IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Trump signs first major legislation Transcript 12/27/17 The Rachel Maddow Show

Guests: Natasha Bertrand, Joy Vance, Karine Jean-Pierre

Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: December 27, 2017 Guest: Natasha Bertrand, Joy Vance, Karine Jean-Pierre

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, ALL IN: That is "ALL IN" for this evening.

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now with the one and only Joy Reid in for Rachel.

Good evening, Joy.

JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you very much. Have a good rest of the night.

All right. Thank you at home for joining us this hour. Rachel has the night off.

And today, we were supposed to get the answer as to which party will control the Virginia House of Delegates in the New Year. And we were supposed to get it and just about the strangest way possible.

The race that will likely decide control of the chamber is currently a tie and it was going to be decided by drawing lots, specifically the two candidates names were to be tucked inside two film canisters which would then be placed inside what "The Washington Post" described as they quote turquoise pitcher from 1835 found by chance under long-buried stables in Richmond`s Capitol Square.

That was the unlikely Virginia -- that was a -- that was a uniquely Virginia scene that we were expecting today. But at the very last minute, the Democrat in the race filed a court challenge the papers arrived at the courthouse this morning by overnight UPS delivery.

And so, the drawing of film canisters from the 19th century pitcher has been cancelled for now, while the three judges on the Newport News circuit court figure out when and how they can all get back from their holiday vacations to issue a ruling. Tick tock, guys, the Virginia general assembly reconvenes on January 10th and we still don`t know which party controls the lower chamber.

Now, for anyone trying to predict what the 2018 political season is going to bring -- and let`s be honest, that`s all of us, right? The fact remains that Democrats erased Republicans to 32-seat majority in the Virginia House and are now literally within one vote of ending Republican control for the first time in nearly two decades. That`s one heck of a bellwether.

But before there was the Democratic sweep in Virginia and before there was a Democrat elected to the U.S. Senate from Alabama, there was the 40th state Senate district in Florida. A special election in that Miami district in September did not capture a huge amount of national attention. Even if the Democrat won, Republicans would still be in charge of basically everything in Tallahassee.

But political analysts saw that special election as a significant bellwether. It was a Republican health seat that had not been competitive in years. But the district had gone for Hillary Clinton in the presidential election by more than 15 points. If Democrats could flip back seat, maybe they could also flip seats like those Virginia House of Delegates seats in districts that went for Clinton. Maybe in 2018, they could flip congressional seats in districts that went for Clinton.

Well, it turns out they could. The Democrat who won that Florida special election is named Annette Taddeo, and that name is important for a couple of reasons. One, of course, is that Democrats are hoping that her win is predictive for and that Democrats can learn from victories like hers to flip more legislative and congressional seats in the midterms. And we`ll be talking about races to watch in and what Democrats learn from 2017 in just a moment.

But Annette Taddeo was also important because of what happened to her in the last race she ran back in 2016. Before she became the first Latina Democrat to serve in the Florida state senate, Annette Taddeo was probably most famous for being a down ballot Democratic victim of the 2016 Russian attack on the U.S. elections. Last year in Florida`s 26th congressional district, in the southernmost part of Florida, think southwest Miami-Dade and the Florida Keys, there was a really ugly Democratic primary fight to see who would take on the incumbent Republican congressman in that district one candidate was Joe Garcia, the Democrat who used to hold that congressional seat. The other was Annette Taddeo.

The Democratic Campaign Committee had taken sides. It was the kind of primary fight that makes internal party fights worse. Here was "Politico`s" headline at the time. Primary fight drives rift between House Dems.

So, it was always going to be tough, but then suddenly in August, it got much, much worse. A whole slew of hacked documents relating to the race were posted online -- strategy memos, opposition research emails, and included a 76-page dossier of dirt that one of the candidates had compiled about the other, as well as all the dirt the Democratic Party had dug up on their own potential candidates in order to know their weaknesses.

The oppo research apparently included one of the Democrats being caught on a C-Span feed picking his earwax and appearing to eat it. OK, that`s disgusting.

But all this stuff was supposed to be behind the scenes background research and it magically appears online. Now, you can imagine how nasty the primary became then, accusations and counter-accusations flew, the candidates used the hacked documents against each other and then would Garcia won, the Republicans turn around and use the hack documents against him.


AD ANNOUNCER: A crime committed, our trust violated. Joe Garcia`s top aide convicted. Joe Garcia claimed he knew nothing, but court documents suggest otherwise. Even those backing his campaign called Garcia a flashback to the corrupt politicians of the past, scandals, corruption, convictions. We can`t let Joe Garcia run his scheme on us again.


MADDOW: OK. But you see the source that`s cited in that ad? Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee internal document. That ad was run by a super PAC tied to House Speaker Paul Ryan. The Democrat Joe Garcia did not win that race in Florida. Carlos Curbelo, who`s now the embattled Republican, did.

