Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: December 11, 2017 Guest: Kyle Whitmire
FORMER REP. DAVID JOLLY (R), FLORIDA: Listen, the term gaslighting has been talked a lot. You know, the idea that Donald Trump is able to create this alternate reality and convince people that only his reality is true and it starts with the foundational principle of lying, of blatant lies, exaggerations, huge lies. That is what he`s engaging in right now attacking Bob Mueller and it is also that when charges come down, should they come down, his final closing argument will be you can`t believe Bob Mueller, he`s not credible.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, ALL IN: All right. Sam Seder and David Jolly, thank you both.
That is "ALL IN" for this evening.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: I am indebted to you, my friend. Thank you very much
HAYES: Hey, anytime, I always feel good as opposed to guilty if I`m going over as a collegial act to difference, you know?
MADDOW: I really need Chris to take 29 more seconds and then you just gift them to me. I really appreciate it.
HAYES: Whatever you need.
MADDOW: Thank you.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Much appreciated.
All right. It`s been a lot of news today, and there`s been sort of two big political stories that have been happening simultaneously, and then one story that is totally off of politics but has riveted the nation`s largest city and to a certain extent the country. New York City was the target of a terrorist attack today for the third time in 15 months.
September of last year, it was I pressure cooker bomb that detonated in the Chelsea neighborhood in Manhattan, which is on the west side of the city, north of Greenwich Village but south of midtown. That was September last year. Then, Halloween this year, it was a guy driving a truck down the west side bike path in Lower Manhattan, deliberately hitting cyclists and pedestrians.
Now, today it was a 27-year-old would-be suicide bomber who appears to have affixed some kind of homemade explosive device to his torso. He was apparently trying to blow up the pedestrian passageway between the Times Square subway station and the Port Authority bus terminal. He ended up injuring himself.
Three other people were injured, although New York police are describing those thankfully as minor injuries. And New Yorkers are as resilient as you can possibly imagine, but three al Qaeda or ISIS-inspired attacks in the space of 15 months, all of which managed to kill or injure innocent bystanders, it`s getting to be enough to rattle even a big tough city like New York.
Now, in terms of this attack today underground at "Times Square", the suspect is in custody. He`s apparently been talking with investigators and he has reportedly told them that he was inspired by ISIS to carry out this attack. So, that was the inescapable news in the nation`s largest city today.
But the political world is focused quite intently on what is about to happen tomorrow in the great state of Alabama, where honestly nobody knows what is going to happen in that U.S. Senate race to replace Luther Strange. Luther Strange was an appointed senator who was installed in that seat in the Senate to finish out the term of long-time Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions who is now the nation`s attorney general. Luther Strange had the misfortune of being primaried by the Yosemite Sam of unreconstructed hard right Alabama Republican politics, Roy Moore.
Even though lots of people would love to tell you what is going to happen in this race tomorrow and why, I honestly would not put a bet on it either way. Special elections are notoriously hard to poll anyway, even in relatively normal races. This is not a normal race. And last-minute polls ahead of tomorrow`s balloting show either a big lead for Republican Roy Moore or a big lead for Democrat Doug Jones. Take your pick, demanding on the poll.
Honestly, there`s no use speculating at this point. We will know how it`s going to turn out by this time tomorrow. One thing you can know for sure in advance is that tomorrow`s result will all depend on turnout. But that`s just because it always depends on turnout.
Interesting late development, though, in terms of the relationship of that Alabama race to our national politics. The national Republican Party, as you know, recently decided to start supporting Roy Moore again after they had initially dropped him in the wake of allegations of child molestation against him.
Well, the party is now having a very hard time explaining how it came to that decision to start supporting Roy Moore again despite those allegations and despite the fact the allegations were initially enough to sever ties between the party and Roy Moore. But now on the eve of the election in the Republican Party`s effort to come up with a narrative explanation that makes it seem like it`s a good idea for the national Republican Party to be endorsing him and supporting him, while they`re trying now to come up with an explanation for why they changed their mind and reversed themselves on, that the party appears to have blundered into a big fight with someone on their own side who they really cannot afford to have a fight with on this issue.
So, it`s a bit of an uh-oh story for the National Republican Party on the eve of that election. It`s a late-breaking story in the Alabama Senate race. We`re going to have that for you ahead tonight in just a couple minutes.
