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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, 1/19/2021

Guest: Amy Klobuchar

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: That is ALL IN on this Tuesday night.

"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now.

Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Let`s never do this four years again, huh, Chris.

HAYES: Please, please, please, please. You know, I had a thought. In the statue garden, Grover Cleveland, the only president to lose and be re- elected again, and I thought, ugh, is that why he`s in there? Grover Cleveland? Who`s a big Grover Cleveland fan? But, anyway.

MADDOW: Did you see the reporting tonight in "The Wall Street Journal" that Trump is now talking to people about forming a third-party, a patriot party?

HAYES: Sure, did.

MADDOW: I thought, well, the one really, really, really bright silver lining to Democrats is that.

HAYES: Yes. Good. Go with God.

MADDOW: Exactly right. Thank you, my friend. Much appreciated.

And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.

Last day, less than the last day. It`s the last night and it feels like a dark night. It is -- it is hard not to feel trepidatious about it now at the end, not only given what we have been through with this presidency, but also just given the terrible way it is ending. For the first time in the history of our country, there has not been a peaceful transfer of power between presidents. And the outgoing president tomorrow will not attend his successor`s inauguration. He and the first lady will not greet the next president and the next first lady and show them around the White House and then ride down to the Capitol together for the swearing in, like even truculent, sour-losing presidents have done in the past. They just won`t do it.

Instead, did you know that president Trump is going to give a speech tomorrow? Seriously. He is leaving not long after dawn, sunrise is 7:23 a.m. tomorrow in Washington, D.C. The outgoing president is throwing himself a good-bye ceremony shortly thereafter, that he is ordering members of the military to attend, which he can do, because in the morning he will still technically be commander in chief.

He will have a couple hundred service members there. They do not have a choice. And he may order one of the military bands to play for him as well. We`ll see.

There has been continuing reporting today the White House is trying quite desperately to get other people who the president cannot order to be there, to nevertheless show up there of their own accord tomorrow morning before he flies off to Florida. They really are apparently just using all their contact lists indiscriminately. Each invitation to the sendoff the president is throwing for himself asks the recipient of the invitation to please bring with them five additional guests.

And they are sending these invitations to everyone they have an email address for, apparently, including, we think by accident, a number of people who the president has loudly denounced as his enemies. People like Anthony Scaramucci, the former White House press secretary for five minutes. And, John Kelly, former White House chief of staff. Even John Bolton, his former national security adviser, who wrote a whole book about how terrible a President Trump was, who the president then sicced the Justice Department on in response to that book.

But oops, somehow, John Bolton is among those invited to come tomorrow to the president`s -- to the party that the outgoing president is throwing for himself. And please would he bring five friends with him?

So we`ll see how it goes early tomorrow. The president is leaving the White House roughly at dawn. We are advised that he really is planning on giving a speech, possibly kind of a long one, at this event that he is throwing for himself at Andrews Air Base. There`s a reason why former presidents don`t give speeches on their successor`s inauguration day, right? But, yeah, that`s what we are getting from the outgoing president.

Because Mr. Trump is then just leaving and flying to Florida, rather than taking any part in the inaugural ceremonies in Washington, responsibility is going to fall to the White House usher to welcome President Biden and the new first lady, Dr. Jill Biden, to the White House, once Joe Biden is sworn in tomorrow at noon. The usher has to do it because the departing president won`t.

You know, I have found myself thinking over the past week or so -- if Mr. Trump could have seen into the future to this day, if in 2015 he was thinking about running for president, if he could have seen -- picked one day in the future, picked this day, the final day of his presidency, to know what it was going to be like this day, to know what he would have wrought and brought down upon himself by this day, do you think he would have run in the first place? I mean, honestly. Don`t think about how he thinks about the country, we still don`t understand that, but we know how he thinks about himself and his own interests.

And he is leaving office with the main legitimately open question on the last day and the last night of his presidency being, will he try to pardon himself? To avoid future federal prosecution and potential federal imprisonment for his crimes? He is leaving office tomorrow with this conundrum of how he`s going to keep himself out of prison. He couldn`t even pull a Richard Nixon in the end, because apparently he does not trust that his vice president would pardon him if he resigned, like Ford at least did for Nixon. He couldn`t even count on that because he can`t trust his vice president to do that for him, not after he sicced a murderous mob on his vice president less than two weeks ago in the "hang Mike Pence" attack on the Capitol that he directly incited.

