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Presidential health lies. TRANSCRIPT: 2/14/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.

Guests: Tom Perez, John Garamendi

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST:   We want people to feel secure.  And that, that`s hard.  And getting there and all it would mean is something that no amount of fencing is ever going to provide.

That does it for our special edition of "ALL IN AMERICA", live at the border.  My great thanks to all of our amazing reporters who spent many hours traveling the border to bring us all these stories tonight. 

"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts now.  Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, Chris.  Incredible, incredible work tonight, my friend.  That was an amazing hour.  Thank you. 

And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. 

There`s lots to get to.  There`s lots going on tonight. 

The Senate has voted earlier today, and the House just has voted -- just has started voting tonight on a bill that will keep the federal government from shutting down again tomorrow.  As you can see there, this is the vote that has just happened right now in the House.  So, the Senate passed it earlier.  The House has now passed it. 

And this bill passing the House and the Senate, provided that the president signs it, this means that we will not have another federal government shutdown starting tomorrow. 

Now, because the president did not succeed in using that last long shutdown, nor the threat of another shutdown tomorrow, because that was not a successful tactic for the president to try to force U.S. taxpayers to pay for a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, the White House now says that although the president will sign this bill that has just passed the House in the last couple of minutes, although they say the president will sign this bill that passed the Senate and has now passed the house to keep the government open, the White House says the president will also in addition to that simultaneously declare an emergency, a national emergency.  So he can raid military funds essentially to build a wall on his own despite the wishes of Congress. 

Now, grain of salt here.  The White House says that`s what the president is going to do, right?  They say that he`s going to sign the bill that has now passed the House and the Senate.  They say that he is also going to declare the national emergency, but with this presidency, honestly, is that actually going to happen?  We don`t know.  The White House says it`s going to happen, but in this presidency, is anything really done and dusted before "Fox & Friends" says it`s done and dusted? 

I mean, we never know exactly what the president is going to do, whether or not the White House has announced some purported plan.  But, of course, just the prospect, just the threat of President Trump trying to do this wall thing with a declaration of emergency powers, just that threat in recent weeks has led, as you might expect, to, frankly, rabidly partisan immediate attacks from all these far-left Democrats and liberals. 


SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA:  I don`t think it`s a good idea.  I think it would be a terrible idea.  I hope he doesn`t do it. 

CHUCK TODD, MODERATOR, MEET THE PRESS:  Would you fight him on it? 

RUBIO:  Sure, because I think that it`s important. 

SEN. RON JOHNSON (R), WISCOINSIN:  I would hate to see it.  Using that act, it would be in this instance a far larger act than has ever occurred in the past.  I`d prefer not. 

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS:  I think it`s a dangerous step.  One, because of the precedent it sets.  Two, the president`s going to get sued and it won`t succeed in accomplishing his goal.  To me, it strikes -- it strikes me as a -- not a good strategy. 

SEN. THOM TILLIS (R), NORTH CAROLINA:  I hate the idea of an emergency because I always worry about that abuse with future presidents.  I hope he doesn`t go that far. 

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE:  I think it would be a mistake for the president to invoke his national emergency powers for this purpose and that it would be of dubious constitutionality.  I don`t think that that was what the National Emergencies Act was intended to address. 


MADDOW:  Those are not wackadoo liberals and Democrat.  Those are all Republican U.S. senators.  Before the White House announced today that the president does plan to declare an emergency to justify raiding U.S. military funds and maybe disaster funds to try to build his wall, lots of Republican senators, including conservative Republican senators, were willing to go on the record saying that would be a terrible idea.  That would, in fact, be an unconstitutional idea and one they very well might fight him on. 

Well, now, he`s apparently going to do that, so what are those Republican senators going to say about that now?  It`s not just a hypothetical thing.  It`s not just a question of how they`re going to, you know, answer to history.  This is not just a matter of the individual dignity of these individual Republican senators. 

I mean, what they do know and whether or not they decide to stick to their previously announced positions on this could make a real material difference.  I mean, we have long expected that if the president decided to declare an emergency to get his wall or to get any other policy thing that was not justified by an actual real life emergency, we had long expected that if he tried that, he would have an immediate court fight on his hands -- an immediate court fight, one that he would probably not be expected to win. 

But now that`s it`s happening, even before we get to the court fights, what we`re watching for tonight is the prospect that this emergency declaration, if he does sign one, it may never even get as far as the courts.  Under the National Emergencies Act, Congress can contest an emergency declaration from a president.  Thank you post-Watergate reforms and a Congress that was embarrassed by and terrified about the terrible presidency of Richard Nixon, and just how much worse things might have gotten under him or might some day get under a president even worse. 

