tv The Rachel Maddow Show MSNBC January 30, 2017 9:00pm-10:01pm PST
controllers, as jonathan alter reminded us, it is south of a constitutional crisis but to quote eleanor roosevelt about the world war ii era, it is no ordinary time. we can all agree on that. rachel maddow is going to continue our live coverage now at the top of the hour with a live edition of her broadcast. rachel, good evening. >> good evening, brian. thank you so much, my friend. thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour. good do be with you, we're here live at midnight eastern time. our new president does not like to be upstaged. but this president is being upstaged because whether you like this new president or you don't, he is doing some version of many of the things that he promised to do as a presidential candidate. so, yes, it may still pursuing muslim ban, for example, but he did say trump era thus
far is the thousands of people, the tens of thousands of people, the hundreds of thousands of people who have turned out to march and protest and demonstrate against him starting the first day after his inauguration but it turns out that wasn't a one off and turns out giant protests against the new president don't need weeks of planning and big coalition efforts by existing organizers and existing organizations bringing people together from all around the country. turns out you can get a really big protest against our new president almost any day justic
presidency will leave important jobs unfilled at least until people can get confirmed and in place. they didn't get all their seats filled at the justice department. they asked her to stay on. she became acting attorney general. as acting attorney general, she is responsible for leading the justice department in all of its actions. and earlier this evening, she made a dramatic statement. she said in a letter under her the justice department would not defend the new trump muslim ban because she said she at present, i am not convinced that the defense of the executive order is consistent with these responsibilities nor am i convinced the executive order is lawful. which means that until donald
trump gets a new attorney general, the department of justice will not be presenting any arguments banning refugees and some category of immigrants. the president's response to that letter tweeting out moments ago, "the democrats are delaying my cabinet picks for purely political reasons. they have nothing going but to obstruct. now have an obama a.g."
while it was happening, we got some interesting nouz tonight. some news that it we don't totally quite know the cig conditions of it yet. we have con if you remembered word that in addition, the president has also replaced the person who was the acting dior of i.c.e. e he had served in that role as director of i.c.e. since the day of the. president's inauguration. prior to that it, he served as the dpty director, but tonight he's apparently out. and it's unclear the circumstances of him being taken out and replaced. he's been replaced by tom whoman. he served as the head of enforcement and removal operations within i.c.e. he had been expected to e retire
basically now, but now for some reason he's running i.c.e. at this hour, we don't know what that's about. we don't know if this is a firing, if this was jumping or. pushed. we don't know if it's related to the firing of the acting attorney general or the events this sparked the removal, but she was fired on a pint of principle about an immigration measure. and the timing is weird. she was fired around 9:30 this evening. daniel was replaced at 10:30 this evening. . we don't have any exmr. nation as to why he was taken out. tonight's personnel moves come as multiple lawsuits have been filed and after these huge protests e erupted nationwide following the detention of a bunch of people traveling to the u.s. with valid visas. this weekend five federal judges in it five different jurisdictions all ruled against
parts of the order. the order went 0-5 in federal courts. lawsuits declaring it unconstitutional were filed by the state of washington and council on islamic relations. so there's a a lot going on. and a lot of it is as yet unexplain ed. but again, the big headline tonight, president trump firing the acting attorney general of the united states sally yates ap she refused to defend the constitutional order in court. the story broke in the 9:00 hour. and one of our guests in our 9:00 p.m. eastern hour was an investigative reporter for "the new york times" who was learning the news as we were as we went to air earlier this evening in that the k hour. we asked him to come back now tonight in terms of updating us on his own reporting and understanding of what's happened. thank you for being with us.
i appreciate your time. >> good to be back. >> since we spoke, do you have any update about how this happened in the justice department or consequences now that it has? >> we just got word about ten minutes ago that the replacement for sally yates had rescinded her order. so that was his first official act as acting attorney general was to announce he was rescinding yates' order ask was ordering the justice department to defend the immigration order. that just came down within the last few minutes. >> in terms of that order, it's presumably the case that the department of justice lawyers who would be defending the order in court, would those be people who are brand new political
apoint knpointees of the trump administration? >> no, the lawyers who would be appearing in court in the five city its where lawsuits had been brought would presumably be career attorneys. it would be unusual for a political appointee to appear in court. these are people who from the civil division who would be there to state what the normal circumstances would be. the justice department's defense of the government's position. so what the attorney general said tonight is we are going to continue to set this as we're going to do before about 6:30 when sally yates said she could not in good conscience defend him. >> we have an interesting human question about if these assistant u.s. attorneys.