The president leaves office with his second, his second Senate impeachment trial still pending. No president has ever been convicted in a Senate impeachment trial. Donald Trump stands a real chance of it, though.

He leaves office with his campaign chairman and his deputy campaign chairman convicted felons, with his most longstanding political adviser, Roger Stone, a convicted felon. With his campaign manager, Steve Bannon, under federal indictment and awaiting trial. With the criminal investigation of himself and his business under way in New York, possibly another criminal investigation pending against him soon in the state of Georgia.

With the last two banks on earth that would still do business with him pledging now to never do so again. One of them closing his accounts and calling on him to resign the presidency. The other one is the one to which he has personally guaranteed over $300 million in outstanding loans, which are soon coming due, with no one having any sense of how he will possibly pay them.

With his business interests cratering at home and across the globe, with a live question in play whether he will be the first president to ever face a lifetime legal ban on him ever running for office again. With even his wife leaving Washington with an approval rating nearly 20 points lower than any other first lady in history. She`s the only first lady in history to be viewed on balance negatively by the American public. That`s like a physical impossibility, but he`s managed it somehow.

His long-time fixer and lawyer is also not only now a convicted felon, he`s one who has cooperated and is cooperating in an ongoing way with multiple ongoing investigations into the president, including the criminal bank fraud and tax fraud one that is ongoing in New York.

His niece is suing him to get the inheritance she says he stole from her. He`s soon going to be deposed in a defamation case brought by a woman who says he raped her and who says she saved a dress with his DNA on it to prove it.

A company that was lined up to broker the sale of his now flagship property, his D.C. hotel that company refuses to be associated with him and will have nothing to do with the sale. The city where he was born and raised and lived his whole life before the White House, New York City, has canceled all its Trump organization contracts. He, of course, in the middle of his one term in office said good riddance to New York and moved to Florida, apparently out of some combination of spite and tax interests.

But even still, his neighbors in Palm Beach, Florida, are asking that town to enforce zoning and tax rules in order to prevent him from actually moving in there full-time. And the PGA won`t put tournaments at his golf courses anymore. And he`s banned from Twitter and Facebook and YouTube, and Instagram.

And apparently they can`t find anyone to come to the sore loser sendoff he`s throwing himself at dawn on his last morning as president at an air base after he was voted out, after only one term. The only president in U.S. history to have ever lost the popular vote twice, to have been impeached twice, the only defeated incumbent president ever to use violence by his supporters to attack the U.S. government to try to force his continued hold on power.

He leaves tomorrow at dawn, slinking out before the inauguration of the man who soundly beat him. He sneaks out early tomorrow as the only president in living memory to face the legitimate prospect of post-presidential conviction in the Senate. And a lifetime ban on holding office. And potential federal and state criminal charges in the courts.

Other than that, how was the play, Mr. President? Was it worth it? If you could have seen, if you could have gone -- five years ago, could have fast forwarded to see me say that on TV, and it`s all true, if you`d known how this would go by the end of it, would you still have done it? You will go down in history as unequivocally and inarguably the worst president in American history, with what may literally be the rap sheet to prove it. That`s what you did.

Glad you did it? Wish you could take it back? We do.

So here`s where we are tonight. Less than one day left. Tonight, it is a dark night and a lot of worries as to what else he can do before he goes. We are awaiting news right now as to the expected dozens of pardons from the president tonight on his last night in office.

CNN has interesting reporting this afternoon reporting that in part was later matched by "The New York Times," that a number of Republican members of Congress asked President Trump for prospective pardons on this last day that he`s in office, because they believe they may be criminally charged in conjunction with the Trump mob attack on the capitol two weeks ago.

CNN`s reporting today, quote, several Republican lawmakers who are alleged to have been involved in the rally that preceded the deadly riot at the capitol have sought clemency from Trump before he leaves office. But after meeting with legal advisers several hours on Saturday, the president decided he would not grant them.

