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Transcript: All In with Chris Hayes, September 21, 2020

Guests: Adam Jentleson, Ilyse Hogue, Jane Mayer, Nancy Pelosi, Dahlia Lithwick


America endures catastrophic pandemic response and collapsed economy while the Republicans are trying to push a nomination to the Supreme Court. The CDC removes new coronavirus transmission information from its Web site that had been quietly posted on Friday. Mitch McConnell could lose the Senate majority if he pushes through a SCOTUS vote before the election. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is interviewed on the GOP's effort to push through a SCOTUS vote.


JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: And it goes inside the cross-cultural journey that led Senator Harris, from her humble roots, to become the first African-American woman to represent California in the Senate, and now the first African-American woman to be the vice-presidential nominee for a major party.

The first two episodes are available on October 5th. That is right before the vice-presidential debate, but you can subscribe for free right now wherever you get your podcasts. That's it for tonight's REIDOUT. "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts now.


CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Tonight on ALL IN. Donald Trump and the devil's bargain. How many American laws are worth control over the Supreme Court? Tonight, how Donald Trump's catastrophic failure to lead the nation isn't facing a complicit Republican Party, and what democrats are doing in response.

Then, Speaker Nancy Pelosi on why the rush to replace RBG is an attack on pre-existing conditions and abortion rights, and how Donald Trump's new stated goal to use a partisan Supreme Court majority to seize a second term.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're counting on the federal court system to make it so that we can actually have an evening where we know who wins, OK.

HAYES: When ALL IN starts right now.


HAYES: Good evening from New York. I'm Chris Hayes. You know, moments of maximum crisis can also be maximally clarifying. And many things are clear in the wake of the loss of Ruth Bader Ginsburg who died on Friday night. Perhaps what has come most into focus is the nature of the bargain that the institutional Republican Party has struck with Donald Trump.

You know, more or less, everyone in the party understood from the beginning who Donald Trump was, that he was completely unfit for the presidency, and would represent a possibly mortal peril to the nation if elected. They said as much over and over.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): I tell you what I really think of Donald Trump. This man is a pathological liar. The man cannot tell the truth, but he combines it with being a narcissist. A narcissist at a level I don't think this country's ever seen.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I'm not going to try to get into the mind of Donald Trump because I don't think there's a whole lot of space there. I think he's a kook. I think he's crazy. I think he's unfit for office.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you think a Trump government would look like, Senator?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): It would be chaos. He is wholly unprepared to be President of the United States. There is no way we are going to allow a con artist to take over the conservative movement. And Donald Trump is a con artist.


HAYES: I mean, he got that part wrong. They did allow it. But everything else was right there. I mean, all the diagnoses there like he's a pathological liar and a narcissist and incompetent and in over his head, and it would be chaos if you govern, I mean, they got it right. They knew. They were very clear, the man should not get anywhere near the levers of power.

But once he won the nomination for the entire party, the electeds and the donors and the lobbyists and the staffers and all the like, they came to see that the danger was worth it because they would get to wield power. They will get the things that they wanted, a huge tax cut for corporations and rich people and deregulations and judges. Judges, judges, judges, that was the bargain.

And Donald Trump, which is rare for Donald Trump, has actually delivered on all of it. And so for the institutional Republican Party and the Marco Rubio's, and the Ted Cruz's, and the Lindsey Graham's, and the lobbyists on K Street, and all of their staffers and all the donors, the bargain worked.

But the worst-case scenario also happened. Donald Trump, this person who is obviously unfit for the job, in precisely the way they identified, encountered a crisis he was unable to manage, an apoco-crisis that he could not and would not solve. We have now lost 200,000 Americans. The President, narcissist that he is, has not even mentioned it yet.

And it's not just that he is capable of dealing with this crisis, he is actively made things worse. He has sabotage efforts to manage the crisis at every turn. He has encouraged people to do dangerous things like open up bars and go to his indoor rallies and not wear a mask and those messages sink in. This is what happened in Ohio, at a Trump rally, Ohio lieutenant governor had the nerve to suggest Trump fans wear masks.


JON HUSTED (R), LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR OF OHIO: But if you go into a grocery store where you got to wear one, all right, hang on, hang on, just listen up. Just listen up. All right, I get it. But if somebody tells you to take it off, you could at least say that you're trying to save the country by wearing one of President Donald Trump's masks, all right.


HAYES: He's trying -- they're Trump masks. He wants to sell them on Trump masks and they're going boo, no. No, no, no, we don't want the masks. Donald Trump has lied to the American people about how deadly and contagious the virus is. He has essentially destroyed the credibility of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. It's been around for more than 70 years. One of the most celebrated public health agencies in the world, and Donald Trump has broken it by interfering time and again, putting politics over science.

