RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend. Much appreciated.
Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour as well.
Just a couple of days after the 2016 U.S. presidential election, a journalist, a Russian-American journalist Masha Gessen published what was basically an alternate a journalist, a Russian American journalist published what was basically an alternate concession speech for Hillary Clinton. Masha Gessen said on election night that same week in n November 2016 when it became clear in the wee hours of the morning on election night that Donald Trump was going to win the presidency, Gessen argued that Clinton instead of giving the speech she did, she could have -- perhaps should have just said this.
And I will warn you, this is a little dark. It is a little stark, but given that she wrote this basically hours after election night, it also feels oddly prescient just a few years down the road now. So, now, here`s the alternate concession speech for Hillary Clinton as imagined by Masha Gessen.
It starts: Thank you, thank you my friends, thank you. We have lost. We have lost and this is the last day of my political career. So I will say what must be said. We are standing at the edge of the abyss.
Our political, our society, our country itself are in greater danger than at any time in the last century and a half. The president elect has made his intentions clear and it would be immoral to pretend otherwise. We must band together right now to defend the laws, the institutions and the ideals on which our country is based.
That`s not what Hillary Clinton said on election night, but the week of the 2016 election, journalist Masha Gessen who has spent most of her life in Russia and much of her journalistic career writing about the rise of Vladimir Putin in Russia, she said that that or something like that is what Hillary Clinton should have said. An early morning hours of Wednesday that first week of November when the election results came in.
That article by Masha Gessen has, I think is still seen as a landmark these three-plus years later. That article is remembered less for that alternate proposed concession speech for Hillary Clinton, you know, calling on the country in that moment to band together to defend our laws and institutions. It`s remembered less for that than it is for the set of rules that Masha Gessen went on to lay out for how to survive and preserve your sanity in a country that is shedding its Democratic foundations and is shedding the strictures of the rule of law.
Rule number one, first, on her list of rules, was the memorable one, one that still wakes me up regularly to this day.
Rule number one, quote, believe the autocrat. He means what he says. Whenever you find yourself thinking or hear others claiming that he is exaggerating, that`s our innate tendency to reach for a rationalization.
As an example, Masha Gessen provides this, quote: Trump has received the support he needed to win and the adulation he craves precisely because of his outrageous threats. Trump rally crowds have chanted lock her up. They and he meant every word.
Well, fair enough. That is, in fact, the world that we have ended up living in over these past three and a half years. But over the last 48 hours, as the Justice Department has been thrown into crisis and chaos, and for the first time, we are starting to get resignations on principle from career Justice Department personnel who cannot abide what`s being done to the justice system by this president, over these last 48 hours, rule number three from Masha Gessen is sticking with me as well.
Quote, Rule number three, institutions will not save you. It took Putin a year to take over the Russian media and four years to dismantle its electoral system. The Russian judiciary collapsed unnoticed. The capture of institutions in Turkey has been carried out even faster by a man once celebrated as the Democrat to lead Turkey into the European Union. Poland has in less than a year undone half the accomplishments of a quarter century in building a constitutional democracy.
Of course, the United States has much stronger institutions than Germany did in the 1930s or Russia does today. The problem, however, is that many of these U.S. institutions are enshrined in political culture rather than in law. And all of them depend on the good faith of all actors to fulfill their purpose and uphold the Constitution.
Institutions will not save you. They depend on the good faith of the actors within them. Boy, are we living that.
So, that was Masha Gessen just a couple of days after the 2016 election. Not long thereafter, Timothy Snyder`s book "On Tyranny" was published shortly after the inauguration. And it followed a similar line of logic, looking at lessons from the collapse of various democracies across Europe over the course of the 20th century to learn lessons for us, to learn lessons for how to protect our democracy and how to know if we`re losing that fight to protect our democracy and what we should do then.
Snyder, quote: The European history of the 20th century shows us that societies can break, democracies can fall, ethics can collapse and ordinary men can find themselves standing over death pits with guns in their hands. We might be tempted to think that our democratic heritage automatically protects us from such threats. This is a misguided reflex.
Americans today are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism or communism in the 20th century. Our one advantage is we might learn from their experience. Now is a good time to do so.
And he published this book right at the time of the inauguration of Donald Trump. And in the book, very short book, goes on to lay out 20 lessons from the 20th century for Americans to consider today. And some of these lessons, some of these rules keep me up too.