Now, we all know that the Democratic Party was hacked as part of a Russian attempt to influence our elections and we know that internal material, that that material was used against the Clinton campaign to try and help elect Donald Trump.

But what got far less attention was the way the Russian operation was deployed down ballot. Russian hackers in their operation against the election targeted about a dozen House races around the country, some of the most competitive races in the country.

Russian hackers leaked damaging documents they`d hacked from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the DCCC, which shares an office with the DNC in Washington.

Now, earlier this year, "The Wall Street Journal" laid out how the hacker Guccifer 2.0, who was widely known to be a Russian cut out long before election day last year passed along massive tranches of hacked Democratic documents to a Florida GOP operative who in turn passed them along to Florida journalists.

When "The Journal" contacted the Republican operative, he said he didn`t care if the Russians were behind the hacks because, quote, the agenda of the hackers seemed to match his own. Quote: If your interests align, he said, never shut any doors in politics.

So, while all this was going on in the summer and fall of last year, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi wrote a letter to Paul Ryan, asking Republicans not to use hacked materials in -- hacked by the Russians in their campaigns.

The chairman of the DCCC wrote to his Republican counterpart, quote: If this action continues, the NRCC will be complicit in aiding the Russian government in its effort to influence American elections.

The Republicans never responded.

Now, there are obviously a lot of questions about how much the Trump campaign knew about and whether they were complicit in the Russian attack on our election. But what about the rest of the Republican Party machinery?

Today, Michael Isikoff at Yahoo News reports that special counsel Robert Mueller`s investigation has moved beyond the Trump administration, the Trump transition and the Trump campaign and into the Republican Party. Quote: in just the last few weeks, Mueller`s prosecutors have begun questioning Republican National Committee staffers about the party digital operation that worked with the Trump campaign to target voters in swing states. They are seeking to determine if the joint effort was related to the activities of Russian trolls and bots aimed at influencing the American electorate, according to two sources familiar with various aspects of the investigation.

So, at a time when the president`s lawyers are reportedly still telling him they expect the Mueller investigation to be wrapped up any minute, what are we to make of the fact that that investigation appears to be expanding? And what does it mean that`s expanding in this particular direction?

Joining us now is Natasha Bertrand, political correspondent for "Business Insider" who`s been covering the Russian scandal in depth and in particular this question of whether the Russian intelligence operation intersected with the Trump data operation.

Great to see you, Natasha. Thank you for being here.


REID: All right. So, you wrote about this Michael Isikoff scoop in the context of the fact that there have been two separate pieces of the investigation one that looked at whether the data targeting operation run by Jared Kushner might have been intersecting with the Russians. But what can you tell us about the probe into whether the RNC`s data targeting down- ballot might have also somehow intersected with the Russians?

BERTRAND: Right. So, the RNC essentially hired three data firms to help the Trump campaign essentially collect voter information from various states. Now, the question that they are asking is whether or not the Russians and the Trump campaign and in turn the RNC actually coordinated to help each other with various aspects of this data collection operation.

So, the question now is really, did the Russians take the voter information that they hacked from the state election systems and feed it to the Trump campaign? And in return, did the Trump campaign help the Russians target those political ads that we saw on Facebook and Twitter during the election?

REID: So, it`s sort of a chicken or egg thing, right? It`s that that Russians wouldn`t and, you know, necessarily know which Wisconsin race or which Florida race to target, that they would have needed some American help. Is that the idea?

BERTRAND: That is the speculation of analysts. They said that it would have been really difficult for the Russians to have this kind of granular knowledge of American politics that would have allowed them to then target these particular swing states and geographic districts that were particularly vulnerable to this kind of disinformation during the campaign.

REID: Now, I mean, you`re an excellent reporter. You`ve been breaking so many scoops. This is a little bit more of a meta question because you`ve seen Republicans be really aggressive about the Mueller investigation when it comes to Donald Trump.

But is there any reporting that you can relate to us that suggests that perhaps the aggressiveness of somebody like a Devin Nunes who was on the Trump transition executive committee, that maybe some of that aggressiveness also has to do with it go -- with the probe going in the direction of the RNC.

BERTRAND: It`s definitely possible. We haven`t seen any reporting to that effect yet. But it would surprise me if Mueller were not going around and asking RNC staffers, what did you know about the extent to which the RNC was utilizing this data that was stolen by the Russians last year? Particularly by Guccifer 2.0, who, of course, was very instrumental in hacking in the DNC documents which the Trump campaign then used during the election to sow doubt about her candidacy?

So, this would -- we don`t have any legitimate reporting to suggest that Mueller has been asking the RNC about the down ballot aspects of the interference. But it would be surprising if that was not a part of his line of question.

REID: And how extensive was the interference in the down ballot races?

