tv All In With Chris Hayes MSNBC December 21, 2018 5:00pm-6:00pm PST
the year 2018 for the most outrageous public behavior i've seen in my lifetime. that's "hardball" for now. thanks for being with us. "all in" with chris hayes starts right now. tonight on "all in". >> this may have been the most chaotic week of what's undoubtedly the most chaotic presidency ever in the history of the united states. >> bedlam in washington, d.c. >> right in the middle of a sort of a meltdown on the part of the republicans. >> if everybody will take their meds and be cool, we'll get this worked out. >> the president holding the government hostage and trying to shift the blame. >> i will take the mantle. i will be the one to shut it down. i'm not going to blame you for it. it's up to the democrats. so it's really the democrat shutdown. >> tonight, trump reportedly in full on tail spin trying to appease his wall hungry base. >> i've never seen somebody more
scared of a base before. >> all this as the stock market plunges, and the secretary of defense's resignation. >> i'm shaken by the resignation of general mattis. >> when "all in" starts right now. good evening from new york, i'm chris hayes. four hours from now donald trump is set to shut down part of the government because mexico won't pay for his mythical border wall like he promised, and congress won't pay for it either. all day lawmakers have been trying to find some way to work out a deal that would head off a shaut shutdown. the problem, of course, was a president who refused to accept political or physical reality. remember, we had a plan to fund the government. it passed the senate two nights ago by voice vote which means essentially unanimously. everyone agreed, everyone was this. but after that vote, conservative media and a small group of house republicans flipped out, the technical term, because the bill did not include money for the wall. there was good reason for that. trump needs 60 votes in the
senate. senate democrats made clear they wouldn't fund the ball. but even though trump had no path forward whatsoever he forced his own lawmakers in his own party to tear up the deal anyway and then today trump repeatedly attempted gamely to blame democrats for the shutdown, prompting mockery and derision across washington. after all, it was just last week that we all watched literally as trump explicitly say he'd be proud to shut the government down. i will shut down the government. i am proud to shut down the government for border security, chuck. i will take the mantle. i will be the one to shut it down. i'm not going to blame you for it. turns out a promise from donald trump is not worth much, and things are getting ugly. trump is reportedly rampaging the west wing, which itself isn't anything new necessarily. he's complaining about his incoming chief of staff mick mulvaney after 2-year-old video emerged in which mulvaney called trump a "terrible human being."
a new quote has resurfaced from 2015, arguably worse, mulvaney says the word fence here, but he's clearly talking about trump's wall, listen. >> the fence doesn't solve the problem. is it necessary to have one? sure. would it help? sure. but to just say build the darn fence and have that be the end of an immigration discussion is absurd and almost childish for someone running for president to take that simplistic of view. >> absurd and almost childish. oh, my word. trump continues to take heat for his abrupt decision to pull troops from syria in the middle east with a trump tv host telling sarah sanders this morning that trump had just "refound "refounded isis" and the fallout continues from the resignation of jim mattis who rebuked trump in his resignation letter, prompting expressions of concern even from gop allies, including mitch mcconnell. then there's the stock market, which cratered once again today and is now suffering its worst week in a decade. once upon a time trump liked to point to the market as the
reason he would get reelected. >> and by the way, how are your 401(k)s doing? not too bad, right? i think it's going to be very hard for somebody to beat us in a few years. can you imagine now we're only talking about a few years? all you have to say is with us it goes up, with them it goes down. and that's the end of the election. right? >> it's over, folks. it's over. now we've seen trump meltdowns before, plenty of them. but this feels different. it feels worse and it feels more serious primarily because actual things in the world are changing. real structural things out there in the world, not just trump. he is about to lose political power for the first time in his entire political career. after suffering a huge loss in the midterms. he cannot control the trajectory of an economy that's showing some signs of strain. he's making rash decisions. he's lashing out at staff, losing key aides and watching the markets go south on his cable news all day long. on top of all that he's now shutting down the government
because he can't get his way. joining me now chris van holland, a member of the budget and appropriations committee. this looked like it's going to happen, everyone's been sent home, huh? >> yes. this week has been a free fall. the president had indicated he was going to support that bipartisan senate agreement that passed unanimously the other night. and as you said he then pulled the rug out from under the deal when he just couldn't take the heat there conservative talk show hosts. so the house of representatives is actually already adjourned for the evening. they won't come back until 12:00 tomorrow and of course the government shuts down at midnight. so despite our best efforts to provide some sanity here the president seems intent on shutting down the government. >> you represent maryland, of course, a lot of federal workers in your state as constituents. some people think, oh, the government shuts down, it will shut down for a week or so and they'll open it up at some
