Flynn pleads guilty to lying to FBI about Russia Transcript 12/1/17 All In with Chris Hayes
Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES
Date: December 1, 2017
Guest: Evan McMullin, Kathryn Rampell, Malcolm Nance, Natasha Bertrand, Chuck Rosenberg, Jill Wine-Banks, Ted Lieu, Mike Quigley, Richard Blumenthal
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lock him up. Lock him up. Lock him up.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: The President`s former National Security Adviser
pleads guilty to lying to the FBI.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you direct Mike Flynn to discuss sanctions with
the Russian ambassador –
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, I didn`t.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: – prior to your –
TRUMP: No I didn`t.
HAYES: Tonight, what Michael Flynn`s full cooperation with Robert Mueller
means for the President.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: it`s a nightmare for Donald Trump.
HAYES: As the Russia probe reaches Trump`s inner circle.
TRUMP: I didn`t direct him but I would have directed him because that`s
HAYES: Plus, what Michael Flynn`s lie was attempting to hide.
SEAN SPICER, FORMER PRESS SECRETARY, WHITE HOUSE: The only conversation
General Flynn had was one, to wish him a merry Christmas wish.
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES: Christmas wish.
SPICER: Christmas and holiday greetings.
HAYES: And the desperate rush to pass the tax cuts before the next
TRUMP: It`s all fake news. It`s all fake news.
HAYES: WHEN “all in” starts right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Good evening from New York, I`m Chris Hayes. Today the former
National Security Adviser to the President of the United States pleaded
guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with the Russian Ambassador.
And amid the chaos, Republicans in Congress are going full steam ahead to
push a massive corporate tax cut through while they still have a chance
because you`d never know who is going to be indicted on Monday. That`s
especially true now that we know Flynn is cooperating with Robert Mueller`s
Russian investigation, bringing it one step closer to the President`s inner
circle, including his son-in-law Jared Kushner, possibly even the President
himself. Flynn is now the fourth member of the Trump campaign to be
charged with a felony. And unlike the other three who all parted ways with
the President by the time he took office, Flynn is in a special category on
his own. An early addition to the campaign, he became a close confidant of
the President frequently traveling with him on the road and defending him
in the press. They grew so close that Trump went on to pick Flynn as his
National Security Adviser even after being explicitly warned against it by
President Obama right after the election. And unlike the other three who
have been charged, Flynn committed his crime inside the White House. He
lied to FBI agents in an interview just two days after being sworn in as
National Security Adviser. After appearing in federal court this morning,
Flynn, who once led “lock her up” chants at the Republican Convention,
exited the courthouse to a new chant of his own.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lock him up! Lock him up! Lock him up! Lock him up!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Flynn later released his first public statement which read in part,
“my guilty plea and agreement to cooperate with the Special Counsel`s
office reflect a decision I made in the best interests of my family and of
our country. I accept full responsibility for my actions.” Under that
cooperation agreement, Robert Mueller will soon find out everything Flynn
knows about what happened during and after the Trump campaign if he hasn`t
already. And there`s reason to believe that Michael Flynn knows a whole
heck of a lot. Nevertheless, the White House tried to protect an air of
calm today, at least in public. Attorney Ty Cobb is saying in a statement
“Nothing about the guilty plea or the charge implicates anyone other than
Mr. Flynn. Maybe but Mueller would not make a deal if he didn`t think
Flynn could deliver a bigger fish. In court documents released today, it
already gives clues about who Mueller may be angling for. Flynn pleaded
guilty to lying to investigators about his contacts during the transition
with the Russian Ambassador insisting they hadn`t discussed new sanctions
imposed by the Obama administration. Now we`ve known for months that that
wasn`t true. They did discuss the sanctions. The Washington Post broke
that story last February leading to Flynn`s resignation. What we didn`t
know, until today, is that Flynn was directed to discuss sanctions with the
Ambassador by a senior member of the President`s transition team. Someone
who, while all this was going on, was with other senior members of the
presidential transition team at the Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach,
Florida. That new information makes it a lot harder to believe what the
President told the press right after Flynn stepped down.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you direct Mike Flynn to discuss sanctions with
the Russian ambassador –
TRUMP: No, I didn`t.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: – prior to your inauguration?
TRUMP: No I didn`t. No, I didn`t.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And would you have fired him –
TRUMP: Excuse me.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: if the information hadn`t leaked out?
TRUMP: No, I fired him because of what he said to Mike Pence, very simple.
Mike was doing his job. He was calling countries and his counterparts. So
it certainly would have been OK with me if he did it. I would have
directed him to do it if I thought he wasn`t doing it. I didn`t direct him
but I would have directed him because that`s his job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Chuck Rosenberg is a former U.S. Attorney who served as Chief of
Staff of the FBI under former Director James Comey and Jill Wine-Banks,
former Assistant Special Watergate Prosecutor former General Counsel to the
U.S. Army. Chuck, let me begin with you. The significance of this today,
what does it mean?
