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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, 1/28/2021

Guest: Jen Psaki�


First Lady Jill Biden`s office announced that her chief of staff will be working directly on the issue of reuniting separated families. Interview with White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki.


CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, "ALL IN": That is "ALL IN" on this Thursday


THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.

Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: That was my favorite story of yours in a very

long time, Chris. Particularly that story.

HAYES: I love -- I just -- I read that story, and I don`t know, man, it`s

been a rough period. It just filled me up in some way, those pictures --

God bless them.

MADDOW: When you said it was like I was having an anxiety dream about

something I didn`t even know I was supposed to have anxiety about, that`s

exactly right. Like at your car window, you want the shot? Um -- yes,

desperately. Also I want to call the police but maybe you`re the police.

HAYES: Yeah.

MADDOW: Just incredible. Thank you, my friend. Well done. Well done.

And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Tonight, we are going

to be joined live this hour by the person who is fast becoming one of the

most familiar faces and voices of the new administration, Jen Psaki, White

House spokesperson, is going to be our guest tonight.

Even though we`re only one week into the administration, I can show you

this many pictures of her conducting different White House press briefings

because we have daily White House press briefings again. She does these

every day.

Under the Trump administration, the White House briefings started off bad

and got quickly worse before they ultimately disappeared entirely. They

seemed not to be able to handle talking to the press every day and bring

questions. But immediately from day one, the Biden administration brought

back the briefings. It`s led by Jen Psaki and she is here tonight live for

the interview. Very much looking forward to speaking with her.

It seems awkward to know it let alone talk about it but as the Biden

administration gets underway and in this first week, they start reversing

things that were undone or broken by the previous president, as they as

they set out to restore some of the government basics that went by the

wayside in the past four years, including things like daily briefings as

they set out to pass a whole bunch of ambitious policies and programs that

Biden campaigned on, that Democrats in Congress campaigned on, things that

are designed to deal with the myriad crises the last presidency left us

with, it is sort of awkward but I think unavoidable to realize that one

crucial thing that is going to make the life or death difference as to

whether or not the new administration and the new Congress are actually

able to get stuff done is a thing that we only have because of Richard

Nixon being such a terrible president, and specifically because of

something that Richard Nixon did right before he resigned.

And it seemed like nothing much at the time it got not that much attention

at the time but it very well may now determine if the Biden presidency and

the Democratic Congress under the Biden presidency is able to get anything

done or not.

It was July 1974 -- July 12th, 1974, President Richard Nixon`s top White

House aide was convicted on multiple felonies. John Ehrlichman, he was

domestic policy adviser to Nixon, top adviser to Nixon in the White House.

Ehrlichman was convicted of multiple felonies, convicted of conspiracy and

lying to the FBI, and lying to the grand jury.

Actually that day in July 1974, multiple Nixon guys were convicted but

Ehrlichman was a big deal. He was way up there in the hierarchy he was the

highest ranking person at that point convicted in the Nixon scandals. And

President Nixon had to be rattled by it.

Nixon`s White House press secretary at the time, Ron Ziegler, told

reporters there would be no comment from the president on Ehrlichman`s

conviction. But that conviction was, of course, the lead story in the news

all over the country.



John Ehrlichman has been found guilty of three counts of perjury and one

count of conspiracy in the Ellsberg break-in case. The verdict against

Ehrlichman formerly President Nixon`s chief domestic advisor was returned

by a federal district court jury in Washington this evening after only a

few hours of deliberation. Ehrlichman who stood impassively as the verdict

was read could receive up to 25 years in prison.


MADDOW: Tom Brokaw on "NBC Nightly News" the night of that verdict that

was the opening story on "Nightly News" that night now we now know looking

back at the timeline that it was less than a month later that Nixon himself

would resign from the presidency in disgrace as the net of all the Nixon

administration scandals and accountability for Watergate just closed around

him as well.

But that Friday in mid-July -- remember Nixon resigned in August, right?

This was mid-July, the day that Nixon`s top aide was convicted while the

president was that much on the ropes. If you stayed past the lead story,

that night if you watched the whole evening news that night, beyond just

the lead about Ehrlichman facing decades in prison, right, and the

president having no comment on that.

If you got through the rest of the nightly news that night, you would

eventually, 17 minutes into that 30-minute newscast get to the thing that

now is everything to us and get to the thing that now 40-years, 40-plus

years later is really the make or break determinant as to whether or not

President Joe Biden is going to be able to do anything substantive in

Washington in his first term in office.