The other big thing going on in national politics right now is a whole bunch of renewed political drama around the Russia investigation. Over the weekend and through the course of today and tonight it`s starting to feel like a switch has been flipped in the fight or flight circuit board that controls the conservative id on this story. Over the last several days into today and tonight, a pretty good portion of the American right has decided to declare that the new conservative crusade in America will be that former FBI director special counsel Robert Mueller should be fired. That`s the new crusade. Some switch somewhere flipped.
And now on the American right, we`re getting this deluge of increasingly excited calls to action that special counsel Robert Mueller must be fired. And if it takes shutting down the whole FBI to shut down the Russia investigation, then so be it and good riddance.
And it does almost feel like a coordinated messaging decision on the right. It`s everywhere from conservative op-ed writer in "USA Today", to "The Wall Street Journal" editorial page, which has been leaning in this direction for a while but they`re getting increasingly strident and insistent on this point.
The Fox News Channel, honestly, they`ve been spanking this tambourine for a while now, but as of this weekend and today, they are just really going for it, all of a sudden. I don`t know what flipped for the right that is causing this freak-out. But this fire Mueller freak-out on the right has led in turn to a whole bunch of ominous warnings from some very sober people about what this might portend, what this might be the preamble for in terms of action by the president.
Here`s Max Boot writing at "Foreign Policy" today. America is heading for an unprecedented constitutional crisis. The Republican Party is ready to serve as an accomplice to the obstruction of justice.
Here`s Jon Chait at "New York" magazine. Quote: The Mueller investigation is in mortal danger.
Here`s David graham at "The Atlantic." The partisan nihilist case against Robert Mueller.
Here`s the good and great E.J. Dionne at the "Washington Post." Quote, "The attacks on Mueller push us closer to the precipice.
So, over the past few days, everybody watching this story, everybody watching this investigation, left, right and center, appears to be feeling the same sort of tectonic shift, signifying what might be about to happen next. And I don`t know if the Mueller investigation is now so unnerving the White House that they are going to try to dismantle it or blow up that investigation somehow.
But if we do get to that kind of a crisis point, at least none of us will be able to say that we weren`t warned. Everybody`s throwing red flags over the possibility of firing Robert Mueller on both sides of the aisle right now.
We know that the president`s long-time close aide not just for this year at the White House but also in the campaign and the Trump organization before that Hope Hicks, long-time Donald Trump aide, has had a two-day-long interview with Mueller`s investigators on Thursday and Friday of last week.
"The New York Times" has also since reported that Hope Hicks was given at least two defensive briefings, both in the Situation Room at the White House, both from senior counterintelligence officers at the FBI, warning Hope Hicks about how many Russians were trying to contact her, as the Trump administration took office. Quote: American intelligence and law enforcement agencies became alarmed by introductory e-mails that Hope Hicks received from Russian government addresses in the weeks after Mr. Trump`s election.
After Trump took office, senior FBI counterintelligence agents met with Hope Hicks in the White House Situation Room at least twice. They gave her the names of the Russians who had contacted her and said that they were not who they claimed to be. The FBI was concerned that the e-mails to Hope Hicks may have been part of a Russian intelligence operation. The meetings with Hicks, what the FBI calls a defensive briefing, went beyond the standard security advice that senior White House officials routinely receive upon taking office. Defensive briefings are intended to warn government officials about specific concerns or risks.
So, after Hope Hicks had her two big days of interviews, testimony with the Mueller investigators Thursday and Friday, that was the reporting from "The New York Times" that followed.
Now, today NBC news has this scoop. Quote: Special counsel Robert Mueller is trying to piece together what happened inside the White House what happened over a critical 18-day period when administration officials were told that national security adviser Michael Flynn was susceptible to blackmail by Russia. The questions about what happened between January 26th and Flynn`s firing on February 13th appear to relate to possible obstruction of justice by President Donald Trump. Quote: Mueller is trying to determine why Flynn remained in his post for 18 days after Trump learned of Sally Yates`s warning about him.
Mueller appears to be interested in whether Trump directed Flynn to lie to senior officials, including Vice President Mike Pence, or if he directed Flynn to lie to the FBI and if so, why.
If Trump knew his national security adviser lied to the FBI in the early days of his administration, it would raise serious questions about why Flynn was not fired until February 13th and whether Trump was attempting to obstruct justice when FBI Director James Comey says the president pressured him to drop his Flynn investigation.
