Why Is This Happening? Welcome 2019 with the #WITHpod mailbag

In our inaugural mailbag episode, Chris Hayes and producer Tiffany Champion talk about everything from the power of county fairs to Yemen.
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By Why Is This Happening?

You asked, Chris answered! In our inaugural mailbag episode, we talk about the organizing power of county fairs, why members of Congress contradict each other on Yemen, whether there’s any hope for the internet, and more. Can you guess which #WITHpod revelation Chris thinks is the most shocking yet? Also, the first ever appearance of #WITHpod producer Tiffany Champion.

CHRIS HAYES: Hello, and welcome to "Why Is This Happening," with me, your host, Chris Hayes. Well, it's a big day. It's a big day here with Bob, I say that every time, but today's the biggest because you're gonna meet someone that I get to hang out with and talk to and work with every day, who is often name-checked on the show. She sort of moonlights as a producer on "Why Is This Happening," but she's a line producer on "All In with Chris Hayes." She's also the offense coordinator for the Chicago Bears, and her name is Tiffany Champion. Tiffany, say hi to the #WITHpod listeners.

TIFFANY CHAMPION: Hello, #WITHpod fam!

CHRIS HAYES: Oh, nice. Tiffany, from the one who has been managing a lot of things about the show, and she's been reading all your emails and forwarding me the good ones, which is like one in 100. And that's a joke, that's a joke. And she's been just doing a ton of work. Again, this whole thing, Matt Toder's here too, who has been doing editing with us and is someone who helps produce the show. This is literally like a science project.

TIFFANY CHAMPION: Just a fun hobby we love to do in our spare time.

CHRIS HAYES: It's like an extra credit class or something. Like when you do model U.N., it's like when you do model UN in high school and it's like the people who sign up for a club where you have to write an extra paper for no reason. That's what #WITHpod is. So it's exciting to have Tiffany here on the microphone. And so today we are doing a year-end first annual very special #WITHpod mailbag. We've been getting tons of really interesting feedback from you, and questions and responses to the conversations, and really just, I gotta say, just so much gratifying feedback about how much people have ... not just enjoyed the show, but learned new things from the show, opened up new avenues of inquiry for themselves. It's pushed people to get books or to think about a period in history they haven't thought about, or zoom in on something like Yemen, a conflict that was in the news sort of simmering in the background.

So that's really why we do it, we find that really gratifying. Because we know firsthand, Tiffany and I particularly because we work on a daily cable news show, it's called "All In with Chris Hayes," on at 8 PM weeknights, just how insane and ceaseless the news cycle could be and how much it can kind of like batter away at the ability to go deeper on things and sort of learn context. So I'm really excited about that. Tiffany, will you tell us, where are you from?

TIFFANY CHAMPION: So I am originally from Rockford, Illinois, which is why I'm a die-hard Bears fan, thanks to my dad. I came about this show, being on "All In," because I was an NBC page. I don't know if you remember this, I was the second-ever page on the show.

CHRIS HAYES: I do remember it.

TIFFANY CHAMPION: Mm-hmm (affirmative), so I was one of those people that walked down the building wearing a uniform giving tours, doing all of the grunt work.

CHRIS HAYES: Like Kenneth, if you know "30 Rock."

TIFFANY CHAMPION: Yes, that is a common cultural touchpoint. So ...

CHRIS HAYES: It's like the most, it must be the most common cultural touchpoint.

TIFFANY CHAMPION: Yeah, I think it's probably the only one. And ...

CHRIS HAYES: It's a funny thing when you have a page, 'cause when a new page comes and gets rotated through, we have them for like eight weeks, is it eight weeks?

TIFFANY CHAMPION: Yeah, it's like a three-month rotation, they've changed it since I was there, but yeah.

CHRIS HAYES: It was like 12 weeks or something. So they rotate through, and when they're there, they're in street clothes, like they were dressed like everyone else. But then occasionally you will see the page who's rotated you, who's in their page outfit.