CHUCK ROSENBERG, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, it`s very significant, Chris.
It means a couple of things. One is that Mike Flynn when he gets sentenced
is going to be a convicted felon, the other is that he`s going to
cooperate. That`s what he needs to do for a bunch of reasons. One is,
they can compel him to tell the truth. The other of course is that he
wants to make sure that whatever sentence he gets, in the end, is as low as
possible. And that plea agreement requires him to corroborate fully and
truthfully. So significant, you bet it is.
HAYES: Jill, you know, we have heard all along that there were multiple
possible indictments coming for Flynn and perhaps his son. One of them was
failing to register as a foreign agent which we know – I think we have her
back. One of them was failing to register as a foreign agent, which of
course we know Paul Manafort and his deputy have been already indicted for.
So Chuck, what does it mean that those sorts of charges are not present
today and instead we have this one charge?
ROSENBERG: It doesn`t mean very much, Chris. And here`s why. One charge,
one count will make him a convicted felon and that`s a pretty rough way to
go through the rest of your life. The other stuff, the other conduct,
including either lying on his foreign agent registration forms or omitting
information or, you know, whatever else he may have done, all of that
stuff, A, is known to Mueller and his team and, B, will have to be made
known to the judge because it will factor in his sentencing. So the mere
fact that he`s pleading guilty to one count doesn`t mean that all of this
other stuff doesn`t come into play at some point for Mr. Flynn.
HAYES: What are the terms of this kind of negotiation and cooperation
usually like, Chuck?
ROSENBERG: Well, the terms of this plea agreement are pretty standard.
I`ve seen a thousand of them and it doesn`t seem all that different. The
fact that they are letting him plead guilty to one count as opposed to
making him plead guilty to many is not all that unusual. In some ways it
seems quite standard, Chris.
HAYES: Jill, you obviously have experience with Watergate and one of the
key things there was John Dean. John Dean was someone who knew a lot and
who did flip and that sort of broke things open. How do you compare what
happened today with that?
JILL WINE-BANKS: I think we have every reason to believe that Mike Flynn
is a knowledgeable person because of the fact that Trump has gone so far
out of his way to protect him. He wouldn`t have been doing that if Flynn
didn`t know things that would hurt him and his family. That is, Trump and
his family, his son and son-in-law. So I think that the fact that he`s
cooperating is really bringing us closer to the truth and also I think it`s
important that the information that he pled guilty to specifically said
that he talked to and was guided by a senior person in the Presidential
transition. And, of course, we`re hearing rumors today that that was Jared
Kushner but it could have been Pence, it could have been Sessions, it could
have been any one of a number of people, all very high up who are now in
jeopardy and who will also have information that if they are called upon to
choose between going to jail and testifying, may testify and give us even
more evidence to sort of draw the final loop around the White House.
HAYES: Chuck, it does seem notable that in –that Mueller included in that
plea document, that he was directed to do this by a senior administration
official. There`s a little bit of contradictory reports about who that is
that directed to make this contact with Kislyak and afterward crucially
talked to senior administration officials. And so the entire line from the
White House, for months and months and months, which is we have no idea
Michael Flynn lied appears not to be true.
ROSENBERG: Right. And so the Mueller team is slowly chipping away at the
truth. What they`ll reveal over time is what actually happened. You`re
seeing another piece of it today. I don`t draw any conclusion right now
about who it is or how far they`ll go, who`s in jeopardy or not in
jeopardy. Here`s what I do know Chris. They`re getting at it and they are
getting at it in an extraordinarily and deliberate and professional way.
HAYES: What about the pace, Jill? As you know, my colleague Lawrence
O`Donnell made a comment this morning and said it was going so much faster
than Watergate. And it does seem like the pace of this is going at quite a
BANKS: It is going rapidly. I would like to draw one analogy, which is
when John Dean pled guilty, it was Friday, October 19th. Saturday, October
20th was a Saturday Night Massacre. And there is some link between the
fact that he was cooperating and testifying and the fact that we were
denied the tapes, had the press conference and that`s what led to a huge
public outcry that really reversed how the public saw the Watergate
investigation and I`m hoping that something from today will get through to
most of the people who are currently supporting the President and make them
see what the real facts are and that real crimes are being committed by the
people in the White House.
HAYES: How serious a crime is it, Chuck, to lie to the FBI?
ROSENBERG: It`s a felony. There are two types of crimes, basically,
felonies and misdemeanors. This is a felony. It`s a serious crime. I
want to be clear about something, Chris. It doesn`t really matter all that
much which felony they picked or which lie they picked to charge as part of
the felony. It`s a serious crime. It`s as simple as that.
