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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, 1/25/2021

Guest: Chuck Schumer�

Summary:

Rachel Maddow`s exclusively interviews with the new Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell puts out a statement that he`s apparently now going to agree to go forward with what Senator Schumer told him he must do.

Transcript:

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

"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now with Rachel`s exclusive interview with the new Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you for playing that clip and telling people that the tonight was coming up. I thought it was --

HAYES: I`m psyched.

MADDOW: -- it made a lot more news than I thought it was going to. So, thank you, my friend.

HAYES: Awesome.

MADDOW: All right. And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.

For my interview with the new majority leader of the United States Senate, this will be Senator Schumer`s first national TV interview since taking that all-important top job.

The incitement to insurrection article of impeachment against President Trump, of course, passed the House earlier this month with the largest bipartisan majority of any impeachment article that has ever passed against any president ever.

Well, tonight at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. We all saw the nine house impeachment managers bring that article from the House over to the Senate. And that is the formal start of the Senate putting President Trump on trial.

The Senate at that trial will now decide whether or not to convict President Trump on that charge, and if they do convict him they`ll decide whether Mr. Trump should then be banned for life from ever holding federal office again.

The new Democratic leader of the Senate as this all is happening is Chuck Schumer, the impeachment, the urgent COVID relief bill, the confirmation of President Biden`s new cabinet, all of these things all need to be done at once. They have all landed in his lap all on day one.

Not to mention responsibility for passing all the legislation that the new Congress and the new administration are pursuing. But it`s interesting.

Senator Schumer is taking over in the Senate right now with the Republicans newly ousted from power trying with them trying to pretend like they`re still in charge, like they are still the ones who get to say what happens in the Senate and what doesn`t happen in the Senate.

Literally, Republicans tonight are still chairing the committees in the Senate but they`re in the minority now. Republicans are simply refusing to allow the new Democratic majority to take over even though the Republicans were voted out. From day one, they`re already pushing it to crisis.

I spoke with Majority Leader Chuck Schumer about it all today at the LBJ room at the U.S. Capitol which is just off the Senate floor.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MADDOW: Joining us now for the interview from the glorious LBJ Room at the Capitol is the newest master of the Senate, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

Senator Schumer --

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Hi.

MADDOW: -- it`s great to see you.

SCHUMER: Great to see you -- first time here in Washington. We always see each other in New York.

MADDOW: Yes, it is actually. The last time that I was in this room, I believe I was interviewing the Democratic leader at the time, Senator Harry Reid.

SCHUMER: There you go.

MADDOW: But you are -- I mean, you`re in charge now. I just -- having known you for a long time and having followed your career, I just have to ask if you knew this was where you were headed? I mean, back to New York assembly days --

SCHUMER: No.

MADDOW: -- and everything. Did you know?

SCHUMER: No. I started out in the assembly. I was 23. I worked for a law firm for a summer. I was pushing a pencil for somebody I didn`t know, somebody I didn`t care about. And my dad had this small junky little exterminating business, and he would pace the floor Sunday nights 2:00 a.m. He hated going to work. And I hated this.

But my parents loved it because they were paying $400 a week, more money than my family had seen. But I said I`m not going to do this. Now I had spent my -- cut my eyeteeth in politics protesting the Vietnam War, organizing against the Vietnam War. I worked for a huge -- I was clean for Gene --

MADDOW: Yes.

SCHUMER: -- if you remember Gene McCarthy. And actually, when McCarthy came so close that Lyndon Johnson didn`t run again, the man over there --

MADDOW: Yes.

SCHUMER: -- I said, wow, a ragtag group of students and other assorted nobodies toppled the most powerful man in the world. This is what I want to dedicate my life to. Making the world a better place, and, you know, would work then -- took a lot of work, but it worked.

Anyway, so I love politics. My parents wanted me to go to this law firm, I hated it. And I ran for the assembly against the Democratic machine. No one thought I`d win.

MADDOW: Uh-huh.

SCHUMER: No one thought I`d win. The first day I ran, I went into my local barber in Brooklyn. I said, Frankie (ph), would you put a poster in the window? And he said, sure, kid.

And then he said, kid, I never told you this. I`m not only the local barber, I`m the local bookie. You`re the 50 to one underdog. How much you want to bet on yourself?

But I won.

(LAUGHTER)

SCHUMER: And I loved it. The -- New York was in crisis then. It was the 1975 Ford to New York: drop dead.

And I never had -- I never sort of had a plan. I want to be this, this year, and then three years later, go to that. You do your job well, and then things just happen.

So I spent six years in the assembly. The Congressional seat in my district opened up, I ran for it, I won. I was 18 years in the House, and now I`m in the Senate and majority leader.

And, you know, it`s brutal (ph). I mean, it`s -- I am in -- it`s an awesome experience. And I don`t mean awesome in the way my daughters when they were teenagers said, dad, that`s awesome. It`s like biblical.

The angels tremble in awe before the face of God. This is such a responsibility.

And the country has so many needs, so many needs to move forward, that it`s really -- it really says to you, whoa, you better do the best job you can. God gave me a lot of energy. I have a lot of energy for the job.