The fear of legal exposure is not limited to Republicans who promoted or spoke at the rally, including Congressman Andy Biggs, Congressman Mo Brooks, and Congressman Paul Gosar. Those who participated, organized and fund-raised are also concerned, including the president`s oldest son, Donald Jr. and his girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle. Top figures associated with the group, including Women for America first and Turning Point Action, they`ve also voiced private concern about legal repercussions, but quote, several of Trump`s closest advisers have urged him not to grant clemency, not only to those people, but to anyone who breached the U.S. Capitol on that day.

We don`t know what or who is going to be on the president`s pardon list tonight or if it will come out tonight or maybe he`ll time it all to coincide with the speech that he is going to give as an outgoing president on his last morning. We don`t know what he will do. We will let you know when we do figure it out.

The president also tonight apparently has ordered the last-minute declassification of what he describes as a binder full of material related to the investigation of Russia interfering in the 2016 election to help him win the presidency. And again, we know that he has done something that he is describing in this way. We know he thinks he has ordered some kind of declassification of some kind of material related to that investigation. Declassification that this White House statement tonight seems to indicate the FBI opposed him doing.

But, at this hour, we still don`t know what this material is and we don`t know if the president`s effort to declassify it will actually result in this information becoming public. Again, we will let you know when we do know. Suffice to say the president is trying to unilaterally declassify intelligence related to Russia that the FBI says is too sensitive to be released and he`s doing it on his last night in office. Surprise.

So, of course, naturally, of course, it is ending as crazily as it began. There will be very little sleep in the news business tonight. But this is the last night.

I want to tell you, after this hour that I`m on tonight on MSNBC. We`ve got a special coming up. It`s Joy Reid`s fascinating and very newsy interview with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Among other things, Nancy Pelosi talks in this interview with Joy about the timing of the impeachment trial against President Trump. She also talks with Joy about what it was like to have the mob of violent Trump supporters who breached the Capitol, screaming her name inside the capitol building, and apparently hunting for her during the Capitol attack, "where is Nancy?"

We asked Joy and her team if we could play this clip of her interview with Pelosi in advance of that interview at 10:00 p.m., they said yes, so here it is.


JOY REID, MSNBC HOST, "REIDOUT": We`re standing in statutory hall. It is hard to believe people would have such disrespect for the building. But also disrespect for those of you and your staff and those who serve. I don`t know if you`ve been able to see the video in which you can hear people screaming your name.


REID: "Where`s Nancy?" Looking for you. Hunting you.


REID: When you -- I don`t even know how I would react to that. How do you react to that, how personal it was towards you?

PELOSI: Well, I was actually more thinking about my staff and my colleagues who don`t have the protection that I have. But also, think of this. This is statuary hall. This used to be the chamber of the House. Abraham Lincoln`s desk is there, see, in front of that Lincoln room. That`s Mr. Clyburn`s office now, one of his offices now.

Lincoln served here. In the chamber that they were trying to bombard is where the abolition of the abolition of slavery took place. War was declared to protect our freedom. History was made. Giants of America served, with whom we are all colleagues.

But they and some of our friends in the Congress had no respect for that. In fact, they were here to destroy that.


MADDOW: Incredible moment in the interview that Joy Reid has done with Nancy Pelosi. The full interview with Pelosi will air tonight here on MSNBC right at the top of the hour, starting at 10:00 p.m. Eastern.

You are right, if you heard there at the end the speaker said that some of our friends in the Congress had no respect for that, they were here to destroy that. One of the things that Speaker Pelosi discusses with joy tonight is the potential culpability, the potential criminal culpability of some currently serving members of Congress who supported the attack on the capitol. You are going to want to see that interview.

Tomorrow`s inauguration will be the one-year anniversary of the first coronavirus case being discovered in the United States. We`ve since had an administration that told us it was contained, pretty much airtight, it would all go away like magic, it was all a hoax.

