RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you, my friend. Much appreciated.
Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
Mayor Pete Buttigieg is going to be here in studio tonight. He is, of course, one of the top contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination. He is currently and pretty solidly the front-runner in Iowa, which is the first race in the Democratic presidential primary. That Iowa contest is less than eight weeks away.
Mayor Pete Buttigieg is going to be here live on set in just a moment, and he`s here on an auspicious day as the House has just released articles of impeachment against President Trump. And that, of course, makes this a historic day in its own right. But by reading the political tea leaves, sort of looking at the restraint and the small C conservative approach Democrats took to drawing up these articles, I think it`s fair to say not just this is big day because these articles have been release today the public today.
I think this is big day and this will go down in history because looking at the way this is going to go, and looking at what Democrats are effectively charging the president with here, it now seems to be just overwhelmingly likely that not just is this an effort by the Democrats in the House and by the House of Representatives more broadly to impeach President Trump, it seems I think clear and fair to conclude this far-out that President Trump will soon become only the third president in U.S. history to be impeached. It`s going to happen, and it`s going to happen quickly.
I mean, we had one in the 1800s who was impeached. There was one in the 1900s who was impeached. And now the 21st century will have its impeachment, too.
After lots of speculation about how the house would break down various allegations against President Trump and different types of evidence of his different types of misbehavior, ultimately now know as of today they decided to write up just two articles of impeachment. There were three against Nixon, there were four against Clinton, two of which failed in the House, two of which passed.
But today, there were these two against President Trump. And even with a big font and wide spacing, they only take up nine total pages of text. When I say Democrats are taking a small C conservative approach to this impeachment, that`s part of what I mean. This just isn`t a sprawling set of allegations. This does not encompass everything that Democrats have alleged against President Trump or even everything that was discussed over the course of these impeachment proceedings.
These two quick articles of impeachment, these two articles on abuse of power and obstruction, amount to a short sharp shock of an indictment against the president. They didn`t go wide, they went narrow.
Even so, though, even with this tightly focused approach from the House of Representatives, there`s still a couple of surprises in these two short of articles of impeachment. We`re going to be talking about that in just a few minutes.
But before we get there, can we also just take a moment to appreciate this for a second? Because this had to happen today of all days, really? Raise your hand if you think that maybe this was not the first choice from the Trump White House for how the president should spend the day on which the articles of impeachment against him were unveiled.
Because you recognize this guy, right? You have at least seen him in the Oval Office before. You saw him when he was last there on May -- in May of 2017. And he was back in the oval office again today.
When he showed up in May of 2017, at that point federal prosecutors were pursuing criminal charges against Trump national security advisor Mike Flynn. They were pursuing a criminal investigation of him for lying to the FBI about his interactions with the Russian government, including specifically with that Russian government official. When these guys were in the Oval Office back in May 2017, Trump by that point had already repeatedly leaned on the FBI Director James Comey, that Comey should let Flynn go, that the FBI should ease up on their investigation into Flynn.
The FBI by that point was not only pursuing that case against Mike Flynn, they were also pursuing a counterintelligence and criminal investigation into Russia interfering in the 2016 presidential election and that crucial question of whether Russia had any help from the American side when they did that. In the context of that ongoing investigation by the FBI, President Trump by that point had repeatedly pressured FBI Director James Comey to promise him loyalty, and Comey would not do that. He demurred from that.
He took careful note of all his interaction interactions with the president, but he told the president he wasn`t going to be loyal to him not in the way the president wanted. The president then fired FBI Director James Comey. That ultimately would lead to Robert Mueller being appointed to special counsel and all the rest of it.
But, I mean, it is still amazing that the very day after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, the day after firing Comey, that`s the day he brought that guy, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov as well as the Russian ambassador into the Oval Office. I mean, these have been Lavrov`s two visits to the Oval Office in the Trump presidency. Two visits to the Oval Office, period.
The day articles of impeachment were unveiled against President Trump today and his previous visit, May 2017, the day after Trump fired the FBI director. And in that last Oval -- if you want to understand how these two sort of -- these two tent poles function here in the Trump presidency I mean think about what he learned about that last Oval Office meeting. Remember there was like this cascade of revelations about what happened that day in the oval office the last time the Russian foreign minister was there in the Oval.
I mea, first, there was the surprise news of that meeting itself. This is one of it many interactions President Trump has had with the Russian government since he`s been president that we the American people had to learn about from the Russian government. Our own White House, our own government didn`t say anything, but Russian state media and the Russian government announced it was going to happen.