HAYES: All right, Chuck Rosenberg, and Jill Wine-Banks, great to have you
here on a pretty momentous day. My next guests both sit on Congressional
committees with jurisdiction on the Russia Probe, Congressman Mike Quigley,
a Member of the House Intelligence Committee which is conducting an
investigation on its own and Congressman Ted Lieu who sits on the Judiciary
Committee where article of impeachment would be introduced. Good to have
you both, gentlemen. Congressman Quigley let me begin with you. Were you
surprised given that you have access to information that we in the public
do not have from your perch of the committee, were you surprised by today`s
REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D-IL), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: The timing somewhat.
It`s hard to imagine that after last week`s announcement that Mr. Flynn had
stopped cooperating with the Trump defense team that something like this
wasn`t going to happen. It was clearly an indication that there was
cooperation, which is more likely than not leading to some sort of a
negotiated plea. So I think – I felt this was going to happen. It was
hard to imagine that the general didn`t have a lot of exposure. But as
suggested, it has gained in momentum.
HAYES: Congressman Lieu, one of the things that – there`s a sort of side
part of this and it has to do with essentially the Presidential transition
conducting foreign policy during the transition. And we should note that
it`s not unusual for incoming administrations to be in contact with foreign
governments and talking about things but there`s both the example of the
sanctions and this other example in which it appears according to reporting
that Jared Kushner directed Michael Flynn to call different governments and
attempt to block what the Obama administration was trying to have happen
during a U.N. Security Council Vote, essentially undermining the current
foreign policy to the U.S. government. What do you make of the seriousness
REP. TED LIEU (D-CA), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: That`s very serious, Chris.
That`s why there`s a federal law against it called the Logan Act. We have
one President at a time. You cannot conduct your own rogue foreign policy
and that`s exactly what the Trump campaign was doing. But also, keep in
mind, you have multiple Trump officials not only lying about the Russian
contacts but lying about the same exact Russian person Ambassador Kislyak.
Michael Flynn lied about his interaction with Kislyak, Jeff Sessions lied
and Jared Kushner on a security clearance form lied as well. And this is
important because Kislyak is also as Mike Quigley knows, is a spy and spy
recruiter for Russia as well.
HAYES: Congressman Quigley, one of the – one of the key items here is the
fact this was on sanctions day. This was the day when the Obama
administration was essentially delivering their punitive measures for what
Russia had done to a Donald Trump. What does it mean if the Trump campaign
or the Trump transition is essentially telling them it`s going to be OK?
QUIGLEY: Right. I mean, look, there`s a reason we have one president at a
time. Leave it to the Trump administration to bring out the Logan Act. I
don`t know if anyone`s ever been prosecuted under that act, right? It`s an
extremely old law and leave it to them to make this relevant. Again,
clearly this is a long pattern in history of abuse and an extraordinary
flow of connection primarily with one country, Russia, to benefit Russia`s
foreign policy and, unfortunately, I think in a coordinated basis with the
HAYES: Congressman Lieu, does this brings things closer to a conclusion
today? Do you suspect this goes up to the President of the United States?
LIEU: Well, first off, today is a dark day for America because we`re now
seeing evidence of criminal behavior at the highest levels of our
government. And I actually think we can draw a very strong inference by
today`s plea agreement. I`m a former prosecutor and you wouldn`t do a plea
agreement, such as this one, if you`re trying to get lower level people.
The only reason you are charged Michael Flynn with just one count as
opposed Manafort with a whole laundry list of counts is because you want
him to give incriminating and damning information on people above him.
There`s only a little number of those folks. It`s Kushner, Mike Pence,
Jeff Sessions, Donald Trump Jr. or the President of the United States.
HAYES: And Congressman Quigley, I want your respond to one of those senior
people is the Vice President. The Vice President was in Mar-a-Lago that
day. The Vice President – the story has been that Flynn lied to the Vice
President, that the Vice President had no idea. Here`s what he had to say
on January 15th about that phone conversation. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PENCE: I talked to General Flynn about that conversation and actually it
was initiated when – on Christmas Day. He had sent a text to the Russian
Ambassador to express not only Christmas wishes but sympathy for the loss
of life in the airline crash that took place. It was strictly coincidental
that they had a conversation. They did not discuss anything having to do
with the United States` decision to expel diplomats or impose a censure
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: We now know that`s definitively not true but are you satisfied that
the Vice President was telling the truth, that he knew – that he did not
know that it wasn`t true?
QUIGLEY: I think when we do an investigation like this, it`s important not
to draw any assumptions. I think we have to follow the facts wherever we
take – they take us. This is an investigation like many others. It
begins at the periphery and moves towards the center. That momentum
obviously increases dramatically when people start flipping. I encourage
the American public when they ask questions about the Vice President and
anybody else in the administration, your patience is starting to pay off.
Let`s let Mr. Mueller do his job. Let`s certainly let the House and Senate
investigations take their course. So I`m not going to presume or assume
that I know anything about what the Vice President knew or didn`t know.