Today, one year after the first case was discovered in the United States, we have crossed the threshold of 400,000 Americans killed by this virus. Roughly the same number of Americans killed in World War II. President- elect and vice president-elect led a national memorial for those who have died at the reflecting pool at the foot of the Lincoln memorial today.

It`s astonishing to me, 400,000 Americans dead, within one year of the first case being found here that we`ve had no national memorial for the dead before today. But Biden and Harris led that today.


KAMALA HARRIS (D), VICE PRESIDENT-ELECT: We gather tonight, a nation in mourning, to pay tribute to the lives we have lost, a grandmother or grandfather who was our whole world. A parent, partner, sibling, or friend who we still cannot accept is no longer here.

And for many months, we have grieved by ourselves. Tonight, we grieve and begin healing together. Though we may be physically separated, we, the American people, are united in spirit.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT-ELECT: To heal, we must remember, it`s hard sometimes to remember. But that`s how we heal. It`s important to do that as a nation.

That`s why we`re here today. Between sundown and dusk, let us shine the lights in the darkness along the sacred pool of reflection, remember all whom we lost.


MADDOW: Each of those 400 lights that lit up at that moment in the memorial service represents 1,000 Americans killed by the coronavirus. When those 400 lights were lit, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris and the incoming first lady and second gentleman, they all turned around to take it in. Four hundred lights to represent 400,000 Americans dead. There was a long, long moment of silence.

The reflecting pool is more than 2,000 feet long. The lights stretch the entire length of the pool on both sides. After those lights were lit, a gospel singer sang "Hallelujah." If you`re like me, you wept like a baby through the entirety of it.

Like the president-elect said, this memorial on the national mall this evening was meant to be a moment of unity, for the nation. In that spirit, cities all over the country lit up city landmarks or rang bells to participate in this nationwide moment of grief.

This was the Empire State Building in New York City tonight blinking like a red beating heart.

This was Milwaukee, Wisconsin, tonight, the city`s home bridge lit up in remembrance. This was Tucson, Arizona, the mayor rang this bell for four straight minutes. One minute for every 100,000 lives last across the country.

In Seattle, they had five different people take turns ringing a bell, each knew somebody who died of COVID. They rang the bell about 40 times to account for the 4,000 people who have died just in their state.

In Miami Beach, police officers activated their emergency lights in deference to the dead.

In Las Vegas at the Clark County government center, they projected images of angels on the ceiling.

This is down the road from the reflecting pool in D.C. at the National Cathedral. The number 400,000 projected in light on the church walls.

So this was today, effectively, the start of the new administration, right? The first act by the new vice president and president who arrived in Washington together today to be ready for their swearing-in tomorrow. And tomorrow, there will be a strange start to the day, with the outgoing president fleeing Washington hours ahead of the inauguration.

But he`ll be gone. He`ll do whatever he`s going to do. The inaugural will start mid-morning. Lady Gaga will sing the national anthem.

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor will swear in Vice President Harris, just as she swore in Vice President Biden for his second term in 2013. When it comes to swearing in President Biden, that job will go to Chief Justice John Roberts. President Biden will give his inaugural address, they`ll review the troops.

They tell me once the new president is sworn in, that they can start moving his furniture and belongings into the White House. So the White House staff is going to be scrambling at the point of the swearing-in to start the Bidens moving in.

Again, part of the rudeness and lack of consideration of the outgoing president and his family not welcoming in the incoming president and his family is that there`s been no advance planning in terms of setting up the household for the new incoming first family. And the fact is tomorrow`s going to have unusual logistical constraints in terms of the time to get the Bidens moved in.

Usually, there`s a big, long inaugural parade, a big luncheon with Congress at the Capitol, all which of has its own ceremonial purpose. But for people doing the moving work, those are important big, long events that give them time to rush everything in. Because of COVID there`s no lunchtime at the Capitol.

There`s going to be a parade but not a big, long parade with thousands or tens of thousands of people, it`s going to be a virtual parade instead of in person. The new president and vice president will tomorrow after the swearing-in go to Arlington cemetery to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. They`ll lay a wreath there. That will be an important part of the day tomorrow in terms of the continuity of U.S. government.

