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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, 2/1/2021

Guest: Jared Bernstein, Jim Rutenberg�


Jared Bernstein,, a member of President Biden`s Council of Economic Advisers, is interviewed. According to remarkable new reporting in "The New York Times," the rally on January 6th that culminated on the attack on the capitol for all intents and purposes, it was a White House production, with President Trump, himself, involved with everything down to selecting the speaking lineup and selecting their walk-on music. And it was the Trump White House, too, that decided the January 6th rally would end with the crowd being told to march down to the U.S. Capitol.


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

"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now.

Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you, my friend. Much appreciate it.

HAYES: You go it.

MADDOW: Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.

As you can see, I, too, am joining the show from home this evening. That`s why the background here looks the way it does. No reason to worry at all. I`m snowed in tonight, like so many people are in the Northeast with this gigantic winter storm. The roads where I am are totally impassable tonight. Even with four-wheel drive, even with good ground clearance, and so I`m home. Better safe than sorry.

You may remember that I figured out how to set up my laptop as a makeshift camera from home when I had to broadcast from home because I was in COVID quarantine back in November. Because I had to do that back in November, I knew I could do this again so I just wheeled the whole setup back out again tonight.

The roads are not fit for man nor beast nor cable news hosts. So, again, apologies for things looking a little higgledy-piggledy. There`s no reason to worry, I will be back in the studio tomorrow night.

OK. January 2009, when Barack Obama was inaugurated as the 44th president of the United States with Joe Biden as his vice president. In January 2009, over 800,000 Americans had just lost their jobs. The great recession caused by insanity in the financial industry and the accompanying Wall Street collapse. The economy had been hemorrhaging jobs for months at a rate not seen since the Great Depression when President Obama was inaugurated.

Unemployment was headed for 10 percent. The Wall Street collapse had wiped out trillions of dollars in wealth. People were hurting. People were very scared.

And one of the reasons Americans had just elected Obama and Biden by a nearly 10 million-vote margin, and also given Democrats` control of the House and the Senate by huge margins, was that Americans really desperately wanted the new government to dig the country out of the smoking, gaping, economic crater that had been left by the outgoing Republican administration.

And so right after the inauguration in January 2009, the new president and the new Democratic-led Congress got to work right away. Not even up one week in on President Obama`s sixth day in office, Democrats introduced a stimulus bill designed to pull the U.S. back from the economic cliff that we were at that moment already plummeting over. The bill was designed to rescue the economy from the freefall that we were in, and it was also designed to have broad bipartisan appeal while it was trying to accomplish that end.

There was direct investment in infrastructure projects to get people back to work. There was aid to state governments and local governments that were just reeling from the economic disaster. A whole third of the bill was tax cuts. Even though that was probably the least efficient part of the new bill in terms of how a stimulus would work on the economy in real life, a third of the bill was tax cuts because that was designed to make Republicans happy.

But when the new president, when President Obama sat down with Republican leaders from Congress, to talk to them about their ideas for stimulus, they basically had just two ideas about the stimulus. Two. One is that they said the stimulus bill was too big, it should be smaller.

The proposal for that bill was close to a trillion dollars. They said the number, 1 trillion, is so big, we can`t possibly do that. Republican Senator John Thune from South Dakota helpfully pointed out at the time if you stacked $100 bills on top of each other, by the time you got to a trillion dollars, that stack would be very, very tall. Or if you tied those bills end to end, which seems like a real waste of time, he said they would wrap around the earth a lot. It would be very large numbers of things.

So that was their one idea, such as it was. The bill should be smaller. If we make an imaginary stack of cash dollars to imagine the size of it, it should be a shorter imaginary stack. Economics.

Their other idea was that instead of a full third of the bill being tax cuts, the whole thing should be tax cuts and there should be no stimulus spending in it at all. So, President Obama and the Democratic-led Congress in 2009, they had put together a stimulus bill with some things the Democrats liked and some things that Republicans liked. They were all aimed at rescuing the economy. They went to the Republicans and said, OK, you know, this is designed to be a bipartisan package. This is a whole bunch of stuff in it that we know you like.

How can we get your votes? How can we make this bill better? What would you like to see changed here so we can get some Republican votes on board here? Shouldn`t we all be pulling in the same direction?

And the Republicans said, you know, well, just give us the tax cuts, the thing we like, get rid of all the stuff that you like, and then maybe we`ll think about giving you a deal.

