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tv   All In With Chris Hayes  MSNBC  December 21, 2018 12:00am-1:00am PST

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all right, good evening from new york. i'm chris hayes. utter chaos today in washington, d.c. even by the standards of these last two years. the house right there you see is wrapping up a vote right now. they're going to gavel and close a bill that is basically going to force a government shutdown. here's why. this bill, at the insistence of the white house includes $5 billion for the wall, or wall in the words of krirs ten neil sen. republicans appear to have the votes they need. for the latest on the shutdown, i want to bring in matt fuller. matt, they passed this thing. how did we get to this point?
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>> that's a good question. a lot of this happens to be just trump and his sort of normal governing process here where he's indicated all along that he's wanted this wall money but it seemed like he would give in at some point here, except, you know, he's seemed to wake up today and finally said no, i'm not going to do that and, you know, you had a meeting at the white house this afternoon with paul ryan, kevin mccarthy and the freedom caucus leaders, mark meadows and jim jordan. they emerged from the meeting and it was clear trump was serious about the wall money in some fashion. obviously this isn't something that's going to pass the senate. i know it just passed the house. and the reason i think it passed the house is because at this point it's just sort of a political vote. there's no real practical policy considerations here, in fact, a lot of guys who would have voted for this i don't think would have voted for it in normal circumstances if they thought this was actually going to become law. so it goes to the senate -- >> what do you mean by that? why are people voting for it? >> in some ways it's a thumb your eye to nancy pelosi.
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we were in the white house last week, and nancy pelosi was saying you're not going to be able to pass a $5 billion wall cr, basically the idea was they needed money for -- they needed votes from democrats to pass the cr. and part of that was the conservatives had all these ideas about asylum policy riders. there was a lot of conservatives who were concerned about the disaster aid that was added to this. because it was a political vote, a posturing vote, it goes to the senate where it's clearly not going to pass. but republicans can say, no, we -- you know, we went with the president, we voted this way, and now it's just sort of a standoff between the two chambers. >> i should note, though, just to be clear, the $5 million is american money, in the from the mexican government. >> not pesos, no, correct. >> i want to be clear. $5 billion of american public funds, not mexican funds.
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i want to bring in nbc news capitol hill correspondent kasie hunt who's been covering this all day. i saw you at the press conference with chuck schumer and nancy pelosi who called it a trump temper tantrum. everyone was ready to pass the thing, have the president sign it and what happened today? >> yes, the jet fumes were very strong until about 9:30 this morning when everything went sideways in a house republican meeting because leadership wanted to get this done but there were a lot of rank and file republicans who looked at them and said, you want me to take this vote, but we don't even know if the president is going to sign it and you had the freedom caucus, mark meadows on the phone, jim jordan on the phone telling the president it wasn't a good deal. fox & friends changed the president's mind. we should underscore, this is the president's doing, the reason why today was is a chaotic is about the president of the united states. it's not about the congress. there was nobody up here that wanted to get to this point.
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they were ready to go, move forward, get out of town, keep the government open through february so everyone could have a nice holiday season. and, you know, the chuck schumer called it a temper tantrum. whatever you want to call it that's why we are in this position. so the big question is going to be what happens next. and, i mean, i will say one thing to what you were talking about with your previous guest, part of this is, you know, some of these republicans are telling me they voted for $26 billion for the wall over the summer when they voted for the daca deal. so what does it metro area if they vote for $5 billion now? of course, that obscures the reality that this is completely dead on arrival in the senate. it's not going anywhere. republicans do know that mitch mcconnell said pithily on tuesday you never learn anything from the second kick of the mule, they know that they need to be seen as doing something. they think a shutdown would be terrible politics for republicans.
