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Trump contradicts own FISA policy Tracript 1/11/18 The Rachel Maddow Show

Guests: Xavier Becerra

Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW

Date: January 11, 2018

Guest: Xavier Becerra

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Joy. What a night to be alive, huh?

JOY REID, MSNBC HOST, "A.M. JOY": Wow. Yes.

MADDOW: Yes. I know, I mean, you have kids, I know that you`re a person who does not want to -- I mean, it`s this -- I`ve never really had a night where it`s very hard to cover what is going on in the news without saying stuff that it`s really not OK to say on TV.

REID: That`s correct. You have to actually curse to quote the president of the United States. Go figure.

MADDOW: Yes. It`s not just cursing in exclamation, but it`s like cursing in order to adequately do the story.

REID: To do the story, and talking about countries from which both of their parents` families are from. Both of their parents` families are from. So --

MADDOW: Thank you, my friend. Much appreciated.

REID: Bye.

MADDOW: We`ll get through it.

REID: Yes.

MADDOW: Thanks to you at home for joining us as well.

All right. Last night, we closed this show with a short news item and a reference to something that had happened at the White House that apparently a lot of you guys thought was fake. I didn`t realize that when I said it last night at the end of the show, but late last night after we were off the air and over the course of the day today, it became clear that lots of people that saw the end of the show last night thought I was joshing. Thought that I was being hyperbolic or sarcastic when we reported at the end of the show last night that upon the visit of one particular world leader to our nation`s capital yesterday, the White House has put out a statement announcing her as the prime minister of Normay.

We reported that last night. I now feel the need to clarity that. I was not kidding when I said that. In fact, the White House did put out that announcement.

Here is their daily guidance and press schedule that they sent out for yesterday. As you can see there, it says, quote, the president will then greet Prime Minister Erna Solberg of Normay. There is a lot of country names in the world that have lots of syllables or unfamiliar combinations of continents and bowels that might make it hard for Americans to remember them, Normay is -- I mean, Normay? Anyway.

So, that was strange the White House put that out yesterday and they never actually corrected it. So, that is still officially the president`s press schedule for yesterday. And this White House does stuff like that all the time. Right before the president went to Israel in May, the White House put out a statement saying the president was taking that trip to Israel to, quote, promote the possibility of lasting peach. OK.

When British Prime Minister Theresa May came to visit last year, the White House released a schedule for her visit that misspelled her name not once, not twice but three times.

The White House does this institutionally, the president does this kind of stuff himself, while the president yesterday was hosting the prime minister of Normay, I mean Norway. He also announced that we had started selling that country our F-52 fighter jets. There is no such thing as an F-52 fighter jet.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In November, we started delivering the first F-52s and F-35 fighter jets.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: There is no F-52s. Maybe there`s a B-52 cover band somewhere, but "The Washington Post" today helpfully noted that there is a fake plane called the F-52 that features in the 2014 edition of "Call of Duty", which is a video game. That`s what it looks like when you`re flying it, in that video game. But, you know, don`t let that extraneous factual information distract you because obviously the Normegians are too smart to be tricked in to buying a fake video game only fighter jet from the United States, regardless of what the president of the United States says about it, and then doesn`t even bother to correct once he said it wrong.

This little stuff, this is granular stuff every day, every day with this president and this White House, and we have learned to slough it off and move on. We proceed like it didn`t happen. This White House like no other White House before it screws up even the most basic easiest stuff and have literally from day one, do you remember the commemorative inauguration poster, the big smiling picture of the brand-new president? That was the inauguration poster misspelled the word to. The nation needs to heel, h-e- e-l, heel, and that`s not the way he means it. We have to heel and be stronger.

This president in a meeting in cabinet room once told a totally made up story about President Obama not being allowed to land Air Force One in the Philippines. That is a false story. The president told it in the cabinet room. That was a false story. Then he told it again with even more completely made up embellished details to a group of reporters because he liked the fake story so much the first time he told it, he decided to keep telling it and to try to get it into the press.

This morning, the president appears to have accidently come out against his own surveillance policy because a guy on "Fox and Friends" told him to, and he didn`t know enough about what his policy is supposed to be to realize it was his policy that "Fox and Friends" was telling him to denounce.