So, this is the new scoop from NBC News today. Really important story. And it`s important for -- and I`m not saying it`s important because it`s NBC News. Like, right? This is important for two reasons.
First this reporting would seem to confirm that obstruction of justice, including potentially by the president himself, is the focus of interviews that are being conducted now by Mueller`s investigators. And you know, it is one thing to sense that might be an area of interest for the investigation. It`s one thing to know amorphously that the president didn`t like the Russia investigation, that he tried to figure out ways to make it go away. It would be a much stickier wicket for the White House and the president personally if they`re put in the position of having to explain why the president of the United States kept this national security adviser in the White House for 18 days after he knew that the national security adviser had committed a serious crime, a crime for which Flynn has now pled guilty.
If the president knew, if the president was aware that Flynn had lied to the FBI and nevertheless kept him on staff as national security adviser, if the president was aware that Flynn had committed a crime and then he nevertheless tried to stop the FBI investigation into that crime, that is easy. That`s easy. That`s like the fifth-grade civics textbook explanation of obstruction of justice. And that will become very hard for even the most partisan and ardent admirers of the president to explain away.
So, on this first important point, the president`s potential culpability for obstruction of justice. NBC also makes one other factual point which I think the White House is going to have to sort out soon. Like I don`t know if they can sort it out in the next day or so, but I can`t imagine they can let this go that many more days before they just come up with something.
And that is that the White House refuses to answer, refuses to characterize in any way when the president first learned that Flynn had lied to the NBA. This is from NBC`s scoop today.
Quote, "Trump`s legal team and senior White House aides are refusing to say when and how the president first learned that Flynn had lied to the FBI. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has repeatedly referred questions to lawyer John Dowd about when Trump knew Flynn had lied to the FBI. John Dowd has declined multiple requests to answer that question.
So, the first reason this new NBC reporting is really important is the obstruction of justice issue. The president`s criminal culpability on that may all hinge on when the president knew that Flynn lied to the FBI. The White House will not characterize that information. The White House has no answer to that question. I mean, there is an answer empirically clearly in the world. There became a time when for some specific reason the president came to know that Mike Flynn had lied to the FBI. This is a knowable empirical thing. But they will not say anything. They will not characterize it.
Why not? And how long can that be left hanging in the breeze? You`re going to have to come up with some answer. It`s find-outable. Have you asked him?
Here`s the second big implication of this NBC story, and I will leave you with this. Mike Pence is in trouble. Now, it is possible that the vice president did nothing wrong, nothing criminal. But he really has been left out in the cold by the White House when it comes to the Michael Flynn story and Michael Flynn`s guilty plea. The White House is still telling a story about how and why and when Mike Flynn was fired, a story that all depends on this account by and about the vice president that is now disproven, that doesn`t make any sense.
And they are trying I guess to stick with this thing. But they really do need a new account now of how Michael Flynn was fired and why because the old one can no longer be operative. I mean, what had been their operative explanation for why Flynn was fired is that the White House was shocked, shocked to learn that Mike Flynn had lied to Vice President Mike Pence about his conversations with the Russian government. That`s their story, right?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Did you direct Mike Flynn to discuss sanctions with the Russian ambassador --
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, I didn`t.
REPORTER: -- prior to your inauguration?
TRUMP: No, I didn`t. Mike --
REPORTER: And would you have fired him if the information hadn`t leaked out?
TRUMP: Excuse me. No, I fired him because of what he said to Mike Pence. Very simple.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That is how the White House up to and including the president himself have explained the firing of national security adviser Mike Flynn. Fired him because he lied to Mike Pence. That story has now been disproven. That account cannot be true.
First of all, Mike Pence himself says he realized with shock, shock, on February 9th that he had been lied to by Mike Flynn about his contacts with Russia. The vice president says he realized with shock, realized that he`d been lied to by Mike Flynn when the "Washington Post" reported on February 9th that Flynn had in fact talked to Russia about sanctions.
If that news was literally news to President Trump and Vice President Pence and the White House and if that news was shocking and a clear firing offense for Mike Flynn, then why did they wait another four days to fire Mike Flynn? They didn`t fire him on February 9th. They fired him four days later, on February 13th.