Obviously, there are questions about the entire administration. Let us do
our job. My concern today, number one, is that this is going to panic the
White House and they`re going to enhance their existing efforts to either
halt the investigations that are taking place or at least impair them.
HAYES: Don Jr. I believe is headed to your committee next week. Does this
change at all your approach to questioning him?
QUIGLEY: Well, we have a habit of not talking about who is going to
appear. Obviously, it makes the news sometimes before we even know it. I
think there`s a lot of questions for Trump Junior and I look forward to
being part of that when and if he appears before our committee.
HAYES: Congressman Lieu, on the Judiciary Committee there, are you
confident in your Republican colleague or Democrat colleagues will take
steps to protect Robert Mueller if it appears that his job is threatened?
LIEU: I am. And keep in mind that what brought Richard Nixon down was
obstruction of justice. That was the first article of impeachment and it
was a Saturday Night Massacre where he fired all of these Department of
Justice officials. So Donald Trump can try to do that but if he has any
recognition of what happened in history, I don`t think he`ll do that. And
you have Republicans such as Trey Gowdy who has said you should let Robert
Mueller do his job and let the facts go as they should.
HAYES: All right, Congressman Mike Quigley and Ted Lieu, I appreciate you
taking the time tonight.
QUIGLEY: Thank you.
LIEU: Thank you.
HAYES: Still ahead, the desperate rush to pass corporate tax cuts before
there`s another indictment. And next Senator Richard Blumenthal on what
Michael Flynn`s flipping means to the President and his plan to shield
Robert Mueller from being fired in two minutes.
HAYES: – White House today knew Michael Flynn`s guilty plea was coming
and the shocked has ratcheted up the tension. Shortly before noon today,
reporters began gathering in the briefing room for scheduled event with
Donald Trump and the Prime Minister of Libya. Now the pool reporters as
they`re know, began heading out but were abruptly halted. After some
confusion, the press was not allowed in, the White House blamed a
scheduling error. Why the backtracking? Maybe because according to
Politico, no one in the White House was prepared, quoting a source close to
the White House, “what they`re freaked out about is that there are no
leaks. Papadopoulos didn`t leak, Flynn didn`t leak. They feel like they
can`t trust anyone their own counsel didn`t know.” A source telling NBC
News the President was “blindsided by the news.”
According to ABC News, Trump and his legal team found out from news reports
this morning. The Daily Beast reports today that Flynn slipping was a
shock but not as surprised and that for weeks the President had been
feeling personally hurt at the prospect of Flynn turning on him. Senator
Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut sits on the Judiciary Committee which is
conducting its own probe of Russian interference in the election and
potential links to the Trump campaign. Senator, you had this to say
earlier today. Congress must now match the Special Counsel`s courage by
approving legislation to shield him from the very real threat of improper
political interference as I and others have proposed. What do you mean by
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: We proposed
legislation that would stop the President of the United States from firing
the Special Counsel and it would shield the Special Counsel from any sort
of political interference which now seems increasingly threatening, not
just the President was blindsided but all of his administration and it is a
shadowing moment for the Trump presidency. Comparing it to Watergate is a
real danger of another Saturday Night Massacre. We should send a signal on
a Judiciary Committee of the United States Senate to approve legislation
that will shield the Special Counsel, in fact, bar any firing without
proper court order so that the President is, in effect, discouraged or
deterred from endangering our democracy with this constitutional
confrontation and possible conflagration.
HAYES: There has been some enthusiasm for that expressed by certain
Republicans, although Mitch McConnell had said he didn`t think it was
necessary earlier this year. Do you think you have the – do you think you
have the votes for that?
BLUMENTHAL: We have bipartisan support for it. We have a number of
Republican Senators who have joined our bill in the Judiciary Committee.
We have already had a hearing. We should have a markup and a vote on the
floor of the United States Senate. Whatever its necessity weeks ago, now
clearly it is urgent and necessary as is the Judiciary Committee continuing
its investigation of obstruction of justice with subpoenas for documents
and witness testimony so the American people can hear them under oath and
in public before the Judiciary Committee. And I might add just one other
point Chris, which I think was important in a question that you asked just
a few minutes ago. There`s been a lot of talk about the Logan Act, which
is a serious criminal statute. But the FBI was questioning Michael Flynn,
not about the Logan Act or about his conversations with the Russians
because of a possible violation of the Logan Act. They were investigating
collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians. That`s the reason
that the formal statement of offense filed by the Special Prosecutor says
that he was charged and why he pled guilty. So it all is coming together,
so to speak, the Russian collusion and obstruction.
HAYES: So on the obstruction front, there`s also been reports that the
President during the summer was sort of frantically calling various members
of the Senate trying to get them to back off, to stop their investigation.