It`s every day. Every single day, and in general as a country, we have adapted, shockingly, quickly, to this being our new reality, right? When these things happen, we beat up, roll off. Beat up, roll off. We`re a duck.

Bizarre blatantly false assertions, giant obvious mistakes inventing a country called Normay or Nambia or whatever the latest drunken swerve off of normal is. As a country, we have started to just learn to go with these things.

I mean, sure, the American presidency may never be viewed quite the same way again, the whole esteem for the office thing will hopefully get sorted out by some later generation. We will always have to own the fact that ours is the generation that lost it. But on a day to day basis as these things happen from this president, from this white house, we have adapted to a new normal of embarrassing incompetence and ignorance and dishonesty, and I don`t say that stuff lightly. It`s just been a year now and this is it. This is true. There is no reason to soft pedal it, right? It happens every day.

And at the end of every day where it`s happened again, it`s like, well, OK, still standing. So I`m uncomfortable with the peace that I have arrived at as a person who talks about the news for a living on that stuff. I don`t necessarily cover the president`s tweets. I don`t cover stuff said from the podium at the White House briefing room. I don`t cover misstatements and lies from senior administration officials and the president himself and vice president. I just -- I have mostly tried to stay away with it. I have a very uneasy piece even with myself about that day to day granular, embarrassing, wrong, exploitative stuff.

But there is stuff that happens on another level, even if we are inured to the day to day debasement of the office and the debasement of the institution of the White House. There is another level to his behavior, to which I think none of us are inured. I don`t know how many more times he has to show up before we start to get inured to it. I do not look forward to that day.

On December 23rd, right before Christmas this year, "The New York Times" published an article looking at the president`s policies on immigration and started the article with anecdote that I don`t think anybody quite knew what to do with. This is how the article started. Quote: Late to his own meeting and waving a sheet of numbers, President Trump stormed into the Oval Office one day in June.

According to six officials who attended or were briefed about the meeting, Mr. Trump began reading aloud from the document that he had in his hand, which is policy adviser Steven Miller had given him just before the meeting. The document listed how many immigrants had received visas into the United States in 2017. More than 2,500 were from Afghanistan. The president complained that Afghanistan was a terrorist haven. The nation of Haiti had sent 15,000 people. The president grumbled that they, quote, all have AIDS. Forty thousand people had come from the nation of Nigeria, Mr. Trump said once they had seen the United States, they would quote never go back to their huts in Africa.

So, this piece came out the day before Christmas Eve. White House denied these claims and these quotes vehemently. White House press secretary called this story lies. White House officials, quote, strenuously insisted that Mr. Trump never used the words huts or AIDS to describe people from any country. The White House actually put out a statement in the name of a lot of senior administration officials who are reportedly inside the meeting, they put out a statement in the name of those other people saying that they all as a group denied that Trump had used those words.

Quote: General Kelly, General McMaster, Secretary Tillerson, Secretary Nielsen and all other senior staff actually in the meeting deny these outrageous claims. So, there was this White House denial but "The Times" published its story, including those denials. They stood by their reporting and they explained their sourcing. The president saying that people from Haiti all have AIDS was, quote, according to one person who attended the meeting and another person who was briefed about it by a different person who was there.

The comments about Nigerians going back to their huts, that was described to "The Times" by two officials. After the White House specifically denied that the president used the word AIDS or the word huts, "The Times" explained two officials that explained them found them so noteworthy that they related them to others at the time of the meeting.

So, this was obviously a very explosive thing to have reported about an American president, right? But you have these very, very clear denials from the White House in the name of all these senior officials. Who are you going to believe?

Well, door number one or door number two, right? People who believe "The Times" reporting were obviously disturb by these comments being attributed to the president. The comments have clear implications for the president`s broader mind set, right?

Frank Sharry, executive director of a pro-immigration group called America`s Voice was actually quoted by "The Times" in that story right before Christmas as saying that the president`s immigration agenda is motivated by racism, basically these quotes proved it. Quote, he`s basically saying you people of color coming to America seeking the American Dream are a threat to the white people. He`s come into office with an aggressive strategy of trying to reverse the demographic changes underway in America.

So, there is somebody involved in the immigration fight who says those comments from the president, that tells you where he`s coming from on policy, on immigration. That tells you where this whole agenda comes from. It`s his personal animus and bigotry. All right? Some disturbing stuff.