This was also a meeting where the White House took overt steps to block all U.S. reporters and photographers from covering that meeting. But nevertheless, they allowed a Russian photographer from Russian state run media to come in alongside Lavrov and the Russian ambassador. That`s how we got these happy, happy pictures of the president hosting his Russian guests the day after he fired the FBI director.
And then within days of that meeting, "The Washington Post" and "The New York Times" started to report out some sort of hair on fire details about what had actually happened in the Oval Office that day. Again, that meeting was the day after Trump had fired the FBI director, right, to try to shutdown the Russia investigation. In that meeting in the Oval Office the next day after that firing, we would soon learn -- excuse me -- that what president Trump told the Russians in the Oval Office that day was that he had just fired the head of the FBI. He had just fired Comey.
He said, quote: I faced great pressure because of Russia. That is taken off now.
So the president told the Russians in the Oval Office that day that firing the FBI director would get rid of the pressure on him about Russia. Trump also told the Russians that day some highly classified information he was not supposed to release to them. Quote: President Trump revealed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in their White House meeting according to current and former U.S. officials who said Trump`s disclosures jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State, information the president relayed had been provided by a U.S. partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the U.S. government.
Nevertheless, that day he blurted out that super secret information from one of our allies to the Russians. We would eventually learn actually just a few months ago that there was a memorandum summarizing that meeting that happened in the Oval Office back in May 2017, Trump and the Russian foreign minister and Russian ambassador. And the memorandum of what happened in that meeting was only circulated to a very few high officials.
And according to that memorandum we found out just a few months ago the other thing president Trump told the Russians in that office, the day after he fired the FBI director which he said relieved great pressure on him having to do with Russia, the other thing he told them that day in the Oval is that he was, quote, unconcerned about Moscow`s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. That assertion by President Trump that it was OK by him that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election on his behalf, that remark by the president in that meeting reportedly so alarmed Trump White House officials who heard him say it that it prompted them to, quote, limit access to the memorandum recounting those remarks to an unusually small number of people in an attempt to keep the president`s comments from being publicly disclosed.
So if you think about these as high points, it`s like tent pole moments for the Trump presidency. The last time the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was in the Oval Office was the day after Trump fired the FBI director, which is thing that led to Robert Mueller being appointed, the whole special counsel investigation. In that meeting, he kicks out the American press, he allows the Russian press, he tells the Russians it`s OK by him that they interfered to help him in his election.
He tells he fired the FBI director to get rid of the pressure and gives them code word sensitive super classified intelligence that he`s definitely not supposed to talk to them about. And -- but wait there`s more, it would take us a couple of years for us to learn about it, but again just a few months ago in September of this year, we also learned about yet another consequence of that Oval Office meeting back in May of 2017.
Quote: In a previously undisclosed mission in 2017, the U.S. successfully extracted from Russia one of its highest level covert sources within the Russian government according to multiple Trump administration officials with direct knowledge. Quote: The removal of the Russian source was driven in part by concerns that President Trump repeatedly mishandled classified intelligence and could contribute in exposing the source as a spy. The decision to carry out the extraction occurred soon after a May 2017 meeting in the Oval Office in which Trump discussed highly classified intelligence with the Russian foreign minister.
Quote: The disclosure to the Russians by the president prompted intelligence officials to renew earlier discussions about the potential risks of the U.S. source inside the Kremlin being exposed. Quote: Knowledge of the Russian covert source`s existence was highly restricted within the U.S. government and intelligence agencies. According to one source, there was no equal alternative within the Russian government because the source provided both insight and information on Vladimir Putin.
So the last time this guy, the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, was in the Oval Office with Trump, Trump tells him it`s OK you interfered in the election, if fired the FBI director to get rid of the Russia investigation. Here`s some super sensitive intelligence information I`m not supposed to share with you. We know that White House officials locked down the memo recounting what President Trump did at that meeting in response. We only found out a couple of years later that also reportedly in response to that Oval Office fiasco, the U.S. government had to go into Russia and exfiltrate the highest ranking source U.S. intelligence had inside the Kremlin. All in the wake of that May 2017 meeting, the last time Lavrov was in the Oval Office before today.
That guy we had to exfiltrate out of Russia in the wake of that meeting, "The New York Times" would later report that source that U.S. intelligence had to yank out of Moscow and resettle him in the United States in 2017, he was such a highly placed source inside the Kremlin, he was the reason the CIA was able to conclude that the Russian election interference effort in 2016 had been ordered by President Putin personally, because this guy was high ranking enough in the Russian government that he could tell them that.