point, people get back pay, no big deal. what do you think about that? >> well, the first thing is that you've got a lot of federal employees who will continue to work and others who will be furloughed. none of them, whether they're working or furloughed will get their paycheck. these are folks like other american families, they're having to pay their mortgages or their rent, having to make ends meet. >> it's december for the love of god. they've probably got a lot of expenses as well. >> i mean, look, this is the holiday season, obviously lots of families are going home for christmas. this is a terrible time to tell anybody, including hard working federal employees, sorry, the money's not going to be going into your bank account for your salary this week. so that will happen if there's a government shutdown. the longer it goes on the more burden and pain those federal employees will pay for dysfunction they, of course, had nothing to do with. i will say that just within the last hour on the floor of the senate senator carden and i did get a bill passed, a resolution
passed that would at least assure up front federal employees will get paid after the government shutdown. as you know that often happens at the end of a government shutdown, and people have all that uncertainty during the shutdown period. we're fighting to stop the shutdown. but if the house will pass what the senate just passed, at least, at least federal employees will know during this period of time that at the end of the day they will get paid. but that's still leaving open the problem you were just talking about chris, people having to stretch. >> so how do your colleagues see this? this is bob corker saying we have two talk radio hosts who influence the president, that's tyranny, isn't it, rush limb baug and ann coulter, who knows. everyone fights over this, in this case we watched the president say it's mine and then watching him today be like this is on the democrats and chuck
grassley tweeting like democrats. it feels almost preposterous. we all were there. we all saw it. are people on the senate floor pretending they weren't there? >> you know, you're right, this is one of those things where the president will have a harder time claiming it was fake news since it's on video, not that that's stopped him before. but he said it so emphatically. i mean, he took great pride in saying he was going to shut down the government if he didn't get his way. he took great pride in saying he was going to take responsibility. and of course he's reverted to form, flip-flopping, pointing the finger at everybody else even when he had already agreed to the bipartisan teal in the senate. this is just pure -- >> that is par for the course for donald trump. what's weird to me is watching chuck grassley and other people go along with it. are they lying? what is your mental model of their behavior in this situation? >> well, what we've seen is the total trump takeover of the republican party, and including
a brain meld which is why you saw the house of representatives totally outsource their independent powers, a separate branch of government to donald trump. it's like, oh, well, we won't move until we hear from donald trump. and to see republican house members sort of scurrying down to the white house to get their orders is just so kind of gross when you think of our political system. >> you wanted to say pathetic. >> it's pathetic. these are people who are sworn to uphold their own constitutional responsibilities. and yet they've essentially outsourced their vote to the president of the united states. >> yeah. >> in fact, just tonight when we've been working to try and get an agreement with our house colleagues they say don't talk to us, just talk to the white house. >> talk to the president. you guys, of course, the funny thing is the numbers are there to override the veto. the actual numbers would be there to pass everything, send everyone home for the holidays and the president can go golf in
mar-a-lago. senator chris van holen, thank you for your time tonight. i'm joined by harold rains, and jennifer rubin, a conservative columnist for the "washington post." jennifer, this of course -- there's something so fitting about this being the final moments of paul ryan's speakership, the final moments of unified republican governance, they're going to close down the government because they all painted themselves into a corner on this idiotic wall. i want to play you something jeb bush said in july of 2016 about the wall. take a listen. >> the tragedy of this, though, is that there isn't going to be a wall built. and mexico's not going to pay for it. the reality is that's not going to happen and people are going to be deeply frustrated and the divides will grow in our country. that's the heartbreaking part of this is i think people are going to really feel betrayed. >> called it. >> yup, he did, as did the rest of us who foresaw that this was
going to be a presidential meltdown from day one. it was pathetic, wasn't it, that on his last act, going out the door, speaker ryan couldn't bring himself to do his job, which is to lead a co-equal branch of government, to keep the lights on. even then, why does he care? he's going into retirement. but even then he can't bring himself to show any spine. he can't bring himself to do the right thing. and it is pathetic, as the senator was saying, it really is. and at this point we all know it's going to happen. they're going to come up with some slight of hand so trump thinks he didn't fold when he did fold. and eventually people will go back to work. but i do think something has changed this week. in large parts because of mattis and because of syria and earlier even because of saudi arabia, i think you see the republicans, particularly in the senate, beginning to, if not throw in the towel on him, at least inch away from him a bit.