BERTRAND: It was pretty extensive. Guccifer 2.0 released these documents to bloggers all across different states and he was essentially trying to sow division and get, you know, this is a Russian hacker. They believe Guccifer 2.0 is linked to Russian intelligence. And these were released and then used by the Republican -- the Republican -- the House intelligence -- National Republican Congressional Committee which is the House Republican aspect of arm of the RNC.

And they were using these ads and ultimately, it was weaponized and many of these congressional candidates use the ads to -- against their Democratic opponents. So, ultimately, whether or not it had a dramatic effect on the outcome of these House races, it remains to be -- it really -- whether or not that`s true, it doesn`t -- we don`t know.

But the fact is that the Republicans took this information and they used it and that is really problematic.

REID: Yes, and we heard Paul Ryan, you know, in the Senate. They were talking about the fact that Paul Ryan had a lot to do with of directing the overall campaign for Republicans and he is, of course, very closely connected to Reince Priebus and Sean Spicer, they`re all Wisconsin mates from way back. Is there any reporting that you can bring us that Paul Ryan may be asked any questions about his involvement and whether Guccifer 2.0 intersected with what he was doing?

BERTRAND: Well, there definitely has been reporting to suggest that Paul Ryan may eventually be questioned about what he knew, because he did oversee the entire operation. And as you mentioned before, he actually never responded to the letter from Democrats asking, hey, why are the Republicans using all of this stolen information? So, that`s a question that Mueller is going to want to ask him is why he didn`t put a stop to it.

His spokeswoman has come out and said, hey, just because he didn`t answer this letter from the Democrats --

REID: Sure.

BERTRAND: -- last year, it does not mean that he`s against or that he`s for the Russian interference, that he`s for the Republicans using this hacked material. But then again, you really have to question why he has not come out more strongly against this kind of conduct and what it means for 2018.

REID: Was any of this material that used against Republicans?

BERTRAND: No, no, and that is another aspect of this that`s very interesting, is that the RNC itself was hacked.

REID: Yes.

BERTRAND: And none of the information from the RNC was released.

REID: Very interesting.

Natasha Bertrand, political correspondent for "Business Insider", she`s breaking a lot of scoops. You should follow here on Twitter. Thank you for being here. Appreciate it.

BERTRAND: Thanks so much.

REID: All right. And much more to come here tonight, what appears to be a big change in the president`s strategy toward one of his earliest advisors and we have a belated Christmas present for Rachel. That`s all coming up. Stay with us.


REID: Special counsel Robert Mueller has brought indictments against four people so far. Two of them pleaded not guilty. That`s former campaign chair Paul Manafort and his longtime business associate Rick Gates. Two others have pleaded guilty to the charges against them.

One is George Papadopoulos who held the title of foreign policy advisor for the Trump campaign and who the Trump team has said over and over and over again was basically glorified coffee boy.

The other guy who pleaded guilty had a much higher profile in Trump world and that would be former national security adviser Michael Flynn. General Flynn pleaded guilty to a single count of lying to the FBI about his contact with the Russian ambassador. He`s agreed to cooperate with investigators, which means he`s agreed to tell them what he knows.

Yesterday, his brother tweeted directly to the president about the case, telling Trump, quote, about time you pardon General Flynn who has taken the biggest fall for all of you given the illegitimacy of this confessed crime in the wake of all this corruption.

Back before we had a special counsel, Trump himself said that Michael Flynn should ask for immunity and he praised him as a good guy who`s gotten a raw deal. But now that Flynn has admitted guilt and agreed to cooperate with Mueller, Trump appears to be changing his tune.

Carol Leonnig of "The Washington Post" reports tonight that lawyers for the president are planning what amounts to a smear campaign against General Flynn. Quote: President Trump`s legal team plans to cast the former national security adviser as a liar, seeking to protect himself if he accuses the president or his senior aides of any wrongdoing.

Flynn`s said it himself, he`s a liar, one insider told "The Post".

Attorneys for Trump and his top advisers have privately expressed confidence that Flynn does not have any evidence that could implicate the president or his White House team.

But they`re not taking any chances with Michael Flynn or what he might tell investigators.

And joining us now is Joyce Vance, former U.S. attorney in Alabama.

Great to see you, Joyce. Thanks for being here.

OK, let`s start with the strategery of this, the idea of turning on Flynn when the Trump team doesn`t know what it is that he`s told Mueller. Is that wise legal strategy?

JOYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: It seems like a really poor legal strategy, Joy. For one thing, it`s certainly something that Mueller`s team was fully prepared for, it`s the strategy that the defense uses against every cooperator in virtually every case. And like you say here, it`s really dangerous because they don`t know exactly what it is that Flynn would ultimately testify to or cooperate on.

And if, for instance, he`s talking about conversations that are backed up by pieces of paper documenting them and the president`s team has tried to paint him out as being a liar, it will boomerang on them very heavily and reflect poorly on the president.