But here`s the part that has fallen apart in an even more damning manner. Since Mike Flynn pled guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations with Russia, we have since learned that those conversations he had with Russia, those were not exactly a personal secret that he was only whispering about to his diary. Mike Flynn had phone and e-mail conversations with Trump transition officials about those calls while they were happening. We know that an e-mail discussing his talks with Russia about sanctions was sent to Trump adviser Tom Bossert, soon to be White House spokesman Sean Spicer, soon to be White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, soon to be White House looming specter Steve Bannon, and others.
In December, they all knew in December the details of Mike Flynn talking to Russia about sanctions. And then, thereafter, at least some of them started lying about that publicly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REINCE PRIEBUS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: The subject matter of sanctions or the actions taken by the Obama administration did not come up in the conversation.
SEAN SPICER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: They exchanged logistical information on how to initiate and schedule that call. That was it, plain and simple.
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They did not discuss anything having to do with the United States` decision to expel diplomats or impose censure against Russia. I can confirm that those elements were not part of that discussion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Those were all false statements. Sean Spicer and Reince Priebus, we now know, had been notified otherwise. Had been notified of the truth of the matter when they made those false public statements about Flynn and Russia. Why did they then lie about it publicly?
And when it came to the vice president, either he was lying too just like Sean Spicer and Reince Priebus were, which is possible. And that possibility shouldn`t be discounted. I think it`s fair to say that the vice president`s assertion that`s he was telling the truth on that matter as far as he knew, I think those assertions should no longer be taken at face value.
When it comes to the vice president, there are really only two options, and neither of them are the White House story about what happened. Either Mike Pence like Reince Priebus, like Sean Spicer, lied about Flynn and Russia, he knew the real story and he just told a fake story to the public, or he thought he was telling the truth.
But if he thought he was telling the truth, he wasn`t just lied to by Mike Flynn. He was lied to by Mike Flynn and KT McFarland and Tom Bossert and Steve Bannon and Sean Spicer and Reince Priebus, and who knows who else. All of whom were in on what Flynn had done with Russia. And all of whom stood by and let the vice president make all these false statements about it multiple times on national television, on different networks, with different interviewers over and over and over again, false statements.
I mean, the White House version of events here has fallen apart when it comes to the vice president. If lying to Mike Pence is such a shocking firing offense, then that ought to have been the reason to fire all of those people from the transition and from the White House. But it wasn`t. They say that was only a shocking firing offense for Mike Flynn.
That doesn`t make any sense. I mean, choose your own adventure here. Either Vice President Mike Pence is totally truthful and everyone lied to him while he was running the transition and all these people who answered to him, they all lied to him, they all allowed him to take public lies knowingly and for some reason he has never minded that at all, never bothered him.
Or the vice president told the same lies to cover up for Flynn that everybody else did too. In which case, why? Why did he do that? And why did all these other senior members of the White House staff all tell lies to cover up what Mike Flynn did when they knew otherwise?
Mike Flynn has now pled guilty to lying to the FBI, and he is cooperating with the Mueller investigation. The White House explanation for why Flynn was fired is that he had to be fired because he lied to the vice president. That explanation is plainly not true. And Robert Mueller`s investigators are now reportedly on that like lions on a gazelle.
This part of the White House explanation for its own behavior around Russia has never made sense from the very beginning. But now I at least finally have a sense that somebody`s going to figure out the real deal.
MADDOW: This past summer, when it was Michigan`s turn to cast their votes at the Republican National Convention, the actual word, the actual person speaking to the microphone, the announcement for Michigan came from the chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party. A proud, very proud niece of a former Republican presidential nominee.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RONNA ROMNEY MCDANIEL, RNC CHAIR: Secretary, my name is Ronna Romney McDaniel.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Ronna Romney McDaniel! Emphasis on the original.
After the election, Ronna Romney McDaniel went on to become head of the National Republican Party, but as we know that promotion came with a catch related to her name. According to "The Washington Post", before she took the reins at the RNC, President Trump came to her with a request. Would she be willing to stop using her middle name, please? And Ronna Romney McDaniel said yes.
To avoid giving Mitt Romney any free advertising in Trump`s new Republican Party, his niece would drop her name. She dropped the Romney, stopped using her full name on party communications on the official Republican Website, and in media appearances.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Joining us now to discuss is Ronna McDaniel, Republican national committee chairwoman.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ronna McDaniel, thank you very much.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ronna McDaniel.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ronna McDaniel.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ronna McDaniel.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ronna McDaniel, GOP chairwoman.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ronna McDaniel, thanks so much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Ronna Romney McDaniel, poof, now she`s got a new public name.
