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Republicans campaigned on repealing ACA in 2016. TRANSCRIPT: 3/26/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.

Guests: Lauren Underwood

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST:  We`ll be talking about what`s in the Green New Deal, how you can achieve it, if you can achieve those incredibly ambitious goals, what it takes to combat the crisis of climate change.  Don`t miss it this Friday, right here at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

And that`s ALL IN for this evening. 

"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now. 

Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, Chris.  Thank you, my friend.  Much appreciated.

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

I don`t know if you ever look at the website for our show at the news blog that we maintain here every day.  I`m not pitching it or anything, I`m just saying if you`ve ever noticed it, you might notice an excellent, excellent old pal of mine, a great guy, Steve Benen, writes the Maddow blog. 

He`s also a producer on this show.  He serves as kind of a policy guru and a political process guru for our whole editorial staff, and as such, every day Steve gives me and all the producers on the show kind of a briefing as to what he sees as the landscape of the day`s news and the stuff that`s going to be on the blog later in the day and stuff we out to keep our eyes open for over the course of the news day. 

Well, today at about 1:00 Eastern Time, Steve sent a slightly panicked note to me and the whole staff.  He basically said just as a heads up: you guys, on a typical day, I`ll start the day with 10 to 15 credible ideas for Maddow blog posts.  This morning I had 29.  And that was before new stuff started happening. 

If you`ve never seen Steve sort of rattles like that, he`s a very even keel guy.  But it has, in fact, been a very busy news day.  And big news stuff, in fact, has kept happening all day. 

It started actually in the middle of the night last night with the almost unbelievable news that the Trump administration is going to ask the courts to take away health insurance from 21 million people who have it today, 21 million Americans.  You or someone you know has health insurance today who didn`t used to have it because of the Affordable Care Act, because of Obamacare. 

Republicans, of course, promised and promise and promised that they would kill Obamacare.  They would get rid of it as soon as they were in power in Washington.  When Republicans in fact got into power, when they got complete control of government after the 2016 election, in fact, they did not kill Obamacare.  That`s because, A, people fought like heck to stop them from doing that, and, B, I think it`s always they scared themselves a bit when they realized what they actually were going to do was take health insurance coverage away from 21 million Americans. 

For whatever combination of factors, despite their promises that`s the first thing they were going to do, Republicans actually elected not to do that when they were in complete control in Congress and in the White House.  And so, we sort of thought that was over for now. 

But then late last night, we got the news that the Trump administration has declared in new court filings that they will not defend any single little bit of the Affordable Care Act.  They want the whole law struck down by the courts, all of it, and that means if Trump now gets his way, 21 million Americans will lose all health insurance just like that.  Another 133 million Americans, that`s half the country under the age of 65, will get to take a spin on the old roulette wheel because half of all Americans under the age of 65 have some kind of pre-existing condition and now the Trump administration says they want insurance companies to be able to go back to not insuring you if they don`t want to on the basis of the fact that you have a pre-existing condition. 

I mean, we got rid of that roulette wheel nine years ago in this country with the Affordable Care Act.  Now the Trump administration wants us to go back. 

Also, do you know anybody on Medicare?  Everybody over 65 has access to Medicare in this country.  People with disabilities of all ages have access to Medicare as their health insurance.  If Trump gets his way with what he`s trying to do now, everybody on Medicare will start paying more for their prescription drugs.  They`re going to have to start paying out of pocket for things like diabetes checks and wellness checks and physicals and all the other preventive care that is covered by the ACA. 

The Trump administration has now decided to tell the federal courts to strike all of that down, to kill the health care law in its entirety.  They couldn`t do it through Congress, even when they had complete Republican control there, so instead they`ve decided they`re going to use the courts to try to do it, which is exactly the kind of thing for which they have been so excitedly stuffing conservative judges on to the federal bench at a record pace throughout the time that Trump has been president. 

Now with enough judges in place that will take their side, they`re hoping they`ll finally be able to take away health care coverage from literally tens of millions of Americans.  They figured out how to do it.  They must be so excited. 

According to exit polling from multiple sources, the last elections we had, the 2018 midterms, they were mostly a referendum on the issue of health care.  For everything else that we fight about and for everything else that dominates the news, Americans who voted in the congressional elections in 2018 in November say they were motivated more than anything else by the issue of health care, and with that motivation they voted for a bigger Democratic sweep in the house than at any time since the immediate aftermath of Watergate. 

Now in the wake of that, the Trump administration has set their course for 2020 and to set that course they are asking the courts to put literally half the country out of the running for health insurance if you`ve been so unlucky in life as to have any one of a gazillion pre-existing conditions, insurance companies will once again be able to say make you uninsurable at any cost.  It`s just -- it`s just amazing. 