TIFFANY CHAMPION: Mortified.

CHRIS HAYES: Yes, exactly, exactly. 'Cause they have to do like a weekend shift doing "SNL" or whatever, and you'll see them and there's like this moment where they lock eyes with you, and they like turn away in terrible embarrassment because you've seen them in their page outfit, where in the office they're like a normal person. Now it's like "Don't look at me, don't look at me."

TIFFANY CHAMPION: Yeah, it's exactly that. And I'm midwestern at heart, I was planning to move back to Chicago and was offered an opportunity on the show, and I've been with y'all ever since. And then have been so lucky to start this podcast, this little side project, and read all of your emails. I read them.

CHRIS HAYES: She reads every one.

TIFFANY CHAMPION: If you have gotten a response, my fingers have typed those words. If it is at 2:00 in the morning, it's because I couldn't sleep and I wanted to keep reading. If it was at 8:00 in the morning, I was drinking coffee with my dog in my lap. I am reading these all the time because ...

CHRIS HAYES: If it's at 8:15, it's because she's not doing her job producing "All In with Chris Hayes"-

TIFFANY CHAMPION: I'm in the control room.

CHRIS HAYES: And she's in the control room just taking a little break from timing how long the A-block is.

TIFFANY CHAMPION: Yeah, it is, it's amazing the things that people say that they never thought they would connect to. People that said "Oh, I didn't think I would care about the census, but this is the most important thing to me now." Or where you guys listen to them.

CHRIS HAYES: Totally.

TIFFANY CHAMPION: You listened to them while you were cooking Thanksgiving dinner, and people who are driving trucks long-range. They are listening to them then. It's so cool

CHRIS HAYES: Shout-out to people driving a truck and listening to #WITHpod. That's awesome, that makes me so happy. I've interviewed truck drivers through my life in various journalistic capacities and known people who have done it, and I know having stuff to listen to is such a key part of making that job an experience that passes more quickly than it could.

TIFFANY CHAMPION: Yeah, so we, whenever Chris says it genuinely, we love hearing from you, the things that you take away from it, and the questions that you have, which is why sometimes I do my best to answer them. I will send links and references and things like that, but if there's some longer-form things that I think you might want to hear Chris's answer to, I would suggest us doing an entire episode about that, which is what we're doing today. So without further ado, I have a couple of questions.

CHRIS HAYES: Let's hit the mailbag.

TIFFANY CHAMPION: Yeah.

CHRIS HAYES: Tiffany, right now, just because this is a, it's not a visual medium, she's holding a literal Santa's bag, like in the iconic scene in "A Miracle on 34th Street," and there's this paper sort of sticking out of it in a sort of wayward fashion. So she's now reaching in to pull out the first.

TIFFANY CHAMPION: So something that a lot of people really connected to, similar to the census one, was on Yemen. A lot of people wrote in about Yemen and had questions about that. This one is from Christina, who says she's listened to the podcast twice with Shireen, which is something a lot of people do, is listen to it multiple times. And she says "It seems to say that Iran and Saudi Arabia have both placed themselves in the conflict, and that the people of Yemen are not in coordination with either. However, Congress keeps saying on TV that Yemenis are working with Iran and getting their weapons from them. So which one is it?"

CHRIS HAYES: It's a great question. I think the answer to that is really complicated. So one of the things I think Shireen tried to sort of make clear in that conversation is, there's two things going on. There are fault lines in Yemeni society that are sort of domestic fault lines in Yemeni society, that have to do with different regions of the country physically, different sectarian lines of access, different political lines. So there are divisions within Yemeni society, there was a civil war that was fought formerly, and the Houthi rebels, who are one of the sides in this conflict, predate this particular conflict. They've been around for a while. Those have then been kind of jacked up, engineered, and used by foreign proxy actors. So the sort of, the Saudis have kind of put themselves in the middle of the putative Yemeni government, while the Iranians have been backing the Houthi rebels.