REID: Right. And if he`s a liar, then doesn`t beg the question of why it was hired? But you don`t answer that question, you`re giving his legal strategy.

But let`s go back to the way that Donald Trump used to act toward Michael Flynn. Supposedly, his conversations with Jim Comey had to do with him not just wanting Comey to pledge loyalty to Donald Trump himself, but also to give Flynn a break. Can`t you see your way clear to letting Flynn go? He`s called him a good guy.

These are some of the tweets at the time that Michael Flynn did his plea. He said, I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the vice president and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies. It`s a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful, there was nothing to hide exclamation point!

That was on December 2nd.

And we have another tweet same day. So, General Flynn lied to the FBI and his life is destroyed while crooked Hillary Clinton on that now famous FBI holiday, quote, interrogation with no swearing in and no recording lies many times, nothing happens to her, rigged system or just double standard, blah, blah, blah.

So, I mean, they used to have this idea of pulling Flynn in. Is there any sort of legal reason why the defense that used to be Michael Flynn did nothing wrong switches to Michael Flynn is a liar?

VANCE: It`s really not a good legal defense. In fact, it`s a horrible idea for the president to have this revealing ongoing thought process out in the public on his Twitter account.

Look, strategically, what you want to do if you`re the defense here, gearing up either for criminal prosecution or maybe for impeachment proceedings, is just to sit tight and to state -- to say really nothing. You don`t know exactly what General Flynn is coming at you with.

And there`s an interesting detail in the Flynn plea agreement, which is that he only receives immunity for this very limited charge that he has pleaded guilty to the false statements made to the FBI. And it leaves open this entire world of conduct that could potentially be a topic of a follow- on superseding indictment that Flynn could cooperate on very unpredictable. And when you look at that agreement, it looks like Mueller`s team crafted it really carefully to keep their ultimate goals with General Flynn opaque.

So, the strategy here that the president`s team seems to be pursuing looks like a poor one from the outside.

REID: So, you wrote an article from -- I`m sorry, you didn`t write. Carol Leonnig actually wrote the article today about this and she noted the following. She said White House advisers have noted Flynn did not plead guilty to being a co-conspirator in any criminal scheme which they argue shows he`s not able to provide evidence of a larger conspiracy. If Mueller opted not to charge him in a conspiracy, and this is according to Barbara Van Gelder,who`s a former prosecutor how much of a crime is it, really?

So, are you suggesting that the fact that they didn`t charge Flynn with criminal conspiracy only means they didn`t charge him with that now, it doesn`t mean they couldn`t turn around and charge them later?

VANCE: I think that`s exactly right and often if you have a defendant who`s going to plead guilty and cooperate, you will charge him and let him plead to a lesser crime, to a crime that carries a limited exposure for jail time or just one that you select for whatever strategic advantage it gives you as prosecutors. Does not mean that they might not possessed evidence that Flynn was part of a larger criminal conspiracy.

What you have to remember here is that Flynn has received a -- what looks like a very good plea deal, and you don`t get that for nothing. Flynn would have to have information that would be inculpatory that would tend to incriminate someone above him on the food chain, and they`re really only a very limited number of people who would qualify.

REID: Yes, two of them are name -- had the last -- the surname Trump. This was Donald Trump back on December 15th talking about one of the other potential exit strategies for himself and that would be pardoning Michael Flynn. Take a listen.


REPORTER: Do you consider a pardon for Michael Flynn?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don`t want to talk about pardon for Michael Flynn yet. We`ll see what happens. Let`s see.

I can say this, when you look at what`s going on with the FBI and with the Justice Department, people are very, very angry.


REID: What would be the legal ramifications if Donald Trump switched back to the pro-Flynn strategy and just pardoned him and did what his brother`s asking?

VANCE: I think that there`s consensus, Joy, that a Flynn pardon would create the constitutional crisis that everyone sort of bandies about, but that would be the real redline that can`t be crossed here.

And here`s the reason why: Pardoning General Flynn would be different from pardoning, say, Sheriff Joe Arpaio who was pardoned in a criminal case that did not involve the president.

Here you would have the president pardoning someone who could arguably provide evidence against the president, his family members, other close associates. And that would have to be politically untenable. The idea that a president would insulate himself from liability by issuing a pardon would have to create real political risk.

Beyond that though, it`s not a very good legal strategy because, remember, the president can pardon for federal crimes but not for state crimes, and it looks pretty clearly like we have at least one attorney general in the state of New York who might be prepared to bring charges behind these federal crimes if that was necessary, certainly in the Manafort indictment, we see some indication that there`s actually a carve out of some state type crimes.

So, I don`t think that this part and strategy is politically feasible. Legally, I don`t think it`s very successful either.

REID: All right. Joyce Vance, former U.S. attorney in Alabama, thank you so much for being here.

VANCE: Thanks for having me.

REID: Thank you.

