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President Donald Trump addresses the Nation. TRANSCRIPT: 1/8/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.

Guests: Omar Jadwat, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST:  Rachel, it`s been great to have you here on ALL IN.  Come by any time. 

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  It`s a strange news day but nice to be here with you, my friend. 

HAYES:  All right.  We are less than two minutes from this president`s primetime address in the Oval Office, and so, "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now. 

MADDOW:  I want to thank all of you at home for joining us.  Very happy to have you with us. 

Let me give you a sense how the next hour is going to go. 

President Trump`s first primetime address from the Oval Office will start momentarily.  We are expecting it to be short, under ten minutes. 

Then, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer are going to give a rebuttal on behalf of the Democratic Party.  That should follow quickly after the president`s speech. 

After that, here this hour, we`re going to have some expert help in sorting out the claims made in those various speeches.  We will also hear from freshman Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who`s going to be joining us live for his first interview on this show.

But we also tonight are going to be talking about the tons of news that broke today that I think the White House was hoping would be wiped out by this primetime speech.  The Russian lawyer who offered Donald Trump Jr. dirt on Hillary Clinton and then met with Trump campaign officials in Trump Tower during the campaign, she was indicted today.  Lawyers for the president`s campaign chair Paul Manafort today accidentally revealed a spy novel`s worth of new details about Manafort`s links to Russia.  There were two plot twists under seal involving special counsel Robert Mueller, including one twist from the Supreme Court today. 

We`re going to be covering all of that over the course of the hour.  That all happened today, just as the news cycle is jammed up with tonight`s presidential first, his first primetime Oval Office address. 

Here is the president live from the Oval Office.  Again, we believe this will be about 10 minutes. 

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  My fellow Americans, tonight, I`m speaking to you because there is a growing humanitarian and security crisis at our southern border.

Every day, Customs and Border Protection agents encounter thousands of illegal immigrants trying to enter our country.  We are out of space to hold them, and we have no way to promptly return them back home to their country. 

America proudly welcomes millions of lawful immigrants who enrich our society and contribute to our nation, but all Americans are hurt by uncontrolled illegal migration.  It strains public resources and drives down jobs and wages.  Among those hardest hit are African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans. 

Our Southern border is a pipeline for vast quantities of illegal drugs, including meth, heroin, cocaine, and fentanyl.  Every week, 300 of our citizens are killed by heroin alone, 90 percent of which floods across from our southern border.  More Americans will die from drugs this year than were killed in the entire Vietnam War.

In the last two years, ICE officers made 266,000 arrests of aliens with criminal records including those charged or convicted of 100,000 assaults, 30,000 sex crimes, and 4,000 violent killings.  Over the years, thousands of Americans have been brutally killed by those who illegally entered our country and thousands more lives will be lost if we don`t act right now.

This is a humanitarian crisis.  A crisis of the heart, and a crisis of the soul. 

Last month, 20,000 migrant children were illegally brought into the United States, a dramatic increase.  These children are used as human pawns by vicious coyotes and ruthless gangs.  One in three women are sexually assaulted on the dangerous trek up through Mexico.  Women and children are the biggest victims, by far, of our broken system.

This is the tragic reality of illegal immigration on our southern border.  This is the cycle of human suffering that I am determined to end.  My administration has presented congress with a detailed proposal to secure the border and stop the criminal gangs, drug smugglers, and human traffickers.  It`s a tremendous problem.

Our proposal was developed by law enforcement professionals and border agents at the Department of Homeland Security.  These are the resources they have requested to properly perform their mission and keep America safe.  In fact, safer than ever before.

The proposal from Homeland Security includes cutting edge technology for detecting drugs, weapons, illegal contraband and many other things.  We have requested more agents, immigration judges and bed space to process the sharp rise in unlawful migration fueled by our very strong economy.

Our plan also contains an urgent request for humanitarian assistance and medical support. 

Furthermore, we have asked Congress to close border security loopholes so that illegal immigrant children can be safely and humanely returned back home.

Finally, as part of an overall approach to border security, law enforcement professionals have requested $5.7 billion for a physical barrier.  At the request of Democrats, it will be a steel barrier rather than a concrete wall.  This barrier is absolutely critical to border security.  It`s also what our professionals at the border want and need.  This is just common sense.

The border wall would very quickly pay for itself.  The cost of illegal drugs exceeds $500 billion a year.  Vastly more than the $5.7 billion we have requested from Congress.  The wall will also be paid for indirectly by the great new trade deal we have made with Mexico.

Senator Chuck Schumer, who you will be hearing from later tonight, has repeatedly supported a physical barrier in the past along with many other Democrats.  They changed their mind only after I was elected president.

Democrats in Congress have refused to acknowledge the crisis and they have refused to provide our brave border agents with the tools they desperately need to protect our families and our nation.

The federal government remains shut down for one reason and one reason only, because Democrats will not fund border security.  My administration is doing everything in our power to help those impacted by the situation, but the only solution is for Democrats to pass a spending bill that defends our borders and reopens the government.

This situation could be solved in a 45-minute meeting.  I have invited congressional leadership to the White House tomorrow to get this done.  Hopefully, we can rise above partisan politics in order to support national security.

Some have suggested a barrier is immoral.  Then why do wealthy politicians build walls, fences, and gates around their homes? They don`t build walls because they hate the people on the outside but because they love the people on the inside. 

The only thing that is immoral is the politicians to do nothing and continue to allow more innocent people to be so horribly victimized.

America`s heart broke the day after Christmas when a young police officer in California was savagely murdered in cold blood by an illegal alien, just came across the border.  The life of an American hero was stolen by someone who had no right to be in our country. 

Day after day, precious lives are cut short by those who have violated our borders.