At the time that story came out at Christmas, you either believed the story from "The Times", in which these were very disturbing and yes, blatantly racist quotes from the president, or you believe the denials from the White House, right, that it would be ridiculous to think the president would talk like that.

Well, at the time that story came out at Christmas, which door did you choose? Who did you believe? "The Times" and their sources or the White House?

Well, now, tonight, we know which door had the truth behind it. I mean, what the White House had going for them around the first story that was printed in December, right, it was printed in December, it was about a meeting that reportedly happened last June, the White House never denied that the meeting happened, they just denied what happened in the meeting and what they had going for them from that meeting where the president was quoted saying all these allegedly racist things.

The one thing they had going for them is that the only other people in the room with the president were administration officials. It was a whole bunch of cabinet level officials and administration staffers. It was all Trump administration folks.

And even though two of them apparently anonymously leaked word of what they heard to "The New York Times" because they were at least somewhat distressed or thought it was notable, you know, everybody else in that room, right, administration loyalists, senior officials, they all put their name on denials that it had happened. Well, now, this time, what`s being reported on is a meeting that happened not months ago. It`s a meeting that happened this afternoon and this time it was not just a meeting with people to whom the president has given jobs, it wasn`t just a meeting with cabinet officials and administration staffers, today, the meeting was with members of Congress.

According to the "New York Times," the members of Congress in the room included at least one Democrat and a whole bunch of Republicans. The Democrat was Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, he arrived at the meeting alongside Republican Senator Lindsey Graham. Durbin and Graham have been working together on attempted fix for the DACA program, for the so-called DREAMe.rs. Graham and Durbin arrived at the meeting together, reportedly thinking it was just the two of them who are going to be meeting with President Trump. But apparently also in the room when they got there were Congressman Kevin McCarthy, the number two Republican in the House.

Georgia Senator David Purdue, Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton and Congressman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, who`s the chair of the Judiciary Committee and the Republican controlled House. And all of those guys were reportedly in the room. I will tell you that we have contacted all of those senators and members of Congress tonight to try to get from them their confirmation that this, in fact, happened and the president, in fact, said these things.

We also want to find out, how did you guys react? Did you do when the president said this stuff? If you can confirm that he said it?

All right. We know at least somebody in that room reacted to what the president said by leaving the room and going to tell reporters about it because Josh Dawsey at "The Washington Post" was the first reporter to publish these alleged quotes from the president today. Now, "The New York Times" and NBC News subsequently published their own versions story. Importantly, so far, the White House is not denying that this is what the president said.

I was going to tell you how Josh Dawsey laid it out in the story, because he`s the one who broke the news about this. Quote: Graham and Durbin thought they would meet with Trump alone and were surprised to find immigration hardliner such as Representative Bob Goodlatte and Senator Tom Cotton at the meeting. The meeting was impromptu. It came after phone calls this morning.

Graham and Durbin came prepared to outline a potential bipartisan deal restoring protections for countries that have been removed from the temporary prospected status while adding money for a border wall and making changes to the visa lottery system.

President Trump grew frustrated with lawmakers when they floated restoring protections for immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries as part of this proposed bipartisan immigration deal. According to two people briefed on the meeting, Trump said, I have to tell you, I am going to swear, I will say it once, but I have to say it once in order to convey this.

According to two people briefed on the meeting, Trump said, quote, why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here? And then he suggested that the United States should instead bring people from countries like Norway, end quote. You know, Norway, the country with the white people that just bought our F-52s.

So, these remarks from the president today, this is not the typical granular stuff, right? This is not typical White House President Trump`s screw up stuff. This is not accidently calling it Normay. This is not lying about the size of the inaugural crowd.

Right after the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last year, when President Trump asserted there were fine people on the neo-Nazi side of that gathering, one of whom is now on trial facing murder charges for deliberately driving into counter protesters of that event and killing someone. After Trump praised people on the Nazi side of that gathering, House Speaker Paul Ryan was asked on CBS News how he squares his role as Washington`s leading Republican with President Trump`s views on race.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I think, like I said before, he`s learning. I know his heart is in the right place.

JOHN DICKERSON, TV HOST: How do you know that?

