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Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe to step down Transcript 12/26/17 The Rachel Maddow Show

Guests: Del Quentin Wilber, Michael McFaul, Jacqueline Charles, Bruce Bartlett

Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: December 26, 2017 Guest: Del Quentin Wilber, Michael McFaul, Jacqueline Charles, Bruce Bartlett

JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you very much. Have a great evening.

All right. And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Rachel has a well-deserved night off tonight.

So, I want to take you back to March of 2004 when CIA Director George Tenet appeared before Congress to present his annual testimony on worldwide threats facing the U.S. At that time, the lion`s share of the testimony and resulting headlines focused on terrorism and the insurgency in Iraq.

But buried in that report, the CIA also had another warning. CIA says Russia could try to reassert itself after a Putin victory. The CIA warned of a greater assertiveness as well as a far more robust approach toward neighboring countries like Georgia and Ukraine should Russian President Vladimir Putin be elected to a second term.

That victory was never really in doubt Putin took percent of the vote a few days after that assessment to win that second four-year term.


REPORTER: At election headquarters, early results flowed in, showing President Putin`s massive popularity and easy victory. Casting his ballot earlier today, the president urged Russians to think about their future, and tonight in a live TV address, he promised to improve Russians lives.

But his challengers take another view that four more years of Putin is a return to the past. During the campaign, they accused the Kremlin of manipulating state control TV dominated by the president, and they say Putin leaned on loyal regional governors to turn out the vote for him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: During the last few weeks, it is completely impossible for me to appear on the TV news.

REPORTER: International election monitors agrees, saying the control of state airwaves kept key issues like corruption, the war in Chechnya and a rise in terror attacks off the ballot.


REID: The Russian Constitution barred Putin from seeking a third consecutive term in 2008. So, Putin`s Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev served as a caretaker president for four years with Putin running things behind the scenes as prime minister. One of the first laws Medvedev signed upon entering office -- surprise -- it was one extending the term of the next president from four years to six, beginning in 2012 when Putin would be eligible to run for the top job once again.

And despite wide scale nationwide anti-government protests leading up to the vote in 2012, Putin`s iron grip on power resulted in him being re- elected overwhelmingly to a third term in 2012, beating token opposition at the ballot box despite widespread anti-government feeling throughout the country. Today, Putin was formally nominated as a candidate for a fourth term, ahead of Russia`s presidential election in March and it came one day after Putin officially barred his most serious challenger in all of his years of power from opposing him in the upcoming election.

Yesterday, opposition activist Alexei Navalny, one of the leading organizers behind those protests back in 2011 was officially ruled ineligible to run in the upcoming election by Russia`s Central Election Commission. While that move has been telegraphed for months, the formal elimination of Putin`s only serious challenger meanings we, meaning the world and not just the Russian people will have to get used to another six years of Vladimir Putin in power. We can also likely anticipate six more years of continuing Russian attack on our democracy.

Yesterday, "The Washington Post" published an opus detailing Russian attacks on American democracy both during the 2016 campaign and since Putin`s preferred candidate Donald Trump was elected. Today, former acting CIA Director Mike Morell and former Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Mike Rogers, reminded us that those Russian attacks continue today.

They write that this month, Kremlin-linked accounts have been used to discredit the FBI after it was revealed that an agent had been demoted for sending anti-Donald Trump texts. Russian active measures are being deployed right now to enflame tensions and exacerbate the already polarized debate taking place in our domestic intelligence agency. That was easily anticipated. What was not was that Kremlin efforts to discredit us law enforcement would be echoed by an American political party, let alone by the American political party that for decades has wrapped itself in the notion of respect and even reverence for law enforcement.

And yet those Kremlin attacks are being echoed in an escalating drumbeat of attacks on the FBI and the Robert Mueller investigation by conservative news outlets Republicans in Congress and by the president himself. As former FBI agent Clint Watts told the Senate Intelligence Committee in March, Russian active measures are especially effective when those same lines of attack are being employed by the current Oval Office occupant.


SEN. JAMES LANKFORD (R-OK), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: This is not new for the Russians. They`ve done this for a long time across Europe but he was much more engaging this time in our election. Why now? Mr. Watts?

CLINT WATTS, CYBER AND HOMELAND SECURITY EXPERT: I think this answer is very simple and is what no one is really saying in this room, which is part of the reason active measures have worked in this U.S. election is because the commander-in-chief has used Russian active measures at time against his opponents.


REID: The president`s opponents now include special counsel Robert Mueller and career officials at the FBI. After being grilled for over 17 hours by Republican lawmakers last week, deputy FBI director and career public servant, Andrew McCabe, let it be known that he plans to step down from his role and retire next year. That announcement led to another torrent of attacks from the president who spent the holiday weekend railing at McCabe.