For example, rule number one, Timothy Snyder, do not obey in advance. Most of the power of authoritarianism is freely given. In times like these, individuals think ahead about what a more repressive government will want, and then offer themselves without being asked.
A citizen who adapts this way is teaching power what it can do. I would amend that in our time to say a senator who adapts in this way is effectively teaching power what it can do.
There`s also rule number eight, which is stand out. Quote, someone has to. It`s easy to follow along. It can feel strange to do or say something different, but without that unease, there is no freedom.
The moment you set an example, the spell of the status quo is broken, and others will follow. Is that true?
Here`s the one that is sticking with me right now given what is going on at the justice department and the sort of cry crisis that we have been thrown into in terms of the rule of law in this country over the past 48 hours. It`s Snyder`s rule number two, quote: Defend institutions. It is institutions that help us to preserve decency. They need our help as well.
Do not speak of our institutions unless you make them yours by acting on their behalf. Institutions do not protect themselves. They fall one after another unless each is defended from the beginning. So choose an institution you care about, a court, a newspaper, a law, a labor union, and take its side.
So that`s interesting, right? We get this one prescient warning from the Russian American journalist. Institutions will not save you. They will fail. Do not count on them to save you.
We get another warning from an imminent historian of 20th century collapse of democratic and rule of law countries. He says, yes, institutions are important, but institutions do collapse unless each one of us actively defends and saves them from the kinds of pressures they`re about to come under. Pick one, do something to support it.
So in the middle of the New Hampshire primary yesterday, right, this very important moment for the Democratic Party trying to pick their nominee to run against Donald Trump, we get this other story, right? This new milestone that we have hit in the Trump administration on rule of law issues, and it is a big enough story that it resulted in split front pages all around the country today.
This is the front page of "The New York Times" this morning. On the right- hand, there`s the politics, Sanders is winner in New Hampshire. On the left side in all capital letters, Justice Departments acts to ease sentence for Trump ally. Four U.S. prosecutors quit Stone case after bosses step in to overrule them.
All the way across the country, here`s "The Los Angeles Times" and there again is the picture of Senator Sanders, the triumphant picture, and you see the headline on politics halfway down the front page, Sanders edges Buttigieg in New Hampshire primary. But then right underneath the masthead there at the top, the competing story left two columns, prosecutors quit over bid to lessen stone`s sentence.
He`s "The Hill" newspaper in Washington, D.C., quote, DOJ in chaos. Here`s "The St. Louis Post Dispatch", four column headline all caps, bold headline, right? All four prosecutors quit Stone case. Trump tweet spurs concerns of DOJ interference.
Here`s the headline in "The Minneapolis Star Tribune" today and, yes, they`ve got full coverage of Sanders grabbing the win in New Hampshire and also on the front page today, hometown Senator Amy Klobuchar surging into third place in New Hampshire. We`re going to be speaking with Senator Klobuchar here in just a moment, right here on this show. But look at what`s on top the front page: DOJ revolt over leniency for Trump pal.
So we are here. Believe them when they say who they are, right? We are at that moment that this president did, in fact, promise during the campaign, right? And everybody said at the time how outrageous it was, how much it crossed a red line for him to say as a candidate when he`s president, he`d instruct his attorney general to prosecute his political opponents.
He`d instruct his attorney general to pursue criminal cases on his presidential orders to serve his political needs, punish his enemies, protect his friends. When he said he would do that as a candidate, the outrage, but did you believe him?
Here we are and all of the alarms are going off about this. This is a front page thing, and it is as serious as you think it is. But here`s a former senior justice department official who actually served well into the Trump administration, David Laufman, who`s head of the counterintelligence division at the Justice Department, calling this a break glass in case of fire moment.
Here`s former Attorney General Eric Holder going right there as well, quote, do not underestimate the danger of this situation. The political appointees in the DOJ are involving themselves in an inappropriate way in cases involving political allies of the president. In a statement last night, Attorney General Holder saying, quote, actions such as these put at risk the perceived and real neutral enforcement of our laws and ultimately endanger the fabric of our democracy.
Equally stunning is, you know, as the attorney general is intervening to take over these cases of interest to the president, both to help the president`s friends and to target the president`s perceived enemies, to target anything that poses a perceived threat to the president, equally stunning alongside what Bill Barr doing is the fact that the Justice Department is now starting to respond. There are now resignations from the Justice Department in protest.
Three line prosecutors working on the Roger Stone case withdrawing from that case after Barr intervened after the president expressed his displeasure with the recommended sentence that Stone had had put forth to the court by these line prosecutors. Three of them resigning from the case, a fourth not only withdrawing from the case but resigning from the department altogether.