RYAN: I`ve had some candid conversations with him about this, especially during that time. I`ve had some very candid conversations. So I do believe his heart is in the right place.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: At that time, he means right after Trump praised the neo-Nazis at the Charlottesville riot.

And John Dickerson interposes there, how do you know his heart is in the right place, how do you know that? On what basis does Paul Ryan and other Republicans who support the president in Congress, on what basis would you think that the president`s heart is in the right place on this subject?

I mean, whatever your own views on the subject, the president has been nothing if not consistent on this subject, and, you know, if we`re being honest with ourselves as a country, we have to admit that we knew exactly what we were getting on this subject when he was elected.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: At least 2 million, 2 million think of it, criminal aliens now inside of our country, 2 million people, criminal aliens.

CROWD: Boo!

TRUMP: We will begin moving them out day one as soon as I take office, day one. My first hour in office, those people are gone. Their days have run out in this country. The crime will stop. They are going to be gone. It will be over.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: The president has not made incidental, accidental, misspelled screw-up comments on immigrants and race and religion. He`s been very consistent and he`s shown himself very openly on this. This is integral to how and why he ran for president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shut down of Muslims entering the United States until our country`s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.

(APPLAUSE AND CHEERS)

We have no choice. We have no choice. We have no choice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: That`s who he was as a candidate. We knew what was coming. That`s who America elected.

But there is an institutional piece of this. There is a national piece of this which is not about him. It`s about us as a country and us as a country under the rule of law because, yes, it tells you something about a man to know that he talks and thinks this way and seeks advantage by stoking this -- by stoking prejudice and stoking bigotry. You can take a measure of a man that way.

But him saying this stuff now that he`s president has consequences. It has negative consequences for him and for what he`s trying to do as president to let those ideas of his loose into the world as the policy of the American government on everything from the Muslim ban to who is allowed to sue him for his health care policies, to the sentencing of Bowe Bergdahl. On issue after issue and the statements, verbal statements, his Twitter statements, all of it have been used against him in courts of law to stop him from getting what he wants, because his public remarks in many instances reveal his preferred policies to be unconstitutional.

Now, you may be able to put together a temporary restriction on visas from certain countries based on national security threat that you`re attributing to those countries on the basis to something you can prove to a court, right? But you can`t have a ban that`s effectively a Muslim ban if you also say out loud what you`re really trying to do is ban Muslims from the United States. Once you`re president, your public statements matter and they can be used against you in a court of law. Mr. President, you have the right to remain silent about any of your policies. The fact you haven`t hurts you over and over and over again.

Just this week, a federal judge ordered the Trump administration to restore part of DACA. The judge issued a temporary injunction ordering the Homeland Security Department to resume accepting renewal applications for the DREAMe.rs, right, for DACA, because of the president`s ill-advised public remarks about that program and about those immigrants. His public remarks meant that his administration lost their ability to pursue their chosen policy on that subject this week. Thanks to the rule of law.

Today, today is the 16th anniversary of the opening of the military prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. George W. Bush is the president who opened it, so honestly, that`s on him, but by the time he left office, he was trying to close it. Barack Obama, John McCain ran against each other in 2008, they both agreed, with George W. Bush that it should be closed. Barack Obama is the one who won that election, he then spent two whole terms trying hard to close Guantanamo but neither he, nor President George W. Bush was able to do it, even though they wanted to.

That said, a new lawsuit filed today on behalf of 11 men held on that prison for more than a decade puts forth a solid argument that actually the president who might be able to close it is Donald Trump, not because he wants to, but because of his public statements arguing that it should never be closed or nobody should ever be released from Guantanamo, ever. The Supreme Court has let Guantanamo stay open all of this time, 16 years, but they at least said that everybody who`s held there needs to be adjudicated as an individual, needs to be treated on a case by case basis.

Trump blew that up with his forgive me, dumb public statements on Guantanamo, insisting that nobody should get out of Guantanamo regardless of the circumstances, treat them all as a group. He might be the one who closes Guantanamo. The White House is not denying this multiple source reporting tonight. That the president demanded to know at an Oval Office meeting with lawmakers today why he should accept immigrants from, quote, bleep hole countries rather than from places like Norway. Hmmm, why Norway?