Thanks to post-Watergate reforms and the National Emergencies Act, today under that law if Nancy Pelosi has the house pass a resolution contesting the fact that Trump has declared this emergency in order to build his wall, if Pelosi did that, what would happen after the House passed something like that is that Republican Senator Mitch McConnell over on the Senate side, he would have no choice in the matter at all.  That law, the National Emergencies Act, would automatically trigger a similar vote in the U.S. senate.  That`s the way the law works, right? 

If it was the Senate passing a resolution to block the president from declaring this emergency, if the Senate did that, it would force the House to take a similar vote.  In this case, it would probably be the House taking a vote to block the president from declaring this emergency.  That under the law would trigger the Senate into having to take the same vote.

The other house of Congress is triggered to act when the -- by the other house of Congress taking a vote on this sort of thing.  That`s how the law is structured here.  So, if Pelosi does this, if Pelosi in the House passes a resolution blocking Trump from declaring this emergency, once that vote happened, it would trigger a vote automatically in the Senate and once that vote was triggered in the Senate, honestly, it would only take a couple of Republicans voting with the Democratic senators to in fact block President Trump from declaring this emergency.  That`s all it would take. 

And we all know from the public record, from the tape, from the receipts that a lot more than just a couple Republican senators are on the record bluntly and unequivocally and recently saying that an emergency declaration from this president on this would be a terrible idea and they`d be willing to fight him on it.  Well, if they put their money where their mouth, they could stop this president from doing it, and this is not hypothetical.  This is now going to unfold over the course of tonight and into tomorrow and perhaps beyond.  And because of the way that law is structured, because Mitch McConnell himself can`t stop this in its tracks by just refusing to allow it to come up for a vote, he doesn`t have that option, which the way he can stop everything else that starts in the House, right? 

Because of the way that law is structured, there is some real drama as to whether or not the president is going to be able to do what he`s trying to do with an emergency declaration here.  That means a lot of Republican senators tonight are crossing their fingers and worrying and probably freaking out about the prospect of having to take that kind of a vote.  So we are watching that tonight.  Again, the House has just voted to pass the bill that will keep the government open. 

What this should do is result in that bill being transmitted to the White House and the president to sign it, but as always with this president, you don`t know what he`s going to do until he does it.  We will have more on that coming up over the course of this hour.  It`s a live issue this hour.  It will be a live issue tonight, tomorrow and presumably into the weekend. 

And while we are watching that unfold tonight, there`s been a lot of other things that have happened today.  The attorney general, the new Attorney General William Barr was confirmed by the Senate and sworn in today in the oval office in a private ceremony.  Andrew McCabe, the former deputy director, former acting director of the FBI, started speaking publicly about his own rather harrowing account of what happened in the FBI and in between the FBI and the Justice Department after the president fired James Comey.  How much terror basically that raised in the FBI in terms of what this president might be capable of. 

So, we`re going to be watching those stories, watching those developments over the course of tonight as well. 

You should also know on a smaller scale that the White House just released the president`s latest physical results.  And this is a benchmark for the president`s health.  It`s also just a benchmark in terms of normalcy and the American presidency. 

The president`s physical used to be such a normal, predictable thing, right?  With President Obama the big drama was, oh, is he still having a Nicorette every once in a while?  With George W. Bush, remember that time he choked on the pretzel?  OK.  That was just a one-time thing.  It`s not some bigger problem.  That`s the level of drama you`d have with the president`s physical. 

With this president, though, in the same way that his tax returns have become bizarre and contested territory and the White House can`t be counted on anymore to do things like correctly spell the names of foreign leaders and foreign countries, even still today, right?  I mean, this week they`re still misspelling the names of foreign countries in official White House press releases.  They`re still misspelling the names of foreign leaders, even while President Trump is meeting them. 

Like you never had to worry about whether or not there is a spell check on the word processors in the White House before.  Will we ever go back to expecting these things to be spelled right?  These -- similarly, even the president`s annual physical has become weird and fantastical.  We should have known that was going to happen when his release of medical information as a candidate veered off immediately into very strange territory.  We should have known that weirdness would persist when his first physical as a president ended up making a celebrity of the then White House physician but not in a good way.  Trump then tried to nominate him to his cabinet.  That nomination collapsed under a cloud of all sorts of unexpected allegations about that one-time White House physician. 