it will be interesting next year when we have divided government. >> you've covered your fair share of shutdowns, i've covered them as well. it's worth noting that shutdowns usually happen in divided government, a member of one party, and one house controlled by the other party and they fight and that happened with barack obama, with clinton and gingrich. the third shutdown in unified republican governance. what conclusion can you draw from that? >> well, i think you have to conclude that abraham lincoln must be looking down in tears. the party that saved the union now seems intent on tearing it apart. and i think everybody in professional washington, politicians, government employees, journalists understood what we saw yesterday when general mattis' letter became public and everyone instantly recognized that this was a patriotic defense
intellectual writing for history. and that letter instantly will become part of the annals of the republic for this reason. his -- in looking at what he had to say about nato and about relations with our adversaries, russia and china, analyzing his words brought to my mind language that i almost fear to utter. i think between the lines general mattis, this great military mind, was saying that we are seeing in the white house the functional equivalent of treason. now, whether this is disloyalty rooted in mental instability, personality disorder, simple ignorance, or financial compromise with foreign nations, this is general mattis was
telling us, a life threatening moment for this republic. and i think this will go down in history as perhaps the most important farewell, the most dramatic since macarthur addressed the congress at the end of the korean war. but general mattis, unlike macarthur, was not playing to aggrandize himself. i think this was a sincere patriotic warning from a government professional who understands that this president is unhinged and incompetent. >> jennifer, do you -- to what howell said, the weight and the stakes do seem higher now. and i've been through -- this is like my 90th trump meltdown at this point. they all kind of run together. but there are different stakes now because of the fact that he's about to lose power. the government actually will shift hands. political power will change. the economy is not within his control. where are we right now?
>> we're in a very bad place and because he is now making geopolitical decisions that have long-term ramifications for the country. he has just given both putin, iran, isis, assad a beautiful christmas gift in leaving syria. so he has now, i think, gone down in the annals of history as the worst, bar none, foreign policy president we've ever had. excuse me. but i think that effect and the fact that there is no one around him now who is an adult. remember the anonymous op-ed editorial in harold's old paper, "the new york times," remember all those adults that were supposed to be around trump? who's the adult now? not one of those people is there any longer. it is just trump. >> someone was saying -- let me also respectfully being the worst policy president of all time, i think iraq and vietnam were worse, actually, and thank
god we haven't launched a major war under this man's leadership. but i will say this, in terms of the anonymous op-ed, howell, people said yesterday where is that person? that was the first anonymous version of the mattis letter. this is mattis on the record. is there anyone else left there who feels that way? >> i think that general mattis circulated 50 copies of that letter inside his old department is significant. he's saying don't give up, there are other animals in the forest. but i want to say an amen to jennifer's analysis of what a fraught moment this is internationally. the person in the world who is most happy that donald trump is president is putin. this is a man who spent his life dreaming of seeing a destabilized america. and now he is watching, along with the rest of us, as trump acts out the putin lifelong agenda.
>> all right. howell raines, and jennifer rue bin, thank you both for being with me this weekend, and have a great holiday if you're celebrating. at the end of complete republican control is mere days away. up next, congressman jerry nadler on inheriting government chaos and what democrats plan to do about it, next. ♪ ♪ ♪ this holiday season, families near you need your help. visit redcross.org now to donate.
