RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
Senator Elizabeth Warren is here with us live in studio tonight. I`m very much looking forward to speaking with her. You`ll recall just a few days ago, we were joined here on set by former Housing Secretary Julian Castro, who did an exclusive interview with us on the day he announced he was ending his own campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination this year.
Well, today in a surprise, Secretary Castro announced that he is making an endorsement in the presidential race now that he has left it himself. I`m not sure anybody saw this coming.
Most candidates who dropped out, especially if like Secretary Castro, they are considered to still be strong contenders for potential vice presidential nod, most contenders of that order, you`d expect them to maybe stay out of the fray during the rest of the primary, keep every iron in the fire, don`t burn any bridges. Don`t hurt your chances for any potential nominee down the road picking you to be their running mate.
But today, despite that common wisdom political science, Julian Castro endorsed Elizabeth Warren for president, which is super interesting. I`m looking forward to asking Elizabeth Warren about that.
The latest polling within the past days from CBS News and YouGov, those polls put senator warren at 16 percent in Iowa and at 18 percent in New Hampshire. That puts her behind this interesting trio of Sanders and Biden and Buttigieg in Iowa. It put herself behind Sanders and Biden in New Hampshire. That said, all of the national poll:00 in the Democratic presidential contest going back for the past several weeks at the national level has Warren well ahead of Mayor Buttigieg nationally, has her battling it out at the top three with Sanders and Biden.
So, polling is interesting both nationally and in terms of the early states. This endorsement, late-breaking endorsement from Julian Castro super interesting. We`ll be speaking with Massachusetts Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren here live in just a moment.
And there is no shortage of news to ask her about, including tonight the increasingly intriguing question of what did the vice president know and when did he know it. Yes, the vice president. In the midst of this very high stakes, increasingly scary escalation between the U.S. government and the nation of Iran, where millions of people filled the streets today for the funeral of Qassem Soleimani, who was essentially seen as the second ranking official in that country, second most powerful position in that country at least, Soleimani was killed in a U.S. airstrike last week.
Today, the Trump administration announced that they will soon have a public explanation for what exactly they`re doing and what exactly they`re thinking when it comes to Iran, what the whole idea is in terms of explaining their actions and their strategy toward Iran in the wake of this targeted killing. Now, this explanation from the Trump administration as to what their strategy is for Iran, this explanation from the administration is not going to come for another week or so, and it will not be President Trump who gives the country this explanation on this critical matter of the utmost and deadliest urgency.
They`re going to put off this explanation about what`s going on between the U.S. and Iran until next week, and it`s going to be Vice President Mike Pence who gives the speech that is supposed to lay out U.S. policy toward Iran and what exactly is going on and what the strategic thinking was behind this killing of this incredibly revered figure inside Iran. Why they think the country should wait a week to get that explanation, why it should be Vice President Mike Pence who gives that explanation to us rather than the president himself, that remains to be seen.
But if the idea is that there might be less impeachment baggage trailing around after Vice President Mike Pence than there is after President Trump and therefore maybe Vice President Pence might have a sort of cleaner shot at this issue in the public`s minds -- well, maybe that`s not true. The question of Vice President Mike Pence`s own implication in the impeachment scandal is both unresolved and now is sort of back on the front burner.
It has been 19 days since the House voted to impeach President Trump for trying to get Ukraine to help him out against Joe Biden for the 2020 election. He wanted an announcement from Ukraine that they had Biden under investigation. The impeachment inquiry also found that President Trump pressured Ukraine to do that, to make that announcement about those investigations by making contingent on the announcement of those investigations a whole bunch of things that Ukraine wanted, including a White House visit for their new president.
The impeachment inquiry also found that president Trump held up military aid to Ukraine for months while he pressured them to do this domestic political favor for him. I honestly can`t believe it`s only been 19 days since the House impeached Trump. Doesn`t it feel like it`s been 19 months? It`s been 19 days.
And in that brief period, in the less than three weeks it has been since he got impeached, we`ve continued to get new evidence and new information about the scheme for which the president was impeached, including a reported communication from the Office of Management and Budget in the White House to a Pentagon official in which the White House, the OMB official, assured DOD that it was President Trump personally who was insisting on holding up Ukraine`s military aid.
The communication reported by Kate Brannen at Just Security that OMB official tells the Defense Department, quote, clear direction from POTUS, meaning President of the United States, to hold the Ukraine aid.