That former White House physician is now the subject of an ongoing inspector general investigation at the Defense Department.  So now there is a new White House physician and this one started off weirdly, too, when it comes to the president`s physical.  The president had his exam last week and the White House thereafter put out a statement giving a preliminary assessment from the new White House doctor in which he proclaimed his happiness about the president`s very good health. 

Quote, I am happy to announce the president of the United States is in very good health and I anticipate he will remain so for the duration of his presidency, comma, and beyond.  I mean, just as a scientific matter, doctor, you know how long his presidency is going to be.  He`s in his 70s.  He`s taking cholesterol drugs.  He`s a little overweight. 

You`re saying you can confidentiality state and you`re happy about your personal assessment right now that maybe six years from now this guy will be in very good health.  You can confidentiality state it.  It`s the thing that doctors don`t say under normal circumstances.  So, why are they saying that when it comes to this president?  Did somebody ask you to say that, Doctor?

Well, now, today, we got the full readout on the president`s physical, on the president`s health.  And again, it`s just a little weird.  Quote, with the consent of the president, I release the following health information.  We do get some basic numbers. 

According to the readout from the White House today, the president has gained a few pounds since last year.  His cholesterol ticked down but his cholesterol medication ticked up from last year.  His heart rate is also up a tick. 

And this is not the most important thing in the world, but I would just draw your attention to the assertion here, height, 6`3".  This was also the president`s height according to last year`s physical results released from the White House.  Then it was written in inches, 75 inches, 6`3". 

On its own as an absolute value, it doesn`t matter how tall the president is, but for the record, for the history books, right, it should some day be remembered that even that is another norm broken.  Even that is another weird little pointless lie that we`ve all been told to believe about this president.  Because the president may be 6`3" in his mind but he is not 6`3" in his body.  And it -- it shouldn`t matter, except for the fact that they`re telling us that he is. 

No, I haven`t -- I haven`t measured the president personally, but you can see him in pictures standing next to other people whose measurements have been credibly taken.  For example, Mark Sanchez is a quarterback in the NFL.  He is 6`2". 

Here is president Trump with Mark Sanchez.  Mark Sanchez in the picture clearly taller than the president Trump.  If Mark Sanchez is 6`2", a person 6`3" standing next to him would not be shorter than Mark Sanchez. 

Here is a gentleman named Lorenzo Llamas, who is also 6`2".  Here he is standing shoulder to shoulder with President Trump.  He is 6`2", he is taller than Donald Trump, which means president Trump is not 6`3". 

Here`s another man who is 6`2", his name is Justin Trudeau.  He`s the prime minister of Canada.  President Trump is not a short man.  He`s not like Danny DeVito up there but he is shorter than Justin Trudeau, who, again, is 6`2", which means that president Trump is not 6`3". 

Here is president Trump with Barack Obama, who is 6`1/2" according to his last presidential physical back when presidential physicals weren`t weird, and they weren`t -- back when they were normal occurrences.  President Trump and President Obama, as you can see, are very close in height.  President Obama is a little taller than President Trump, as you can see in multiple images from multiple angles. 

If you would like to see what it would look like if Donald Trump really was 6`3", well, here he is standing in ex-to a man who is 6`3", whose name is Jeb Bush.  President Trump is considerably shorter than Jeb Bush because Jeb Bush is 6`3" and President Trump is not. 

And who cares how tall President Trump is?  Who cares how tall any president is?  But in our lives as American citizens in this time on earth, this will be one of the weird, pointless vain, little lies that we`re expected to, I don`t know, agree with or agree to let go or expected to believe it, maybe.  We`re expected to not mind it when it comes to this president, even though we know it`s not true. 

I mean, and with elements of the federal government, like the White House physician`s office, you wouldn`t expect them to be lying to the public for no good reason, but under this president they are.  Now, in the case of the president`s physical, if they`re lying about his height, does that call into question that they may be lying about other things that may potentially be more material when it comes to the president`s fitness and his life expectancy?  I mean, how tall he is doesn`t have anything to do with how long he`s going to live.  Are they lying about his weight or the change in his weight, about what drugs he`s on and what dosage? 

I mean, we don`t know.  Once they`re lying about one thing, it`s hard to trust them on everything.  This is nothing we have had to worry about as citizens before.  I mean, to be fair, we`ve seen this sort of thing before from the president himself and from the people who work to promote the president. 