Now, to be clear, at the time the Democrats didn`t need any Republican votes to pass this really important bill. This bill that the country really, really needed. They wanted Republican votes because, in part, President Obama had run on restoring bipartisanship and compromise. But the Republicans didn`t give any constructive input on the bill. They just offered to scrap it and instead have their own bill, which had nothing to do with anything the Democrats had prioritized or anything that they want.

That said, the Obama White House really, really didn`t want President Obama`s first major legislation to pass with only Democratic votes. So part of their strategy is that they turned to a Republican senator from Maine named Susan Collins. And Susan Collins said that her vote was in play. She would vote for that stimulus bill as long as the bill was shrunk below $800 billion.

Why did she need it shrunk below $800 billion? Because she said at the time it was a, quote, fiscally responsible number. She didn`t explain why that was the fiscally responsible number.

She just liked the number better. In other words, Senator Collins didn`t look out at the wreckage of the American economy then and ask what amount of investment would be sort of best calibrated to fix the economy at that point, she just picked this number that sounded like the right sized number to her and she made the Democrats shrink their bill below that number in order to get her vote. If they wanted her vote, that`s what they would have to do.

The stimulus bill passed the House with zero Republican votes. It passed the Senate with three Republican Senate votes including Senator Collins. One of those Republicans that voted for it actually switched parties and became a Democrat two months later. So how do you catalog that in terms of a bipartisan vote?

But the Recovery Act that President Obama signed into law less than a month into this presidency, it did do a lot of good. It did rescue the U.S. from the brink of economic collapse, and it did start slowly bringing the economy back to health. From, again, the crisis at that point that was the worst since the Great Depression. But it started bringing the country`s economy back not just slowly but very, very slowly. What most economists and experts have determined now, looking back at that whole process, looking back at the recovery act and how it worked, but honestly, you don`t need to be an economist to see, you need to be an American who lived through the painfully slow recovery.

What is clear in retrospect is while the stimulus did some good, it very obviously needed to be bigger. And we know because we lived through that time that it could have been bigger. It could have been bigger. That would have been better. And the economy could have roared back to life faster.

There could have been less economic pain for Americans. And Americans, crucially, would have felt the power of government to do something good in their lives much more directly, if the stimulus bill hadn`t been arbitrarily cut down to a pick-it-out-of-a-hat number just to get a couple Republican votes just to be able to claim bipartisanship.

And then after that experience with the recovery act, the whole thing happened again with health care. President Obama and congressional Democrats spent a year negotiating with Republicans in Congress, which they didn`t need to do, trying to find some kind of bill on health care reform that could get Republican votes. The White House agreed to put the whole health care bill on hold while a bipartisan group of six senators worked on a compromise. How did that go?

Well, in the middle of their months of negotiation, one of the Republican senators went home to his constituents in Wyoming and told them he had no intention of ever voting for any health care bill, proudly bragging to them about how good he had been at holding up the process by negotiating in bad faith. Because that group of bipartisan senators told the White House to wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, while they worked out on their compromise. He admitted to his constituents he had no intention of ever voting for it no matter what they agreed on to change the bill.

He told his constituents, quote: It`s not where I get them to compromise. It`s what I get them to leave out. He said, quote: If I hadn`t been involved this process for as long as I have and to the depth as I have, you`d already have national health care.

Another of the Republican negotiators that year was Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley. For months and months, Democrats had kept making changes to the health care bill. That -- things that Grassley was insisting on, until President Obama finally called Senator Grassley to the White House and called his bluff.

President Obama writes in his memoir about that meeting. He says, quote: I listened patiently as Grassley ticked off five new reasons why he still had problems with the latest version of the bill. I said, finally, let me ask you a question, Chuck. If we took every one of your latest suggestions, could you support the bill? Well. Are there any changes, any all that would us get your vote?

The president writes, quote, there was an awkward silence before Grassley looked up and met my gaze. I guess not, Mr. President.

In the end, the final bill, final Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, that President Obama signed into law, it contained nearly 200 Republican amendments. It was a market-based system, almost entirely dependent on private health insurers. It`s the kind of health care reform Republicans had championed for years and it was disappointing in all kinds of ways to Democrats and to health care reformers who wanted a more fundamental, more stable, change.