And now we know a name change for the party chair was not the only awkward Trump request for the Republican Party. Last month, after "The Washington Post" published allegations from four named women that Roy Moore had pursued sexual relationships with them when he was a grown man and they were teenagers as young as 14, the national Republican Party responded to that news a few days later by cutting off all its financial and then staff support for Roy Moore`s candidacy in Alabama. That principled stand from the RNC lasted all of 20 days.
About a week after Ronna Romney McDaniel was summoned to the White House, the party decided to jump head first back into that race to support Roy Moore. We know that decision happened after the RNC chairwoman was invited to the White House for a meeting. But who ultimately made that decision about getting back in bed with Roy Moore? On what basis did they make that decision? Does anybody want to own up to that and explain it?
Before now, we didn`t know. Nobody at the RNC was saying on the record about how the money for Roy Moore decision was reversed. But now, politico.com has a report that at a Republican fund-raising dinner last week when Ronna Romney McDaniel was confronted by a party donor who said she opposed this decision about Roy Moore, party chair Ronna McDaniel gave her explanation saying at this fund-raiser that she made the decision, quote, in agreement with the entire Alabama delegation in the House and Senate and the Alabama RNC delegation to help fund Moore`s campaign.
The entire Alabama delegation in the House and Senate wanted the RNC to start funding Roy Moore again? Really? That`s what you`re going with? Are you sure?
Because those are knowable people. And the senior U.S. senator from Alabama didn`t want you to do that. And the reason I know that is you can see and hear for yourself because he speaks for himself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RICHARD SHELBY (R), ALABAMA: There`s a time, we call it a tipping point, and I think so many accusations, so many cuts, so many drip, drip, drip, when it got to the 14-year-old story, that was enough for me. I said I can`t vote for Roy Moore.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The National Republican Party is explaining its decision to support Roy Moore by saying they started supporting Roy Moore again after the allegations because Senator Richard Shelby told them to.
That would not seem to be true. Today, we asked both the Republican Party and Senator Shelby`s office for comment. The party declined the opportunity to clarify chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel`s remarks.
But meanwhile, Senator Shelby`s office disputed her account vociferously telling us, quote, the senator did not play any role in the RNC`s decision. Despite the fact that the RNC says he did.
Joining now is Kyle Whitmire. He`s a political columnist for "The Alabama Media Group".
Mr. Whitmire, thank you very much for joining us. Nice to have you here.
KYLE WHITMIRE, POLITICAL COLUMNIST, THE ALABAMA MEDIA GROUP: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Let me ask you about the Richard Shelby factor. Obviously, he`s the senior senator in Alabama. A well-known figure, a name figure in the state for decades.
He has said he wouldn`t vote for Roy Moore. He`s now contesting the story from the RNC that he told them to get back in the race in support of Roy Moore. What do you think the Richard Shelby effect is going to be if anything?
WHITMIRE: I think it would have been more effective had he come out this strongly a couple of weeks ago before other state Republicans sort of retreated to, you know, the nearest corner before -- excuse me. I keep calling her Lieutenant Governor Kay Ivey. She`s now Governor Kay Ivey. But that`s another story.
Before, you know, she said that even though she believed these women, that she was going to vote for Roy Moore. But it can have an impact. I mean, don`t -- I`m not trying to dismiss that right now. And it is a pretty strong stand that he`s taking.
He went on television this weekend. He`s not really one for the Sunday talk shows. He went on TV with the purpose of -- I mean, let`s face it. He basically cut an ad for Doug Jones with his statements this weekend and gave a lot of Republicans here in Alabama license or permission to do the principles thing.
And, you know, even if they don`t want to vote for a Democrat, find someone, name anyone, maybe, I don`t know, Diane Bentley, someone like that, to write in as their candidate and not someone like Roy Moore.
MADDOW: You mentioned Diane Bentley, who is the now divorced ex-wife of the governor of Alabama who was felled by a sex scandal. That`s how Lieutenant Ivey went from lieutenant governor to being governor. That followed another scandal that took out the most powerful legislator in the state. Mike Hubbard who was turfed out of office after being convicted of multiple felony corruption accounts. And that, of course, followed Roy Moore being thrown off the bench as chief justice of Alabama not once but twice for defying federal court orders.