As we try to figure out as a country and individual citizens what we can stand and what we can`t, right? What stands as a typical day`s new insanity beat up, roll off, beat up, roll off, and what counts as a breaking point, one of the things that we can now factor into the balance of harm to this country that is caused by having an openly racist president, I don`t say that lightly. One of the things we can factor into understanding the balance of harm that causes this country is the very live question of whether his racist utterances and other unwise public statements can also and will also be used to undo the most radical work of this White House.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: So, the White House is not denying it. In a meeting with members of Congress on immigration today, it`s now being reported with multiple sourcing and multiple news outlets that the president referred to Haiti, El Salvador and African countries as bleep hole countries. "The Washington Post" was first to report the remarks they described to lawmakers in the room as quote, taken aback by what the president said. Again, the White House not denying that the president made these remarks.

Congresswoman Mia Love is a Republican member of Congress from Utah. She`s the only member of Congress who is Haitian-American. She put out this statement tonight which read in part, quote, the president`s comments are unkind, divisive, elitist and fly in the face of our nation`s values. This behavior is unacceptable from the leader of our nation. My parents came from one of those countries, took an oath of allegiance to it, and took on the responsibilities everything being a citizen comes with.

The president must apologize to both the American people and to the nations he so wantonly maligned. One of the questions raised by the president`s remarks is whether or not this is yet another instance in which the public statements, again, not denied by the White House might end up being used against him in a court of law as the president seeks to implement policies based on his most deeply held beliefs.

Joining us is California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, former very high ranking member of Congress, who is now the attorney general of the state of California which has been suing the Trump administration quite a lot.

Mr. Becerra, Mr. Attorney General, thank you very much for being with us. Appreciate your time tonight.

XAVIER BECERRA, CALIFORNIA ATTORNEY GENERAL: Absolutely, Rachel.

MADDOW: Can I get your reaction to this reporting tonight in general, just your top line response?

BECERRA: You can only tiptoe around these things so long before you have to come out and say what it is, call a spade a spade and Donald Trump has made racist remarks before and this is about as much as I think people should tolerate. So, it`s time to respond. Otherwise, what we are at risk of is allowing the exception, which is Donald Trump become the rule and that`s the last thing we should allow in a country where we worked for over 200 years to elevate our democracy and the principles that the Statute of Liberty stands for.

MADDOW: One of the things that happened this week before these remarks were reported today was that the administration suffered a significant blow for its immigration policies when a district court, federal court blocked their rescission of DACA in part based on the president`s public remarks about immigrants and about the DACA program. Are you of the impression, do you have any impression on the president`s remarks of this kind, basically showing racial animus, that those could be a legal problem for him in terms of trying to implement his administration`s policies?

BECERRA: Well, we certainly used his remarks in the case that you just cited that we filed against him and where we got that injunction to stop the repeal of the program during the pendency of the trial. He has made remarks that make it very clear where he stands and all of his remarks become evidence for the record. And so, Donald Trump`s remarks, at least in a court of law, tend to hurt his cause and I`m glad they do because now we`re finding out exactly what his cause really is.

MADDOW: I want to ask you about something else that has actually just broken just before we got on the air tonight and it`s on the subject of the DACA program and Dreamers, and it`s basically remarks that I think you would put in the category of strange or maybe confused from the president on this subject. This is a just posted transcript of an interview that "The Wall Street Journal" had today with the president, and this is the part where he seems maybe confused or maybe he`s playing three-dimensional chess here, I don`t know, I just read from the transcript.

Mr. Trump says, quote, there is a big difference between DACA and Dreamers, OK? Dreamers are different, and I want American kids to be Dreamers also, by the way. I want American kids to be Dreamers also. But there is a big difference between DACA and Dreamers and a lot of time, when I was with certain Democrats, they kept using the word Dreamer. I said, please use the word DACA, you know, it`s a totally different word, to which "The Wall Street Journal" reporter replies, sure.

Do you know what the president is talking about and can you explain why this seems crazy?

BECERRA: Well, I know he`s not playing three-dimensional chess and I doubt checkers -- he reaches checkers. I can`t explain it other than perhaps he`s jealous that these young Americans who are fighting so hard and so courageously to demonstrate that they belong to this country have made him very jealous. I don`t know. All I know is that Dreamers have become DACA recipients, not all of them have yet qualified, and all of us believe that those who are Dreamers who have come to this country and we`re trying to do the best they can, deserve a chance.