In California, an Air Force veteran was raped, murdered, and beaten to death with a hammer by an illegal alien with a long criminal history. 

In Georgia, an illegal alien was recently charged with murder for killing, beheading, and dismembering his neighbor. 

In Maryland, MS-13 gang members who arrived in the United States as unaccompanied minors were arrested and charged last year after viciously stabbing and beating a 16-year-old girl.

Over the last several years, I have met with dozens of families whose loved ones were stolen by illegal immigration.  I have held the hands of the weeping mothers and embraced the grief stricken fathers.  So sad, so terrible.  I will never forget the pain in their eyes, the tremble in their voices, and the sadness gripping their souls. 

How much more American blood must we shed before Congress does its job?

To those who refuse to compromise in the name of border security, I would ask, imagine if it was your child, your husband, or your wife whose life was so cruelly shattered and totally broken. 

To every member of Congress: pass a bill that ends this crisis. 

To every citizen, call Congress, and tell them to finally, after all of these decades, secure our border.

This is a choice between right and wrong, justice and injustice.  This is about whether we fulfill our sacred duty to the American citizens we serve. 

When I took the oath of office, I swore to protect our country and that is what I will always do, so help me God.

Thank you and good night.

MADDOW:  President of the United States addressing the nation from the Oval Office in primetime for the first time in his presidency. 

The president not breaking new ground, repeating the various strains of argument that he has relied on since the earliest days of his campaign to claim that there is a wall that is needed on the southern border.  In this case, he did not explicitly say Mexico will pay for it.  He said the wall will pay for it.  The wall will pay for the wall.  It will pay for itself. 

The president asserting the southern border in his words is a pipeline for vast quantities of illegal drugs.  The president`s own Drug Enforcement Administration would say that`s not the case.  I would at least say the president`s proposed solution, a wall, would not stop the vast majority of hard drugs coming in, even those coming in from Mexican cartels, those coming through ports of entry and a wall would have nothing to do with whether or not the hard drugs stopped. 

Mainly, though, the president`s speech was a scare stories about immigrants being terrible criminals who are coming into the United States to rape and murder Americans, essentially, the president telling for pleasure because it`s in their nature.  It`s the sort of argument the president made the very first day he came down the escalator in Trump Tower and sort of shocked the Republican world when he announced that he would be running for the Republican nomination because of the Mexican rapist and criminals who are coming across the border. 

We`re about to hear from Democrats.  The top Democrats in Congress, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer in response. 

Briefly, before we get to that, Chris Hayes, heading into the speech from the president, we were talking about whether or not this might be new ground.  I heard it as the same thing he always said. 

HAYES:  Yes, although there was a lot more emphasis in the first part of the speech on the sort of threat inflation and creating, he never -- I don`t think he said the word wall.  He said barrier.  There is a little bit of retreat from like the totemic wall thing and more of the focus on like we`ve asked for this funding, can you give us this funding to move on?  Which I think is them kind of signaling how they want this to end. 

NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST, "DEADLINE WHITE HOUSE":  That`s about 3.0.  I mean, we heard steel slats ten days ago.  So, I think we`re just at a steel barrier.  It changes every week.  He doesn`t seem to be able to keep track of what it is he`s proposing on the southern border.

I think there are half a dozen things that were wrong, falsehoods, lies and you talked about a lot of them before the speech.  But the big scam of the whole address is there is a crisis.  There is not a crisis.  Border crossings at the southern border are a 45-year low. 

I spoke to a former senior intelligence official today said it`s his job to know where the terrorists are and there aren`t any on the southern border.  So, crime is a great issue for him and he should tell crime, but he shouldn`t lie about where it comes from. 

MADDOW:  Yes, and literally to your point, I mean, the first year of the presidency, the apprehensions at the southern border was a 45-year low.  The number of apprehensions and crossings at the southern border has been dropping since the year 2000. 

WALLACE:  Which is great.  I mean, if he wants to win, maybe he should run on that. 

MADDOW:  Democratic response now is coming up from Senator Chuck Schumer, the leader of the Democrats of the Senate and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. 


I appreciate the opportunity to speak directly to the American people tonight about how we can end this shutdown and meet the needs of the American people.  Sadly much of what we heard from President Trump throughout this senseless shutdown has been full of misinformation and even malice. 

The president has chosen fear.  We want to start with the facts.

The fact is on the very first day of this Congress, House Democrats passed Senate Republican legislation to reopen government and fund smart, effective border security solutions.  But the president is rejecting these bipartisan bills which would reopen government over his obsession with forcing American taxpayers to waste billions of dollars on an expensive and ineffective wall, a wall he always promised Mexico would pay for.

The fact is, President Trump has chosen to hold hostage critical services for the health, safety, and well-being of the American people, and withhold the paychecks of 800,000 innocent workers across the nation, many of them veterans.

He promised to keep the government shutdown for months or years, no matter whom it hurts.  That`s just plain wrong. 

The fact is, we all agree we need to secure our borders while honoring our values.  We can build the infrastructure and roads at our ports of entry.  We can install new technology to scan cars and trucks for drugs coming into our nation.  We can hire the personnel we need to facilitate trade and immigration at the border.  We can fund more innovation to detect unauthorized crossings.

The fact is, the women and children at the border are not a security threat.  They are a humanitarian challenge, a challenge that President Trump`s own cruel and counterproductive policies have only deepened.  And the fact is, President Trump must stop holding the American people hostage and stop manufacturing a crisis, and must reopen the government.

Thank you. 

Leader Schumer?


My fellow Americans, we address you tonight for one reason only.  The president of the United States, having failed to get Mexico to pay for his ineffective, unnecessary border wall, and unable to convince the congress or the American people to foot the bill, has shut down the government.