I fill it with some joy, because we can actually get things done, not have things blockaded all the time. But it`s something that`s very, very serious, and you`ve got to really put all of yourself into it.

MADDOW: Tell me about that joy, because I think a lot of people have lost faith in the U.S. --

SCHUMER: That`s --

MADDOW: -- Senate.

SCHUMER: Well, that -- the joy is to restore the faith. Just as when I worked against the Vietnam War in the McCarthy campaign and we actually succeeded -- we have to succeed.

We need, Rachel -- America needs bold change. We need immediate bold change. We have COVID, the worst healthcare crisis since -- in 100 years since the Spanish pandemic flu, the worst economic crisis since the New Deal. So we have to act quickly.

Right now, people can`t get vaccines. Right now, people are losing their jobs, can`t feed their kids. And then there`s a lot of bold direction we have to do that preceded COVID, and maybe COVID showed us the need in climate.

We have to do something about climate, things are getting -- we don`t have any more time.

I think of my little two-year-old grandson Noah. And you know, I ride my bike along the southern shore of Brooklyn. And about a month after he was born, I said, will he ever see this? Because if the ocean`s rise, it`ll be gone. It`s a beautiful wetland. So there`s climate.

There`s economic inequality. About 75 percent of the nation feels they can`t get ahead, and they`re not getting ahead. Only the top -- very top is doing well.

There`s racial inequality. We saw with the horrible murders of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, those scars (ph).

And there`s democracy. We just in the Senate took a bill that was H.R.1 in the House in named it S1, making our democracy better.

There is so much to do. We need strong, bold action, and we`ve got to get it done. One way or another, we got to get it done.

MADDOW: Well, how is it going to get done? I mean, we are in an unusual situation right now where you are the majority leader. On paper, the Democrats are in control of the Senate, but right now, Republican chairman from the last Congress are still sitting there.

You and -- you and Mr. McConnell -- Senator McConnell appear to be at an impasse in terms of the organizing resolution of the Senate.

SCHUMER: Yes.

MADDOW: How is that going to end?

SCHUMER: Well, let me tell you how it`s going to end. Traditionally, the organizing resolution should be a pretty routine thing from the Democratic leader, the Republican leader, no matter who`s in the majority, minority, sit down and just hammer it out.

It`s a little different now because it`s 50/50, but we`ve had a precedent. It was 50/50 back in 2001, and Democratic leader Daschle and Republican leader Lott got together and worked out an agreement that most people think was pretty down the middle and fair.

The first day I went Mitch McConnell and I said, let`s do that resolution. Let`s just do it the way they did it in 2001. And he went to the floor and said, I won`t do it unless you Democrats do this, demand what I want.

He is not the majority leader, he`s the minority leader, and he is not going to get his way. We are not going to do what he wants, and that is universal, Rachel, in my caucus from the most liberal to the most conservative.

We hope in the next day or two, he`ll come to his senses and take our offer. But we are not giving in to him. It was outrageous what he did, and it really angered my entire caucus. That was not the way to start off.

MADDOW: If what he`s demanding is that you take the reform of the filibuster off the table, which is an -- which is both a process thing, which I think most people are alienated by even the word filibuster, but also potentially the key as to whether or not any major legislations is going to pass.

SCHUMER: Uh-huh, uh-huh.

MADDOW: If he does not change his mind on that over the next couple of days --

SCHUMER: Right.

MADDOW: -- can he in effect, use the filibuster to keep you from claiming power as the majority leader? Can he stop this in its tracks?

SCHUMER: We`ve been thinking about this, stay tuned.

MADDOW: You have tricks up your sleeve?

SCHUMER: Stay tuned.

(LAUGHTER)

MADDOW: OK. Well, let me ask you about the filibuster. There is definitely a diversity of opinion within your caucus on that. Senator Sinema, Senator Manchin have, for example, expressed reservations about getting rid of that.

But lots of other senators and lots of people who have -- are strong stakeholders in the Democratic Party say that there`s too much to get done right now to let that get in the way, and there`s no reason to expect that any Republicans in any significant numbers, let alone 10 of them, will cross the line on anything.

Where do you stand?

SCHUMER: The caucus is united with the belief that I have -- we must get big, strong, bold things done. That`s the bottom line.

If we don`t, I worry about the future of this democracy. If people continue to be disillusioned that this government can`t do a thing to make their lives better at a time when so many are angry, so many are sour, so many think that they don`t have a chance to get ahead, I worry about the future. So we have to get things done. That`s point one.

Point two, we will not let Mitch McConnell dictate to us what we will do and not do, period. And these first five days have shown that. And as I said, my caucus is totally united from one end to the other that we`re not letting him go forward.

Our hope is -- now, we have tools that we can use. Reconciliation. We can get a lot of the COVID bill done with reconciliation, and that`s something we certainly will use if they try to block this immediate COVID bill.

We can even use reconciliation for a much broader proposal, Biden`s Build it (ph) Back Better, which obviously would be modified and changed.