Since the House vote to impeach President Trump, we`ve also seen new evidence and new documentation of this intense conflict and intense concern within the administration that President Trump ordering a hold on that military aid to Ukraine was in fact illegal. So here, for example, is that same defense official who was just assured by the White House that the money was being withheld on direct orders from the president, here is that same defense official writing thereafter to the Office of the Secretary of Defense, to the defense secretary`s chief of staff.
She says, quote: Do you believe DOD is adequately protected from what may happen as a result of the Ukraine obligation pause? As in we all know this is illegal. Are we prepared for what`s going to happen to us at the Defense Department here if we do this illegal thing that has been directly ordered by the president?
So here`s what`s fascinating. In response to that email, which was sent from somebody in the Pentagon comptroller`s office to the defense secretary`s chief of staff, this are we adequately protected from what may happen as a result of this, right, in response to that email to the defense secretary`s chief of staff, the defense secretary`s chief of staff writes back, and he says this.
Quote: The Ukrainian P.M. speaks with the Vice President of the United States, VPOTUS on Tuesday. We expect the issue to get resolved then.
Really? Why do you expect the issue to be resolved then? In fact, the Tuesday following that email, September 1st, Vice President Mike Pence did meet with the leader of Ukraine. They met in Europe. They met in Warsaw.
That`s where we got this incredible footage of that room and who was there where you can see all of these people in that room whose careers have blown up and whose lives have changed a lot as a result of this scandal. You can see them all in the same shot.
I mean, in that meeting, on the American side of the room, there is Energy Secretary Rick Perry, who, of course, suddenly submitted his resignation right as the scandal broke open. Right next to him is national security adviser John Bolton, who also suddenly submitted his resignation right as the scandal broke open. Right next -- oh, yes, same row. There is Ambassador Gordon Sondland who became a star witness in the impeachment inquiry, testifying under oath that oh, yes, there was a quid pro quo and it was ordered by President Trump.
Just behind him in the second row, there is Jennifer Williams, who was the top Ukraine adviser to Vice President Pence, who also became a star impeachment inquiry witness. Also in that same row, Tim Morrison, the top Russia expert on the National Security Council, who then himself suddenly announced his resignation on the eve of him also becoming an impeachment inquiry witness. And next to him back there in the corner, national security official named Earl Matthews who also worked on Ukraine issue, who also suddenly left his post as this scandal broke open.
I mean, who`s left? Within a few weeks of this meeting, in some cases within a few days this meeting, like everybody in that room had their life changed and/or their career ended.
And now we know from these internal administration documents and communications that have been revealed in the 19 days since the impeachment vote, we now know that after weeks of freak-out inside the administration over President Trump holding up this military aid, after President Trump asking questions about that military aid, after him directing the holdup of the aid, after him being advised by everybody in the national security apparatus that he himself appointed that he had to let go of that hold in the military aid, but he still refused to do so, after all of the explicit arguments that we know happened within the administration, to hold up that aid much longer would constitute a criminal act, we now know after all those weeks of consternation and concern and CYA inside the administration, we know right before Vice President Pence went and took this meeting at the highest levels of the Defense Department, the chief of staff to the secretary of defense was reassuring other officials inside the Pentagon oh, don`t worry. This is all going to be over soon. When Mike Pence takes that meeting with Zelensky on Tuesday, it`s all going to get sorted.
Why did he think it was all going to get sorted? I mean, President Trump was just impeached for demanding that Ukraine give him investigations into Joe Biden that would help him in his 2020 reelection effort and him conveying to Ukraine that they wouldn`t get their much needed military aid until they made that commitment to do those investigations, right? You won`t get the military aid unless you agree to do those investigations. Announce publicly you`re doing those investigations or you`re never going to see that military aid.
We now know in the defense secretary`s office, they thought that that would all click into place as soon as this meeting between Mike Pence and the Ukrainian president took place. So, it was Mike Pence who was supposed to personally get the assurance from the Ukrainian government at that meeting that they were going to announce the investigations?
Because that was the deal, right? That`s what everybody was waiting on. They can`t get the military aid until they announce the investigations. Don`t worry. They`ll be able to get the military aid as soon as Mike Pence has that meeting.
I mean, that`s what they were waiting on, right? At least according to the chief of staff to the secretary of defense, a man whose name is Eric Chewning. He put it in writing. Don`t worry. This will all end once Mike Pence takes that meeting, so says Eric Chewning, defense secretary chief of staff. Eric Chewning, the defense secretary of staff, has just suddenly resigned his job.