Just today, the CDC retracted new guidance that had been quietly posted on Friday, an apparent change in its position on how easily the Coronavirus can spread from person to person on small droplets in the air. Federal health officials said the posting on Friday was a mistake, put out before full editing and clearance was completed. What are we to believe?

Donald Trump has taken action after action that have needlessly cost more Americans their lives. And it didn't have to be this way. If we have the same death toll per million as Canada, our neighbors, very similar nation in many ways, over 100,000 more Americans would be around and walking around today and hugging their loved ones.

The crisis continues right now. Tens of thousands of people are hospitalized, millions upon millions of kids are not in their classrooms, businesses are closing every day. Things are worse than most people could have imagined they might get back in 2016 when they were talking about Donald Trump being a narcissist and pathological liar, and yet, and yet, and yet, with Ruth Bader Ginsburg death and Mitch McConnell and the institutional right whirring and demotion replacer, the horrifying truth is this. That for the institutional Republican Party, for everyone who made their peace with the bargain, the bargain was still worth it. It still is now.

It traded over 100,000 American lives for this power. That's the price we have paid for this bargain. And if it took 100,000 more American lives for them to keep it up, I don't think they would have many regrets. It is precisely because the Republican Party has tethered itself to such a manifestly horrible and incompetent person who has been unpopular from the beginning.

They now understand the only way they could continue to rule is through increasingly aggressive power grabs. They are not just falling in line on the bargain. Now, they're doing whatever it takes to retain the minority power like continuing to stoke the most dangerous authoritarian impulses of their base.

Like, Georgia Senator Kelly Loeffler, running for re-election, releasing an ad today that jokes about murdering journalists. And Florida Governor Ron DeSantis introducing legislation today that he backs that would waive liability for running over protesters. And so, for the sake of democracy and for the country, and for those lives we've yet to lose that we might still save, to preserve the American democratic experiment, the opponents of this sick minoritarian project have to fight like hell.

For more on the fight already brewing, I'm joined now by Ilyse Hogue, the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, an organization that is fighting to protect and expand reproductive freedom. And Adam Jentleson, former deputy chief of staff to Senator Harry Reid, author of this New York Times op-ed today, "Democrats need a plan fast."

And Adam, let me start with you since you worked -- you worked in the Senate, and that is where a lot of the sort of action is today. Mitch McConnell has gotten a bunch of people to come out today including Chuck Grassley and Cory Gardner who's endangered Colorado and say, we're going to do it, you know -- and, you know, whatever our stated principles in the past be damned. What, what can Democrats do realistically? How do you view this?

ADAM JENTLESON, FORMER DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF TO SEN. HARRY REID: Well, it's a tough situation that they're in because McConnell has enough time to get the nominee confirmed if he can get the votes. So, Democrats' challenge is to delay and apply as much pressure as they possibly can to prevent him from getting the votes. There's a variety of tools at their disposal to do this. They can -- the Senate operates on something called Unanimous Consent, which means every senator has to agree to a lot of what the Senate does on a daily basis. So, any individual senator can block unanimous consent agreement. That can also mess with the committee process.

If there are no unanimous consent forthcoming, the Senate has to operate on what are called quorums which requires 51 physical -- 51 senators to be physically present on the floor to conduct any business. So, Democrats can force Republicans to produce all 51 of those senators, which is something that's very hard to do, especially when they have so many incumbents up for reelection.

So, there's a lot of tools at their disposal they can use to apply pressure. But I think what's most important for Democrats to do is to commit to the kind of reforms if they take back power that will allow them to undo some of the structural disadvantages that you've been talking about.

HAYES: Yes. I want to talk about that in a second because there's a few stages to this right now. There's sort of the battle before the election, possibly the battle after the election, and then what comes next in structural reform sense. And Elise, obviously, reproductive freedom is at the sort of top of the list. And one thing I think is interesting when you talk about applying pressure here is, in a way that I think is kind of clarifying and welcome, more and more Republicans are being honest about this.

I mean, Josh Hawley, a senator from Missouri says, "Two months ago, I pledged to vote only for SCOTUS nominees who understand acknowledge that Roe was wrongly decided. I stand by that commitment. I call my fellow Republican senators take the same stand today." He said one of the women being considered, Amy Coney Barrett clears that bar for him.

Do you think it's a good thing for your organization, for people that care about Roe and reproductive choice to make all this explicit in this fight?

ILYSE HOGUE, PRESIDENT, NARAL PRO-CHOICE AMERICA: Oh, I think that playing their cards on the table is absolutely a good thing because they've obfuscated for so long. And the thing is, they know that they're on the wrong side of public opinion on this. And 77 percent of Americans actually believe in Roe, believe in legal access to abortion. But even more important than that, and I worried that this stat gets lost, only 22 percent of self-identified Republicans agree with their own party's position on abortion.