According to CNN`s reporting at the time, quote, the spy had access to President Putin and could even provide images of documents on the Russian leader`s desk. Incredible source for U.S. intelligence, right, particularly at a time when Russia`s newly aggressive towards us and to our allies. They pulled off this audacious military intelligence operation to mess with our election, for us to have a highly placed Kremlin source like that that can get that close to Putin and provide that kind of -- I mean, that`s priceless and they had to pull out that source and get him out of Russia entirely once they realized the kind of stuff that President Trump was willing to say whenever he was behind closed doors with Russian government officials.
Those fears presumably got worse a few weeks after that Oval Office meeting with the Russian foreign minister when President Trump went to Hamburg, Germany, and had a direct meeting with Lavrov`s boss, had his direct meeting with Vladimir Putin. That was the meeting from which President Trump, you might remember, confiscated the interpreter`s notes and forbade the interpreter from talking to anybody about what she heard in that meeting.
So, this is just like -- I know this is a historic day, but this is like reverse where`s Waldo? This is a remarkable thing for this day in history. I mean, on this day in all days, this guy is back again in the Oval Office with President Trump?
This was closed press today. No reporters were allowed in to witness their conversation. It was just this one photograph released from the event.
This meeting of course happens just one day after the Justice Department`s inspector general concludes that the investigation into Russian interference in the election and the Trump campaign`s involvement in it, that was a properly predicated investigation. That wasn`t carried out because of any sort of improper bias or political intentions on the part of the FBI.
That conclusion from the inspector general yesterday, of course, flies in the face of president Trump`s continued assertions that the Russia investigation targeted him and his campaign unfairly. The Lavrov meeting comes after the Justice Department concludes that that investigation wasn`t unfair, it was brought under -- it was brought properly with proper predication. Lavrov`s in the Oval Office on the day we get the impeachment articles against President Trump.
And while the president`s impeachment scandal is still and I think will forever be shorthanded as a Ukraine scandal, it is as much about Russia and the Russian government and the desires of the Russian government as it is about anything else. I mean, this is the sort of a knot -- this is the meat of Article I, abuse of power.
Quote: Using the powers of his high office, President Trump solicited the interference of a foreign government, Ukraine in a 2020 U.S. presidential election. He did so through a scheme or source of conduct that included soliciting the government of Ukraine to publicly announce investigations that would benefit his re-election, harm the election prospects of a political opponent and influence the 2020 U.S. presidential election to his advantage. President Trump also sought to pressure the government of Ukraine to take these steps by conditioning official U.S. government acts of significant value to Ukraine on its public announcement of those investigations.
President Trump engaged in this scheme or course of conduct for corrupt purposes in pursuit of personal political benefit. In so doing, President Trump used the powers of the presidency in a manner that compromised the national security of the United States and undermined the integrity of the U.S. democratic process. He thus ignored and injured the interests of the nation.
President Trump engaged in this scheme or course of conduct through the following means. First, President Trump acting both directly and through his agents within and outside the U.S. government, he corruptly solicited the government of Ukraine to publicly announce investigations into a political opponent, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. and into a discredited theory promoted by Russia, alleging that Ukraine rather than Russia interfered in the U.S. presidential election.
With the same corrupt motives, President Trump acting both directly and through his agents, conditioned two official acts on the public announcements that he had requested. Number one, the release of $391 million of U.S. taxpayer funds that Congress had appropriated for the purpose of providing military security assistance to Ukraine to oppose Russian aggression in which President Trump had ordered suspended. And also two, a head of state meeting at which the White House -- excuse me -- a head of state meeting at the White House in which the president of Ukraine sought to demonstrate continued support for the government of Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression.
So, that`s Article I, right? That`s what President Trump is being impeached for. Given that, given the way the president is being impeached for having done all those things to Ukraine, in a way that undermined our alliance with them and specifically their fight against Russian aggression, which is, you know, led to a five yearlong war in Ukraine -- I mean, given the fact he`s being impeached for undermining Ukraine in its war against Russia, this is heck of a day to choose to have the Russian foreign minister sitting on your lap in the Oval Office, right?
I mean -- OK, not on his lap. At his right hand?
In the first impeachment article against President Trump, the abuse of power that he`s accused of trying, it`s to, you know, undermine Joe Biden`s chances of beating him in the 2020 election, but he`s also accused of effectively exonerating Russia for having tried to help him win the 2016 election, right? As the impeachment articles note it is a, quote, discredited theory promoted by Russia that the real interference in the 2016 election wasn`t Russia at all, it was Ukraine instead.