Now, today, despite Congress being out of session, we continued to see more calls from Republican lawmakers to, quote, purge the ranks at the FBI, along with attempts to discredit special counsel Mueller.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I would like to see the directors of those agencies purge it, and say, look, we`ve got a lot of great agents, a lot of great lawyers here, those are the people that I want the American people to see and know the good works being done, not these people who are kind of the deep state.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He can`t go fast enough, anybody that has that much disrespect for the Republican Party, for the president of the United States, Mueller I have said since day one, since he was appointed, he`s bad news, he`s out for a scalp, he would love to get Trump`s scalp, he would love to be the hero of the left to take out Donald Trump, he will do everything he can to do that.


REID: So following that segment on Fox this morning and another discrediting the Trump-Russia dossier, Trump leveled another barrage of criticism at the FBI, calling it tainted. But while the president continues to lay into the agency, "The Wall Street Journal" reports that associates of Chris Wray, Trump`s hand-picked successor to Jim Comey to lead the FBI say that Wray has confidence in Mr. McCabe and admire how he ran the bureau after Comey`s firing. And that associates of Wray tell "The Journal" that the FBI director does not want to appear to have buckled under pressure from the president or Republicans.

The paper reports that such a move, i.e., forcing McCabe out, would likely irritate the FBI`s 13,000 agents, many of whom are upset about how Trump has criticized the agency.

Now, tonight, NBC News reports that the FBI agents association which represents more than 14,000 current and former special agents have reports that they have seen a, quote, significant uptick in donors and donations for their two charities in the month of December.

Joining us now is Del Quentin Wilber, one of "The Wall Street Journal" reporters who wrote that story about the FBI, who covers Justice Department in federal law enforcement.

Thank so much for being here.


REID: So, let`s start with the sort of top line of your story that was updated on Christmas Day, that Trump`s attorneys are sticking to their idea that somehow this probe is going to be wrapped up soon. Could you get a sense of upon what they`re basing that? Is it because they now have sort of a -- you know, freestanding that Trump doesn`t even need to assist onslaught going on against the FBI by Republican lawmakers and Fox News, et cetera?

WILBER: You know, I think it`s probably a lot more complicated than that and these lawyers they`re good lawyers and they worked very hard for the president and they`ve been talking to Mueller and his team. I think they`ve -- they`ve gone actually out of their way in many ways to cooperate as far as we can tell. They`ve transferred lots of documents over to Mueller and they`ve worked very closely with him.

And they`ve been saying for a long time they expect it to wrap up pretty quickly. So, I don`t -- I take them at face value that they actually believe that will happen whether it does or not, we don`t know. I mean, these types of investigations are very complicated. You`ve had many experts on your shows over the last year talking about it and you know that these are financial involvement. You have a lot of counterintelligence work, intelligence work, it`s all highly secretive.

Most legal experts think it`s going to take a lot longer than Mr. Trump`s lawyers do, but that`s what they`re sticking to.

REID: And do you get a sense that Trump`s attorneys have take any pause in the fact that while they`re as you said attempting to cooperate with Robert Mueller, Donald Trump is on Twitter, including over this holiday weekend, attacking the FBI, attacking Bob Mueller, attacking individual members of the FBI leaders by name. That cannot be helpful to their defense strategy.

WILBER: You know, I think it complicates it. I think all you have to do is go on Twitter to see the reaction to it all and what legal experts say about Mr. Trump`s tweets at times and I`m sure there have been a lot of stories about how, you know, his advisers would wish he would tweet less. And in this case, you know, he attacked you know the deputy director of the FBI, he attacked others. And not that long ago, he said the FBI was in tatters, quote, tatters.

And I think that wears an agency down as you were talking about. A lot of agents that I know that I`ve spoken to don`t really appreciate why the criticism, and you know, they`re all trying to move forward and you know help with this investigation more and do their jobs. You know, there are 13,000 agents, they do a lot more than just this investigation.

REID: Well, beyond not appreciating it, do you detect among the FBI agents that you talk to any alarm about the fact that, you know, Donald Trump, as well as Republican lawmakers and, you know, conservative media are making these tax attacks on the FBI really in tandem with what the Kremlin is doing?

WILBER: Not so much. I haven`t picked up on in tandem as in historically what the Kremlin has done or what --

REID: No, meaning that both are doing. Meaning that Kremlin is putting out disinformation attacking the FBI and those attacks are essentially being echoed by Republican lawmakers, and the president in the United States.

WILBER: Well, you know, no, not -- not in particular. I think they, you know, most the agents that I`ve talked to, you know, keep their heads down and do their jobs. They`re a little flummoxed by, you know, some of the becoming drawn into this political sphere. You know, Republicans and, you know, Trump allies have or you know have legitimate questions they could raise about how the bureau treated this investigation.