A few weeks ago, the blog "Gizmodo" went back to find the original source images for stuff the White House was putting out to promote Trump on Facebook and Instagram.  On the left side of your screen from "Gizmodo", you can see the original photo that was taken of the president.  It`s just him pointing at some event.  That was the original photo.

On the right side of your screen, that`s what the White House put out on Facebook and Instagram to promote the president`s image.  At first glance it looks like they just used the image to build that little meme, but, of course, they didn`t just do that.  They had to tune it up. 

So you can see in the change between the two images.  First they gave him a little haircut.  His hair was a little extra, sort of Trumpy in the back of the neck area that day, so they tuned that up a little bit, fixed his hair.  Made that tidier. 

They also gave him kind of a shoulder transplant.  They gave him a whole new shoulder/arm area that is svelte and tiny and thin-looking.  Maybe that`s a kindness to the president`s tailor not making his image distracting when they wanted it to have a wider display.  But what explains -- what explains this?  They literally lengthened his finger. 

Look, they`re not moving his hand, they`re just making the finger longer.  So as to create a new public image for this president that, what, for what purpose?  Gives us some sense of what the world would be like if we had a president who wore fingerprint prosthetics? 

I mean, this is a weird kind of vanity.  It`s a weird kind of playing with reality, but it doesn`t mean much when it comes from the president himself, when it comes from the White House promoting the president, when comes from, you know, presumably his re-election campaign will put out images of him looking like a supermodel.  But it is something different when it`s the federal government of the United States of America, which doesn`t just work for the president personally.  They supposedly work for us and serve a public purpose.

But now, apparently, we will annually be delivered an official U.S. government lie, a meaningless lie about how tall the president is.  Annually they will lie to us and tell us he is a height that he is not.  And this is dumb stuff, right?  Why do we even have to think about this?  It is exasperating to know how to contend with being lied to on a daily basis by our own government about things that are so petty you would never think to fact check them. 

But what`s the alternative?  I mean, do we just, like, let them say whatever they think is true and we`ll just decide to believe it?  I mean, letting the truth just go as if the truth really doesn`t matter anyway -- doesn`t really matter anyway on small stuff, big stuff -- I mean, letting the truth go seems like a bad, slippery step at the top of a long steep hill, but looking at those images of Trump and Jeb Bush, it actually provides a good reminder of where we were at this time in 2016.  When it was the not at all clear that Donald Trump would become the nominee of his party, let alone president. 

And the Republican presidential field was so gigantic.  You might remember -- excuse me, their debates on the Republican side were just a logistical nightmare.  How to deal with so many candidates and there only being so many podiums in the continental United States. 

I mean, in the Republican presidential primary in 2016, when they had anywhere between 15 to 20 candidates -- or maybe even more depending on how you counted.  They held a dozen debates.  For the first seven of those 12 debates, they held a main debate and then they held what they called an undercard. 

So it was like the adult main candidates in prime time, the adults` table, but before that not in prime time, they`d have a kids` table for candidates who are maybe not impressive enough by one measure or another to make it into the main event.  That was a very awkward division from the very beginning, literally from the first one the network showing the under card debate they panned out wide to show this image of this huge and cavernous completely empty room in which the kids` table candidates were about to start debating in front of no one. 

In fact, for that first under card debate, they didn`t invite an audience to come watch the candidates, which was both an insult to them and also I think made the candidates look a little bit ridiculous on TV.  The first debate had -- had seven candidates in that embarrassing under card debate and ten candidates on the main stage later that night.  The one after that, they had 11 candidates on the main stage, they had four candidates on the kids` table debate, the under card. 

By the time they got to mid-January, the saddest little under card debate at all, only had three people at it.  That was the kids table debate with Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum. 

By the eighth debate enough people dropped out of the race they were able to finally do a single event with seven candidates.  That was still big enough, though, and enough of a pile-up, that is one they had a severe logistical confusion moment when it came to the task of how to get all seven of those candidates on to the stage. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Let`s welcome the candidates for the Republican nomination for president.  New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. 




UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Texas Senator Ted Cruz. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Businessman Donald Trump. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Florida Senator Marco Rubio. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Ohio Governor John Kasich. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Ladies and gentlemen, the Republican candidates.  And Dr. Ben Carson, please come out on the stage.  He`s standing there as well.  Dr. Carson. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And lastly, we welcome back to the debate stage Donald Trump. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What about Kasich? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Can I introduce Kasich? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It`s so noisy in here.  Yes, we`re going to introduce Ohio Governor John Kasich. 