So we have some tools we can use right now and will not hesitate to use them if Republicans continue to just block.

As for other issues, what we`re going to do is, we are united in the view we need to bring change. We are united in the view McConnell is not going to dictate what this Senate does, and we will come together as a caucus and figure it out. But I can assure you we will bring real change here -- real, dramatic change. We have no choice.

MADDOW: When President Obama was first elected and there was a number of - there were a number of big legislative lifts on the table, I feel like, as an observer of that process --

(CROSSTALK)

SCHUMER: Yes.

MADDOW: -- as somebody reporting on that process, I learned a lesson.

SCHUMER: Yes.

MADDOW: I watched with -- you know, with Obamacare, with the Affordable Care Act the Republicans insisted there not be any single-payer option, there not be a public option.

SCHUMER: Right.

MADDOW: It had to be based around the private insurance companies, and they insisted on all these changes that were made for them, and then they didn`t vote for it anyway.

SCHUMER: Right.

MADDOW: And on the immigration bill, they insisted that their priority, deportation, all that be done up front. President Obama did all that up front, and then they still didn`t vote for it.

SCHUMER: Right.

MADDOW: We saw it in the Recovery Act as well. They insisted that the Recovery Act be made smaller and significantly less effective, and then they didn`t vote for it anyway.

SCHUMER: Ten years it took to - because it wasn`t deep enough and strong enough -- 10 years. We`re not going to make that mistake with COVID.

MADDOW: But isn`t the lesson there that it`s not worth trying to get bipartisan legislation because it will weaken it and make it worse, and they`re never going to vote for it anyway?

SCHUMER: Our North Star has to be the legislation itself. It has to be big and bold and strong. If Republicans work with us to get good, strong legislation, yes.

But I agree with you. I`ve made these arguments in numerous places. Look at 2008 where we spent a year and a half trying to get something good done -- ACA -- Obamacare - and we didn`t do all the other things that had to be done. We will not repeat that mistake. We will not repeat that mistake.

It`s a -- you are right. I think of just what you think all along. And it`s a different time. I mean, we`ve had the most authoritarian president around. Look how close he came on that awful day, January 6.

And the antidote is constructive, strong action by us, by the government. That`s the answer, so that when the appeals to bigotry and nastiness and divisiveness are thrown at the American people again -- which Trump did and there are many of his minions who want to do it -- people will say no, we`re making good progress. Let`s stick with this.

But if we don`t make progress, bad, bad, bad. We can have really bad solutions -- really bad outcomes, rather.

MADDOW: The other remedy to what happened on January 6 in the way the Trump administration ended is, of course, impeachment, and there`s --

SCHUMER: Yes.

MADDOW: -- tonight we will see the article of impeachment conveyed from the House to the Senate.

Now, Senator Leahy is going to be the presiding officer for the impeachment instead of the chief justice.

SCHUMER: Well, here is -- first, can I tell you about January 6? You brought it up.

MADDOW: Please.

SCHUMER: For me, this was an amazing experience, by Charles Dickens in "A Tale of Two Cities," it was the best of times it was the worst of times. Here`s why. I stood up to -- I was -- Tuesday night was election in Georgia.

As it bled into Wednesday morning, I was glued to the TV. I worked very hard for Ossoff and Warnock. I spent four months trying to recruit Warnock to run when Stacey Abrams told me she wouldn`t -- she said, there`s someone better than me. There he was, she was right, as usual.

But in any case, at 4:00 a.m. it`s clear they both won. Oh, I`m majority leader. It`s beginning to sink in, but I have to go to sleep because I have to drive down to Washington. Get in my car at 8:00, get to Washington, get on the floor of the Senate at 1:00.

Within 45 minutes, a police officer, a big flak jacket and big automatic machine gun across his leg (ph), grabs me nicely by the collar and says, Senator, we`ve got to get out of here, you`re in danger. I was 30 feet away from those sons of guns, 30 feet away from these nasty, racist, bigoted insurrectionists.

Someone told me even during the Civil War, no Confederate flag ever flew in the Capitol, even during the Civil War.

So --

MADDOW: Could you hear them?

SCHUMER: Hmm?

MADDOW: Could you hear them? Were you aware (ph)?

(CROSSTALK)

SCHUMER: Yes. Yes.

We have to go after them completely.

By the way, a little to your readers, the FBI has this website with 700 pictures, and they`re asking people to look on it in case they recognize somebody. And say, how am I going to know someone? Well, it could be, oh there`s Harry, I went to high school with him in New Jersey 30 years ago, he moved to Montana. Oh.

MADDOW: You`re encouraging people to look at the tips -- tip website (ph).

(CROSSTALK)

SCHUMER: To go look at the tip site, yes, yes, yes.

But, in any case, so now we have the trial, and make no mistake about it, President Trump will stand trial and there will be a vote on his guilt. I hope he`s voted guilty.

The trial will be done in a way that is fair, but with -- relatively quickly. The evidence is all out there. Who was the witness? The entire American people. We all saw what Trump did. We all saw what the -- these horrible insurrectionists did, and we`re going to have the trial.

