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Transcript: All In with Chris Hayes, September 28, 2020

Guests: David Cay Johnston; Adam Davidson, Stacey Abrams, Susan Rice, Melissa Murray


"The New York Times" published an investigative piece on President Trump's wealth based on a trove of confidential tax returns and financial records which detailed alleged tax fraud on Trump's inheritance and reveals his massive debts. President Trump's loan and other debts total to $421 million and mostly due within four years. Dr. Anthony Fauci sounds alarm on COVID uptick in 21 states as the U.S. sees the highest daily case total since August.




CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Tonight on ALL IN. 36 days from Election Day, 24 hours in the first debate, and we finally know why Donald Trump is hiding his tax returns.

Tonight, David Cay Johnston and Adam Davidson on whether this President is a tax cheat and awful business person, or both.

Former Obama national security adviser on what the danger of a president that is this exposed is, and Stacey Abrams on a faux populace president who doesn't pay federal taxes.

And why the President tying his Supreme Court pick to his toxic attack on American healthcare is a gift for Democrats, when ALL IN starts right now.


HAYES: Good evening from New York. I'm Chris Hayes. Well, we've got the President's taxes. We have a lot of them at least. I imagine, if you're watching this show right now, you knew that already. But we're going to talk about what they show. One thing that is really clear from the New York Times, which of course broke this just amazing, remarkable reporting over the weekend. I'm still kind of in awe that this happened.

And one of the big takeaways from this is that there is a non-trivial chance that if Donald Trump loses the election, if he can't find some way to stay in office, that he ends up living out the rest of his days in prison. And that kind of calculus, the depths of desperation that he must feel, well, that would make someone incredibly dangerous.

Remember, it was just a week ago, the Manhattan district attorney Cy Vance said, there are grounds to investigate the president and his businesses for tax fraud. Michael Cohen, his fixer, is on the record saying that Trump was engaged in it. In fact, Cy Vance is investigating Donald Trump for that right now. And again, there's a lot in The Times report that suggest they could have a very strong case.

I mean, Trump's taxes are dirty secret he's been desperate to conceal, for good reason. It exposes the president as either literally one of the worst businessman ever, like record-setting -- like Mount Olympus of terrible businessman or a cheat criminal, or some of both.

And just to take a step back, you might remember that back in 2018, right before the midterms, The New York Times published a huge investigative piece on the President's wealth based on a trove of confidential tax returns and financial records they obtain, which detailed alleged tax fraud on Trump's inheritance.

In fact, The Times just came out and said, look, this is fraud. And now, just 36 days before the election, the Times has an even more explosive report. This one based on more than two decades of Trump's tax returns, the thing that everyone's been trying to get, Congress, reporters.

The documents it is based on coming from sources who appear to have legal access to it. The Times vouches for that. And the piece that the Times published is over 10,000 words long. And what we've learned is both incredibly revealing and humiliating for the president, not to mention politically toxic.

Remember, there's a reason that Donald Trump fought the release of his tax returns always Supreme Court. Now, much of what is in them has been revealed on the eve of his first debate with Joe Biden, who he is down more than eight points to nationally, and with his only major legislative accomplishment in office being, drumroll, the passage of a hugely unpopular tax bill that cut taxes for rich people in corporations, and did virtually nothing for anyone else.

Well, here's what we now know about the self-proclaimed billionaire who thought rich people needed a tax break. "Donald J. Trump payments $750 in federal income taxes in the year he won the presidency. In his first year in the White House, he paid another $750. He paid no income taxes at all in 10 of the previous 15 years largely because he reported losing much more money than he made.

$750 in federal income taxes while he's the president in office, barely anything for a guy, of course, who claims to be wildly rich. Now, Trump is disputing the report. He said he paid other taxes but he's still not releasing his own tax returns. We do know a few things for sure. We know that Donald Trump reportedly inherited at least $413 million from his father, Fred Trump, which earlier reporting from the times found that he was able to shield from the government using dubious tax schemes including instances of outright fraud.

We also know he reportedly made even more from his stake in The Apprentice T.V. show more than $427 million according to the times. So when you add those up, like he should be extremely rich. That's two big chunks of $400 million. And while it is hard to know exactly what his financial situation looks like now, even with these tax returns, Trump does seem to be some kind of world historically bad businessman.

But the Times' reporting suggests he squandered his fortune on this incredible series of terrible deals and investments in money-losing properties that absolutely hemorrhage money. Now, the only other alternative is that he is engaged in those losses in a level of gaming of the tax system that is so aggressive as to call into question its very legality.