I mean, one way to think about it is like, when the U.S. fought its Revolutionary War, a huge part of what made the Revolutionary War work, in some ways you can say a counterfactually "but for this we may not have won," was French assistance. We went to the French and said "Help us out," and France kind of tried to figure out one way or the other about whether they wanted to get involved in this conflict or not. They ended up getting involved. Similarly during the Civil War, it was a huge question about whether foreign governments would recognize the Confederacy. And it would have made an enormous difference if, say, Britain had recognized the Confederacy.

So in both those cases there's domestic lines of dispute. It's not the case that it's just a proxy war for France, the American Revolution. Actually there's domestic issues being fought. Same thing in the Civil War. But it also matters enormously what foreign nations are doing. And I think that's kind of the way to think about what's happening in Yemen. That there are genuine domestic lines of dispute that the putative government genuinely is a Saudi entity, insofar as the president, Hadi, of the country lives in Saudi Arabia. Doesn't live in Yemen, because the capital's controlled by the rebels, and also the Houthis are getting support from the Iranians.

That support, by the way, has increased as the war has stretched on. There's many people who argue that one way to stop further Iranian encroachment in the conflict is to end the conflict itself and to stop the bombardment, because the longer it goes on, the more the Iranians see themselves as having a stake in it and the more enmeshed they get, precisely in the battle.

TIFFANY CHAMPION: So when she watches her representatives or other representatives on TV, they're sort of picking and choosing which side is what you're saying, which side is best going to fit with their...

CHRIS HAYES: Yeah, here's one way to think about it. The line from supporters of the war and supporters of the U.S.-Saudi alliance has been that, essentially, this is on Saudi's back step and the Yemenis don't have a say, really. The Yemenis have a legitimate government that's been overrun by this Iranian menace, and that the Houthis are essentially a stalking horse for Iran's territorial ambitions to spread out throughout the region. And they went into Syria, where they've been fighting alongside the Assad forces and the Russians to put down the rebellion there and the revolution. They're now in the Arabian Peninsula, they have a foothold on the Arabian Peninsula, and the Iranian Persian menace has to be rolled back.

It's not crazily different than the kind of domino theory that was in operation for much of the Cold War. Why are we fighting the Vietnamese? Well, because actually they're a projection of Chinese or Soviet power. They're a projection of Communist power. And the idea, I think, that the sort of tragic mistake of the Vietnam War, right, was refusing to see the actual domestic political considerations as being primary to the Vietnamese, and instead viewing the entire conflict entirely through a framework of countries that were not Vietnam.

So the reason that we go and fight in Vietnam for so long, the reason that we had the Vietnamese War, is that U.N. foreign policy really refuses to wrestle with and acknowledge their genuine political divisions within Vietnamese society and among the Vietnamese people that are the drivers of the conflict, as opposed to it solely being a projection of global Communism. And I think there's an analogy here in the mistake that supporters of the war are making here. And I think that's the thing that Shireen really kind of tries to hit home on. These forces predate whatever the Iranians were or were not doing, and a lot of American politicians and sort of foreign policy sites are so wedded to the sort of Saudi alliance that they kind of refuse to see that.

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TIFFANY CHAMPION: If you will allow me, this isn't a question, this is just something that someone had written in about this that was a really lovely thing to say. She said "I sometimes feel so hopeless when it comes to topics like this, because I live in a blue state and my representatives most always vote the way that I like." She's writing specifically about learning about Yemen. "But when you asked people to call their representatives about the current war resolutions act and I didn't see my Congresswoman as a sponsor, I decided to call. You inspired me to call, even though I figured she would vote as I hoped, and the experience felt good." And I think that's amazing. Even if you live in a state where you think that the person that represents you is going to vote the way that you are, still make your voice heard.

CHRIS HAYES: Totally.

TIFFANY CHAMPION: That is important.