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defense jim mattis and the president's temper tantrum over the wall has left washington in a distinct air of panic and worry the last few days. we hurdle towards a shutdown, and democrats in the house are preparing to govern for the first time in eight years and are on the precipice of real honest to god crisis. people who will be taking over the gavel, gjerry jerry had lae nadler of new york. if there's no deal, what's the plan? the first day you get the gavel, democrats are running the house, will be with a shut down government. >> well, the plan is to open up the government. but that requires the president to deal reasonably. and the president is not being rational now at all. he obviously feels abandoned. all the people are abandoning him, wheels are coming off the bus, whether it's the voters who abandon him in large numbers
gave a great victory to the democratic party, or all the people around him who are testifying to mueller and turning state's evidence, campaign manager, deputy campaign manager, national security adviser, his secretary of defense who resigned, his chief of staff who resigned. and now fox news and the conservative talk radio, he feels very beleaguered. that's why he's -- i think he's turning to his base every time he feels beleaguered he turns to his base to try to do something that will rally them to him. that's what this wall fight is all about. it's purely him trying to rally some support from his base which is otherwise deserting him. >> you're going to take over the judiciary committee and it will be the first time there's any real oversight exercised in the trump era. one prime concern is the acting attorney general of the united states who is not senate confirmed despite the fact he's had that position now for a while. he has decided unilaterally to not recuse himself from oversight of the mueller probe
despite the fact he's said all these things about it. he's created a convoluted process. all relevant views, the professionals in the ethics department and his other pals, the acting attorney general has decided not to recuse himself from the special counsel investigation. what are you going to do about that? >> first of all, he has to recuse himself. the professionals told him so. they at first lied about it and then they came clean later today -- or later yesterday saying that he had decided to ignore their advice and assemble this ad hoc committee of nonprofessional ethics people, of non-professional people to give him the advice he wanted. it's crystal clear he's put there for the purpose of sabotaging the mueller investigation. that's why he can't recuse himself because the president doesn't want him to and that's why the president who got rid of sessions whose only sin was recusing himself. we had a conversation, chairman cummings of the oversight committee and i had a conversation with him about two weeks ago following a number of
letters. and he agreed to come before our -- before my committee in january to testify about this and other questions. and we -- and we agreed to that and he agreed to that. now they've been backtracking. they won't agree to a date, they won't agree to a time. so i sent the letter to him today demanding that he set up a time and a date in january when he can appear before our committee and i said that i hope we didn't have to use compulsory process to bring him there. if we have to, we will. >> they're now trying to not -- you're the oversight committee, you're the appropriators for that department, if i'm not mistaken. you set the subject and stuff like that. he's got to show up, right? >> he should show up. we will subpoena him if we have to. he has not said he wouldn't show up. but we cannot pin them down to a date and a time and they seem to
be backtracking on that. >> do you think they're just going to ride that out until then? i mean, it seems to me like he learned his lesson from sessions, it's obvious why he's there, for the reasons you indicate. and they basically feel like they can get away with it indefinitely. >> well, he can't get away with not appearing before the committee indefinitely because we'll subpoena him. >> right. >> and he has to respond to that. and he will. i'd rather he come before the committee on a less compulsory basis, but he will come before the committee and we will ask him these questions and we'll take whatever necessary measures we think appropriate. >> how do you -- >> and we will, on the related matter, we will, as one of the first orders of business in january, report out of the committee and pass the house the protective legislation to protect the mueller investigation. >> right. so that's a priority. you know, as we were in break i was looking at you up here on the screen, and i've known you and interviewed you over the years for quite some time. and you now find yourself at sort of a pivotal moment, a
fulcrum of history, you are the chair of the judiciary committee in 2019 in a year when very important things, in matters of the greatest constitutional and historical import can come from your committee. how are you thinking about your role right now? >> i'm thinking about my role that i have a job to do and that job is to protect the rule of law, to vindicate the rule of law and to protect the united states insofar as we can against the anti-democratic impulses of trump and his administration. we see this anti-democratic movement in many places around the world, and the president's allied himself with tyrants in other places. we have to make sure that democratic processes work here, that the rule of law is paramount, that no one is above the law and that is what we're going to do. >> congressman jerry nadler, incoming chair of the judiciary committee, thank you for being here. >> thank you. >> ahead, how turkey's strong man leader muscled donald trump into leaving syria, the incredible story of how the
