Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: December 19, 2017 Guest: Chris Murphy, Marie Follayttar Smith
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, ALL IN: Joan Walsh and David Cay Johnston, thanks for joining me.
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. Much appreciated it.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Big night in Washington tonight.
If you have late-night plans tonight, you might want to cancel them. You might be late for dinner. Just -- I know, just leave everything in the oven, I promise I will take the dogs out when I get in, but I`m going to be late. Sorry.
Here`s an interesting thing, though, about what`s going on tonight in Washington. Even though everybody knew in advance that this was going to be a big night in Washington, a big consequential night when a very big decision who would be made, there is one person who really doesn`t need to be there in Washington tonight as this decision is happening. And it`s this guy.
And this is becoming a recurring theme of the Mike Pence vice presidency. Time and time again, we get explanations from his office for the vice president`s behavior, explanations that everybody in Washington and most people in the media just kind of go along with and they don`t make too much of a splash. But time and time again, factually those explanations that we get from the vice president`s office don`t make sense.
And I mean, let me be absolutely clear here. I mean what the vice president`s office tells us time and time again is stuff that can`t be true. And this happens over and over again. It sometimes happens on small stuff like what`s happening in Washington tonight in terms of his presence in Washington tonight, but sometimes it`s on big stuff too.
This pattern has reared its head a bunch of times, for example, in the Russia investigation. Mike Pence insisted solemnly that there were absolutely no contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia during the campaign. That was definitely not true. He said he had no idea that Mike Flynn had been talking to the Russian government about sanctions. That solemn assertion from the vice president also cannot be true. It`s just utterly implausible.
The vice president also solemnly intoned in his trademark more in sorrow than in anger, solemnly intoned that he had never been notified that Mike Flynn was on a foreign government payroll when he was operating as Trump national security advisor. Mike Pence was definitely notified that Mike Flynn was on a foreign payroll, despite his solemn assertions to the contrary.
I don`t know if this will ever become the thing that Mike Pence is famous for in his vice presidency, but honestly, it is the brightest theme that I can identify thus far in his vice presidential tenure. Public statements about his actions that are a lot of things, but they`re not, how do you say, true.
And now we`ve got another whopper from the vice president`s office that`s about what`s happening on this big night in Washington. This one actually starts, I think, a couple of weeks ago when President Trump made his big announcement that the U.S. would some day eventually move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. You may remember that was the announcement in the White House where the president, like his teeth seemed to come a little loose and he spoke very strangely at the end of his remarks, got a lot of attention because it was physically weird.
Regardless of the physical weirdness of those remarks, that was obviously a big, consequential, provocative announcement from the president. And soon thereafter, they got a response. The Palestinian president responded with the kind of negative anger that you`d expect under these circumstances.
The Palestinian president declared that henceforth because of that announcement, the U.S. will no longer have any role in the Mideast peace process. The Palestinians will no longer speak to the U.S. about anything having to do with Mideast peace and negotiations. The U.S. is out. They said they`ll deal with the U.N. They`ll deal with and other countries they see as honest brokers.
But all these images we`ve got burned in our minds of U.S. presidents of both parties trying to bring the two sides together for Middle East peace, that is now over. We are out of that process.
Now, whether or not you are invested in or particularly interested in the prospects for Middle East peace, this is a big dramatic thing. It`s a big dramatic change. Not just for this administration, it`s a big dramatic change for our country, to be kicked out of that process because of behavior by our president.
It`s dramatic. It was particularly dramatic at a human level because good ole Vice President Mike Pence had been planning to head over there. He had previously announced that he was heading over to the Middle East for a big five-day trip.
He was just about to get on the plane and go to the Middle East when they found out basically that when he got there, he should expect to get thrown out of the biggest meeting he was due to take on that entire trip, or best case scenario, they would stand him up and denounce him while he was there.
So, this was a long planned trip to the Middle East for Vice President Mike Pence. But right before he was due to start it, he found out he`s going to have something -- somewhere between a huge confrontation and a big embarrassment when he gets there. So, what do you do?
The vice president`s office announced that Vice President Pence was cancelling his trip. He will not be making his big Mideast trip after all, but they insisted that the cancellation had nothing to do with the fact that the United States is now being rejected and disinvited from the meeting that was the main point of his trip. Literally, the quote the vice president`s office gave to NBC News was, quote, that has nothing to do with it. They insisted instead that the real reason Vice President Mike Pence was cancelling his trip to the Middle East is because he was needed at home. He`s needed in Washington to vote on the tax bill.