I mean, you have -- you know, the lead agent on the Hillary Clinton investigation and then on Trump`s investigation, you know, saying some pretty attacking like things on text messages with a colleague, you know? And that got him removed from the probe as you said, and Andy McCabe had the deputy director -- had some real questionable, you know, he was attacked this last year during the campaign for not stepping aside from overseeing a Hillary Clinton investigation because his wife had run for a state house race and got a lot of money from a close Clinton ally for that race.

And so, I mean, they have legitimate -- their legitimate questions to be raised. It`s -- it`s that -- it`s the overall volume of it I think that is causing agents and a lot of Democrats concerned. There, you know, Adam Schiff and others have raised a lot of worries that this is part of an effort not to get rid of Mueller, but to kind of blunt any findings he releases in the end.

REID: Well, just to be clear. You`re reporting -- you had a piece that was out, I believe, on December 18 that talked about -- I think you were talking about Peter Strzok and the text messages that he was sharing with a colleague that he was also having an affair with him, Ms. Page.

But you reported that, specifically, the texts about for instance -- and this is one of the ones that`s been banded a lot by Republicans about this insurance policy and worried about Donald Trump, we`re not intended to suggest some secret plan to harm the candidate, but rather to address with a colleague who believed the FBI could take could take its time because the Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton might win, but that in fact there was concern that anybody that might have been in collusion during the Trump campaign could actually get jobs in the administration.

Wasn`t that an expression of concern that people who might have colluded would get in the administration rather than just, you know, ad hominems against Donald Trump? That`s your reporting.

WILBER: Oh, right, well, no. I mean, but there are 375 texts that the Justice Department released, and I read all of them and they spent a lot of time -- you know, complaining about Eric Holder and Chelsea Clinton and Bernie Sanders. And in it, they talked a lot about Donald Trump. They called him a douche. They call him -- they used a lot of harsh words, much harsher for Trump.

And in that insurance text, you know, is exactly how you characterize it, how are reporting -- they verified what they had said about it. It was not like, hey, there`s some secret plan the FBI has to either derail a Trump candidacy or to wreck his presidency. It was more, we want to get this done quickly for the reasons that you said.

And so, it`s -- but there are other texts in there that you just -- you -- it does not just that one. If you add them all up, I think you could ask legitimate questions about, like, you know we don`t usually see that happen in criminal investigations, and when it does happen, often prosecutions get derailed.

I`ve covered a case in involving a bunch of FBI texts that came out. They were bantering about all kinds of crazy things, and the jury acquitted the guys. And so, you know, these were all serious things to look at, it`s just the volume and how serious you need to look at it and in the motivations of people behind it and in -- which you`ve you know fairly summarized.

REID: Yes, absolutely. Well, I appreciate your time. I wish we had more time.

"Wall Street Journal" reporter Del Quentin Wilber, thank you very much for being here.

WILBER: Thank you.

REID: All right. And joining us now is Chuck Rosenberg, the former U.S. attorney for the eastern district of Virginia and he was also the counsel to the FBI when Robert Mueller was director and James Comey`s chief of staff at the Justice Department.

Thank you for joining us.

I want to pick up on the thread that we were just talking about with "Wall Street Journal" reporter Del Quentin Wilber.

On the question of whether or not the background conversations between Peter Strzok and the sort of furious volume of attacks on Andrew McCabe legitimately in your view as a former prosecutor raised doubts about the fairness or legitimacy of the Mueller investigation?

CHUCK ROSENBERG, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY FOR EASTERN DISTRICT OF VIRGINIA: Well, first point, Joy -- and by the way, thank you for having me.

First point, Joy -- when Bob Mueller found out about the text, he had Pete Strzok removed from the investigation, exactly what he should do. Hard to criticize Bob for not removing Pete any earlier than when Bob found out.

Putting that aside for a moment though, there is a concern that it gives rise to an appearance that investigators may not have been playing it right down the middle. But there`s a more important way to look at it and it`s this -- is the outcome fair, right? At the end of the day, in whatever forum Mueller brings charges or reveals the fruits of his investigation, was the outcome fair? Did he find the facts? Did he apply the facts to the law?

And if he did, then all this other stuff, Joy, they`re just distractions.

REID: Yes, and it`s interesting that these distractions are, they`re sort of mirrored on either side of the dime here, right? On the one hand, you have the Kremlin orchestrating these attacks, you know, sort of using they`re sort of typical cybersecurity methods and disinformation methods on the FBI. But you have that being echoed by Republican lawmakers, then echoed by Fox News and other conservative media, you know, I`m wondering if in your experience, that is a typical scenario?