Again, it may be a little Column A, a little Column B. Both could true. We don't know. We do know that Trump was in bad enough financial shape when you decide to run for president in 2015 that according to Times, "It lends some credence to the notion that his long shot campaign was at least in part a gambit to reanimate the marketability of his name.

Now, we're talking about records that span more than two decades, which in addition to revealing that Trump regularly paid little to no income taxes show that he is in a decade long audit battle with the Internal Revenue Service over the legitimacy of a $72.9 million tax refund he claimed and received after declaring huge losses. $73 million refund, it's like a check from the government. The Times noting that an adverse ruling could cost him more than $100 million.

The President is already facing some massive debts that are about to come due. The Times finding he's personally responsible for loans and other debts totaling $421 million with most of it coming due within four years.

Now, it's worth just pausing there for a second to think about that. I mean, the President has these massive financial obligations, personally guaranteed that could present, of course, enormous blackmail or foreign intelligence opportunities. Indeed, earlier today, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Trump's taxes reveals serious national security issue.

We also learned that Trump has made a habit of writing off at least $26 million in unexplained consulting fees including to his daughter, Ivanka Trump, who was treated as a consultant even though she was working for the Trump Organization. Then there are Trump's properties.

While Trump Tower reportedly continues to make money, many of these other buildings, as well as D.C. hotel and golf courses where governments and organizations that want to get in the President's good graces have been known to spend lavishly, they appeared the absolute money pits.

He's reportedly lost nearly $60 million on the Trump International Hotel in D.C., over $162 million on Trump national Doral, his largest Golf Resort, more than $63 million on his golf courses in Europe. And the Trump Corporation, his real estate services company, has reported losing $134 million since the year 2000.

Again, this is what Trump is reporting for tax purposes. So, we don't know right? It's hard to know what is true. But he used those losses to avoid paying much in the way of federal income taxes even as he lived a cartoonishly lavish lifestyle. So much about the situation, obviously, it's just utterly unprecedented. There are a ton of questions unresolved here as the Times' story itself says.

And here to sort through some of them, I'm joined first by investigative journalist David Cay Johnston. He won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on loopholes and inequities in the U.S. tax code. That was his beat. He's the editor and co-founder of D.C. Report, author of It's Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration is Doing to America.

As soon as this broke, David, I wanted to talk to you. And here's the first question I have for you. Like, rich people get away with murder and the tax code all the time. You know, Mitt Romney paid a very, very low effective rate. When he had to disclose his taxes, he had like an IRA that were -- or a 401K that was like worth $1 million which made no sense. There's all sorts of like weird gaming.

This strikes me as a whole other universe level of like abnormality. What is your reaction to it? How should we think about it?

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: Well, first of all, I understand that America has two income tax systems separate and equal. One is for workers and pensioners and others whose income is verified by the government. And you can't cheat in that system and you have to pay your taxes before you get your money.

The other system is for the owners of private businesses like Donald Trump. They tell the government what they say they made, they pay what they say they owe. And unless they're audited, the government accepts that. And we're down to auditing less than three percent of people with half-million-dollar to multi-billion dollar incomes. There's half a million of those people in America.

We fired a third of IRS auditors in the last 10 years (AUDIO GAP). And that's the first element. Donald operates in this system that encourages cheating. But the second is, Donald has a long history of tax cheating. Remember, as I told on the show before, he had two income tax fraud trials over his 1984 income tax returns. these were civil fraud, not criminal fraud. He forged the tax return document. His own witness, his own tax lawyer, testified that it was a forgery. He was lucky he wasn't criminally prosecuted.

The New York Times, in this brilliant project two years ago, didn't beat around the bush. They said he committed tax fraud. And there are plenty of badges of fraud in the documents described in today's New York Times. I think it's very clear that Donald Trump is a serial massive, calculated tax cheater.

HAYES: So, let's talk about the badgers in front of me. I mean, the thing that jumps out at me are just the losses, right. Like, you know, real estate is sort of legendarily a place where people can book a lot of losses and carry them forward, and they also carry a lot of debt. And between the two of them, they could get out of paying a lot of taxes.

But the level of the losses here, the Trump International Hotel $55.5 million, Doral $162 million, the golf courses in Europe $63 million, Trump Corporation -- like, it just looks like all they're doing is losing a ton of money. Is it possible that's true?