Walter Dellinger, former solicitor general of the United States, very widely respected legal mind, he weighed in on the Trump administration`s decision on this today.  He called it, quote, not just legally indefensible but politically insane.  That is what they`re doing.  We`ll have more on that coming up this hour, including first-term Democratic Congressman Lauren Underwood, who ran very strongly on the issue of health care, who flipped a district from red to blue and became a freshman member of Congress.  She`s going to be joining us later on this hour to talk about that decision by the Trump administration and what it means going forward, what`s going to happen here in Washington from here on out. 

Also today with a vote in the House that failed to override Trump`s first presidential veto, the Trump administration also signaled that they plan to proceed with plans to take away money from the U.S. military to instead pay for President Trump`s wall between the U.S. and Mexico.  That said, the Democratic chairman of the Armed Services Committee in the House, Congressman Adam Smith, today denied a request to take funds that Congress had appropriated to the Army for other purposes to instead spend those monies on a wall, which means in addition to all the states and other entities that are suing Trump over him declaring this ersatz emergency to allow him to build that wall, it now looks like Congress will push this into the courts, too, for every dollar that Trump tries to take from some other purpose to instead spend it on his wall. 

So you take those two things together and, I mean, it has been a day with lots of news in it, but also lots of the news that broke is big news.  Among other things, we learned that the Trump administration`s legal firepower from here until the next election in 2020 is going to be devoted in the courts to trying to take health insurance away from tens of millions of Americans, to make them all uninsured, and they`ll be fighting to take money away from U.S. troops to instead build Trump a wall that most Americans do not want.  Which I guess is a nice double-barreled strategy for the president`s re-election campaign.  I`m sure they think that is. 

But on top of all of that, we now also know to expect at least some version of the special counsel`s report from Robert Mueller within weeks, weeks not months.  I know that`s vague but that`s what we`ve got.  NBC News reports today according to a DOJ spokesperson, it will be a matter of, quote, weeks and not months" before Attorney General William Barr turns over to Congress however much of Robert Mueller`s report he`s going to allow to be seen. 

As we reported last night, Democratic committee chairs in Congress say that`s not nearly enough.  The committee chairs want a fully un-redacted copy of Mueller`s report and they want it not in a matter of weeks, they want it in a week, they want it one week from today on April 2nd.  Even beyond that, they`re also demanding access to the underlying evidence that Mueller used to produce his report.  And so we shall see. 

I mean, depending on how slowly Barr decides to go with this and how much of Mueller`s report he tries to withhold from Congress and from the public, this one may end up in court, too, alongside the wall and alongside the Trump administration trying to take away health insurance from Americans.  The role of the Attorney General William Barr in releasing his own summary, in making his own announcement about his own prosecutorial decision based on what he says is in Mueller`s findings, that decision by William Barr is attracting more and more scrutiny and sort of more and more criticism with each passing hour since Barr put out his statement about Mueller`s findings on Sunday. 

One of Barr`s predecessors as attorney general, Eric Holder, today provided the kind of answer that really only a former attorney general can provide when it comes to one of the major mysteries in how William Barr has handled Mueller`s findings and how Barr inserted himself into the special counsel`s investigation.  This was -- this was Holder`s statement online today. 

Quote: On obstruction, the Department of Justice seems to be substituting its judge for the special counsel`s.  The Department of Justice did not have to weigh in.  Not consistent with precedent.  Not a best practice.  Trump`s Department of Justice now appears to have cleared him.  Mueller`s report must be made available.

Again, that`s former Attorney General Eric Holder today describing and it`s basically improper for attorney general William Barr to have jumped into the special counsel`s investigation the way he did in order to announce his own view of whether President Trump could be prosecuted for obstruction after Mueller himself reportedly made no recommendation on that one way or the other.  The A-1 lead in today`s "New York Times" on the same subject puts I think perhaps even a finer point on the matter. 

Quote: William P. Barr was a lawyer in private practice in June when he wrote an unsolicited memo to the Justice Department that was sharply skeptical of the special counsel`s inquiry into whether President Trump illegally obstructed justice.  Nine months later, Mr. Trump is now cleared of that offense and he has Mr. Barr, his new attorney general, to thank.  Barr`s decision to declare that evidence fell short of proving President Trump illegally obstructed the Russia inquiry was an extraordinary outcome to a narrative that has unspooled over nearly two years.  Robert S. Mueller was appointed as special counsel to remove the threat of political interference from an investigation involving the president but Mueller reached no conclusion on the key question of whether Trump committed an obstruction of justice offense. 