U.S. intelligence agencies have reportedly concluded and briefed the U.S. Senate on their conclusions that the Russian government, Russian security services have been promoting that lie about Ukraine as a disinformation effort that is designed to benefit the Kremlin.
So I know you know how all of those individual dots, right? But it`s an amazing to see them connect on a day like this, right? This is an amazing thing to have the president as of today officially being impeached for him trying to help the Kremlin in that way while he`s simultaneously meeting the guy from the Kremlin in the Oval Office.
I mean, from the White House`s perspective, this is not the great time for having a meeting with a senior Russian government official, right, while he`s being impeached for helping Russia. But why would we think it`s the White House that made the decision that this meeting would happen today, and not the Russian government dictating these terms? I mean, it was only yesterday that the White House finally confirmed this meeting would take place. For days, the Russian government and Russian state run media have been saying that Lavrov was coming to Washington, he was going to be meeting with Trump. And the White House wouldn`t say anything and wouldn`t confirm anything, they would finally yesterday confirm it.
The rollout of the meeting was also super awkward and insulting to the United States on terms that are favorable to the Kremlin and not to the U.S. The White House put out their official readout of this meeting today. Quote: Today, President Donald J. Trump met with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov of Russia. The readout says, quote: President Trump warned against any Russian attempts to interfere in the United States elections.
Oh, really, do you believe that president Trump in his meeting with the Russian foreign minister today sternly warned him against any Russian attempts to interfere in U.S. elections? You think President Trump actually did that, actually issued that warning to Russia?
Well, the foreign minister Mr. Lavrov was asked about that by reporters after his meeting with President Trump, and regardless of whatever was in that White House readout, Lavrov immediately shut that down.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Mr. Lavrov, Edward Wong from "The New York Times." The White House just put out a statement about your meeting with President Trump saying that the president did warn about -- warn you not to interfere in U.S. election and also urged you to try and settle your conflict or the situation with Ukraine. I was just wondering if you did discuss these two items and if so can you tell us about the discussion?
SERGEY LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): Well, you know, we haven`t actually discussed elections. Regarding Ukraine, I briefed both secretary of state and the president about yesterday`s Normandy Four summit in Paris.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Oh, elections? Did Trump say he warned me that Russia shouldn`t interfere in the elections? That is adorable he told you he said that.
No, he did not say anything of the kind. What was the quote? Well you know we haven`t actually discussed election. We didn`t even talk about that topic. That`s cute, though, that`s what he told you we talked about.
Now, as for Ukraine, he says I briefed both Secretary of State Pompeo and President Trump about yesterday`s summit in Paris. Well, in fact, yesterday, there was a summit in Paris. It was the first high level sit down in three years between Ukraine and Russia to try to resolve the war that started when Russia invaded Ukraine, took a piece of that country for itself and then started occupying the eastern part of Ukraine.
Here`s how "The Washington Post" knotted up that summit. Quote: The negotiations pitting a comedian turned president with no international diplomacy experience against a calculating former KGB agent who has been in power for decades -- come at a crucial moment in Ukraine`s grinding conflict in the east. Civilians and soldiers are still dying along the front lines. This is a lonely moment for Ukrainian President Zelensky. Once iron-clad U.S. support for Ukraine is shrinking under President Trump.
Trump`s suspicion of Ukraine and his role in the holdup of military aid this past summer have cast doubts on U.S. support for Ukraine and its conflict with Russia. In Ukraine, many observers, even Zelensky supporters, were nervous about this meeting with Putin now at a moment when prominent Republicans in Washington have seized on the false conspiracy theory that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 presidential election.
"The New York Times" knots it up even more sharply. Quote: As Zelensky seeks an end to the conflict with Russian-backed separatist who control a large part of the eastern part of his country, he enters negotiations without a counterweight that Ukraine had in its favor until recently. That counterweight used to be clear backing from the United States.
So, from our perspective here in America the day President Trump is being impeached, today was kind of a terrible day, a super awkward day for the Russian foreign minister for him to turn up for the second time in the Oval Office. Not only given what happened the last time he was in the oval office, but also to remind everybody of President Trump`s involvement with Russia and unresolved questions about that and how he has behaved towards that government and how his behavior toward that government has freaked out even officials in his administration and led ultimately to impeachment articles that were just brought against him today, right?