Now, there will be a two-week place where the -- you know, in the next two weeks, the -- both sides will prepare their papers. That`s actually good for us, because in that first week, this week, we`re going to going to spend time filling the president`s cabinet, very important to do. You cannot have Homeland Security or Secretary of State -- or I would even say HHS vacant, given the need for vaccines.

And then in the second week, we will begin on the COVID relief bill. President Biden`s $1.9 billion -- trillion bill called the American -- what is it called -- a -- American Rescue Proposal -- Rescue Plan -- American Rescue Plan, ARP.

So, we`ll have some time to do those things. People said, how are you going to get this all done? Well, we said, we were going to try to do these three things at once -- cabinet, impeachment, COVID, and we`re making good progress on those.

MADDOW: It sounds better (ph) --

(CROSSTALK)

SCHUMER: Which is (ph) -- despite McConnell trying to blockade everything, there are different things we can do to get around them.

MADDOW: Does -- was President Biden involved in advising you at all on what he wanted in terms of the timing of the trial?

SCHUMER: Yes, we talked to the president and he -- he feels an urgent need, he feels there has to be the trial, like we do.

MADDOW: Uh-huh.

SCHUMER: And he feels an urgent -- but he feels an urgent need to fill some of these cabinet positions, because there`s so much to do. And our national security, our domestic security, our health is all at stake. He needs people in those positions.

MADDOW: In terms of the way the trial`s going to be conducted, you say it`s going to be a fair trial, but it`s going to be fast.

SCHUMER: Relatively, relatively.

MADDOW: How long do you anticipate it taking?

SCHUMER: Well, we`ll see. I mean, you know, obviously, I don`t think there`s a need for a whole lot of witnesses. We were all the witnesses. You know, it`s different than the previous trial. And we will not let the Republicans be dilatory just to delay it for its own sake, so we don`t do COVID or we don`t do anything.

But it`ll be fair, and we`ll see what they`ve requested. We don`t know what the president`s lawyer will request. So, fair but not dilatory.

MADDOW: Tell me about having Senator Leahy as the presiding officer as opposed to the chief justice.

SCHUMER: Yes. So the Constitution says the chief justice presides for a sitting president. So that is not going to be -- so it was up to John Roberts whether he wanted to preside with a president who`s no longer sitting -- Trump -- and he doesn`t want to do it.

So traditionally what has happened is then the next in line is the Senate pro tem -- that`s the most senior senator on the majority side, and that`s Senator Leahy, who`s a very experienced man and a very fair man.

MADDOW: And he`ll be able to vote?

SCHUMER: Yes. He will still be able to vote.

MADDOW: In terms of the accountability for what happened, there`s a single article of impeachment, but there`s essentially two elements of the described -- or the alleged crime. It`s the president`s efforts to directly incite the mob to go attack the Capitol, but also the president efforts to pressure elections officials into altering the election results, his call to those election officials in Georgia.

SCHUMER: Yes.

MADDOW: Since then, through public reporting led by "The New York Times," we have also learned that he tried to get the Justice Department --

SCHUMER: Right.

MADDOW: -- to alter the election results, to void the election results in Georgia. Now you called for that to be investigated by the inspector general --

SCHUMER: Right.

MADDOW: -- and you also called it attempted sedition.

SCHUMER: Yes.

MADDOW: Should that be part of what the president is tried for?

SCHUMER: Well, the articles came in before that happened, and I don`t know - I don`t think it would make sense -- I think it`s more than sufficient evidence to convict the president based on the articles the House sent, but I`m sure members will look at that, and if it`s up to the managers -- the House managers who come over, if they want to bring that up, I`m sure it will be relevant, and people will weigh that in their minds.

I mean, another issue that was not part of their articles, but to me goes against the president`s guilt, although their articles are more than enough -- once they were there, the insurrectionists -- here -- I shouldn`t say there -- they were here -- he didn`t call for them to leave.

I called the acting attorney general. I called the acting secretary of defense and said, get him to call right now and say you leave right now. And then two hours later, he gave this statement that was on the -- just like Charlottesville on the one hand, on the other hand. Utter bull -- can`t say the last word on your TV show.

MADDOW: I can anticipate what it was going to be.

SCHUMER: I figured you might.

(LAUGHTER)

MADDOW: You mentioned witnesses -- a question of whether there would be witnesses. Is that decided that there will not be witnesses --

(CROSSTALK)

SCHUMER: No, no. We have only negotiated the preliminary -- the preliminary motions in the trial, how long it should -- when the articles are brought in, when we`re sworn in, and how long they have to prepare their motions.

We`ve set the date when the trial starts, which is the 8th of February, that week, but we have not negotiated the details of the trial, and we will. Hopefully we can come to an agreement.

We don`t want to give the Republicans and excuse that it was unfair. On the other hand, we don`t want them to delay it forever either.

MADDOW: Now that -- those negotiations are happening alongside the negotiations about the organization resolution of the Senate and --

SCHUMER: Well there`s not much -- we`ve told McConnell no on the organizing resolution, and that`s that. So, there`s no negotiations on that. We`ve given him what he should do, which is come to agree to what was done in 2001, which is fair.