His resignation announced today on the same day that former national security adviser John Bolton, who, again, is right there in the room for that meeting and who again resigned suddenly without much explanation right in the middle of the scandal, right as the Ukraine aid was finally being released and the whistle-blower complaint was finally being processed and heading towards Congress, John Bolton today released a statement saying if he is subpoenaed in the impeachment trial of President Trump, he will appear and testify.
Well, the Senate is now back in session. We don`t yet know how the Senate is going to proceed with the impeachment trial for President Trump, but obviously, John Bolton`s declaration that he will testify if summoned, he will testify at the president`s impeachment trial in the Senate if they send him a subpoena, that obviously raises the stakes on the Republican efforts in the Senate to try to hold the impeachment trial without hearing from any witnesses, particularly witnesses like John Bolton or White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney or the OMB official who told the Defense Department clear direction from POTUS to continue the hold.
I mean, they don`t want to hear from these witnesses, clearly. I mean, now that the chief of staff to the defense secretary has suddenly announced his own resignation, I suppose he is also a potential witness, particularly given what seems to be his very specific knowledge about what was expected of Vice President Mike Pence in his own dealings with the Ukrainian president and why there was an expectation at the highest levels of the Pentagon that Pence is the guy who would be able to deliver, that Pence would be able to deliver whatever quo was needed so the Ukrainian military could finally get their quid.
I will just note one other thing here which is whether or not the U.S. Senate actually conducts a real impeachment trial for the president and whether or not the Republican leader in the Senate Mitch McConnell is able to figure out some way to prevent witnesses from giving any testimony in that trial, even though the House has already impeached President Trump, lawyers representing the House as a whole and lawyers representing the Judiciary Committee in the House, both told a federal appeals court as recently as last week that there`s no reason to expect that they might not bring additional articles of impeachment against President Trump on top of the two they`ve already passed.
And so, whether or not the Senate is going to subpoena John Bolton or any of these other witnesses, conceivably, the House could, particularly if they thought the evidence they might be able to get from these witnesses might be sufficient to write a third article of impeachment against President Trump. I mean, I don`t know if the Senate is going to hear from witnesses, invite testimony from witness, let alone subpoena them. But the House could issue additional subpoenas.
John Bolton`s statement today that he would testify if subpoenaed was specific to the U.S. Senate giving him a subpoena, but when reporters asked if that meant Bolton would also testify if he were subpoenaed by the Democratic-controlled House, his spokesperson didn`t answer, which means that`s a live question. Bolton says he will testify to the Senate if subpoenaed. Sir, will you testify to the House if subpoenaed? No answer.
And, you know, when it comes to this most recent sudden resignation from the Trump administration, there`s not only this live question now as to whether or not there will be additional witnesses in the impeachment proceedings against President Trump, there is a particularly interesting live question about whether or not there might be additional testimony or witnesses who could speak to the involvement of the vice president of the United States in this scandal, Vice President Mike Pence.
Now I should mention that Eric Chewning, the defense secretary`s chief of staff, him resigning today suddenly unexpectedly, it`s interesting in the context of the impeachment scandal, particularly given what we know about his specific knowledge of events during the impeachment and how they relate specifically to the vice president, but it should also be noted that Mr. Chewning is the seventh high-ranking Pentagon official to either quit or leave just since December 1st. And that counts five senior pentagon officials who all left within the same week in December.
And, you know, hey, no biggie. It`s not like there is anything going on right now for which we might need a fully staffed Pentagon. Even just since the airstrike that killed Qassem Soleimani in Iraq, we have seen the sudden and unexpected resignation of the U.S. ambassador to neighboring Afghanistan. That was announced this weekend. We`ve also seen the sudden and unexpected resignation of the top Iran coordinator on the National Security Council. That happened this weekend. And now, today we`ve got the defense secretary`s chief of staff.
Worries about how well the Trump administration might be handling this incredibly dangerous and incredibly delicate situation they have set off with Iran, those worries were not helped today by the bizarre double take walk back oops we didn`t really mean it announcement, and then un- announcement from the Pentagon that all U.S. troops were leaving Iraq.