we have assistant u.s. attorneys in the civil division. it's a place people work for years. if they can and desire, we're now going to see individual attorneys faced with the question of whether or not they in good conscience can follow justice department orders on this and defend the law or whether they, too, believe that this law is unconstitutional and shouldn't be defended. i don't -- am i right to think they will be bumping up against that now? >> i think you're right. that could very wl be a dilemma at least for some of them in the span of five hours or so they have conflicting advice from the top of the justice department, not to mention the white house. and they are the ones who have to be both appearing in court and also responding in motions to these it lawsuits that have
been brought in five different loca locals. >> this is a fascinating human story already with the personnel we just have been talking about. it's about become that miniature in all of those jurisdictions. investigative reporter for "the new york times," thank you for joining us. i appreciate it. >> as i mentioned at the top of the show, we have con if you remember -- confirmed word that replacing with the u.s. attorney serve ngt eastern district of virginia. in addition to that dramatic news, the president has also replaced the acting director of i.c.e. now this is interesting stuff. this is about immigration as well. he's the head of immigration and
customs enforcement. the firing of the acting attorney general was related to an executive order on immigration issues. are they related? did daniel get pushed out of i.c.e on the basis of a policy dispute with the new administration? was this routine and it just happened at an odd time that seemed koins dcoincidental? daniel has served as acting head of i.c.e. since trump was inaugurated, but tonight he was replaced. we got this tweet from i.c.e. contrary to reporting, daniel ragsdale has been i.c.e. dep tip director for more than four years and remains deputy director. so what exactly does that mean? was he never acting director? was he promoted and then demoted? how do e we follow this when we're not sure who to believe? joining us is the white house reporter if for "the huffington post" and she's been covering this story all evening. thank you for coming on the show
to help us understand this. i. >> thank you for having me. . >> it's a little confusing at this point. can you tell us who daniel ragsdale is and what just happened to him. >> certainly, daniel is the now former acting director of i.c.e. he was the acting director for exactly ten days. from the 20th to now, from trump's inauguration. as a civil servant, he was simply deemoted and replaced with a man named thomas whoman, who was the chief enforcement officer at i.c.e. >> sorry to interrupt you. was this -- does this mean that thomas is now going to serve in that job for ten days and they have some other person in mind? is this simply an unexplained musical chairs thing or does
this mean that thomas is the choice of the trump administration to be the new head of i.c.e.? >> from what i understand, he is the choice as announced by the new d hrhs secretary tonight. he's the choice to lead i.c.e. his expertise is law enforcement. he's a cop's cop doing a cop's job. he's used immigration enforcement as related to law enforcement and not of paperwork or refugee or a complicated issue. he's a guy who finds people who shouldn't be here and gets rid of them. and i think it reflects what the trump administration has said that they were planning to do, which was really to reemphasize the attention and deportation element of u.s. um graimmigrati policy. >> he was an obama administration official in this role, yes? >> yes, he was. >> that's an interesting -- the reason that strikes me as politically ironic is the trump
campaign, if it was about any one thing it was about on immigration issue. it was about the obama white house and obama administration being weak on enforcement, on throwing people out, on finding people who shouldn't be here and making them leave this country. to now put not just keep in place the obama administration official who was in charge of that specific thing, but to elevate him and put him in charge of all of i.c.e would be contrary to the way they denounced the obama administration on this issue almost more than they e denounced than any others. >> yes, this is not the only place the trump administration appears to be making appointments that are contradictory to the campaign promises or attacks upon the obama administration and their choice of appointees.