If not, as I said, stay tuned.

MADDOW: If not, you have -- you have a plan in mind that you are not willing to share.

SCHUMER: I am not willing to share. And there are --

MADDOW: How about if I ask again?

(CROSSTALK)

SCHUMER: There are ways to deal with it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MADDOW: There are ways to deal with him.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer today threatening something, promising something, to end the standoff by which Republicans have effectively stopped the new Democratic majority from actually taking over in the Senate.

But I have to tell you literally while that was running, I spoke with Senator Schumer this afternoon, we just aired that right now, and while we were airing that, right now, you were watching it, Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell just put out a statement that he is folding on this. He`s apparently now going to agree to go forward with what Senator Schumer told him he must do -- with letting Senator Schumer and the Democratic majority take over and install committee chairmen and all the rest, using the rules that we had in place the last time the Senate was in a 50/50 split which is back in 2001. And he will agree to that apparently as of tonight, without any extraneous demands about the filibuster or anything else.

Since we have been on the air tonight airing that interview, Senator Mitch McConnell has caved and Senator Schumer has won that fight. That was quick.

Let`s see what else we can do. More from my interview with Senator Chuck Schumer is ahead including making additional news by asking President Biden to consider declaring an emergency. Majority leader explains why he wants that. That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(LAUGHTER)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MADDOW: Last question for you on the -- on the issue of what happened on January 6th. We have seen some interesting developments on the House side, where members of the House have described their fellow members --

SCHUMER: Yeah.

MADDOW: -- as having led, essentially what looks like reconnaissance tours for people who may have been among those who came back the next day or in following days and--

SCHUMER: Right.

MADDOW: -- attacked the Capitol. There is a joint -- there are -- I think -- there are four House committees doing a joint investigation plus the administration committee doing its own investigation as to whether or not House members essentially assisted in the attack.

Do you have any of those concerns about members of the Senate?

SCHUMER: I have -- members of the Senate, at this point, none have been brought -- been brought to my attention.

MADDOW: OK.

SCHUMER: I have great deals of concerns of how some of the members of the Senate behaved. I think the seven people who voted the other way did a really bad thing, a despicable thing for our democracy.

But I have no evidence of what happened -- or what they`re alleging happened in the House.

MADDOW: Do you support the call for an ethics investigation into Senator Cruz and Senator Hawley for their promotion of the idea that --

(CROSSTALK)

SCHUMER: There must be --

(CROSSTALK)

MADDOW: -- the election --

SCHUMER: There must be consequences to what they do. I think we should first go forward with the impeachment trial and finish, and then move on to decide what the appropriate consequences are for them.

MADDOW: You mentioned climate.

SCHUMER: Yes.

MADDOW: With Democrats in control of the White House and both Houses of Congress, even with a narrow majority, this presents -- if you think of it, not in terms of politics, but in terms of climate as an issue, this is --

SCHUMER: Humanity, our globe, right.

MADDOW: This is the first real opportunity to make progress on climate in years and years and years.

SCHUMER: Yes.

MADDOW: It is hard to imagine enough Republicans supporting major legislation on climate that you could do it, that you could pass it and put something on the president`s desk while the filibuster still existed. Is it fair to look at it that way?

SCHUMER: No. We`re looking at ways -- there may be things that are reconcilable.

I have a provision that I`m pretty proud of called Clean Cars for America. Here`s what it does -- it says you turn in your internal combustion engine; you get a big point of sale rebate. The poorer you are, the deeper the rebate, so poor people will do it and get an electric car.

At the same time, the federal government installs a charger by your house, or on the street if you live an apartment building. And has -- all of our highways have them, so you can drive from right here in Washington to Seattle and not worry about running out of juice.

And at the same time, we give some real help to GM and Ford, so they can become the electric car centers of the world, not China. All of it`s done with American labor.

The amazing thing about this is twofold. One, it will take every internal - - no new internal combustion engines will be produced after 2030, and by 2040, there will be no internal combustion engines on the road.

And guess who it has the support of? This is what`s exciting, obviously the environmental groups, from the most moderate to the most progressive -- it has the support of the unions, because it`s American labor -- the UAW, the AFL-CIO, the IBEW are all in strong support, and it has the support of Ford and GM.

So it has a broad coalition, and we think just about all of it -- we`re working on this -- can go through reconciliation.

MADDOW: Meaning 50 votes plus one rather than needing 10 Republicans?

SCHUMER: Correct.

MADDOW: Will that be --

SCHUMER: And there`s -- we`re looking at ways in the build -- by the way, President Biden very graciously made it part of his Build it (ph) Back Better Plan, which does a lot on climate.

And we`re looking at how we may Build it (ph) Back Better fit as much of it into reconciliation as we can, because we get two reconciliation motions -- one for COVID and then one probably for Build it (ph) Back Better.

MADDOW: Tell me -- describe to me new Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer`s main legislative priorities. Obviously, we have some things that are not legislative technically, the impeachment of the president, the president`s -- the new president`s cabinet.