I mean, Alabama has had -- I mean, a trifecta is what you`re hoping for when you`re covering far away stories to make them seem relevant and scandalous and interesting. Alabama has been suffering under scandal trifectas upon trifectas for a long time now. That state-based history of so many things going wrong in the Republican Party at the highest levels, does that affect the way people are feeling about this vote tomorrow, do you think?
WHITMIRE: I think it certainly affected the GOP primary. I mean, every Alabama scandal seems to connect in a very tangential way to the one that came before it. Remember, the reason why Luther Strange lost the GOP primary was because Alabamians were mad at him because he solicited his appointment to the U.S. Senate from a governor he was supposed to be investigating.
I think there`s fatigue, though. And I think that there are a lot of voters out there who have just been worn down by one scandal after another after another, and Doug Jones has an opportunity right now to leverage that and take advantage of that.
I think just tonight, he has in his final rally Charles Barkley of all people speaking and basically telling the crowd, Alabama, we`ve got to quit doing stupid stuff here and put someone in office that we can be proud of. And, you know, we need a two-party system again in this state if for no other reason than to keep Republicans here on their toes and let them know that they can`t get away with anything that they -- just to let you know that people are looking.
MADDOW: Kyle, one last question for you. I know you are a -- you are a keen observer not only of the characters in all these stories but also just the political dynamics at work. The polls obviously are all over the map, just wildly different polls. Tonight, we`ve got polls saying one candidate`s ten points up and another poll says that same candidate is nine points down.
MADDOW: What`s your sense of what`s going to happen tomorrow? You want to venture a prediction?
WHITMIRE: I think there`s one important thing to point out about the polls. If you look at the polls that have been taken, the ones they`ve used, robo polls, auto-dialers, you know, automated polling, all of those have gone towards Moore.
But those don`t tap into cell phones. They aren`t allowed to call cell phones on those. And so, only people with land lines get those polls. Those skew older and they skew more toward white households than people who just have cell phones only. Those polls that have live people, real people who are talking to real people and asking them questions, those polls have all skewed towards Jones.
And so, it`s not just that these polls are all over the board, you have two distinctly different outcomes in polling based on methodology and maybe getting a little bit too wonkish here, but I think tomorrow we`re going to find out which is the best way to poll people in Alabama.
MADDOW: Yes, we`re also --
WHITMIRE: And if I were to --
MADDOW: Sorry, go ahead.
WHITMIRE: Yes. If I were Doug Jones tonight, I would be feeling pretty good because I think this is at least an even shot and that was not what he thought he was going to have when he got into it.
MADDOW: Fascinating. Sorry for jumping in on you there at the end. Kyle Whitmire, political columnist with the Alabama Media Group. Kyle, I appreciate your time tonight. I know that you guys are going to be really happy to get the national media off your backs for a while once this race is gone. Thanks for being with us here tonight.
WHITMIRE: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. Much more to come here tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: -- sure. But tonight, anybody looking for the office of Arizona Congressman Trent Franks, anybody looking for the Arizona office number or anything at all from Congressman Franks gets sent instead to the U.S. House of Representatives list of current vacancies.
The name Trent Franks is supposed to be right here with the names of the previous two congressmen driven from office by some form of scandalous behavior. They`re not even listing Trent Franks as gone yet. But he`s gone. At some point, Congress will get around to adding the name Trent Franks to this list of vacancies.
It was a very sudden departure. I mean, when we left the story last week, Congressman Franks had just confessed to my discussion of surrogacy with two previous female subordinates. Surrogacy as in someone to carry a baby for the congressman and his wife.
Now, Trent Franks made a vague self-exonerating statement about him seeking surrogacy for him and his wife from some of his staffers and even though he said he`d done nothing wrong, he nevertheless announced he would be quitting. He would leave Congress at the end of next month on January 31st, 2018. That`s where we left it.
But Congressman Franks did not make it anywhere near the end of January. The very next day, after his self-exonerating statement and his announcement that he would eventually leave, the next day on Friday, the Associated Press reported new details of his discussion of surrogacy with his former staffers. One former aide telling "The A.P.": the congressman repeatedly pressed her to carry his child, at one point offering her $5 million to act as a surrogate.
The former staffer said the congressman at least four times asked if she would be willing to act as a surrogate in exchange for money. The former aide said the conversations took place in private, sometimes in the congressman`s car, and that she repeatedly told him she was not interested.