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so we're going to see some action in the senate tomorrow. the question is kind of how it all plays out. we know that the $5 billion is a complete non-starter for democrats. there had been, at one point in the negotiation, $1.3 billion for border security on the table earlier about $1.6 had been on the table for democrats. there's conversations here in the house that perhaps that's what we could start talking about again. but there are signals from chuck schumer that perhaps that won't fly in this environment. so there are a lot of unanswered questions. we're going to have at least another day's worth of this kind of drama, chris. >> kasie hunt and matt fuller, thank you both for making time here. that's one part of a wild day. late this afternoon out of nowhere the president announced the retirement of jim mattis. but it was not a retirement, in fact, it was a resignation. mattis quit. we know that because of the extraordinary letter he wrote. mattis gently by firmly rebuking the president. he must be resolute and ambiguous in our approach to those countries with strategic interests -- he has the right to
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have a secretary of defense whose views are better aligned with yours. trump announced yesterday he was suddenly withdrawing troops from syria and today there are reports he was considering a sudden, substantial withdrawal in afghanistan. mattis has called it a mistake, and he also broke with trump over china, russia and the important of "treating allies with respect" and also being clear eyed with -- senators from both parties responded with a collective freakout. mark warner described the situation as scary. chris murphy said a secretary of defense quitting over a public disagreement with the president whose foreign policy he believes has gone off the rail asks a national security crisis. >> today's events have made one thing clear. president trump is plunging the country into chaos. >> schumer wasn't just talking about the situation with mattis. also today trump blew up a deal
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to avert a government shutdown. the president reversed himself this morning on insisting on funding for his mythical border wall, after conservative media freaked out over the white house backing down, nbc news citing a source close to the president who described trump as 100% in a tail spin over the shutdown situation. stock market plunged again today and nbc news reported robert mueller is nearing the end of his investigation and expected to submit a confidential report to the attorney general as early as mid-february. with everyone in washington scrambling to figure out what's going on. george conway said all this talk about the lack of process is valid and true." for the latest on mattis, i'm joined by paul sonne. did anyone know this was happening or see it coming? >> i think a lot of people have seen it coming from quite some time. it was very clear from the start
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that mattis had significantly differing views on national security and foreign policy than president trump did. mattis is a big supporter of nato. he's a big supporter of alliances. he wanted a significant and long-term presence in syria and afghanistan and, trump from the very days of the campaign has signalled he doesn't really want any of that. >> mattis strikes me as a fairly even tempered individual. he's the navigated all kinds of bureaucracy through the years. that letter is a bureaucratic version of a screaming "fu," i quit. >> he's had numerous instances where he's surprised by a tweet or the president calls him sort of a democrat publicly, gets out that the president's referring to to him as moderate dog after his nickname. the entire time he's always kept his cool. never gone off the rails, never gone back at the president with
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a comment or an insult. and as you point out this letter is a kind of bureaucratically worded rebuke to the president where he's saying look, i believe in a world where, you know, our allies need to be our friends. we need to treat them with respect. our alliances are substantial and critical to american power in the world. and we can't sort of treat russia as a friend when russia and china want to reorient the world in a way that fits their autocratic aims. >> yeah. and noticeably absent, and george conway also pointed this out, there's nothing in there that says, you know, the paragraph about here's what we've accomplished together, here's why you've been great, it's been a pleasure to serve. conway said the nicest thick in the letter was "dear president". >> yeah, nothing particularly complimentary towards the president in that letter. what we understand is that secretary mattis had a meeting with president trump this afternoon in the oval office.
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this comes a day after trump's surprised most of the world by announcing a withdrawal from syria that mattis disagreed with. mattis attempted to urge the president to go back on that withdrawal. the president disagreed and said he wouldn't do it and then mattis submitted his resignation. obviously the reason that mattis thinks it's a bad idea to withdraw from syria at the moment is because it gives more power to russia and iran to shape the future of the country. the pentagon and the state department and the intelligence community have said the fight against isis isn't over even though the physical -- of the extremist group has been rolled back. they worry if the u.s. precipitously pull us out of syria, it sends a message to allies we're not with you and we're not coordinated with you, it would also result in the resurgence of isis. >> joining me is barry mccaffrey. what do you think of this letter? do we have general?
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sounds -- have. >> yes. >> general, what do you think of this letter? i guess we do not. let's put a pin in that and come back to the general in just a second, if we may be able to. can we get senator mazie hirono? you are there, senator. >> i am here. >> you were on the armed services committee. what is your reaction to the resignation of jim mattis? >> i was very distressed by it, of course. he made it very clear that he and president trump were not on the same page in terms of their world views. and of course trump's world view is very -- how shall i say, out of whack? because he comes up with it himself. these last few days i feel as
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though we have been on a roller coaster with him at the controls. because first there's the announcement we're getting out of syria where we know he didn't discuss it with anybody, including general mattis. and now giving a huge christmas present to putin and to iran. then, because i've been very focused on what's going on at the border they make an announcement that people who are coming through for asylum purposes have to wait on the mexican side where there are huge safety concerns for so many of the children. and then, of course, the senate did the responsible thing last night by keeping government running, passing this bill by a voice vote. and only to have president trump get all worked up because he's got some right wing loud people yelling at him on fox news and suddenly he says, well, i don't think i'm going to sign it. so it is very true that he will bring on the shutdown and he has to take responsibility for it. any effort on his part to blame the democrats will be such bull -- that as i said before i would hardly be able to stand it.