This was so -- I mean, this would be so bad and so worrying and so weird under normal circumstances. But for this to have happened today in the midst of everything else that is going on, it`s just absolutely mind- bending. I mean, you sort of worry about the White House, you know, in terms of the White House having their act together and knowing what they -- whether they actually mean what they say and understand its implications.
This is the Pentagon, which sort of makes it -- I mean, it puts it at a different orbit of worry. This weekend in the wake of that airstrike that killed this Iranian general just outside the Baghdad airport, you have probably seen the Iraqi parliament voted on a resolution that declared that all U.S. troops should leave Iraq.
The prime minister of Iraq had made this impassioned plea to the Iraqi parliament that they must act immediately to get all U.S. troops off of Iraqi soil. All of the members of parliament who showed up for that vote unanimously voted yes, they want to do that. They unanimously passed this resolution to tell U.S. troops to get out, right? That happened this weekend.
And then this was today in Iran. Millions of people in the streets in Tehran, the third national day of mourning for this top Iranian military official who the U.S. killed last week in this airstrike, was the supreme leader of Iran openly weeping over the body of General Soleimani, this general who was just killed in this targeted air strike. The general who was killed, Soleimani, has officially been replaced as head of the Quds Force by his deputy.
Deputy leader of the Quds Force who worked with Soleimani for years, that successor who has now taken over the Quds Force with all of its proxy forces all over the world, he told Iranian state TV in an interview today that his new mission as head of the Quds Force now that hazy taken over in the wake of Soleimani`s death, his mission is clear. He told Iranian state TV today, today, quote: We promise to continue down martyr Soleimani`s path as firmly as before, with the help of god and in return for his martyrdom, we aim at getting rid of America from the region.
So, on state TV in Iran, we got the Iranian official who replaced the guy we just killed who said my goal now is god willing to get America out of the region, to get America out of the Middle East. Within hours of that, we get reports from Baghdad that the U.S. military has written to the Iraqi Ministry of Defense to alert them to the fact that in fact U.S. troops are leaving the Middle East. Hey, we are leaving the region. This is the letter dated 6th of January, 2020. It`s directed to the deputy director of the Combined Joint Operations Baghdad at the Iraqi Ministry of Defense.
Your Excellency, sir, in due deference to the sovereignty of the Republic of Iraq and as requested by the Iraqi parliament and prime minister, we, using the acronym for U.S. forces in Iraq, we will be repositioning forces over the coming days and weeks to prepare for onward movement. In order to conduct this task, coalition forces are required to take certain measures to ensure that the movement out of Iraq is conducted in a safe and efficient manner. During this time, there will be an increase in helicopter travel in and out of the international zone in Baghdad. This increased traffic will include these three different kinds of helicopters.
Coalition forces will take appropriate measures to minimize and mitigate the disturbance to the public. In addition, we will conduct these operations during hours of darkness to help alleviate any perception that we may be bringing more coalition forces into the international zone.
As we begin implementing this next phase of operations, I want to reiterate the value of our friendship and partnership. We respect your sovereign decision to order our departure. Very respectfully, the Marine Corps commanding general for Task Force Iraq.
So, this letter was delivered from the U.S. military to the Iraqi military today saying, hey, you know what? We respect your decision. You want us out. We`re out.
This is what it`s going to look like while we leave. We don`t want any misunderstandings. We`re definitely not bringing in any more troops, and we don`t want it to look like that by accident.
We are in fact leaving. We are leaving because you told us to leave. We respect that. We hope you respect us with respect, bye. Right?
So this letter gets delivered to the Iraqi military, and then it gets published by Iraqi sources and then it gets published by U.S. reporters, and then the Defense Department, apparently for some reason once this letter has become public knowledge, decides that they`re going to take it back.
I mean, the letter is real. Multiple reporters confirmed the authenticity of this letter with the U.S. military. But then the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, and Defense Secretary Mark Esper tried to basically play it off like this was a goof, you know, a fat finger error. Oops, I meant to hit delete and I hit forward. How to back it out there. We didn`t mean that at all.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Milley, telling reporters that the letter was a draft. He said, quote, it was a mistake. He said that part of the letter was poorly worded. That was his phrase, poorly worded, implying withdrawal. Quote, that is not what is happening.
I mean, to be clear we can all see the letter. It does not imply withdrawal. It concedes that the United States is withdrawing all troops from Iraq on orders from the sovereign Iraqi government, and it explains exactly how this is going happen.