Instead, quote: Barr stepped in to make the determination himself, bringing the specter of politics back into the case.  Democrats seized on William Barr`s move, portraying it as a hasty and dubious intervention by a man who had taken over the Justice Department, pledging to defend its independence, but ended up clearing a president who had installed him in the post just last month.

Quote: It is not clear from Barr`s letter whether Mueller had wanted the attorney general to make the final decision on the obstruction issue, or whether Mueller intended for Congress to absorb the evidence without a prejudgment by law enforcement.

But a prejudgment by one specific guy in law enforcement is, in fact, what Attorney General William Barr has provided.  And so, as we await the Mueller report, as we await our access to the Mueller report, as we are apparently going to get somewhere between a week and some weeks` worth of waiting, where all we have to go by are the actions and the statements of the attorney general about Mueller without seeing any of Mueller`s work itself, we really are left with this incredibly provocative set of as yet unexplained behaviors, right, where according to Trump`s newly installed attorney general, Robert Mueller decided and declared there should be no prosecutions of Trump or anyone in his campaign, specifically for colluding with the Russians in the their election interference effort.  But at the same time, Robert Mueller somewhat inexplicably decided he would withhold any judgment as to whether anyone should be charged with any form of obstruction of justice. 

With Mueller reportedly declining to make that pronouncement whether anyone should be charged with obstruction of justice, we then subsequently have zero understanding of why the attorney general would then himself jump in on that question and say, well, Mueller may not owe know the answer here, but I know, I know.  Mueller may have worked on this for 22 months and decided that he shouldn`t be prejudging whether or not this is a crime, but I`ve looked at his evidence for two days and I`m quite sure I know what the answer is and Trump`s fine. 

I mean, as Eric Holder says today, that is not consistent with precedent.  That is not a Justice Department best practice.  That is not something the Justice Department needed to do. 

But we may yet get an explanation of what happened there, presumably if Mueller did decide he was supposed to make a charging announcement on half of his remit and he was not supposed to make a charging announcement on the other half of his remit, presumably a decision that strange if that`s something he came to on his own terms, presumably that is something he will have explained in his report.  As far as I can tell, if there is that kind of an explanation from Mueller in his report, there would be no good reason, no legal reason to redact any of that when the report is handed over to Congress and ultimately shown to us, but we will get some expert advice on that in just a moment. 

And meanwhile, although you might not expect it from all the headlines and from all the White House pronouncement that this thing is over and it`s now time to move on, I mean, meanwhile this thing does appear to still be plugging along in the courts.  I mean, the special counsel is technically wrapping up.  The special counsel`s spokesman says that Mueller will be wrapping up his work in coming days. 

We have seen paperwork filed in federal court shows lawyers for the special counsel`s office withdrawing and lawyers for the D.C. U.S. attorney`s office stepping up to take over the ongoing criminal case cases involving the president`s convicted campaign chairman Paul Manafort and the deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates, who`s awaiting sentencing, and Konstantin Kilimnik, their Russian associate who prosecutors say was linked to Russian intelligence.  All those cases you have seen in court filings, those have all now been formally handed over from prosecutors in the special counsel`s office to the D.C. U.S. attorney`s office. 

And there is one other case that may fall into that category as well, although with this one, it`s a little bit harder to tell because this one is --


MADDOW:  Did the sound play?  I don`t have an ear piece so I don`t know today.  That`s the mystery case. 

That`s the sound for the mystery case.  And the mystery case is apparently still ongoing.  It involves an unnamed mystery company that is owned by an unknown mystery foreign country.  That company was issued a subpoena to provide some sort of evidence or information to the grand jury that Mueller had convened in Washington to take evidence in his investigation. 

The mystery company owned by the mystery country doesn`t want to comply with that subpoena from Mueller`s grand jury.  They`ve been fighting it tooth and nail in every conceivable way in the federal courts.  That company and that country have actually lost every single step of the way.  They`ve lost in every court they could conceivably lose in up to and including the Supreme Court of the United States, which just a couple of days ago decided they wouldn`t take up the appeal from the mystery company and the mystery country, which means that the lower court ruling requiring their compliance with Mueller`s subpoena is still in effect. 

Even more than that, a lower court order that the mystery company has to pay $50,000 a day for every day that they don`t comply with the subpoena, that`s still in effect, too, formally and completely, and there is no appealing it now.  It went all the way to the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court said nah. 