Quoting the staffer: During my time there I was asked a few times to look over a contract to carry his child and if I would conceive his child, I would be given $5 million. So, that was from "The A.P."
Then, according to the "New York Times", women staffers said they believed the congressman didn`t just mean surrogacy the way you might be thinking of involving a doctor`s office. Women staffers say they think he meant to impregnate them in the old-fashioned way.
And then back to "The A.P.," quote, the aide cited the surrogacy requests as a main reason for leaving Franks` office, adding that she felt retaliated against after turning down the congressman, ignored by Franks and no longer given many assignments.
As that news was appearing, Trent Franks went from resigning, oh, sometime next month to gone so fast they couldn`t even add his name to the list of vacancies before they unplugged his Website.
The Arizona governor did today set the dates for electing a replacement for Congressman Franks. That Arizona primary will be on February 27th and general election will be April 24th. Maybe by then, we will all be over the shock of this particular shock resignation story. Maybe.
MADDOW: We think of U.S. presidents in terms of major world issues they have to deal with being stuff like wars and recessions and civil rights and stuff. But often, it is not the macro, you know, big historical issues that occupy much of their day-to-day time. It`s the micro level business of staying in power and getting your way. And a lot of times that`s the micro-level business of counting. How many Republicans in Congress, how many Democrats on a key committee, how many seats could be flipped to help you the president or harm you on something important to your presidency.
Two weeks before Richard Nixon resigned from the presidency in 1974, he was doing a lot of very specific counting. The House Judiciary Committee was considering articles of impeachment against him to be submitted to the full house, 38 members of the House Judiciary Committee, 21 of them were Democrats. Democrats were Nixon`s opposition.
That meant that he really needed some Democratic votes. Four votes or so could make or break his presidency, could decide if the impeachment went forward or not.
Well, President Nixon tried to give those votes a little nudge in his direction. He made a bold decision that he would call up Alabama Governor George Wallace, a segregationist stalwart who had run for president a bunch, he still wielded a lot of influence among segregationist conservative southern Democrats. The president called Governor George Wallace in Alabama and asked him to persuade certain members of that judiciary committee to vote against the articles of impeachment.
He asked Governor Wallace, quote: Are you with me?
And this could be the make or break for Nixon`s impeachment, if Wallace would just swing some Democrats for him. Are you with me, Governor Wallace?
George Wallace answered, quote: No, Mr. President, I`m afraid I`m not.
Then the president hung up and he turned to his chief of staff Alexander Haig and he said, well, Al, there goes the presidency.
And two weeks later, he was right. It has been 43 years since that phone call. Tomorrow, we are facing another collision between national and Alabama state politics when the Alabama voters will send to Washington, D.C. a senator who can make or break this president`s first attempt at a legislative agenda.
Doug Jones or Roy Moore gets elected tomorrow, tax bill vote could be as soon as the day after that.
Joining us now is Michael Beschloss, NBC News presidential historian.
Mr. Beschloss, lovely to see you. Thank you for being here.
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, NBC NEWS PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Thank you. Lovely to see you, Rachel.
MADDOW: In bringing up the relationship between President Nixon and Alabama politics at his time of crisis, I am borrowing your attention to that precedent. What -- is that just a historical echo that`s uncanny? Are there lessons we can take from that?
BESCHLOSS: It really is uncanny. You know, I think the team tonight of that story is a saying that Nixon knew well, which is: revenge is a dish best served cold.
Wallace was getting revenge because 1970, Wallace was running in the Democratic primary for governor against the incumbent Albert Brewer. Nixon wanted to wipe out Wallace in this gubernatorial primary because he was worried that Wallace would run third party in 1972 again and rob him of the presidency as he had nearly done in 1968. So, Nixon poured all sorts of secret money into brewer`s campaign, gave brewer all sorts of secret help, which Wallace knew.
And the result was that in the end, Wallace narrowly won the primary for governor, became governor again, and Wallace remained furious at Nixon so that, you know, Nixon as you said when he calls Wallace up in `74 and says please, help me stop impeachment, Wallace says forget it.
MADDOW: Do you think that Wallace -- I mean, just for historical purposes -- do you think Wallace could have swayed Democrats if he wanted to on that committee?
BESCHLOSS: Well, I think he certainly could. The key one was a congressman named Walter Flowers who was an Alabama Democrat who was very close to Wallace and Wallace could have had a lot to do with that. And as you suggested, Nixon thought that Flowers and maybe one or two others were the difference between being impeached or not.