But Democrats had compromised, again and again, dozens of times. Actually, hundreds of times in the name of bipartisanship around that bill. And in the end, the affordable care act got zero Republican votes in the United States Senate. Got one Republican vote in the House.

And Obamacare was a remarkable accomplishment. Presidents had tried and failed for generations to reform our screwed up health care system in this country. The ACA has done an incredible amount of good. It`s gotten millions of people health insurance who weren`t able to get it before. And it`s only grown in popularity in the decade plus since it was passed.

But you would be hard pressed to find a Democrat involved in the process of getting it passed who doesn`t regret how much better that might have been if they hadn`t spent all that time appeasing Republicans who were never going to vote for it, anyway, whose ideas didn`t make the bill any better. Made it less ambitious, less successful, less stable, and they didn`t vote for it, anyway, even when all those changes were made at their insistence.

If you could get all that back, you`d get the thing passed so much faster, it would be so much better. You wouldn`t have wasted all that time, wasted all that political capital. You could have moved on and done other stuff.

But after health care it was the same deal again on immigration. President Obama brought back an immigration reform bill that a lot of Republicans had supported just a few years before. Republicans told him they would negotiate a reform bill if President Obama worked with them on the matter and specifically if he agreed to prioritize improving border security as the first thing that happened. So, President Obama did that. He spent hundreds of millions of dollars on high-tech fencing and he tripled the number of intelligence analysts who worked on the border and he deployed drones to surveil the border. He jacked up deportations to hundreds of thousands per year, all to the horror of many people in his own party.

But that`s what Republicans said he needed to do if they wanted to be able to work with -- if he wanted to be able to work with them on an immigration bill. And so after he did all that, he turned to these Republicans to show that he upheld his part of the bargain and then they killed the immigration bill, anyway. Even Republicans who had voted for that exact same immigration proposal just years earlier, it was their own idea, voted against it. Once President Obama brought it up as president, even after he followed through on his part of the deal which is what they said he needed to do in order to get their buy-in. They got him to do all that stuff then they walked away, anyway.

And now here we are. That wasn`t that long ago. It was, you know, several lifetimes ago if you go by all of our physical health and stress and how much we`ve aged since the end of the Obama presidency. But it wasn`t that long ago. Not ancient history.

And now here we are. Democrats have taken control of the presidency in both houses of Congress again. For the first time since they pulled it off in 2009. But there is something quite different this time. This time, the entire Democratic Party is basically singing the same tune from the White House, to the Senate, to the House of Representatives. They remember what happened the last time they were in this situation in 2009 and they are not going to let what happened under President Obama happen again this time.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): 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.


MADDOW: We will not repeat that mistake.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer here on this show just last week talking about the mistake that Democrats made in trying to work with Republicans on Obamacare. We will not make that mistake again.

Just yesterday he reiterated the point to "The New York Daily News", talking about the 2009 stimulus, he said, quote, we cannot do the mistake of 2009 where they whittled down the program so the amount of relief was so small that the recession lasted four or five years.

This time around, the head of the Budget Committee in the Senate is Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Budget Committee is the committee hat will shepherd President Biden`s COVID relief bill through the United States Senate. Senator Sanders was on Chris Hayes` show last hour on MSNBC and he, too, has been making this same point, the important thing is getting a good bill passed, best possible bill passed, a bill that will help the economy. If Republicans want to come along with that, great, but either way, we are moving forward. If they want to come along and help pass a good bill, fine. If they want to make the bill less good, then they`re not interested, and the Republicans coming along to hurt the bill and make it less effective.

Budget Chairman Senator Sanders, Democratic Senate leader, Senator Schumer, singing absolutely from the same hymnal. The number two Democrat in the Senate also appears to be on the same page telling reporters that he`s willing to consider making changes to President Biden`s COVID relief proposal if, and only if, Republicans guarantee that they will vote for the bill if their ideas are incorporated into it.

Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, number two Democrat in the Senate now, saying, you can take the $1.9 trillion package and identify elements within that might be subject to revision or amendment so long as Republicans are telling us and with those changes we will support you.

Meaning, we are not going to once again make all of these changes and waste all of this time while you make the bill worse, saying that`s what we need to do in order to get your votes, only to have you not give us your votes, anyway. Why would we make the bill worse for you in that circumstance?