Former Obama White House counsel Bob Bauer describing that as a quote, major event and for Bob Bauer, the least hyperbolic man on earth, that`s like a 10-alarm fire for him to call something a major event. Bob Bauer saying today, quote, dramatically forceful responses to Mr. Trump`s assault on rule of law norms have been all too rare. A resignation can set off an alarm bell for an institution whose failings and official maybe unable to bring to light in any other way or as effectively.
He says, quote: It upholds rule of law norms in the very act of signaling that they are failing. They are failing.
So like I said, the alarms ringing. What do alarms do? They are supposed to wake us up. Well, in this case, we are all awake. What do we do now that we`re awake?
There`s no hiding the importance of what`s going on here. The country is well aware of what`s going on here. All the people in position to know how dangerous and bad this is have struck the alarm bell, right? And so, now, what do we do about it?
The idea of being a rule of law country is not just about the -- you know, the technocratic prowess of your law enforcement system and your justice system. I mean, that matters but it is bigger than that. It`s also bigger than individual politicians or powerful people being able to get away with stuff unfairly by somehow working the system.
Again, that`s part of it. But it`s not all of it. The reason that people use rule of law countries as a way to define what is not an autocracy, what is not an authoritarian regime is this bigger sense of what it means to be a rule of law country.
I mean, those things matter, but the worst collapse and the most consequential collapse of the capital R rule of capital L law is when the law becomes a tool of the political leader, or the power of the criminal justice system and the law enforcement apparatus of this country is em employed for the pleasure and the benefit of a president who is supposed to allow it to operate independently but we have now crossed the line on that. He told us he would do it. He has now done it, and all of the alarms have sounded. They are ringing incredibly loudly and we don`t know what comes next.
But what do we do next? What do we do now that we are awake to what`s going on?
I mean, diagnosing the problem exists is not the same as curing the problem. I think when all is reasonably well and we`re reading dystopian fiction or we are smugly reading history about other countries falling on hard times and losing the rule of law and losing freedom and losing democracy, when we imagine these moments as happening to someone else or happening in fiction, when we imagine what would happen in this country when the things that make us a free country start to collapse, when they erode and crumble and fall away.
I think if we`re honest, a sort of naive fantasy that most of us have about moments like this, about what it will be like, is that, you know, good people doing good things will fix it. That`s smart people in a position to know being alert to the danger and pointing out that this terrible Rubicon has been crossed. That would somehow be enough to stop us from going any further in that direction and to bring us back to this safe side of it. Somehow be enough to call out the danger, to get us to recognize the danger, to make us not go there.
It turns out it`s not enough. It turns out we still go there. I mean, I think we imagine when we tell ourselves optimistic fables about these kinds of things in the event something did go terribly wrong and terribly wrong in America, and the president`s attorney general started personally intervening in personal cases to help the president`s friends and to gin up investigations into people he wanted targeted for political purposes, in the movie version of things going wrong that way in America, one of the ways we start to pivot towards the inevitable happy ending of that kind of movie is that we think principled people in a position to know what`s going wrong and in a position to alert the country about it, they will resign in protest.
Sound the alarm that way. That will let everybody know what has happened and those resignations will have such a dramatic effect they will catalyze a sort of positive contagion. They`ll become a moral beacon, they will set a moral example that other people will step up to because other people will snap out of whatever fear they have been in, and they will realize, oh, we don`t all have to go along with this.
Actually, this is something to save our country that must be stopped. It`s time to, you know, lay down on the proverbial gears of this machinery. We all can do something here, and all of us who can must.
In the movie version of this, that`s how we imagine this goes. Indeed, last night the former inspector general of the Justice Department named Michael Bromwich, posted this, what he called a memo to all career Justice Department employees. He was the former inspector general at the Justice Department, and he says in this -- in this note: Memo to all career DOJ employees. This is not what you signed up for. The four prosecutors who build on the Stone case have shown the way. Report all instances of improper political influence and other misdeeds to the inspector general who is required to protect your identity.
And you know, Michael Bromwich is in a position to know and give that kind of advice having until recently been an inspector general at the Justice Department. But simultaneous to him giving that advice, we`ve got the news now that one of the people the president is looking to fire right now is the inspector general of the intelligence community because what did he do wrong? Well, he got a whistle-blower complaint about malfeasance and indeed what turned out to be illegal actions inside the Trump administration including by the president.