And whether you call them DACA recipients, or you call them Dreamers, at the end of the day, the thing that has made this so great, so they are the kind of people at the end of the day will be some of our greatest leaders.

MADDOW: Are you worried sometimes the president doesn`t seem like he knows what he`s talking about?

BECERRA: Yes, I always tell folks I look less at his words, I focus on his deeds.

MADDOW: Yes.

BECERRA: And that allows us then to know how to act and when we`ve taken action when we took that -- file that lawsuit to protect the DACA program, we worked on and focused on his deeds, and that`s why today, we got the injunction against his deeds because he did them against the law.

MADDOW: California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, really appreciate your time tonight, sir. Thank you for being with us.

BECERRA: Thank you.

MADDOW: All right. We`ve got more to come tonight, including news that the Haitian government has now formally summoned a U.S. official. They`re not saying summoning the ambassador. Haiti`s government has reportedly formally summoned a U.S. official to explain Trump`s comments.

We`ll have more on that, including the reporter that broke that news, coming up.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: That was the wrong sound byte? Do you have the right sound byte? Come on controller, I`ll give you a dollar, make it five.

Got it? Good. Five bucks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I`m running to be president of all Americans, that`s everybody. And whether you vote for me or 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.

(APPLAUSE)

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: That was September before the election. I`m running to represent Haitian-Americans. That was September before the election, September 2016. By the following June, "The New York Times" reports the president was making disparaging remarks about Haitians who are issued visas to visit the United States, reportedly saying to a room of his senior officials that Haitians, quote, all have AIDS.

Now, the White House vehemently denied the president said that at the time of that report. But tonight, "The Washington Post" was first to report that a meeting in front of a number of lawmakers today in the Oval Office, the president again decided to expound on his feelings about Haiti and Haitians, calling Haiti a, quote, bleep hole country and asking, quote, why do we need more Haitians? Take them out.

According to reporting from Kasie Hunt and Frank Thorpe at NBC News tonight, at that point, somebody else in the room responded, because if you do take them out, it will be obvious why.

That`s according to a Democratic aide and another person briefed on the conversation.

Joining us is Yamiche Alcindor. She`s a former national reporter for "The New York Times", soon to be White House correspondent for the PBS NewsHour. And she`s an MSNBC contributor.

Yamiche, it`s really nice to see you. Thank you for being with us tonight.

YAMICHE ALCINDOR, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks for having me.

MADDOW: So, I`ve been following your Twitter feed as you been reporting on this tonight. You said you spoke with Haiti`s ambassador to the United States after these remarks from the president were reported. Can you tell us about what the ambassador conveyed to you?

ALCINDOR: The ambassador conveyed to me several things, one being that the Haitian government has actually formally summoned a U.S. official to come before the Haitian president to explain what President Trump meant by these comments. Now, they didn`t do this when President Trump made the comment about Haitians and AIDS. They tried to kind of let that go because they`re in some ways trying to get at the TPS issue and trying to have good relations with the United States. But essentially, he said, you know what, this is a time where we really need to understand how this president thinks and why he said these things.

He also told me the president and Haitian government condemned these statements. He said Haiti`s relationship and Haitians relationship with the United States go back as far as the founding of this country. There is actually a monument in Savannah, Georgia, dedicated to Haitian-American soldiers that came over to the United States to fight alongside other soldiers for this war. Essentially, Haitian soldiers that came over to the United States to fight alongside other soldiers for the revolutionary wars.

So, essentially, Haitians are feeling very, very upset about this and the Haitian government is seeking formal step to let President Trump know that they are upset.

MADDOW: And in terms of that important point that you raised that Haiti and its government did not raise these kinds of concerns, did not demand that the U.S. government explain the president`s behavior, that didn`t happen after this December reporting about the president previously having made prejudicial comments about Haitians all having AIDS. They now are expressing themselves, as you just described, with anger and dismay at what the president said now.

Is it your sense that the Haitian government didn`t believe that the president made those earlier remarks? Obviously, the White House had some vehement denials that he had made those comments about Haiti and aides when they are first reported in the "New York Times" back in December.