Now, technically the special counsel`s office has said this mystery case is another one of their cases that they are handing off to the D.C. U.S. attorney`s office.  But this is, as I said, a little fuzzy because this is -- 


MADDOW:  The mystery case.  Everything about it is mysterious because it`s all under seal and, you know, we can see court filings from the Manafort case or the Gates case or the Kilimnik case and all these other things.  We can`t see the court filings in the mystery case.  We can`t verify it with our own eyes. 

But also tomorrow, it turns out is going to be a hearing in the mystery case.  And even if the special counsel`s office is in the process right now of handing this one over, we`re not sure which prosecutors are going to turn up in court at this hearing.  It`s been special counsel prosecutors who have been arguing this all along and this case has been fascinating to watch from the very, very beginning because it is shielded in so much mystery and because it has been litigated all the way to the Supreme Court, and because we don`t know how it fits into the larger investigation. 

But now, I mean, at this point in the process, I`m dying to know, right?  We are awaiting the imminent publication of Mueller`s report.  And as we are awaiting that, as Mueller`s wrapped up his investigation, he`s handing everything over, we`re awaiting his report from the Justice Department, turns out this mystery case is still live.  They`re still trying to get this mystery company from this mystery country to testify to the grand jury for something that Mueller subpoenaed them over. 

I mean, it`s turned out to be fascinating at this particular moment.  All we know from William Barr about Mueller`s counterintelligence findings is this narrow characterization of Mueller`s conclusion that no charges should be brought against Trump or against people from the Trump campaign, specifically for aiding the Russian government in their effort to influence the 2016 election.  We don`t know about any broader conclusions or findings from Mueller about other types of foreign influence or improper foreign involvement in American politics or government. 

I mean, beyond Russia, we don`t know if Mueller looked at potential improper involvement or improper foreign influence from other countries, including some of the Gulf States.  There`s been a lot of speculation in this mystery case that the mystery country here might be Qatar.  That the mystery company might be a Qatari wealth fund of some kind. 

Well, now, that that company and country have run out of appeals, they`ve gone all the way to the Supreme Court and been rejected.  Now that they`ve come to the end of their legal rope in terms of fighting this subpoena, it`s now going to be super interesting to see what the courts do if they`re going to try to up the stakes and force this company and this country to comply.  I mean, the courts are already fining this company $50,000 a day for every day they don`t comply with the subpoena.  The courts could presumably raise that even further, make it an even bigger daily financial penalty. 

Conceivably, the courts could move to arrest any executives of the firm if any of them are in the United States or transiting through the United States.  Conceivably, the courts could try to seize or freeze assets associated with the firm or with that foreign government, to the extent that the U.S. has access to them.  I mean, how important is the information the special counsel was subpoenaing them for now that the special counsel is wrapping up his investigation?

And, honestly, bottom line, can we just please figure out who this is?  I mean, one thing to watch at this hearing tomorrow when they -- when they -- when they have this hearing in the mystery case is -- and I think this has been lost on a lot of people who have been watching this case as it has proceeded, sort of in the shadows and under seal.  One thing to watch when we get this hearing tomorrow, is that the company in question and the foreign country in question, they are not the ones who want their identity sealed. 

According to court filings, they would be perfectly happy to let everyone know who they are.  Let them know that they`re the company and they`re the country who have been fighting this subpoena from Robert Mueller all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court.  They don`t care if their identity is exposed.  It`s the special counsel`s office.  It`s been Robert Mueller`s office that has been fighting all this time in court to keep the identity of this company and this country secret while they`ve also been trying to force them to comply with this grand jury subpoena. 

Well, now, that company and that country, their appeals are over.  They really are going to have to comply with the subpoena, at least as far as the U.S. court system can try to force them to do so.  But also at the same time, Robert Mueller`s going home.  This case presumably is being handed off. 

So what`s going to happen tomorrow?  I don`t -- I don`t know, but maybe this will be the last time we ever get to play this sound on TV.


MADDOW:  In addition to all those cases that the special counsel`s office has handed over, though, I think it`s also worth noting that there is -- there is a whole bunch of cases that at least formally they haven`t yet handed over.  For example, we have seen no court filings in the Michael Flynn case.  He have seen no court filings in the case pending against the Russian military intelligence officers, the GRU case, we`ve seen no filings in the Roger Stone case or the Concord Management case, which would indicate prosecutors for the special counsel`s office are withdrawing from those proceedings so they can be fully taken over by other U.S. attorney`s offices or by other entities in the Justice Department. 

That would appear to include the case of Andrew Miller, who`s the guy who used to work for or volunteer for Roger Stone.  He too has been fighting his subpoena from Mueller`s office and Mueller`s grand jury.  Natasha Bertrand at "The Atlantic" reports just like in the mystery case, it appears the effort in the courts to compel Andrew Miller to comply with that subpoena and provide testimony to Mueller`s grand jury, that appears to still be live despite the fact that the special counsel`s office is closing its doors. 