American democracy doesn`t work that way.  We don`t govern by temper tantrum.  No president should pound the table and demand he gets his way or else the government shuts down.  Hurting millions of Americans who are treated as leverage.

Tonight, and throughout this debate and throughout his presidency, President Trump has appealed to fear, not facts.  Division, not unity. 

Make no mistake: Democrats and the president both want stronger border security.  However, we sharply disagree with the president about the most effective way to do it.

So, how do we untangle this mess?  Well, there`s an obvious solution.  Separate the shutdown from arguments over border security.  There is bipartisan legislation supported by Democrats and Republicans to reopen government while allowing debate over border security to continue.

There is no excuse for hurting millions of Americans over a policy difference.  Federal workers are about to miss a paycheck.  Some families can`t get a mortgage to buy a new home.  Farmers and small businesses won`t get loans they desperately need.

Most presidents have used Oval Office addresses for noble purposes.  This president just used the backdrop of the Oval Office to manufacture a crisis, stoke fear, and divert attention from the turmoil in his administration.

My fellow Americans, there is no challenge so great that our nation cannot rise to meet it.  We can reopen the government and continue to work through disagreements over policy.  We can secure our border without an ineffective, expensive wall.  And we can welcome legal immigrants and refugees without compromising safety and security.

The symbol of America should be the Statue of Liberty, not a 30-foot wall. 

So our suggestion is a simple one.  Mr. President, reopen the government, and we can work to resolve our differences over border security.  But end this shutdown now.

Thank you.

MADDOW:  What amounts to a Democratic rebuttal of the president this evening.  Again, the president`s remarks tonight from the Oval Office are the first time he`s addressed the nation from the oval office in primetime.  Presidents tend to reserve addresses like that for various serious matters. 

He will be giving a State of Union Address later this month.  This was not that, but like a State of the Union, Democrats asked for essentially rebuttal time.  Democratic leader of the Senate, Chuck Schumer, the newly- elected House Speaker Nancy Pelosi side by side in a very serious tableau there, responding to the president not point by point but essentially trying to turn the focus from the president`s claims that he needs a border wall to what he is holding hostage in order to try to get that, which is the shutdown of the federal government. 

Senator Schumer tonight closing by saying, our suggestion is a simple one, Mr. President.  Reopen the government and we can work to resolve our differences over border security.  He said earlier in his remarks, there is an obvious solution, separate the shutdown from the arguments over border security.  There is partisan legislation supported by Democrats and Republicans to reopen the government while allowing debate over border security to continue. 

Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, echoing that same point, saying that -- her remarks, quote: The fact is on the very first day of this Congress, House Democrats passed Senate Republican legislation to reopen the government and fund smart effective border security solutions.  So, from the Democrats tonight, we`re hearing -- whatever you think about border security, Mr. President, we can fight about that.  Let`s reopen the government.  Both Democrats and Republicans want that.  You are the sticking point here, not leaders from either party. 

Nicolle Wallace and Chris Hayes are here with me onset. 

Nicolle, let me ask your response to that, in some senses typical partisan staging with the remarks from the president and the response from the opposite party but two very different sets of remarks. 

WALLACE:  Yes.  Listen, if you want to go to the politics, they were on the ballot eight weeks ago.  Donald Trump ran on that message in the midterms.  He ran on the made-up caravan and almost the same play.  He doesn`t have a lot of them so he reran it.  It didn`t work in the midterms.  His party was thumped, lost control of the House. 

And Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer`s message tonight was actually stronger than what they ran on the midterms because now they can add not only are you wrong but also like an 8-year-old taken your toys and gone home by closing the entire federal government.  So, I think in politics, in Washington especially now, it`s all zero sum.  So, if it`s a seesaw, who went up and who went down, the power -- the political potency of their message tonight is on the up rise.  Donald Trump has already grabbed as many people he can grab with those admitted tragic stories of horrific crimes. 

MADDOW:  Chris Hayes? 

HAYES:  Yes, I thought the sort of difference in emphasis between the two is the most notable thing about the two addresses, like Donald Trump went out there and read us Steven Miller litany of horror stories, which he`s been doing since day one.

WALLACE:  In a nicer voice.

HAYES:  In a nicer voice and I watch him do it in Cleveland, and, you know, beheadings and  rape and it`s awful stuff to hear.  There is genuinely horrific things that have happened but to conflate them with the 12 million people living here is a kind of incitement that`s pretty ugly. 

But we`ve heard that.  Like Nicole said, that`s been the deal. 

MADDOW:  Slightly different list of crimes that evolves over time. 

WALLACE:  And updates. 

MADDOW:  It updates. 

WALLACE:  There are new crimes.

MADDOW:  Right.  But, it is -- this, you know, office of immigrant crime stuff --

HAYES:  Exactly. 

MADDOW:  -- that he`s been trying to solve from the very beginning and the fact is that we`ve said it before and say it again, native born Americans commit crimes at a higher rate than non-native born immigrants. 

WALLACE:  All crimes.  Violent crimes, driving infractions, speeding.  All crimes. 

MADDOW:  And it is -- it is a demagogic old saw to try to pick out horrific things that you`re going to attribute to one minority group, particularly one powerless minority group in order to try to turn the majority against them, and the president is singing that same song.  But it really is exactly the same scripts. 

HAYES:  But it`s literally the same -- I feel like I was in Cleveland.  I remember watching that litany in Cleveland and being somewhat horrified and shocked this was being delivered and to Nicolle`s point, as well, about -- you know, the point here and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has tweeted about this a few days ago, she`d be a guest later, basically saying, look, you want something, come and craft a bill and go through the process like everything else. 

Lots of people want lots of things from the government.  We have debates and maybe you can work something out but this is not the way to do it. 

WALLACE:  And here is the deal, he doesn`t have public support.  What he had is a candidate, was at the base of the Republican supported that strain of fear-mongering about illegal immigration.  If he had public support, he`d have a bill because members in Congress would support it. 