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new details tonight about the president's extremely sudden decision to pull u.s. troops out of syria. the associated press reporting today the decision was made after only one phone call with recep erdogan last week. he essentially abandoned those talking points once his turkish counterpart pressed the question
of u.s. troops in syria. nbc news confirming the president took everyone by surprise when he decided suddenly on the phone to withdraw troops. in fact, his decision was so sudden that the ap reports caught off guard erdogan cautioned trump against a hasty withdrawal. here to talk about what the decision means, a former correspondent from the "new york times," nbc contributor and policy analyst. the geopolitics here, let me start with you, in terms of why is erdogan pushing so hard for u.s. withdrawal from syria? >> i think erdogan understands that the kurds are nothing in northern syria without american backing. when i was last embedded with them a couple years ago, they had a large desire to take out isis but they literally could not move an inch without the help of u.s. forces calling in air strikes for them. so they are impotent without the u.s. the turks consider the kurds to
be a threat because they're allied with the pkk which turkey considers a terrorist group. >> there was a long period of time where the u.s. forces were embedded with the kurdish fighters who are in eastern syria and they're fighting isis, and all the with wliel erdogan is sitting there watching the u.s. increase the fighting power to have the kurds, freaking out and furious essentially and has been waiting for this moment forever. >> right. >> what was it mean for the syrian conflict for those 2,000 u.s. military personnel to be withdrawn in this hasty manner. >> we gave the country to putin, the winner of this conflict which i call genocide because it's a slaughter house that president assad unleashed against his people. it's a war on civilian. the revolution started in 2011. it was a peaceful revolution. people wanted democracy, dignity and social justice. he couldn't win the war because there's a moment where people
who are -- then he went to his backers, the russians and the russian intervened the iranians, so it's a victory for the iranians, the russians and for the assad regime. for every tyrant around the world. this is a message that america does not care anymore about human rights, about violation, about war crimes. it's an open -- >> let me push back on that. i'm watching people like lindsey graham and others. you can't just pull out. and i've now been covering politics in my adult life since 2001. we're in the longest war we've engaged in, 17 years. it's always the same thing. you can't pull out, you've got to stay, and i've watched people say this for 17 years. when i hear people say that about syria, yes, that seems legitimate but it also seems to me that at some point we've got to leave. >> i absolutely agree, but not in these conditions. if we really -- if trump wanted
to leave, why leave syria and not yemen? i don't understand. i mean, yemen, because of his friend, mbs, he's sending a terrible message that america is not reliable. >> right. >> this creates instability and this creates a vacuum that will be filled by somebody. and who's somebody? that is putin and china and others. this is a real risk. >> what does it mean for those kurdish fighters you embedded with? >> it's an absolute disaster for them. i'm speaking to them every day. they were completely taken off guard. on monday they were speaking with coalition officials who assured them america was there for the long haul. a couple days later the tweet comes out. they were so confused about this decision. i think you're right, that we've been in a forever war in iraq and afghanistan, et cetera. i think our viewers are forgetting these conflicts are different and have a different cost. in syria, the 2,000 or so troops sha have been there have been there only a couple years. to date, only four americans have been killed, two in combat,
two not in combat. the kurds, actually going the grunt work have lost upwards of 10,000 troops. they're the ones who were really fighting isis, not us. >> they are now rewarded for the victory against isis by watching them possibly be slaughtered by turk heish forces. >> or by isis. >> yeah. >> by the way, i mean, america is responsible of this, of paving the way for radicalization in the middle east. isis was never in syria or iraq. the 2003 iraqi invasion that created a vacuum opened the door and paved the way for the radic radical ization of an entire generation. >> final question of where isis is right now. the idea is they're gone, over -- >> sure. i think the problem is, and we see it in ap's reporting of the erdogan call, erdogan says to trump 99% of isis has been
defeated. it's 99% of the territory in iraq and syria. it's not a group that's only synonymous with territory. in its first decade of existence in iraq, it had no territory and yet it killed thousands of people. 20,000 to 30,000 fighters for iraq and syria, not counting afghanistan, west africa and libya, and i could go on. it's an enormous number that's still active. >> the area liberated from isis by the turkish kurds, it's not only the liberation, it's what they did after. i visited with the governor a year ago exactly. she built hospitals and schools. she opened schools. it's also nation building. it's not only that you're bumping an area and leaving, it's what you do after. this is what matters. we don't want troops forever. but we want engagement in america not to retrieve and be defeated. >> thank you both very much. panic in washington, worry across the world after defense
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there was bipartisan panic yesterday over the resignation of secretary defense jim mattis and his stunning view of the preponderate. we're getting the world's reaction, and it's not any better. the retired colonel in china said -- lackey -- the worry is that the world becomes even more unstable. "the new york times" reporting a former australian government defense strategist said "i had a discussion with a senior