BROKAW: And at the White House, today, President Nixon signed a new budget

bill into law, the most significant reform of budget procedures since

Congress began. The bill gives Congress much more authority over the

national budget than it ever has had before. The president for example no

longer will be able to impound appropriated money without the approval of



MADDOW: It was that same day right that`s the same day the president`s top

advisor gets convicted of multiple felonies.

So this story about the other thing that mattered about the president that

day that had to wait until minutes into the newscast that night. In the

newspaper the following morning, it only made it onto page six of "The New

York Times".

But what that was, what Nixon signed into law that auspicious day or

inauspicious day back in July 1974 is something he probably never would

have signed had he not been in extremis, had he not been fighting to save

his own political life, had that not been less than a month before he was

going to have to resign the presidency in disgrace.

And it`s something he never would have been asked to sign had Nixon not

been such a terrible president. I mean, we remember Nixon in history now

because of all the people who got convicted, right, because of the

Watergate disaster, because of all that that scandal revealed about his

scummy administration and his failings as a person and the dramatic way his

presidency had to be brought to an end. I mean, remember all that about


Before Donald Trump, there`s a reason that Nixon is the standard bearer for

a scandal-ridden, disgraced president. But because of that, because of the

way it ended, we sometimes forget that beyond Watergate beyond all of those

marquee Nixon scandals, he was a pretty terrible president in other ways.

And one of the ways in which Nixon showed his sort of radical power mad

side is, you know, not just organizing break-ins and having that CIA try to

cover them up for him and all that`s all that cloak and dagger stuff, it`s

stuff that he did as president in the light of day, including him claiming

new power for himself as president that basically turned Congress off like

a switch.

We all know how it works Congress passes laws, Congress passes a budget.

Congress appropriates money for the government to do stuff but Nixon when

he was president he decided forget that -- forget those constitutional

strictures. He instead would take control of that process himself.

And so, he started you -- you heard Tom Brokaw say this in that report from

July 1974 about impounding money. That`s what Nixon was doing. He started

doing something they called impounding money that had been appropriated by

Congress. This is something he did not just with small stuff but with

billions of dollars.

Congress would appropriate money for a purpose within the government they

would fund a program or an agency. But if Nixon didn`t like that program or

the agency, he decided that he had the power to just take all that money

and refuse to allow it to be spent. He would impound the funding that had

been appropriated by Congress. That`s irrigating to himself what they call

the power of the purse which is what Congress`s main power is.

I mean, like our country or don`t, that`s fundamental to who we are as a

republic. It`s Congress that gets to decide how money is spent in the

government and Nixon in his presidency took that power for himself and

Congress was very unhappy about it. And so, when President Nixon was on the

ropes, when he was embroiled in scandal, and on the precipice, we now know

of having to resign the presidency in disgrace, Richard Nixon signed a new

law that cut himself short.

Signed a new law that was designed to stop him from being able to do this

thing that he had been doing. He signed a new law that would prevent any

future president from bogarting the budget, from bogarting money

appropriated by Congress the way he had been. It gave Congress a whole

bunch of new powers when it came to the budget, to try to constrain a

president who was sticking his nose where it didn`t belong.

And that law which Nixon in extremis at the very end signed that law

included one tweak one little power that Congress gave itself with this new

law it`s a quirky little thing that they could do only once per budget.

Since Congress is supposed to do a budget once per year that meant Congress

could do this thing only once per year. It was originally designed in that

bill to give Congress a small window, basically a last chance, to make

after the fact changes once they had set their budget for the year, and

they could make those changes with just the majority vote in the House and

the Senate.

This was not intended from the outset to be a very big deal. This was not

intended from the outset to be a fundamental change in the way the country

does its business, in the way the various branches work together. But it

ended up becoming very important over the years.

I mean, this overall reform that Nixon signed in 1974 was to give Congress

the tools that they needed to set the budget, to oversee the allocations of

money as they saw it, without being locked down on the process or work

around by a president like Nixon who was trying to take those powers for


Nixon signs it in 1974, less than a month before he resigned, signs that on

the day his top aide was convicted on multiple felonies. It`s this sort of

-- it looks like a footnote to that much bigger news of that scandal at

that time.