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>> do you ever get assurances from mattis staffers or mattis himself in your role as a senator on the committee that provides oversight that he was essentially working to contain the president, particularly in regards to nuclear issues? >> i had tremendous faith in jim mattis because one of the first things he did when he came secretary of defense was to go to the asia pacific area because he knows that area of responsibility is hugely important to our country and he wanted me to know that the first countries he visited were in asia, japan for example. and so as he was flying back from those visits he called me from the plane to let me know he
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had touched bases with prime minister abe and others. therefore, i knew that he was a person who saw the world in an accurate way, where our allies have very important. as he said in his letter we need to treat our allies with respect, especially at a time when china and russia are definitely making their moves. >> one more -- >> and they are near peer competitors to us. >> one more question i want to ask about this and then i want to turn to the shutdown. what do you say to people who say, look, generals never want to withdraw troops, every president comes in and we've now passed along the afghanistan war for 17 years with the dynamic of we have to stay, we have to stay and we have 2,000 u.s. service members in syria, it's unclear how long they're going to stay, the president wants to withdraw them and this is just essentially the kind of institutional force of the department of defense which never wants to get out of anywhere exerting its will on the democratic prerogatives of
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trying to get out of the conflict. >> well, having served on the senate armed services committee now for about six years, i wish things were that simple. i realize how complex the world is. and therefore if we're going to have any kind of withdrawal i would like it to be a thought through one, not one that the president just comes up with in a tweet and then he tries to justify the next day. >> right. >> these are serious times, and we have to make serious decisions. and that is not what this president engages in at all. >> final question. the house just passed a bill to fund the government, but with the wall funding, it's now going to, i guess, come back to you in the senate. what's the next move there over in the senate? >> sadly, the house of pretty much -- all the people who voted for this bill are not exactly profiles in courage. as i said the senate last night
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did the responsible thing to keep government running. every expectation was that this bill was going to pass the house and that the president would sign it but then the president puts a wrench in the works. it will come back to the senate. and i would expect, as many of you are saying that it will not pass. therefore the president will own the shutdown. and apparently he's happy to own it in spite of the fact that hundreds of thousands of federal workers will be adversely impacted. you see the stock market already going down. there are all kinds of impacts to a shutdown. and he doesn't care. >> senator mazie hirono, thank you for your time tonight. i want to get your reaction to the letter, extraordinary letter, i think, that jim mattis wrote. >> yeah. it was enormously concerning. i think the last thing that we're looking at is a dispute over syria. you know, you can put together a rational argument on why you ought to pull out of syria. what mattis is responding to is a white house in which the president of the united states is acting in a lone ranger fashion on defense and foreign policy. he's ignoring the input. he can't listen to complex
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briefings. he's not reading the material they give him. he's making impulsive and frequently bad judgments on his own. it's almost a world turned upside down in which our long-term allies, japan, south korea, nato, australia are insulted, and he's cooperative with the strong men of the world. i think at some point, and mattis has been -- who's not only a defense intellectual and is literally worshipped by the armed forces and has been publicly very careful and respectful of the president of the united states, i think finally he said, look, this isn't going to work. we ought to be concerned. the attorney general, the secretary of homeland security and the secretary of defense are the three people responsible for domestic and international security. we've got an acting, non-senate confirmed attorney general, a secretary of homeland security with one foot over the cliff. and now we're going to lose secretary mattis. this is a very dangerous situation. >> secretary mattis said he is going to extend his term through
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we've got an acting, non-senate confirmed attorney general, a secretary of homeland security with one foot over the cliff. and now we're going to lose secretary mattis. this is a very dangerous situation. >> secretary mattis said he is going to extend his term through february for two reasons, one to sort of smooth the transition, but also there's a nato ministerial, this read to them that he doesn't trust the president to preside over there, important to them for him to see over the ministerial. >> it may well be the argument. secretary mattis's influence on defense strategy is now gone. it's over. there's one bit of good news here, by the way. somehow mattis has been able to fend off the crazies as appointments in the department of defense. so our deputy secretary of defense patrick shanahan, the service secretaries are possibly
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the most remarkably competent lot we've had in 25 years. so that's the good news. and it's unknown how or when a senate would confirm a new appointee. but chris, again, you know, the principal agencies of national security are in disarray. and it looks as if we don't know what we are doing. certainly that's the way our allies take it. and the president appears to be incompetent in office. >> general barry mccaffrey, thank you for joining me on short notice tonight. to break down absolutely insane news, i'm joined by ezra klein and michelle goldberg. here's how i feel. i feel like we're playing russian roulette with an enormous revolver, one bullet and a thousand slots. every day we keep spinning and spinning. >> every day it doesn't go off