And that whistle-blower seeing those things and deciding to properly follow channels reported that material to the inspector general, who is legally obligated to protect that person`s anonymity. The inspector general treated that complaint basically the way the law said he must. He ended up passing it on to Congress, which the law says he must. He really had no authority to do anything else with it. He followed the law and protected the anonymity of that whistle-blower.
That inspector general has his own head on the block, reportedly, as the president rips these systems out by the root. And as Republican senators hunt the identity of that whistle-blower.
So here`s the question. With these four prosecutors stepping up and resigning at the Justice Department over the president reaching into the criminal justice system, reaching into law enforcement to override independent prosecutorial decisions and instead insist on lenience for his friends, and lenience for people who could potentially testify about the president`s own behavior related to the things for which these guys were all charged. I mean, now that we`ve got these prosecutors` resignations, including one career prosecutor who has resigned entirely from the Justice Department, what if the moral beacon phenomenon here either doesn`t work or is overshadowed?
What if instead of waking people up and inspiring others to not go along with this dangerous fundamental breach in who we are as a country and how our system works and what the legal system could be perverted for in the hands of an authoritarian, what if instead the example that we`re living, the example that`s being set by these principled resignations and also by the career public servants and diplomats who came forward and defied the threats, and obeyed the subpoenas and told the truth, what if the example that`s being broadcast to the entire country right now and every day since these people started coming forward is that when and if you do what is right, when and if you stand up, when ask if you simply obey the law and don`t go along with something illegal the president wants you to do, what if the example being set is that if you do the right thing, if you stand up, if you tell the truth, if you resign in protest to sound the alarm, the result for you is you will be crushed?
I mean, what is the example that`s been set for the country by what happened to, for example, Alexander Vindman? I mean, Colonel Vindman testifies, dad, do not worry, I`ll be fine for telling the truth.
He said in his opening statement of his testimony, I recognize that my simple act of appearing here today would not be tolerate instead many plays places around the world, in Russia, where his family had emigrated to this country from as refugees. In Russia, my act of expressing concern of the chain of command in an official and private channel would have severe personal and professional repercussions. But he said, you know, here in America, dad, do not worry. I will be fine for telling the truth.
Well, he`s not fine. He has been fired from the White House. He has been marched off the grounds -- a relative of his, his brother has also been fired from the White House and marched off the White House grounds.
Marie Yovanovitch, U.S. ambassador who was bizarrely and unfairly targeted by the president`s allies, and by the president himself lost her job as U.S. ambassador because of it. Her career is now over too. She is now retired and gone from the State Department, and it is not hard to see why, given what they unleashed on her after her testimony.
Ambassador Bill Taylor who was called out of retirement as basically a favor to the Trump State Department to go fill in for her in Ukraine, he made the mistake of testifying too. He`s been yanked out of that post as well.
I mean, even the ones who might have thought they had some Trump insurance, Ambassador John Bolton, Trump appointee as national security adviser. He decided he wouldn`t testify, told House impeachment investigators he wouldn`t do it. Decided instead he would write it all in a book.
Well, for his trouble, the White House is now saying they will block the publication of his book and the president is reportedly trying to arrange some convenient criminal prosecution of John Bolton.
Ambassador Gordon Sondland, he might have thought he had Trump insurance, bought himself an ambassadorship, a complete diplomatic amateur. Bought himself an ambassadorship by virtue of a million dollars donation to the Trump inaugural.
You might think that would be enough to keep this president smiling on you. But no, he`s yanked. He`s fired as well.
The U.S. attorney in Washington D.C., a Trump appointee, a member of the Trump transition team, she apparently did not jump high enough when the president`s demands for his friends Mike Flynn and Roger Stone came to her door as U.S. attorney in the jurisdiction where they were being prosecuted. She was unceremoniously removed from her post as U.S. attorney, promised a different job and now that job offer has been yanked, too.
It took just minutes for the resignation of those four prosecutors. The prosecutors working on the Stone case who resigned out of principle over the perversion of that case by the president and Attorney General William Barr. It took all of minutes for the president to start personally attacking them and threatening them as well.
Now that they`ve come forward, what do we expect for them and their families? So what do we do? Because seeing the attacks, seeing the personal threats, seeing the career destruction, the uniform career destruction, and in some cases the personal destruction of people involved in standing up to this president or being involved in investigating this president in any way -- I mean, seeing them destroyed, it makes us feel bad for them as human beings who didn`t do anything wrong, who were doing their jobs, who were brave and patriotic in some cases in some cases, in the face of something very damaging happening to our country, that they decided to tell the truth about makes us feel bad to see them retaliated against, to see them targeted. To see them hounded to see their careers ended.