I worked for a Republican president who addressed the nation over comprehensive immigration reform at the point where he had bipartisan support for it.  President Obama should have been allowed to do the same thing in 2014, in my opinion.  But this is a president with no bill, he doesn`t even have the Republicans on board, and he doesn`t have the public behind, so it boggles the mind. 

MADDOW:  Well, with each passing day, two more Republicans peel off and say let`s get the government restarted. 

It should be noted as those Republicans peel off both in the Senate and in the House, they are lining up with the official Democratic party position, which is we`ll talk about this in some rational way if you want to but we have to reopen the government. 

HAYES:  Cory Gardner who is up in 2020 in the state of Colorado, which is increasingly a blue state and made some noises about wanting to reopen the government; Cory Gardener will not be running for reelection in 2020 on the message that came from the Oval Office tonight. 


HAYES:  At 100 percent, he will get thumped if he tries.  And he knows that.

MADDOW:  Here`s my question, though.  We`re talking about how the president is singing the same song that he has singing all along.  This is not different.  He doesn`t have any support.  He probably has less support than he did before, particularly after the midterm elections. 

So, why did he just do this?  I mean, he didn`t announce a national emergency so that he could use some sort of authority that he doesn`t think he has otherwise to go build this.  Why did this just happen? 

HAYES:  Because my -- I`ve covered immigration politics since back in McCain-Kennedy.  I was at the mayday protest in the sense of a bill that would make it a felony to be here illegally starting.  I`ve been covering it since then. 

And every -- as long as I`ve been covering it, there is a veto point with the Steve Kings and the Steve Millers of the world have more intensity on the issue than anyone else, and because of that intensity, even when President Bush and McCain and Kennedy got together to pass comprehensive reform, they have been able to kill it.  When it passed the bill, they have been able to kill it. 

What he`s relying on the intensity of the sentiment among the people --


MADDOW:  It`s a constant.  There is nothing that caused that to spike now so he tried --

HAYES:  It`s worked before and killed two bills. 

MADDOW:  But it`s --

WALLACE:  He doesn`t care about the bill.  I don`t disagree with any of that but it`s something simpler than that, and more primal.  I think it`s - - because it`s Trump, right? 

Before the holidays, a close Trump ally said, I said what`s he doing?  It was the Mattis debacles spiraling out of control.  And I said, what`s he doing?  He said he lives in object terror of his base and Robert Mueller. 

So I think you can`t control this one, right?  You can`t control what Robert Mueller is doing but the base he can keep.  The base feels that way.  They feel that intensity and so you can keep them. 

MADDOW:  But don`t you -- so the base intensity doesn`t respond to the same amount of stimulus, right?  You have to keep pumping it a little in order to keep -- 


MADDOW:  Right.  So, there is no -- I mean, there`s the shutdown but there`s no new argument.  There`s no new evidence of support.  There`s no new -- I mean -- 

WALLACE:  The shutdown may peel some of it off.  There is no data that I`ve seen that shows that the base that grows when you shut the government down, you may actually lose some. 

HAYES:  Exactly. 

WALLACE:  There is a lot with the base with the federal government shutdown. 

HAYES:  When you read the data out there and both sort of an anecdotally and in the actual public opinion data, your -- I remember last time that I saw the Republican base really engaged was in the Kavanaugh fight.  They were unquestionably engaged.  They were there all kinds of data that showed it.  They were there. 

I mean, I heard anecdotal data, friends having fight with distance relatives they didn`t realize were Republicans who were like, I don`t like Trump but what they`re doing to Kavanaugh, that`s not happening here. 


HAYES:  We are not seeing any of that level of actual mobilization engagement of people outside of the smallest core. 

MADDOW:  Can I tell you what I think is explaining why the president did this?  So Democrats won control of the House and the Democrats came back this past week and it was like, whoa, the Democrats are the new protagonist in the Washington story and everybody is covering all the new members being sworn in and swearing in of Nancy Pelosi and all the kids up there with her in the dais and what will the Democrats do?  Who are going to be the committee chairs and what`s their agenda?

The president was not getting talked about, and so the president summoned reporters to see him do a White House press briefing in which he didn`t take questions from the press and there is another day of coverage that`s about the Democrats and what they will do in Washington and the president pulls another stunt and says, no, no, no, I actually need you to pay attention to me now.  I`ll be giving remarks now. 

I`m going to -- and I honestly wonder if he -- it occurred to him that he hadn`t ever done an Oval Office address and that`s another thing to do to turn the spotlight to himself regardless of having anything to say. 

WALLACE:  And a friend of his said at other points in the presidency that he is the sun king and anything that obscures his access to the rays of sunlight drives him mad.  So, sort of like a mad king, he was there watching everything you described and said, well, it also shows how shallow his view of the presidency is.  What other tricks do I have?  What can I do? 


MADDOW:  Maybe do a cabinet meeting.  Do we need to have a cabinet meeting?  Everybody around this table and acting secretary, can we have the camera not just for a spray but for the entire hour and a half that I`d like them in here?  How many more stunts are there? 

HAYES:  But the difference here, what is so nuts about the situation, a lot of times I always feel like he would rather be a pundit that people paid attention to than the actual president, like he wants --

WALLACE:  He wants Brian Kilmeade`s job. 

HAYES:  Yes, he wants to give you his takes.  The president has takes and wants to share them and he loves the nation listens to his takes, but he doesn`t really love running the country.  The thing is here, all of that kind of weird theater he does, the cabinet meeting, the government shutdown. 

MADDOW:  That`s exactly right. 


WALLACE:  The thing with the cabinet room, it hurts us because we have to watch it and listen to us. 

HAYES:  It`s harmless. 