ROSENBERG: Well, it`s not a typical scenario. Nothing about this seems particularly typical. But these attacks are really playing to one particular venue and that`s a political venue. At the end of the day, if this turns out to be something that`s handled politically and by that I mean, you know, in the Congress, perhaps by impeachment or some other means, then that`s where these criticisms might resonate.

But if Bob Mueller brings additional charges in addition to the ones he`s already brought, these criticisms really, Joy, have no meaning. They don`t matter in a court of law. They don`t matter to the judge. They don`t matter to the jury. They don`t matter to the prosecutors.

I can assure you that if the venue we`re talking about is federal district court, in a criminal trial, it`s meaningless. And in terms of that, in terms let`s say that we`re in a federal district court at a certain point, will Donald Trump, specifically Trump`s attacks on individual members of the FBI on Jim Comey, on Mr. McCabe, will those wind up being material in any future case should a case ever arise?

ROSENBERG: Not in a court of law, Joy. And look, I was privileged for many years to work at the FBI, the DEA, in the Department of Justice, in the U.S. attorney`s office, I`ve never worked with anybody who was perfect, but I worked with lots and lots of people who are really darn good. They care. They work hard. They try to get things, right, and they play it down the middle.

And so, at the end of the day, if you`re talking about federal agents and federal prosecutors bringing a case in federal district court, this stuff does not matter. A judge will find a jury and will instruct them to put everything that they think they may know about this case aside and only focus on the facts that are reduced in court. That`s all that matters at the end of the day.

REID: All right. Chuck Rosenberg, former U.S. attorney and former counsel to the FBI when Robert Mueller was director and James Comey`s former chief of staff at the Justice Department -- thank you so much. I really appreciate your time.

ROSENBERG: Thank you.

REID: Thank you.

And much more to come here tonight. We`re going to talk with one of the first Americans to come under cyber attack by Russia and a reporter who`s been doing some excellent work looking at how the Trump administration`s policies are affecting one particular group of vulnerable people in this country.

So much to get to tonight. Stay with us.


REID: We have plenty of evidence now that Russia`s interference in our election last year was not a singular event but rather part of a long- running and fairly refined pattern. In fact, "The Washington Post" reports that Russia has been using the same playbook to meddle in American politics as far back as 2012, when it aggressively trolled the U.S. ambassador to Russia on Twitter.

The cyberattacks, the misinformation, the undermining of its chosen enemies, we`ve seen all of that in the Russian attacks on U.S. democracy and we`re seeing it again in Russia`s own election season ahead of the vote for Russian president in March, where the only real opposition to Vladimir Putin has just been barred from running.

And joining us now is Michael McFaul, former U.S. ambassador to Russia and the same man who was targeted by Russian trolls back in 2012.

Ambassador McFaul, thanks for being here.

And were you able to discern what the purpose of trolling it was?

MICHAEL MCFAUL, FORMER UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: Well, there`s several objectives and I think they`re relevant to the situation today in America. The first was to discredit what our mission was, what our statements were from the Obama administration. And so, they wanted to sideline me as a spokesperson for the Obama administration.

The second was more profound I would say. It was to create a myth that President Obama sent me to foment revolution against Vladimir Putin. That was a message that they started from day two, once I showed up in Moscow, and that was to mobilize his electorate against those that were protesting against him.

So, the message was those people are funded by the United States. They`re marionettes. They`re puppets of the West. They need to be discredited and I became unfortunately the poster child for that campaign.

REID: You know, it`s interesting that, you know, just --

MCFAUL: Literally the poster child, by the way.

REID: Literally, right, on posters.

MCFAUL: Yes, on posters, yes.

REID: You know, and it`s interesting sort of the, you know, I was thinking a lot say about the parallels between sort of Vladimir Putin`s attitude toward governing and toward his enemies and the president United States, and going back to when he first ran back in 2000. This is a platform letter from his campaign that was published in three newspapers in February of 2000.

It says: True, Russia has ceased to be an empire but it has not wasted its potential as a great power. The new generation has got a historic chance to build a Russia that it will not be ashamed to pass on to its children.

His message basically was make Russia great again, and he`s kind of carried out this idea that the only weight can remain great because soon he thinks he`s made it that way is for him to stay in power, right?

MCFAUL: Correct, it`s just that simple. He thinks that he is the one, he is the savior, he is the one that brought Russia from its knees to be a great power again. Number two, he believes that it has to be a strong fist autocracy, is part of what you make Russia great again within -- first within Russia and now within the international system.

And third, if before back in 2000, he was on the defensive today. He`s on the offensive. Today, he`s going after Western liberal institutions. He`s going after alliances like NATO, and he`s going after America`s democracy. That`s part of the strategy of making Russia great is to make us weak in the international system.