So, we still don`t know what that is about, but they are apparently still seeking that guy`s testimony.  And on that Concord Management case, do you remember this is the entity that was charged with financing and organizing the Russian government`s social media efforts to interfere in the 2016 election to benefit Donald Trump.  In that case, not only has the special counsel`s office apparently not designated some other prosecutor, some other U.S. attorney or some other part of the Justice Department to take over that case, as of right now, attorneys in the special counsel`s office are still filing new motions in that case. 

Concord Management is owned by Yevgeny Prigozhin who`s a powerful billionaire oligarch who`s very close to Putin and the Kremlin.  Well, last we checked in on this Concord Management case, prosecutors for the special counsel`s office were advising the court that the materials they handed over to Prigozhin`s hired defense counsel as part of discovery in that case, somehow those materials had mysteriously ended up in Russia being used in an online disinformation campaign targeting U.S. journalists to try to undermine the Mueller investigation in the American press. 

I mean throughout the whole Concord Management case, the special counsel`s office has been essentially warning that this Russian oligarch close to Putin has been trying to use the discovery process in this case, he`s been trying to use the rights of -- that criminal defendants get in the American judicial system to pry loose from the U.S. government as much sensitive U.S. national security information as he can, specifically for the purpose of delivering it to Russian and ultimately to the Kremlin.  Special counsel`s office has been resisting that actively, including this week, and given that ongoing dynamic in this case, it is fascinating that so far we`re not seeing the special counsel giving up this Concord Management case to any other prosecutor.  We`re still seeing special counsel`s office prosecutors filing motions in that case as recently as yesterday. 

I mean, so all of this stuff is still live and it`s all the more interesting that it`s still live, given that the special counsel`s office is supposedly shutting down in the middle of this and that report is filed and we`re just waiting to see it.  You know, the next status conference in the Maria Butina case is the day after tomorrow. 

But all of these ongoing proceedings now proceed in this new environment we`re living in in which Trump`s newly installed attorney general appears to be wading right into the middle of this investigation now.  He appears to be wading right into the middle of things and deciding personally himself how they will turn out. 

And that really is a new dynamic we have never seen in any of these investigations before and I think we are about to find out more about how that happened and why and how sustainable it is.  But we`re going to get some expert advice on that next. 

Stay with us.


MADDOW:  The Barr report that we got on Sunday, Attorney General William Barr`s four-page letter characterizing Robert Mueller`s findings and declaring that he, William Barr, believes president Trump shouldn`t be charged for obstruction, that raised a question for former U.S. Attorney Barb McQuade who posted this online. 

Quote: Odd that, number one, Mueller would reach no conclusion on obstruction, and, two, that the attorney general would decide the issue for him.  This defeats the whole purpose of a special counsel, which is to avoid conflicts of interest by those in the executive branch chain of command.

Joining us now is Barbara McQuade, former U.S. attorney in the great state of Michigan. 

Barb, thank you for being here tonight.  It`s nice to have you with us.

BARBARA MCQUADE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY:  Great.  Thanks, Rachel.  You ought to play that mystery music for the Barr letter. 

MADDOW:  You know, I will say, I should come up with some sort of branding.  First of all, because I do think it`s the Barr report and people shouldn`t confuse it with the Mueller report we haven`t seen, but also because what Barr did here does appear to be sort of being greeted with more, you know, scratching of heads, more raised eyebrows, more of a puzzled reaction as time goes on. 

I think it was surprising to people at the outset, but as these last couple of days have gone on, people have seemed to find it more puzzling and not less. 

MCQUADE:  I agree with you.  I think the first takeaway from reading the Barr letter was the finding that the evidence did not establish a conspiracy with Russia.  That was big news. 

But I think as people have delved a little bit more deeply into it on the obstruction of justice issue, they find it incredibly curious that, one, Robert Mueller did not make a decision, but, two, William Barr did.  The analogy I made is as if you`re the New England Patriots and Tom Brady has been your quarterback all season and throughout the Super Bowl and for the very last drive of the game, coach Bill Belichick puts himself in at quarterback instead. 

What on earth is that?  I thought we had a game plan here.  To change it up and something so significant at the last minute like that is not only strange, I think it is contrary to the purpose of the special counsel rule, which is to bring in someone who is independent outside the chain of command in the executive branch so that the public can have confidence in the decision that it was free from political considerations. 

By stepping in, I think Barr has defeated that purpose here. 