But one of the things that's crucial here, and I think it goes to Adam's broader point in his New York Times piece today is they have effectively used their opposition to abortion as a Trojan horse for an agenda around control more broadly. And that justices that are in fact opposed to Roe are almost certainly predisposed to be opposed to all forms of social progress, racial justice and equity, economic justice and equity, and LGBTQ rights.

So, this is a movement moment where absolutely no question abortion rights are on the line. But democracy is on the line, fundamental freedoms across the board are on the line, and that's the way we need to approach this and fight it.

HAYES: Yes. There's -- you might even say there's a seamless garment between views on Roe and the views on the administrative state somewhat improbably, but that's actually the way it works out. And, Adam, to your point about -- I mean, the reason that I think the talk about what could happen in the future Senate is important is because it can act also as a kind of containing measure here, right?

We're in a kind of iterative, prisoner's dilemma, a kind of iterative game, right, and this kind of tit for tat logic. Like, we know that FDR's court-packing threat or it appears in history, like had an effect on how the -- how the court sure is proven worse, right? Like, what are the serious structural reforms Democrats have to be talking about now in this actual battle?

JENTLESON: That's right. I mean, the reasons that -- the reason that Democrats need to be talking about the serious reforms in the Senate is that the Senate is the institution that is the gateway to fixing all of the other structural disadvantages that cause a white conservative minority to be in a position to impose its will over a diverse majority in this country.

It all starts with eliminating the filibuster, things like court packing, and other reforms that are necessary are not going to happen if you need to achieve a super majority, because Democrats just won't have 60 votes anytime in the near future. So, limiting the filibuster really is the first thing you need to do, and then you return the Senate to the majoritarian institution that the framers envisioned.

Once you get there, you can start to implement other reforms that will rebalance the system. Things like offering statehood to D.C. or Puerto Rico, not as retribution or for political gain, but because these are territories bound by federal law that currently have no voting power to say in the say over the laws that bind them. And these are also areas where the population is predominantly non-white. So that would be one way to get the senate more in balance with the rest of the country.

HAYES: Ilyse, where do you see the sort of levers of pressure here? I mean, it's interesting to me, Murkowski, I think, from a sort of basically principled, actual dispositional stance about what our beliefs is, came out and said, well, I'm not -- I don't think we should consider. And Susan Collins who is the rare senator up for reelection would probably helps her a little bit of distance.

But it's interesting that people like Martha McSally and Cory Gardner, who I think they believe they live or die with Trump basically, politically. That in a more normal setting, they would be subject to pressure that it doesn't seem they're subject to because they can't abandon their base and I think they probably have chopped this race anyway.

HOGUE: I think that's right. I mean, I'm with Adam that delaying tactics need to be supported by mobilization, right? We are being flooded with volunteer energy and people asking what can we do and I think that has to be a several problems strategy. And there are multiple handholds for ways people can actually weigh in. But they have to actually support Democrats that are engaged in delaying tactics.

The average Senate confirmation for a Supreme Court hearing is 67 days. We are 43 days out from an election. People have already starting to vote, the people have got to decide, and the Democrats have got to facilitate time for people to decide. And the Republicans have to really face the pressure of political backlash and political cost for moving forward.

Cory Gardner is a perfect example. He is in a solidly blue state at this point. He knows he's on the wrong side, so speed is his only friend at this point. So, that combination of mobilization supporting Democrats delaying and extracting a political price for Republican has to be the pathway forward.

HAYES: All right, Ilyse Hogue and Adam Jentleson, both of whom are veterans in their own way of these kinds of battles both in the Senate and outside of it. I'm going to talk to someone else ahead who really knows his territory well. Thank you both.

HOGUE: Thank you, Chris.

HAYES: So next up, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on what a Supreme Court vacancy means for the Republican push to destroy health care during a pandemic, and their plans to try and stop it after this.


HAYES: Despite the President's constant lies about his amazing health care plan that does not exist, it is a fact that his Justice Department is right now trying to destroy the entirety of the Affordable Care Act. They are in court, again, right now to overturn the whole law, all of it, all of its protections for people with pre-existing conditions, all of it. And it said to be argued before the Supreme Court one week after Election Day, a sly bit of scheduling for the court there.

And Justice Ginsburg's death now throws a spotlight on the fact the Republican Party is trying to destroy the entire American healthcare system during a pandemic that's already killed 200,000, infected nearly seven million. Now, Democratic leadership clearly recognizes that's what's happening. And among the people making that point right now is Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and who's joining me tonight. Thank you so much for joining us, Madam Speaker. I really appreciate it.

I think we don't have our sound set. We are trying to fix it during the break. So, I think what I'm going to do right here is take a quick break and come back and let's try to get that sound fixed. And are we going to get it fixed now? No. We're going to break. We're going to break and come back the Speaker of the House. Don't go anywhere.