i really think the big picture here is this was quietly announced tonight as everyone else has spoken from attorney general and his big news. . we had a quiet little announcement out of dhs that the i.c.e. director was going to be the enforcement guy. this protends to what e we should expect to see in the future from immigrations and customs enforcement. it's a doubling down really for the trump administration in the face of all the criticism. >> i don't know. ep keeping on the obama administration enforcemt guy doesn't seem to be a doubling wn to e extent that what they are doing is taking a hard right turn. but i appreciate you being here with us. i feel like we have a lot more to do in terms of understanding these moves. it's very interesting tonight in the timing. thank you, appreciate your reporting tonight. want to bring into the
conversation david sanger, chief washington correspondent for the "new york times." he's are a guy i don't like to think of myself as. keeping up after midnight because he's in charge of a lot of important stuff. >> good to be with you. >> we have a little bit of confusion, as you just heard in that discussion in terms of what's happening with this i.c.e. job a. putting that aside for a second, the larger news tonight is the firing of the acting attorney general. can i just ask you from your reporting and your experience how big a deal you think this is when and what the immediate consequences will be? >> i think it's a big deal. i also think it's an avoidable deal. it's supposing for a a minute they had just done this owl in order. they had taken some time to write their immigration and suspension and syria ban order
with some care. that they had circulated around to all places and gone thu the usual process and waited for the attorney general to get confirmed by the senate. it would have been a couple weeks wait. it would have crossed the t's and dotted the i's and understood the risk of cutting out people who have green cards and had a team in place that would enforce it. so we have only gone through this entire drama because they were in such a rush to do this in week one. >> do you see any expla in addition for why that might be? obviously, there's the shock and awe politics thesis, that you want to do everything quickly before anybody getting their barings and you take advantage of the fact your opponents are on their heels and there's something just about the kinetic activity about doing something quickly that has advantage over
proceeding in a more deliberate way. i don't really buy that in a way because in this case, they know they have gotten majorities for two years. they have plenty of time to operate. they have plenty of, i think, political capital to the extent they are going to have it as long as republicans stick with them. do you see any thesis, any exmr. nation as to why they moved so quickly even to the point it undermined what they were trying to do? >> every administration that comes in wants to demonstrate right away that they are making big changes. barack obama came in and he promised he was going to close guantanamo bay and find orders along those lines in his first week. and you saw president bush find executive orders to undo steps that had been taken by bill clinton. so that's not unusual. the only thing here that would have justified moving quickly is
if there was an eminent threat from the seven nations. since we know that there's been little to no terrorism in the united states from immigrants to these nations and the trump place who said himself the press briefing today there's been no immediate threat they were acting on, if that would have been the only thing that would have justified taking an immediate step. so here, i think they just rushed. and like most things in life, if you rush it, you're going to make mistakes. particularly if you have never served in government and never gone through these e procedures and suddenly discovered it's a little more complicated than on the campaign trail. >> david sang r, chief washington correspondent for "the new york times," i appreciate your time tonight helping us with this. >> great to be with you. >> what david was saying in terms of the undermining
themselves, know whag they want to do and not being able to do it well enough so that it's going to stick, like they didn't cross the t's and dot the i's and get the personnel in place and rushed through it. if you're an opponent of what the trump administration is doing, at some point you have to wonder whether that's a blessing or a curse. do you want people who are doing incredibly reckless things to the country to be bad at doing those reckless things or do you want them to be good at doing those it reckless things? the slip shod way will likely be the undoing of this executive order and policy matter. but the way in which heavy done this tells you the way they operate. sometimes we need a presidency to operate with care. they have yet to prove they are capable of it. much more to come on this
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comcast business. built for business. inside the white house we have the president firing and replacing the acting attorney general for refusing to carry out his executive order on travel from majority muslim nations. acting attorney general sally yates refused to defend that travel ban and the refugee ban that the president signed off on this weekend. outside the white house and across the country, we are seeing hundreds of thousands of people out in the streets making their voices noun, e denouncing the travel ban and those people
are not letting up. one of the interesting things to watch this weekend was to see lawyers of every stripe turning out in their street clothes with laptops under their arm and going to the airports of this kocountry to try to offer individual help for people who were getting stuck in the system because of this order for people who may have been facing c confusing situations and to bring legal actions that brought a halt to the enforcement of some parts of these orders. joining us is the director of the aclu's immigrant rights process. he was able to get a stay on the executive order on saturday in new york. thank you for being here. >> thank you for having me. >> you're a busy guy now. >> yes, a lot of us are. >> let me ask you about the aclu is a big organization. we're also seeing attorneys who do all sorts of different kinds of law making themselves
available, turning out. one immigrant rights group put out a call and asked for volunteers to come help on the refugee and immigrants issue. they got 3,000 attorneys volunteering in the first four hours they put out that call. what's going on in the legal profession? this is your life, but it's becoming a lot of people's work. >> it really is i think a small part of the overall e fe normal nam of people turning out to support immigrants, to fight this muslim ban, to tell donald trump they are not going to stand up for unconstitutional actions in their names. and i think what you see the at airport is tables full of lawyers and calls full of people trying to find any way they can to support refugees and immigrants and that's what it is. lawyers happen to have an extra set of skills that come in handy at times like this.