CHRIS HAYES: And not only that, that is great, and we should note that just within the last few weeks, the Senate, before it recessed, for the first time since the 1970s, did pass a war powers resolution saying the U.S. should stop military aid. It got killed in the House in a really shady way, buried in the rule on the farm vote, thank you, Paul Ryan, but it's gonna come up again in the new Democratic Congress. So this is not over, and if you feel strongly about this, as I obviously think you should, you should keep putting the pressure on him.

And the last thing I'll say about that great email is, a huge part of the way power works in Washington, I know from covering the capital as a reporter is, it's not just what position a politician has, it's what they prioritize and what they throw their back into and what they care about. And so it's like it may be the case, and in some vague sense your Congressperson is gonna vote the right way on the Yemen bill, but do they care about it and do they think their constituents care about it and are they gonna prioritize it? And that's why I think really calling members of Congress, contacting them, really works for them.

TIFFANY CHAMPION: Totally. This one is from John, it's about the social infrastructure conversation we had with Eric Klinenberg. He said "I found it fascinating, I get the idea, especially with regards to libraries, parks, and subways, but the discussion was very urban-centric. It struck me as I live in a small rural city, what sort of social infrastructure can be put in place for rural areas? Libraries are universal, but subways and large parks are not relevant, necessarily, in the country. So how can you build social infrastructure for rural America?"

CHRIS HAYES: That is a fantastic question, and honestly one I don't have a great sense of. I mean, obviously my personal life experience is extremely urban-centric. I grew up in the Bronx in New York City, I've lived in New York, Chicago, and Washington, are the places I've lived for any extended period of time, so I've only lived in urban areas. When I've been in rural areas, and I have some experience in a rural area because we have a place upstate that we go to, there are some obvious pieces of social infrastructure. So libraries are a big one. Libraries are in urban America and they're in rural America, and they're super important in both places.

There are things like county fair sites and county fairs and the Farm Bureau in rural America. There used to be more sites, I think, of sort of collective meeting, in rural America that have been deconstructed over time. And I think, actually, it's really important to have those things. The county fairgrounds end up being, in a rural county, a massively important piece of social infrastructure, and the county fair is a massively important piece of social infrastructure in places, or the state fair. Those are more than just kitschy corn dogs, they're actually places where you sort of weave together the fabric of society.

When you go back and you read about the populist movement in rural America, particularly in the late 19th century, there's all sorts of ways in which people are coming together under tents or at granaries or places like that to sort of create the conditions for political and social movements. And I think it's a great question to think about. Other than libraries and, I would say, fairgrounds, what are the kinds of things that constitute social infrastructure in rural America or small-town America, and how can that be built out?

TIFFANY CHAMPION: I was a county fair queen.

CHRIS HAYES: Were you really?

TIFFANY CHAMPION: Yeah.

CHRIS HAYES: Like actually? Like a contestant in a pageant?

TIFFANY CHAMPION: I got a scholarship, which is why I did it.

CHRIS HAYES: Wow. Don't cut that out.

TIFFANY CHAMPION: Fuck, cut it out. I'm gonna swear a whole lot. The question from John on social infrastructure sort of leads to this one from Joel. I want to ask two from him, but one, you talked a lot in the social infrastructure conversation about the subways and how they are this very unique sort of ecosystem that are taken for granted, I think, but very common in larger cities. And you talked about being so close to all these different types of people. And Joel wants to know "What's the last surprising experience that you had while on the subway?"

CHRIS HAYES: The most surprising experience that I've had on the subway.

TIFFANY CHAMPION: Or weird, or the things that make you smile, or any of those.

CHRIS HAYES: You know what, to be honest, there's sort of too many to recount. I'm doing that thing where someone's like "What books do you like?" And your mind blanks, 'cause I've never read a book. There's a lot of things I love about the subway. One is, I love when a bunch of young kids come on to perform, and you think that ... you start to stereotype certain kinds of people as they're gonna be the kinds of people who turn up their nose and don't like this, and other people are gonna like it, and then it's totally scrambled. Like the way that you are constantly assessing people on the subway in sort of their externality and typography and what stop they got on, and you're seeing this mix of people, and then moments that happen on the subway, the subway stops, or people have to talk to each other because there's some issue, or a performer comes on, and the community gets very briefly but intensely instantiated.