MADDOW:  You now have me imagining William Barr in like an oversized sweatshirt with the sleeves cut like cap sleeves and a big frown on his face.  He does actually kind of look like Bill Belichick, which may be why you came up with that analogy, which would attest further to your brilliance. 

Barb, given the weirdness of that decision, both parts of it, the decision by Barr to jump in, also the decision by Mueller to not make a prosecutorial declaration of any kind when it comes to the obstruction issue.  Would you have expected Mueller to lay out in his report why he was demurring on the issue of obstruction, why he was not saying one way or the other whether he thought criminal charges should be brought? 

MCQUADE:  I do think it`s likely to be in that report.  I`m not certain of it.  It`s a process kind of question versus a substantive question.  One theory may be he intended this to be a roadmap as we saw in the Watergate investigation, because DOJ policy says we cannot indict a sitting president, it is not for us to decide. 

So I`m handing to you, Congress, the evidence.  Here`s what we found on both sides of the equation and it is for Congress to make that decision whether to impeach the president because that`s the only remedy available.  The reason for that may be included in that report.  I don`t know. 

And I don`t know whether he anticipated that William Barr would take the ball and run with it this way, or that Barr snatched it from him so that he could, to continue our football analogy, even if Congress does want to look at this later, for possible impeachment, he has now prejudged the evidence and put it put it out there in the public domain that this is the decision.  And so, in football, for instant reply, to change the call on the field requires clear and convincing evidence, a much higher standard because now the presumption is he`s been cleared. 

And so, for Congress to come up with a contrary opinion would appear to be a very politically-motivated, unfair overturning of the original call. 

MADDOW:  And the same logic would apply to any grand jury that was convened by any prosecutor after Trump left office.  If there was a prevailing theory at the Justice Department that the president couldn`t be prosecuted to crimes he committed while he was a sitting president but he could potentially be prosecuted after he left office as a private citizen, any grand jury considering a potential indictment of the president on these crimes would also presumably be prejudiced by this declaration by the attorney general. 

MCQUADE:  Yes, I think any decision-maker would be.  As a matter of law, they wouldn`t be barred from looking at it again under different circumstances, but I do think the potential jury pool, so to speak, has been tainted by this finding by the attorney general. 

MADDOW:  Barbara McQuade, former U.S. attorney from Michigan -- I thoroughly enjoyed talking about this in football terms with you, barb.  Thank you for being here tonight. 

MCQUADE:  Thank you, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  All right.  Much more ahead here tonight.  Wait until you get to the part where you find out who Gronk is now that he`s retiring.  Stay with us.


MADDOW:  The flip-flop, it`s an uncomfortable shoe worn in the summer that I never really got the hang of.  It`s also a beltway term of art used then politicians change their position on an issue.  Today, it was a metaphor and a prop and a protest sign all rolled into one when this happened outside Senator Lindsey Graham`s Senate office in Columbia, South Carolina, today. 

That is 200 flip-flops arranged in Lindsey Graham`s parking lot so they would spell out visibly from the windows of his office "Release Mueller report."  The local chapter of the group Indivisible is responsible for this little art installation.  They say the flip-flops are all from and each have the name of a Lindsey Graham constituent on them.  A Lindsey Graham constituent who wants the senator to stop flip-flopping and commit to getting the Mueller report released. 

After previously supporting a release of Mueller`s findings a couple of weeks ago, Lindsey Graham personally blocked a resolution on the Senate floor that would have called for the release of Mueller`s report. 

Along with the flip-flops, the local Indivisible chapter delivered a petition with 1,200 signatures and letters from South Carolina voters all calling for Lindsey Graham to make up his mind and commit to releasing Mueller`s report.  Meanwhile, the conservative group Republicans for the rule of law released an ad today reminding prominent members of the Republican Party that they all happened to be on the record and on tape supporting the full and complete release of Mueller`s report. 


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER:  I would like for, as much as possible, of the Mueller report to be open. 

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA:  So, we want to learn as much as we possibly can. 

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I told the house if you want, let them see it. 

AD ANNOUNCER:  Call your congressman and tell them to urge the Justice Department to release the Mueller report. 


MADDOW:  Lots of people want to see the Mueller report.  We`ve seen everybody from Republicans, to Democrats, to editorial boards from both ends of the political spectrum, to the president himself, to Indivisible groups, all calling for its release.  A huge majority of Americans want the report released. 

When it comes to Indivisible, though, their great claim to fame in terms of stuff they have pushed on was -- it was their key home district role in efforts to stop the repeal of the Affordable Care Act when Trump and the Republicans pushed for that in 2017.  Indivisible Organized town halls.  They protested in their home districts. 