Here`s the problem. There is no conceivable mathematical scenario in which Mike Pence will be needed to vote on the tax bill. None. We have known since this weekend that Arizona Senator John McCain would be home in Arizona tonight recovering from cancer treatment. He will not be voting on the tax bill tonight.
That means since this past weekend, we have -- we have known the full range of mathematical possibilities for what could happen in this big Washington vote tonight. We know all the Democrats are a no, that`s for sure. With all of the Democrats voting for it and all the Democrats against, that vote would be 51-48, the Republicans would win. If one Republican votes no, that vote would be 50-49, and the Republicans would win. If two Republicans vote no, the vote would be 49-50 and the Republicans would lose.
John McCain is gone. That means there are an odd number of senators in Washington voting on this thing. That means there can`t be any circumstance in which there is a tie vote. In which Mike Pence has to cast the deciding vote.
The only conceivable reason Mike Pence would need to be there for the tax vote is to break a tie. Mathematically speaking, there cannot be a tie. So, it, factually, makes no sense to say that Mike Pence had to bail out of his Middle East peace trip because he was urgently need on the Hill. I mean, it`s a nice story, it makes him sound very responsible and not at all afraid to go to a place where he`s not wanted and where he`s definitely going to get yelled at. But once again, it is a story that is factually implausible that is coming out of the vice president`s office.
And it is by a million miles not the most important thing about this vote that we are all waiting for tonight but -- boy howdy, if the vice president wants to get famous for one thing, this isn`t the kind of pattern you would want to be famous for. What else is he famous for this past year?
After the 2008 financial crisis, which started right at the end of the George W. Bush presidency, carried over obviously into the first year of the Obama presidency, after that financial catastrophe, we had a brief national reckoning. Not just with what had happened on Wall Street, we had a little bit of a psychological, even emotional reckoning, I think, with something else that was wrong in our country and that we as American citizens perceived to be wrong in our country.
And even though we`re a few years down the road from that now, I still think this is easiest to see in pictures. And you`ll recognize some of these pictures. In 2010, researchers at Duke University and Harvard Business School did a really large statistically sound sample of the American people. It was a big poll, big national sample. More than 5,500 people participating in the survey.
And they asked these people about the distribution of wealth in the United States. And it produced this super interesting visual, which you might remember from the time. It`s got a lot of attention a few years ago. So, Americans in this big survey, it`s in 2010, said if they could waive a magic wand, if they were going to create an ideal American society from scratch in terms of the distribution of wealth in our country, this is, according to this big poll, ideally what the U.S. would look like.
And you see, it`s divided into top 20 percent, second 20 percent, middle 20 percent, that`s income. So, blue is the 20 percent of richest people in the country, red is the second tier, green is right in the middle, middle 20 percent, and then purple and light blue are the people in the fourth quintile and bottom 20 percent of income.
In this big survey, this is an interesting portrait of American values. This is what Americans said would be the ideal distribution of wealth would be in our country. And it`s not totally egalitarian, right? The richest people in the country do control proportionally more of the wealth but we got a big strong middle class and even the people at the bottom, they`re not making as much money but at least are in a position to compete.
It`s a statement of what we want, right? That was Americans saying what we`d like our country to be like. But Americans are not naive.
So, the first round of questions was what do you think the country should be like ideally? The next round of questions was -- not what do you want income distribution to be like in the United States, but what do you think it is right now?
This was asked in 2010 right after the financial crisis. Americans, again, not naive, not pie in the sky people, were fully aware that we are way less equal a society than we might idealize, fully aware that the richest people in the country do control a very large proportion of all the wealth in the country.
So, if you look at the visual here, that bottom line is what I just showed you, right? That`s what Americans ideally want our country to be like, but the line above that is different, right? That`s the Americans` perception of what the country is actually like.
We perceive, we recognize that actually a big proportion of the wealth is controlled by the small, wealthiest quintile of the population.
Here`s the kicker, though. The truth of how income is distributed in our country is way worse than even the estimation by the American people that you just saw. As of 2010, if you plot it on a graph like this, the top 20 percent of wealthy people in this country are controlling more than 80 percent of all the money in the country, right?
So, again, what we ideally wanting it to be like is the bottom. In the middle is what we believe it is. On the top is what it actually was in 2010.