JOHNSTON: Well, that's a very good question. Did they fabricate losses which Donald did and it's what led to the 90 -- the trials over his 1984 taxes. Secondly, Donald is an awful businessman. I mean, there's plenty of record on that going back to when I first started covering him in the late 1980s.

He's terrible -- he's not a businessman. Businessmen create well. Donald is a cash extractor. Once he's bled a place dry, he dumps it and leaves all the mess. But these may not be real losses. These may, in fact, be part of a scheme involving money. So where is it?

HAYES: Wait, explain that further?

JOHNSTON: Well, if these are fabricated losses, if these places really didn't lose that kind of money -- and notice that the golf courses, there isn't much of a real estate deduction and golf course, because you can't deduct land, you can only deduct buildings. So, where -- if these are real losses, he's an absolutely awful businessman. But I don't have any confidence that they're real losses because of Donald's past history of fabricating losses.

And if they are fabricated, if he made up $1.4 billion of tax deductions for 2008 and 2009 -- not million, billion for those two years, way out of scale to his business and his income, then there's something else going on with his money. And we know that Donald is deeply involved with all sorts of criminal elements, particularly in the former Soviet Republic.

HAYES: Right. Final question for you. One of the details that really stuck out to me is this refund. Just as a sort of policy matter, that he used this sort of loophole that was part of the Recovery Act that Barack Obama signed to report these losses when he abandoned a stake in an Atlanta city hotel. And apparently, IRS just like, wrote him a check for $73 million, and then they're auditing it later to see if he deserves it, which just struck me as nuts in every direction.

JOHNSTON: Well, in fact, no individual tax refund of $2 million or more is supposed to be paid unless it's been run by the joint Congressional Committee on Taxation staff. They look at all large refunds. And for one reason or another, this one got paid out. And remember, Michael Cohen in his book, tell us about a $10 million refund. Donald got another year and basically saying, as he does just about everybody, all these people at the IRS, they're idiots. Who would give me a $10 million refund?

This man that they're fighting over goes to the fact that we've slashed the budget to the IRS. We have clearly Congress and presidents have issued orders to lay off of wealthy people in America. And you're seeing the result of that here. He is not unique. In fact, there are more than 500,000 high-income Americans who did not file a tax return in 2014, 15, and 16, who the IRS is not even pursuing, according to the Inspector General.

HAYES: Wow. That's real pitchfork stuff there, and it's also the reality. David Cay Johnston, thank you so much for being with me. I really, really appreciate it.

JOHNSTON: Thank you.

HAYES: I now want to bring in someone else who's been all over the story, Adam Davidson. He's co-creator of NPR's Planet Money, contributing writer at the New Yorker. And Adam has been closely covering Trump's finances for years. He's reported on a particularly suspect hotel deal that Trump Org struck in Central Asia back in 2017.

Adam, you've been looking at this and thinking about it for a while. What's your sort of first top-line reaction to this?

ADAM DAVIDSON, CONTRIBUTING WRITER, THE NEW YORKER: Well, there's a clear story that comes through, and I thought that data graphics package in the Times was so clear on this, which is you see up until say 2003-ish, Trump has this inflow of money from his dad. He puts it into businesses that end up very few of them being profitable.

Then, he has this inflow of money, as you said, from The Apprentice. He puts those into some businesses, very few end up being profitable. What I really, really hope people focus on is what happens after 2011 when, for the most part, the money from his dad as long dried up, the money from The Apprentice is all but dried up, but Trump's spending rapidly grows dramatically, more than ever before, hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars. This is all the golf courses.

And the Times has a little sentence in there saying, oh, he spent the Apprentice money. I will say I'm skeptical of that fact, because that would mean he made a lot of money, 2006, 2007, saved it, and then decided in 2011, 12, 13 to spend it all on money-losing golf courses. That doesn't seem like who he is or consistent with any practice.

I think what we're seeing is that one source of money, his dad, he had a second source of money which is Mark Burnett and The Apprentice, and now he has a third source of money and we don't know what that source is, but he's not telling. The tax returns don't tell. That's what I think is the big question here. Who is giving him hundreds of millions of dollars?

HAYES: Right, because I don't -- it just doesn't -- like, none of it scans when you look at that Times graphic that shows the crazy acquisitiveness, right. He goes on this buying spree. And it's something that you've been writing and talking about for years, like the golf courses. The golf courses are the kind of big thing that he's doing. It's kind of become the center of the business, and they're not -- like, they don't work as businesses, as far as we can tell. And this seems to confirm that.