government official this morning and he asked who's left in the u.s. cabinet who we regard as an adult? we both scratched our heads." mattis checked president trump's worst instincts, a strong supporter of nato and multilateralism. it makes it look like putin's plan is being delivered in. i'll bring in barbara boxer. senator boxer, do you share the sort of feeling of surprise, dismay, even panic yesterday when you saw the news? >> i'm dismayed, i'm sad. but i also have to say to general mattis, if he's listening, he did the right thing. he could not change this president's mind, a president who has no sense of history, no understanding that you don't betray your allies like the kurds. i thought your former guests were incredible teaching the american people something you
know, we really don't think about. they've lost 10,000 kurds fighting isis, and we're walking away. and this president doesn't understand that. he doesn't get the fact that you're loyal to your allies and you don't hang out with tyrants. for god's sakes, this is america. and when mattis saw he could not teach that -- those two lessons to this president he did the right thing and he memorialized it in a letter i view as an open letter not only to america but to the world. >> senator humphrey, mark salter, a long time adviser for the late senator mccain and writer said of the mattis letter this is pretty close to flying the flag upside down, meaning the sort of call of distress. is that how you read it as well? >> it is indeed a distress signal and, in fact, we are in a national emergency in my opinion. we've seen once again dramatic
evidence that the president is impulsive. the president is erratic. the president is reckless, reckless, dangerously reckless. endangering our national security, and that of our allies, in this case the kurds. our troops on the ground in syria, our troops on the ground in afghanistan, our troops everywhere outside the u.s. are now endangered because our foes, putin and company, see the u.s. as lacking leadership, lacking resolve, lacking courage, lacking clarity of purpose, lacking persistence. we've given putin a very cheap victory. i think the president is -- president's mind up is so helter-skelter that i believe he's afflicted with a seriously sick psyche, such that the provisions of the constitution transferring his powers to the vice president should now be brought to bear. >> wow.
do you think -- that's not something i think that there's going to be a lot of takers for either in the cabinet or among members of the united states senate or congress from your former party. >> well, let's bear in mind that it's part of the constitution. it is therefore a purpose, meant to be used when an extremist, i contend we're in extremist, requires seven members of the cabinet, half of the cabinet plus the vice president, that's a total of eight out of 15 to inform the house and the senate in writing that the president is unable to discharge the powers and the duties of the office. and by that, you know, discharging in what manner one might ask. well, discharging sanely. and prudently. i should think would be the standard, sanely and prudently and safely. this president is not capable. he's reckless. and he's dangerous. and it's time for the cabinet to
intervene in my opinion. >> do you feel that sense, senator boxer, of crisis, of acute crisis? obviously crisis is kind of the status quo, equilibrium for this president, but a lot of people feel like the last two days and mattis's departure are different. how do you feel? >> it's been growing every single day. you know, you're the one that sits there every day planning a show and you have to now just change the whole thing because every day since this man took over there's another terrible issue that hits the country. but i do want to say to my colleague who is on the show, he says it's time for the cabinet, you know, good luck with that. but i want to say it is time for the republicans in the house and senate not to run away, as paul ryan did. my god, he ran away because, you know, fox news told this president what to do.
this president's like the wizard of oz. when you pull back the curtain what you realize is, he is a puppet, you know, for fox news. he is a puppet for putin, for the saudis, for the dictators. it is a frightening moment. if the cabinet wants to take this on, fine. but the congress, under the constitutional article 1, as everybody says, where i served for so many years, wake up. we are seeing a few signs of life. but not enough. >> yeah. >> they have to save the country. they really do. >> there's agreement between the two of you as senator humphrey nods his head. barbara boxer and gordon humphrey, a great pleasure to talk to both of you, thank you very much. >> thanks. >> thank you. >> here's a question, has a defense secretary ever quit in protest over a president's foreign policy before? putting this chaotic week into historical context ahead. (chime)
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the supreme court just dealt donald trump yet another immigration setback today, refusing to allow the administration to implement rules that would bar people who cross the southern border between ports of entry from asking for asylum when they got here. a lower court blocked the ban. but even for migrants who make it to the ports of entry gaining asylum is really, really hard right now. one of the reasons is called metering. u.s. boird officials are limiting how many migrants can come flu any given port of entry in a day. this has created a huge backlog with people sometimes living in inhumane conditions on the border camping out for days. we made an error here on "all in" i want to correct. on monday night we showed you in footage of migrants in mexico getting numbers written on their arms as they wait for asylum. mexican officials are writing numbers on people's arms, something with some obviously