HAYES: Everyone knows that -- well, before I start that, let me just say Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is standing by and we are trying to make the audio work for that interview. Stay tuned. In other news, there's the other branch of Congress or the other house of Congress, the Senate. And everyone knows there that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is unshamable and ruthless and he's going to maximize his power however he can.

But it is also the case the depth Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has taken us to uncharted territory. There are very real political pressures that are going to affect how the next several months play out. And Mitch McConnell does not care about being charged with hypocrisy. But the raw politics of this moment themselves are not uncomplicated, as it was with the Affordable Care Act.

Remember, Mitch McConnell had a lot of bravado about that, and he failed famously and humiliatingly to replace the law. Here with me to discuss the cross-pressures he faces, a longtime McConnell-ologists, Jane Mayer, Chief Washington Correspondent for the New Yorker, wrote an incredibly insightful profile of McConnell back in April. And this weekend, "For Mitch McConnell, keeping a Senate Majority matters more than the Supreme Court."

Jane, it's great to have you. And let's start with that because it seems to me there's two imperatives here. Everyone says about McConnell, the two things he cares about is keeping the Senate Majority and being Senate majority leader, and judges, filling the federal bench. And there is a way to interpret the politics of the moment that there's a little bit of tension between those two imperatives. How do you see it?

JANE MAYER, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORKER: Well, I mean, there is. I mean, he wants to get both, obviously. He wants to hold the majority. He wants to stay being Majority Leader. And this is going to be sort of the crowning moment of his career to have yet one more justice on the Supreme Court if he can get him through. And he's promised Trump, of course, that he's going to have a vote on this. And so how do you do this?

The problem -- the problem for McConnell is it's unclear if he can keep the majority in the Senate. It's a dicey election year for him. There are a number of races. They're very close. And he doesn't want to do anything that's going to hurt the endangered members of his caucus. So, he's got to try to juggle the schedule in some way that doesn't put those members on the spot in a way that will hurt them.

So he's -- the first thing he's going to do and surely has already done is canvass those members, find out exactly how they feel about how this, this process would affect their races, and then -- and then weigh that in terms of whether we better have a vote before or after the election, so it's tricky. But he is nothing if not clever about things like this. This is he -- you know, very early on in his career, he ran for office from a district where he hadn't been resident -- in residence long enough. And he vowed after that, he would never again, ignore the rules.

And since then, he's become kind of a master of the rules, the more arcane the better. And he just -- he loves talking to the parliamentarian in the Senate and figuring out sort of the most devious ways to get what he wants.

HAYES: The most sort of obvious pressures here -- we're just talking about this, and I think it's pretty interesting, right, -- there's a bunch of folks who are up in -- who are imperiled, where it's not clear that going ahead with this would be helpful to them. We have a bunch of polling out today showing majority people oppose it. Those numbers will probably change as they converge towards the polarization and everything else.

But like Cory Gardner is down in all the polls in Colorado. He's in a state that Democrats have carried now a bunch and plan to carry again, Martha McSally is down to Mark Kelly. You know, there on the sort of aggressor side here in terms of public opinion. It does seem like they've kind of don't care, right? I mean, it doesn't seem like there's like jump together mentality here in terms of getting them to come out whether it was him or not publicly for this.

MAYER: Well, I think -- you know, again, he's going to be looking -- McConnell will look at each of these races. And I think you can almost imagine that he's written off Gardener in Colorado and McSally in Arizona. So, he's not going to change his plan just for them unless he thinks it's going to save them. And he probably thinks it won't save them. And he's already given Collins a kind of a buy in Maine.

So, it gets you down to the races that are really going to matter in this are probably -- it's probably Tillis in North Carolina, Joni Ernst in Iowa, and Daines in Montana. And if McConnell feels that those three are not endangered by going head, he may just got it, you know, and try to do that then.

I think, though, that in addition to just thinking about each of these races and how it affects each of the races, there's something else he's probably got to think about, which is the overall look of this thing. If it appears to the American public that he is -- that there's one set of rules for Democrats, and there's another set of rules he's got for Republicans here, one set of rules for Merrick Garland and another set of rules for whoever Trump nominates at this point, it looks like he's rigging the game.

It looks corrupt. It looks like a naked power grab and it's ugly. And that could actually create a backlash, I think, that both he and Trump have to think about. It might really bother a lot of people in this country to think that that it's just a corrupt game in Washington.

HAYES: Yes, I think that's a correct reading of both where the polls are and the political risks they run. And I think it's notable that McConnell has committed to a vote but not when. And I thought this was also notable. He wrote this "Dear Colleague letter" where he basically says like, don't say anything. Don't lock yourself into position. Let it -- give it -- give us time to work here.

He says, "Over the coming days, we're going to come under tremendous pressure from the press to announce how we will handle the coming nomination. For those of you who are unsure how to answer for those inclined to oppose giving nominee a vote, I urge you all to keep your powder dry."