DAVIDSON: Yes, exactly. This is complete confirmation by his own account. Now, it is possible he's making a fortune on the golf courses and lying for tax reasons. That seems unlikely because, yes, it's nice to lie about losing money, I guess, if you can pay less taxes. But if you're making a lot of money, it's also -- and your whole brand as being someone who makes a lot of money, it's probably better to let people know you're making a lot of money, even if you end up having to pay more in taxes on it. So I'm skeptical of the idea that these are manufactured losses.

And the Trump Organization has become in the last decade, essentially a golf development company. And the golf resort world is collapsing. It's a terrible, terrible time for any golf resort. But it's so -- and I'll just draw out what I think the evidence suggests, which is that the 2011 money spike coincides with Trump meeting these Azerbaijanis. First, the Mammadov family in Azerbaijan, and the (INAUDIBLE) family from Moscow. And both of those families are known to have been laundering hundreds of millions of dollars through other golf courses.

So we have Trump not having money, suddenly spending a fortune on an entirely new line of business, a crazy type of spending, unprecedented in his career and in the field of golf, just as he's meeting people who are also spending hundreds of millions of dollars specifically to launder money through golf. So, to me, that is where I would be looking for.

HAYES: When you put it that way -- yes, there's -- I mean, two plus two, what does it equal? I mean, obviously, we don't -- that's not determined. And we should be clear that like, that's one of the things the Time says, right? Like, there are still, even with this -- with these returns, like there's a bunch of unasked -- unanswered questions. But that -- the plausibility of that scenario, you know, it strikes me as a pretty important takeaway here.

Adam Davidson, again, who has been doing great reporting on this for years now, thank you for making some time for us tonight.

DAVIDSON: Thanks so much, Chris.

HAYES: Next, the first presidential debate is just over 24 hours away, and the secret that President Trump spent years trying to hide has finally come out. I'll talk to Stacey Abrams about it all after this.


HAYES: Took the Biden campaign just a few hours to cut an ad responding to the New York Times extraordinary report that Trump paid next to nothing in federal income taxes his first year as President.

Now, Trump paying almost nothing in taxes is I think we can say fairly not an electoral game-changer, but it is worth considering that it is also pretty politically toxic. I mean, no one really remembers this anymore but it is a fact that the lowest approval ratings of Trump's entire presidency came not after Charlottesville or amidst the pandemic with tens of thousands of people dying, but in December 2017, after Republicans passed a tax cut bill for corporations and rich people.

And now, the Biden campaign is well aware that they have been handed a golden opportunity right before the first debate to hammer Trump and the GOP's efforts to make it so that the rich do not pay their fair share.

To talk more about the larger takeaways here, I'm joined by Stacey Abrams, founder of Fair Fight Action, co-founder of the Southern Economic Advancement Project. I thought that that ad from Biden was interesting, and I thought sort of an indicator of where you might see the message tomorrow on this debate, which is Trump does all sorts of things that are outrageous or heinous or offensive, but there's sort of a category of things that relate back to what he does as president substantively that to me always seemed to cut deeper when you're in an election. And this seems to be an example that I'm curious what you think.

STACEY ABRAMS, CO-FOUNDER, FAIR FIGHT ACTION: I think it signals once again that Trump doesn't care about everyday Americans, whether it's stealing their health care by putting Amy Barrett on the Supreme Court, pursuing during the midst of a pandemic an attempt to eviscerate the healthcare that millions of Americans depend on, refusing to pay his fair share, lying about it to the public for four years. He doesn't actually care about everyday Americans.

And in contrast, Joe Biden does. Joe Biden, as a grown up, always focusing on how we can help others, what he needs to do to serve. And Donald Trump service is never been part of the product.

HAYES: You know, it's interesting, I was watching -- I was watching some NFL football this weekend, and there was a few Trump national ad buys. And one of them was just a sort of roundtable of folks, you know, everyday Americans saying like Trump cares about people like me.

One of the women says, Trump cares about people like me, and it's it cracks me up a little because it's one of these classic polling things I'm sure you've experienced as a candidate, right? Like, cares about people like me is one of these definitive polling questions. And when I saw that ad, I just thought, oh, they must be upside down on that question in their own internal polling and are trying to get on the right side of.