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people then think -- >> it's okay. >> yes, that's going to be fine and eventually it's not going to be fine. already you sort of -- if this all happened in the first couple months of the administration, which is sort of what i expected, government shutdown, wild, erratic foreign policy decisions, i think maybe people wouldn't have been quite so enyoured to the chaos. the country is already in serious crisis even though aside from people at the border few people are actually feeling it viscerally in their own lives. >> presidents grow in office, they come into the white house and they feel the weight of the responsibility on them and no matter who they were when they got in, they change, they become grayer, become more taken with what the office really requires of them. and donald trump has done the opposite. >> literally the opposite, exactly right, yes. >> he brought in some people who were reassuring to folks who
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were critical of him. and day by day, week by week, month by month, the office that has driven him more crazy. as it goes on he's becoming much more unleashed. to respond to losing the midterm election the way he has with the mattis stuff, the shutdown, with all of it, that's not how -- that is not how previous presidents have done it and certainly not how he's being advised to do it. >> for a while -- i think of him has doesn't really want to be the president, he wanted to be a cable news pundit. and for a long time they've sort of allowed him to kind of tucker himself out doing that. so he'll sit there at the tv and be like, i want to fire mueller, they're like, yeah, boss, we'll get to it. i want to pull out of syria, yeah, boss. but whatever that barrier was seems to be gone, whether that's kelly or whatever it is. and it's like he's just going for it. >> right. and what's so bizarre is that we often talk about fox news being state television, hardly the first person to make this -- to notice this.
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but the difference between normal state television and authoritarian state and what we have here is that it's not him dictating what's on fox news, it's fox news dictating what he's doing. i mean, so you could literally -- yesterday i was working on a column on the criminal justice reform. i started looking at comments on breitbart where people were really disgruntled, we're getting criminal justice reform and no wall and he's sort of trying to convince everyone that his fence is really going to be a wall and technically mexico is paying for it. they're not buying it. they're getting angry, and he decides he has to responds. >> rush limbaugh got assurances from people in the white house that the wall funding was going to happen. >> this is the thing about it, it is purely expressive governance. >> 100%, it's a made up thing. >> he's not trying to get the wall. >> that's right. >> there's a way you try to get the wall and you give the democrats something to get them to vote for it. >> they have the deal. >> he could have done daca a year and a half ago. it would have been done. he doesn't want it. he wants to be seen fighting for it. this is your point about him
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being a reality tv programmer. he wants to have great story lines, he wants to win sweeps week. he doesn't want the things he's arguing for. he's not trying to govern. the shutdown too, he has no end game to any of this, everything is just like, got to have a cliff-hanger so people tune in tomorrow. >> the consequences are real though. there are a bunch of kurdish fighters who were ethnically cleansed. but to just up and announce this, one day to the next, life or death, there are people on the front lines who will find themselves pinch in a pincher movement who find themselves killed because one day he woke up and decided to do it. >> what's frightening is he appears to have done this in coordination with erdogan.
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he has a phone call with erdogan, and erdogan says we want to go in there after the pkk. he tweets we're getting out and mattis doesn't know, our allies don't know, the curds don't know, nobody knows except for someone who's supposed to be someone, if not our enemy, someone we have a tense relationship with. >> we're talking about donald trump here. the thing i want to know about is republicans in congress. here's my understanding of their theory of the presidency. jim mattis is excellent. he's a wise sage -- >> they're all saying it. >> keeping donald trump from going off the rails. he's now resigning saying donald trump has gone off the rails so deeply that he cannot countenance being in the administration anymore. what do republicans in congress do. what does a branch of government meant to check an out of control president do when the person they said they trusted in the administration said you can no longer countenance being part of this? when do they -- we can talk all we want about how donald trump acts. but we know how he acts. he's acted this way the whole time. when do republicans in congress stand up and do their job? >> they went up to the white house today and came out having been fed this sandwich that they have to eat, and they just came
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out with this grin on their face like, oh, well, the president wants the wall. >> and they didn't have to do it. paul ryan, nothing to lose, he's got a few days left. >> yeah. >> he could have said -- >> they could have passed a veto proof version. they could have done it. but yet they are still in his thrall in this bizarre sort of way. when does that crack, that mystique? he doesn't have a lot of political support but he does have this pull that they're so scared of him. >> it's like bankruptcy, slowly and then all at once, i think. ezra klein, michelle goldberg, thank you for your time. huge news on the special counsel today, it appears his investigation is nearly done and mueller could submit his report as early as february. ken dilanian broke the news, joining me with the details next. today is the day you're going to get motivated...