This is not like I said inflammable when I meant flammable. Or I said imply when I should have said infer. I can never keep those straight. I mean, this is delivered from the U.S. military to the Iraqi military, and now at the level of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the defense secretary, they`re trying to pretend like it was a big mistake and nobody`s quite sure what happened there. Oops! We`ll take that back.
I mean, broad strokes, we do not know what`s going to happen next here. Obviously, most importantly, we don`t know what Iran is going to do next here. As the supreme leader of that country and millions of people in the streets demand direct revenge against America for this air strike that we took against the second most powerful official in their government.
We don`t know what is going to happen next here. We don`t know what Iran is going to do next here. We also do not know what our own government is going to do next here, or what they will try to pass it off as once they actually do it. And that includes not just this White House and all of its tendentious and mendacious word salad which we`re all used to, it`s now apparently the Pentagon too. It is every part of the administration that this presidency has touched and thereby changed.
And it is all happening at once, including the election to try to replace this president. Senator Elizabeth Warren is a top contender for that job, and she joins us next.
MADDOW: Former Housing Secretary Julian Castro made news last week when he decided that he was -- he would end his own race for the presidency. The day that he announced he was getting out of the race, he came on this show, Thursday night, to talk about his decision.
And I got a chance to ask him what was next for him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JULIAN CASTRO, FORMER HOUSING SECRETARY: I`m going to find way to make sure that, number one, we replace Donald Trump with a good president in 2021. I`m going to do everything that I can to support the Democratic nominee to make sure that a Democrat wins in November 2020, and to encourage others to run. So, we`ll figure that out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: So that was Thursday.
I`m going to do everything that I can to support the Democratic nominee to make sure that the Democratic win -- the Democrat wins in November of 2020. Number one, we must replace Donald Trump with a good president in 2021.
That was Thursday. That was the day he got out of the race.
It appears in the days since then, Julian Castro has figured out what he specifically means by that. He`s at least decided to get more specific and much more vocal about who exactly he wants to see replace Donald Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CASTRO: There`s one candidate I see who`s unafraid to fight like hell to make sure America`s promise will be there for everyone, who will make sure that no matter where you live in America or where your family came from in the world, you have a path to opportunity, too.
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Julian! Come on in.
CASTRO: Hello. How are you? Good to see you.
That`s why I`m proud to endorse Elizabeth Warren for president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Julian Castro not only endorsing Elizabeth Warren, his spokesman saying today he is also planning to join her for campaign events starting tomorrow.
Joining us now for "The Interview" is Massachusetts senator and Democratic presidential candidate, Elizabeth Warren.
Senator, thank you so much for coming in.
WARREN: It`s so good to be here. Thank you.
MADDOW: So tell me about this endorsement. Is this something that`s been in the cards for a while? Can you tell us how this came about?
WARREN: So, you know, I`ve known Julian for a long time. We`ve been friends. We`ve worked together. Really, I describe it as from the heart. I knew Julian when he was secretary at Housing and Urban Development, and I just started out as a senator.
And we had a lot of overlapping work about the importance of safe and affordable housing for working families, for the poor, for the homeless, for people with disabilities, for seniors that want to age in place, and a lot of things that we could do in this country to provide that. And then after that, we stayed in touch, and we`ve worked on a lot of the same issues.
You know, ultimately, Julian is a -- he is a good man. He is a decent man. And he got into public service because he truly believes that we can build a country that isn`t just about rich people, that isn`t just about folks who were born into privilege get an opportunity, but that we could build a country where everybody gets an opportunity, where everybody`s voice counts.
So, we`ve had lots of conversations over a very long period of time about that, and very specific things that he`s put together on child care and on the importance of making sure that the disability community gets heard, and that we -- we rethink many of our policies in ways that lift up many, many people who too often in this economy and this country and this democracy get left behind.
So, we`ve been there for a long time.
MADDOW: And it sounds like from this, we`re told by his spokesperson today that he is planning on joining you on the campaign trail, including at an event tomorrow.
WARREN: Oh, you bet.
WARREN: That`s the fun part with Julian. It`s -- you know, he`s not just dial -- phoning it in. He -- he`s going get out there. He`s going to keep his voice right in the center.
MADDOW: So he is going to be a significant part of your campaign?
WARREN: You bet he is.
MADDOW: Are you considering him as a potential running mate if you get the -- the nominee?
WARREN: That would be presumptuous to talk about that. But Julian is a great partner in these fights. And I`m glad to be there with him.