The blue is the top 20 percent of the richest people in the country controlling more than 80 percent of the wealth. The bottom 40 percent of the country, the light blue and purple quintiles, they don`t even show up on the top graph because combined, that 40 percent of the U.S. population controls less than one-half of 1 percent of all American wealth. They don`t even make it onto the graph.
So, this was done in 2010. It was published in 2011. It was one of those rare academic papers that crossed over and became a cultural thing. I think it had a pretty big impact on people`s thinking about what we had just gone through as a country in 2011 when it came out, what the financial crisis meant, what were the real problems in our country that we need to think about economically.
The next part of the reckoning that we had after the financial crisis was more forward looking. It was a question of causation, of consequences. If we as a country have income inequality and inequality of wealth on such a grand, almost unimaginable scale, is it possible that that is economically dangerous to us as a country?
So, this is the other part of that reckoning that we had as a country after that crash. This was a chart that came out in a congressional report in September 2010. And again, something that started off in almost academic context, this dry congressional analysis, but ended up getting a lot of circulation because its message as you can see is worrying and specific.
These blue lines basically show income inequality. They show the proportion of total income in the country controlled by the wealthiest sliver of the population. The first big peak in income inequality is right before the crash of 1929 that led to the Great Depression. The next big peak on the graph is right before the crash that took the economy down again in 2008 and 2009.
And all this graph shows is that spikes in income inequality and financial crises are correlated. It doesn`t so that one causes the other, but that correlation does kind of make you worry. And the really worrying, forward- looking part of this reckoning is what`s happened since we had that financial crisis in 2008 and 2009.
You can see after the 1929 crash and the Great Depression, that Gilded Age of massive wealth disparity, it eased a little bit, right? Got better. The middle class got stronger in terms of the proportion of wealth in the country controlled by regular people.
But after the modern crash in 2008, 2009, we know that things didn`t get better. They didn`t correct in the same way they did after the Great Depression. And it`s not because the crash in 2008-2009 wasn`t big enough. Just a couple of years ago looking back at the 2008-2009 recession compared with the Great Depression, ex-Fed Chair Ben Bernanke said no question, the 2008 crisis was worse than the Great Depression in terms of its economic impact.
But for whatever reason after we started to drag ourselves out of that economic pit just a few years ago, the income inequality thing didn`t get better, it just continued to get worse. This was "The Washington Post" two weeks ago. The richest 1 percent now owns more of the country`s wealth than any time in the last 50 years.
Today, the top 1 percent of households own more wealth than the bottom 90 percent combined. That gap between the ultra-wealthy and everyone else has only become wider in the past several decades. That share is higher now than it has been at any point since at least 1962.
So, right before the Great Depression, there`s a huge spike in income inequality. After we have the Great Depression, that spike revolves and started to go away and the middle class got stronger after that crisis. Then again 2008-2009, a huge spike in income inequality followed by a crisis, but income inequality has not resolved, it has kept getting worse since then.
And that`s where we are now. And that`s the environment in which the Republicans control the White House and the House and the Senate, and they got together to write their new tax bill. And it`s the biggest overhaul of U.S. taxes in 30 years.
And if you are at all concerned about these trends, if you are at all concerned about the claiming of more and more and more of America`s wealth by an increasingly tiny sliver of the population, a trend that is already profoundly out of sync with what Americans say they want and it is accelerating, if you see those as worrying or bad things, then you would not design a tax bill that is the biggest overhaul of the U.S. tax code in 30 years where the impact of that bill is that 62 percent of the tax benefits from the bill are going to go to the top 1 percent of the people who are already the richest Americans in the country.
But two weeks ago, that is what the U.S. Senate passed on a party line vote, a tax bill where 62 percent of the benefits go to the top 1 percent of the wealthiest people. But, of course, that was not the final version of the bill. They knew they had work to do. The polling on that incredibly regressive thing that they passed two weeks ago showed that it was the least popular legislation, least popular major legislation in three decades.
So, they have had these past two weeks to work on trying to improve it, trying to make it better, and now tonight, right now, they have got what they consider to be a better version. Instead of giving 62 percent of the benefits to the top 1 percent in the country, the new version they`re voting on tonight gives 83 percent of the benefits to the top 1 percent in this country. They had to bend over backwards to make this even more regressive, to make it even more painful for people at the lower end of the economic spectrum and even better for people who are already rich, who are already benefitting from this bill.