But beyond us feeling bad about that -- I mean, we as a country for the health of our country, for the health of our democracy, for our continued existence as a rule of law nation, we need there to continue to be those people, those types of people to stand up, to let us know what`s going on, to continue to signal that it`s all right to stand up against it and to stop it. To squawk about what`s happening.
With each additional person who is demonstrating to the country that when you come out against this president your life is ruined, we are further hurt as a country in terms of our ability to resist what this president doing. So it`s not about empathy with those individuals, as important as that is. It`s not about being nice or being decent towards them or even represent -- recognizing their patriotism.
Even if we have none of those feelings, to protect ourselves as a nation, the destruction of them for coming forward is something that can`t stand. But what do we do? What can we do to support the brave/
Well, let me just end with this because here`s one small way to go about it. Tonight, at Georgetown University, Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, whose career was destroyed, who was personally targeted first as part of some scheme, and then it seemed almost for sport, now, ultimately, it seems like they`re making an example of her, Marie Yovanovitch tonight at Georgetown University was given an Award for Excellence in the Conduct of Diplomacy by the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy at Georgetown University. This is tonight.
Watch what happened in the room there tonight when people saw Ambassador Yovanovitch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
MARIE YOVANOVITCH, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADSOR TO UKRAINE: Thank you, thank you. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It just kept going and going and going. Marie Yovanovitch honored tonight at Georgetown University, while the president and his supporters remain engaged as ever in efforts to destroy her for having had the gal to stand up and testify truthfully about one of the myriad of things that has gone dramatically wrong in this administration. You can`t let people who stand up survive, what kind of example would that set.
What can we do as a countermand that? What can we do as a country specifically to support the people who do come out and stand up and tell the truth and if need be resign? Because there`s no line that this president will not cross.
I mean, tell me if you can imagine one. Tell me the thing that would be bad for America but good for him but he wouldn`t do it because it`d be bad for the country. What`s beyond the pale for him? Seriously.
There`s nothing he might conceive of as being to his advantage that he would not do to this country to get it. Right?
We get that now. Alarm sounded. We`re awake. We`re at the point, though, where just pointing this out isn`t enough. We have to recognize that pointing out where we`re at doesn`t stop our country from sliding further into a non-rule of law situation, pointing it out, sounding the alarm knowing we`re there isn`t enough.
We`re there. We now have to plan specifically for how to survive it and how to fight it.
More ahead, stay with us.
MADDOW: -- who spent a full career at the U.S. Department of Justice. Mary McCord served as an assistant U.S. attorney in the D.C. U.S. attorney`s office for nearly 20 years. In her final job at Main Justice, she was the head of the National Security Division at DOJ. She resigned several months into the Trump administration. She`s now a professor at Georgetown Law.
Professor McCord, thank you so much for making time to be here tonight. I know you don`t do a lot of public speaking. I really appreciate you being here.
MARY MCCORD, FORMER JUSTICE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: So, you gave an interview to "The New Yorker" and also to "The Washington Post" in which you expressed pretty serious concerns about what`s happened, what`s merged over the past days about the attorney general and political appointees intervening in cases that are important to the president. Since the initial reports have come out about this crisis, have you seen anything or any sort of new reporting or otherwise learned anything that has made you feel any better about this?
MCCORD: No, I haven`t. In fact, today, of course we`ve seen the president, you know, thanking the department of justice for intervening, and we`ve seen some sort of doubling down by the president to start attacking the prosecutors who withdrew from the case and the one who actually resigned from the Department of Justice. So this seems like more of the type of retribution that you were just highlighting with respect to State Department officials and the other types of retribution we`ve seen, frankly, since this presidency started.
MADDOW: These four prosecutors who resigned, have been directly threatened and personally attacked by the president since they submitted their resignations. Just for context for those of us who haven`t had the kind of career you have, how rare is what appears to be a principled resignation like this let alone a whole slew of them? These three prosecutors withdrawing from the case and one resigning from the department altogether?
