rush out of my cab and retrieve my belongings. I am still shaken by this incident. I can`t wrap my head around how bold people are becoming in displaying their hate toward Muslims. I pray for his humanity and for all those who harbor hate in their hearts."
Joining us now under circumstances that I did not expect is Ilhan Omar, the first elected Somali-American legislator in the United States.
Representative-elect Omar, it`s really nice to have you with us again. I`m sorry about the circumstances.
ILHAN OMAR, FIRST SOMALI-AMERICAN FEMALE LEGISLATOR: Thank you, Rachel. I`m sorry about it as well. I didn`t know that my trip or my reflection on Facebook would draw this much attention, so I`m a little overwhelmed about how it`s been received.
MADDOW: Well, is it, how do you feel about it? Was it a legitimately scary situation? Was it just a surprising situation? Did you feel like there was a real threat to your safety?
OMAR: I mean, I think in the way that the event transformed itself was, was what was scary for me. You know, there are many people who have scarier interactions than I have had, but it was a very unexpected turn of events and so I didn`t really know how to behave and act in that situation.
On Tuesday, I got an opportunity to end the three days I was in D.C. for a sixth conference for state innovators with an invite to the White House to attend two briefing sessions on the criminal justice reform and middle class economics. And when I left, I went back to the hotel where the conference was happening to transition into another hotel where I would stay for a day and a half to attend some other meetings I had scheduled.
And on this cab ride that I got from the hotel where the conference was, my sister and I were in that ride going to that hotel we would say. And this gentleman was on his phone, he didn`t interact with us, and I was playing and fidgeting on my phone. And the area that we were traveling through didn`t seem familiar to me, and I am from Arlington, Virginia, and have been in D.C. quite a lot.
And so, I attempted to look through my phone to see if the direction we were heading was to the hotel, because when you`re in, in a cab, you don`t know if you`re going to make it, sometimes, to your destination in, in the fashion that you want to make it to.
So, when we got to the hotel, it was, it`s the, it`s inside of a Deaf University.
OMAR: -- in D.C. And when you`re entering, there`s two ways that you can turn. One takes you all the way around the hotel. And one gives, you know, takes you, just like a short turn and then you`re right at the entrance to the hotel.
And so, you know, having stayed at that hotel many times, I, you know, turned to the cabdriver who was on the phone and said, sir, if you turn this way, it is where the entrance door is, and if you go the other way, you`ll take us around the university, and he said, "You shut up".
OMAR: And I thought that he must be saying that to the person he was on the phone with, you know. And so, I said, "Excuse me, are you talking to me?" And he said, "Yes. What do you think I would want to chauffeur around filthy people like you?"
And the gentleman was a man from Africa. So, he had, you know, an African accent. Just like many of my family members, and I said to him, "I don`t know how to respond to you. You know, I`m in your cab. And that`s not how you treat customers."
And then he went on to say some words that I can`t repeat. And then I reminded him that in our African custom, a man who is older than me is supposed to treat me with respect, and I am supposed to treat him with respect, because I could be the age of his daughter, and he said, "I don`t have disgusting children like you."
And by that time, we had arrived at the hotel. He went the longer route. And once we arrived, I gave him my credit card, because I was like shaken. And he said, "You get the F out of my car." And I was like, "I would like to pay for the service and get a receipt so that I can, you know, know that this, this transaction did take place just in case something happened." My phone had died. I would have, you know, recorded the incident or have taken proactive actions, but I couldn`t at the moment.
And so, I made my sister got out of the taxi, she`s afraid, but I stayed in to get my receipt, and I, he gave me the receipt and opened the trunk. We tried to get our stuff out, and as we, you know, are getting our things out, he said, "I should remove your head scarf and see what you have hidden under it, you ISIS."
And it was just -- you know, I just stood there. And he got back in his car and he drove. And I just stood there for 20 seconds, maybe 30 seconds, just frozen. And I walked into the hotel and when the cashier, the hotel attendant said hello to us, I said, you know, she said, "Are you OK?" And I said, "No, I`ve, for the first time been called ISIS."
And I don`t, you know what I mean, I don`t, I remember just looking down at myself. And trying to think of why somebody would turn on us that way and how that interaction would take place. And it was a really bizarre and frightening and confusing situation.
MADDOW: Ilhan, we`re hearing your story, you`re now a very high-profile Muslim American, and perhaps the most high profile Somali-American lawmaker in the United States. We are hearing it in increase of hate crimes that we found in the country.
I have to go now because we are out of time, which I am sorry about. But I also just want to say I`m sorry for what you went through, and I want to thank you for talking about it publicly rather than enduring this as a private thing, because in your position, being able to talk about it is going to open a lot of people`s eyes. I`m sorry that it happened, and I`m thankful for you being here.
OMAR: Thank you so much.
Ilhan Omar is the first elected Somali-American lawmaker anywhere in the United States, that happened to her as she was leaving the White House this week in Washington, D.C.
That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Good evening, Lawrence.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END