The Biden White House is now making the same point as well. Here was White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on this exact program on this exact point just last week.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY : I promise you, I`ve been in this town long enough, so has President Biden, nobody`s naive in the White House about how hard it`s going to be or 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. This can`t be a game that`s played where we wait and wait and wait and negotiate, negotiate, negotiate.


MADDOW: So lessons learned, right? Everybody appears to be on the same page here in terms of who`s got power on the Democratic side. The Democrats know what Republicans did in 2009, the last time Democrats had control of the House and the Senate and the White House. They say, we are not playing those reindeer games again. We learned that lesson.

The country definitely and desperately needs relief. We`re not going to interfere with that. We`re not going to step that down and give the country less of what they need in order to keep you happy, when you`re not negotiating in good faith, anyway. We`ve seen you do this before, we`re not doing it again.

Democrats are all on the same page. Republicans today are still trying to - - they want to try this one neat trick. Once again, ten Republican senators led by Susan Collins have proposed a COVID relief bill that is very, very small. Quite undersized given the state the economy is in right now. For the state -- the battle against coronavirus is in right now. What they`re proposing is less than a third of what President Biden has proposed as what the country needs.

And, again, the reason for proposing this tiny little bill is the same argument they made with the last time Democrats had to rescue the country from what a Republican administration left in its hulking, steaming, wake. It`s the same argument from the stimulus in 2009. They just want the bill to be smaller. They prefer -- things are so much cuter when they`re smaller. They like the sound of smaller numbers better. It`s easier to remember, you know?

But they`re once again holding out that tantalizing idea of bipartisanship. If the bill just gets smaller and less effective, hey, maybe the Republicans will come along. Maybe. No promises, but they might.

There are ten Republicans who are saying they would prefer to do this tiny little bill. With ten Republican votes, Democrats could get through a Republican filibuster by the rest of the Republicans in the Senate. But if the Democrats go it alone, if they pass the bill through a maneuver that`s called reconciliation, they don`t need to do anything to try to get Republican votes. They can just pass whatever bill they want with just 50 Democratic votes plus Vice President Harris casting the tiebreaker.

Tonight, President Biden hosted those ten Republicans, proposing this little plan at the White House. This is the first in-person meeting that President Biden has had with lawmakers at the White House since he has been president. He brought those ten Republican senators up to the White House. And I think we know him well enough to know that that is basically the way that President Biden is wired.

And the White House press secretary making clear that president Biden is happy to hear those senators out, happy to talk, happy to hear what they have to say. Senator Susan Collins emerged afterwards and told reporters it had been a, quote, productive, cordial, two-hour meeting. The White House put out its own statement about the meeting calling it a substantive and productive discussion.

But the White House also said this. Quote: While there were areas of agreement, the president also reiterated his view that Congress must respond boldly and urgently and noted many areas in which the Republican senators` proposal doesn`t address. He reiterated that while he is hopeful that the rescue plan can pass with bipartisan support, a reconciliation package is a path to achieve that end.

Even if Democrats go this route, even if they use this process where they would only need 50 Democratic votes to pass their plan, nothing says Republicans can`t still vote for it, right? I mean, if they negotiate in good faith, they can still maybe even make changes to the bill. They can make changes that maybe everybody will agree with that are constructive suggestions.

But Democrats do appear to be united this time around in saying they`re not going to let their legislation be held hostage. They are not going to do something that is worse for the country because Republicans demand it. Lessons learned.

So what happens next?

Joining us now is Jared Bernstein. He`s a member of President Biden`s Council of Economic Advisers. He`s former chief economist and economic adviser to Biden when he was vice president.

Mr. Bernstein, it`s great to see you. Congratulations on the big gig in the administration. It`s really nice to have you here.

JARED BERNSTEIN, COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS: My pleasure. Thanks for inviting me.

MADDOW: First, let me just ask you if that little bit of history comports with the way that you see it and if those lessons learned, as I see it from the outside, feel like the same lessons learned from those of you who are on the inside of some of those decisions.

BERNSTEIN: Well, you kind of were describing my life 12, 13, years ago. So, yeah, that`s as if it was yesterday, and I was very happy not only to hear your history but also to see so many members of Congress, Democrats saying we remember, we`ve been there, we`ve been to this rodeo, and Republicans need to hear that.

And I -- and what`s so, I think, critical is that they`re not just hearing it from the usual folks they negotiate with on the Hill. They`re hearing it from President Biden. He was just unequivocally clear today that he was more than happy to sit down and exchange views and if you can, you know, get in the boat and help row, there`s a seat for you.