MCCORD: So it`s quite rare. I haven`t seen anything this dramatic ever in my career. I would note, though, that there has been at least one prosecutor in this office that did leave who had been involved in the Andy McCabe investigation, and you may recall this has been a very long-term investigation that has still never reached a final conclusion. There were a lot of rumors last year that it was -- that Mr. McCabe was going to be indicted, and around that same time one of the prosecutors left and the other withdrew from that case. And still, we`ve had no word on what`s going to happen to Mr. McCabe.
So that clearly wasn`t as dramatic as this, and I don`t know for sure that that prosecutor left the department because of what was -- how the McCabe case was being handled, but again, this is all during this administration. It`s all, I think, related to pressure that is being brought to bear, online prosecutors who are doing their jobs and prosecuting cases as they see fit in their judgment.
MADDOW: What`s the right way to answer the alarm bells that these professionals are sounding with their actions? Obviously, I think as concerned citizens, we want to know what we can do. I think there`s a real cost to seeing these people made examples of and punished for coming out.
And also, I guess, I wonder if the courts afford any potential correction for the things that they`re sounding the alarm about? How should we be answering these alarms as a country?
MCCORD: Well, I wish I had a great answer for that. I was very heartened to see the footage of Marie Yovanovitch getting a standing ovation. I think it`s important for the members of the public to be supporting those who are bringing attention to misuses of power like we`ve seen from this president.
But you know, recall, as well that the executive branch is just one branch of the government, and we are -- you know, we have looked already to the Congress as another branch to do its job, and, of course, the impeachment process, although there was an impeachment in the House, of course, that failed in the Senate.
And so, normally, that might be a branch that we could look to, to kind of step in when things are going off the rails as they seem to be. It`s not clear we can rely on that, you know, during the tenure of this administration unless perhaps things get to a point where even Mitch McConnell and those on the Senate side and the Republican Party feel like it`s gone too far.
But as you just mentioned, we also have the court system, and not everything will be able to be brought in court, but you can bet that Judge Amy Berman Jackson will rule neutrally and fairly on the sentencing of Roger Stone next week when it comes up. And she, I don`t believe, will be kowtowed to the president, won`t be intimidated, and I think judges we will see that continuing and hopefully that continues not only at the district court level and the court of appeals, but hopefully, our Supreme Court will also take care to protect the rule of law against abuses that we may see coming out of this White House.
MADDOW: Mary McCord, veteran Justice Department official, including a stint as the chief of the national security division -- thank you so much for making time. I know, again, you don`t do a lot of these and so I really appreciate the trust for being here. Thank you.
MCCORD: My pleasure.
MADDOW: All right. Presidential candidate, Senator Amy Klobuchar, is going to join us live here in just a moment. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Our country cannot take another four years of Donald Trump. The rule -- the rule of law can`t withstand another four years of a president who thinks that he is above it. Our collective sense of decency can`t handle another four years of a president who doesn`t care about it. Our democracy can`t tolerate another four years of a president who wants to bulldoze right through it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota last night in her speech after the results came. Can`t call it a victory speech because she didn`t win, but you`d never know it by the quality of that speech and the quality of it by which it was received.
Senator Klobuchar, lots to crow about last night, with an 11th hour surge, a surprise, very strong third place finish.
Senator Klobuchar, it`s great to see you. Congratulations.
KLOBUCHAR: Thank you, Rachel. Thank you.
I mean, it was a victory in that we defied expectations in a big, big way.
MADDOW: Did you defy your own expectations? Did you surprise yourself?
KOOBUCHAR: No, because I always believe we can do it or I wouldn`t be on this journey. I always believe I can win nomination and lead our ticket to victory.
And we had done a lot of work to get to that debate. I had the endorsements of every major newspaper in New Hampshire, in addition to "The New York Times," which I shared with Elizabeth. And we also had three of four of the state house leaders and a number of other key endorsers in the state. So, we`d worked really hard.
But I think the debate really helped me --
KLOBUCHAR: -- because people saw not only my argument that I can win big and I`ve won with rural and suburban and independent, moderate Republican voters, as well as a fired up Democratic base, the highest voter turnout in the country when I lead the ticket, but I also got to show my heart and talk about why I was doing this, and what I had thought about a lot during that impeachment hearing when I was bolted to my desk.
KLOBUCHAR: Just which is that we need a president that can actually put herself in the shoes of people around the country, and this president can`t come close to that. He always thinks about himself. That`s really what the impeachment hearing was about, him illegally putting his partisan interests, his private interests in front of the country`s.
But that means he`s not looking out for the people that, you know, can`t figure out, am I going to fill my refrigerator or fill my prescription, or am I going to go and pay for my aging parents` long-term care or my own child care?