Now, Murkowski and Collins have not heated that, but Mitt Romney said -- declined today to say anything. I know Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania who I fully expect will support moving forward. But that to me was interesting because the timing here and the sort of needle they have to thread is not nothing.

I think they will try to do it, and the odds are in their favor, they will. But because of exactly what you enunciated from the political standpoint, it's not clear that this is helpful to them politically in the short term.

MAYER: I think it may not be. I mean, I think also it's going to energize the base on both sides here. And the thing is that when it comes to energizing the base, the base that needs more energizing really, is probably on the Democratic side, and you've already seen it happen. I mean, look at the amount of money that act blue rays. You know, practically, overnight, $100 million --

HAYES: It's 160 now. it's $160 million, a shocking amount of money.

MAYER: A shocking amount of money. And I think the other thing that it might do is from -- I was doing some reporting today -- is I think it may really energize kids, younger voters, because, you know, they were kind of holding their nose, a lot of them, about Joe Biden. It wasn't an exciting (INAUDIBLE), it didn't seem. You know, like there was that much reason to do it.

Now, there's a reason that a lot of young people are going to say -- they're going to look at -- they're going to see Roe v. Wade is in the balance, they're going to see the Affordable Health Care Act, and possibly anything to do with, you know, insurance for pre-existing conditions. And they're looking at the future. This is going to be their lives. This is -- this is a decision that has tremendous implications for everybody in the country and it's going to be clear. And so, you know, it may turn up -- you know, help turn out the Democrats who are young.

HAYES: Yes. I mean, a 6-3 Roberts court climate regulation jurisprudence, you know, is not going to be favorable to the kinds of solutions that are necessary. Do you think -- ultimately McConnell himself is up and I don't think he's personally in a lot of trouble against McGrath, at least for the polling now, but there are also just a bunch of seats that weren't supposed to be in play that really do seem like they are.

There's a Texas poll that has Cornyn barely up. There's a Mississippi poll out today that has Christy Hyde-Smith up just a few points on Mike Espy. There's the Iowa Joni Ernst race. I mean, it's wild how wide the sort of battlefield has gotten for him to try to hold this thing together.

MAYER: It's really volatile. And the thing is what it does is it puts the Republicans on the spot about -- they've been doing kind of a split that's getting broader and broader. They've got to keep the Trump base and -- but that's not enough for -- in many places to get reelected. And so, what they've got to do is add in the moderates that, you know, suburban women, particularly.

And you've got a candidate here who, you know, for the -- a nominee for the Supreme Court that is truly the choice of the evangelical part of the Trump base. It might very much alienate moderate women in the suburbs and in other places, especially over things like abortion where 62 percent of the people in this country, you know, favor abortion that, you know, as keeping it legal, and don't want to go backwards.

So it' -- I think it's a -- it's a risky thing for -- in some ways, those people think it's -- oh, it's just such a gift to Trump. Not necessarily.

HAYES: I think that's a right read on the situation. Jane Mayer, thanks as always for sharing your great reporting and insight. I appreciate it.

MAYER: Great to be with you.

HAYES: All right, here now is Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Thank you, Speaker, so much for your patience. I've reported on you long enough to know that you're both patient and determined so I had -- I had faith that this -- we would make this happen together.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Well, anytime I can hear Jane Mayer, I'm happy to do so. So, no apology necessary -- and to hear you as well.

HAYES: Well, that's kind of you. And I want to start today with the announcement that Ruth Bader Ginsburg -- this really blew my mind. I've been thinking about it all day. Ruth Bader Ginsburg will lie in state in the -- in the United States Capitol, and if I am not mistaken, be the first woman in history to do so. It's remarkable that is the case.

PELOSI: Well, she is the first woman to lie in state in the Capitol before we were able to have Rosa Parks lie in honor in the Capitol. Lying in honor is for those who have not been in public office, lying in state is a different honor that Ruth Bader Ginsburg rightly has. We're so proud of that.

HAYES: You have been very clear. I know that you have known the justice for a long time and obviously you're mourning her loss. You've also been very clear about the stakes of her -- of the nomination of a replacement, particularly about the Affordable Care Act, and the fact that the Supreme Court is set to hear arguments that would uproot all of it.

What do you want people to know about the background condition under which this election actually is taking place, and the Department of Justice's brief in that case?

PELOSI: Well, first, let me just say, how sad it is that we lost this wonderful, wonderful giant of the court at this time. Any tome -- any time she would leave would be a catastrophic lost for our country, but at this time. And I would have hoped that we could have had a few more days to respectfully mourn her passing.

I do know that passing on the last minutes before Rosh Hashanah is the special honor of the righteous in the Jewish faith. So that may be why God took her at this time, because she certainly was righteous in any way. The Republicans decided that they would be disrespectful and move ahead that very night by saying that they were going to have a vote on her replacement.