They wrote protests -- excuse me.  They wrote postcards.  They showed up in the snow and in the rain.  Their pressure on home state senators and members of Congress worked to help squash the Republicans` effort in 2017 to kill the Affordable Care Act, to kill Obamacare. 

Now, apparently, that is back on Indivisible`s to-do list with the Trump administration, given the Trump administration`s new effort in court to stop defending the Affordable Care Act to try to eliminate the law school altogether.  This new initiative from the Trump administration revealed late last night would result in tens of millions of Americans to lose their health insurance.  They are setting this up as the fight they want to have between now and the president`s reelection effort in 2020 election.  So, weird fight to pick, but that`s where we are.

We`ve got more on that story coming up.  Stay with us.


MADDOW:  In the middle of everything else going on in our politics right now, the White House announced late last night that they want to take away health care from tens of millions of Americans.  The Trump Justice Department now says they will no longer defend any part of the Affordable Care Act, any part of Obamacare in the courts.  They want to kill the whole thing. 

Ending that law will throw 21 million Americans off their health insurance, 21 million.  Ending that law will mean that another 133 million Americans can be thrown off their coverage or denied coverage because they have a pre-existing condition of some kind.  Ending that law means that young Americans will no longer be able to stay on their parents` health plan until the age of 26. 

I mean, this stuff is popular, right?  Are you on Medicare?  You know someone on Medicare getting your diabetes checks for free because that`s part of preventive care.  Let`s get rid of that. 

I mean, getting rid of this law is going to come with very big human and political costs.  You can tell that, partly, from the way Democrats campaigned more on saving health care than on anything else and thereby won control of Congress last year.  You can also tell As the Trump administration was trying to haul the Affordable Care Act out back of the barn. 

While Trump and the Republicans were figuring out a new approach to try to kill it, House Democrats were simultaneously announcing their own plan to strengthen Obamacare, to make the coverage better and more affordable for more people.  Democrats ran on this last year more than they ran on anything else.  They won on this.  And now they are working on this and the Trump administration has just gotten more aggressive against the Affordable Care Act, against health insurance coverage that people have been enjoying in this country now for years than they have ever been before. 

Joining us now is Congresswoman Lauren Underwood.  She`s a registered nurse.  She`s a newly elected member of Congress.  She`s a Democrat from Illinois.  She ran strongly on support for the Affordable Care Act. 

Congresswoman Underwood, it`s real pleasure to have you here.  Thank you for making time for us tonight. 

REP. LAUREN UNDERWOOD (D), ILLINOIS:  Thank you so much. 

MADDOW:  So, you are one of the new members of Congress who really ran explicitly on saving and strengthening Obamacare.  Last year before you were sworn in, there was this federal judge in Texas who struck down the Affordable Care Act.  That ruling was appealed.  Now, the Justice Department is agreeing with that Texas judge. 

What`s your reaction to this move by the Trump administration and how serious do you think it is? 

UNDERWOOD:  I think that the Trump administration just can`t take a hint.  You are absolutely correct, Rachel, in that the American people clearly spoke in the November elections when they sent me and my colleagues here to protect our health care coverage and to make it more affordable.  Their actions last night were uncalled for and they`re really alarming because we know that this touches the lives of so many Americans around the country who are counting on this really important health care coverage to live healthy, well lives. 

MADDOW:  You, Congresswoman, are not from a super blue state, you`re not from a place that -- where Democrats really don`t have to compete.  You are from a purple district.  You flipped your seat from red to blue. 

I wonder when you were campaigning on this issue, when you were doing the shoe leather work it took to win this seat how much this was something that your potential constituents, your now constituents raised with you, whether the worries about health care, whether concerns about health care and health care costs were something that your district wanted to put front and center. 

UNDERWOOD:  The people across Northern Illinois know that we fought to save our health care coverage in the summer of 2017.  It was because of our activism and our outreach and our continued advocacy that we even have the Affordable Care Act that remains the law of the land today. 

As I was campaigning, I heard from so many families that their drug prices were too high, their premium prices were too high, that they were sacrificing to pay their premium and they couldn`t afford to use their coverage, they couldn`t afford to go and see a provider.  I had a dental hygienist from a town called Oswego in Illinois tell me she had to decide between heat and health care this winter.  And that her teenage son was really struggling with that type of decision because he knew how important health care was for his mom`s health and his own with pre-existing conditions.

And so, these are vital protections that the American people count on every day.  And the idea that it could just be unilaterally taken away by a presidential administration that is choosing not to defend an existing law on the books that benefits, as you said, millions of Americans, 21 million Americans have coverage thanks to the ACA, but the consumer protections extend to the whole country, right?  Hundreds of millions of Americans take advantage of these pre-existing condition protections, keeping their kids on their health insurance plans, and having the benefit of preventive care, free screenings and vaccinations, the contraceptive coverage. 