SCHUMER: Can I say one other thing on climate?

MADDOW: Please.

SCHUMER: I think it might be a good idea for President Biden to call a climate emergency.

MADDOW: Hmm. Why?

SCHUMER: Because then he can -- this relates to what you`re saying -- then he can do many, many things under the emergency powers of the president that wouldn`t have to go through -- that he could do without legislation.

Now Trump used this emergency for a stupid wall, which wasn`t an emergency. But if there ever was an emergency, climate is one. So I would suggest that they explore looking at climate as an emergency, which would give them more flexibility.

After all, it`s a crisis. It`s a crisis.

MADDOW: So you`re talking about passing major climate legislation through the reconciliation process?

SCHUMER: Yes.

MADDOW: It -- pressuring the president or asking the president to invoke emergency powers --

(CROSSTALK)

SCHUMER: Yes, just asking. Let them -- let them look at it. You know, I have a lot of faith in that they`ll make a good and right decision.

MADDOW: That sounds to me, in terms of the way you are thinking about, I know you`re thinking about a lot of different things at once, but it sounds like climate is central in terms of what you are trying to --

(CROSSTALK)

SCHUMER: It is central, and what I really like -- I`m one of the sponsors of the THRIVE Agenda. And the THRIVE Agenda has combined three things, Eddie Markey and I.

One is climate, bold climate legislation.

Two, make sure it involves workers, training workers to build all the new clean stuff we need. But one of the things that`s always pained me is that so many working people think climate will leave them out, when it actually will increase the number of good paying jobs, as long as we make sure it`s American jobs and good paying jobs.

And third, it also says communities of color who have been particularly left out and suffered most from climate should get some special consideration.

It`s a broad coalition, and it`s the kind of thing that yes, I care about. So, in this case, climate is central, but jobs and dealing with racial inequities are sort of part of it. It`s very good. I like it very much.

The THRIVE Agenda, take a look.

MADDOW: Give me your -- give me your legislative priorities in your own words.

SCHUMER: Climate --

MADDOW: Climate is obviously one of them.

SCHUMER: Economic and racial inequality. OK. And the two go hand-in-hand. Some -- you can deal with that some ways conventionally. A big infrastructure bill, if we employ 10 million new people in $1 trillion infrastructure bill, and these are good paying jobs, these are construction jobs, that`s very helpful.

In the bills we propose, we want a high percentage of those, 30, 40 percent to be people who don`t have good jobs, maybe people who got out of prison, people who, you know, this would be a real ladder up for them.

But there are other things; job training is very important -- education. And what I consider part of economical inequality, some people might not.

I think immigration reform is economic equality, because not only is it the humane and right thing to do, I`m a very pro immigrant person -- my middle name is Ellis, Ellis Island. And my daughter`s middle name, we named her Emma for Emma Lazarus, the poet who wrote on the -- anyway.

But it`d unleash (ph) immigrants.

When we did the original immigration bill that -- with McCain, the CBO said the GDP would grow 3-1/2 percent if we did this, because you`re letting immigrants not worry and looking over their shoulder to be deported or this or that. They can work. And then they can work to become citizens. So I`m excited about that.

And same with racial justice. A young man is arrested with a small amount of marijuana in his pocket. He has a criminal record the rest of his life, can`t become a productive citizen. This one won`t hire him, that one won`t hire him-- change that.

There`s lots to do. And we have to succeed.

MADDOW: If I --

SCHUMER: So that -- so I would say -- and I left out the -- there were three prongs. One, climate with its concomitant parts, one economic and racial inequality, the third is democracy.

You know, the bill H.R.1 -- we feel so strongly about it, Senate Democrats put it in as S1, and it deals with the infirmities in our democracy, getting rid of those horrible decisions like Shelby, which made it easier to block people`s right to vote.

In fact, automatic voter registration is part of it. Getting rid of Citizens United is part of it, D.C. and Puerto Rico statehood is part of it. That`s a great bill. It has a lot of different parts.

But those are the three stools -- democracy, climate, economic-racial inequality, lessening them.

MADDOW: If I were to ask Senator McConnell -- or if I were to assess Senator McConnell`s legacy, it would be a much shorter answer. His legacy is judges.

SCHUMER: Correct -- no -- also tax cuts for the rich. Forget that.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MADDOW: Don`t forget. Tax cuts for the rich. Judges, yes. Also that.

When we come back, the new majority leader and I will talk about that, and he has a surprising answer when I asked him what he`s prepared to do to try to even the playing field given all the hundreds of conservative judges who were really rammed through in the past four years. That`s coming up.

Plus, what Senator Schumer says is the single worst thing that Donald Trump did as president.

It`s all ahead. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MADDOW: If I were to ask Senator McConnell -- or if I were to assess Senator McConnell`s legacy, it would be a much shorter answer. His legacy is judges.

SCHUMER: Correct -- no -- also tax cuts for the rich. Forget that.

MADDOW: And -- fair enough. Legislatively, tax cuts for the rich, but in terms -- if you had to sum up the thing that he really did -- and he talks about it --

SCHUMER: True.