VANCE: Well, one thing this show has been watching for in this Trump Russia investigation is how in the world Trump`s staffers and former staffers are going to pay for their lawyers. In October, a lawyer for the president said they were close to launching a legal defense fund to help Trump staffers. In November, that same lawyer again said a legal defense fund was coming shortly. Last week, the lawyer told us he understands that such a fund will be operational soon.

Well, so far, there`s been no help paying the legal fees for anyone who is not named Donald Trump, junior or senior. When help does arrive, an attorney for the president has already said it will not be for anyone who is under indictment or a target of the investigation. That has left indicted campaign deputy Rick Gates singing for his legal supper. As we saw last week in this video from home confinement that was played at a fundraiser for him.

Today, Rick Gates had to explain to a judge why this video does not violate the gag order on his case. We do not yet know whether the judge will buy his argument.

Likewise, General Flynn has been left to his own devices and the kindness of others in trying to pay his legal bills. As "The Washington Post" is reporting tonight, the White House has decided not only to leave Flynn out on a limb for his lawyer fees but also to attack his credibility as part of the White House`s own defense.

You could kind of see this coming when General Flynn`s family set up a legal defense fund just for him back in September.

Now, we asked Flynn`s attorney how the fundraising is going. The answer came back: declined to comment, which could just mean about anything.

We`ll be right back.


REID: -- more evidence of coming blue wave in 2018, with another poll showing Democrats with a commanding lead in the run-up to next year`s midterm elections.

A new YouGov/Economist poll released today shows Democrats with an eight- point lead over Republicans in the general congressional ballot. The poll shows Democrats holding wide leads in the Northeast, the Midwest and the West, while Republicans cling to a narrow lead in the south.

Democrats also win big among all income groups, especially among those at both the bottom and the top of the income scale. Democrats also win all age groups with the exception of those over 65. Republicans hold a seven- point lead among white voters while Democrats as expected when by huge margins among black Hispanic and, quote, other voters which presumably includes Asian-Americans. Pollsters really break those numbers out.

And while today`s polls showing an eight-point deficit on the generic ballot would normally set off alarm bells, for Republicans, today`s polls actually less terrible news than what`s become the norm. That`s because the average of recent polls for the Democratic lead in the generic ballot hovering around 13 points. That`s an even larger margin than this time in the cycle when Democrats took control of both the House and the Senate.

Such a lead if carried into November of 2018 but almost certainly results in Democrats taking back the House and while we are still months away from the midterm elections and the political landscape could always change, history shows that even at this very early stage, the generic congressional ballot is remarkably stable and changes very little from the same polls taken in the final month before the midterms.

So, are Democratic victories in 2018 a foregone conclusion? Will the blue wave we see building crash on Republicans in November, or are there reasons for caution as well?

Joining us now from his super wall with the five key things to watch heading into 2018 is MSNBC`s national political correspondent, the great Steve Kornacki.

Take it away, Steve.

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Joy, thank you for that. And, yes, well, look, you talk about waves, you talk about what we can expect in 2018 based on 2017. I think the story right now as you start to get at there is that those conditions you would normally look for, historically, for a wave to be in place for -- the out of power party, they are for now taking shape for Democrats.

Take you through some of the keys. You mentioned the generic ballot that`s usually a very good predictor. We`ll see where that lands next fall.

But right now, that`s one of the warning signs. Here`s another one. It`s just this -- the nature of midterm elections. These things historically favor. The party that`s not in power, that what you`re seeing here, these minuses, these are the losses, these are the House seats lost by the White House, by the president`s party in past midterm elections.

It`s basically the rule that the White House party loses seats. The question is just how many.

Keep in mind, the only two exceptions here, if I get those circles really, extenuating circumstances, 98. The Democrats picked up five seats in Bill Clinton`s second midterm, impeachment was going on at that point and in 2002, Bush`s Republicans picked up seats. That was a year after 9/11, with the country still in shock over that again very extraordinary circumstances.

Otherwise the rule is the out of power party tends to pick up seats. The question is they`re going to pick up a lot of seats. And remember, Democrats would need 24, if they`re going to get the House next year. Here`s something else though to keep an eye on it`s the president`s approval rating when you see those big losses, not just normal losses, but big losses, it corresponds with a president who`s not doing well in the polls.

Take a look, 2010, Barack Obama was at 45 percent on election day in the approval rating. Remember, Republicans took back the House 63-seat gain. That was one of the biggest in generations. Bush in `06, the Iraq war after Katrina, 38 percent approval. Democrats got the House. Clinton in `94, he was at 46 percent Republicans still took the House, first time in 40 years that they took it back in `94, even Reagan in probably would have been worse, Republicans didn`t have a lot of seeds to start with in `82.

So, Trump that 38 percent he`s at right now, very much consistent with really at the low end of that danger zone range that past presidents abetted. So, that`s another warning sign. And then there`s this, the results we`ve actually seen. There were special elections in 2017.