TIFFANY CHAMPION: Yes, totally.

CHRIS HAYES: And I've seen people, a lot of times on the subway, like someone being a jerk to someone else and someone sticking up for the person who's a victim. And a lot of times what's really amazing about that is the way that that cuts across race and class lines. People will stick up for ... not always, I mean, sometimes it cuts right with race and class lines in a really unnerving, upsetting way. But sometimes it doesn't. And a lot of times I've seen people stick up for other people who don't at all look like them or are from the same background as them, but there's this moment of connection and solidarity in the face of someone acting like a jerk that I've seen time and time again, like too many times to really sort of recite and count, that just makes you feel this real intense sense of connection and solidarity and pride. Do you feel that way?

TIFFANY CHAMPION: Oh, yeah. I talk about this all the time, how the train car that you're on suddenly is its own little world, and each of these people bring their own things to it. I recently had a woman who experienced a medical emergency. She had passed out while on the train, and she was by herself, and all of a sudden all of these people were attending to her, they got her back up on the seat, they were making sure all of the contents that had spilled out of her purse were there. Flagging the conductor to make sure that they knew, getting an emergency response. All of a sudden, none of these people knew each other, but they were all there for her because that is what you do.

CHRIS HAYES: And the thing about the subway, the thing that I find so infuriating about what has happened to the subway, is it really is this universal thing. It really is this public trust in the city, where it's like everyone from homeless people to bankers use the subway. And the reason is, it's a public good that can't be replicated. You can get in an Uber and sit in traffic for 30 minutes, but the fastest way to get from Broadway Lafayette to Rockefeller Center is the train. But it doesn't matter if you're the richest person in the fricking universe, that's still the fastest way to go.

TIFFANY CHAMPION: I saw a guy in tails with a dozen white roses, like he was going to some amazing event in which you would wear tails and have a dozen white roses. And I said to him, I was like "You look fantastic." He's like "Oh, thank you, I'm going to a show." I was like "Well, of course you are, but ..."

CHRIS HAYES: On the subway.

TIFFANY CHAMPION: On the subway, as I'm schlepping ...

CHRIS HAYES: And that's the thing that makes me so upset, is the worse that it gets and the more under-invested it gets and the worse the times get, the more that you're seeing this fracturing, where it's like "Well, I will take an Uber, I will take this." Because the subway is like the slow mode. No, we have to really hold onto the subway being the best mode.

TIFFANY CHAMPION: So the other question that Joel had is, following your conversation with Tim Wu, which was one of our earlier ones about who broke the Internet ...

CHRIS HAYES: Who broke the Internet.

TIFFANY CHAMPION: He wants to know, Joel wants to know, information that's been disclosed since we had that, there's been a lot of news about Facebook and Twitter. "How do you see the chances of meaningful Internet technology developing social media regulation, anti-trust reform, that sort of thing?

CHRIS HAYES: I think there's gonna be ... I mean, Tim Wu has actually got a new book out called, I think, "The Curse of Bigness," which is kind of about monopoly and concentration, which is something that we have a forthcoming ... we've got a forthcoming conversation actually coming out with respect to Amazon specifically. I think there's big movement afoot. I think the kind of power that Facebook has, every day bringing some new insane story about how it's violating people's privacy, fundamentally how it's doing things that you don't know about. That's the kind of, that's the rub here. There's this way in which you react to consumer products you use, where it's like there's what you know and what you don't know. And that's true, I think, of everyone. When you buy a piece of clothing, that's what the sort of sweatshop movement was about. Where was it made and under what conditions? And the fact that that's hidden away from you, it can be really messed up.