All these aspects of the Affordable Care Act that are incredibly popular that now are under threat because the Justice Department is not defending the law. 

However, House Democrats from the very first day that we were sworn in in January, we voted to protect and defend this law. 

MADDOW:  I know, Congresswoman, one of the reasons I want to talk to you tonight is I know as part of that House Democratic effort to not just save Obamacare but actually to expand on it and strengthen it, these issues that Democrats have been trying to roll out while the Trump administration is coming great guns the other direction.  I know that you actually have a bill that`s part of that and I know a lot of freshmen members of Congress don`t get anywhere near legislation that has a chance of passing.  You have been right up there on stuff Democrats have made a priority. 

Can you just tell us what your part of that bill is -- with what`s that about? 

UNDERWOOD:  So, today, we unveiled a package that will improve on the Affordable Care Act.  My bill HR-1868 would allow for Americans who need access to the advanced premium tax credits, to be able to qualify for those so they can have more affordable health insurance coverage.  No American under this bill would pay more than 8.5 percent of their total income on premium prices.  So, that would lower premium prices for 10 million Americans and allow an additional 9 million folks to be able to get access to coverage. 

So, we`re talking nearly 20 million people who are impacted by this change in our bill. 

MADDOW:  Congresswoman Lauren Underwood, Democrat of Illinois, freshman member of Congress -- I really appreciate your time tonight.  And as always, any time you want to come back on the show, and let us know what you`re up to.  We`d be happy to have you back here.  I`m really happy to have you here.

UNDERWOOD:  Thank you so much, Rachel.  Really appreciate it. 

MADDOW:  All right.  We`ll be right back.  Stay with us. 


MADDOW:  See if you can spot the pattern.  The president`s eldest son Donald Trump Jr. claimed during the presidential campaign that the Trump Tower meeting that he took during the campaign was a meeting about adoption policy.  When, of course, it wasn`t a meeting about adoption policy. 

The president`s longtime lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen, he lied to Congress about Trump`s efforts to secure a Trump Tower Moscow deal during the 2016 campaign.  The president`s national security adviser Mike Flynn pled guilty to lying to investigators about his contacts with the Russian government and his discussions with them about sanctions.  The president`s campaign chairman Paul Manafort lied about the extent of his contacts with Konstantin Kilimnik, who prosecutors say is linked to Russian intelligence.  Manafort specifically lied to prosecutors to conceal the fact that he gave Kilimnik Trump polling data during the campaign. 

Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos lied to investigators about his efforts to get material about Hillary Clinton that had been stolen by Russia.  One of the biggest open questions that still is swirling around the Mueller investigation is why so many of President Trump`s associates lied about their contacts with the Russians during the campaign, especially if everything was on the up and up and up and up and up.  Why lie? 

But then there is this.  What should we read into the fact that the president was lying about his effort to build a Trump Tower Moscow during the campaign?  One of the chief negotiators for that deal, a main named Felix Sater, was supposed to testify publicly tomorrow before the House Intelligence Committee.  That testimony has since been postponed, apparently pending the release of the Mueller report, which the Justice Department says will happen within weeks. 

Simultaneous to that announcement about the delay of Sater`s testimony, we also learned that Felix Sater is being sued by a bank in a former Soviet state that accuses him of trying to launder hundreds of millions of stolen dollars through Trump properties.  So there`s that. 

Sater`s lawyers are calling the lawsuit a cheap and desperate retaliation lawsuit.  But it sure looks like all this stuff isn`t settled at all.  Ultimately, with the release of the Mueller report, we`re going to learn more, but with Sater`s testimony postponed tomorrow, we`re not going to learn anymore from him any time soon. 

Stay with us.


MADDOW:  Wherein we put the vision back in television. 

So, Barbara McQuade`s analogy earlier tonight for William Barr jumping in and declaring there wouldn`t be a prosecution on obstruction of justice.  She said that was like if the Patriots used Tom Brady for every other play in the game but when it came down to the potential game-winning play, Patriots` coach Bill Belichick took Brady out and put himself in as quarterback to finish out the game. 

So Barb made that analogy on TV tonight and I`m just saying I would agree with Barb on that anyway, but look.  Didn`t I tell you -- I mean, they`re like -- they`re not even like brothers from different mothers.  They`re like brothers from the same mother.  They`re like brothers. 

Attorney general, coach, coach, attorney general, switch the glasses.  Could you tell?  Do your job! 

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


Good evening, Lawrence. 

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