ALCINDOR: It`s my sense the Haitian government was trying to move forward because there is an issue of TPS and Haitians in America that had been granted the status, that they`re still in negotiations with the United States government over what to do with that. Obviously, it`s been ended, but the Haitian defendant is trying to figure out what to do with that. In this case, though, you can imagine that with this comment, the Haitian government could not be silent anymore.

Ambassador Altidor told me all day today, he`s been hearing from dozens of Haitian-Americans who are U.S. citizens who are demanding an apology from President Trump and he said essentially that President Trump`s comments were an assault not only on Haiti and its Haitian people but on the country and history of Haiti. Haiti is a place where there are so many people that are educated that come over to the United States who are professors, who are doctors, like my mother who is a social worker, my father still lives in Haiti. He runs a non-profit there.

So, this really feels, I think goes to the core of what Haitian-Americans have given to America, which is really a lot of time, a lot of blood, sweat and tears. And like I said, there is a monument, literally a monument in Savannah, Georgia, dedicated to Haitians, free blacks who came over and said that we want America to be free from Britain. So, there is this idea that Haiti`s relationship dates back so far.

And there`s some people I have to tell you frankly, not the ambassador himself, but other people who have told me that they feel as though President Trump was hinting at ethnic cleansing. There is an idea that he sees Norwegians and he sees them essentially as white people who should come over and that they are more valuable than Haitians who, of course, are African-American who are black.

MADDOW: Yamiche Alcindor, former national reporter for "The New York Times", soon to be White House correspondent at "PBS NewsHour", really appreciate your time tonight, Yamiche. I know you`re actively reporting out this story. Appreciate you being here to talk to us about it.

ALCINDOR: Thank you.

MADDOW: All right. We got much more to come tonight. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Let`s go back to normal for a minute. Let`s try. We`re going to fail.

It`s always helpful every day to keep the muscles strong. Don`t atrophy too much. Try every day.

President Donald Trump sat down for an interview with four reporters from "The Wall Street Journal" today. In that interview, unprompted, the president accused a senior serving FBI official of committing treason. "The Wall Street Journal" asked the president if he wanted to shut down the congressional investigation into the Russia scandal. He said no, he wanted them to be strong, but then continued with this, quote, what went on with the FBI where a man is tweeting to his lover that if Hillary Clinton loses, we will essentially go back to the -- we will go to insurance policy, which is if they lose, we`ll go to phase two and we will get this guy out of office.

I mean, this is the FBI we are talking about. I think that is treason there. See, that is treason right there. That is a treasonous act. What he tweeted to his lover is a treasonous act.

That`s what the president told "The Wall Street Journal" today. He was referencing texts between Peter Strzok, deputy assistant director and a counterintelligence division of the FBI, and Lisa Page who is an FBI lawyer. Peter Strzok was removed from the special counsel investigation led by Robert Mueller this summer after the Justice Department`s inspector general turned up text messages that show that Strzok and Page were communicating with each other on a personal level, expressing strong political opinions during the campaign.

Their texts back and forth were at times very strongly anti-Bernie Sanders, anti-Hillary Clinton, anti-Eric Holder, anti-Ted Cruz and yes, anti-Donald Trump. After "The Wall Street Journal" published this interview tonight where Mr. Trump made the treason claim, Mr. Strzok`s lawyer responded, quote: It is beyond reckless for the president of the United States to accuse Pete Strzok, a man who has devoted his entire adult life to defending this country of treason. It should surprise no one that the president has both the facts and the law wrong.

A lawyer for Ms. Page also released a statement tonight, quote: The president attacked a 38-year-old line attorney who has spent her entire career at the Department of Justice defending the Constitution and upholding the rule of law. The accusation of treason is as shocking as it is baseless.

So, but if you are tracking direct attacks from the White House on the FBI and on the ongoing Mueller investigation, well, today is the day the president started accusing serving FBI agents and DOJ officials of treason.

And that comes on the heels of the president asking why we have to have all these black people come to the U.S. from bleep hole countries and not more people coming from places like Norway and that is where we are right now. I know. I know.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Members of the Indivisible Group in San Diego, California`s 49th district. As you can see them there standing out in the rain serenading Congressman Darrell Issa. Issa, you`ll retire this year. They`re encouraging him to hang it up. They even got a cake.