MADDOW: Michael, the president this time around as obviously put his chips on Roy Moore, endorsing him, making a robocall for him, during campaign events trying to help him.
BESCHLOSS: That he has.
MADDOW: Is there a -- I mean, is there a way to look at this from a historical perspective to see if there`s likely to be a cost to the president if Judge Moore loses? Is this basically just a free play for the president? Do these things pay up instead of just paying down when they go wrong in terms of endorsements?
BESCHLOSS: Oh, I think they do. And in this case, I think, you know, Donald Trump may feel that he`s gaining a vote if Roy Moore wins, but I think during the next year if Roy Moore wins, he`s going to be to many people the face of the Republican Party with these very weird views that are racist and, you know, his own background as a child molester by all these accounts.
That is not something that a wise president would want as the face of the Republican Party for next year. So, I think Donald Trump, you know, may think he`s being very shrewd and Machiavellian in trying to help Roy Moore become a senator. A year from now if that happens, I think he may be sorry.
MADDOW: Michael Beschloss, NBC News presidential historian, thank you very much for your time tonight. And thank you for always -- always helping us connect back to this stuff that makes -- today make much more sense. You are invaluable, my friend.
BESCHLOSS: My pleasure always. Thank you, Rachel.
All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: -- connects Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and Kittery, Maine, over the Piscataqua River. The big chunk in the middle actually lifts up so boats can go through it. When it`s up boats go through it. And when it`s down, you can drive across it or you can walk.
This weekend, in the blustery snow, the memorial bridge looked like this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DEMONSTRATORS: Yes, you can! Stop the scam! Yes, you can!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: This was the Maine side of this bridge between Maine and New Hampshire this weekend in the storm. Protesters marching across state lines in the wind and the snow to demonstrate against the Republican tax bill. Hundreds of people gathered in the park just over the bridge to rally their Senator Susan Collins to vote no on the bill and frankly to threaten to turf her out of office if she votes yes instead.
This was Oklahoma City this weekend. Better weather. Still a little cold. Donald Trump won every single county in Oklahoma last year. But on Saturday, hundreds of Oklahomans rallied outside the Oklahoma state house against the Republican tax bill.
They wrote down messages in sharpie on a big poster board to send to one of their Senators James Lankford to let them know how unhappy they are about his support for that bill.
In Louisville, Kentucky this weekend there was the Trump chicken at their big rally. There were trash bags full of fake money at the big rally in Boston. There were a bunch of cold people outside the courthouse in frigid Milwaukee, Wisconsin, this weekend.
For months now, the Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, the guy in charge of all the money, he has been insisting that the Treasury Department would churn out a super-detailed analysis of all the wonderful things this tax bill would do. He`s been saying for months that hundreds of people at the Treasury Department had been working day and night, crunching the numbers for their big report.
Today, we finally got that report. This is it. This is not like the cover page. This is it. This is the entire analysis from the Treasury Department.
It fits on one page. It is 470 words long. And that`s only if you include the footnotes. There are no calculations in this report. There are no statistics of any kind or data to back up anything it says. But obviously they say it`s going to be awesome.
Their Cracker Jack report looks more like a haiku than a detailed economic projection, but Republicans in Congress are moving as fast as they can to try to get this thing passed. The House and Senate are reconciling their two versions of the bill right now, and when that wraps up, they hope to put it to a vote next week. We think they will start probably working on some sort of conferred version of it as soon as the end of this week.
They`ll send it to the president`s desk before Christmas if they get what they want. But maybe they won`t get what they want. Right now, people at home will have a lot to lose if this bill passes are letting their representatives and senators know how they feel about this bill and how they feel about the people who may vote for it.
Watch this space.
MADDOW: OK. Here`s the thing. I`m going to note this without comment. I just want you to know that this has just happened.
As you know, as we`ve been talking about tonight, tomorrow is the big U.S. Senate race in Alabama. Tonight at a rally in Midland City, Alabama Republican candidate Roy Moore was introduced by his wife, Kayla. And then this is a thing that happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAYLA MOORE, ROY MOORE`S WIFE: Fake news would tell you that we don`t care for Jews. I tell you all this because I`ve seen it all. So I just want to set the record straight while they`re here.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
One of our attorneys is a Jew.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Well, that settles that, then. That just -- that just happened.
That does it for us tonight. We wll 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.
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