MADDOW:  And that was when they had finally winnowed it down to still seven candidates.  I mean, that was when things were supposed to be getting more simple.  At least they didn`t have two different debates at that point, but it was still a huge pile-up.  It`s easy to screw things up. 

The footage looking back at it now, it is helpful for some stuff, like being able to see Donald Trump standing next to Jeb Bush.  Oh, look, Jeb Bush is way taller.  Trump is not 6`3".

But substantively, it`s also a good reminder how difficult the Republican Party had it when they tried to organize their primary in 2016, and when they specifically tried to organize their debates in that huge field of candidates that the Republicans had running in 2016.  I mean, with that under card plan it was not only embarrassing to the candidates involved, it was difficult to produce.  They had to keep tweaking the requirements for how candidates might make it on to the under card to try to keep certain candidates in the field who they didn`t want off the stage entirely, but they otherwise might have dropped out. 

I mean, it was a process that wasn`t perceived to be fair, didn`t do anybody any favors.  Well, this year, the Democratic Party is facing a similar logistical problem because there are already maybe ten Democratic candidates who have declared they`re running, and certainly some of them are bigger names than other, but all of them deserve a shot.  By the time everybody is done declaring their interest in this race, the party could very easily top the 17 major candidates who tried to cram on to various debate stages for the Republicans in 2016 to no good effect. 

Well, now as of tonight, the Democratic Party has announced how they are going to try to handle their huge field of candidates this year without making some of the same mistakes the Republicans did in 2016.  The chairman of the Democratic Party, Tom Perez, has had to make a lot of these hard decisions to come up with how the party is going to handle their field of candidates.  Tonight, he`s here to make some announcements next. 

Stay with us.


MADDOW:  No, we do not know who all is going to run for president on the Democratic side this year, including some of the biggest names who are still reportedly mulling the choice.  Vice President Joe Biden still hasn`t said if he`s running, but he`s certainly keeping the question alive.

Attorney General Eric Holder gave a campaign-style speech this week in Iowa.  When he spoke with reporters after the speech, he did not say he was running but he left a lot of observers with the impression that he very well may. 

Those names, of course, on top of the full size choir of Democratic U.S. senators who are already running, and at least one member of the House and at least one other former Obama cabinet official and at least one mayor and there will be more of all of those kinds of Democrats and probably some others besides.  It`s going to be a big crowd. 

Well, tonight the Democratic Party has announced that the first debate in the Democratic primary for this year is going to be held in June and it`s going to be hosted by us, by MSNBC and NBC and Telemundo.  Details to come. 

But we`ve also got a lot of brand-new information from the Democratic Party about how they are going to try to organize a fair and tough debate schedule for what is shaping up to be a gigantic field. 

As of today, the Democratic Party tells us that they have decided to make room on the debate stage for up to 20 candidates.  Because 20 is too many people to have on any one stage for a debate, depending on the size of the field overall, the Democrats say that the Democratic debates may be broken down into two heats, basically, to occur on two successive nights.  So you`d have the first heat say on a Monday and then the second heat on the next day, on a Tuesday. 

Unlike the Republicans in 2016, these heats will not be divided into one main event and one undercard, one adults` table and one kids` table.  Instead what the Democrats say is they`re going to divide the candidates randomly between the two nights.  Random drawings.  That will be fun. 

And this is interesting and substantive in terms of Democratic Party priorities.  To qualify for making it on to the debate stage at all for being one of the 20, right, the threshold for inclusion is interesting.  It has two components.  First is that you`ve got to hit a polling threshold in three polls that are either national or in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina or Nevada. 

And you`ve got to hit a grassroots fund-raising threshold.  This is new and interesting.  This is what they`re telling us about the grassroots fund- raising method that you have to display basically.  You have to show that you can do this in order to make it on to the stage. 

Quote: Grassroots fund-raising method.  Candidates may qualify for the debate by demonstrating that the campaign has received donations by at least 65,000 unique donors and a minimum of 200 unique donors per state in at least 20 U.S. states.  Oh.  So, you need 200 per state in 20 states and 65,000 nationwide. 

No system is perfect.  No political competition is perfectly fair.  But this is the Democrats` hard-fought best effort for how they are going to try to give their nominating process the best shot at picking their best candidate this year. 

Joining us now is Tom Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Committee. 

Mr. Chairman, thank you for being here. 

TOM PEREZ, CHAIRMAN, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE:  It`s always a pleasure to be with you, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  And I have to say, thank you for picking us to do the first debate.  We are super excited about that for June. 