We are not having any representation of the transfer of power and the continuity of U.S. government between the major parties coming from the outgoing president, Mr. Trump, who as I said is fleeing before this all happens. But we will have some of that at Arlington, because the Bidens and the Harrises will be accompanied at Arlington by Barack and Michelle Obama, by Bill and Hillary Clinton, and by George W. and Laura Bush.

Thereafter, we will all be able to see Joe Biden walk to the White House with a huge military escort, and then there will be that virtual parade which will start at roughly 3:15 Eastern Time.

And again, a virtual parade is a weird thing. A virtual Democratic National Convention was a weird thing too, and they pulled it off and made it interesting. So, I just can`t wait to see that.

Tomorrow night, instead of the usual rounds of inaugural balls, there will be a televised concert and special instead. All the A-list musicians and celebrities that Donald Trump has been mad for four years he couldn`t get to come to his inauguration in 2017, pretty much they`ll all be part of the special tomorrow night for the Biden inauguration.

But that`s what we`re expecting over the next 24 hours or so. Not accounting for whatever craziness coming from Mr. Trump and his supporters in their last few hours of Trump being in power. Trump administration is ending, with historians already agog at how all worst presidents in history lists need to be recalibrated now to account for the new undisputed king of that category.

This presidency ends with his second impeachment and multiple ongoing criminal investigations sparking like live wires into this last night. But it`s the last night. It`s the last night, we will get there.

Going to talk with Amy Klobuchar, who has a lead role in planning and executing the inauguration tonight. We`ll talk about security concerns, changes because of COVID, contingency plans for last-minute craziness from Trump.

Like I said, not much sleep between now and 24 hours from now.

Lots to come this hour. Stay with us.




BIDEN: Twelve years ago, I was waiting at the train station in Wilmington for a black man to pick me up on our way to Washington, where we were sworn in as president and vice president of the United States of America. And here we are today, my family and I, about to return to Washington to meet a black woman of South Asian descent, to be sworn in as president and vice president of the United States.


MADDOW: President-elect Biden giving what was at times an emotional farewell address in his home state of Delaware today, marking the start of his presidency by, among other things, highlighting some of the history he has already been part of, including serving as vice president to our nation`s first black president.

And starting tomorrow at noon, serving alongside the first woman, the first black person, and first person of South Asian descent to ever serve as vice president.

And in another way of marking the historic nature of kamala Harris` new role, this is interesting. The presidential inaugural committee asked kids across the country to please write a letter to the incoming vice president. Please write a letter to Kamala Harris with a question or to give her some advice or to share with her any thoughts that they had.

And today, they published some of the results of that effort, and it turns out it was kind of great.


HARRIS: I have been waiting for a -- get this. I have been waiting for a girl vice president --


HARRIS: I am so glad you are the first --

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: Because now girls can do anything.

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: Dear Miss Harris, I hope you are a wonderful vice president.

HARRIS: I cannot believe you`re of Indian descent, just like me.


MADDOW: I can`t believe you are of Indian descent, just like me.

It is less than 24 hours until our first female vice president is sworn in. Because Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, Minnesota`s first female senator, is the top Democrat on the Rules Committee, that means that she has had a really key role in all of this. She spent months planning the inauguration.

And tomorrow, she will be the one who introduces Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor to swear in Vice President Harris, and Chief Justice John Roberts to swear in President Biden. She will introduce the newly sworn-in president as he delivers his inaugural address.

Senator Klobuchar told "The Star Tribune" today in her hometown, quote, it`s on all of us to cherish it and to pass it on to the next generation. It is on all of us to take up its torch.

Joining us, Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, top Democrat on the Joint Congressional Committee on the Inaugural Ceremonies, which means she`s been working triple time for months.

Senator, it`s great to see you. Thanks for being here.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): Well, thank you, Rachel.

We are really looking forward to tomorrow. I don`t think any of us -- Senator Roy Blunt is the chair of the inauguration, we`re doing it together -- anticipated we would be planning this when we started a year ago, with the pandemic and insurrection, the behavior of Donald Trump.

But we always believed that we must go forward and that this is the moment, especially after two weeks ago, we will be on the very platform where those rioters and insurrectionists came up, broke the windows. You`ll still see some of the spray paint on the bottoms of the columns tomorrow.