Let's remember, this is a lifetime appointment, somebody who could be there for 30 years. It's important to uphold the Constitution of the United States. It should be done with care whoever the president is. So, the hypocrisy of the Republicans on this is really not important of people's daily lives but it is indicative that they don't keep their word.

And this appointment -- the reason that President and Leader McConnell are moving forward so quickly is because they want to overturn the Affordable Care Act. And when people understand, and they do, what this means in their lives, no more benefit of the pre-existing condition, no more having your children beyond your policy until 26 years old, no more having Medicaid expanded to cover long-term health care and the needs of our children with pre-existing conditions, and returning to a time where being a woman is a pre-existing medical condition.

The people know that and that's why the Republicans are rushing. They want to get it done so they can overturn the Affordable Care Act. And you know what? They're going to be paying this price for elections to come, elections to come. Everyone is looking at what makes a difference in these senatorial races. We'll see. But what they don't really understand is they're going to see 2018 again, and again, and again, in terms of defeat in the Congress.

HAYES: Well, let me ask this. I mean, you know, we talk about the sort of electoral consequences and the substantive consequences for people's health care. I mean, again, in the midst of a pandemic, right? Who knows what long term --

PELOSI: In the midst of a pandemic.

HAYES: -- a lung or heart damage people who survived COVID have. We're just learning about that. There's a growing sense that the Senate is broken in some ways, and that there's a kind of Democratic deficit in America. And if Trump is able to appoint this justice after what they did with Merrick Garland, that Democrats have to be thinking in more procedurally radical ways, right, adding new members to the court, getting rid of the filibuster. Are you thinking along those lines? Do you favor those two policies?

PELOSI: Well, I think that we have to think short term and long term. Plenty of time, when we win the election, House Senate, and the White House, which we would today, but the election isn't today. And we can have just a conversation if you want, but we want to have effective political action. We have to not agonize but organize.

And that means that we must show to people right now -- and they know for themselves with consequences, their experience, that this move on the part of Mitch McConnell -- and I see you said Mitch America. No, it's Moscow Mitch. It's Moscow Mitch. Let's correct your sign there, or at least understand how others referred to him, and there's a reason for that.

But anyway, keeping it on this, the fact is, people don't care about what we're doing in Washington, they care about what is happening at their kitchen table, in their lives, their health. And by the way, the three most important issues in this election are health care, health care, and health care. At a time when we should be crushing the virus, and the President has ignored the science, ignored the science, criminally ignored the science, and instead, we have now crossing into 200,000 people who have died. Instead of crushing the virus, they want to crush the Affordable Care Act.

This is what we have to focus on right now so that people get out and vote and they vote early, and they both in good health, and they vote for their health. Vote your health. Vote your health. And that means the Affordable Care Act, pre-existing condition. And if they get rid of pre-existing conditions, they have a price to pay for elections to come. If they get rid of a woman's right to choose, they have a price to pay for elections to come.

So, we're looking at these senators who are in the near term here, that's one thing. But others, you know what, there's, what, 43 days until the election. It's 44 days until the next election. You know, many of these senators are looking at their next election. And women, people of color in their district in their states will remember if they gave them a vote for their health care of the gave the president a vote for his power grab.

HAYES: You have some business ahead of you in terms of a must-pass piece of legislation, a continuing resolution to fund the government or the government shuts down before Election Day. Mitch McConnell issued a statement. You came out with a draft language, Mitch McConnell doesn't like it. There's some foreign legislation he wants to see in there he doesn't have.

Here's my question to you. Is the C.R., is that leverage on the fight over the justice or is that a parallel track that has nothing to do with the Justice nomination?

PELOSI: It's a parallel track. We wouldn't even think of threatening to shut down government. A great part of the West is on fire, ourselves -- the Gulf Coast is battered by hurricanes, we have a pandemic in the country. We're fighting for our heroes, their state, local governments, and federal employees who are healthcare are our first responders, our teachers, our teachers -- our teachers, our sanitation, transportation workers, we want them to test, trace, treat, wear masks, separate, and the rest, and we need public employees to do that.

So, we're not about shutting down government and it's not a lever. By the way, Republicans don't believe in governance. It's a welcome thing for them to shut down government. That's why they've done it over and over. But in addition to that, you'd think if we shut down government, they would say, OK, now we won't move forward with a justice. No, they won't. They won't, because they are on a path to undo the Affordable Care Act. They're on a path to undo a woman's right to choose. And there are many more issues that relate to the LGBTQ movement, clean air, clean water pollution, they're coming after your children. Protect your children from what they're trying to do in this court.