WALLACE:  People say ridiculous thing about their dear leader and face their wives or their kids.  No one is hurt or injured in that exercise.  People are hurting now.  The economy will take a hit now.  This is not funny anymore. 

HAYES:  Yes. 

MADDOW:  Chris Hayes, Nicolle Wallace, my friends, thank you for being here with us tonight. 

HAYES:  Good to be here.

WALLACE:  Thank you.

MADDOW:  As you said, Chris, I think aptly the best pundit point I`ve heard was this is weird.  This is actually truly weird.  Thank you. 

WALLACE:  Thanks, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  Three days after the president was elected, the ACLU wrote a letter to newly elected Donald Trump asking him to please reconsider basically every major campaign promise he made, from mass deportation to the Muslim ban to banning abortion and greenlighting torture, they all struck the folks the ACLU is being, according to the letter, not simply un- American and wrongheaded but also unlawful and unconstitutional.  They sent it in this letter just after he was elected three days after the election.  Of course, Donald Trump didn`t heed their advice. 

But the ACLU considered him to be warned and after having asked him to resend those policies and him refusing, the ACLU then proceeded to sue the pants off of him, taking literally dozens and dozens of legal actions against Trump and his administration, a huge number of which involved immigrants and immigration policy and sued over the original Muslim ban, as well as the revised Muslim ban. 

When the Trump administration tried to force teen immigrant girls to give birth against their will, the ACLU sued over that.  When the Trump administration started effectively kidnapping babies and kids from their parents at the southern border, the ACLU used to stop that.  When the Trump administration tried to remove asylum protections, from immigrant victims of gang violence and domestic violence, the ACLU sued them over that. 

Since day one of the Trump presidency, the ACLU has been at the forefront with challenging and fact checking the president`s immigration policies. 

Joining us now is Omar Jadwat.  He`s the director of the ACLU`s Immigrants Rights Project and he just saw the president`s remarks while he was waiting to come on set with us. 

Mr. Jadwat, thank you for being here. 


MADDOW:  Let me ask your reaction to the contents of the president`s remarks but also his choice to do this from the Oval Office tonight?

JADWAT:  You`re not going to hear me say this very often.  I think there was one kernel of truth in what the president said and that was when he said that there`s a humanitarian crisis at the border. 


JADWAT:  Not national security crisis.  We`ve talked about or you`ve talked about all the ways in which that`s transparently false, right? 

But there is a humanitarian crisis he created at the border.  He`s bottling up women and children in refugee camps in Mexico.  He`s continuing to run these shelters -- shelters is the wrong word.  Detention facilities where people are kept in extremely cold iceboxes with nothing but an aluminum blanket.  People are held out in the desert for hours with no medical attention. 

There is a huge range of things that this administration is not doing to address a real humanitarian crisis.  When he gets up on TV and says there is a humanitarian crisis and the solution is a wall, the solution to women and children seeking safety in the United States is to close the doors to them being able to find protection from abuse, that`s -- it`s a backwards world that he`s living in. 

MADDOW:  The president -- he used that phrase which is actually is a well- wrought phrase.  He said a crisis of the soul.

JADWAT:  Right.

MADDOW:  What he was talking about is the crisis of the soul is the need to stop immigrant children, literally to stop the immigration of children over the southern border.  I wonder if you are relieved at all with the president`s decision tonight to not announce some sort of emergency.  There was a lot of talk leading into this speech tonight that maybe the president was calling for an Oval Office address and doing this not just because he wanted to list the same complaints and horror stories about immigrants that he`s been doing for years now, but instead because he wanted to announce something now, he was going to claim new powers to address this under the president`s authority that could be ascribed under some sort of an emergency declaration.

Are you relieved he did not do that? 

JADWAT:  Well, look, I`m certainly glad that he`s not trying to at least in this -- at this point, in this way override Congress, right?  That`s the essential problem with this whole emergency plan that he was talking about was the idea that he would try to, because Congress wouldn`t pass the law he wants them to pass, won`t give him the funding for the wall he wants to build, he`s just gong to do it on his own.  That`s exactly what he`s tried to do with this asylum ban that we see them over, right? 

Congress passed a law says you can seek asylum anywhere, between ports of entry, at ports of entry, he said no.  I`m going to ban you from seeking asylum between ports of entry -- again, women, kids, people seeking protection, people being persecuted, we`re going to slam the door on you unless you wait months in these refugee camps, right? 

He tried to do that.  We stopped him.  We sued him in court.  It`s the same basic problem with the emergency idea, the idea that you can just ignore what Congress is doing and just go around them by enacting things.  So, I`m glad that at least for now he hasn`t tried to yet again to kind of circumvent our democratic system. 

MADDOW:  I will tell you the one contrary take I have on that is had the president tonight announced, I`m declaring an emergency and I under emergency powers that I declare myself to have, I`m going to get my wall built that way.  And so, while I do that, Congress can do whatever they want to open the government but I`ll get this wall built. 

The reason that might have been a practical advance for the country because I`m assuming you would have sued the heck out of him for any sort of unconstitutional assertion the president might have made around those emergency powers, that would have put that fight in the courts where he would presumably lose and then the rest of the Congress could get on with reopening government and fight this or any other policy. 

JADWAT:  I mean, I appreciate the practical kind of advantage there but --

MADDOW:  I count on you -- 

JADWAT:  I think, you know, if we`re at the point where we hope the president takes a hugely unconstitutional --

MADDOW:  Because that ties them up for awhile. 

JADWAT:  -- to get him to accept the fact he`s losing in Congress, that`s the wrong way to go. 

MADDOW:  All right.  I will recalibrate. 

Omar Jadwat is the director of the ACLU Immigrants Right Project -- Omar, thank you for much. 

JADWAT:  Thanks very much for having me.