Sometimes when you get a watch when you retire, they`re not offering him a watch, but they are offering him retirement cake. At their protest, you can tell these folks not what they are doing. They seal the posters in Saran wrap so they don`t get wet, when it`s raining.

These guys have held more than 50 weekly protests targeting Darrell Issa. Very cheerful, deliberately jolly protests even in the rain doing anything they can do with a smile on their faces to try to get their Congressman Darrell Issa to please quit. They`ve been doing it for a year.

And then yesterday, Republican Darrell Issa announced that he will in fact not run for that seat again at the end of his term, leaving Congress. He`s joining a long and growing list. This week, earlier this week, another California Republican, Congressman Ed Royce, announced that he, too, is retiring.

And besides losing their Republican incumbents for this year`s election, those two California districts have something else in common that`s very important. Hillary Clinton won both of those districts in the presidential election in 2016. So, that`s two seats in California being vacated by retiring Republicans where the district leans blue. Clinton won there.

We`re seeing this phenomenon not just in California but around the country. There have been eight announced House Republican retirements of districts that Hillary Clinton either carried in 2016 or only very narrowly lost. Republicans need to pick up 24 seats to take back the House. Eight retirements already? That`s getting Democrats maybe a third of the way there.

Democrats got another boost this week when a federal court struck down the congressional map in the great state of North Carolina, struck it down specifically because of partisan gerrymandering that had favored Republicans. Now, that ruling if it`s upheld will put Republican seats in play in the next election. By one estimate, Democrats could pick up as many as five seats, congressional seats just in North Carolina if that ruling stands.

So, eight Republican retirements in Clinton held districts, another five seats coming out of North Carolina. I mean, if you`re a Democrat, you are having a "pinch me I`m dreaming" moment about these midterms. If you`re a Republican especially in a district won by Hillary Clinton you might be trying to figure out what exactly you will do.

Congressman Darrell Issa, for example, is reportedly considering not running in his own district. He said he`s not going to run again in the own district and reportedly considering running again in the district next door. Districts next door went for Donald Trump by 15 points. Maybe those people wouldn`t sing outside his office every week.

Maybe Congressman Issa thinks that would get him far away from the Indivisible protesters who brought champagne yesterday to toast the retirement of their district which they have been trying to pressure him into all year long, whom persisted. If Congressman Issa does decide to try for a return by way of a much redder district, though he should know -- did you see this today?

I retweeted this today just because of the persistence factor here. The resistance travels, Darrell Issa. This is from the Indivisible San Diego, those same folks who`ve been protesting outside his office, all year. Once he said tonight he might run in a different district, they said tonight that if Issa heads to the district next door to run again, they will follow him there, too.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: So the president`s remarks today about Haitians and Africans coming from bleep hole countries and that he wanted more people from more places like Norway instead, those reported remarks by the president today to a roomful of senators and congressmen, that obviously took the news by storm this afternoon. It shows no sign of stopping this evening. Reactions are still coming in, including the news we reported here this hour with Yamiche Alcindor that the Haitian government is demanding a clarification and explanation.

For our part, I`ll tell you, we`re also still trying to figure out if any of these lawmakers in the room at the time while the president said this told the president off once he made these remarks or had any other kind of strong reaction, you know, the kind most Americans would have hearing the remarks from some drunk guy at a bar, let alone from somebody occupying that office.

So, we have called all the members of Congress who reported to be in the room. We`ll let you know if they`re able to give us more information about how lawmakers responded to the president`s racist remarks.

We also have this new reporting from CNN`s Manu Raju, reporting about what the president was doing at the time that "The Washington Post" first broke the news about these comments. Tweet is from CNN`s Manu Raju, he`s a very good reporter. He usually doesn`t write this way.

You can`t make it up, he says. Trump was taping a video message for MLK Jr. this afternoon as the story broke about his bleep hole comments. That per Jeff Zeleny, another CNN reporter.

So, president had to interrupt his Martin Luther King commemorative remarks presumably to tell the White House spokesperson whether or not he really did say that people from Haiti and Africa are from bleep hole countries and he`d prefer Norwegians. I mean, after you make that clarification and the White House spokesperson decides, OK, I guess we`re not denying this, then you go and finish your MLK Day message, do you ad lib a little?

That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow.

Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL."

Good evening, Lawrence.

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