But what Nixon signed went into effect for the first time in 1980 over the

ensuing 41 years, what that little tweak has turned into is something

that`s a very big deal. What it has turned into is a means by which the

Senate can pass stuff without needing 60 votes, that needing a super

majority to do it. It`s a means by which the Senate can pass some stuff as

long as it pertains to the budget with just 51 votes, and they can do that

once per budget, and it`s because of that Nixon reform that he signed in


And now, this year in 2021, with all the once in a lifetime craziness that

we are contending with as a country, with the outgoing president having

been impeached twice and with him due to go on trial again in the United

States Senate next week even though he`s already gone from office, with an

ongoing and indeed accelerating global pandemic having killed more

Americans in the past year than were killed in the whole length of World

War II, with an economy just squashed by the pandemic, putting more

Americans on the unemployment rolls every week than we have seen at any

time since the Great Depression, with the country having just voted out the

latest Republican president who made Nixon`s scandals look quaint and

having voted Republicans out of control of the House and the Senate too but

narrowly in each case.

Now, today, that you know page six of "The New York Times" 17 minutes into

the newscast footnote, that tweak in the way the budget gets done in

Washington is going to make all the difference in the world as to whether

or not now the Democratic Party having control of the presidency and the

house and the Senate is going to be enough for this new president to get

big lasting things passed to try to help the country in all of the crises

that we are in now. These are the policies roughly as shorthanded by me and

I take full responsibility for any of these things that aren`t that don`t

end up being proposed exactly this way.

But roughly, these are the priorities that the Biden administration and the

Democratic-led Congress have said they want to get done. First, it`s what

they`re calling the American Rescue Plan, the COVID relief. This is funding

for the national vaccination program and a stimulus check for American

families and another round of help to our suffering small businesses and

help for cities and states so the economic crunch from the pandemic doesn`t

force them to start laying off cops and firefighters and paramedics and

teachers and all the rest.

It extends the ban on evicting people from their apartments or foreclosing

on their homes during the pandemic. It extends the pause on people having

to repay their federal student loans it puts extra money in people`s

unemployment checks. It includes a really overdue hike in the federal

minimum wage. So that`s one. That`s the American Rescue Plan, that`s COVID

relief bill.

There`s also their jobs and infrastructure bill. This is basically an

economic rescue and infrastructure plan. It includes a big focus on

domestic manufacturing. There`s a lot in there about transportation lots of

investments and things that will both help the economy and help with

climate issues like emission standards and stuff. This is a lot of what

Biden campaigned on, Build Back Better.

They also want immigration reform, including an eight-year-long path to

citizenship for immigrants and reforms and rationalization on border

security and on applying for asylum and on the treatment of refugees very,

very, very long overdue immigration reform they want to do that.

And there`s democracy, voting rights and shoring up democracy. They`re

calling this one HR-1 in the House and S1 in the Senate, meaning

numerically, it`s the first bill in both Houses of Congress. This includes

the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

It puts a stop to partisan gerrymandering it makes it so every state has a

floor they can`t go below in terms of providing for early voting and same-

day voter registration and other things that open up the voting process to

make it easier for people to vote. It blocks states from messing with

voting by mail. It standardizes and makes voter registration the norm

nationwide instead of something that states tinker with and try to make

hard when certain parties see it to their advantage. And it`s got a whole

lot more into it. That`s in -- but that`s some of it.

In very rough terms, again, I`m -- I take responsibility for leaving out

some stuff and maybe overstating or understating some other things, but

this is basically how I understand it. These are the four things they are

aiming at from the outset. These are not you know executive orders or

resolutions or statements of intent or anything else that can be reversed

with this -- with the -- with the sweep of a pen by the next president.

This is law. This -- these would be big leaps forward in terms of law,

congressionally passed real durable legislation that will change and reform

things in big ways in the country, big moves to try to handle these

multiple crises that we have been struggling through and how they can do

it. This is all stuff that has to be done through Congress.

Now in the House, Democrats have a narrow majority, but they have a

majority and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi knows how to get things passed with

a Democratic majority. The issue is the Senate. In the Senate, Senate rules

say that the minority party can filibuster almost anything, which in effect

means that they can require 60 votes to pass legislation. There are only 50

Democratic senators in the Senate, and you know on some issues maybe a

Republican senator, or two or three. Hey, let`s be optimistic, let`s say

four or five or six Republican senators might cross over and side with the

Democrats on some piece of legislation maybe.