I mean the changes they have made just in the last two weeks are really specific. They really specifically target the people who are already the wealthiest people in the country. Since they last voted on this thing, they have changed this bill so that if you are fortunate enough that you`re going to have $22 million to leave to your children when you die, you can do so tax-free. They added that.
So, if that`s the biggest worry that you and your friends and your peers and your family have been worried about, oh, I`m so concerned about the taxes I`m going to have to pay on the $22 million I`m planning on leaving to my son, if that`s been your biggest economic worry, you are sleeping better tonight. They also went in and literally changed the very top tax rate.
Since they last voted on this thing, they felt some kind of pressure, something moved them to go back in and take the very top tax rate that is only paid by the wealthiest people in the country and they specifically changed that one, to lower that rate for a millionaires-only tax break. They also mysteriously felt moved to go in over the last couple of weeks and add a gigantic tax break that will almost exclusively benefit large- scale multimillionaire real estate developers. Uncanny, right? I have no idea where they got that idea.
Here`s how the business press is covering it. Here`s how "Bloomberg News" is covering it. You see the headline there, Trump, real estate investors get late-added perk in tax bill.
Here`s the lead: Lawmakers scrambling to lock up Republican support for the tax reform bill added a complicated provision late in the process, one that would provide a multimillion dollar windfall to real estate investors such as President Donald Trump. Why did they feel compelled to go in at the last minute and add this in?
Since the last time the Senate voted two weeks ago and tonight, they added that. Some day, we`ll all see that movie and marvel that we all lived through it.
But what we know right now is that provisions like that, that they put in in the last couple of weeks, they`re a really freaking big deal. It`s not just like, oh, Bob Corker and Donald Trump taking care of number one. This thing they just did that benefits real estate developers, just that provision alone is going to cost $414 billion.
When they say they don`t have the money to fund like kids health insurance or like children`s diabetes research or, you know, some environmental cleanup, whatever it is, the real estate loophole they added at the last minute for Trump, that real estate loophole alone will cost $414 billion. And when you start giving away things at that scale to the wealthiest people in the country, it adds up.
And so, the total cost of this thing that they are passing tonight will be nearly $1.5 trillion added to the debt and the deficit. And this is the least popular major legislation in more than 30 years.
New polling just came out today from NBC. The total proportion of Americans who believe that this tax bill is designed to benefit the middle class is 7 percent. And that includes like, you know, Republicans who like the bill for partisan reasons and people who don`t know what the bill means. A grand total of 7 percent of Americans think this is designed to help the middle class. And that`s because 93 percent of Americans are smart.
But it remains an interesting tale to be told about why Republicans don`t care about how unpopular this bill is. I mean they voted on it a couple of weeks ago. It was really unpopular. Then they spent two additional weeks making it even more egregiously unpopular.
But they really seem not to care, which is interesting, right? I mean by ten years out, 60 percent of Americans will see their taxes go up because of this bill, and it`s the lower 60 percent of Americans in terms of income. But the top 1/10 of 1 percent on average, they`re going to get almost $200,000 in their pockets right away.
The top 1/10 of 1 percent next year will get an average of $193,000 per taxpayer, per very rich taxpayer. By the time this works its way through the American public at the end of ten years, just from this bill alone, the top 0.1 of 1 percent will see their income overall go up by 3 percent and that`s a lot when you`re already starting off with multimillionaire there. You know, multimillionaire, if you`re getting about 3 percent raised, that`s a lot of money for the richest people in the country.
But the bottom 50 percent of Americans will see their real income drop specifically because of this legislation, because this legislation will increase their taxes.
But the Republicans are passing it anyway, rushing it through, letting Mike Pence inexplicably sit in on things so he doesn`t have to go to the Middle East.
The House voted on it so fast today that they screwed it up. They applauded, they`re very excited, but they voted on it in a way that doesn`t fit congressional rules. Even though they all celebrated today, they were all excited so Paul Ryan`s gavel danced off the podium, watch, puts it down, ahh! They couldn`t even gavel the place closed without falling down.
They were so excited, but they actually have to vote on it again tomorrow because they screwed up what they voted on today. They have to fix up the part that they screwed up. And now, tonight, the Senate is burning the midnight oil pushing this through as fast as they possibly can and only they know why.
Hold on to your wallet.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED AMLE: The senator from Utah is recognized.
SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: Mr. President, the Senate will soon vote on the conference report for HR-1, the tax cuts and jobs act. I`ve waited a long time to get this final statement in support of tax reform --
PROTESTER: Save our health care, save our health care.
HATCH: Mr. President, I ask for order.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`ll be in order.
HATCH: I ask for --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sergeant-at-arms will restore order in the gallery. The senator will suspend.
PROTESTER: We need our health care and children`s education. We need our health care, and children`s education. We need our health care. (INAUDIBLE)
We need our health care.
HATCH: This fella has a very interesting way of trying to get his point of view across.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was from the Senate floor today, a demonstrator against the tax bill trying to get in a word of protest before the Republicans pass this thing. That protester was arrested. You heard them cut his mike and you heard him yelling from the hallway.
They`re debating this live as we speak.
Joining us now is Senator Chris Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut.
Senator Murphy, thank you for joining us. I know these next few hours will be very busy for you.
SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D), CONNECTICUT: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: So is this goose cooked? Are there any conversations with anybody undecided or is this just a matter of the timing here?
MURPHY: I think it`s a done deal. As of right now, I think Jeff Flake is the only one who hasn`t declared his vote. Maybe somebody gets lost on their way to the Senate floor, but unfortunately, I think this is going to get voted on in the Senate tonight, head back to the House tomorrow and it will become law.
It`s not a policy document, Rachel. This is essentially a ransom payment to the big GOP donors who have demanded this all year long. There`s really no rational explanation for putting 60 percent of the tax cut in this bill in the hands of the top 0.1 percent of Americans other than a pay back to seven or eight families that continue to fund Republican politics.
Ultimately, this bill will become even more unpopular. Republicans will probably lose the House and the Senate because of it but there will be a lot of pain along the way. I`m not holding out hope that there`s going to be a miracle tonight.
But listen, I didn`t think that the health care bill was going to go down until John McCain walked onto the floor, so I guess miracles have happened in the past few months.
MADDOW: When you say that you think the Republicans will lose the House and the Senate because of this bill, the polling would indicate that if -- certainly, if the vote was going to happen right now, Democrats would have something like a plus 11 generic ballot advantage in Congress, but that vote will happen almost a year from now and a lot of things can happen between now and then.
Can you just talk in terms of the calculus that you think your Republican colleagues are making? Obviously, as you say, their donors, the wealthiest people in the country, have to be very happy with the kind of outsized benefits they`re getting here.
But when it is such a blow to the middle class, when it is something that is so regressive, when it`s something that`s polling so poorly, when it seems like it`s going to have such negative political consequences, how is this a rational vote for them even with their donors being pushy?
MURPHY: Yes, listen, great question. It doesn`t seem to be rational.
But I go back with six months. When we looked at the first few fund- raising quarters in House races and Senate races across the country, something surprising happened. Democratic challengers were outraising House incumbents.
Now, that rarely ever happens and yet it was happening in dozens of races. And there were two reasons for that. One, you know, a Democratic enthusiasm is up. But, two, there really is no low donor Republican base any longer because they have stopped raising money in small amounts. They are now totally dependent on these big super PACs to come in and fund their races.
And so, they have come to the conclusion that without the support of these families, they can`t even make a contest in these House and Senate races. So, I think many of them know that they are taking a big risk, but they don`t see any way to fund their operation without this money coming in. I can`t explain it any other way because the American people have already weighed in on what they think about the bill. As I said, as it gets implemented, it will get even less popular.
MADDOW: If your prediction is right and Democrats do take the House and Senate after the midterm elections, do you think that Democrats would try to overturn this bill?
MURPHY: Absolutely. We have to given the assault that`s occurring here, especially on the East and the West Coast. I would hope that we would take a look at the entirety of the bill.
Listen, the corporations in my state, they wanted a corporate tax cut but none of them were expecting to have the corporate tax rate dropped to 20 percent. They would have been thrilled if they got the tax rate below 30 percent.
And so, there is plenty of room to go back into this bill to make up some money and return it to the middle class or the working class that`s losing out here. And, of course, you know, what we haven`t talked about is the repeal of the individual mandate --
MURPHY: -- which is going to increase everybody`s premiums by 10 percent compounding every year, so that conveniently in year seven of this bill, your premiums will have doubled and your standard deduction will have gone back to its previous levels.
MADDOW: Wow. And 13 million Americans will be on their way to losing all health care coverage.
Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, I know it`s going to be a late night tonight, sir, thank you for being with us.
MADDOW: Much appreciated.
All right. We`ve got more ahead tonight, including Democrats apparently flipping the legislature in Virginia tonight. Thanks to a one-vote margin in one district. That remarkable story is ahead. Plus more. Stay with us.
MADDOW: (AUDIO GAP) airport.
The last time the Republican tax bill came to a vote in the Senate, Senator Susan Collins from Maine voted yes. She cut a deal with her Republican colleagues. After that vote, her constituents in Maine drove in pretty large numbers to the Bangor Airport just in case she flew home for the weekend, because after that vote, they wanted her to see their backs turned on her when she got off the plane.
Senator Collins ended up staying in D.C. that weekend, so she didn`t see the backs of her constituents at the Bangor Airport. But if she has kept one eye barely open for the last few months, she has seen a lot of people like those constituents asking her, begging her to vote against the final version of the tax bill. Her constituents have repeatedly visited her Senate offices all across Maine, in Bangor, in Portland, in Lewiston, in Biddeford.
They have held sit-ins on the carpet, they have held die-ins on the tile floor, they have protested on the side of the road, they have stood out in the snow and in the wind and in the dark and in the cold. They have tried talking to Senator Collins` staff. They have tried talking to the senator herself over the phone. They met with her in person whenever they could.
They blocked doorways outside her office space in Washington, D.C. They wrote her handwritten notes and signed their names. They sent her framed pictures of their protests with holiday greetings.
They tried sending her her sugar. They baked her cakes. They baked her lots and lots of cakes. They made her informational handmade board games about what`s wrong with the tax bill. Taxopoly. They played cribbage on the floor in her Portland office to let the senator know that they think she got played when agreed to vote yes.
Senator Collins said today she thinks the coverage of the tax bill has been sexist because so many people think that she, an experienced senator, has duped by the promises Republicans made her about that bill in exchange for her vote.
But the pressure on her vote didn`t just come from the press, it came from Mainers, from her constituents who sang her songs and said prayers that she would soften her heart and change her mind. Her constituents who dressed up like the monopoly man and the Grinch and the treasury secretary, people who put on chicken suits, people who held up giant checks cut out to the wealthiest 1 percent.
They stood outside "Star Wars" screenings with Darth traitor costumes with her face on them. They got big groups of people in a room to cold call the senator. They occupied her offices until they closed and they were then told to go home and they said no.
So, those folks were zip tied and arrested and taken to jail. This has been going on for months. All across Maine and in D.C. people in Maine pushing every single pressure point to try to get Susan Collins to vote no tonight on the Republican tax bill. She`s one of the few Republicans who is seen as a possible get on that vote.
Susan Collins has now, of course, told her constituents that she`ll vote yes on the tax bill tonight. She did make a deal with Senator Mitch McConnell. She said she`d vote yes if he promised her some specific health care provisions by the end of the year.
Senator Collins is poised right now to hold up her end of the deal by delivering her vote tonight. She says she is mad about the negative coverage she received over those dealings. She believes that she will actually get what she negotiated for.
But as we barrel toward this vote tonight, it really is an open question as to whether or not Republicans are planning on giving her what they promised her in exchange for her vote. Republicans in the House made clear today that they are not fond of the deal Mitch McConnell brokered with Susan Collins. Capitol Hill reporting tonight is that house Republicans really might not include the Susan Collins health care provisions in the spending bill this year, which is what Mitch McConnell promised her in exchange for her vote.
And so, this deal that Senator Collins made, this deal she traded for her yes vote on taxes, it`s -- it`s wobbling a little, at least as deals go. It`s like a bike on a loose kickstand.
But if there`s any chance she might change her mind, she`s running out of time to do so. Feedback from her colleagues, of course, has been loud. But for weeks and months intensively, what she`s been hearing from her constituents has been almost unimaginably loud.
Joining us now is Marie Follayttar Smith. She`s co-director of Mainers for Accountable Leadership. She`s also an organizer for Moral Movement Maine. She`s one of Senator Collins` constituents who has been urging her to vote no on this bill.
Ms. Smith, thank you very much for joining us tonight. We`ve been watching the protests in Maine for weeks. We`ve been looking forward to speaking with you about them.
MARIE FOLLAYTTAR SMITH, MAINE ACTIVIST: Thank you very much for having me.