MADDOW: Let me ask you about something that we talked about at length when he was here on Thursday night, which is the issue of diversity in the field. Obviously, the Democratic field this year started out gigantic --
MADDOW: -- and also the most racially diverse field in history.
MADDOW: As we get closer to Iowa and we get further along in the debate schedule, that diversity is becoming less so.
MADDOW: Senator Harris dropping out. Secretary Castro dropping out. The qualified candidates for the next debate at this point, it`s five white candidates who are qualified.
He was very harshly critical of the process, saying that there is something wrong with the way that the Democrats are sort of winnowing the field, if this is part of the way that it`s working out.
MADDOW: What`s your reaction to that?
WARREN: You know, I think Julian raises significant concerns here.
And think of this this way. This is -- this for me was like one of those moments where you just -- the same day that Kamala Harris who has this vigorous voice and her own set of experiences that she brings to this Democratic primary, the same day that she`s forced out of the primary, and she says it quite flatly because of money, is the day that a billionaire buys his way onto the Democratic stage. And this is --
MADDOW: Mike Bloomberg joining the race?
WARREN: Well, and Tom Steyer made it onto that stage because he could reach in his own pocket and fund his campaign.
It`s not that I`m cross with Tom Steyer`s politics or it`s about billionaires. This is about what kind of -- what kind of a Democratic primary we`re going to be if the only way that you can really succeed is either be a billionaire or go suck up to the millionaires and the billionaires and the corporate executives. Because if that`s the way we`re going run a Democratic primary, then buckle up because this is going to be a country that`s just going to work better and better for billionaires and less and less for everyone else.
That`s what makes 2020 such an extraordinary moment. So many people off the sidelines, so many people, who haven`t been in politics before, whose voices haven`t been heard saying, I get it. Democracy is not a machine that can run of itself. This is something we`ve all got to be part of.
MADDOW: But the lament that politics could work that way and that it shouldn`t work that way is almost a more abstract construction than what you`re confronted with right now. I mean, there is -- I mean, Michael Bloomberg, for example. There is obviously Mr. Steyer who`s been in the debates and he`s doing his own campaign.
Michael Bloomberg is running a campaign right now where he is spending potentially hundreds of millions of dollars.
MADDOW: Over $100 million in ads already. He`s not planning on running in the first four early states.
WARREN: Yes. He`s -- he`s skipping the democracy part of this.
MADDOW: He`s also not planning on being in the debates because the way you qualify for the debates is with a donor class as well as polling. He is not taking donations.
MADDOW: Lamenting that billionaires have a lot of power is something different than beating them in the primary.
How do you strategize to beat something like that when they have infinite resources and they`re really not running in the same kind of -- running in the same kind of race that you are?
WARREN: Yes, that is the fundamental question here.
So I made the decision when I got in this race, not just who I`d be fighting for. I`d be fighting for the folks I`ve been fighting for all my life -- for hardworking people -- and what I`d be fighting for, for universal child care and cancelling student loan debt, but how I`d be fighting.
That I wasn`t going to do this with fundraisers. I wasn`t going to do this with sucking up to corporate executives. I was going to do this grassroots.
And the first dollars I got in, I turned around and spent on organizing, on trying to get more people in.
And, you know, all I can say is -- I say this to everybody -- if you think that`s the right way to run a campaign, go to elizabethwarren.com and pitch in 5 bucks. You know, pitch in 20 bucks. Volunteer an hour. Volunteer to do some phone banking.
But get in this fight, because the alternative is Michael Bloomberg`s version of democracy. And that is billionaires who decide among themselves who`s going to reach in a pocket and throw a few hundred million on the table and buy what? A nomination? Buy an election?
If that`s the case, then our democracy becomes something that only works for a tiny number of people, and it`s going to shut everybody else out.
MADDOW: I have a lot more questions to ask you. Stick with us.
WARREN: Thank you (ph).
MADDOW: Elizabeth Warren is our guest. We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WARREN: Immediately after they announced that they had killed this general, they had multiple different stories on why. They couldn`t keep their stories straight. They pointed in all different directions.
Why didn`t this happen a month ago? Why didn`t it happen a month from now? Why right now, as Donald Trump faces a potential impeachment trial in the United States Senate next week?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Speaking to reporters after her 100th town hall in Iowa last night, Senator Elizabeth Warren questioning the motivation behind the timing of last week`s airstrike that killed Major General Qassem Soleimani, the head of the Quds Force in Iran`s Islamic Revolutionary Guard.