HAYES: There is nothing -- so I take you there and I feel like that's clarifying, right? Like, these are parallel tracks, the government, the C.R. negotiations. You view that as something that's going to get done, has to get done. There's the justice -- there's the nomination fight in the Senate. But then between those two, there is the fact that the Heroes Act, which was passed in May, Mitch McConnell said, we don't have to move quickly. We're going to take our time. They passed, what you said, was a far too small package, you know, a few weeks ago.

Is it your sense now that there's nothing forthcoming, that restaurants that are closing now, or bars that are closing now, or all the people, the municipal governments that need budget help that are going to start laying off policemen and firefighters and teachers and all those folks, that this is it until the election?

PELOSI: Well, no, I certainly hope not. But let me say, Mitch McConnell said more than you attributed to Moscow Mitch, he said of the states, let them go bankrupt. That's what he said. Let them go bankrupt. Really? Well, that's contrary to what the chairman of the Fed says. State local governments are important to the economy of our country.

And then these people are really you and I would not be able to function without the work of our state and local government employees, whether it's health care, first responders, as I said, sanitation, transportation, food, teachers, and the rest. How do you think we function? And they want to shut that down.

Now, those people, the services will diminish, taxes may be raised, people will be fired almost to the tune of five million people, they will go on unemployment insurance. What's so smart about that, let them go bankrupt? He pushed a pause button when we were trying to put forth a comprehensive plan to crush the virus four months ago, crush the virus. Instead, they ignored the science, the science, the science, and now we're costing 200,000. Let me just say this.

HAYES: Please.

PELOSI: My heart is broken over the death of the notorious Ruth Bader Ginsburg, madam justice. But 200,000 people's families are suffering, the same loss of a loved one, a spouse, a child, a sibling, a parent. So many hundreds of -- 200,000 people and more to come unless they embrace science.

They're anti-science and they're anti governance. They can they want to ignore science, so that governance doesn't have to weigh in and require anything. So you see them undoing the guidance from the Center for Disease Control. You see them undermining the scientist at the Food and Drug Administration. It's just appalling. And again, people are dying.

HAYES: Yes, I want to ask you -- let me ask you about that because there was -- there was this reversal on guidance today about airborne transmission from the CDC. They posted, then they took -- and they then took down. There's belief that there's some political interference there. I mean, do you -- do you -- what is your current posture towards these agencies in the federal government, whether the FDA, the CDC, all of HHS, which appeared to have sort of been taken over from the top by these sort of political appointees to push the science in the direction of the presence messaging. What does that mean for our ability to crush the virus, as you said?

PELOSI: Well, I think it's sinful, really. It's immoral. The president wants politics to determine how we approach the virus, not science. I have tremendous support for the science at the FDA. They're working 24/7, some of the best minds in the country to make sure that we will have a safe and effective vaccine when that is ready, not one day before, not one day after, just as soon as it is ready.

I think the CDC has been totally discredited. Thank you, President Trump, for discrediting the Center for Disease Control, which is the prevention agency just stop the spread. But you think it's a hoax, and it's going to stop, miraculously by some magic or something like that, then you have discredited the Center for Disease Control.

And HHS is completely a joke, because that has been taken over politically by the administration. It's such a tragedy because this should be a place where politics has no bearing whatsoever. It's about the health and well-being of the American people. And we are leaders in the world to cooperate with other countries, and yet the President wants to cut that off as well.

Something is very wrong here. Why else would they not have accepted our strategic scientific plan, testing, tracing, treatment, separation, sanitation, wearing face masks? Why would they have turned that into the tragedy that it is 200,000 people? Would we say them all? No, I'm not saying that, but we would have saved men.


PELOSI: And we -- and we can make a difference to save some as we go. Forgetting -- do you want more to forget what went before? Let's talk about how we go forward to save lives. Because I'm going to tell you, many of these people now have a pre-existing medical condition, millions more than you had it before. You talked about it earlier. So now you have many more people.

They take away the pre-existing medical condition, they -- with their fast track for something that should be serious. Take a deep breath. We've had a loss. OK, now let's prepare for the future. This is a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court. This isn't a casual filling in an office for a short, unexpired term.

HAYES: Yes. So why should we treat the court that way, in such a frivolous way? But nonetheless, the President doesn't care. He doesn't care. Now, it would be interesting to see, because in our house, we have such beautiful diversity, and so do the states that some of these senators have to run in? They'll be hearing from some of that diversity.

HAYES: Speaker Nancy Pelosi, it's always great to talk to you. And thank you again for bearing with us through those technical difficulties. I appreciate it.

PELOSI: My pleasure. No problem. Thank you so much. Thank you.

HAYES: All right, ahead of what will be one of the most litigated elections ever. The President is counting on the courts to deliver him another four years. Dahlia Lithwick on the looming legitimacy crisis just ahead.



TRUMP: We should act quickly because we're going to have probably election things involved here, you know, because of the fake ballots that they'll be sending out. It's a terrible situation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, you can have a time -- so Mr. President, you can't have a tie at the Supreme Court?