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tonight at donald trump's defense secretary quits in protest and the government teeters on the brink of shutdown. there is also breaking news from the mueller investigation. government officials tell nbc news special counsel is nearing the end of his probe in the russian election interference and is expected to submit his report to the attorney general as soon as mid-february. joined my nbc news intelligence and national security reporter ken dilanian who broke the story tonight. and legal analyst barbara mcquaid. ken, where are we getting this? >> it was with pete williams and a team of nbc journalists, but i think what's happening here is that when robert mueller ultimately submits his confidential report to the attorney general it involves
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more than robert mueller and his staff. other people have to start planning for that process. we're picking up wind of that essentially and it's going to be a confidential report. that's all the regulations say and then it's up to the attorney general, which if it happens in february is likely to be matthew whitaker, to decide what to do with it, how to make it public, whether classified information needs to be redacted, grand jury information, whether it goes to congress, all those kinds of things. i think there is a universal acknowledgment, though, there have to be some public answers as a result of this probe. >> barbara, there's no universe in which this report stays secret, right? >> well, i hope not because there's such keen interest in it. but if you look at the special counsel regulation what it says is that the special counsel submits a report to the attorney
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general and then the attorney general decides what to do with it, whether it ought to be released to the public or he could provide his own report to the congress. i can't imagine the public will allow him to do this without some version of the report. i can't imagine how this stays quiet. >> we have seen people reacting to this story today with this, we've seen time and time again it's going to be a few more months, wrapping up, in fact, a year ago, i think it was giuliani like should be done by end of year, we'll be done by january, what do you say to people who are skeptical who say i feel like we've heard this before? >> i'm very empathetic to their skepticism. i was skeptical. i was surprised by this. we would not be reporting this on the assurances of donald trump's defense attorneys. but every lawyer we've talked to also believes it's wrapping up in february. but other sources who are nano who are saying this and they're also saying it could slip. there's a couple loose ends. one of which is, what is mueller's approach to the president of the united states? does he decide he needs to issue a grand jury subpoena to get the president's testimony? if he does that, that's a month
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long legal fight. and roger stone and jerome corsi expect to be indicted. >> there's the report which is sort of mandated by the regs, but there's also whatever other grand jury activity or indictments, right, that could happen between now and whenever that report is issued. >> yeah. and one doesn't necessarily have to follow the other. i would think ordinarily you would want to go through the process of indicting maybe a jerome corsi or roger stone in that's in the works in the hopes you might be able to flip them and get information about what happened with wikileaks. but it could be that they're going on different tracks, that they have already pinned out what they feel they need to learn about wikileaks. but i would fully expect jerome corsi to be indicted. usually prosecutors don't make a plea offer unless they're prepared to back it up with charges. it seems likely at least jerome corsi would be charged and then we've got the report that robert mueller was seeking the transcript from roger stone's
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testimony before congress. >> yup. >> that seems that he's at least still looking very carefully there. in a perfect world you would imagine he would charge them first, see what you get there before you issue a final report. so it makes me wonder whether they'll be able to finish in february. but it is possible that those could go on parallel tracks. >> ken, it's amazing to me, you know, there's two things in washington that don't leak, one thing that doesn't leak are supreme court decisions. think never leak, ever, even when there's huge interest, they just don't. that building is just a vault. and anything from mueller. these are the only two things in washington that you just cannot crack the safe. it is amazing that all these players in washington are dealing with this big mystery that's going to affect everyone's lives and not knowing what's inside. >> it's incredible. we have a situation where robert mueller and his team have been investigating this ya year and a half and i can't tell you the
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first thing, chris, about whether he's answered the central question of his investigation which is, is there evidence or proof that donald trump and the people around him conspired with russia? we know a lot about a lot of crimes, he's charged 33 people, but we don't know that answer, nor do we know whether he's accusing the president of wrongdoing. it's a black hole. >> do you think barbara there will be pressure between now and february on whitaker? can you imagine him staying in this position until then? >> well, i think he'll stay until william barr or someone else is confirmed as the attorney general. i think today's news that william barr wrote a memo talking about what he thinks of the obstruction of justice investigation, that he thought it was ill placed, is going to cause him some speed bumps, at least, before the senate confirmation process. i think they're going to have some strong questions for him which could delay his ascension to the attorney general position which means it could be whitaker who's in place there. regardless of who's at the top rod rosenstein will still play a key role.