REID: You know, they`re just epic peace but Julia Ioffe in "The Atlantic" and it talks about this sort of a dilemma of the dictator that are that Putin faces, that essentially he has no successor in strategy, he has no exit strategy. Are we looking at Donald Trump attempting to be president for life?

MCFAUL: Well, he definitely doesn`t have a strategy. He doesn`t have a political party. He hasn`t named a successor and he`s afraid of competition.

I mean, as you said in the opening piece that you did, he`s running against nobodies. There`s been no competition forever. Mr. Navalny, the one guy that has some kind of grassroots support, he`s just banned.

And when you don`t have competition you`re not as sharp. You don`t have people that can replace you. So, in the long run, not having competition I think is bad for the political system in Russia, not good for that system.

REID: And you think that the same sort of cyber warfare that was used against our election will be deployed by Vladimir Putin just in case Navalny gets traction.

MCFAUL: Absolutely. Of course. I mean, disinformation, stretching the facts, distorting things that`s all in the Putin playbook, whether it`s inside Russia or in the United States. And until he is deterred from doing that or until he`s stopped from doing that either in the United States and Russia he`ll continue to use all those methods to try to achieve victory.

REID: Well, Michael McFaul, former U.S. ambassador to Russia, thank you very much. Thanks for your time tonight.

MCFAUL: Sure. Thanks for having me.

REID: Thank you.

And still ahead, one very real unfinished piece of business in Washington that could change many lives very soon if it`s not dealt with ASAP. We`ll be right back.


REID: It happened in the U.S. Capitol a few days ago.


REID: That was the U.S. Capitol last week, as hundreds of protesters descended on D.C., occupying the offices of more than a dozen lawmakers to remind them that time is running out for the young immigrants known as DREAMers. In September, the president killed the DACA program that shields hundreds of thousands of DREAMers from deportation. The deadline for Congress to offer up some kind of fix is March 5th.

As Congress was rushing to get out of town last week after passing their massive tax cuts for corporations and wealthy, DREAMers held a die-in at Senator Mitch McConnell`s office. They chanted in front of a reception in Democratic Senator Tom Udall`s New Mexico`s office. No papers, no fear.

Senator Michael Bennet talked to the protesters in his lobby where DREAMers press the Colorado Democrat for a firm commitment not to vote for a spending bill without protection for DREAMers. They did not get that commitment from Senator Bennet.


PROTESTER: We want you to publicly come out and say that you are willing to withhold your vote from any spending bill that does not include a clean DREAM Act.

SEN. MICHAEL BENNET (D), COLORADO: I will do everything I can.


BENNET: I will do everything I can to pass the DREAM Act that I have worked on so hard for so many years.

PROTESTER: You Congress people get to home on Christmas, on the Christmas Day. Y`all get to spend it with your family. Y`all get to go have fun, eat dinner, sing, dance, Christmas carols. We don`t. Us people go home and we fear.

Go home knowing that your family`s not going to be there. Go home, fearing that your parents, the people that have been there, are going to be there anymore. Why? Because you can`t keep the DREAM Act, and you can`t keep it now. We don`t need it next month. We need don`t need it next year. We need it now.


REID: Well, Michael Bennet wound up voting no on the spending bill last week, but it passed anyway, with no provision to protect the DREAMers. And so, the clock keeps ticking.

We`ve not had much good news this year for immigrants, from stepped-up deportations to ending the DACA program, to more recently separating young children and even babies from their families as a way of discouraging people from coming to the U.S. undocumented. One mother in that position described it as a form of torture.

The year began with desperate immigrants fleeing on foot across the border to Canada in hopes of greater safety from Trump`s stepped-up deportation force, handing babies and strollers across the snowy border. That exodus was still going on this summer with Haitians worried Donald Trump would revoke temporary protected legal status for people who`ve been allowed to remain in the U.S. in the wake of the deadly 2010 earthquake. Many of the families crossing the border are of mixed status with kids born in this country who are U.S. citizens and parents who are at risk of deportation.

In August, "The Miami Herald" sent reporter Jacqueline Charles to Montreal. One mother who had made the crossing said she had no choice, saying, quote, the president doesn`t want the immigrants to stay. As the mother feared, Trump last month revoked the temporary protected status of some 60,000 Haitians in the U.S., putting all of them at risk for deportation.

Over the weekend, "The New York Times" provided a disturbing look inside the White House where this policymaking is taking place. In reporting the White House flatly refutes, the paper describes an Oval office meeting in June where "The Times" says Trump was fuming about the number immigrants who have received visas this year despite his promise to crack down on people coming into the country.

Handed immigration statistics by senior staffer Stephen Miller, Trump reportedly complained about the 2,500 Afghans who got visas, calling Afghanistan a, quote, terrorist haven. Two unnamed officials said he complained about the 40,000 Nigerians who`d gotten visas, saying once they got a taste of America, they would, quote, never go back to their huts in Africa.