ABRAMS: Absolutely. I mean, look at his schedule for the past week. He flew down to Georgia to pretend that he cared about black people. He has spent millions of dollars trying to pretend he cares about the lives of those he's ignored through COVID. And he is scrambling to come up with an excuse for why he hasn't invested in the United States.

This is someone who likely spent more money supporting Indiana -- I mean, supporting India with his tax dollars that he has Indiana. And that's not a way to win an election. It's more worse. It's not a way to govern a country or to be an American.

HAYES: Let me ask you this. I'm going to ask you for an honest answer, which I hope you give me and it's this. You -- you've been through some tight races. You've been -- you've been in politics for a long time. You've been in some very tight races. You had a very close and very difficult race in 2018. I think that, you know, if you came from Mars and you looked at this election, you look to the polling, you would say like the incumbents in a lot of trouble. He's -- like, the country is in very bad shape and he's pulling down.

But there's a lot of anxiety I think among Democrats and people in the sort of broad center-left anti-Trump. Do you feel anxiety? Like what are -- what are you feeling as you're -- as you're surveying the landscape right now?

ABRAMS: I don't feel anxiety because my first admonition to everyone is don't panic. We were living through 2020 which is the year of panic, the year of crazed insanity that is only juxtaposed by more crazy or more insanity. But we've also survived for years of a Trump administration. And we had into this election, not with the sort of glib notion that we can win over the understanding, we're in a battle.

We are against an opponent who lies, cheats, and steals, leading a party that lies, cheats, and steals. They are trying to lie about this election. They're trying to cheat voters out of their opportunities, and they're trying to steal the future. And I don't have anxiety because I know I'm doing everything in my power to push back.

But what makes me more sanguine than many is that I know that we are more well organized than we have ever been, that we have people who are voting early, that in Georgia, we are seeing hundreds of thousands of African Americans who were told you don't vote by mail, showing up trying to get those ballots. Young people who've been counted out (AUDIO GAP) applying for ballots, getting ready to vote, signing up to be poll workers. And so I'm not optimistic or pessimistic. I'm determined and I believe we're prepared.

HAYES: You know, when I was in -- back in 2008, I did a story for the nation magazine as a young reporter about the math in Georgia and the Obama administration -- the Obama campaign, which at that time was looking at Georgia as possible swing state. And then I did a story with you for ALL IN, I think it was probably back in 2014, on a -- on a similar sort of thing about what the math is.

The polling right now is really wild out of Georgia. I got to say, like, reliably this is showing essentially a dead heat. The most recent had Trump up one point. We've seen like ties. Like, are you a believer about how contest -- I mean, the polling suggests this is a very, very close state. Does that sound right to you from where you stand?

ABRAMS: I've been a believer since you and I met. What I've always said is that demography isn't destiny, it's opportunity. And we're watching Joe Biden take advantage of this opportunity. He's building on the eight-point race that was Obama, the five-point race that was Hillary Clinton. My race was 1.4 points against the man running the election.

And we are watching Joe Biden making critical investments in the state, talking about the issues that matter, keeping attention focused not on insanity and chaos coming out of the White House, but instead on the plans for recovery and for renewal of our country. Joe Biden is the right antidote and Georgia is exactly the right place.

We can deliver not only 16 electoral college votes, we can deliver to U.S. Senate seats, add another person into this -- into Congress, and we can do all of this while flipping the State House in the state of Georgia. Georgia is a battleground state. We proved it last -- we proved it in 2018 with an incredibly tight race. We proved it by sending (INAUDIBLE) back to Congress. And we're going to prove it again on Election Day and during this election season.

HAYES: Yes, it's great. Eight points, five points, 1.4 is a great thing. And it tracks -- that that's how -- Texas and Arizona move in similar directions over this period of time. There's a lot of things happening in the states that is cause for concern if you're Republican. Stacey Abrams, thank you so much for making time tonight.

Don't go anywhere. Hear what former National Security Adviser Susan Rice says are the biggest threats when you're a president who could be in hundreds of millions of dollars in debt. She joins me next.



LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: What is your reaction to that debt that the President has?

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), VICE-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I mean, Lawrence, this is why the American people deserve to have a full accounting of the financial interest including the indebtedness of the President of the United States. And I -- and I do share that concern. Who does he owe the money to? Tell us, who do you owe the money to?

And do you owe debt to any foreign nation? Do you owe -- you know, do you owe debt? Do you owe money? Let's just be clear about what debt means. You owe somebody money. Do you owe anybody money? Who is impacted by any decision you make as President of the United States?