But this is even more intimate because it's about your actual data. It's about the stuff about you that this company has control over, and also just the insane power they have. And I think that's just untenable. This idea that, the stories about the way that Facebook drove, say, hate crimes against refugees in Germany, which is a study that came out since we talked to Tim Wu, or a key driver of genocide against Rohingya in Myanmar. The idea that Facebook's like "Sorry, sorry, trying to fix it" about everything, when "Sorry, sorry, trying to fix it" is trying to fix our platform as a tool for genocide in Rohingya. Well, what, you've got some room in Palo Alto where they're gonna figure out the ways to not exacerbate the worst aspects of the Myanmar regime? It doesn't calculate, it doesn't scan. They're too big and too powerful, and they can't wield the power responsibly.

I think that's a conclusion people are increasingly going toward. And so there is going to be only a growing movement to rein them in in lots of ways. Rein them in or break them up, and it's gonna be one of the most interesting stories in political economy, I think, over the next few years.

TIFFANY CHAMPION: How do you feel with all of these headlines we've been covering, specifically about Facebook, but just as you, as a user of these platforms, how do you feel?

CHRIS HAYES: Yeah, I feel tortured about it. I mean, I've been thinking about, I've been watching a lot of people get off Facebook, I'm thinking about doing the same. But I use Instagram a lot, and really like it, and it feels a little like ... you know, you give up pork but you keep eating beef, and it's like "What have you really done?" You know, Facebook and social media is increasingly ending up in the category of watching football, eating meat, of things I cannot defend. I literally can't defend them in an intellectual level, but do them. Although I'm off football this year, although I get my Bears updates through the internet and Tiffany, and the Bears are so good I may have to watch the playoffs.

But really, I think of those in the same three categories. Eating meat, I think, is basically philosophically and intellectually indefensible, and yet I do it. Just 'cause I'm lazy and also like it, but it's a moral failing. Watching football, I think, is basically indefensible. The sport of it is indefensible, but I like watching football. Now this year I've sort of given it up. And I think using Facebook is essentially indefensible. And it's different in a different way, because in those two cases, you're directly contributing, I think, in a way. Where Facebook, it's not a sort of personal moral failing to use Facebook, because they're really the predator there. You know, in the case of football and meat I think it's a little different morally, or it feels like a little more cutting. But it's all now kind of in that same category for me. I'm just filled with a lot of Catholic guilt. I don't know what I'm gonna do, but I think I'm gonna I don't know. Are you gonna stay on Facebook?

TIFFANY CHAMPION: Probably, only because, not that I post anything, but being so far away from my family, and especially, shockingly, less of my own friends but my older generations of families, great-aunts, great-uncles that are on it, that is how I keep up with them. They aren't the type of people that are gonna pick up and call me, but that's where I find out about them, and they post pictures. And so that's how I keep in contact with them.

CHRIS HAYES: I will say that I also think, it's funny, I was gonna say "the group chat on Whatsapp," which is owned by frickin' Facebook ... I was gonna be like "Get off Facebook and get on WhatsApp," owned by Facebook. But I do think that one thing that I have found, the one part of the Internet and social media, or it's not social media, that I actually love the most is the group chat, which to me has kind of replaced a little bit of what social media used to be able to do. So I'm in a group chat with my high school friends, I'm in a group chat with my wife and some of our friends from the time we lived in D.C., and that's a great place to get Halloween costume pictures of the people's kids and updates and stuff, and shoot the shit, talk trash with my high school buddies, that fills that need of "I'm connected to these people," but it's not like ... and there's no data being exchanged, and no one's trying to sell me an ad. And I actually think that's filling a hole that social media used to have for me.

TIFFANY CHAMPION: Yeah, totally. So probably our last question is a common question also, which is "Where does Chris find the time to keep up reading with all of the books that we cover? Does he set aside dedicated time to this during the day or the week? Does he just catch them when he can? Or does his assistant read the book of his guest and provide him with a synopsis of what she can frame as questions?"

CHRIS HAYES: Do you want to answer that, the last part? About the assistant?