And then there are the 15,000 Haitians who received visas. According to one in unnamed official, Trump heard that number and said the Haitians, quote, all have AIDS.

Now, again, the White House denies these accounts, though I`m not sure that denial carries much weight in the communities affected, not just why Trump is reported upset about immigrants, but why what he has done as president.

Joining us now is reporter Jacqueline Charles, Caribbean correspondent for "The Miami Herald".

And, Jackie, you know, the images of immigrants fleeing the United States for Canada is a jarring one, as jarring as the images of parents being dragged away from children, of children being separated from their parents, of babies being separated. But before we come to the comments that the president reportedly made in the White House, I want to talk about DACA for a minute. Just to put up on the screen like the top countries of DACA recipients, Mexico is at the top, but you also have El Salvador, Guatemala Honduras, Peru. And between that and TPS, we`re talking about more than 700,000 immigrants who are facing potential deportation now.

How afraid quite frankly are immigration rights activists that they cannot save those people?

JACQUELINE CHARLES, CARIBBEAN CORRESPONDENT, THE MIAMI HERALD: Immigration rights activists are very afraid, as well as members of these communities. I attended a meeting just a couple of weeks ago where we had people with TPS, as well as DACA recipients who were just pleading for some kind of help, but every time you see the administration take a position on immigration, a little bit of that hope that they have that something`s going to change, it just cuts away.

So, with DACA, we`re definitely going to have to wait until January. I`m a little hopeful, but I think with DACA, it`s really going to be a question of what does this look like. DREAMers, as well as your supporters, they want a clean bill. They don`t want restrictions on legal immigration. They don`t want a southern wall in that legislation.

But we know that members of the Republican Party, especially conservatives, that they are pushing for that is part of any sort of deal.

REID: And you report in south Florida where, of course, the three Congress -- members of Congress, including the Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen who is a leaving office, you know, even Carlos Curbelo, both of them Republicans, are very supportive of the idea of renewing DACA or doing something about DREAM Act recipients.

Was there any horse trading that you`ve heard of in getting the votes for the tax bill for instance and giving them -- giving maybe Marco Rubio who`s claimed -- he`s sort of been on both sides the immigration deal -- have any you know of those south Florida Republicans done any deal making to try to get DACA through or to get TPS through?

CHARLES: Well, right now with the DACA, we`re not aware of any. But we do know that Carlos Curbelo has said he`s not going to sign any spending bill unless we get something with DACA. He has his own bill, but he says that he`s willing to sign anything that comes on the floor that will protect those DREAMers. Ileana has signed on to DACA. She`s been pushing this and we know that Diaz-Balart is part of this negotiating team.

I think, really, we just have to wait a little bit next couple of days to see what comes out of that. And as far as TPS, what`s interesting is, you know, the people who are pushing for TPS was really hopeful that maybe they can get some sort of language for TPS as part of DACA. But what we`re seeing -- we`re hearing a lot about DACA. We`re not hearing about TPS, and there`s still almost 200,000 Salvadorians who are waiting to find out what their fate is going to be.

We`ve already had a decision on the Haitians last month. We had the Nicaraguans. There was a hole to pause on the Hondurans. We saw what happened with Honduras` election. There`s still a lot of debate about that election and they will come back up for a decision soon as well.

REID: And your piece last summer was very jarring talking about Haitians who are fleeing to Canada and finding that they don`t necessarily -- they`re not necessarily entitled to asylum there either and sort of trying to figure out where they`re the most safe. Donald Trump during the campaign told Haitians in Miami and South Florida that he wanted to be their advocate. You know, is the community they`re feeling betrayed by him number one? And number two, is Haiti prepared to receive 60,000 people is its infrastructure et cetera, you know, capable of handling that?

CHARLES: Well, I`ll take your second question. I mean, Haiti is not prepared to receive 60,000 people. I mean, today, we have Haitians who are fleeing daily, they`re headed to Chile and other places in South America.

You have a country that`s running in a deficit and I know that U.S. government likes to point out that the United Nations peacekeepers will they finally left. Well, they left under pressure from the United States that wanted to see the U.N. cut back its budget, and they do have a smaller mission there.

I mean, the reality is, yes, Haiti just had an election earlier this year. It`s going to need time. The economy has been shot and you just don`t grow it overnight.

Even the United States government which made a lot of promises to Haiti after the January 12th, 2010 earthquake has not been able to deliver on many of those promises. The biggest of which is a new $85 million hospital that the U.S. agreed to build with France. It would be the biggest public hospital in that country. And until this day, that hospital still is not completed.