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): This president appears to have over $400 million in debt -- 420, whatever it is, million dollars in debt. To whom, different countries? What is the leverage they have? So for me, this is a national security question.


HAYES: A massive report published yesterday by the New York Times shed a lot of light on Donald Trump's tax practices over more than two decades. It also leaves a lot of questions unanswered. Speaker Nancy Pelosi laid out earlier today one of the most important ones of what it means the country and our national security if the President has hundreds of millions of dollars in debt coming due within four years.

To help us break all this down, I want to bring in someone who worked at the highest levels of American national security, Susan Rice, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, former national security adviser to President Barack Obama. I think that when we think about the debt here, it's worthwhile thinking about -- I've seen a lot of people talk about their security clearance processes. There's sort of two questions. One, who owes the debt to, and we do know a bunch of that is personally guaranteed to folks like Deutsche Bank and others.

But the debt itself as a lever for mischief from entities that have some interest in the United States is something that anyone who goes through security clearance has to deal with, right?

SUSAN RICE, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: Absolutely, Chris. One of the most important things that the FBI in the background checks look into is are you potentially beholden to anybody or any entity, any country that could use that leverage against the interests of the United States and our national security in order to extort or exploit or otherwise manipulate you.

And debt, indebtedness is one of those very serious things that causes alarms to go off. And in this case, with over $400 million, owed to God knows who in what countries around the world, when we know from Donald Trump's own children that they have said publicly in the past that many of the loans and money they've gotten have come from Russia, that might begin to start to explain all of the crazy behavior we've seen out of Donald Trump over the last four-plus years.

It is very much a national security concern from a, you know, security clearance point of view, but also, as you heard Senator Harris say, you know, for the reason that we don't know who has leverage over him.

HAYES: You know, you mentioned -- you mentioned Russia, and it's always struck me that even before we got this sort of amazing reporting by the New York Times, the President has been very public about the Saudis particularly. His children have talked about the Russian. These are two, you know, these are two countries that have a lot of people with a lot of money, that have a lot of liquid assets they're trying to park in other places, and sometimes launder.

And the President said like, "I love the Saudis. They buy lots of toys from Trump. What am I going to do, treat them poorly?" And also to countries the President has bent over backwards as President of the United States to, you know, make nice to, even, you know, essentially saving Mohammed bin Salman when he had American paper -- newspaper columnist murdered.

RICE: Yes, this is very concerning. I mean, Donald Trump's friends, the people that he loves and lauds and protects around the world are some of the most odious leaders and dictators that one can find. And what we now know is that he is -- got debt to the Philippines where the dictator Duterte is in charge, he's got debt to Turkey, he's got debt to a number of places and many of which we may not know of.

In his embrace of Mohammed bin Salman, for all of his human rights abuses, for all of his nefarious behaviors, and in particular, for his culpability in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, an American resident, and then for Donald Trump to brag as he did to Bob Woodward about how he got (INAUDIBLE) free, is really extraordinary.

There's nothing about that that serves America's national interests or our values. So, you won't have to wonder why is Donald Trump so beholden to Mohammed bin Salman the Saudis and Vladimir Putin, and so many others?

HAYES: I know that in the past, you've prepped the president for foreign policy parts of debates, obviously, briefed and prepped the present and other facilities as well. But as Joe Biden heads into the debate tomorrow, I do wonder how you think about American seeing this moment in sort of international context, because it has been such a brutal year and the crises that we all face and experience are so close to home, you know, staying safe, and holding on to jobs and getting kids through school. How American voters are thinking about our role in the world at this moment?

RICE: I think American voters who are focused on our international standing have to be extraordinarily dismayed. Poll after poll shows that our allies don't trust us, that our --the competence and approval of the people of our NATO partners is in the gutter. And yet more importantly, we are not seeing out of the President the leadership that we need to keep us safe.

National security is about keeping the American people safe. And we have lost over 200,000 Americans to COVID-19, and the vast majority of whom we have lost in substantial measure, because the President of the United States has failed in his leadership. He's lied to the American people about the virus and its severity, and he has done very little to nothing to have a plan to get ahead of this.

We still don't have testing straight, we still don't have preparations in place for when flue converges with COVID, our kids aren't in school in many parts of the country, and our economy has suffered enormously with over 30 million Americans out of work. That is failed leadership, and that is a national security concern, as it even overlaps with the domestic simultaneously.