PEREZ:  Well, I`ll tell you.  It`s going to be unprecedented.  I`m very excited as well.  We`ve never had a debate where you have NBC, MSNBC, Telemundo, if someone wants to watch it live stream, that will be free as well, and having consecutive nights is going to enable the candidates to put their best foot forward. 

This is what it`s all about.  It`s about giving the candidates a stage to give their vision of America.  And the thing about our thresholds is we`ve never had a grassroots threshold before.  And I think it`s really important. 

I mean, we look who won in 2008.  What was the key to Barack Obama`s success?  It was mobilizing the grassroots. 

And so, you have two pathways to the debate stage.  Number one, as you point out, the polling.  And if you don`t make it on the polling, the alternative pathway is what we`ve outlined with grassroots fund-raising.  We didn`t come up with that just out of thin air.  We looked at the public campaign finance laws, which have been on the books for decades and then we consulted with Act Blue, which is basically the grassroots fund-raising center of the Democratic ecosystem. 

And we feel very comfortable that the grassroots threshold -- it`s not a layup by any means, but it`s not a full-court shot.  It`s something that will require hard work and what it will do is it will incentivize candidates to make sure they`re running these grassroots campaigns, because I really believe that we`re at our best when we`re connecting with people.  That`s how we won in 2018.  And, frankly, that`s how Barack Obama won in 2008, and that`s exactly what I think this will incentivize. 

It will really, again, we`ve done so many things throughout the process to make sure that we are bringing power back to our grassroots.  Whether it was our reforms of the primaries and caucuses of last year and the superdelegate reform and how we`re doing these debates.  I think this is going to result in unprecedented viewership.  It`s going to result in engagement of grassroots like never before and it`s going to incentivize, again, candidates to be doing what we think will help them win. 

MADDOW:  In terms of the -- I think what everybody is expecting to be an historically large field of Democratic candidates right now, you guys have also floated this idea or you`re proposing this idea of successive nights.  And I poke at the Republicans a little bit in the intro to the show here because they had this sort of adults` table, kids` table.  The sort of main debate and almost made the debate division between their two different debate stages that they had in 2016 when they had a lot of candidates. 

How is your idea of successive debate nights different than that difficult process that the Republicans went through in 2016? 

PEREZ:  Well, there is no undercard.  That is the biggest difference.  If we have -- let`s just use a round number, an even number.  Say there are 16 people who meet the threshold, and, by the way, some might meet the polling threshold, some might meet the grassroots threshold and some might meet it both ways.  And that`s even better if they end up doing that. 

What we will do, again, having random selection is, again, another measure on our part for these first two debates to demonstrate that we`re just trying to give folks a fair shake.  I am thrilled by a large field.  That is not a problem.  It is a remarkable tribute to the depth of our field. 

I`ve had the privilege over the course of my career to work with probably 3/4 of the folks who may end up being on the debate stage.  They`re spectacular people.  And what we want to do is make sure these debates give them an opportunity to talk about the issues. 

Our candidates aren`t going to be talking about hand size.  They`re going to be talking about health care.  And I`m confident that the questioners from MSNBC and NBC and Telemundo are going to give them that opportunity, because I love what we`re talking about. 

We`re talking about health care.  We`re talking about how to address climate change.  They`re denying climate change. 

And when people see the depth of our field and they see that everybody`s gotten a fair shake, I think that`s so critically important because if we do have 16 candidates at the end of the day, 15 aren`t going to make it to the mountaintop, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  Mmm-hmm. 

PEREZ:  And we need to make sure that all of those candidates and their supporters feel like their candidate got a fair shake.  That`s how we sprint across the finish line next July at the Democratic convention, and that`s how we win in November of 2020.  This is the best strategy in our judgment to make sure we`re putting our best foot forward to defeat Donald Trump.  That`s what it`s all about. 

MADDOW:  Democratic Party chairman Tom Perez.  Thank you for your time this evening, Mr. Chairman.  I know you`re having to invent the wheel a little bit in order to do this.  Thanks for hop helping us understand how it`s going to work.  Much appreciated. 

PEREZ:  Quite a pleasure to be with you. 

MADDOW:  All right.  Chairman there referencing Republicans talking about Donald Trump`s hand size during the debate.  You remember that?  I mean, honestly at that moment the one thing nobody would have anticipated is that they were talking about the freaking hand size issue in the debates.  And we would still be talking about it in the presidency of that candidate who ultimately made it to the presidency, because he`s artificially augmenting his hand size in his photos as president because he`s still stuck on that issue. 