So, you`re going to send back 60,000 people to a country that doesn`t even have proper medical facilities to receive them.

REID: Jacqueline Charles, Caribbean correspondent to "The Miami Herald" -- thank you very much. I appreciate your time.

CHARLES: Thanks for having me.

REID: Thank you. I`ll be right back.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`m running to be president of all Americans. That`s everybody. And whether you vote for me or you don`t vote for me, I really want to be your greatest champion, and I will be your champion, whether you vote for me or not.


I`m running to represent Haitian-Americans and African-Americans and Asian- Americans and everyone who lawfully resides in our borders.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My taxes help to support the public institutions, which I`ve mentioned, and they cost enough. Those who are badly off must go there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Many can`t go there and many would rather die.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If they would rather die, perhaps they had better do so and decrease the surplus population.


REID: Ebenezer Scrooge showing us how he earned a visit of all those ghosts of Christmas past and present. Well, tonight, a modern day take on that Christmas classic, but this version isn`t set in 19th century England, it`s set in Florida, at Donald Trump`s private membership club, Mar-a-Lago, where the dues do not come cheap.

Initiation fees will set you back $200,000. Annual dues, 14 grand. A ticket to New Year`s Eve with the Trumps, 600 bucks. But the chance to hear the president of the United States uncensored, priceless.

Case in point: this report from CBS News citing two friends who were dining at a table near the president on Friday night. Dinner conversation had turned that massive tax cut package, the one his administration keeps insisting will help not the rich but the middle class. When Trump talking to some pals at a nearby table reportedly boasted, quote, you all just got a lot richer.

NBC News not independently confirmed that report, but there`s a growing backlash against this president and his Scrooge-like circle of friends. That`s next.


REID: (AUDIO GAP) Lakers lost to the Minnesota Timberwolves. It was the first ever Christmas win for the T-Wolves and their fourth straight win in a row.

But even an exciting game like that could not distract basketball legend, sports commentator, and wealthy American Charles Barkley from the goings on in the country right now.


CHARLES BARKLEY, SPORTS COMMENTATOR: At least we got our tax break.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please don`t go down that road again.

BARKLEY: We can buy Rolexes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We heard it the other night.

BARKLEY: Hey, I just want these poor people to wait on this to trickle down. Wait for like 400 years.


REID: Yes, Republicans gave themselves and Charles Barkley an early Christmas gift last week, when they passed the first major legislation to hit Donald Trump`s desk, thus delivering on the explicit orders of their donors. Not only do Republicans finally get to bask in the success of finally slashing corporate tax rates, a long-held dream of Republicans since many of them were devouring Ayn Rand novels in their college dorm rooms. In a Congress that`s more than half millionaires, some of them are going to get personally even richer because of it.

Take Republican Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee who owns large real estate holdings and will now get a sweet 20 percent deduction on income earned through those holdings. He had quite a merry Christmas.

But when Senator Corker posted his cherry video message on Christmas on Twitter and Facebook last week, he got quite a response. For every nice message like, "Merry Christmas Senator and Mrs. Corker", there are like times as many messages along the lines of "shame on you" or merry Christmas, please resign and enjoy your newfound gains, hopefully your replacement will value the interests of their constituents over their wallet. Ouch. Or, I would give you cold for your stocking but it`s bad for the environment, or I hope the cash cow you will be getting was worth stabbing the people in the back who once supported you.

And those are just the TV-friendly insults. Merry Christmas indeed.

Other Republicans have received similar responses since the tax bill passed. Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah received a Christmas Day surprise on Monday when he was named Utahan of the Year by his home state paper. What the senator may not have immediately realized when his staff tweeted out the article was that "The Salt Lake Tribune" named him Utahan of the Year because among other things, his very important role as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee in passing this new Republican tax bill, in addition to his quote utter lack of integrity that rises from his unquenchable thirst for power.

Even Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is feeling the backlash from the Republican tax cuts for the super-rich. On Saturday morning, someone left him a gift outside his home a large box of manure wrapped in Christmas paper.

It`s still early but this new gilded age under Donald Trump and his fellow Republican blue buds is not exactly having the glorious effect Republicans hoped it would. In fact, even results of the tax bill that seems positive at the outset like AT&T`s announcement that after the tax bill passed, that it was giving bonuses to 200,000 workers have failed to stay sunny for long. It turns out AT&T also plans to layoff over a thousand workers early next year.

Meanwhile, Democrats are wringing their hands with glee at the growing number of opportunities to capitalize on the unpopularity of tax cuts for the super-rich in states where the Republican Party was already beginning to look vulnerable after their repeated attacks on health care.

So, how will Republicans react to the gilded age backlash? And will it give them pause as they pursue parts two and three of the driving Republican dream, ending the Affordable Care Act and slashing away at Medicare and Medicaid?