We`re back again with Senator Warren.
Senator, thank you again.
WARREN: Thank you. And by the way, I think that was the about 190th town hall. I think we`re just shy --
MADDOW: A hundred and ninetieth?
WARREN: -- of 200.
MADDOW: I am very sorry. Thank you for correcting me.
WARREN: No, no. Only to say this is one of the best parts about campaigning, 29 states, Puerto Rico, and almost 200 town halls now. And best of all, over 100,000 selfies. It`s the -- it`s the out there with people.
MADDOW: Which gives you more energy or less energy other time? Do you feel like it`s making you stronger?
WARREN: Oh, are you kidding? It`s making me better. You want to check out my energy?
MADDOW: No, I believe you. I`m -- I`m scared.
Actually, well, today, let me ask you, Georgia -- you announced a number of new staffers in the state of Georgia.
MADDOW: Georgia is not any time soon. Georgia is deep into the process.
Is that a bet that the Super Tuesday contest, which happens right after Nevada and South Carolina, that everybody thinks is going to be sort of a cleanup contest, you think that that`s only the start? You think that`s not going to be (INAUDIBLE).
WARREN: My campaign is built for the long run. I believe in democracy, and that`s the investment I`m making.
I`m reaching out -- and here`s the thing. You reach out and do this organization from the grassroots --
WARREN: -- sure, it`s about me. I`m running in the primary and I want to have the chance to beat Donald Trump in November 2020.
But it`s also about building our team and strengthening our team up and down the ticket. We need to win the White House. We also need to take back the Senate and put Mitch McConnell out of a job. We need to hang on to our majority in the House.
And we need the state races. We need to be in the governor`s races. We need to be in the state legislative races. We need to be in these statewide races.
Shoot. We need to be strengthening at the city level and county level because 2020 is this extraordinary opportunity. If we do this grassroots, not just billionaires and TV ads, because all those TV ads help the billionaire, but they don`t help much of anybody else -- if we really do this grassroots, if we`re doing that knocking on doors and the face-to-face part of this and the handshake part of this, this really is the chance to truly have a transformational election, one that says enough of a country that works better and better and better for those at the top, and leaves more and more Americans behind.
MADDOW: We`ve never before had a president, incumbent president running for reelection having been impeached.
MADDOW: It has never happened before. And so, obviously, that has political implications that are uncertain.
I mean, there`s a lot of people who argue that the president`s raising more money than he would otherwise be raising now because of that, that it would maybe be a good thing for him. Obviously my take on it, it`s hard to say it`s a good thing for a president to be impeached politically.
But you have -- you raised this very pointed questions over the weekend that we should look seriously even at something like this Iran airstrike, killing General Soleimani as something that could potentially have been driven by the president`s political interests against this impeachment.
Do you think that is the reason why he did it?
WARREN: Well, like I said, look at what happened. He orders the killing of Soleimani and then the administration can`t get their story straight. They still can`t get their stories straight on what was going.
Remember the last time this happened? When people started asking questions about the president talking with -- the president of the United States talking with the president of Ukraine and then holding up aid to Ukraine.
And you may remember what did the White House do? They all have different stories on what had happened. Everyone is pointing in every which direction.
We then peel back the layers and find out pretty quickly what was really going on was not Donald Trump trying to advance the foreign policy interests of the United States, Donald Trump trying to protect Ukraine from Russian aggression.
What was really going on was Donald Trump was trying to put the pressure on the Ukrainian president in order to help Donald Trump politically.
So, you know, this is an administration that has no credibility -- no credibility for doing anything other than what is in Donald Trump`s political interests. They have no credibility domestically. They have no credibility internationally.
So, they want to make the case that no, no, no, here was our goal internationally, and that`s all we were taking a look at. I say the burden of proof is on them. Come up with the evidence.
MADDOW: You will be effectively a juror when -- if and when the president`s impeachment trial begins. Presumably, there will be some hard decisions at some point, depending on what they decide to do at the Senate trial as to whether or not you should be out campaigning in these early states, or whether you should be in the Senate being one of the people who is making a decision based on that evidence.
How do you plan to weigh that when it arises?
WARREN: You know, they are just some things that are more important than politics. And one of them is constitutional responsibility.
I took an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States of America. And if we`re in the middle of an impeachment trial, then I will be there and be part of that.