KLOBUCHAR: I think it will remind everyone of how precious our democracy is and just why this inauguration is so important, and that Joe and Kamala deserve the magic of that moment, but really, our country needs that healing in the moment to see a new president taking the reins, to hear his vision for the nation, how he`s going to get us through the pandemic, and that started tonight with that elegant, elegant memorial service.

MADDOW: I know that you are a planner. And you are good at time management. And you are a person who likes to have things done the way you like to have things done. I`ve learned that much about you in the years covering you while you have been in the Senate.

I have to ask you in all candor, what`s worrying you the most about tomorrow?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, I mean, everyone, of course, is focused on security, as we should be after the last two weeks. The Secret Service is in charge of this event, which is different than what happened at the Capitol.

You`ve seen the military presence. And I will note past inaugurations, including President Obama`s, there was significant National Guard presence. But they are there, they are ready.

And I don`t want us to overlook the meaning of this event for our country. To have President Bush there, Vice President Pence, to have the leaders from both parties there to tell the world, this is our new president and vice president, we are proud of them, and we wish them well and want them to unite our nation.

That`s what tomorrow is about. No matter what Donald Trump wants to do in the morning, I have no idea. I`m going to be at church with the Bidens. That`s how they are starting their day, as well as Kamala and Doug.

And I know we`ll see a new beginning. It`s something like 13 hours from now.

MADDOW: Senator, we expect Vice President Mike Pence to be there tomorrow. We have seen emerge over the past few days a sort of strange pattern where it almost feels like the vice president is acting as president. He`s doing a lot of the ceremonial and dignified and sort of decent things that presidents tend to do at the end of their term.

For example, thanking service members for their service, and thanking members of the administration for their service. And today, presiding over a coronavirus task force meeting, all things that you would expect the president to be doing, but Vice President Pence has been doing them instead.

Should we expect any sort of visible role for him tomorrow or will he just be one person among many up on the dais?

KLOBUCHAR: He will be very visible, because he is the highest representative of the Republican Party. I know that those of us running the inauguration will escort him down the steps of the Capitol when the event ends. I know he`s going to be acknowledged by many that are there.

And it is, again, part of the tradition of an inauguration. You go back to when George Washington posed a question, really to himself, he said, what`s the most important part of this grand experiment of our democracy?

And he answered it himself and he said, not the election of the first president, but the second. Because our country is about a transfer of power, a peaceful transfer of power.

We aren`t naive about this. We know what people tried to do two weeks ago. But it makes this all the more important, that Americans and all those little kids that wrote to Kamala that you just featured, Rachel, are going to be able to see this moment up on the stage. They`re going to know anything and everything is possible when they see her take the oath.

But they`re also going to know that our country is once again governing from the heart and governing with goodwill.

MADDOW: Senator Amy Klobuchar, the top Democrat on the Joint Committee -- Joint Congressional Committee on the inaugural ceremonies -- I know you will not sleep overnight, but tomorrow`s going to be a big day. Thanks for making time to be with us tonight.

KLOBCHAR: Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: All right. I`ll tell you, as we are sort of heading deeper into the night here, we are watching for a number of developments that we are expecting out of Washington, including what we expect to be a busload of pardons from the president. We`re also anticipating some further news or explanation about what the president appears to have tried to do tonight in announcing that he is declassifying something related to the investigation of Russia interfering in the 2016 election to try to install him as president.

Again, both of those developments are sort of protean at this point. In the case of the declassification there`s been an order issued but we don`t know the implication of that yet. We`re working on that. We`re watching those stories develop. It`s going to be a long night.

Stay with us.


MADDOW: Just a few hours until Joe Biden takes the oath of office and becomes the 46th president of the United States. Five of his most high- profile cabinet nominees, five of them, got their Senate confirmation hearings today.

Secretary of state nominee Antony Blinken appeared before the Foreign Relations Committee. Armed Services Committee questioned defense secretary nomine Lloyd Austin. Janet Yellen, Biden`s nominee for treasury secretary, she had her hearing before the finance committee. There`s also a hearing for Biden`s pick to head homeland security, Alejandro Mayorkas. And the director of national intelligence committee, Avril Haines, got her hearing as well.