Joining us now is Bruce Bartlett, former domestic policy adviser to President Ronald Reagan, one of the architects of supply-side economics and author of the book, "The Truth Matters".

So, Mr. Bartlett, Bruce, the Trump`s -- you know, you`re about -- you`ve just got a bunch of richer telling that to his Mar-a-Lago friends, is that tone deafness at the way that that`s going to come across to the American people or is that a recognition that it doesn`t matter what the American people say, his supporters don`t care if Republicans just enrich themselves and their friends?

BRUCE BARTLETT, REAGAN DOMESTIC POLICY ADVISER: I think to a large extent, they don`t care because what they know what they have done is set fiscal policy on course in a way that it won`t even matter next year if the Democrats get control of the House and Senate because they`re going to inherit a huge deficit caused by a massive tax cut, a completely unnecessary tax cut. There`s absolutely no economic justification for what -- for it whatsoever.

And the fiscal responsibility groups that used to be so powerful and said absolutely nothing during the tax debate are suddenly gearing up to say, oh, we must reduce entitlement programs and we must scale back on welfare and food stamps and all of these programs that help ordinary Americans because of the deficit. So, it`s all part of a plan, you see, to inflate the deficit and then use the deficit as an excuse to slash spending.

REID: And, you know, Utah`s Orrin Hatch you know who`s been just brimming with praise for Donald Trump very obsequious personal praise for Donald Trump in that editorial just scorching him on their -- on not wanting to leave office among other things, "The Salt Lake Tribune" reported this about tax reform. It said: For a very long time indeed, Hatch has said his desire to stick around long enough to have a say in what indeed will be long overdue overhaul of the nation`s byzantine tax code is the primary reason he`s run for reelection time after time.

Are Republicans who unlike you have not lost their religion on supply-side economics and trickle-down, is that the reason they hang on and praise Donald Trump because they did part one with the tax cuts and now they really dearly want to cut Medicare and Medicaid?

BARTLETT: I think that`s part of it, but the larger picture is that the Trump supporters, alt-right or whatever you want to call it, these people still control the Republican primaries. And so, even in a state like Utah that is very, very Republican, a guy like Orrin Hatch still has to worry about getting the nomination. Just a few years ago, his -- Robert Bennett, the other senator from Utah, was defeated in the primaries or the or a convention by right-wingers who didn`t think he was right wing enough.

And I think that inch and Trump`s Twitter account I think just scares the heck out of them.

REID: Yes, and to that very point, Jeff Flake was actually retiring as the junior senator from Arizona, said the following on this week, this past weekend: When you look at some of the audience`s cheering for Republicans, sometimes you look out there and say, those are the spasms of a dying party. And yet, Flake was an enthusiastic voter for the tax cuts. He -- a lot of these guys seem to be willing to do that part of the agenda, meaning slashing away at taxes for the super-rich, but then he turns around he says the party is dying.

Can you make sense of that?

BARTLETT: No, not really. I mean, as you pointed out, Flake is leaving. Perhaps his concern is to be able to become a lobbyist. I have no idea what his post-Senate plans are, but there`s that -- the thing is that there`s such a vast amount of money sloshing around on the right side of the political spectrum and that includes, you know, very high paying engagements as Fox commentators and things of this sort, that that you can make a really, really good living for yourself just by being obsequious and sucking up to Trump and praising him to the to the heavens.

REID: One might call that cashing in.

Bruce Bartlett, thank you so much. Former domestic policy adviser President Reagan and author of "The Truth Matters". Thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate it.

BARTLETT: Thank you.

REID: Thank you.

We`ve got one more story for you tonight, that is next. But first paging, Sigmund Freud. Just a few minutes ago when I was talking with Ambassador McFaul I meant to ask whether Vladimir Putin is attempting to be Russian president for life, but what I said is President Donald Trump and is he attempting to be president for life. Clearly, that is not what I meant to say.

We`ll be right back.


REID: OK. Here is something that may motivate you to get out there and go Christmas caroling next year. Take a look.



BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT: I didn`t realize there was champagne to go with it.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you so much.

OBAMA: Merry Christmas!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you so much.

OBAMA: Well, I hope you guys have a wonderful Christmas.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, sir. Love you! We love you!




REID: As you can see, that was former President Obama there in his first Christmas since leaving office, being serenaded in Hawaii where he spends his holidays.

Now, those aren`t just any carolers. They`re members of the Resistance group Windward Resisters based in Hawaii.

They put on their Santa hats and their pink Resistance hats and offered up some Christmas cheer in the hopes of getting a little face time with the president. Christmas wish granted.

And that does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow.

Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD." Ari Melber is in for Lawrence tonight.

Hello, Ari.




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