But come on, it`s just not going to happen on anything big. And even if

they could get one, two, three, four, five, six Republican senators to

cross over on something, it certainly never going to be 10 Republican

senators to cross over to vote with Democrats on anything at all, let alone

something big and substantive. Republicans just don`t operate that way


I mean, under their leader, Senator Mitch McConnell, you could not get

Republican senators to vote for a resolution that said moms are good and

ice cream`s cold and tasty. I mean, there`s just no way they would do it.

And so, Richard Nixon and that tweak that he signed in high summer 1974,

less than a month before he resigned, to basically clip his own wings after

the way that he had been trying to arrogate the powers of Congress to

himself. That tweak that he signed which was sort of a miracle that he

signed it, he probably never would have had he not been in such trouble but

he signed that tweet that gives Congress new ways to wrangle the budget,

including one neat trick where the Senate can pass stuff once per budget in

a way that gets around a filibuster and lets you just pass something with a


That`s heaven and earth right now. That is -- that is black and white, that

is night and day, that is up and down. That is going to be the difference.

Put back up that list of stuff that Biden and the Democratic Congress wants

to do again as we roughly understand it. And again, this is rough. Remember

this is just my shorthand and in most cases we haven`t seen the bills yet

so this is just sort of my expectations roughly based on conversations with

people who know these things what we`ve seen in the press and what the

White House and the Democrats have explained, four main things.

Well, that gift that we got from Richard Nixon, that gift -- that tweak

that says once per budget, you can pass something just with a majority,

just with 51 votes, once per budget, you can use the budget reconciliation

process to pass something with just a majority which Democrats have just on

their own, well, you can only do that once per budget resolution.

Here is the unusual wrinkle in the Democrats favor. It turns out there was

no budget resolution passed last year. They still didn`t do last year`s

budget resolution and, of course, they haven`t done this year yet either.

So even though that 40-year-old gift from Richard Nixon usually means you

can use this reconciliation process to pass stuff with 50 votes once per

year in the Senate, this year, they get two budget resolutions. They

actually get to do it twice, which is a windfall.

But put back up that list of things they want to do. That is still not

enough to pass this stuff that they want to do, right, with just a majority

vote, with just Democratic votes if they need to do it that way. Think

about it -- are they going to get Republican votes for any of these things?

Likely not, right? They can only use that one neat trick to pass things

with just a majority of votes twice. It`s amazing that they can do it


That inheritance from Richard Nixon is enough, we think, to pass two of

these two big ambitious legislative lifts the two that are highlighted here

are the ones that we think they`re going to go for. What does that do for

immigration reform? What does that do for voting rights and shoring up

democracy? What does that do with everything else they want to pass through

legislation in Congress?

And the other hurdle here is that anything they want to pass by this

process, they have to make the case to the Senate parliamentarian that

everything in that bill is materially related to the budget. If it`s not

budget related, they can`t do it with just a majority vote.

But bottom line, using the reconciliation process, they can pass two big

packages of legislation this year, if the Democrats hang together even if

they get zero Republican votes. If they want to pass anything else besides,

they only have two options. They`re either going to have to persuade 10

Republican senators to cross over, and again, 10 Republican senators likely

would not cross over to vote with the Democrats to proclaim kittens to be

soft right, let alone to vote with Democrats on something like immigration

reform, or COVID relief, or infrastructure, or voting rights. Are you

kidding me? Ten Republican senators? Seriously?

They can either persuade Republicans to leave their bodies and do something

that they are constituently incapable of doing in this era of the

Republican Party or their other option if they want anything passed at all

while Joe Biden is president if they want anything other than the two

things they can do for reconciliation to pass, the only other thing they

can do is to vote themselves, all the Democrats, to get rid of the

filibuster, to get rid of that in the Senate, to make it so a majority vote

carries the day on all legislation from here on out and there`s no more

vote threshold.

They can do something, specifically we think they can do two packages of

legislation, all of which has to relate to the budget without the help of

Republicans. But that`s all they`re going to be able to do unless they can

kill the filibuster or unless Republicans suddenly have a massive change of

heart. Don`t bet on it.

And I know this seems like you know us government trivia, it seems like

marginalia. It seems like something vestigial we never noticed during the

cratering of the disastrous Nixon presidency. But it has become the one

thing that determines if we can do anything substantive to get our country

out of the mess that we are in if we can apply the power of government to

making lasting change to address the fundamental problems where we are, to

give a vaccination program funding nationwide to give the American people

relief from the economic and health disaster that we are in right now, to

shore up our democracy, to support and both buttress voting rights, to

finally reform and rationalize our absolutely broken immigration system,


If we want to do any of those things, that`s where we are now. And the

White House has so far been avoiding talking about things in these terms I

think because it`s a little too stark, right? It`s not the way that

President Biden in particular likes to talk about the differences between

the two parties and the prospects of the two parties working together. He

likes to project optimism on that front.