Take a look here, four house races throughout the year. These are districts -- this is how Trump did in those districts in 2016, and look, 20-point improvement for Democrats. Republicans want it, but that`s movement, significant movement in the Democrats direction. You saw that in Montana, you saw that in South Carolina, obviously, we saw at the end of the year in Alabama.

One exception there, Georgia. But again you`re seeing a broad trend there, movement towards it, but you would expect to see that with a wave. So, we say those conditions that we normally look for are there, we should put a cautionary note in this for Democrats. One, obviously, there is the question of can things change and if things are going to change, this is one thing -- this is one oddity of the Trump presidency.

The public`s assessment of the economy is pretty good right now, and it`s been improving. You see 63 percent say excellent or good. Normally, when you get that kind of assessment, the president`s approval rating is higher than Trump`s is right now.

So, it does leave that question out there, and can Trump`s approval rating, can the assessment of the Republican Party lies a little bit if the public`s view of the economy stays strong or gets stronger? That`s one note of caution. The second though really is this, if any of what I just said sounds familiar, remember what it looked like in September or October in 2016, a lot of the traditional metrics said Donald Trump wasn`t going to win that election. Of course, Donald Trump did win that election.

It`s a bigger picture question about in the era of Trump, are the rules of politics just different in a way that that`s sort of traditional metrics, traditional measures don`t mean what they have in the past. Impossible to say right now. You got to go through the election to find out, but I think that is worth mentioning in the era of Trump, Joy.

REID: Well, Steve, really quickly, because just going through those elections and excellent job as usual by the way, I`m thinking about the three elections that had the most intensity, right? 1998, obviously, impeachment gave Democrats a sense of intensity. 2006, Bush reelected but they`re still in intensity, the electorate.

But is this what we`re looking at a lot more like 2010, where you have a new president who`s got incredibly intense opposition, you`re looking at Democrats losing 63 seats because the intensity of the antipathy to Obama, are you seeing in sort of the zeitgeist out there, that kind of intensity, a 2010-style attitude toward Trump that`s similar to the Republican attitude toward Obama?

KORNACKI: Yes, I mean, I think it`s become one of these modern rules of politics, too, that nothing fires up one party`s based, like the other party having power. Remember, Democrats in 2009, it wasn`t just that Barack Obama came to office, you had big Democratic majorities in the House and in the Senate. You had 60 votes there for a brief time.

And so, you had this added -- a siege mentality almost among Republicans if we better get our acts together, because we`ve got to get some sort of check here. I think you certainly see Democrats feeling that way right now, but also when you get beyond the base, I think we`ve seen the most powerful message in midterm politics, it really ends up being not ideological in the past, it has been just that simple message of, do you want to check?

REID: Yes.

KORNACKI: You think one party should have a check on the other party so nobody has full control. In the past, that`s been a compelling message.

REID: Absolutely, I`m going to channel Chris Matthews and say American seemed to like divided government. Go back, and Americans seemed to like it.

Steve Kornacki, best in the business. Thank you very much.

KORNACKI: Thank you, Joy.

REID: I appreciate it.

All right. So, just what are Democrats doing to try and boost their chances next year. That is next.

And coming up at the end of the show, our belated Christmas present for Rachel, a present were sure she will gladly share with all of you.


REID: There are not very many Republican women in charge in Congress right now. Cathy McMorris Rodgers is the fourth highest ranking Republican in the House of Representatives. She`s the chair of the House Republican Conference. After Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers, there are only three female committee chairs in the body.

And as of today, one of them is on her way out the door. Congresswoman Diane Black of Tennessee is the chair of the House Budget Committee. That is Speaker Paul Ryan`s former gig. And she said much success in that role both professionally and personally.

Her own net worth has ballooned considerably over the years. Her net worth as of 2015 is just over $75 million, making her one of the richest members of Congress, someone who could very well benefit from the new Republican tax bill that she just happened to help steer through toward the president`s desk. Now that that`s over with, Congresswoman Black says she`s ready to pack up her bags and her congressional pension and head back to Tennessee to run for governor.

As "The Washington Examiner" put it, today, Congresswoman Black, quote, is -- she credited the passage of the tax bill with allowing her to achieve her political goals and move on to the next step in her career. It`s also possible that the congresswoman recognizes that she might not always get to be a high-powered congressional committee chair. If Republicans wind up ceding control to Democrats in the House in 2018, she could go from chairwoman to ranking member.

So, if one way to interpret Congresswoman Black`s departure is that she feels she`s done it all, another could be that she sees the writing on the wall for the Republican majority next year. Her change of career plans comes just a few weeks after Alabama voted for the first time in 25 years to send a Democrat to represent them in the United States Senate.