HAYES: You know, it's striking that you say that. You know, there's been reporting in Bob Woodward's book that Robert O'Brien, the National Security Advisor, has positioned that you once held with Barack Obama, you know, warn Trump in I think January, this will be the most intense national security crisis you face. And it's striking to me how much we conceptualize national security in this country about what the military does and, you know, 9/11, and attacks, and violence visited to us by others that we have to defend militarily, when we have lost more people to this than many wars going back. It says something about how we even conceive of that term national security.

RICE: Well, you're right, Chris. But it's been a while since, you know, we've had very traditionalist old school conceptions of national security. Certainly, in the Obama administration, we understood the threat of pandemic disease to be a very serious national security threat. We learned that through the H1N1 pandemic -- flu pandemic, through Ebola. The Bush administration understood it too. They had dealt with a major flu global pandemic.

And you know, issues like disease, like climate change, like proliferation, these transnational challenges that don't respect borders that may not come in the form of a barrel of a gun pointed at us by a hostile adversary, there's still national security threats. And one of the big problems with President Trump is he has refused to understand the world that we live in, the nature of the threats we face, and done nothing, absolutely nothing, when mostly (INAUDIBLE) to defend us.

HAYES: Susan Rice is also -- Susan Rice is also the author of Tough Love: My Story of the Things Worth Fighting For. Thank you so much for joining us tonight.

RICE: Good to be with you, Chris. Thank you.

HAYES: Just ahead, why the president tying a Supreme Court pick to his attack on the Affordable Care Act could end up being a political gift for Democrats. Melissa Murray on the battle for healthcare coming up.



ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASE: As we get into the fall and the winter, you really want the level of community spread to be as low as you possibly get it. There are states that are starting to show uptick in cases and even some increase in hospitalizations in some states. And I hope not but we very well might start seeing increases in deaths.


HAYES: Today, the nation's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, was sounding the alarm about what might be coming our way after the U.S. hit its highest new case number in a month, logging nearly 56,000 new cases on Friday. There's reason to think that it is beginning to look like we are headed into a possible third wave as cases rise in as many as 21 states.

But even with cases on the rise and the fall and winter months approaching, Republican governors and states that have seen horrible infection rates are taking steps to basically declare everything open, essentially telling people to just go back to normal before times life.

The Republican governor of Indiana is pushing ahead but the final phase of reopening, meaning retail stores, malls, restaurants, bars and nightclubs can operate at full capacity even though new cases are starting to tick back up and the state is reporting nearly 1,000 new cases a day.

And in Florida, Republican governor Ron DeSantis announced last week that he's lifting all state restrictions on bars and restaurants. Again, we know these are sources of infection. Here's what reopening looks like in Florida. This is a bar in Fort Lauderdale. And it looks like a time machine sometime before this pandemic until you get to the bartender in the bar back with face shields and masks. The World Health Organization says five percent positivity rate for two weeks is the threshold to reopen. Well, Florida's rate is currently at 10.62 percent.

Look, I hope we get lucky this time around, but we've already seen what happens under these conditions particularly with bars and it is not good. How many people are going to get sick and die because politicians like Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump think pretending the virus is done with us is worth more than politically than your health and your life.



JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yesterday, before Justice Ginsburg could be laid to rest and after 100 thousands of Americans had already cast their ballots, the President nominated a successor to her seat.

It's no mystery about what's happening here. President Trump is trying to throw out the Affordable Care Act. He's been trying to do it for the last four years. The Republican Party has been trying to eliminate it for a decade. Twice already in the supreme --the Supreme Court has upheld that law, the Affordable Care Act.


HAYES: Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and many other Democrats have been very, very focused about the stakes of the Supreme Court fight. As the court prepares to hear the Trump administration's argument to strike down all the ACA, the destruction of the Affordable Care Act amidst a one-century pandemic is very much a live issue. That is what Democrats want this fight to be about, and they are getting help from Republicans.

This weekend, this really blew me away, Utah Republican Senator Mike Lee came on and said -- came on T.V. and called the ACA unconstitutional and said that "the fact that Congress chose to enact an unconstitutional law shouldn't tarnish Judge Barrett in this, meaning if she were to vote to strike it down.

The President has been saying the quiet part loud, as he often does, tweeted that "terminating the Affordable Care Act will be a "big win."" That is just about the most politically toxic thing you can express at this moment, and yet terminating the ACA is exactly what Amy Coney Barrett is very likely to help do if she gets on the Supreme Court.