KLOBUCHAR: That`s what`s missing from this guy in a big way. It`s empathy.
MADDOW: I was struck by the fact that there were -- again, today with this huge political news in terms of what happened in New Hampshire, again almost every front page in the country is a split screen story of that and this crisis at the Justice Department with what the president is doing -- what you referenced in your speech, that Senator Warren referenced it in her speech as well.
I wonder if -- I mean, I know that you`re running on a platform about what you want to do that is not about what Donald Trump has done.
MADDOW: You`re running on a platform that is about what you think the country can be and why you`re the right person to lead it there. I feel like he intrudes on all your messages all the time by taking up all the room, with crisis after crisis after crisis.
KLOBUCHAR: That`s what he does, and then he keeps tweeting it.
We know two things. One is you can`t follow him down every rabbit hole. But, second, as I always like to say, the obstacles are the path. And when he does this, when he tries to uproot the rule of law, you -- there are people out there watching.
There are independents out there, including in the state of New Hampshire who voted for me who say to themselves, wait a minute, this -- I may not agree with everything that the Democrats say on the debate stage. I don`t agree with everything they say on the debate stage, but this is a decency check on this president. This is patriotism check on this president.
And they don`t want, as I said in my speech last night, four more years of a guy who`s going to bulldoze through our democracy.
So, it`s really important to remember those people out there that see this as a decency moment for our country. And I`ve been emphasizing that from the very beginning, and I think it`s one of the reasons that we`re gaining speed.
MADDOW: In terms of speed, I`ve talked to you at a number of points, right, when you declared, as you started to get into this, I feel like I`ve been checking in with you regularly over the course of the campaign. And from the very beginning, you have been describing a sort of slow and steady approach to the campaign.
MADDOW: You would not spend beyond your means. You would not try to grow too fast. You`d earn it on your merits. You would peak when you needed to peak.
Over the next three weeks, though, it`s going to come fast -- Nevada, South Carolina, 14 states on Super Tuesday.
MADDOW: How fast and how much can you scale up to try to stay competitive?
KLOBUCHAR: We can do this. We are running ads all over the place in Nevada, in part because while I didn`t have the biggest bank account on that stage and certainly not in this race. I may not be the tallest person -- James Madison was 5`4".
KLOBUCHAR: And I may not have the loudest voice.
But since that debate, we raised $3 million online from regular people. And then yesterday in New Hampshire, we raised $2.5 million in one day at AmyKlobuchar.com from regular people. And that`s been an issue for me. I know that.
So, I only ran $1.5 million of ads in that New Hampshire market, but now, I`m going to be in a better place.
And then we move to South Carolina and beyond. And as you know, Super Tuesday is just a week from South Carolina. So -- and Minnesota is one of the states.
KLOBUCHAR: There`s just going to be a lot going on at once. But slowly but surely, I always believed this, that I was not going to have this major viral moment back in -- well, except for my announcement with four inches of snow on my head.
KLOBUCHAR: But what I was going to build this base slowly but surely, because it`s a different kind of campaign. And you bring people with you instead of shutting them out.
MADDOW: I have lots more to ask you about. Can you stick with us?
KLOBUCHAR: I will. Thank you.
MADDOW: Senator Amy Klobuchar is our guest. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Joining once again is Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Democratic presidential candidate, who you just had a beyond expectations, very strong third place showing in New Hampshire.
You outperform expectations both in Iowa and New Hampshire.
MADDOW: The electorate there is very white and very different from the electorate in the next two states that you`re competing, Nevada and South Carolina.
MADDOW: National poll from Quinnipiac this week shows your support among African-American voters at less than 1 percent. Some people say that is all you need to know, that you can`t compete nationally. You`re not appealing (ph) to African-American voters.
How do you answer those concerns?
KLOBUCHAR: They don`t know me yet nationally. In my own state, I`ve done really well in the elections with African-American voters. I have the endorsements of a number of key leaders, mayors that have been campaigning for me across the country.
And I also have a record of focusing on economic opportunity, number one issue in the community, and I lead a number of those voting rights bills, including everything from getting rid of gerrymandering, to getting rid of voting purges, to doing something to automatically register kids when they turn 18.
And the immigrant side of it, as we go to Nevada, I was -- when I got to the Senate, I started working on immigration reform. Ted Kennedy asked me to be on a small group that worked on that bill and I`ve been working on it ever since. So, I have a track record of being a strong supporter for immigrant rights.