I mean, from the American perspective, you can`t imagine that the Trump White House wanted this meeting today of all days. With a senior Russian official showing off that he can get into the Oval Office to meet with President Trump. It`s not even a two heads of state meeting, right? It`s like a Russian cabinet official effectively being able to get into the Oval Office and meet with the U.S. president.
So, from our perspective, not great, not great timing, not ideal, super awkward. But maybe it wasn`t the White House who decided this meeting would happen today. From the Russian government`s perspective, today`s timing was perfect because Russia is continuing to wage a war against Ukraine and we used to be Ukraine`s greatest and most important ally.
And Russia has had a remarkable windfall over this past few months, past couple of years. They`ve succeeded in getting the U.S. to interrupt our assistance to Ukraine and to make it contingent on stuff. They`ve turned the Republican establishment and conservative media against what used to be our staunch ally Ukraine and instead in favor of Russia. They have so- called into question U.S. support for Ukraine in their war against Russia the day after Ukraine and Russia have their big critical summit talks about that war and we`re not there at that summit to support Ukraine, the day after those talks it`s Russia that sends its foreign minister for his oval office meeting and his photo with the president.
Where our used to be ally, the president of that country still can`t get to Washington, still can`t get an invite.
"The Associated Press`" main story about this today has a lead that lays it out as clear as it can be. It`s the lead from the "A.P." today. Quote: The Oval Office meeting with President Donald Trump on Tuesday was the second for Russia`s foreign minister. The president of Ukraine is still waiting for his first.
And so the day that impeachment articles are unveiled against President Trump, I mean this is going to go down in history as a wild one. Right, to have a Russian government squatting in the oval office on this of all days, I mean, somewhere between hilarious and a victory lap? But it also supports a little noticed and I think fascinating decision by the judiciary committee in writing these articles of impeachment.
As I mentioned these articles of impeachment are a short sharp shock. They went narrow instead of broad. It`s a total of nine pages in big print and double spaced.
But there is a surprise here. And today`s shenanigans in the oval office I think goes some way towards justifying the decision by the House of Representatives to include this surprise in the articles of impeachment, and that`s next. Stay with us.
MADDOW: The House of Representatives has released the two articles of impeachment they`re going to vote on against President Trump in Judiciary Committee proceedings that will start tomorrow night at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Those proceedings will probably late into the evening tomorrow night, and then those proceedings will continue the following morning Thursday morning starting 9:00 a.m. And we expect that the ultimate outcome of those proceedings in the Judiciary Committee will be that these articles of impeachment are voted out of the committee and they are conveyed to the full house for a vote in the full house which will maybe happen next week. And that will be the formal impeachment of President Trump.
But now that we`ve got these articles, now that we know they`re voting on, we know there are just these two articles, abuse of power and obstruction. Nixon faced three articles of impeachment. Clinton faced four. With President Trump, there will be two, and they`re not long, nine pages in total.
But even though these are short and concise and narrowly targeted articles of impeachment, there`s a little notice and I think very interesting decision by the Judiciary Committee that they took in writing up these articles in which they make clear even though this a narrowly targeted thing, part of what they`re impeaching him is that these actions he took in the Ukraine scandal are part of a bigger pattern. Literally that`s the word they use at the end of both of these articles.
At the end of the first article of impeachment, the abuse of power article, here`s how that article ends. Quote: These actions were consistent with President Trump`s previous invitations of foreign interference in U.S. elections. In all of this, President Trump abused the powers of the presidency by ignoring and injuring national security and other vital national interests to obtain an improper personal political benefit. He has betrayed the nation by a abusing his high office to enlist a foreign power in corrupting Democratic elections. Wherefore, President Trump by such conduct has demonstrated he will remain a threat to national security and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office and has acted in a manner grossly incompatible with self-governance and the rule of law. President Trump thus warrants impeachment and trial, removal from office and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust or profit under the United States.
But the sort of the start of ending of that article, these actions were consistent with President Trump`s previous invitations of foreign interference in U.S. elections, that is echoed towards the end of the second article of impeachment. The second article of impeachment, same thing. Quote: These actions were consistent with President Trump`s previous efforts to undermine U.S. government investigations into foreign interference in U.S. elections.
So, no, they did not do a separate article of impeachment against President Trump about President Trump welcoming Russia`s interference in the 2016 elections and him, you know, trying to take maximum advantage of their interference in our election at his behalf. And no, they didn`t do a separate article of impeachment based on volume two of the Mueller report and all the ways Mueller found that President Trump tried to impede and obstruct the investigation into Russia`s interference and the Russia related investigation into members of his campaign and members of his administration. There aren`t specific articles of impeachment that are about that scandal in 2016.