MADDOW:  I appreciate it. 

MADDOW:  It has not even been one week since the new Congress was sworn in yet, but think about if you are a freshman lawmaker who has just been sworn in to this Congress, right?  It`s got to feel like suddenly finding yourself onboard a plane that is hitting really bad turbulence upon take off, with the oxygen mask popping out of the ceiling, right?  This is already the second longest government shutdown in U.S. history.  If it makes it through in the weekend -- and there is no reason to think it might not -- this will become the longest government shutdown ever. 

This is a painful thing for the U.S. economy and for a lot of people in this country, but it`s also got to be just a spectacularly weird environment to start your new job in, if your now job is that you`ve just been elected a brand new member of Congress. 

Joining us now is Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York. 

Congresswoman, thank you so much for being with us tonight.  I`m really happy to have you here with us on the show.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D), NEW YORK:  Of course.  Thank you for having me, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  So, let me start by getting your top line reaction to the president`s speech tonight.  You have never been a member of Congress while the government wasn`t shut down, so, obviously, this is a strange circumstance for you and your colleagues in the freshman class to be taking your first steps. 

OCASIO-CORTEZ:  Yes, absolutely.  I cannot tell you the amount of dysfunction that this president is advancing.  We now have over 100 new members of the freshman class. 

I cannot even get laptops to my caseworkers on the ground in the Bronx and Queens so they can process the needs of our constituents.  We can`t mortgage -- you know, we cannot get case work started because we can`t even get laptops in the hands of our district offices because the president has decided to hold the paychecks of everyday Americans hostage so that he can fulfill a campaign, I don`t even -- I don`t even want to call it a promise, a campaign fantasy that the vast majority of Americans disapprove of. 

And not only that, but in the actual address, there was falsehood after falsehood, and we have to make sure that we get our facts straight.  Every day, immigrants commit crimes at a far lower rate than native-born Americans.  And not only that, but the women and children on that border that are trying to seek refuge and seek opportunity in the United States of America with nothing but the shirt on their backs are acting more American than any person who seeks to keep them out ever will be. 

MADDOW:  Are you at all dissuaded -- not dissuaded, I guess it`s a wrong word.  Dismayed or discouraged by the fact that the president has been saying the same untrue things about immigrant crime, about the terrible character of immigrants coming into this country, about a false relationship that he has invented between violent crime and immigration.  We heard him tell falsehoods tonight contradicted even by his own administration about this flood -- as he described it, a pipeline of drugs coming across the southern border, his own Drug Enforcement Administration has said that the vast majority of drugs, even those coming from the south of, from south from this country are coming through ports of entry and not over anything that would be stopped by a wall. 

Are you discouraged or what`s your sort of strategic take on the fact that the president has been telling the same lies for years now and not shying away from them at all? 

OCASIO-CORTEZ:  Well, I think it`s not unsurprising because even before he was elected president of the United States, he has proven track record of discrimination against anybody that`s really none white in the United States.  He had been sued by the Nixon administration back in the day for not renting to black Americans.  He has had controversy after controversy.

So, this is very consistent.  It`s not just the continued lies throughout his administration but frankly, it`s part of a very consistent pattern of his entire life. 

But I think it`s extremely important -- you know, I represent New York`s 14th congressional.  We are 50 percent immigration.  I represent the Bronx and Queens, Jackson Heights, over 200 languages are spoken in my district alone.  We enjoy some of the highest rates of economic activity and the Bronx itself has had some of the highest rates of economic growth in all of New York City and that has been directly, directly correlated with our embrace of immigrants. 

New York City overall is an immigrant city and we enjoy a very large amount of economic and cultural prosperity as a result. 

MADDOW:  The president has been singing this same song that he did a different version of tonight in the Oval Office, since the very, very start of his campaign.  He has made anti-immigrant rhetoric and often factually incorrect screeds demonizing immigrants, more core to his presidency than any form of his rhetoric. 

And so, in your district, in a district as you say that is not just diverse but 50 percent immigrant and that you`re talking about the sort of economic relationship that you can see between immigrant economic activity and the overall performance of your district, what`s the consequence of having somebody as president who has made this core to his message and to what he wants his presidency to mean?  What is the harm that`s caused by him talking this way and using this sort of platform the way he has even when he can`t get his policies passed? 

OCASIO-CORTEZ:  I can -- I can tell you a very personal story.  And as many people know, I was working in restaurants just a year ago.  And when the president first assumed office with his -- with his racist and violent rhetoric, people started to send themselves home.  And as we know, in restaurants, hospitality, every American eats if you can, if you`re lucky enough or we`re able to eat three times a day. 

And that means we interact with the people who prepare our food three times a day.  When those people start to go home, local or rather go back to their countries which they originated from because many of them consider the United States their home, those places, they go into dysfunction. 

I remember one of our lead cooks brought himself back to Mexico because he was so scared of the president`s rhetoric.  We had an insane amount of dysfunction. 

We`re talking about local restaurants.  We`re talking about local businesses.  We`re talking about shuttering neighborhoods.  And we`re talking about people feeling unsafe. 

And no one should feel unsafe in the United States of America.  And that includes our amazing and beautiful and productive immigrant community. 

And moreover, the one thing the president has not talked about is the fact he has systematically engaged in the violation of international human rights borders on -- human rights on our border.  He has separated children from their families.  He talked about what happened the day of Christmas on the day of Christmas, a child died in ICE custody. 

The president should not be asking for more money to an agency that has systematically violated human rights.  The president should be really defending why we are funding such an agency at all because right now, what we are seeing is death.  Right now, what we are seeing is the violation of human rights.  These children and these families are being held in what are called hieleras, which are basically freezing boxes that no person should be maintained in. 