To talk about that, I'm joined by Melissa Murray, professor of constitutional law at the New York University School of Law. Melissa, this focus on the ACA is interesting to me because I think Democrats often have a hard time, independent of abortion specifically, kind of focusing people's attention on the kind of substantive policy real world stakes of the court, and the ACA seems a very obvious one. What do you make of it given the court is going to hear this argument just a week after Election Day?

MELISSA MURRAY, PROFESSOR, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY OF LAW: Well, the stakes could not be more concrete for the American people. And certainly the time couldn't be more pressing. As you said, President Trump vowed from the outset that he would repeal the ACA, but he also said he would replace it. We haven't seen any sort of plans for replacing it, but we do know that this particular nomination is part of the plan to actually repeal it.

And to be clear, it is a repeal that the President could not accomplish through ordinary legislative means. This is not a factor of majoritarian politics, so instead, he's turning to the courts. And this is the very essence of minority rule, something you could not do that the House and Senate, you are instead doing through a court that is not democratically elected, but nonetheless enjoys life tenure, and will be together on the bench for a very long time without being accountable to the people.

HAYES: Yes. I mean, I should say, I have no idea if she's confirmed, how Amy Coney Barrett would vote on this. I don't think anyone knows exactly what -- who would vote which way, although there's a few predictions you can make. You're sort of like shaking your head like no, you have a good idea.

I mean, I guess the question is, at one level, it seems to me -- and again, I'm not a lawyer. The case is so weak and preposterous and ludicrous that like it obviously shouldn't work, but who knows, I guess.

MURRAY: I mean, again, all it takes us five votes to win. And while you are correct, we don't have a clear sense of what Judge Barrett has done with regard to the ACA from her time on the Seventh Circuit. We do have her writing as a law professor and she said that her judicial philosophy really tracks that of her mentor, Justice Scalia. And Justice Scalia famously referred to the ACA as "SCOTUS care."

And in an article, she said that Chief Justice Roberts' decision to vote with the liberals to uphold the ACA in 2012 was pushing the law beyond its possible limits, that it went a far foul of Congress's limits within the Constitution. So I think she's already made clear that at the very least, she is skeptical of the ACA and Congress' power to enact a universal health care law.

HAYES: The other thing that just seems squarely now called as a question, and you and I spoke on the night that just Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died about this, is Roe. You know, there's a very strange kind of Groundhog's Day feeling sometimes where I think that, you know, it's very clear, there's a very mobilized vanguard of conservatives in this country that want Roe to be overturned -- who both want Roe to be overturned, are very excited about a justice they think might deliver that, but also have to tell you that you're crazy if you think Roe is going to be overturned. Like, don't you worry your pretty little head about it.

But that just seems not tenable here. I mean, this is someone who has probably come as close as possible just saying that Roe is wrongly decided as you could and still be, you know, confirmed to be a judge.

MURRAY: No, I think that's right. And she's been very clear that she views abortion as a moral -- as a personal matter. Now, that may not say anything about how she would vote as a jurist, but she's certainly evinced some skepticism about abortion and about the prospects of the court following its past rulings. Her decisions on Stare Decisis and her writings about Stare Decisis don't necessarily track Justice Scalia, but rather track Justice Thomas, who on the court is probably the most far out in terms of his views of the courts obligation to follow its past precedents. And her views line up more with Clarence Thomas on that respect.

HAYES: Yes, it's a really good point. That's the thing that she wrote in a 2013 article. She says, the public response to controversial cases like row reflects public rejection of the proposition, the precedent to declare a permanent victor in a divisive constitutional struggle rather than desire that precedent remain forever unchanging.

Basically, like, you don't get to just say, well, it's been there for 40 years, and this is precedent. And that's -- that says something profound about how someone might approach this extremely fraught question.

MURRAY: She will surely be pressed on this in the confirmation hearing. She was pressed on it when she was a nominee to the Seventh Circuit, and she managed to dodge saying that as a potential nominee to an appellate court, she wouldn't be in a position to overrule precedent. She would be bound by it. But, obviously, on the Supreme Court, the stakes are entirely different. And she would have an opportunity to not only decide whether or not to follow precedent, but to completely overrule it.

HAYES: That's a great -- that's a great point. That answer is not available anymore when you -- when you get up to SCOTUS. Melissa Murray, always a pleasure to talk to you. Thanks for your time tonight.

That is ALL IN for 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. And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy Monday. Happy to have you with us tonight.


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