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as long as he's there that gives me confidence things will be handled appropriately. >> final question, ken, if the government shuts down does the mueller team just not come to work? >> i don't know if they're deemed essential employees. i apologize to the viewers for not knowing that. i don't think it will ultimately derail them. these are the kind of guys that would come to work without pay if they were allowed to do that. >> thank you both. this all happened today, all of it, while a huge scandal, a really enormous scandal broke out at the department of justice, talking about matt whitaker, he's not going to recuse himself from overseeing the investigation. whitaker who is on the record many times in print and on television slamming the special counsel probe had pledged to
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consult ethics officials about whether or not to step aside. but according to "the washington post" whitaker has now disregarded the recommendation of the justice department ethics officials. instead assembling a group of his own advisers who, you'll be shocked to hear, recommended the opposite. whitaker has no plans to step aside. joining me now is jill wine-banks, and msnbc legal analyst, and ben wittes. jill, is this as shady and as wrong as it looks to me? >> yes, it is, it's a real wow. i'm just stunned. first of all, there was an announcement that the ethics people had advised that he did not need to recuse himself. and then they withdrew it and said, actually, the ethics people had advised that he should recuse himself because it looked bad because it looked like there was a conflict of interest and the appearance was enough to require him to recuse himself. and yet here he is saying he will not recuse himself. it is wrong. it is just plain wrong.
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his opinions have been expressed both factually and legally, and that bars him from making an objective decision on it that isn't predetermined. >> what do you think, ben? >> i largely agree with that. i think the -- look, he received advice apparently from the ethics people that it was a close call, that there was no actual conflict of interest. but there was an appearance problem. and in that situation, given the magnitude of the appearance problem with respect to the most important thing on the justice department's plate right now, the right thing to do is not to put the department in that position. and ironically, of course, the person who is slated to replace him on a permanent basis, bill barr, has very much the same problem as we learned today, you know, wrote a memo, 20 pages, that he shared with both the
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justice department and apparently with the president's lawyers that also weighs in on the substance of the obstruction case. and so i think there's a -- i think it's very hard to argue that it is a good idea for matthew whitaker to be supervising this investigation. and to ask for the input of the ethics people and then to disregard their advice strikes me as very ill advised and very inappropriate. >> jill, this barr memo, it's a 20-page memo on some of the legal issues, particularly around obstruction of justice, it's sent to the white house counsel and to people at the department of justice. and it sure looks to me like a job application given that we know this is the front of the president's mind, oh, by the way i'll just drop off this 20-pager dashed off with some thoughts. here you go.
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do you think it's inappropriate? >> i think it was very inappropriate. it's hard to explain because it was completely unsolicited. he just volunteered to write this memo, taking exactly the position that the president wants. and if whitaker auditioned for his job by going on television, then barr auditioned by sending this memo saying you can't indict the president for obstruction. and i've had a chance to review very quickly his memo, and i cannot agree with almost anything in it. and it would show things like well then richard nixon couldn't have been charged for his obstruction of justice because after all he could have, according to the theory put forth by barr, he could have just told the fbi to stop investigating because he has total prosecutorial discretion, which is completely not true. the president, unlike any other department cannot supervise detailed decisions. he can set policy for the department of justice like i
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don't care about anti-trust, please put more lawyers on criminal matters. but he can't say prosecute this particular criminal case. and that's what this is saying is that he has total authority to say go ahead with the case or not go ahead with the case. and we can't look at his corrupt motive in deciding which cases to pursue. >> yet -- >> that is just wrong. >> this has been a legal theory, ben, that has been -- a number of people have sort of put it forward, but allen dershowitz is associated. basically, if the president has authority in the role of executive to do a thing, that's it, he's got the power to do it and you guys have to buzz off. it does seem like that's going to end up being his best defense given what we already know of the actions he's taken in the white house vis-a-vis
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obstruction. >> yeah. so, i mean, the degree to which article ii of the constitution limits the application of the obstruction statute to the president is a really, really complicated question and it's one in which i actually think there are some good arguments on both sides. it's a complicated issue. the problem with this memo, other than that it takes a rather extreme view of that question, is that the memo is based on two sets of facts that barr appears to have just made up. one is what the legal theory that bob mueller is proceeding under is, and i don't know how barr purports to know that. because certainly mueller has said nothing about his legal theory about obstruction. i mean, there's been a lot of speculation about it but we actually know nothing about it. >> right. >> moreover, the facts that mueller is investigating with respect to the president's conduct are also -- you know, we know some of them but we don't know what the sum total of them
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is and we don't know how much of it is or is not a part of his article ii responsibilities as president. so, for example, some of the issues that mueller appears to be looking at involve the president's, you know, contacts with potential witnesses. now, that is not an article ii authorized activity. >> right, right. >> and so i don't really understand how bill barr got to either of the two major factual premises of the memo, which he then proceeds to write 20 pages of pretty hard line views of the law on the basis of it seems all based on made up facts. >> jill wine-banks and ben wittes, thank you both. and today's explosive hearing with the homeland security secretary, all of it coming up next. (client's voice) oww, it hurts...