it's amazing to see how people are turning out. >> how wide was the scope of the state you were able to e get with this new york judge this weekend. . >> it's a nationwide stay. so for the case continues in the eastern district courtroom in brooklyn, then nobody will be removed under the terms of the muslim ban. >> that means deported? >> yes. >> and how long is that stay good for? >> it depends on how long. we would hope the stay lasts for awhile and it's replaced with a permanent order that accomplishes the same thing and more. >> what's your next day in court? >> we have briefing over the next few weeks. then we'll be back in court at some point after that. >> we have learn ed tonight tha the first act of the new acting attorney general, who is a u.s. attorney for the eastern destruct of virginia.
we think he had a key role in the prosecution of the former virginia governor, which is a story we covered closely on this show. his first act after being sworn in tonight was to rescind the order from sally yates, the woman who was fired tonight by the president. which essentially means that dana ordered lawyers that they must defend the trump executive order in court. how do you think that will play out? >> i don't think this is an order that's defensible in court ultimately. the constitution is very clear. you can't favor a certain religion. you can't disfavor another religion as the government. you can't discriminate among people based on their religion and this order does all of those things quite clearly.
it's even clearer when you look at the way that president trump described how he claame to an a this order. e he told us during the campaign season he wanted a muslim ban as he morphed into this order. he asked legal experts how to accomplish a muslim ban through kind of slight lu more devious means. and that's just not okay. it's not constitutional. >> you think it's plainly unconstitutional. >> i think it's going to be clear as it's been clear to every judge that's looked at it so far that this should be put on hold. i think ultimately the rulings are going to go in the same direction and going to be broader rulings that are more permanent and this ban will go away. >> director of the aclu's imgrants rights project, thank you for being with us. i appreciate it.
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unlike what we are seeing tonight with the president axing the acting attorney general. president bush didn't want gonzales to go. he was forced to accept general gonzales's resignation due to mounting pressure and public outcry. that's how it went in 2007. the price for the most famous removal for attorney general naturally goes to richard nixon and got resignations from an attorney general, deputy attorney general all in the service o an independent special prosecutor fired during the watergate scandal to save his own skin. nixon's moeing down of the justice department in service of his own aims. my friend columnist for the daily beast michael jonathan.
i appreciate you both staying up late with us to cover this. michael, let me start with you in washington. we talked a little bit about the historical precedent of the saturday night massacre. we're now on to a new level of expectation with this story. the new acting attorney general, the one who was installed tonight after sally yates was fired, he immediately rescinded her order, which told the department of justice lawyers that they shouldn't defend this refugee and immigration executive order in court. that means he's rescinded that order. he's effectively ordering the department of justice lawyers that they need to go to court and defend this thing. do we expect that her resistance, that the principled stand she took might echo down through the lower levels of the justice department.
>>. >> that his two sooe superiors did not. i think because there are a lot of very principled career people in the justice department just like sally yates who came into the justice department in 1989 under republican president george h.w. bush and i have to assume that if they think that the independence of the justice department that's gone back an awfully long way is going to be jeopardized under donald trump, they may not feel comfortable. >> you get friction and people not wanting to be party to something the new administration is doing. what degree of magnitude is this different than the normal amount of friction we get? >> it's substantially different.
the president only has several hundred appointments out of a government that's over a million people in the government. so every president tries to change leadership and does change leadership at the top. what we're headed for here is what can only with be described as a perge. you're going to see in agency after agency, trump people saying these holdovers are going to try to undermine us. we'll do what we can to have them transferred. many can't be fired because they are protected by civil servants. they can be transferred out of positions of responsibility and other civil servants they deem to be promoted. it's great to resign on principle. a lot of people can do that. you're seeing that in the state department.