MADDOW: -- being his proudest accomplishment.

SCHUMER: He does. He brags about it.

MADDOW: Because he was willing to be, not just hypocritical, but brazenly proudly hypocritical --

SCHUMER: Proudly.

MADDOW: -- to pull out all the stops to break every rule, to do absolutely everything to fill -- put young conservative ideologues on the bench. It is a very imbalance judiciary now.

SCHUMER: Absolutely.

MADDOW: For decades, there will be a -- essentially the judiciary will be stacked with conservatives. How do you try to make up some of that ground?

SCHUMER: OK, it`s a great question.

First, the good news is, there we don`t need anything, we -- we -- our 51 votes allows us to put judges on the bench and report them at a committee, and there will be lots of vacancies that come up, and I think there are a lot of judges, Democratic appointees, who didn`t take senior status while Trump president, who now will, and they stay on the bench, but then we get to fill it.

So, first, we can fill up a lot.

Second, traditionally we have increased the number in the lower-end circuit courts. I have in the city of Buffalo a huge -- they don`t have enough judges. There`s this long line before you can get to court because they don`t have enough. So, we can expand those relative --

MADDOW: District courts and circuit courts?

SCHUMER: Correct.

Now, as for the Supreme Court, that`s the big one, and President Biden has put together this commission to come up with a report in 180 days. We`re going to see what that commission says and go from there. We`ll see what --

MADDOW: In terms of whether or not there should be additional seats on the Supreme Court?

SCHUMER: Correct.

MADDOW: Do you have an opinion on it heading into that --

(CROSSTALK)

SCHUMER: I`m going to wait for his -- I`m going to wait for his report.

MADDOW: Do you have the sense that your caucus has an opinion on that heading into -

(CROSSTALK)

SCHUMER: I think people are torn. Let`s see what the report says.

MADDOW: On the issue of --

SCHUMER: You know, some are very much for it, some are against it. I don`t mean each person is torn individually.

MADDOW: The issue of looking back versus looking forward is present at the turnover of every administration, and actually -- and some -- to some extent the turnover of every Congress, it is unusually pressing because of the way the Trump administration -- the way President Trump conducted himself and the way it ended.

(CROSSTALK)

SCHUMER: Did so many -- yes and did so many bad things.

MADDOW: I am -- have found myself reflecting recently on how, in 2001, both the House and Senate -- and actually the Justice Department -- spent months and months and months and months investigating Bill Clinton`s final pardons in office including one particularly one controversial one.

SCHUMER: Yes.

MADDOW: The pardons of President Trump have not been a front-page news item for very long, because so much -- so many other kinds of crises happened at the same time -

SCHUMER: Right.

MADDOW: -- many of them brought on by the president himself.

But some of those pardons are 100 times more scandalous than anything Bill Clinton did.

SCHUMER: Yes.

MADDOW: Will there be investigations of President Trump`s final pardons?

SCHUMER: Look, I think we have to do both. We cannot just look the other way. You know, an impeachment, some of these Republicans say, let`s move on, it`s divisive. Bull.

Number one, it`s required by law.

And number two, if we convict, we can then, with 51 votes, prevent him from running from office.

But the third point I want to make -- you want to unify America? You need truth and accountability. That`s how to unify America.

And it goes to what you`ve asked. I don`t think you can just say never mind with some of the egregious things that Trump has done.

Now, should that be our number one concern? No. Moving forward on the issues we have talked about is our number one concern, because there`s so much need and demand among average people.

You know, we have to show -- Democrats have to show that government can make their lives better, and if we can do that we can change the whole political -- as well as economic and social -- dynamic, and that`s, as I said, my passion, my mission, the thing I say is awesome in that biblical sense.

But we still can look back, and we have to. You can`t just sweep some of these egregious things under the rug. Plain and simple. Trump was --

MADDOW: How was --

SCHUMER: You know, his act on the 6th was the most despicable thing any president has ever done, and he is the worst president ever. And you cannot just -- let`s move on. You`ve got to look back.

MADDOW: On the surface, it appears that the Republican caucus is divided as to whether or not President Trump should be convicted, whether he - his actions, particularly as -- specifically as they relate to January 6th, are worthy of conviction.

I say on the surface, because I can`t -- I can`t read any deeper than that --

(CROSSTALK)

SCHUMER: Yes.

MADDOW: Do you believe that Leader McConnell, the minority leader, actually is undecided as to whether he`ll vote to convict? Do you think there is a real possibility of conviction?

SCHUMER: Well, the one thing we want to do is not give anyone the excuse that we didn`t have a fair trial.

So when McConnell came to me -- you know, we could have just, with 51 votes -- in impeachment you can use 51 votes as well. We could have just laid down the law, but I sat down and negotiated with him. So -- and you know, he had said it was a fair process.

Will he approach this with an open mind? I mean, you hope and pray. I can`t guess.

His previous actions, he went along with Trump on every single thing, which on the one hand, makes you think he`ll do it again, but on the other hand, then why did he say this? It was so atypical of how McConnell had handled Trump, because he went right up to the line with him but didn`t go over.