I also lead all the tourism bills -- a pretty big deal in Vegas --
MADDOW: All right, yes.
KLOBUCHAR: -- and Reno -- in the Senate, and lead that caucus.
And then Nevada, by the way, has a big history of electing women.
KLOBUCHAR: Two women in the U.S. Senate, as well as the majority in their state legislature, which is a very cool thing. And they got so much done in the last year.
MADDOW: In terms of women voters, I had been -- I can -- I suppose I shouldn`t be shocked. But in Iowa, it was 58-42, female to male electorate.
MADDOW: In New Hampshire, it was 57-43, almost exactly the same.
MADDOW: It`s a huge gender gap in terms of the Democratic turnout.
Now, that does not necessarily translate into support for female candidates. Among Democratic voters who say they worry about the electability of a female candidate, women say that just as much as men do, and in some cases, they say that more.
MADDOW: Do you have different conversations about that topic with men voters than you do with women voters?
KLOBUCHAR: Not really. I think that everyone wants to win. And so, it`s on me to make that case, and I`ve always historically done better with male voters for some reason. Not than women, but I`ve done better than a lot of other candidates with male voters in my own state.
And I think part of it is I make the same pitch here and I make the same pitch to men voters. Obviously, they have been carrying a lot of this burden, whether it`s about gun safety, whether it`s about wages, whether it is about retirement. It`s hit women more, the lack of shared prosperity in this economy.
But the basic argument is this: we need someone who can win and beat Donald Trump. I have passed over 100 bills in the U.S. Senate. I have the track record of being able to work across the aisle, get things done and win in those red districts, winning in Michelle Bachman`s district every single time.
Did you know that?
MADDOW: I did know that.
KLOBUCHAR: So, anyway, that`s the point --
MADDOW: You brought up because you`ve been making this case about electability with the broad swath.
KLOBUCHAR: I just think that people need to know that about me, because a lot of people are talking about that on the debate stage, beautifully talking about how they can lead.
I am the only one with receipts, Rachel. I`m the only one that`s actually done it and brought people with me.
And so, I think transcends gender. I think that is about winning and that`s the case that I make.
MADDOW: Let me ask you one seemingly sort of technical things but it`s starting to loom. A lot of things are waking me up these days. Every third or fourth day, this is thing that wakes me up.
Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight is now writing that, when you look at last night`s results in New Hampshire and what happened before that in Iowa, it`s looking more likely where we could end up in a position where no Democratic candidate has a majority of delegates before the convention. (INAUDIBLE) which makes me cringe just because the prospect of covering that is such a nightmare.
MADDOW: But do you think that you and your fellow candidates should support whoever has the most delegates at the end of the race? Or do you actually think that a contested convention is fair game? And that if it has to get fought out of the convention, so be it?
KLOBUCHAR: Well, I just know I strongly support whoever comes out of convention. I think that is what we`ve all agreed to do.
MADDOW: But if it`s going to be a contested convention, so be it?
KLOBUCHAR: Yes -- if it is, I would assume it`s going to be a small number of people. But that`s what conventions are about. We have to get the best candidate. I`m not certain that`s going to happen.
All I know is that I`m devoted to supporting whoever the candidate is. I just think it should be me.
And I think this process, and the number of my friends who`d be tremendous presidents, have left the race over time. But I think it`s getting down to less and less people.
And so, it`s going to give people the ability to understand and think about not just what policy positions do we agree with, but also who can actually lead this ticket and unify our own party, which is what "The New York Times" said about me in that endorsement. You need someone who can unify our party but also can bring people with her outside, because I don`t want to just eke by a victory at 4:00 in the morning. That would be sweet.
I want to win big. That`s the only way to send Mitch McConnell packing. If we win the Senate races in Arizona and Colorado, if we keep holding on to Doug Jones` seat in Alabama after he took that incredibly brave vote, and you do that by having a candidate that is able to bring people with her and win in those states and bring them with you.
Otherwise, I just don`t think we can make the achievements that we want to see when it comes to climate change and immigration reform and pharmaceutical prices and criminal justice reform. We need to do this big.
MADDOW: Amy Klobuchar, Godspeed.
KLOBUCHAR: OK. Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Good to see you. Thank you, Senator.
KLOBUCHAR: See you on the road.
MADDOW: We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: I`ll see you again tomorrow night.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Good evening, Lawrence. I`m sorry, I`m in your real estate. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END