But he will not slow down our work on the urgent crisis of responding to our health care and economic dual crises and he will not settle for any package that fails to meet this moment with a magnitude to finally knock COVID back on its feet, get it behind us, and launch a robust and inclusive and a racially equitable recovery.

MADDOW: Can you tell us, Jared, if there are -- or what can you tell us about what`s described already by the White House as some areas of agreement? It seems like there is -- there is a constructive cast to some of these discussions. There may be areas in which the White House and Democrats in Congress and Republicans in Congress agree on what needs to be done. Is -- can you tell us about any of those substantive areas and if there`s anything that the Republicans are asking for that Democrats weren`t otherwise considering that vice president -- excuse me, that President Biden might be inclined toward?

BERNSTEIN: I don`t think there`s any of the latter, anything new that they`re bringing to the table. I do think there is an agreement on business relief and there`s some -- certainly some agreement on addressing the COVID crisis. What I think you have to do, Rachel, is get under the hood and look at where some of the differences are, even in areas of agreement.

So, while the Republicans have unemployment insurance enhancements in their bill, it`s considerably less than the president has in his bill. They also have checks to directing impact payments to people, but those checks are scaled back and I -- and I believe from some comments coming out of the White House tonight, they`re scaled back at a level that, you know, the president would judge to be too far.

The president`s bill, the American Rescue Act, has $170 billion in it to re-open the schools. Now, I got to stop here for a second because I don`t think this is a Democrat versus Republican issue. I don`t think it`s a blue state or red state issue.

There are a whole cohort of kids whose lifetime earnings will be permanently reduced probably somewhere between 5 percent and 10 percent if they miss a year of schooling. There are 2 million parents, mostly moms, out of the labor market because of their care responsibilities. So I don`t care what side of the aisle I`m on, you should be willing to re-open the schools and $20 billion is not a serious offer when it comes to that.

They left out -- so here`s something they left out, the child tax credit expansion. The president`s plan, the child tax credit expansion, lowers the child poverty rate by 50 percent. This is a huge advance for people on the bottom leg of the "K" in this K-shaped recovery. Folks who have been just fighting to keep their homes over their head and keep foods on the table. They also left out state and local relief that is vital to both virus control and vaccine distribution.

MADDOW: Jared, let me ask you, one of the things that was said to be potentially included in the COVID relief bill is increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour. I`m no expert on this stuff. When I looked at the way that Pelosi and Schumer had set up the COVID relief bill to be potentially passed by reconciliation, again, something they could do without any Republican votes or support, it didn`t look to me like the minimum wage hike was included there.

Is that something that can`t be done by reconciliation, that would have to be done by a process that would be subject to the Republicans filibustering it?

BERNSTEIN: You know, this is a very good question. It`s a bit of a Talmudic question. And the only person who probably knows the answer is someone called the Senate parliamentarian. She`s the one who makes these calls.

Typically, when something doesn`t have a budgetary cost, it`s hard to get into a reconciliation bill. There are some budgetary costs associated with the minimum wage, but, you know, that`s probably all we want to say about project process tonight. I will say this, there are tens of millions of essential workers who if the minimum wage were increased as in the president`s plan, would get closer to earning a living wage.

These are fulfillment workers in warehouses. These are home health care workers. These are sanitation workers. These are people in the retail sector. So these are people who are on the job in some states earning $7.25 an hour. Unconscionably low wage.

So, when Republicans say the minimum wage has nothing to do with this, that the words I have back for them are two, essential workers.

MADDOW: Jared Bernstein, a member of President Biden`s Council of Economic Advisers, a longtime adviser to Mr. Biden -- Jared, it`s great to see you. Come back frequently. We`re excited about your job in the administration, really happy to have you here in that capacity.

BERNSTEIN: Always happy to be here. Thank you.

MADDOW: All right. Thanks.

All right. We got much more to come here this Monday night. Again, the only reason this backdrop looks weird is because I`m snowed in. Nothing to worry about in terms of me not being in the studio but it`s going to be a wacky show because of it.

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


MADDOW: Tomorrow is Groundhog Day. And so it seems fitting that once again, tomorrow, we are due to get one of these. This is the response that lawyers for President Trump filed with the Senate last year as their answer to the articles of impeachment that had passed the House at that point that were going to be the basis for President Trump`s impeachment trial in the Senate.