Obviously, the President went to James Comey and told him to back off Flynn
and when he didn`t he fired him. He says he had the Russia investigation
in mind when he did so. Does Flynn`s centrality resonate through the case
for obstruction as well?
BLUMENTHAL: It does very, very directly and profoundly importantly. We`re
still a ways from kind of charges of obstruction against anybody in the
Oval Office but clearly, we are at a Watergate moment here. What did he
know and when did he know it? And that question applies not only to the
President but to Jared Kushner, to Vice President Pence, what did they know
as members of the transition team about these approaches to the Russians,
about the collusion between the Russian government and the Trump campaign
as alleged and that moment will have very dramatic resonance in the course
of this investigation and it has to be pursued, it`s being pursued by the
HAYES: Do you think – are you confident that Jeff Sessions has not been
directed by the President to interfere in any way? He was asked that
question by Adam Schiff. Adam Schiff said Sessions refuse to answer. Are
you confident that the Attorney General right now isn`t being pressured by
the President to interfere?
BLUMENTHAL: I have no confidence whatsoever that the President is avoiding
any kind of tactic in stopping this investigation. Clearly, he`s resorted
to some very direct threats and intimidation. He`s called the
investigation a hoax and a witch hunt. And he has privately berated
Attorney General Sessions for recusing himself, as was required, and for
failing to intervene before and he has demanded a pledge of loyalty from
his then FBI Director James Comey and to drop the investigation. So this
President has no clear sense of what the bounds are and what the norms
should be legally or ethnically.
HAYES: Senator Richard Blumenthal, thanks for your time.
BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.
HAYES: Up next, a reminder of just how blatantly obvious it was even just
a few days into the Trump administration that people were lying about
Flynn`s contacts with the Russians.
HAYES: At the very heart of today`s Michael Flynn`s news are the repeated
lies or false statements made by members of the Trump administration while
Flynn`s calls to Russian Ambassador were coming to light. On January 12th,
the spark of what become a raging bonfire when the Washington Post`s David
Ignatius revealed that “according to a senior U.S. government official,
Flynn phoned Russia Ambassador Sergey Kislyak several times on December
29th.” Now, December 29th was, of course, the day that the Obama
administration announced sanctions against Russia specifically to punish it
for its inference in the Presidential election on behalf of Donald Trump.
Trump`s Spokesman Sean Spicer initially offered this explanation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SPICER: On Christmas Day, General Flynn reached out to the Ambassador and
sent him a text and it said, you know, I want to wish you a Merry Christmas
and a happy new year. The Ambassador texted him back wishing him a merry
Christmas as well. And then subsequently on the 28th of December texted
him and said I`d like to give you a call, may I? And then he took that
call on the 28th and the call centered around the logistics of setting up a
call with the President of Russia and the President-Elect after he was
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Don`t you love that pause before he says logistics? That`s how you
know he`s not telling the truth. All right, so Spicer says Flynn spoke
with Kislyak on December 28th, not the 29th which is the day of the
sanctions were announced. Hours later, Spicer changed his story.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SPICER: That call took place on the 29th of December, at which time
General Flynn was asked whether or not he would help set up a call after
the inauguration with President Putin and then President Trump. The only
conversation that General Flynn had was one, to wish him a Merry Christmas,
two, to express his sympathies for the loss of life that occurred during
the plane crash that took the lives of their military choir.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: OK. So Spicer comes out to correct. He says he did talk – that`s
Michael Flynn did talk to the Ambassador on the day that the sanctions were
announced but total coincidence. He was just calling to talk about
Christmas and to express condolences. That`s it. But then a few days
after that, Reuters reports said that Flynn had not one but five calls with
Kislyak on December 29th, the day of the sanctions. Five calls. Five
calls to say Merry Christmas and keep offering condolences?
Weeks later, at his first official briefing as press secretary, Spicer
would still claim it was just a single call, but declared that Flynn
discussed four topics, none of which were sanctions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN SPICER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There`s been one call. I
talked to General Flynn about this again last night. One call, talked
about four subjects. One was the loss of life that occurred in the plane
crash that took their military choir, two was Christmas and holiday
greetings, three was to facilitate – or talk about a conference in Syria
on ISIS, and four was to set up – to talk about after the inauguration,
setting up a call between President Putin and President Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: that would not be the last time the white house`s official position
on Flynn`s contact would change, but today we learned that the final
version they settled on also turns out to be false. That`s next.
HAYES: President Trump fire Michael Flynn. The Trump administration had
finally landed on its definitive explanation of Flynn`s actions. Michael
Flynn, they said, lied to everyone. They claimed no one knew that he
discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador on December 29th and Flynn
supposedly lost his job because of that lie.
Today, we learned that story, perpetuated for nine months, is not true. As
Flynn admitted in court, he discussed the calls at the time with senior
members of the Trump transition team.