Today, the Democratic Senate Majority PAC patted themselves on the back for pouring millions of dollars into the Alabama Senate race to help Doug Jones win, and how Jones got that win is still a matter of discussion for Democrats since on top of the millions of dollars an outsider money, one of the key things that helped Doug Jones win in Alabama were the on-the-ground efforts by local activists to get Doug Jones voters to the polls. And that work paid off.

It led to higher than anticipated voter turnout, black voter turnout in particular. In the end, Doug Jones received support of 98 percent of black women who voted in Alabama and put together a winning coalition of young voters and voters of color. So, looking to 2018, can Democrats replicate the success they had in Alabama and other states? How do they latch onto the public`s discontent with the Republican Party and turned that into wins for Democrats in races next November, which by the way is sooner than you think?

Joining me now is Karine Jean-Pierre, Democratic strategist and senior advisor to

Hey, Karine.


REID: So, your outfit at Move On is already up with I think their Internet ads that are starting to specifically target Republicans on the tax bill.


REID: Is the tax bill to Republicans writ large and I mean this in the nicest way, what Roy Moore is sort of the discussed with Roy Moore was to Doug Jones in Alabama? Is it powerful enough to carry Democrats over the top?

JEAN-PIERRE: I think that`s one way. I think that`s one way that that Democrats can own the message next year. I mean, just think about it. They passed -- an unpopular president and unpopular Congress, Republican Congress, passed a deeply unpopular bill. And I think Democrats have the integrity here. They have the messaging here. So they needs to take that forward.

But it`s not just that. I think there are a couple of things that need to play into this as well, like they need to -- Democrats need to continue and oppose the racist reckless agenda that Trump holds. I mean, majority of Americans have already kind of smacked that down. They did that even before he took office, and they need to continue. They need to not be intimidated. They need to continue to fight, just use the healthcare fight as an example and repeat and repeat. So, that`s number one.

Number two, they need to also have a compelling argument, a compelling vision. And I think that looks like making sure that they are talking about expanding Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Hey, civil rights, raising the minimum wage, protecting immigrants. And so, those are really important things that Democrats need to do next year.

And the last thing is, as you were talking about is, hey, black women deliver two races, two important races for Democrats in 2017, that was Virginia and that was Alabama ruby-red states that we -- state -- that we had no business playing in, we hadn`t had a Democrat in that state in 25 years. And so, we have to lean in to the base. The only way we`re going to win is if the base comes out, so we have to get that base set which is the black community, the Latino community, which is also millennials.

So, Democrats need to do all of those things and chase Joy voters who are not going to vote for us.

REID: Yes.

I mean, I`m going to take those in reverse order. So, African-Americans make up 27 percent of the population in Alabama. It`s one of the highest percentage of African-Americans of any state. Mississippi`s even higher, it`s like 30-something percent. Is it the case, Mississippi`s 37 percent African-American, are these states for Howard Dean`s 50-state strategy that Democrats should be going back to and playing? There`s going to be a Senate race in Mississippi, for instance.

JEAN-PIERRE: Yes, I think -- look, Democrats can`t leave anything on the table, look what happened in Alabama just as a perfect example what`s happening especially with Steve Bannon leading the charge. You have this white nationalist who runs as a racist Website who is now in charge of seems to be the chief strategist on all these Senate races.

And so, you can`t leave anything on a table. So, you`re going to have these more extremist candidates that we`ve haven`t seen and the likes like this in a long time. And so, we can`t leave anything on the table. That`s Tennessee. That`s Mississippi. That`s other states who are not as ruby- red as Alabama when you look at Tennessee, then we can`t leave anything on table, so we have to go after, and we have to have that 50-state strategy if we want to take back the House next year. And now because of Alabama once again, thus the U.S. Senate is at play.

REID: Yes, and on the second piece, you thought you mentioned Medicare. You mentioned Medicaid. You mentioned DACA. I know that Democrats care about doing something on infrastructure.

The big debate today was whether or not, they should do those things with Republicans, with Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump, and combined with them to get wins on those things as an election strategy. Your thoughts?

JEAN-PIERRE: Well, the infrastructure I think -- well, when Mitch McConnell talks about and even Donald Trump talks about bipartisanship, it`s kind of hysterical to hear that when you especially when you look at Mitch McConnell who has used -- who has used special kind of procedure, right, to make sure reconciliation, to make sure that Democrats were not part of passing -- not passing while pushing what they their GOP tax plan and also with the repeal of -- repeal of Obamacare. They use reconciliation because they didn`t want Democrats involved.

So, to talk about -- to talk about partisanship is just crazy. And also, this is the same person who held as we know the Supreme Court seat for over a year. And then also during the Obama years who said, hey, you know what, the one thing that I want to make sure is that Obama is a one-term president.

So, there is -- they haven`t shown any to anything that leads to bipartisanship and you have Donald Trump who attacks Democrats whenever he has a chance. So, I just don`t see that happening and like I said, the number one thing that Democrats need to continue to do is resist the reckless and racist agenda of Donald Trump, and that is not working with them on anything because there is nothing positive or good that Donald Trump is going to put forward.