TIFFANY CHAMPION: Yeah, no. So Chris's assistant Aileen is the best person, I think. Big fan.

CHRIS HAYES: The best, the best.

TIFFANY CHAMPION: She's amazing, she covers ...

CHRIS HAYES: Everything.

TIFFANY CHAMPION: She is two steps ahead of you in whatever you need to do.

CHRIS HAYES: Yes.

TIFFANY CHAMPION: She does not read those books.

CHRIS HAYES: She does not read the books.

TIFFANY CHAMPION: No, no, no. She has her own time and job.

CHRIS HAYES: Yes. So one of the things I like about this job is that it's forced me to read more books. And honestly, I'm a big believer in the Kindle app on the phone. I prefer to read books on paper, but when I have to read a book and I have the deadline, I know I have to read it, my phone is always there. And what it does is, if I'm online waiting for coffee, rather than scrolling through Twitter, I have five more minutes to read the book, I can read on the way home, I can read it on the way into the subway, I can read it before I go to bed. And it's not the greatest thing in the world to be looking at the screen, but it's always there, and that just makes it way easier to get through a book. I also read really fast, like real fast.

TIFFANY CHAMPION: I'm jealous of that.

CHRIS HAYES: It's been a huge comparative advantage for most of my both childhood and adult life. So, but yeah, that's basically what we do. If there's a book ...

TIFFANY CHAMPION: Chris reads it.

CHRIS HAYES: I read it.

TIFFANY CHAMPION: It's all Chris.

CHRIS HAYES: It's all me.

TIFFANY CHAMPION: I lied, I have one last question. And this is from me. There are a lot of moments when we're recording these conversations and the guest says something that is just so shocking we look at each other and we're like "Oh, my gosh," eyes wide, mouth agape, that's amazing. What do you think is the biggest moment that we've had this year that comes to mind of that "holy crap" moment?

CHRIS HAYES: I will tell you, the biggest "holy crap" moment, I think, is Nick Akerman on why Nixon put the tapes in the White House. Basically ... and this was never, I went back after this, it was such a "holy crap" moment that I like fact-checked it. And it was never ... it basically was never definitively established, but it was definitely the belief of the prosecutors, which was this. That it used to be the case that giving your papers to the National Archive could be written off as a donation for tax purposes by an exiting president. They closed that loophole while Nixon was in office, or as he was entering office, I think. And he was pissed, but that was only written items, not recordings. It would still be the case that if you donated recordings, you could write that off as a donation for tax purposes. And so he installed the taping system to produce recordings that he could then donate to get a tax write-off. Which ended up being his downfall.

TIFFANY CHAMPION: Wild.

CHRIS HAYES: The greediness of trying to get the tax write-off ended up being his downfall. That moment is my number one "holy shit" moment.

TIFFANY CHAMPION: Yeah. I agree.

CHRIS HAYES: All right, Tiffany Champion, thank you so much for all your work.

TIFFANY CHAMPION: Thank you.

CHRIS HAYES: And for doing the mailbag. There are a bunch, obviously a bunch more questions. I think we'll keep doing, we'll do occasional mailbags, I think, and we'll do occasional ... we haven't sort of formalized it, but we'll do responses to stuff as we go along. So keep writing to us, and you've now heard the voice of the person who's on the other line when you write. You can Tweet us, #WITHpod, email us, WITHpod@gmail.com, that's the email address, that is all read by Tiffany Champion.

RELATED LINKS:

Detailing America's role in the world's worst crisis with Shireen Al-Adeimi

Welcome to Social Infrastructure Week with Eric Klinenberg

Tim Wu explains who broke the internet, and why

Investigating President Trump with Nick Akerman

"Palaces for the People," by Eric Klineberg

"The Curse of Bigness" by Tim Wu

"Why Is This Happening" is presented by MSNBC and NBC News THINK, produced by the "All In" team, and features music by Eddie Cooper. You can see more of our work, including links to things we mentioned here, by going to NBCNews.com/WhyIsThisHappening.