TRUMP: Well, we don't want to have a tie. No, we don't.


HAYES: That was the president on Trump T.V. this morning making it very clear that part of the reason he wants a new Supreme Court Justice as quickly as possible is so that they can help invalidate ballots cast by Democrats so that Trump can stay in office even voters don't want him to.

Here to talk about the stakes in the upcoming spring court fight and Trump's use of the courts for political gain, I'm joined now by Dahlia Lithwick, legal correspondent and senior editor at Slate. Dahlia, it's great to see you. And there's a lot of reasons that, you know, this is sort of an incredibly monumental moment, but the specific idea of the court rules in this election, there's 300 lawsuits that are working their way through different jurisdictions, and now you've got Trump saying in Minnesota over the weekend, like, the federal judges are going to help us fight, like, get the winner on election night, which means invalidating ballots. Like they're very clear they want their judges to help get rid of ballots so that they can win.

DAHLIA LITHWICK, LEGAL CORRESPONDENT AND SENIOR EDITOR, SLATE: Yes, it's very elegant. Trump picks the judges and the judges pick Trump. I mean, that seems to be the logic, and it's very found checker's logic. It's dispiriting, I think, for voters to think that it's that clear. But that certainly is what the President believes.

And I guess it's worth flagging the fact that having seated a quarter of federal bench, you know, hundreds of judges in record time. He's not wrong to assert that the bench is unrecognizable from the one -- from four years ago. And I think he probably believes he got himself that bench and that those judges will pick him.

HAYES: This is why it seems to me that the margin here matters. I mean, we don't know what's going to happen in this election. It might be Trump will win a popular vote majority and carry a bunch of states and there's not going to be any legitimacy question at all in the direction or, you know, Joe Biden wins by 10 points and 400 electoral votes.

The difference between big clear wins and anything in a contestable margin, it seems to me, is just an enormous -- it's black and white difference legitimacy wise.

LITHWICK: That's right. And I think layer over that, that at minimum in 2000, after Bush v. Gore, we had, I think both sides willing to say, we're going to accept the judgment of the courts and the Supreme Court. I think now you have a really dangerous legitimacy problem where you have at least one side saying, whatever happens if we don't win, that means the election was stolen.

And Trump's been feeding that ground, and he's been ably assisted by Bill Barr who's making the same claims. And I think that has created an incentive for Democrats to say, we're not going to concede this under any set of facts, whatever we learned after 200o. One thing we learned is we're not going to roll over this time.

And so, I think the legitimacy crisis that you're mentioning of what happens in the court than if the margins are narrow, is absolutely I think exponentially increased by the legitimacy crisis of both sides think this election may be stolen, and now the possibility that the Supreme Court and the courts themselves are in on the action.

HAYES: Well, that's what's so preposterous to me about it. You see, you know, Ted Cruz have this sort of chin-stroking justification saying, you know, before for time, the Supreme Court could be bad for everything if we have election litigation. It's like, well, if you push through a person so that you can deliver a non-Roberts 5-4 majority to hand a favorable ruling to Donald Trump, it doesn't really help if on the legitimacy of it. It helps you retain power, but that doesn't really help with like the underlying issue.

LITHWICK: This is the same Ted Cruz four years ago, Chris, who was saying, I'll keep a 4-4- court forever, right?

HAYES: Even if Hillary Clinton is elected, he was on the record saying, I'm not going to -- I'm not going to vote -- she's not going to get a Supreme Court justice as long as she serves, if I have anything to say about it.

LITHWICK: Yes. But it's a different time, so yes.

HAYES: Right. The other -- the other question to me here is just like, what it does more broadly to the court and how the court views itself, right? I mean, I think that the Bush v. Gore was traumatizing for the court as an institution in many ways. I think John Roberts would like to avoid something like that.

I think a really nasty, hard-fought, and rushed confirmation right before an election, and then that person sitting on cases about the election looks -- like, he worked very hard, John Roberts, this year to do what he can to be like, hey, liberals, this is not -- we're not your enemy here. Like, you can trust this institution. And I feel like that can all be thrown out the window very easily over the next 45 days.

LITHWICK: I agree. And I think that John Roberts sort of pollster this term was to keep the court off the front pages for all but those last two weeks in July. And that meant keeping these unseemly conversations, by the way, about court reform and structural reform, and court-packing. All of it was out of the headlines. It's all back with a vengeance.

And the one other thing I would add is that John Roberts now has no good options here. Anything that happens now, bad. Bad for him, bad for the court.

HAYES: Yes, Dahlia Lithwick, always great to hear from you. Thank you so much form making time tonight.

LITHWICK: Thanks, Chris.

HAYES: That is ALL IN on this Monday night. "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.

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


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