MADDOW: I have more questions for you. Senator Elizabeth Warren is our guest. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: We`re back now live with Senator Elizabeth Warren, a candidate for president in the Democratic primary.
Senator, thank you again.
WARREN: Thank you.
MADDOW: Let me ask you about an admittedly boring topic, which is fundraising. In the fourth quarter, you raised more than $21 million, which is a ton of money.
MADDOW: Less than Senator Sanders who raised an astronomical amount of money.
MADDOW: A little behind Biden and Buttigieg as well. It`s also interesting, though, less than you raised in the quarter before.
MADDOW: Why is that and what`s your plan to turn that around?
WARREN: So, I actually don`t know why the numbers are a little bit off.
But I will say this -- what`s been happening is we just keep building on it. You know, I was at a standing stop a year ago when I first got in this race and built this from scratch. And we are now closing in on nearly a million donors.
And the donations are modest. They`re small. A lot of grassroots donations.
You want to know the best part about the fundraising, or at least one of the best parts? Is I actually do call time just like the other guys do, only the folks I call are true grassroots donors.
So I was making calls a couple days ago. I called people who pitched in 5 bucks, people who pitched in 10 bucks, 20 bucks.
I called someone who put in $2 who said they were unemployed. You know, that was what they could do, but wanted to be part of this fight.
MADDOW: And are those conversations valuable to you in part because they are two-way conversations --
MADDOW: -- because you are hearing from your donors and what their priorities are?
WARREN: That`s right.
You know, here`s the number one thing I hear. You give me hope. I`m in this fight because you get what`s broken, you`ve got plans to fix it, and you give me hope that we can get this done. It is the hope borne of a belief in our democracy.
You know, everybody who truly engages in democracy, who pitches in 5 bucks, who even shows up to vote, there`s that spark of hope that all of us together can bring our voices to our democracy and make our government work for us. And that`s why I say I think that`s the heart of what 2020 is all about.
MADDOW: What do you tell people who believe that President Trump is going to be reelected?
They don`t want him to be reelected, they want him out of office, but they look at the state of the country. They look at the fact that the country elected in 2016. They look at what`s going on in terms of politics, in terms of the Democratic primary, and they don`t feel hopeful that he`s going to be a one-term president.
WARREN: I say to folks like that, think about what was so badly broken in this country that we would elect Donald Trump, start there. And think about where Donald Trump right now.
He ran on corruption, right? He ran on he was going to drain the swamp. He ran on the fact that the whole process was broken.
And that excited enough people across the country to carry him across the finish line. Oh, let`s never forget, three more -- million more people voted for Hillary Clinton than for Donald Trump, but it was enough to get him across the finish line. And then he turned around and broke every one of those promises.
But that fundamental question about who government works for, whether it`s on your side or it`s just on the side of the big donors and the corporate executives, that is the fundamental question in America today, and that`s a question that`s not Democrat versus Republican. It`s a question that people across this country ask.
In fact, just look at the numbers around this. When I asked people, Democrat and Republican, about corruption, both sides want to see real change. They want to see a government that doesn`t just work for giant drug companies. They want to see a government that works for people who are trying to get prescriptions filled. They want to see a government that works for them.
When you ask people about my 2 cent wealth tax, you know, this tax on top of 1/10 of 1 percent, Democrats and Republicans across the country support that. A majority say, yes, let`s do that. Not the folks in Washington but across this country.
When you look at the plan, like I`ve got to expand Social Security so that it`s financially viable for decades to come, but we increase Social Security and disability payments, 200 bucks a month. And pay for it by just asking those at the top 2 percent to pay a little more into the system. That`s supported by Democrats and Republicans.
So I look at this as look at why he got elected. He got elected because we have a country that`s been working better and better and better for those at the top and worse and worse and worse for everyone else.
That`s why 2020 is our chance. We can turn that around. It`s just going to take enough of us to get in this fight.
MADDOW: Senator Elizabeth Warren, thank you for being here tonight. I really appreciate it.
WARREN: Thank you.
MADDOW: We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: That is going to do it for us tonight. One thing to watch for in tomorrow`s news at midday noon Eastern Time, the government, prosecutors are due to tell a federal judge in Washington what they believe former national security adviser Mike Flynn should get in his sentence in his criminal case. We`ll be watching for that filing by midday tomorrow.
We`ll see you again tomorrow night.
Now it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Good evening, Lawrence.
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