>> sally yates got thrown out. she didn't resign. he was one of the most deeply knowledgeable people about the middle east they quit in recent days. these are long serving public servants. and you are seeing that in different parts of the government. and it remains to be seen who they are replaced by, what you don't have any bench strength and the institutional memory, bad thing cans happen. >> to that point of jonathan in terms of a purge might be coming, people being thrown out if they can be transferred to bureaucratic siberia. is there historical context to
view that? richard nixon tried to do that in the state department and the justice department. tried to do it in the cia. he came in in 1969 thinking the cia was full of democratic i'vy league liberal who did not like him. he came in with a narrow margin. he thought he couldn't do that in his first term and rean iowa pointed lyndon johnson's cia director. once nixon got his landslide he fired helms and put people he thought were loyalists in it at the cia with the idea he would oversee a purge of the intelligence community and the parallel is that donald trump has come in with making it very clear he's unhappy with elements
of our intelligence community in all sorts of ways. that's another example of something we may see this. >> it's something to keep in mind as we're trying to make sense of the i.c.e. change. >> another example. >>. >> she indicated they will have an enemies list, which is what richard nixon had. they are taking names and they are looking for people in the media to be fired. i don't think that's going to work out for them, but the problem is this might work for a president in the short-term. in the long-term, these institutions are not as fragile as they are in some other countries. even if you act like a banana republican, these institutions, the congress, the bureaucracy have ways of fighting back. it's not a good idea to get in a fight with the cia. >> i think that's the reason you
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in @ case of rex tillerson, picked to be b the next secretary of state, we expected a full senate vote on him tomorrow. the nominee to be treasury secretary we had expected a senate finance committee vote on him today or tonight. neither of those things is happening now. democrats succeeded in delaying both the rex tillerson vote and steve mahmoud knew chan vote. democrats had delayed the judiciary committee vote for jeff sessions. that committee vote was supposed to be last week. democrats succeeded in it delay ing that jeff sessions vote until tomorrow. but now we'll see if that changes too given today's firing of the acting attorney general and the ongoing and now spiraling controversy over the refugee and muslims ban. also in case you were bored, we're expecting a prime time announcement of the supreme court pick tomorrow night. just in case you didn't have enough on your plate.
tonight's senate democrats held the senate floor until late into the evening. protesting against talking about this version of the muslim ban and refugee ban that the new president was signed over the weekend. democrats tonight held that senate floor until it was too late to vote on anything and time to turn the lights off. at one point tonight, senator elizabeth warren of massachusetts took the floor and spoke for more than an hour. here's a little of what she had to say. >> it is unconstitutional. it is immoral. and it must be overturned. what's happening is shocking. it is shocking, but it is not surprising. donald trump is doing exactly what he said he was going to do. where are senate republicans when their republican president issues an order targeting one religious group? president trump acted unilaterally to issue this order. and make no mistake. while it may not affect every muslim in the world, donald
trump's executive order is a muslim ban. >> after elizabeth warren spoke tonight, she spoke for an hour on the senate floor, senator chris murphy of connecticut went next. today he introduced legislation that it would essentially defund president trump's executive order. it would call it illegal and effectively rescind it. democrats obviously are in the minority in it the senate. they have 48 votes. they need to persuade a few republicans to join with them if they are going to pass anything. in the meantime, they can do this. they can slow down the process. they can delay confirmation votes. they can hold the senate floor until the middle of the night giving speech after speech, for hour after hour until it's too late to vote on anything. they can draw out all of the business of the senate and draw out confirmation battles until the bitter end. the question is what happens at the end and what does this do to galvanize the growing and
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what is now a very, very interesting exchange between her and the senator who is now nominated to be donald trump's attorney general jeff sessions. listen to this. >> you think the attorney general has a responsibility to say no to the president if he asks for something that's improper? a lot of people have defended the lynch nomination by saying, well, he appoints somebody who is going to execute his views. what's wrong with that? but if the views of the president wants to execute are unlawful, should the attorney general or the deputy attorney general say no? >> senator, i believe the attorney general or the deputy attorney general has an obligation to follow the law and the constitution. and to give their independent legal advice to the president. >> if the views the president wants to execute are unlawful, if the president wants the justice department to do something unlawful, should the attorney general say no to that?
no, mr. president, i won't do that unlaw schoful thing. absolutely, that's what the attorney general should do. in that case should tell the president stuff it. sally yates went on to be acting attorney general of the united states and tonight the president fired her from that job as acting attorney general for doing exactly what she told senator jeff session she is would do back at that confirmation hearing in 2015. that's it. i cannot malk senator sessions objects to her being fired over that. not now. not with this president. more ahead. i have the worst cold with this runny nose.
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boost. be up for it. thank you for being with us tonight attorney general of the united states after she refused to defend his executive order on immigration. the firing leaves the justice department, as i said, without anyone, now, who is legally authorized to issue foreign surveillance warrants. and this, of course, puts the national security intelligence gathering at risk, something that the president has just chosen to do. he knew that was the reason not to fire her but he did it.