I think they don`t talk about things in terms of this stark because they

think it`s too negative in outlook in terms of what Republicans are like

now and what they`re likely to do even for a good cause and for the

country. But this is where we are, I`m telling you and it makes it very

simple in terms of how we think about the road ahead and the prospects for

getting stuff done, and it means that Democrats are running very, very,

very quickly into very hard decisions about how much they are willing to do

to get things done for the country.

And the new White House press secretary joins us live in just a moment.

Stay with us tonight. I think this is going to be good.



JOE BIDEN, THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What happened -- parents were

ripped, their kids were ripped from their arms and separated, and now they

cannot find over of sets of those parents and those kids are alone, nowhere

to go, nowhere to go. It`s criminal. It`s criminal.


MADDOW: That was candidate Joe Biden at the final presidential debate this

past fall just excoriating President Trump for this -- the Trump

administration`s policies of taking little kids away from their moms and

dads at the border and then never reuniting hundreds of those families.

Well, the week after that debate, just a few days before the election, the

Biden campaign released a TV ad that featured that portion of the debate

and it said -- the ad said that if elected on his first day as president,

Joe Biden would create a federal task force to start the process of finding

and reuniting those hundreds of kids with their parents.

Well, now, Joe Biden is president and whatever is going to happen in terms

of immigration reform and the president`s immigration legislation in

Congress, there is still this very pressing issue of hundreds of kids taken

away from their parents by the Trump administration who still haven`t been

reunited with them. President Biden did not create a task force on this

issue on on day one as his campaign said he would but we have been told

that they are working on announcing something soon.

And we did get this interesting development this week when the first lady`s

office announced that her chief of staff will be working directly on the

issue of reuniting separated families. CNN reported that First Lady Jill

Biden herself will give input to the task force that they are setting up to

reunite these kids with their parents. That suggests this is both still a

high priority for the Biden administration and that this is going to be a

high profile thing, anything a first lady is involved in tends to be a high

profile thing.

But the question remains, how are they going to do this? Why has there been

a delay from something they said they do on day one?

President Biden had been expected to issue the executive order creating

this task force as of tomorrow, as of Friday. But now, it appears to have

been delayed again. Sources telling NBC News` Julia Ainsley, Jacob Soboroff

and Geoff Bennett that President Biden`s immigration executive orders,

including this task force to reunite separated families those orders are

being delayed, quote, by at least a few days. So, at least in our reporting

thus far, we don`t know what is causing these delays.

When should we expect the president to take action and what should we

expect from this task force that he`s promised that hasn`t yet


Joining us now is Jacob Soboroff, MSNBC correspondent. He`s the author of

the book "Separated: Inside An American Tragedy". Jacob`s really been at

the forefront of covering this issue from the beginning and he joins us

tonight from the border in Otay Mesa, California.

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

JACOB SOBOROFF, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Thanks for having me, Rachel.

MADDOW: So you have been covering this for a long time, where do you -- I

mean, bottom line, where do you think we are in terms of getting some

action toward reuniting these families? What do you understand about the

pace at which the administration is working and why this rollout is slower

than they told us to expect?

I think if President Biden Rachel was able to launch his task force and

announce the plan on day one, he would have done it. But what I think the

Biden administration is now learning is that this is extraordinarily

complicated, and it`s complicated not just because of the cruelty and the

intentionality that went into this policy to separate 5,000 kids -- over

5,000 kids from their parents, including Miss L. who was separated and then

detained, the namesake of the lawsuit that won the reunification of all the

families right here in Otay Mesa, but also because after the separations,

there are so many different distinct groups of separated families and how

ultimately President Biden and his administration will deal with them.

What is the relief that they will offer? Will they bring people back from

that side of the border uh who were separated and their children remain on

this side? Will they bring parents deported with their children back to the

United States? Will they designate them victims of crimes? There`s all

kinds of questions they have to answer, and I`m not so sure that they`ve

answered them all yet.