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i will continue to work with the northern triangle countries to help "metrofocus" co with vulnerable -- as soon as possible. we need wall. >> we need wall. give us wall. on capitol hill today homeland security secretary kirstjen nielsen announced new policy. house democrats took umm bridge with that along with the administration's previous treatment of immigrants. >> the all time record for lying in the face of all the evidence was a tweet, you madam secretary, sent out on june the 17th. and it says we do not have a policy of separating families at the border, period. that's your twitter account. that's what you put out. yet you came here today to tell us exactly is your policy of separating families and children from their families, another lie. >> that, congressman, louise gutierrez is leaving congress after 26 years, joining me now.
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what do you think about the new policy that is going to keep a lot of people near the border in mexico where many people say they will be exposed to tremendous danger? >> i expect that we will be in court promptly to ensure that the asylum and refugee laws on the books are complied with by this administration. that's what i expect. i say how cruel, how inhumane as i called them out today, you know they love to wear their religion and their christianity on their sleeve or around their necks with crucifixes and yet their policy is cruel and inhumane and really detrimental to women and children. and so, look, i expect to be going into court, chris. look, here's what she's doing. you and i both know, she's auditioning for donald trump so that she can keep her job. we don't know if the new year she's going to have a job. if the president wants a wall, she has actually evolved in the wrong direction. i guess like many people that
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work for this administration, she's not going to leave with her reputation or her dignity intact. >> when she said wall today, which by the way it's a weird style thing at dhs they don't use indefinite or definite articles in front of wall, it's wall, she is pushing this now, the president insisted is -- do your republican colleagues realize the whole thing is a preposterous con? >> i think many of them do, but i think that what they have done is they've set themselves in motion in a certain way, chris, and they've articulated some things to their base and they can't find the way out of their own dilemma they've created for themselves. look, when i met with mr. kelly, the chief of staff, when i was sitting right next to him and he said don't worry the president has evolved, that was campaign rhetoric, we're really not going to build a wall, it was very much publicized, these comments of mr. kelly.
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so, look, we all know that there are -- the wall -- it's not going to get built, right, democrats aren't going to give them $5 billion. we're coming back. here's what i expect to happen. i expect that tomorrow we don't have a resolution because it's kind of complicated in the senate, and there are rules in the house. and unfortunately hundreds of thousands of people are going to go with a christmas without a paycheck, without a job. that's sad. that's also very un-christian of them during the christmas season especially when all the members of congress are going to get their pay and their health care. so i expect that's going to happen. look, i think it's going to be kind of two to nothing, nancy pelosi, when she assumes the speakership of the house of representatives and says next 60 minutes let's reconvene after she gets sworn in as speaker and let's reopen the government on january 3rd. i think, sadly, that is what -- >> so you think a shutdown, they've painted themselves into such a corner over this wall they basically shut down everyone who leaves town, come back and basically nancy pelosi
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passes the deal they had anyway with the senate and mcconnell says okay and they reopen the government. >> i think that's exactly what's going to happen. to the surprise of many, we have friendships, right, we have republican friends, democratic something that is much talked about. i went to talk to them, they feel cornered and trapped. many of them see this as simply a continuation of a decline of the republican party and their brand and their effectiveness in the next elections. look, i look at it this way, chris, hillary clinton won by 3 million votes and more than 7 million voted democrat rather than republican. this is headed in the wrong direction and the wall is something that is immoral and that the american people aren't demanding. so the group that they have of voters are with them and they
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don't expand their base with this. >> they think it is -- it is through the looking glass, they think the wall is a political winner. >> they do for them. it is what trump began with. it is what he's insisted. but think about it. they could have had this victory if you recall chris -- >> i remember the daca deal. >> they would not take yes for an answer. >> we offered $5 billion for the freedom. the ransom and it got better for them. do you remember when all of the democrats got together, including bernie sanders -- >> $25 billion. >> $25 billion. because you know what, you cannot negotiate with them because what they want in the end is something that is unnegotiable. the destruction of our immigration system. they want to end immigration to the united states. and that is a step that we will never enter into. that is just a step we're not going to take. >> congressman luis guiterrez, thank you for being here.