As you can see, it`s signed by Jay Sekulow and the White House counsel, Pat Cipollone. We got one of these a year ago for President Trump`s first impeachment. Tomorrow, on Groundhog Day, we`re going to get one of those again for President Trump`s second impeachment because for all of this faults, for all of his failings, the one thing you can never take away from President Donald J. Trump is that he is the only president ever in the history of the country to be impeached twice. Mazel tov.

This time, though, he`s not going to have the same lawyers defending him. Mr. Sekulow and Mr. Cipollone said they want nothing to do with defending President Trump in this second impeachment trial. The president has reportedly had a very hard time finding any lawyers at all to defend him in this impeachment. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham finally was able to set up President Trump with some lawyers he knew from South Carolina.

But this weekend, that all fell apart, too. CNN was first to report, then the "Washington Post" and "The New York Times" and NBC News all confirmed, that the president on Saturday lost all five of the lawyers who were going to be his impeachment defense team. The problem, apparently, was that, quote, Trump wanted them to make the case during the trial that he actually won the election. To do so would require citing his false claims of election fraud.

Trump repeatedly said he wanted to litigate the voter fraud allegations and the 2020 race. Butch Bowers who was set to lead the Trump defense team told Trump he could not mount the defense Trump wanted. And so, Butch bowers and the other four lawyers on the defense team that were all lined up for Trump, they all quit this weekend.

And as I mentioned, the first filing in Trump`s defense for the Senate impeachment trial is due tomorrow. As of Saturday night, he had no lawyers.

The president has now hired two new lawyers as of yesterday to provide his defense. They have their work cut out for them and they`re filing is due tomorrow.

But remember what he`s being impeached for, right? President Trump is being impeached for inciting an insurrection against the U.S. government, by leading a mob of his supporters to attack the U.S. Capitol while the presidential election results were being certified because he told that mob the results were wrong, the election results were fraudulent and if they didn`t fight that day at the U.S. Capitol while the vote was being certified, they wouldn`t have a country left.

If as that goes to trial, the president is now demanding that his defense to that charge in his trial, must be that to try to advance the big lie that somehow the election was stolen and, therefore, what? He`s still the rightful president? He secretly won the election? What? The attack on the capitol was justified?

Then honestly, how are Republican senators acting as jurors in the Senate trial going to cast their vote? Are they all going to vote that, yeah, the election was a fraud and Trump is secretly still the president, he should be reinstated for another term? Are they really going to do that? Are they really going to vote with that? Because that is reportedly the way the president wants to try to defend himself in his second Senate trial.

Now, the new lawyers that he just hired apparently were not easy to find. One is a self-described mafia lawyer who was also part of Roger Stone`s legal defense team. How did roger stone`s legal defense go? Hmm.

You`ll recall he was charged with seven felonies and he was convicted of all of them and then was sentenced to years in federal prison before President Trump pardoned him and commuted the sentence. So the guy who was part of Stone`s defense team, that`s one of President Trump`s new lawyers.

The other one is a lawyer best known for refusing to bring charges against comedian Bill Cosby for drugging and raping multiple women. As a prosecutor, he not only didn`t bring charges against Cosby, while he was the prosecutor in the relevant jurisdiction, he also attacked and sued one of Cosby`s victims himself.

That prosecutor was voted out of office. His successor then did bring charges against Bill Cosby whereupon, of course, Cosby was convicted and sent to jail.

So, make what you will as to the lengths President Trump has had to go to get any lawyers to defend him in his second impeachment trial. The new lawyers are saying publicly now that they are not onboard with defending President Trump at his impeachment trial by claiming that Trump somehow secretly won the election and Joe Biden isn`t president. They say that they don`t want to go along with that kind of defense but that, per multiple confirming use sources this weekend, that is the defense President Trump wants to mount.

And so we`ll see. We`ll see in that filing that`s due tomorrow and we`ll see how Republican senators try to cope with that. If they are still going to continue to side with Donald Trump on this, if his defense against inciting the capitol attack is that the capitol attack was basically justified and he should be reinstated in the White House.

How`s the Republican Party going to contend with that if that`s what he puts them to, right? I have my suspicions. The Republican Party right now is having to contend with a lot of craziness of its own making. Democrats in Congress today basically called the question on Marjorie Taylor Greene, insisting that House Republicans have to strip her committee assignments.