MADDOW: Is part of the issue, Jacob, part of the complexity and

potentially the delay here, the issue of accountability? As you say, you

know, should they be defined -- these folks be defined as victims of


Is it possible that of government personnel, whether they`re people in

Washington or people who effectuated this policy on the border, may have

committed crimes in doing so and that this should be treated as something

for which individual people working for the Trump administration and

carrying out this policy on behalf of the Trump administration might find

themselves legally in trouble for what they did?

SOBOROFF: I think it`s a critical question and what vice president now

President Biden meant when he was a candidate, you know, saying it`s

criminal, it`s criminal. He told our colleague Geoff Bennett that he

intended for his Justice Department to conduct a, quote, thorough

investigation. Well, that Justice Department has provided a road map into

potential criminality with this inspector general report that by name

pointed out many key officials in the Trump administration for purposely

implementing this policy, including Gene Hamilton, a counselor to Jeff

Sessions, Jeff Sessions himself.

And they say in this inspector general`s report that now the Biden

administration has, that when they did this the plan wasn`t necessarily

just to separate and prosecute people here at the border but

administratively separate. So we talk about five thousand people being

separated. We now know that that number could be far higher tens of

thousands if not a hundred thousand in the time period had they separated


And so, now, it won`t be up to this task force which will be led by

Alejandro Mayorkas we understand, the secretary designated of Homeland

Security, in consultation with HHS and as well as State, but separately,

will this Department of Justice investigate this and ultimately pursue

criminal charges?

MADDOW: Wow. Remarkable. Jacob Soboroff, MSNBC correspondent who again has

been on this story literally from day one, Jacob, thanks for your time

tonight. I really appreciate you joining us particularly from where you are

there on the border tonight.

SOBOROFF: Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: All right. As I mentioned, President Biden`s new White House Press

Secretary Jen Psaki joins us live next for the interview, very much looking

forward to speaking with her. That`s next.


MADDOW: By the time she joined then-Senator Barack Obama`s campaign as a

traveling press secretary in 2008, Jen Psaki already had a pretty

impressive resume under her belt. She`d already worked on a presidential

campaign. She`d served as a member of John Kerry`s staff during his run for

president in 2004.

Before that, she spent time as a communications director on Capitol Hill.

She`d done a stint at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Given that experience, it`s no wonder that when she joined the Obama

campaign in 2008, she quickly sort of became a fixture. When President

Obama ultimately was elected, Jen Psaki would go on to serve as White House

deputy press secretary and then as deputy communications director.

After working on the president`s reelection campaign in 2012, she shifted

to a role as State Department spokesperson where she did daily briefings

and she attracted whatever the opposite of a fan club is from the Russian

government in particular.

Jen Psaki would later finish out the Obama administration as White House

communication director.

So, tonight, as she joins us, Jen Psaki is just eight days into this new

role as White House press secretary, the most visible communications role

in all of U.S. government.

But this is not day eight of Jen Psaki`s -- Jen Psaki`s responsibility in

jobs like this. This is a woman who knows what she`s doing. She`s been

through it already.

Joining us now for the interview is White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki.

Jen, it is really nice of you to come on the show tonight. I know you have

every option in the world. Thanks for being here.

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Oh, great to be here. Thank you.

Thanks for having me.

MADDOW: It is hard for those of us in the press and in the public to get

used to there being a White House press briefing every day again. We were

accustomed to it for so long and when it went away, we lost those muscles

immediately. And it feels actually even sometimes hard to keep up.

How is it going from your perspective?

PSAKI: Well, on the first day, I have to be honest, I got some texts from

friends who said things like, "the world is counting on you", "we`re

watching you, and hopefully it all goes okay."

And there`s a little bit of pressure on your shoulders, but, you know, I am

-- I am honored that I get to serve in this role and to serve for this

president who, you know, every day is willing to answer my questions and

wants to make sure that we`re on the same page about the tone we`re sending

and what he`s thinking about issues.

And, you know, the job is hard but that makes the job a bit easier. So, so

far, day eight, I haven`t started to worry (ph) yet, that`s good, and

hopefully, I`m starting to lay the groundwork for rebuilding trust with the

public. And that I think is really one of my primary goals at this point in

time for, you know, this job.

MADDOW: The trust with the public and not having such an adversarial

relationship with the press where the press feels like they are under

assault and put at physical danger because of your words, that`s also a

nice -- that`s also a nice change from the previous experience from the

briefing room.