For any amount of time, let alone the amount of time they are being kept on, and more over, even if you are anti-immigrant in this country, the majority of immigrant overstays, the majority of the reason that people are undocumented is visa overstay.  It`s not because people are crossing a border illegally.  It is because of visa overstay which mind you, he`s talking about legal immigration, he`s trying to restrict every form of legal immigration there is in the United States. 

He`s fighting against family reunification.  He`s fighting against the diversity visa lottery.  He`s fighting against almost ever way that people can actually legally enter this country, forcing them to become undocumented, and then he`s trying to attack their undocumented status. 

This is systematic.  It is wrong and it is anti-American.  And again, those women and children trying to come here with nothing but the shirts on their back to create an opportunity and to provide for this nation are acting more in an American tradition than this president is right now. 

MADDOW:  Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, thank you so much for being with us tonight.  I know this is your first time being here on the show and I know that you have been one of the highest profile members of this new Congress and you`ve got a lot of pressures on your time.  Thanks for making time to be here and I hope you`ll come back. 

OCASIO-CORTEZ:  Of course.  Thank you so much. 

MADDOW:  All right.  Still to come, an avalanche of legal developments we saw today.  There is a lot to get to tonight.  Do please stay with us.


MADDOW:  Busy day, right?  I do not know why the president chose tonight to give an Oval Office version of the same speech he`s been making since 2015, but I do know what happened today in the news that the White House must be excited to try to push out of the headlines with that speech. 

All right.  Do you remember the Trump Tower Moscow project?  The president`s long-time personal attorney Michael Cohen pled guilty a few weeks ago to lying to Congress about the Trump Tower Moscow Project.  Now, in the course of those court proceedings about Michael Cohen, we learned that the president himself had repeatedly lied about that project to the public and had tried to keep it secret during the campaign even though he and his organization were pursuing it during the campaign. 

Well, that tower -- that would be Trump Tower Moscow now looms as a fairly serious issue both for the scandal about Russia getting involved in the presidential election to benefit Trump but it also looms over the prospect that the president may have been compromised by a foreign government even during the time that he has been president, right?  After all, when Trump and the Trump Organization were working during the campaign to try to build Trump Tower Moscow and they were working with the Russian government to try to get that deal done, the Russian government knew that those conversations and those negotiations were underway, they also knew that Trump was publicly lying about it and trying to keep it secret. 

That alone means that Russia had something on him, something they could use to pressure him, something they could use to blackmail him.  They could somehow use that as leverage over him, both during his campaign and during his time as president, during all of the time they knew that secret about him that he for some reason didn`t want let out. 

Well, here is one important brand-new thing about that scandal.  Recall that Trump Tower Moscow was reportedly supposed to be financed by a Russian bank that was under U.S. sanctions.  This isn`t as simple as it seems, bottom line, presumably in order for Trump to get his Trump Tower Moscow deal, which we think would have been the biggest real estate deal of his life. 

U.S. sanctions against Russian entities, including that bank, would need to have been dropped or at least softened.  That`s what made it so interesting when we learned that the two guys from the Trump Organization who were working on Trump Tower Moscow, Felix Sater and Michael Cohen, they also got involved in an effort right after Trump was elected to concoct a new plan that would result in sanctions being dropped on Russia.  It was dreamed up as a peace plan.  Michael Cohen and Felix Sater were involved in that.

This peace plan, its terms are ridiculous.  The whole point of it was to drop sanctions on Russia.  That, of course, would have had the effect of dropping sanctions on that bank that was slated to finance this gigantic real estate deal that they were working on for Trump, which is going to make them all hundreds of millions of dollars.  So, we`ve know about that heading into today.  Trump Tower Moscow thing, the president is lying about it.  Trump Tower Moscow due to be financed by a Russian bank, the guys working on Trump Tower Moscow working on a plan to drop Russian sanctions.

Today, we`ve learned that the president`s campaign chairman may have worked on that too.  Paul Manafort publicly denied in 2017 that he had anything to do with the supposed peace plan that would have resulted in the dropping of Russian sanctions.  But today, Manafort`s defense team filed this document in federal court in D.C. in which they apparently didn`t redact things properly. 

You can see from the filing, there are a bunch of things behind blacked boxes.  You`re not supposed to be able to read those things.  But they screwed up when they tried to redact the document.  And if you, in fact, open it up on your computer, you can read what is behind those blacked boxes.  Oops.

And so, because of that mistake, by accident, part of what we learned today in this Manafort court filing is that president`s campaign chair, Paul Manafort, he has told prosecutors from the special counsel`s office that he did work on that plan to drop Russian sanction or at least he worked on something that was called a Ukraine peace plan.

The Felix Sater/Michael Cohen plan apparently was this plan that took shape after Trump was elected.  If that`s the same plan Manafort has told prosecutors he was involved with, the timing of this thing is unusual, right?  I mean, Manafort got fired from the campaign months before the election.  Did they bring back the fired campaign chairman with links to Russia to do work on this effort to drop Russian sanctions along with the guys from Trump`s business who were trying to get the Trump Tower Moscow built? 

We don`t know the details of it, but that revelation that Manafort was involved and that he has told prosecutors about this, that is new today.  We also learned from that same document today from the bad redactions in that document, that prosecutors believe Manafort shared polling data from the campaign with a business associate of his, a business associate of his who incidentally has been also indicted by Robert Mueller.  He is also a person who has been described by the FBI in court documents as being associated and tied with Russian intelligence. 

We did not previously know that one of the things Manafort was accused of doing during the campaign was giving polling data from the campaign to a guy in Russian intelligence.  But now, we know that prosecutors allege that that`s one of the things that Paul Manafort did. 