Marjorie Taylor Greene is the pro-Trump Republican congresswoman who says 9/11 didn`t really happen and neither did the mass shootings of children at Parkland in Florida or Sandy Hook in Connecticut. She also says Donald Trump won re-election. And so I guess Joe Biden isn`t really the president.

Her first days in Congress, she wore a mask to the House of Representatives that said, "Trump won." Democrats today told Republicans basically if Republicans don`t take her off committee assignments within 72 hours, they will do it themselves and they have the power to do it.

Interestingly tonight, in a surprise move, the top Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, released a statement calling Congresswoman Greene a cancer and saying she doesn`t live in reality. Senator McConnell apparently supports the idea that Republicans need to cut her off, cut off this kind of insanity from the rest of the party.

But honestly, the news gods made tomorrow Groundhog Day for a reason. As the former president is still out there putting out statements that refuse to describe him as the former president. Apparently, he doesn`t think he`s a former president. As he is pushing to keep claiming that the election didn`t really happen, so I guess somehow he`s still secretly the president in exile.

I mean, that`s all happening right now as, as "The New York Times" reports newly this weekend that it was the White House specifically that changed the plan for the rally on January 6th so that it wouldn`t -- so that it would end with that pumped-up Trump crowd being told that the election wasn`t real, being told that the election was a fraud and that their country was being stolen from them. It was the Trump White House`s decision that that rally should end with that crowd marching up to the capitol.

That was not the rally organizer`s plan. That was not the plan for any of the groups that got the permits for the rally. That was what the Trump White House, specifically, insisted. That the rally would end with that crowd being sicced on the U.S. Capitol because that is what the president wanted and that`s what he`s going on trial for.

More ahead. Stay with us.


MADDOW: The former president, President Trump, was so involved in the planning of the rally in Washington on January 6th, the one that culminated in the attack on the U.S. capitol, that he was personally handpicking the playlist.

According to remarkable new reporting in "The New York Times," the rally on January 6th that culminated on the attack on the capitol for all intents and purposes, it was a White House production, with President Trump, himself, involved with everything down to selecting the speaking lineup and selecting their walk-on music.

It was the Trump White House, too, that decided the January 6th rally would end with the crowd being told to march down to the U.S. Capitol. That march that, of course, turned into a violent insurrection attempt to reinstall Donald Trump as president despite the results of the last election.

This bombshell new report by Jim Rutenberg and his colleagues at "The New York Times" does painstaking work of rebuilding basically brick by brick what happened in the days between Donald Trump losing the election and the attack at the capitol to try to reinstate him. It spins out the story from the very start when President Trump pushed aside his campaign staff who were telling him that he lost the election, to instead make room for conspiracy-wielding lawyers who would tell him what he wanted to hear and promise to hand him a win at all costs.

Mr. Rutenberg and his colleagues, one exchange in the office where Rudy Giuliani told the president`s deputy campaign manager he was a liar because he refused to believe and acknowledge that the election was stolen. In return, President Trump`s deputy campaign manager, quote, called Mr. Giuliani something much worse. Something much worse than a liar.

This isn`t only the story of the president and his lawyers, though. It`s also the story of the lead leading Republicans who fell in line with this operation to perpetuate this outrageous lie about the election results. Of course, it all results in this scene on January 6th.

Quote: as the rally wound down in a cold drizzle, groups of young men wearing Kevlar vests and helmets began appearing toward the back of the plaza. Some carried bats and clubs, others knives. One of the men with a line of stitches running through his ear told a reporter, we`re not backing down anymore. This is our country. Another holding a bat cut the conversation short. We know what to do with people like you, he said.

Joining us now is Jim Rutenberg, writer at large for "The New York Times." He`s the lead byline in this remarkable piece of reporting called "77 days: Trump`s campaign to subvert the election."

Mr. Rutenberg, it`s a real honor to have you here tonight. Thanks for making time.

JIM RUTENBERG, WRITER-AT-LARGE, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Thank you so much for having me.

MADDOW: So can you tell us a little bit about this -- the decision about how to end the rally? This remarkable, to my mind, literally jaw-dropping reporting that it was at the insistence of the White House, specifically, that that rally would end with the march onto the Capitol.