But what they are about to impeach him on is his behavior towards Ukraine, and they are explicitly noting, I didn`t expect this, but they are explicitly noting that his behavior towards Ukraine fits the pattern of what he did with Russia for the 2016 election, too. And when Democrats talk about the speed with which they`re moving forward in these impeachment proceedings, that`s what they said today, that they need to move quickly now in advance of the 2020 election to try to deter him from inviting and further trying to further extort foreign powers in interfering in the 2020 election on his behalf as well.
Politico.com reporting tonight when article of impeachment are voted out of the Judiciary Committee which will likely be Thursday morning this week, the House reportedly intends to file a lengthily report expounding on this point and specifically the evidence turned up in the Mueller investigation and how the president`s behavior is a coherent pattern between both the scandal of his treatment of Ukraine and the scandal of his involvement with Russia.
So that`s all going to happen really soon like in the next two days. Who knows? Maybe the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will still be in town. May be he should stay around for that one, too. It might be another big day in Washington. Maybe it`s time for Oval Office meeting number three.
Stay with us. We`ve got Mayor Pete Buttigieg here live with us here on set. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: The first contest in the Democratic presidential primary will be Iowa. It`s less than eight weeks from now.
This is the Real Clear Politics polling average from the state of Iowa taken from a number of different Iowa polls. See the purple line there that ends up at the top, on the far right? That purple line is the polling line that represents the prospects of South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
As you can see, since mid-October, Mr. Buttigieg has been rising steadily into what now looks like a pretty stable lead in Iowa. He`s up nearly six points ahead of his nearest competitor who at this point is Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.
Now, as you can imagine, that rise in the Iowa polls has meant that Mayor Buttigieg is also facing new levels of scrutiny, particularly from his fellow candidates. Last week, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren called on Mayor Buttigieg to open his private fundraisers to reporters so the press could hear what happens and report on what happens at his fundraisers. Yesterday, the Buttigieg campaign responded by saying they will allow members of the press to start attending fundraisers from here on out.
Mr. Buttigieg has also faced a number of recent questions about his time working in the private sector for the consulting firm McKinsey. Today, tonight, Mr. Mayor has released a full list of his clients from McKinsey. They include Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a Canadian grocery chain, the retail chain Best Buy, two environmental groups, the U.S. Defense Department and the U.S. Postal Service.
Joining us now for the interview is Pete Buttigieg. He`s the outgoing mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and a leading candidate in the Democratic primary for president.
Mr. Mayor, it`s great to see you. Thank you for being here.
PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thanks for having me back.
MADDOW: Last time I talked to you, you said that you were very much enjoying the campaign, but you were under no illusion. You said if you walked out of here and walked down the street, there were a lot of people who would have no idea who you are. How`s that changed?
BUTTIGIEG: It`s a little bit different now.
BUTTIGIEG: Yes. But that`s a good problem to have.
MADDOW: Let me ask you about that polling lead in Iowa. You spent a lot of time, a lot of money in Iowa. Obviously, Iowa is first and it is incredibly hotly contested.
Are you comfortable with your position there? And what do you think we should expect over the next eight weeks?
BUTTIGIEG: I think getting comfortable with your position is a big mistake anytime in a competitive election, and especially with weeks to go between now and the caucuses. So, what you`re going to continue to see is us sharing our message.
And what I`m focusing on most of all is what America will need the day after Donald Trump leaves office. You know, part of this, of course, is to demonstrate that we will be the best nominee to take on and defeat Donald Trump.
But by definition, we`re all competing to be president for what comes next. And I`m focused on big solutions to big problems -- but not measuring bigness by how many people we alienate, but how many people we can include. That seems to be working very well in these early states as we campaign.
But again, I`m under no illusions. There`s a lot of work to go. There`s a lot of ups and downs that can happen, and we`ll be keeping our head down and continuing to push.
MADDOW: When you say not measuring it by the number of people you can alienate, by that do you mean that your fellow competitors are trying to alienate people?
BUTTIGIEG: Well, I think there`s a perception sometimes that the boldness of an idea rests only in how controversial it is. And sometimes, maybe that`s true. You know, definitely, some of the Democratic reform ideas that I`ve come out for that I think were the most bold might also be the most controversial.