MADDOW: Let me just ask your reaction tonight. As far as we know, Senator Collins has been unswayed by these really relentless efforts to try to get her to vote no.
SMITH: Unswayed and last night, she doubled down while Mainers occupied her Lewiston and Bangor office when she announced that she would support the bill.
MADDOW: I know that some of these actions involve direct contact with Senator Collins. People were able to speak with her on speakerphone. People were able in some cases to meet with her. As far as I understand you were able to meet with her personally as part of these lobbying efforts.
Did you feel like she was responsive to the case that you guys were making? Was she hearing you? Was she engaged?
SMITH: She listened, but she didn`t hear. I met with her last week, Ady Barkan (ph) said but it`s my life on the line, and she said, I know, but. And that sort of was the response to four Mainers sharing their stories. I know, but I have these promises. I know, but I`m still going to vote for this bill. I know it will harm you.
MADDOW: Senator Collins expressed anger today. She said that the coverage of the tax bill has been sexist, and she didn`t elaborate at length, but we got the sense from the reporters to whom she made those remarks that what she meant was people wouldn`t be doubting a male senator for being able to drive a hard bargain and get a good deal. And she thinks it`s sexist of the media and even for her constituents to suggest that she might have bargained her vote away for promises that aren`t actually going to come due, that the Republicans won`t actually give her that they promised her they`d give her.
What`s your reaction to that? What`s your take on that part of this?
SMITH: Well, around 70 percent of Maine`s resistance is female, so it would be the women perpetuating sexism, which is possible, but unlikely in this case.
I think she`s trying to shift the subject and, you know, her position, she is always a top three target on every single vote. That is her position. That is what she has set up and it`s disappointing that she wants to change the discussion.
MADDOW: Do you think that this is going to have consequences for her in Maine? She`s obviously a pretty popular politician at home. She`s entertained the idea of potentially running for governor. Her independence is certainly an asset for an independent-minded state like Maine, to the extent that she acts independently instead of just talks independently.
Do you think this will have consequences for her?
SMITH: It already has. Three of the women who traveled down to D.C. with me last week had voted for her. They supported her. They believed in her. And they are no longer believers that she is protecting their welfare. And that`s the trend.
MADDOW: Marie Follayttar Smith, co-director of Mainers for Accountable Leadership, an organizer for the Moral Movement Maine, I really appreciate your time tonight. As I said, we`ve been following your work in Maine, really wondering if it was going to pay off in Maine, pay off for the country. Please stay in touch and keep us apprised.
SMITH: Absolutely. Thank you very much.
MADDOW: Will do.
All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: It was the most exciting night, at least the most exciting electoral night that Democrats had had in this country for a whole year. It was when Democrats ran the table in Virginia on election night in November. They kept the governor`s mansion by a big margin.
More than that, they blew everybody`s mind when they erased a 32-seat Republican majority in the state legislature. That looked impossible, but they did it. They remade the face of the Virginia legislature with a huge night of Democratic votes.
If you added up all the votes -- so every seat in the legislature was up. If you add up all the votes that got cast that night for Democrats and all the votes that got cast for Republicans, Democrats shellacked the Republicans of Virginia. They were plus 10 statewide in terms of those votes for those legislative seats.
But then the next morning, Virginia Democrats woke up and they were still in the minority in the legislature. And that`s because Virginia`s districts are drawn to be so favorable to Republicans. A bunch of those races, though, were really close.
And then today in Virginia, did you see how it all worked out?
Today, Virginia Democrat Shelly Simonds beat Republican incumbent David Yancey in a recount in one of these Virginia House districts. Going into the recount the Democrat was behind by ten votes. But five hours later, after this cliff-hanger recount with all the math scribbled on the white board, after that, she ended up ahead by one, one vote.
If it holds up and gets certified, that means that Virginia Democrats will have gotten 200,000 plus more votes overall for legislative seats, including that one vote victory in that one delegate`s race, and they still won`t get to be in charge. They will have steam rolled their way to a tie, to 50-50. Unbelievable, but true.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: This is the Holiday Inn Rosslyn at Key Bridge. It`s a nice three- star holiday inn in Arlington, Virginia, just across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. Tonight, this holiday inn was also the venue for a fundraiser.