All right.  Much more to get to tonight.  Stay with us.



REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  You want to talk about a national emergency?  Let`s talk about today, the one-year anniversary of another manifestation of the epidemic of gun violence in America.  That`s a national emergency.  Why don`t you declare that emergency, Mr. President?  I wish you would. 

But a Democratic president can do that.  Democratic president can declare emergencies as well.  So, the precedent that the president is setting here is something that should be met with great unease and dismay by the Republicans. 


MADDOW:  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi today warning her Republican colleagues essentially, hey, be careful what you wish for if you get behind the president`s expected national emergency declaration to try to build himself a wall between the United States and Mexico. 

It remains to be seen how -- how much unease and dismay Republicans may have if the president is really going to go through with this.  A lot of Republicans have said that they do not want President Trump to declare an emergency.  That said, congressional Republicans have not exactly been profiles on courage when this president actually does something they previously claimed to be diametrically opposed to. 

The president will, though, have a real problem when it comes to Democrats on this issue.  Unlike the first two years of his presidency, Democrats hold actually power in Washington.  So, Speaker Pelosi today said she may challenge an emergency declaration from Trump in court.  There may also be a resolution in Congress to block the emergency declaration.  If Pelosi passed that in the House, it would force a vote on the same issue in the Senate because the Republicans are divided on this idea of a national emergency stunt for a wall, such a resolution might actually pass the Senate, too, which would have the effect of blocking the president`s emergency declaration. 

Even more immediately, if the manly declaration is supposed to give the president the ability to take money from somewhere without Congress so he can use that money to build the wall -- well, it`s important to know that that money wouldn`t just be coming from thin air.  It wouldn`t just be coming from somewhere in the abstract. 

If the president does try to use this declaration, this emergency declaration to get money for his wall, that money would come primarily from the U.S. military`s budget.  That`s the money that the president would be claiming he can expropriate for his own purposes, under an emergency declaration, money from the Defense Department.  Specifically, there has been talk that the president would tap money designated for Army Corps of Engineers projects, like flood control projects in California and hurricane recovery in Puerto Rico. 

That`s the kind of -- those are the kinds of places the president expects to get his money. 

In our new political reality, though, not so fast.  I mean, it`s not just Nancy Pelosi.  Now there is a Democrat who is in charge of overseeing exactly that money that the president has his eyes on expropriating and that Democrat has suddenly just become very, very powerful on this national issue and this confrontation with the president and that Democrat joins us next. 

Stay with us.  


MADDOW:  As of this hour, both the House and Senate have now passed a bill to keep the government from shutting down tomorrow.  We are told by the White House to expect that the president will sign that bill but then he will also declare a national emergency to try and end-run around Congress, in which he`ll just take the funds he needs to build a border wall, maybe from the money that Congress has appropriated to the military for other purposes or from money that Congress has appropriated for disaster relief. 

In light of that news today, it`s hard not to wonder whether Democratic Congressman John Garamendi has a bit of a crystal ball.  Forty-eight hours ago, Congressman Garamendi introduced legislation that would block president Trump from raiding funds otherwise put away for disaster relief, the kind of disaster relief for instance that his state, California, relies on to fight wildfires and floods.  That was two days ago. 

Today, Congressman Garamendi doubled down saying, quote, I introduced legislation this week in anticipation of this news that would prevent the president from doing this.  I am going to fight like hell for it. 

Joining us now is Congressman John Garamendi of the great state of California. 

Sir, thank you very much for being with us tonight.  I really appreciate it. 

REP. JOHN GARAMENDI (D), CALIFORNIA:  Good to be with you, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  So, what`s your understanding of the state of play as to the president`s intentions and this proposed state of emergency? 

GARAMENDI:  Well, he better take a few moments, I no he doesn`t read, but perhaps someone could read Article I Section 7 and 8 of the Constitution.  The power of appropriation lies with the Congress, not with the president. 

If he were trying to do this, he is basically establishing an imperial president, his majesty.  We`re not going to let that happen.  Bottom line, we will not let it happen.

Yes, there is a piece of legislation I have in.  It would require his signature so we may not get there, but we`re certainly going to make a statement.  We also have the opportunity to sue on several courses, not just -- not only the question of the authority of the president to do this under the Constitution, but also where`s the emergency?  Is the emergency a bunch of kids and mothers coming to the border to cross legally?  Is that the emergency?  I don`t think so. 