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as the trump chaos continues, democrats are plotting their plan to unseat him. the dnc is out for debates and tom perez joins me exclusively to explain it all next. i'm alex trebek here to tell you
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plus two audible originals exclusive titles you can't find anywhere else. if you don't like a book, you can exchange it any time, no questions asked. automatically roll your credits over to the next month if you don't use them. with the free audible app, you can listen anytime, and anywhere. plus for the first time ever, you'll get access to exclusive fitness programs a $95 value free with membership. start a 30-day trial today and your first audiobook is free. cancel anytime and your books are yours to keep forever. audible. the most inspiring minds. the most compelling stories. text "listen27" to 500500 to start your free trial today. the first debate of the 2020 presidential campaign is now officially just six months away. today the dnc announced the democratic primary debate schedule with the first two in june and july and the next happening once a month from
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september 2019 through april 2020. anticipating a boat load of candidates they will not divide debates into the grown up and kids table model used by the rnc last year which suggested the debates based on polling numbers. instead they will have a random drawing on back to back nights if needed. joining me now to explain how this works is dnc chair tom perez. what was the big problems to solve crafting this given the size of the field everyone is anticipating. >> i welcome the large field. i think that is a first class problem to have. we have a deep field and my goals were two-fold, make sure everybody gets a fair shake and if we have 14 people running for president, 13 aren't going to
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make it to the mountain top, i want to make sure all of those candidates and their followers feel like their candidate got a fair shake and that is why we've put in place this very transparent process that will give them that fair shake and give voters an opportunity to hear from candidates what, they stand for and what they are fighting for. >> you said this, and i thought it was interesting, you won't use polling to segment. that is a big thing that happened in that last -- in the last round on the republican side, the undercard. you say candidates will qualify by meeting criteria that require polling and other measures that reflect support such as grassroots fundraising which i think is interesting. tell me how about where the cut-off is for who can debate. >> if you want to apply for a campaign under the law that congress passed over a couple of decades ago, you have to show that you have a grassroots fundraising capacity. i believe under our current campaign finance laws you raise a certain amount of money in 20 states and increments of -- i think under the current law it is $250 or less, that shows that you've built an operation nationwide. and so we're looking at that as a framework for trying to make sure that we're not simply looking at polls that all too frequently just measure name
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i.d. >> exact live, but we're looking at other people and what they are doing to show she deserve to have a shot in the first couple of debates and then make sure when you draw the -- say it is 12 people, when you draw them randomly, again, i want people to have a fair shake and we'll do that drawing publicly. >> it will be like the nba lottery. you got -- you got this issue, it is interesting you said that, because there likely could be very wealthy individuals running who could self fund a huge amount of air time to push up their name recognition. it is interesting to me that you're thinking about ways to get around essentially the early polling problem, which is that early polling in the summer of 2019 isn't going to mean that much. >> look at all of the candidates who were in first place in the summer before the election. we have 16 months before who
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didn't make it to the mountaintop. i had the privilege, chris, of meeting and working with many, many people who are considering running for president. they are spectacular. they have a story to tell. they've had careers of accomplishment and our goal is to make sure that the american people have an opportunity to see them, to kick the tires, to understand what they're fighting for. and we're going to be fighting and talking about the issues in these debates. not talking about hand size, we're talking about health care, we're talking about climate, we're going to be talking about how we regain our democracy. your show tonight has been a compelling case study in why we have to elect a democrat next year -- in 2020 and what i want to make sure we do with this process is continue to earn trust and give folks a fair shake and make sure that as many eyeballs as possible have an opportunity to watch our candidates. because i think we're going to have a great stable of them. >> tom perez, who got a heck of a job. and i gotta say, going into the next two years, i do not envy
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the amount of heart burn that you're going to be experiencing trying to manage this process. but thank you for coming on and explaining. i appreciate it. >> my pleasure. that is "all in" for this evening. >> tonight, day 700 and perhaps the most grave and consequential of the trump presidency thus far. defense secretary jim mattis has resigned in protest of trump's policies. the government's on the verge of a shutdown after the president demands money for his border wall. and on wall street, the markets in chaos as stocks tank. market now facing the worst december since the '30s. and on top of the syria troop draw down, another one being considered, half the american force in afghanistan. former secretary of state john kerry will join us as "the 11th hour" gets underway on this thursday night. well, good evening once again from our nbc news headquarters here in new york. this