awful historical connotations. the first part is incorrect. and i regret the error. the people writing the numbers are not mexican officials, they work for nonprofit organizations. red cross doctors according to nbc reporting, red cross doctors voiced their conditions about the living conditions of migrants along the border. it lead to a coordinated effort with local mexican officials and ngos to get those people off bridges, out of the elements and into shelters. the nonprofit workers came up with a system of writing numbers on migrants arms to try to keep their place in line for entry back into the u.s. in other words to help them. something this administration appears rather reluctant to do. o
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of the united states. >> the trump era routinely leave miss observers grasping for historical precedent. as you could hear, senator schumer thinks this is the most chaotic presidency in american history. personally, i'm pretty sure andrew johnson among others has trump beat but in a week that does feel profoundly ominous, how should we think about where this president and this country are at this particular moment? joining me now, michael beschloss, nbc news presidential historian, author of the new book presidents of war and eleanor quip who covers politics for the daily beast. eleanor, it's always hard with this president to separate the wheat from the chaff, the trivial from the profound. the mattis level felt like a big de deal. did it feel like a big deal to you? >> very much feels like a big deal. in the green room talking to michael i said could i compare it to washington's farewell letter? he said well, that's a little
bit much but he said washington was president but he said yes it will go down in the annals of history and i think that future generations will be reading it as a road map to what this country was going through in the early 21st century dealing with the most chaotic presidency in our history and i came to washington covering jimmy carter and remember he reassessed his presidency when his poll numbers were low and he went to camp david and he came back and said there was a crisis of confidence in the country and he asked for the resignation of every member of the cabinet and the media thought he'd lost his mind bill clinton lied about sex. richard nixon basically conducted a coverup and paid hush money. president trump has done all of those things and many more so it boggles the mind of anybody who has been watching washington
politics for the last 40 years. >> michael, has the secretary of defense over quit over policy differences before? >> not even close. and, chris, the two big resignations and protests in this country over the last, let's say the last little bit more than a century would be first was william jennings bryant, a name on everyone's tongue i'm sure today. >> because he opposed world war one. >> opposed world war i. he said i will support you for reelection and thee eeother was cyrus vance when he disagreed with jimmy carter using a military operation to rescue our hostages in iran.
the rest of carter's policy he agreed with so compare that to james mattis who is secretary of defen defense with this j.d. againsce about as anti-trump a document as you could imagine. from someone who you have to assume, chris, over the last two years the things we haven't heard about. can you imagine the number of things he has saved us from. >> eleanor, whether he saved us from them or not what is clear he here, if you've been in the most intimate high level conferences with the president whose judgment of the president is what our judgment is -- i don't want to put this in anyone's
words, what my judgment is, what people who watch the president, sensibly minded folks or outside the 38% of the country that really love the guy think which is that he's not up to it. he's bad and wrong. >> if you talk to anybody in washington who has dealt with him they will use various words to say he is erratic, unsettled, some will say he's crazy, some will say mentally ill. everybody has their view. we are not dealing with a president who reads, who listens to advice, who evaluates things. remember those days? >> he does what feels good. remember those days when we said barack obama took too long to decide things, he had to weigh everybody's advice on every s e side. it's frightening and the fact
that mattis has gone -- he was -- i think much of the country knew he was there and he was a hero in his personal life and how he saved his country, people are yearning for heroes. i hope some emerge over the next year as the democrats begin to seek their nominee but larger-than-life figures we don't -- positive ones we don't have any of them and that's why we miss john mccain so much. >> michael? >> yes, sir. >> part of it is the difference in method. whatever president has been, nixon a serious person who thought seriously about things. even if he was a crook. that's just not evident here. >> right. and there's now probably a big nixon revisionist movement thanks to trump that perhaps he wasn't as bad as we thought but the other thing was nixon nor any other previous president was suspected of--
secret relationship with this hostile power. first we're getting out of syria, this is a gift to putin. is this something trump promised putin? we've never seen this before. >> michael beschloss and eleanor clift, thank you for joining me. that's "all in." the rachel maddow show starts right now. good evening rachel, i want you to have a great holiday however you're celebrating, whatever. >> thank you, are you getting family time? >> i'm excited. christmas kids with super -- kicks it up a notch. >> also you have a passel of kids. >> we're at 15 so it will be interesting. >> i'm sending you just over some bread and foodstuff and basic stuff to get through the day. good luck my friend, see you next week. thanks at home for joining us, happy to have you with us. let us start with a simple thing. let us start with a news development that's almost pure in its