But part of what I`m trying to get across in my approach on health care, for example, on college and others, is that -- certainly on climate -- is that we can undertake big solutions, things that will make for the most meaningful change we`ve seen in a half century on health care, for example, in history, on climate, without focusing on just how many trillions of dollars it will cost or how it falls on some ideological spectrum.
And that I think is our best shot, not just in order to win, in order to beat Donald Trump and in this Trump era, but in order to make sure we can govern in a way that will leave our country more united and not more divided.
MADDOW: Let me ask you about the health care debate. I thought about this a lot heading into the last actual debate that MSNBC and NBC were involved in moderating, just thinking about the thrust of those questions and the amount of time spent on that, and the real nature of the divisions between you and your fellow candidates on that.
And I am troubled by what I see as -- what feels to me as an -- sort of an observer of the process -- feels to me like a focus on the fight between Democratic candidates there that is out of proportion to the real differences in goals among the candidates. It seems to me like all of you want universal coverage and reduction in costs.
MADDOW: And so for the Democratic primary to be about sort of making a boogeyman out of some of the candidate`s approaches towards getting that and how scary that would be and how unelectable that would make you -- I mean, you`ve really led the charge about Medicare-for-all being a politically disastrous proposal. I`m not sure that trying for Medicare- for-All is such a disastrous idea, nor is that different from what you proposed in the past.
BUTTIGIEG: Well, again, my concern is not just the politics of it. It`s governing. It`s making sure that we solve the big problem in a way that`s likely to induce more people to feel like they want to be part of where we`re headed.
And I do think it`s a concern, when, for example, I talked to union members who are really frustrated by the proposal, that they should be happy with being kicked off plans that they negotiated.
Now, that being said, I agree with you from a bigger picture perspective. There`s a lot more we have in common than divides us, and, you know, there`s a lot of focus on the disagreement about how coverage should work. Obviously, I think my approach is better and I`ll go out there and make the case for it.
But we also need to be talking about costs, about prescription drugs, about mental health and addiction, and how to get it the same visibility and the same resources that go into physical medical issues. A whole range of issues -- health equity, racial disparities and health outcomes, rural health -- so many things that deserve to be looked at in addition to this area where we`ve got this tug-of-war going on, which is how should coverage work in the future.
MADDOW: Are you at all concerned by the way in which your criticisms on Medicare-of-All seem to directly dovetail with the private insurance industry and the other health care lobbying special interest groups that are dumping tons of money into the Democratic primary, specifically to try to make taboo some of the more left-leaning proposals from your competitor?
BUTTIGIEG: You know, the day I released or the day after I released my health care plan, the health industry lobby attacked it. They wasted no time in denouncing my proposal, I think because they don`t want the competition from the public alternative that I want to create.
So, rather than trying to triangulate what other people are going to say, or who`s going to attack my plan from what angle, or whose party it runs in (ph), I`m just going to come out for the policy I think makes sense.
And by the way, for those who -- those of us who believe that Medicare-for- All is an attractive destination, I think this is most responsible way to move there without dictating a timeline or assuming that we in the Washington would know better than individuals choosing their plan what they ought to have. I just think it`s the right thing to do.
MADDOW: I want to ask about some of the new information that your campaign has just released, some of the changes you just made in terms of your campaign.
We`re going to take a quick break. We`ll be right back.
Mayor Pete Buttigieg is our guest. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Back with us is Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, 2020 presidential hopeful.
Mr. Mayor, thanks for being with us again.
BUTTIGIEG: Good to be here.
MADDOW: So, you have been criticized for the last few months about not allowing the press into your fundraisers. And you and your campaign had sort of resisted that pressure and said that there were reasons why it was appropriate for the press not to be allowed into those kinds of events.
But you`ve now changed your minds and decided from hereon out, the press will be allowed to cover those things.
Why the change?
BUTTIGIEG: Right. Well, I just think it makes sense. We`re talking a lot about transparency in this campaign. We`ve got a president who has moved in the exact wrong direction in transparency. I think it took a little getting used to because, traditionally, campaigns haven`t generally done this.
I`m not -- I don`t think more than one other campaign is doing it now, but I think it makes sense.
And so, figuring out --
MADDOW: But you did change your mind about it.
BUTTIGIEG: I did, yes.
BUTTIGIEG: Yes. I mean, I was never hostile to the idea, but it took some getting used to and I reached the conclusion that it`s the right to do.
MADDOW: In terms of the other announcement from our campaign tonight, you had worked for McKinsey --
MADDOW: -- after college for about three years, just about two and a half, three years.