But I have to say, like, I`m already feeling like, the presentation that we

are hearing from you in the briefing room already feels, it is -- I trust

it and I also feel like it`s too nice. I feel like the challenges that the

administration has on Capitol Hill are more stark than you have been

telling us in terms of the likelihood that Republicans are going to go

along with anything that President Biden wants to do.

And so, it`s not -- it`s not a trust issue because I believe you are

telling the truth but I believe -- and I`m just going to put it right to

you -- I believe you are being too nice about what Republicans are likely

to do.

Do you know something that we don`t or are you -- or is that a fair


PSAKI: Well, look, first I think, you know, you take -- you take your

guidance from the person you work for. And for me, that`s President Biden.

And he starts every day thinking I want to be able to work with Democrats

and Republicans and there`s a reason they should work with me because the

pieces that are in, for example, this COVID package that is the top

priority for him right now, are things the Democrats and Republicans across

the country support -- 70 percent of the public supports them.

Are Republicans now against reopening schools? Are they against getting

unemployment insurance checks to the American people? Are they against

getting vaccines in the arms of Americans?

So we want to lay this out and speak directly to the people out in the

public who are watching the briefing, too, sometimes or watching clips of

it, too, sometimes to really explain to them what we`re doing. So I promise

you I`ve been in this town long enough, so has President Biden, nobody is

naive in the White House about how hard, it`s going to be and none of us

think that Republicans are just going to lay down and work with us

overnight, but we feel like we have to try.

And we have to lay out for the public what we`re trying to do. And that we

are trying to work on in a bipartisan way. And then we have a range of

tools at our disposal to get relief to the public if that doesn`t work out,

and if they don`t take us up on it at every opportunity.

MADDOW: One of those tools, of course, is reconciliation. I tried to lay

out at the top of the show tonight some of the history of how we got the

budget reconciliation process and how weird that is, but the fact that

basically there`s probably two shots this year at being able to pass

something using that process, which would mean that you could pass

something would just a majority vote in the Senate, you wouldn`t need ten

Republicans to cross over, and beat a filibuster in order to do it.

If there are two shots at that and that is going to be the way that some of

this legislation moves, are we right to expect that that would be for the

COVID legislation, the American Rescue Plan, and also for the big jobs and

infrastructure bill, the building back better initiative?

PSAKI: Well, I know there`s been some reporting on this, we haven`t even

proposed. The president hasn`t even proposed the package yet, which he`s

going to do soon in coming weeks. But I would say on the COVID package, you

know, the challenge we`re facing right now, Rachel, as you know, and you

talk about this on your show, is there`s urgency here.

You know, if we don`t have certainty, if the American people don`t have

certainty about being able to put food on the table when we hit this

unemployment cliff in March, if we aren`t able to plan for how we`re going

to reopen schools, you know, this can`t be a game that`s played where we

wait and wait and wait and negotiate and negotiate and negotiate.

We absolutely want it to be bipartisan, but this is one of the tools that

we can use. As you explained on your show, it`s a parliamentary procedure

or step. Now, even if it goes to reconciliation, Republicans can still vote

for it. There`s no blood oath saying they can`t.

So, we`ll keep trying until the end. But there`s an urgency here, and

that`s really our priority right now.

MADDOW: And is it true that the president has been calling Republican

senators directly and trying to talk to them about their concerns and

trying to assess whether or not they might possibly be yes votes for

something like this?

PSAKI: Yes, it`s absolutely truth and having sat in the Oval Office with

him, you know, when he decides to make one of those calls, when he says he

doesn`t want to make one of those calls, he doesn`t really require a call

sheet, or, you know, it`s kind of a very Washington term, but a sheet that

tells him what to say to Congress and how to outline the bill. He knows.

He`s known a lot of these people for decades. He has relationships that go

way back, and it may feel foreign to people but his view is that it`s

working how it should work. He laid out his bill, he laid out what his

vision should be.

He listened to really smart policy experts in the health area and,

obviously, economists as well, and people are going to come back and say, I

don`t like this, I want this to be bigger, which some are saying, I want

this to be smaller, what some Republicans are saying. And he`s going to

hear them out and see what`s possible.

And there are areas, for example, on the targeting of checks and making

sure they`re going most to people in need, that -- he`s happy to have that

conversation on. At the end of the day, he also has his principles and is

not going to break this bill up. He wants pieces that address the vaccines,

pieces that address -- to ensure they`re getting checks to people to put

food on the table and money so we can to open schools.