So that accidentally un-redacted court filing today, that was revelatory in a couple of different levels.  It was also just one of a bunch of different developments in the Russia secondly today, and specifically in the legal jeopardy of people associated with the president and his campaign related to that scandal.  Today for example, this indictment was unsealed against Natalia Veselnitskaya, who was the lawyer who attended the Trump Tower meeting during the campaign with Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner and Donald Trump Jr.  That was the meeting they took, purportedly to get dirt from the Russian government about Hillary Clinton. 

In today`s indictment of Veselnitskaya, prosecutors in the southern district of New York alleged that she lied to a federal court.  She lied to a federal judge in a Russian money laundering case because she wanted to conceal the fact that she was effectively working on behalf of the Russian government.  She entered into the record in that money laundering case something that she described as a Russian government independent investigation of the issue.  When, in fact, it wasn`t an independent investigation at all.  In fact, she had helped the Russian government produce that document. 

Because she was working for the Russian government and trying to pretend like she was not, the court ultimately was able to ferret out that she lied to the court on that matter.  She is charged with obstruction of justice now.  And there`s a whole bunch of intriguing questions about this indictment.  I mean, number one, this alleged attempt by her to obstruct justice in that case, in that New York courtroom, prosecutors say that effort by her happened in November of 2015.  That`s a long time ago.  Why did they charge her now? 

Our own Richard Engel in a special hour that he did for this show, he documented in detail this alleged obstruction of justice by Veselnitskaya that is spelled out in the indictment today.  Richard Engel confronted Veselnitskaya about that in an interview.  That was April of last year.  Why was Veselnitskaya just indicted for it now? 

And actually, a further question, it looks like she was indicted for this obstruction of justice on December 20th.  That indictment was filed under seal for some reason.  And 19 days later, today, this indictment was unsealed and we`re all now allowed to see it.  Why does that timing make sense, too? 

And then just as we were absorbing that news, we got further word today that the chairs of seven major committees in Congress are now challenging Trump`s treasury secretary over a Trump administration decision that was announced just before Congress to lift sanctions on companies associated with this man, Oleg Deripaska. 

Deripaska is an oligarch close to Vladimir Putin.  He himself had an odd connection to Paul Manafort and the Trump campaign.  This is the guy to whom Manafort offered private briefings during the campaign.  Again, you know, why was the president`s campaign chair offering private briefings on the campaign to a Russian oligarch close to Vladimir Putin who is now under U.S. sanctions?  While at the same time he was apparently providing polling data about the campaign to a guy associated with Russian intelligence who happens to have been his conduit to the Russian oligarch connected to Putin.  Why did the Trump campaign at the highest levels have all these connections to the Kremlin?  We don`t know. 

But tonight, "The New York Times" citing a single source reports that when Manafort shared internal private polling data from the Trump campaign with that Russian intelligence guy, he asked that guy to pass that internal data on to Oleg Deripaska and Donald Trump`s Treasury Department announced just before Christmas they want to relax sanctions on the company associated with that oligarch Oleg Deripaska. 

And now, today, the seven Democratic committee chairs in the House of Representatives are demanding the Trump administration explain that decision.  They`re demanding an immediate meeting with the secretary of the treasury, Steven Mnuchin, to explain why these are going away. 

Quote: Dear Secretary Mnuchin, we write in response to a December 19th notification indicating that the Treasury Department intends to terminate sanctions on these three Russian companies as part of a deal with Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch who has abetted the Putin regime`s malign activity against the United States.  Quote, as the chairs of committees with oversight jurisdiction over the U.S. response to Russia`s attempts to interfere in our elections and other hostile actions, we have a number of concerns about the agreement that the U.S. has reached with Mr. Deripaska. 

The seven committee chairmen are asking treasury to delay the implementation of this relaxation on Deripaska`s companies.  They`re asking for a full explanation how the treasury arrived at this decision and they want a meeting between Steven Mnuchin and, quote, all interested members on this subject and they want that meeting soon before the sanctions are withdrawn. 

Again, the clock is ticking.  Congress has 30 days to object to the lifting of these sanctions.  The Trump administration announced just before Christmas that that clock had started ticking because they announced that they`d be lifted.  And then as we were absorbing that information, we got further word that the United States Supreme Court has weighed in for the first time today on an aspect of the Mueller investigation.  This is about a case that remains shrouded in secrecy, but the Supreme Court today declined to intervene on behalf of an unknown corporation that`s owned by an unknown foreign country that`s been fighting a subpoena that we believe is from the special counsel`s office. 

In a very short order today from the Supreme Court, and a long and fascinating order from the D.C. Court of Appeals, we learned today almost nothing about the identity of this corporation or which country owns this corporation, but we do know as of today that at the highest levels of the U.S. judiciary, that foreign country and that foreign corporation, they`re getting no help in their efforts to resist a subpoena about something that pertains to the special counsel`s investigation. 

So, this is today.  Manafort was maybe working on dropping Russian sanctions, possibly along with the Trump Tower Moscow guys.  Manafort was giving polling data, internal polling data from the campaign to a guy in Russian intelligence who he was then asking to pass it on to a Russian oligarch close to Putin.  The Russian lawyer from the Trump tower meeting has been criminally indicted in the United States for lying about the fact that she represents the Russian government. 

The Democrats that just took over the House of Representatives are getting up on their hind legs and trying to stop the Trump administration from dropping sanctions on companies owned by the pro-Putin oligarch that Trump`s campaign chair was trying to pay back during the Trump campaign somehow and to whom Manafort was apparently funneling internal polling data from the campaign. 

And the Supreme Court is not going to help country "A" and their unknown corporation, which the guise of the Mueller special counsel investigation.  And now, that corporation is in contempt of court and being charged $50,000 a day until they comply with Mueller`s subpoena. 

Other than that, not much happened today, though.  Wonder what tomorrow`s going to be like. 

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


Good evening, Lawrence. 

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