And it was not just your average, run of the mill political fundraisers. Fund raised at tonight`s event at the holiday inn were for the legal defense fund to benefit Rick Gates, former Trump deputy campaign manager who was indicted by special prosecutor Robert Mueller. Rick Gates, of course, was indicted along with Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort by special counsel Robert Mueller back in October. Gates and Manafort have both pled not guilty to 12 felony counts of money laundering, making false statements and foreign lobbying violations.
So, tonight was a fundraiser for Gates` legal fees. It was hosted by this guy, his name is Jack Burkman. Mr. Burkman is a prominent and controversial D.C. lobbyist and radio host. Among other things, he`s known for committing conspiracy theories about the murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich.
According to his most recent tweet, Jack Burkman also believes that Robert Mueller is, quote, the devil. And now tonight, he convened the first fundraiser for one of the Trump officials who has been indicted by the devil -- I mean Robert Mueller.
Now, Burkman had said that he expected a turnout of about 150 of D.C.`s biggest movers and shakers tonight at his fundraiser at the holiday inn. As you can see for yourself, the attendance was more in the 10 to 15 range, more of them journalists than not.
I don`t know why they decided to put this thing on Facebook live, but they did and it showed us that it was mostly journalists and less than 15 people. Rick Gates himself was not allowed to appear at this fundraiser on his own behalf because he`s currently serving home confinement and wearing an ankle bracelet. But he did appear via video conference with a very, very poor signal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICK GATES: By being here tonight, you`re giving us the tools that we will need to fight and for that I`m extremely grateful. As you may be aware, there`s a gag order on the case, so I am not able to talk specifically about the case. However, I can say that because of people like you, we will have the resources to fight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Not if that turnout looked like what it looked like.
We asked the special counsel`s office today if Rick Gates` involvement tonight`s event might potentially violate the judge`s gag order that prevents anybody involved in the legal case from speaking about it outside the courtroom. Special counsel`s office declined to comment to us on this matter because they declined to comment to us about anything. They`ve never given us a single comment ever, ever.
The goal of tonight`s event was to raise $250,000 to help Rick Gates. He, of course, is on the hook for massive legal bills. We also know he`s not getting any help from the president. Last month, "Bloomberg" reported that after relying on the RNC and the Trump Organization to pay his own legal bills, the president would finally start to pay his own legal bills. And the president was also reportedly finalizing, finalizing a plan to use personal funds to help current and former White House staffers with their legal costs.
That`s what they said a while back, but for the White House staffers who were helping to benefit from that promised legal fund, it has now been over a month since this was being finalize and no fund is in sight. CNN is now reporting, quote, for now at least, White House staffers are paying their legal fees out of their own pockets, a significant expense for government employees.
I thought Trump was going to help? He was going set that up fund.
Republicans in the House Intelligence Committee, they now confirm to NBC that they`re pretty much done with the House Intelligence Russia investigation. They plan to wrap it up in a couple weeks. That may be true of the Republican-led congressional investigations, but the Mueller investigation that looks like it`s going on for a while.
"Washington Post" reported last night that members of Mueller`s team have been telling other people that they expect to be working through much of 2018 at a minimum. Meaning, as this thing goes on, as the Mueller investigation goes on, there`s plenty of time for White House staffers and Trump campaign staffers to rack up a ton of mounting legal bills and for those who aren`t getting any presidential money, if it ever arrives, people like Rick Gates, maybe that means more gala fundraisers like what we witnessed tonight at the holiday inn.
Watch the space.
MADDOW: We`re watching and waiting tonight for two things that will be unfolding very late in the wee hours in Washington tonight. One of the things we are watching for is the FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe who went in to speak to the House Intelligence Committee today on the Russia investigation just after 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time. He hasn`t been seen since.
This is an FBI official who Republicans have been criticizing and calling for him to be fired over the Russia investigation. He`s been going on eight hours with the House Intelligence Committee behind closed doors tonight. And we haven`t seen hide nor hair of him since he went in. So, we`ll be watching for him at some point to emerge.
The other thing we`ll be watching for, of course, tonight is the Senate vote on this markedly unpopular tax bill, the most unpopular piece of major legislation to go through Washington in 30 years. It`s expected to add $1.5 trillion to the deficit in what is largely a massive wealth transfer from the middle class and the lower classes in this country to the people who are already the richest people in America. It`s the largest one-time corporate tax cut ever in the history of the United States.
The House is expected to vote again on this thing tomorrow to clean up mistakes they made in their giant rush of a vote today. But the Senate we do expect to vote some time tonight. Stay with us for coverage.
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.
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