Five really big ones, right? I mean, state, defense, treasury, homeland security, intelligence. Five of them all at once, today. We never have this many nominees for huge cabinet positions all having their confirmation hearings all on the same day.

That`s because in years past when a new administration was on its way in, the Senate would hold hearings for new cabinet secretaries over a period of days, many days in advance of the inauguration, so the new president could have at least some of his cabinet in place when he actually took office. Not this time, though. This time we got all these hearings all at once, literally the day before the inauguration, because the Republican- controlled Senate chose not to get their act together to move on Biden`s nominations before now. They had some very important recesses to take, among other things.

I swear, the Senate didn`t even come back from their latest vacation until today. Yeah. No rush when you haven`t held confirm hearings for anyone before today. Feel free to take a few more days off.

So, Biden is having to take office with an empty cabinet, with literally no cabinet secretaries confirmed, including in critical national security positions, which is totally unprecedented.

When President Obama took office in 2009, seven of his cabinet secretaries were confirmed by the end of inauguration day. Many of President Trump`s cabinet picks faced more opposition in the Senate, but even he took office with his defense secretary and his homeland security secretary in place.

This time, though, barring some kind of Senate miracle, Joe Biden will have no one in his entire cabinet confirmed on his first day, including in the major national security positions.

And bad news, good news on that front. Bad news is the obvious, right? Bad news is that means President Biden is going to start with a whole bunch of acting, temporary, fill-in cabinet secretaries instead of full-blown, Senate-confirmed cabinet secretaries of his choosing which will make it harder for the new president to hit the ground running. That`s true in terms of policy matters.

That`s also true in terms of national security. It`s worrying for all the obvious reasons. That`s the bad news.

The good news is that the Trump administration has been so profoundly dysfunctional for four whole years that we`re actually sort of used to that now. We`re actually sort of used to having only acting, stand-in, non- confirmed secretaries at all the most important jobs in the cabinet. And that`s not something that the Republican-controlled Senate screwed up for Trump despite him doing it the right way, that`s just the way he ran the government.

I mean, thanks to Republican Senator Josh Hawley slowing down the process on the homeland security committee, Joe Biden is going to have to settle for an acting homeland security secretary for at least a few days.

But the United States has already had nothing but acting homeland security secretaries for like two years under Donald Trump. The longest vacancy in the presidential cabinet ever, because Donald Trump could just never get it together to have real nominees who got really confirmed by the Senate and who held their job with all the attendant powers.

So maybe after this four years and terrible governance, maybe we are better at running government poorly in that way, than we otherwise would have been before this four-year experiment in terrible governance that is now coming to a close. I will find silver linings wherever I can. I will find them.


MADDOW: In May 2018, "The New York Times" published this opus on the heretofore unknown origins of the Russia investigation that would go on to engulf the Trump presidency. The investigation, of course, gave rise to Special Counsel Mueller`s investigation. But it started out in life we learned in this article by Matt Apuzzo, and Adam Goldman and Nicholas Fandos.

It started off as an urgent national security investigation with a melodramatic codename, Crossfire Hurricane. "The Times" account of Crossfire Hurricane reads like a spy novel with FBI agents being dispatched on secret missions to go gather evidence of ties between what the Russians were doing to try to help Trump win the election and the Trump campaign and whether there was cross purposes or whether they were working together and.

Robert Mueller and his team and the FBI agents who worked on Crossfire Hurricane before them amassed a body of evidence that cast a shadow on this administration. And as president, Donald Trump has become obsessed with trying to undermine the Russia probe. He`s denied that Russia did what they did, and he has tried to make the American law enforcement and intelligence officers who investigated what Russia did into the real villains in this story.

And he`s still doing it, even at this late hour. He`s still trying this. Tonight, the White House released an oddly and vaguely worded statement saying that the president has ordered the last minute declassification of what is described as a binder of materials from Crossfire Hurricane. That`s literally what they give as the description of this material.