RUTENBERG: Well, you know, it`s like a lot of these things where -- so our reporting found -- one of the organizers in interviews with us said, you know, he was shocked that it was going to be a march down to the Capitol because he had actually planned other -- been involved in the other rallies and it always kind wondered about what about a march to the capitol. He always saw that as unwieldy. So, he was surprised to see that this is what the president was calling for.

Because let`s not forget the president, himself, is calling for this from the lectern. But really by then, what people need to remember is that these rallies were being planned by an outside group, Women for America First. They were kind of like the stand-in for Trump`s campaign but they were operating separately from the Trump world, presumably, but when the president decides that he`s going to speak at this rally on January 6th, it very much effectively becomes a White House production.

But one other thing I`ll note is if one looks at the permit, the permit very specifically said they were not permitted to march down to the capitol. It was acknowledged that some people who went to the rally may go down there. The permit very specifically had language this was not a permit for the march to the capitol.

MADDOW: And, Jim, it is remarkable to see you and your colleagues lay out the extent to which this was not so much an ad hoc effort. It seemed to evolve over time, but it was not ad hoc. It was coordinated. There was a somewhat orderly effort under way to try to get the election results overturned. I wondered if it was your se in reporting this that that ultimate aim, that radical and I think many people would say seditious aim to overthrow the results of the election and keep Trump in power, is that something that was suggested to the president and others were leading it and he went along with it, or was that very core idea his from the outset?

RUTENBERG: You know, it seems to me, we called it at one point a kind of symphony of subversion. The president, as we`ve also previously reported but certainly in this piece, he was looking at anything, anything he could do. He`s trying to push the Justice Department to do his bidding. He`s trying to get governors to do his bidding. He`s trying to get secretaries of state to do his bidding.

But what`s interesting to me, we spent, believe me, hours, going through tape of rallies and this, yes, very organized campaign to drive people down to the Capitol on January 6th and it`s almost like a -- it`s hard to know what even the people were organizing think is going to happen here, because a lot of the language is the sort of Tea Party rhetoric and Second Amendment rhetoric, you know, 1776, it`s revolutionary fervor. No one`s saying, go commit violence, but there`s talk of martial law, perhaps and we need to take our country back.

Now, we also know the president had been meeting with Lieutenant General Michael Flynn who he had recently pardoned, his national security adviser.

And Michael Flynn had openly discussed martial law. So, effectively everything`s on the table in what was becoming an extralegal sort of campaign, absolutely.

MADDOW: Jim Rutenberg, writer at large for "The New York Times" -- it is a remarkable reconstruction of what happened. It being laid out in public ahead of the president going on trial is going to be a service to those of us who are trying to follow his accountability through that impeachment trial, but it`s also just a service to history. Congratulations to you and your colleagues on this. It`s a landmark thing.

RUTENBERG: Thanks so much.

MADDOW: All right. More to come tonight. Stay with us.


MADDOW: Across all of the country`s 11 time zones, they showed up all day yesterday, they chanted "Putin is a thief." Russians braving minus 40 degree weather. They formed a massive circle on the frozen bay on the port city of Vladivostok. They fended off the police for hours until the riot police slowly descended on to the ice. Forty-five miles to the west, protesters marched in the background of this art installation. In the lower left hand corner, it says who are we, where are we coming from, where do we go?

This is a second weekend in a row Russians protested their government`s treatment of opposition leader Aleksey Navalny. He recovered from an assassination attempt by the Russian government and returned home to Moscow. No, I did not give up the fight. They arrested him when he landed. Over 5,000 people were arrested at the protests for him this weekend.

Russia signaling they want to keep Navalny in jail for as long as possible. We`ll see what happens. But the new administration here is like night and day compared to the weird Putin apologies and excuses we saw from the White House for the last four years


ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: The reported bounties on American troops in Afghanistan, we`re looking into all of these things, all of them are under review. And depending on the findings of those views, we will take steps to stand up our interest and stand against Russian aggressive actions.


MADDOW: New Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaking with MSNBC`s Andrea Mitchell today. What a difference.

Watch this space. Navalny is back in court tomorrow in Russia.


MADDOW: That is going to do it for me tonight. Again, thanks for your forbearance about me broadcasting from home again this evening.

It is nothing to worry about. I am lit rally just snowed in. It is not safe to be on the road where I`m at tonight. It`s just a big snowstorm.

I`ll be back in the studio tomorrow night. And I`ll see you then.


Good evening, Lawrence.