MSNBC justice and security analyst Matt Miller is a former chief
spokesperson at the Justice Department of the Obama administration, MSNBC
terrorism analyst Malcolm Nance is the author of The Plot to Hack America,
and Natasha Bertrand is a political correspondent as Business Insider who
has been following this all very closely.
Matt, let me start with you, what are the implications of the fact that
that plea document says that after he had that call with Kislyak
specifically about sanctions, he debriefs senior transition team officials
MATT MILLER, MSNBC JUSTICE AND SECURITY ANALYST: I think it`s critical
because it shows when Michael Flynn lied to the FBI in his interview, he
wasn`t lying just to cover up his own wrongdoing, he was lying it was to
cover up this story on behalf of the entire Trump administration, on behalf
of senior officials on the Trump transition, and you have to think most
likely the president himself.
Why is that important? Because it goes to what Trump had in his mind when
he asked Jim Comey for the loyalty pledge a couple of days after that
interview, after the White House was warned about Flynn. It goes to his
state of mind when he asked Jim Comey to back off of Mike Flynn. If the
president knew that Mike Flynn could blow the cover on this entire White
House lie, then that`s the corrupt purpose that goes to show that he was
committing a criminal act when he made these requests. That`s obstruction
of justice. That could be the entire ball game.
HAYES: And here`s the thing to me, Malcolm, is why lie? You could 100
percent your – here`s why, right? Game it out. You`re the transition.
The president is going to be the new president in 20 days. A big new
foreign policy initiative is announced sanctioning Russia. Michael Flynn
could have called Sergey Kislyak and said the following: I want to
reiterate there is one foreign policy at a time. I do not represent the
current president, but as you make your decision I want to reiterate there
will be a new administration that will be reviewing our relationship with
Russia and you should be aware of that before you make your decision.
And then you could tell the truth about that phone call. If that`s all
you`re doing, there`s no reason to lie. So why lie?
MALCOLM NANCE, AUTHOR: It`s an outstanding question. We`ve been asking
that question for well over a year.
There has to be an underlying reason that has yet to be exposed that
Michael Flynn decided was worth trying to hide not only from the transition
team or depending on who he spoke to, but to the entirety of the United
This is the former director of defense intelligence agency. He would be
very aware that we do counterintelligence monitoring of communications with
foreign diplomats and suspected agents in the United States. Perhaps he
thought he was master of the universe after winning the election and nobody
would know about this.
But whatever he did, he was very aware that he was – that there was a
transcript of this both on the Russian side and on U.S. intelligence side
and maybe he thought he could get away with it, that he would be in charge
of suppressing that and they could get away with – you know, and do
whatever they wanted to do with this information.
HAYES: Which makes it all the more weird and reckless that he lied, that
he lied to FBI investigators, Natasha, and it brings back to the point that
Matt said, which is if that – if as we know, one of the key things we
learned today is that after that phone call happens, there`s a briefing.
He briefs the people at Mar-a-Lago, the senior transition team leadership.
We don`t know who that is, but we Reince Priebus was there. We know the
president himself was there. Jared Kushner was there. That he briefs
those folks about what he did, right?
How – I mean, it`s rather implausible to me that Donald Trump does not
know that that happened.
NATASHA BERTRAND, BUSINESS INSIDER: Right. And we especially, we have to
all of this as something that did not happen in a vacuum.
BERTRAND: You have to look at it within the context of the fact that the
Russians interfered in the elections specifically to help Donald Trump win.
HAYES: And then we`re being punished for it on that day.
And there may have been this thinking by the Trump people that they needed
to somehow repay the Russians by assuring them that they were going to
And, you know, it`s also worth noting that the end of December was not the
first time that Kushner and Flynn and everyone discussed Sergey Kislyak.
They actually met at Trump Tower on December 1 and that is where Kushner
proposed this backchannel plan to communicate with Moscow that he later
said had to do with Syria.
So, none of this happened in a vacuum. This was all leading up to this
moment, right. The sanctions were at the core of the Russians` outreach in
Donald Trump`s presidential campaign. That`s the entire reason really why
they wanted him to win. So the fact that Flynn was making such a concerted
effort to reassure them that they were then going to then lift the
sanctions is really in line with what we saw throughout 2016.
HAYES: And Matt, there`s something so remarkable – I mean, you worked for
the attorney general and in the administration. I mean, think about this,
Michael Flynn is sworn in to be the National Security Adviser of the United
States. It`s an adviser to the president who runs the national security
process in this country, the most powerful country in the history of human
beings on the Earth OK.
And he now has that job. And two days later, he`s got to sit down with the
FBI who come to his office to basically depose him about this phone call
and he lies to them two days after he gets this job. It is an astounding
action to take.
MILLER: Yeah. It`s astoundingly stupid action to take. I mean, a dumb
thing for him to do, knowing as he must, as Malcolm said, that there would
have been U.S. intercepts that would have heard his call.