REID: Karine Jean-Pierre, during the fire tonight, Democratic strategist and senior adviser to -- thank you very much. Appreciate your time.

JEAN-PIERRE: Thanks, Joy.

REID: Happy New Year.

JEAN-PIERRE: Happy New Year.

REID: All right. And up ahead, our gift to Rachel. Stay with us.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, I see you as a president one day, you too.

THEN-GOVERNOR SARAH PALIN (R), ALASKA: Yes, maybe in eight years.


REID: No. Maybe not. Turns out that was not the French president, but rather well-known comedy duo out of Montreal.

In 2011, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker thought he got a call from the billionaire David Koch wanting an update on the Union battles in the state.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`ll tell you what, Scott. Once you crush these bastards, I`ll fly you out to Cali and really show you a good time.

GOV. SCOTT WALKER (R), WISCONSIN: All right. That would be outstanding.


REID: Nope. Governor Walker never went there for a good time because David Koch had not called. It was a prank from a New York blogger.

This time around, it was U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley. She reportedly got a call from a person she thought was the prime minister of Poland to talk about elections and the mystery nation of Binomo.





REID: Yes, yes, Ambassador Haley totally knows Binomo. Everyone knows Binomo, except there is no island of Binomo. It doesn`t exist. Binomo is not real.

But we won`t let that stop us from rolling the tape.



HALEY: Yes, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They declared independence.

HALEY: Right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They had elections and we suppose Russian had its intervention.

HALEY: Yes, of course, they did. Absolutely.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And now this Binomo land makes the situation in the South China Sea even more tense.

HALEY: And we`re aware of that. We`ve been watching that very closely and I think we`ll continue to watch that as we deal with issues that keep coming up about the South China Sea.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. That`s correct. That`s correct. What should be done because of this Binomo?

HALEY: Let me find out exactly what our stance is on that and what if anything the U.S. is doing or thinks should be done and I`ll report back to you on that, as well.


REID: So whatever or wherever this Binomo is, Nikki Haley is totally on the case.

Now, for the record, she really is the U.N. ambassador. Binomo really is not real. And that was not the Polish prime minister on the phone. It was a fair of Russian pranksters.

Now, I should tell you, Nikki Haley has not confirmed the call and we`ve not independently verified it was her on the phone. But local South Carolina press where she was governor is reporting that someone who sure sounds like an awful like Nikki Haley spent 22 minutes chatting with the fake polish prime minister.

In addition to discussing the fake island of Binomo, she reportedly thanked the prime minister for abstaining from the U.N. vote. Perhaps she`ll invite them to her fancy party for well-behaved nations, as she talked about Russian aggression, something that did not leave the Russians happy.

Like I said, sometimes it`s hard to tell the real deal from a knockoff.



HALEY: Yes, yes.



REID: OK. You know when you have a friend who`s super hard to buy a holiday gift for? Because you`re not sure what they want and they have specific tastes and you can`t really ask them what they want because then you`re basically ruining the surprise. And the perfect gift is kind of reveals itself to you, usually online.

That just happened to me with the host of this show, Rachel Maddow.


RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, TRMS: My dear, dear bad lip reading, I have loved you for so long. I love you bad lip reading. I love you. I love you. Thank you.

God bless you bad lip reading. You are a national treasure.


REID: Yes. Rachel likes bad lip reading. I mean, she really, really, really likes bad lip reading. She loves them, in fact.

And like holiday magic, the lovely folks at bad lip reading put out a video this afternoon, just in time to gift to my dear friend and yours while she`s on her day off. So, here you go, Rachel. This one is for you.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So Christmas time is here again. Shove it up your vegan face. You`ll do a lot more stuff in the New Year unless you`re dead. People love different foods. Organic chicken is a snooze. I want more grease and I want more chocolate cake.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I really feel all the magic of Christmas spirit. Fly. I like a bunch of Christmas flowers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`ve been eating jellybeans for hours. I just got a very adorable present. A Trump robot clearly sent from heaven.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m not the real Donald Trump. But I can scare you just as much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Christmas is here. Play in the snow. Grab a friend`s hand and don`t let go. I`m the most big league guy I know. Christmas is here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I will live in silence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m the best part of the year but Christmas is here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He`ll freeze the diamond money.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s the best part of the year. Christmas isn`t fun. At least when you`re not a real human. Oh, why can I not know love? Why, creator, do not join us? Why? One time I just want to feel the wind on my face.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Huh? Can a robot be unhappy? The guy is suffering. He might die. Have a look at the electrical feed. It`s probably wrong. Look into it for me and my little guy.


REID: For the person who has everything who deserves more, even when that means an uncannily accurate lip sync of a creepy robot. Happy every holiday, Rachel.

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. Fly.




Copy: Content and programming copyright 2017 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2017 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.