It`s a binder. A binder of information the president has apparently decided to declassify tonight despite the fact that the FBI has deemed it too sensitive to be released. What do we make of this? Why are they talking about it as a binder full of material as if the container in which the papers reside are the most important things we need to know about it? And what are the president`s powers with regard to declassifying information like this at the last few hours of his presidency?

Joining us is Andrew Weissmann. He`s one of the lead prosecutors for Special Counsel Mueller. He headed up the prosecution of Paul Manafort, who`s been pardoned by the president.

Andrew, thank you so much for being here on a big night. Appreciate it.


MADDOW: What do you make of this statement from the White House tonight? I couldn`t make heads or tails about it. I know that the president wants to declassify stuff related to the Russia investigation, but I can`t otherwise surmise what he thinks he`s doing.

WEISSMANN: Well, this may be an example of Donald Trump being malevolent but fortunately incompetent because he`s doing two diametrically opposed things. On the one hand, he is saying that he wants to declassify documents that the FBI has opposed. Now, you can`t declassify documents that would reveal methods and means and would put people`s lives in danger. He has the power to do that, but it would be incredibly dangerous to do that.

But the reason I think this is a sign of incompetence is between now and noon tomorrow, there is no way in God`s green earth that the FBI and the DNI and the CIA are all going to get together to do the declassification that seems to have been ordered. It`s just not physically possible. So, this is something that the incoming president is going to be able to put a stop to.

But on the same token, one of the things that the president has done is he has also obtained a decision from the Office of Legal Counsel, the Department of Justice, that his own presidential papers cannot be accessed by President Biden. In other words, he`s trying to keep those secret at the same time that he is trying to declassify material that very well could jeopardize everyone`s safety and good law enforcement practices.

MADDOW: Andrew, for the last few days, we`ve been covering a strange thing that seems to be happening at the end of the Trump administration in the intelligence community, which is that the president appears to have been moving heaven and earth, leaning on people, delivering ultimatums, doing everything he could to get a new top lawyer, a new general counsel into the National Security Agency.

What you just described about it not being possible under god`s green earth for this declassification work to be done in time, for this to be done by noon tomorrow, does that change at all if you`ve got somebody at the NSA who`s specifically there to get this done for President Trump in the last 15 hours that he`s president?

WEISSMANN: Look, that helps. But the order itself refers to the Department of Justice, the CIA and the DNI.

So, those are three institutions. And you know the government is a bureaucracy. And the idea that something`s going to happen between now and noon tomorrow, I mean, I worked for Robert Mueller who was famously impatient. And even he would not be able to get this done that quickly because remember one of the things that the president has said is that certain material can be redacted.

So, just that very process of being very careful to make sure that you are not putting people`s lives in danger because you make a mistake in what you redact and what you don`t redact is something you want to be super careful about.

You don`t want this to be done as a rush job when you`re dealing with, you know, people`s lives and the safety of the nation. So, I really find this hard to imagine that it`s going to really be accomplished in time.

MADDOW: Well, I can guarantee that the president would not want to be very careful about this and might not care at all what lives he`s putting in danger. But the fact this has to be done through other people who will see those equities differently. As you say that bureaucratic saving grace here may be the most important bottom line.

Andrew Weissmann, one of the lead special prosecutors of Special Counsel Mueller, head of the prosecution of Paul Manafort, former senior Justice Department official, we`re all going to be up all night trying to figure out what`s going to happen with these pardons and commutations. I appreciate you helping us with this tonight too. Thanks.

WEISSMAN: You`re welcome.

MADDOW: All right. We`re going to be back a few minutes before the top of the hour. Again, remember Joy Reid`s interview with Nancy Pelosi will be airing tonight at 10:00 on MSNBC.

Stay with us.


MADDOW: Our special coverage of the Biden Harris administration begins at 6:00 a.m. tomorrow, 6:00 a.m. counts as late night for me, not early morning. So, I won`t be here but I`ll be here mid-morning along with Brian Williams, Joy Reid, Nicolle Wallace, the whole gang.

But don`t go anywhere right now. Joy Reid`s exclusive interview with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi starts right now.