But the other part about this is so after he lies to the FBI and Sally
Yates comes over two days later and gives the warning to Don McGahn, one of
the questions has always been why didn`t the White House do something about
Well, now we know why the White House didn`t do something about it, because
the White House was in on that lie.
HAYES: That`s exactly right.
MILLER: We don`t know whether they knew that he was lying to the FBI or
not, but the lie that he told the FBI is the same lie the White House had
been telling since Sean Spicer said it in the clip that you played on
through the vice president himself saying it on the Sunday shows in
This was a lie that was being told from the top on down.
HAYES: Malcolm, what do you say to people today who react to the news and
said, well, you know, they got him for lying to the FBI. The thing he lied
about isn`t collusion. No one gets prosecuted for the Logan Act. You guys
– you guys, you, who are believers in the collusion case, which I count
you in that group, there still is no evidence of collusion.
NANCE: Well, I`m actually in the conspiracy camp because collusion is a
nice word, but it isn`t a law.
HAYES: Collusion is too light for your…
NANCE: It`s way too light.
I mean, let me tell you something, he has bigger issues. And as you`re
seeing in the Mueller investigation, they`re going after low-hanging fruit
right out of the box – with Manafort, low-hanging fruit was international
money laundering. With Flynn, it was this phone conversation. And let me
tell you, I`ve done a boatload of wiretaps and that conversation had five
points to it. He called them five times that day. And that means, in call
number one, initial consultation. Call number two, agenda and proper.
Call number three, counter negotiation. Call four, final counter
negotiation. Call five, counter
So, I don`t even have to know what`s in the phone call to know that there
was an agreement being cut with the government of Russia. And Mike Flynn
went out there and could not do that without the agreement of either the
president or the vice president.
There`s reporting in some quarters, I don`t think we have it as a news
organization, but there are some reputable news organizations who are
reporting that the senior administration official that he consulted to
prior to the call was Katie McFarland who was actually I believe brought in
as his deputy to the National Security Council, but she also was at Mar-a-
BERTRAND: Right. And the point that many national security experts and
former Obama administration officials were making to me is that Katie
McFarland would not have ordered Michael Flynn to speak to Sergey Kislyak.
She would have gotten that…
BERTRAND: She would have gotten that instruction from someone much higher
up than her.
HAYES: She is not the person who is making that kind of call.
BERTRAND: No. She came in as Michael Flynn`s deputy. She was his deputy
National Security Adviser. She was much lower on the food chain.
She may have been very close to the Trump family, but that did not give her
the authority necessarily to tell Michael Flynn, yes, please talk to Sergey
Kislyak. You need to do this.
HAYES: Matt, I keep coming back to the reporting that we have about the
meeting I think it was a day or two after the election when Donald Trump
went to Washington, D.C., and he met with President Obama. And we all saw
that image. And it was sort of sinking in for everyone that this was what
was happening. We`re going from President Obama to President Trump. And
the reporting we have of that meeting is that President Obama told Trump
two things, basically, North Korea is really dangerous, you should focus on
them, and do not hire Michael Flynn.
MILLER: Yeah. And it`s possible he ignored that warning because he would
ignore anything that Barack Obama told him to. Let`s not discount that
But I think it`s just as likely that look, he was close to Michael Flynn.
Whatever Michael – whatever happened with respect to Russia, if there was
collusion or coordination or conspiracy or which ever word you want to use
during the campaign, Michael Flynn would be likely to know it.
And for those people that say that there`s nothing in this charging
document today or this statement of defense that shows collusion, that`s
absolutely right. But if you think that Bob Mueller put all the evidence
that Mike Flynn gave him into this document today, you don`t know how
federal prosecutions work.
MILLER: He has taken the most serious information and is holding it in
advance to go talk to witnesses, see if they tell him the truth, see if
they lie, and make a case further up the chain than Flynn.
HAYES: All right, Matt Miller, Malcolm Nance, and Natasha Bertrand, thank
Ahead, why Senate Republicans are rushing to pass a major tax cut bill
tonight before the next big development in the Russia investigation. The
truly bizarre scene playing out right now on Capitol Hill.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JON TESTER, (D) MONTANA: This is the night we`re going to be voting
on the tax bill. I just got the tax bill 25 minutes ago. This is the tax
bill. See how thick it is?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Around the time that President Trump`s former national security
adviser Michael Flynn was leaving a D.C. courthouse after pleading guilty
to lying to the FBI, Mitch McConnell was on Capitol Hill triumphantly
proclaiming to reporters we have the votes.