MADDOW: If -- as you have said -- some of what the president tried to do in his last days was attempted sedition.

SCHUMER: Yes.

MADDOW: He has been charged and impeached with an incitement insurrection. Do you think ultimately that criminal charges for people who worked with him, criminal charges potentially for him, are the right way for this to end?

SCHUMER: I -- you know, I`d leave it up to the lawyers. You know, what he did was despicable and bad for our republic. Whether it crossed a criminal red line, maybe, and I`d like to hear what lawyers have to opine on that, but I certainly wouldn`t rule it out.

MADDOW: Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, congratulations. It has been --

(CROSSTALK)

SCHUMER: Thank you.

MADDOW: You`ve been long time aiming at this, and it`s an honor to have this time with you. Good luck.

SCHUMER: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. It`s awesome.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MADDOW: My exclusive interview with the new leader of the United States Senate, Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer, taking the top job for the first time ever as Democrats now control the White House and the United States Senate and the United States House.

On the night the article of impeachment was conveyed from the House to the Senate, the majority leader not only encouraging tonight in this interview a conviction of the president but saying he`s potentially open to criminal charges as well, also discussing his plans to open up more seats on the federal courts, potentially to include the United States Supreme Court as Democrats confront a judicial branch quite thoroughly stacked with Republican appointees.

That is the legacy of Mitch McConnell`s time as majority leader. He has now been ousted from that post. Now with the House and Senate, will they investigate potentially corruption of Trump`s last wave of malodorous last- minute pardons and commutations? Senator Schumer addressing that possibility for the first time tonight as well.

Stay tuned. Lots to get to tonight. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: It has been a whirlwind day today. The first female treasury secretary in U.S. history, Janet Yellen, has just been confirmed by the U.S. Senate tonight. She`s not yet sworn in but she is confirmed. That means President Biden now has cabinet officials confirmed at Defense, Treasury, and the director of national intelligence. Surely, there will be more officials confirmed in coming days, but it`s coming slowly so far.

Today, President Biden reversed the Trump ban against transgender Americans serving in the military. He also signed a buy-American executive order to support U.S. manufacturing.

The new White House press secretary today announced that starting this week career scientists will lead public briefings at least three times a week to update the country on the fight against COVID. They also announced today that White House press briefings will now have an ASL interpreter every time from here on out, sign language interpreter.

I honestly can`t believe we never did that before now, but from here on out we`ll have that.

Today, the inspector general at the Justice Department said he will investigate whether Trump DOJ officials tried to use the power of the Justice Department to alter the results of the presidential election at President Trump`s insistence. The investigation follows explosive reporting over the weekend that President Trump really did try to fire the A.G. and replace him with a lower-level guy who, quote, spent a lot of time reading on the internet, who apparently wanted to go along with the Trump election conspiracy theories.

Once installed as attorney general, the new guy reportedly proposed that he would tell the state of Georgia to void their declaration of Joe Biden as the winner of the election. That is now under Justice Department investigation.

And, and, also the Senate -- Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump is under way officially tonight. As we discussed tonight with Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, it will be the president pro tem of the Senate, Senator Patrick Leahy who will preside, instead of Chief Justice John Roberts. The prosecution and the defense will start their arguments in two weeks.

In the meantime, that means Biden cabinet nominees can be approved and as we heard from Chuck Schumer tonight, the COVID relief bill, they hope, can also pass in the meantime before the impeachment arguments start. Senator Schumer making some news tonight with his assertion that he`s ready to go with passing almost all of the COVID relief bill using a process that will only take 51 votes. So Democrats can do it alone if they have to and Republicans can`t stop that.

I mean, big picture, I don`t know how things are going to resolve between Republicans and Democrats now that Republicans are in the minority in both the House and the Senate, but I think what we`re learning from the Democratic leadership now is that what the Republicans want, what the Republicans think they might want to try, just might not matter all that much.

Again, breaking news tonight that the Republican leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, has caved during our interview broadcast tonight, abandoning his previous plan to try to keep Democrats from taking the reins in the Senate, this after Senator Schumer told him in his interview on this program tonight that he wouldn`t budge one inch no matter what McConnell demanded. We actually got a statement from Senator Schumer in response to the caving by Senator McConnell. I`ll have that for you in just a second.

But, whew, these next two weeks are shaping up to be way more interesting than I was expecting them to be. Watch this space.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: So, again, during our broadcast interview tonight with the new Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, while I was asking him about his strategy for dealing with the fact that he was in a big impasse, a big standoff, with Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, essentially McConnell prohibiting the Democrat from taking the reins in the Senate even though they`re technically now in control, Senator McConnell issued a statement backing down basically caving in that fight.

We`ve now got a statement from Senator Schumer in response. His spokesman says this, quote: We`re glad Senator McConnell threw in the towel and gave up on his ridiculous demand. We look forward to organizing the Senate under Democratic control and start getting big, bold, things done for the American people.

Whew. That does it for us tonight.

Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL."

Good evening, Lawrence.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END