He`s not going to break it up but he`s happy to have a discussion about the

components of it and the size, and things along those lines, and that`s

what`s ongoing. But yes, he picks up the phone. Sometimes he says, great,

I`ll call that, I`ll call senator so and so later today, or make sure I

call -- I call that senator, I call him back and have a conversation.

And I think that`s -- that gives you a sense of how he`s going to govern.

MADDOW: White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, would you mind staying with

me for just a second? I have another couple of things I`d love to ask you

for. I have to take a quick break here.

PSAKI: Sure, I`d love to.

MADDOW: Right back with the press secretary after this. Stay with us.


MADDOW: We`re back with White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki.

Jen, thank you again for doing this. I really appreciate you being here


One of the things you talked about today at the briefing was that we should

expect executive orders from President Biden next week in regards to

immigration. And that potentially includes what, for a lot of people, is a

long-awaited announcement about the reuniting of kids who were taken away

by their moms and dads by the Trump administration. We heard during the

campaign he planned to issue an executive order on day one forming a task

force that would take on that and start working on that immediately. Of

course, that did not happen on day one.

Can you give us an update on what we should expect on that front?

PSAKI: Well, this is something that the president`s absolutely committed

to, and you can expect you`ll hear more from him on it next week. And as

you`ve done reporting on and as Jake was just reporting on early in this

show, you know, this is an issue people have been waiting on for some time,

creating a reunification task force that can help finally bring some relief

to families who have been cruelly and immorally separated from -- as a

result of the policies of the last administration.

So, there will be more from the president on that next week. He has had a

flurry of executive actions and orders he has taken, including and also put

out -- put forward some legislation, including a comprehensive immigration

bill, an immigration bill that addresses and tries to provide a pathway to

citizenship. But I know this is something people have been waiting on. Tune

in next week.

And also next week, Rachel, if I may add, you know, one of the areas where

he is really focused is rebuilding institutions across government and

rebuilding trust not just, of course, at the podium -- I promise not to be

so nice tomorrow -- but also in the career public servants.

And next week, he`s going to go visit the State Department and thank them

for all of the work they do and really showcase how government works and

how incredible the men and women who serve and have been serving for

decades are. And that`s something that I know is close to his heart and

something we hope to highlight next week too.

MADDOW: In terms of the task force on reuniting kids, it`s been said that

possibly the new homeland security secretary, soon to be Secretary

Mayorkas, would be heading up the task force. It`s also been reported that

the First Lady Jill Biden and her office, her chief of staff, may be

involved in someway with that task force.

Can you just -- can you confirm that for us and tell us more about what we

should expect there? Obviously, this is something where the American

people, I think it`s fair to say, feel like this is a gaping moral wound

that needs to be fixed. There are questions potentially of criminal

liability for officials who effectuated this policy under Trump.

Can you give us a little bit more about how that will work?

PSAKI: Sure. And some I can give you and I will say, you know, when --

initially when reports of families being separated was happening, was

covering all the news, my son was a baby and I think watching as a mother,

it just still makes my heart hurt. So, I join many, many Americans who are

watching and others around the world.

You know, I think this is an issue that Dr. Biden has taken -- paid close

attention to. And as a mother herself, that certainly will continue to be

the case. She actually met her chief of staff currently -- her current

chief of staff when they took a trip to the border together -- or they met

prior to that, but they did take a trip to the border together. It will be

an issue she follows closely.

But we`ll see. She`s not going to be leading the task force or anything.

I`m sure she`ll be following closely as Dr. Biden will as well.

But I would expect Ali Mayorkas who will be confirmed soon will be playing

a prominent role, leading this effort, overseeing it out of the Department

of Homeland Security. And we`ll have more to share soon about the members

of the task force and how it will work as we look ahead to address this

really horrific challenge.

MADDOW: White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, thank you so much for your

time this evening. It is fantastic to see you back at the podium every day.

And I know that it is not an easy thing to do. But even when people

disagree with you and even when you were describing things that were not

popular, the fact you were there doing it every day is really important

thing for our democracy.

And it`s just -- it`s -- it`s the Lord`s work, so go with God.

PSAKI: Thank you. Thank you, Rachel. Appreciate it. Thanks for what you do

as well.

MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.


MADDOW: I was as shocked as you were today to realize waking up that it`s

not Friday. Today wasn`t Friday. But it has come to my attention that today

the Friday eve. And that means more than you can possibly know.

We`ll see you again tomorrow night.


Good evening, Lawrence.




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