BUTTIGIEG: Yes, two and a half years.
MADDOW: And you talked about that public -- that private sector experience as sort of something that voters should appreciate about you in terms of where you`re coming from as a candidate and where your leadership experience comes from.
It was not until this week that McKinsey said you were effectively released from that nondisclosure agreement that you signed when you left that firm.
MADDOW: And you`ve now disclosed who your clients were when you worked there, including the Defense Department, including Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, including a grocery chain in Canada.
Let me ask you about the sort of journey you went through with your campaign facing criticism on those fronts, and then ultimately getting McKinsey to let you talk about these things.
BUTTIGIEG: Well, I`m very glad that we`ve been able to release the client list, because until McKinsey said that they would allow me to, you know, void that agreement, it put me in this position where I felt I had to choose between two things I care about. One thing I care about is transparency, and making sure that folks know everything they need to know about me, who I am, where I`m come from, my story.
The other thing is keeping my word. And when I say I`m going to do something and especially when I signed my name to a legal document, then I think it`s important to keep that word -- even though as you`ve seen there`s nothing particularly sizzling about the list of clients that I served.
So I`m glad that I was not left in that untenable position, that McKinsey understood that when somebody who used to work for your company is being considered for the presidency, you should probably go back to your clients and just ask him to release you, and I`m glad we did.
MADDOW: In terms of McKinsey`s reputation -- obviously, they`re rich and powerful and influential firm. It`s always been a prestigious job to work at -- to work at McKinsey, but there`s a lot of criticism that the firm has come under because of its work on everything from the Trump administration`s immigration policies.
MADDOW: They`ve worked for the governments or state-affiliated institutions for China and Saudi Arabia and Russia.
How should people understand your values as they map onto the values of that firm, particularly because you`ve highlighted your time there as something important as what people should understand about who you are and what you`ve learned about the world?
BUTTIGIEG: Yes. Well, first of all, the criticism is well-deserved. They have taken a number of steps I can think of at least of four times in a decade or so since I left that I`d opened up the newspaper and seen them doing something that was upsetting.
I remember the message when I joined the firm when the recruiting was going on was, you know, join this firm, you`ll learn about how business works, you`ll see all kinds of different things going on with foundations, nonprofits, governments and business. And there`s no better place in the world to learn how that works and be part of it than here.
And, you know, in my experience, that`s what I got to do. But I think it`s also clearly the case that several times there, people at that company have made decisions that are embarrassing to the company and embarrassing to anybody who ever worked there.
MADDOW: In terms of the Blue Cross Blue Shield having been your client, is that that your -- can you tell us anything about the work that you did for them and whether that`s affected your views of what to do on health reform?
BUTTIGIEG: Well, it -- I was assigned to a team that was doing analysis on the overhead cost that they had. Nothing to do with claims, or what to do with patients, but kind of as an organization -- buildings, rent, utilities, travel, that kind of thing.
I certainly saw how big and complicated an insurance company could be. That was my very first study. So, honestly, most of the time, I was just trying to figure out how to do my job and perfecting my PowerPoint skills. But it at least gave me a sense of what that world is like.
And it`s one of the reasons why I believe that with a public alternative, we can deliver something that will outcompete all of the private plans out there. I`m just not willing to assume that on behalf of individuals before they have a choice to put it to the test and decide whether that public alternative I want to create really is better than what those insurance companies out there can do.
MADDOW: When you did that sort of cost and overhead assessment for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a couple of years after that, they laid off like a thousand people. Was your work part of what led to those layoffs?
BUTTIGIEG: I doubt it. I don`t know what happened in the time after I left. That was in 2007 when they decided to shrink in 2009.
Now, what I do know is there are some voices in the Democratic primary right now who are calling for a policy that would eliminate the job of every single American working at every single insurance company in the country.
MADDOW: Mayor Pete Buttigieg just gave his farewell address as mayor of South Bend after eight years there. I know your last day is January 1st. A lot of change all at once.
Thanks for being here tonight to talk us about it (ph). I really appreciate it.
BUTTIGIEG: Good to be here.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: That`s going to do it for us tonight.
Tomorrow night, it`s going to be a little weird. We`re expecting at 7:00 Eastern, the Judiciary Committee to be starting markup essentially of the articles of impeachment against the president. That`ll be tomorrow night into the wee hours and then they`ll pick up again Thursday morning. It`s going to be hurly-burly next few days.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Good evening, Lawrence.
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