And finally, the border crossings are down to the lowest they`ve ever been since 1950, so the emergency issue is not there. 

And there is tomorrow.  And there`s the day after tomorrow.  The president`s going to submit his budget.  We`re going to take that under advisement.

And I will tell you if he were to do an emergency and rip off fundamental projects that protect the citizens in my communities and in Puerto Rico and in other parts of this nation, he will pay a price ongoing into the future because we do have ultimately the power of the purse. 

MADDOW:  If there is to be some sort of formal effort in the Congress to try to block the president from declaring this emergency, if there is some sort of resolution under the Emergency Act that would allow --


MADDOW:  -- Congress to do this.  Is that the sort of thing that you would expect Republican support or on or do you think this is another issue that Republicans put aside their concerns and decided to stand with the president? 

GARAMENDI:  I think it depends on exactly what the president does.  If the president takes $140 million away from the improvement for earthquake safety on Lake Isabella, which is on the river, just 16 miles upstream from a community called Bakersfield, represented by Kevin McCarthy, we might see Kevin McCarthy intensely interested in repealing the authority of the president. 

So, it`s kind of local around the nation.  Right now, we believe the president is going to leave the Republicans alone, go after Democratic districts, go after Puerto Rico, which he`s done plenty of effort to try to harm or at least not to help folks in those communities already.  He`s threatened, for example, in the Paradise Fire to force FEMA not to help the victims of the fire.  Fortunately, he didn`t carry through because there was pushback by all of us. 

So I think there`s going to be a lot of screaming here if he were to do it.  I`m sure that the issue would come.  I`m not sure how Speaker Pelosi would want to move it.  But clearly, the opportunity of passing a privilege resolution through the House is there. 

We also know there`s lawsuits.  I talked to Xavier Becerra, the attorney general in California.  He could add one more lawsuit to the long number he already has and he would have standing because California would be harmed. 

MADDOW:  Do you expect, sir, briefly, that if this resolution issue -- sorry, if the emergency declaration issue isn`t settled, if the president is maybe going to put pause on that because of what he`s hearing from you and others, knowing how this would go, being held up in court, do you think that he will the bill anyway to keep the government funded and avert a shutdown tomorrow, even in the emergency matter isn`t settled tonight? 

GARAMENDI:  I think he should.  You`ll take a look at the vote that occurred in the Senate.  That`s a veto number well over 83 votes in the Senate for it.  So there could be a veto override.  It would come very, very close in the House and I think we`d override the veto and go forward. 

That still leaves him the option of doing the emergency declaration.  So -- but the bottom line of this is that he shouldn`t do it. 

In just three weeks, he`s going to issue his budget.  If he thinks the border wall`s necessary, put it in there.  Put the justifications, when, where, how, what it`s going to look like, what it`s going to cost and go through the normal process that has worked very well for this country for over 200 years.  That`s how it ought to be done.  That`s the way the Constitution says it must be done. 

MADDOW:  Congressman John Garamendi of California -- sir, thank you so much for being here. 

GARAMENDI:  Thank you.  Thank you. 

MADDOW:  All right.  We`ll be right back.


MADDOW:  The new Attorney General William Barr was sworn in today in the oval office, confirmed by the Senate despite him refusing to pledge at his confirming hearings that will necessarily allow any findings from the Robert Mueller investigation to be released to Congress, let alone to the public. 

But the Mueller investigation proceeds apace.  And today in court, one of its tiny mysteries was revealed.  It was solved.  We`ve got one last story for you tonight, and that`s next.


MADDOW:  There is a mystery case involving Robert Mueller and the special counsel`s office that we`ve been covering from months now without knowing much about it.  It involves a mystery company that`s owned by a mystery foreign country that`s refusing to comply with a subpoena from Mueller`s office.  I said last night that some stuff was about to be unsealed in this case.  It was today. 

The one big thing that we learned from what was unsealed today is that apparently the mystery foreign country involved in this case is not trying to keep itself secret.  The mystery company and the mystery foreign country, they apparently don`t mind if we know who they are. 

Quote: Appellant, the witness here, appears to have no interest in seeking to preserve the secrecy of its identity.

If that court filing unsealed today is accurate, that`s interesting.  We still don`t know who the mystery company is or who country is that owns them, but now we know it`s the prosecutors, it`s Mueller and the special counsel`s office who think those things need to be kept secret from all of us, while the country itself doesn`t mind if we knew. 

Why would that be?  I have no idea.  But I`m super interested to find out. 

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


Good evening, Lawrence.

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