He did not, however, have a bill. Republicans were still jamming last-
minute provisions into their massive tax package that primarily benefits
corporations and the wealthy while adding a trillion dollars to the
national debt, at least, and we should note delivering a body blow to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RON WYDEN, (D) OREGON: There was not one single hearing, not one on
the specifics with respect to the legislation. There was not one single
hearing on the health changes that the majority seeks to make that put a
dagger into the heart of the Affordable Care Act.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Republicans are set to try to complete their mad dash to pass the
bill at any moment tonight. We don`t know when. After spending today
loading it with handwritten handouts to corporation and the wealthy they
tried to keep secret.
NBC News had to get the text of the nearly 500-page bill from a lobbyist
just a short time ago. They are the ones that had it.
And this is the reason Republicans gritted their teeth and got behind
Donald Trump. They know he may be dangerous. They know he may have
colluded with a foreign adversary to disrupt and
sabotage an American election, but they also know that he will sign
whatever they and their donors want and apparently that`s enough.
We will show you one senator`s outraged response tonight, video you must
see, just after this
HAYES: Senate GOP is in such a massive rush to give benefits to
corporations and the wealthy, it is literally rewriting the American tax
code at this hour by hand.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MONTANA: Hey, happy holidays, everybody. It`s the night we`re going to be
voting on the tax bill. I just got the tax bill 25 days ago. This is the
tax bill. See how thick it is? That`s what it looks like. Oh, no, let`s
look at the bill. This is what it really looks like.
I want you to take a look at this, folks. This is your government at work.
Here is the bill as its written. Here is the modifications that are in it.
I can read one words, it`s called add this language. Can you tell me what
that word is?
If you can, you got better eyes than me. This is unbelievable.
We are doing massive tax reform on an absolute incredible timeline. This
is going to affect everybody in this country. It`s going to shift money
from middle class families to the rich. It`s amazing. And we`ve been
given this 20 minutes ago, 25 minutes ago. We`re supposed to vote on it in
a couple hours.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: With me now, 2016 independent presidential candidate Ed McMullin,
the former policy director for the House Republican conference, and Kathryn
Rampell, opinion columnist at The Washington Post.
You worked on The Hill, you worked on the House said of The Hill, crafting
legislation. Isn`t this exactly what even Never Trumpers such as yourself
live for as a Republican?
ED MCMULLIN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Not exactly.
I mean, I would say that what we live for – what we used to live for as
Republicans is sure, lowering taxes where we could, fiscal responsibility,
ultimately paying down the debt.
And what we have now, we are already running in deficits, our budgets are
running in deficits, but we`re now adding to that. That`s what this bill
And it represents a tremendous departure from what we used to stand for:
Now, I know there are disagreements between the left and right on whether
that`s necessary, but I think it`s healthy for a party, for one party in
Washington, to make that argument that there needs to be fiscal
responsibility, that we should eliminate our deficits and pay down debt.
Right now, we don`t have that. And what you see here is a Republican Party
that is changing not only in its tone with Donald Trump and its I would say
lack of decency among leaders with the president for sure, but also the
policies are changing, the actual policies.
HAYES: I think to me it`s both the policy and it`s the way they have gone
about this, which is every bit as abnormal as Donald Trump`s tweets are.
You know, the way they are passing major legislation at this hour – I
mean, it`s true, legislating is a mess. There is lots of amendments that
get stuck in – there`s what they call stocking stuffers you fill the
Christmas tree. There`s even handwriting on bills sometimes. The speed,
though, with which they are hammering this thing through really is quite
KATHRYN RAMPELL, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yeah, but they have to jam this
through because the more time that this is exposed to the public, the more
the public will hate it. This is the most hated piece of tax legislation
ever. It`s more unpopular even in tax hikes than the Clinton tax hikes
than the George H.W. Bush tax hikes.
HAYES: I want to just reiterate that. Because there was a great chart
showing the polling. This bill right now, which are tax cuts, ostensibly,
although mostly corporations and wealthy heirs, this bill is less popular
as a tax cut bill than tax increases under Clinton and H.W. Bush.
RAMPELL: Right, because it`s a huge give away to rich people. It`s
basically not only saying we`re not going to give goodies away to the poor
and middle class, which for the record the George Bush tax cuts actually
HAYES: Did a better job of, yes.
RAMPELL: Not only that we`re not going to give things away to them, we`re
going to take from them to cross-subsidize the rich.
And beyond that, if you look a little bit further along down the line,
Republicans are already
making known that they are going to use the deficits that result from this
as an excuse to shred
the social safety net.
So, this is very bad for the middle class and the poor.
HAYES: And not only that – so, you know, so there is one level at which,
you know, I keep saying to people on Twitter and other Republicans, like
just vote on Monday. Just vote on Monday.
RAMPELL: They have the votes now.
HAYES: Just vote on monday.
You can vote on Monday. It`s 500 pages. It`s the American tax code.
There is stuff in there for the beer lobby. There`s stuff in there for
private equity. Lord knows what`s been jammed in for every other K Street
interest that managed to shove something in at the last second.
RAMPELL: Yeah, but if they wait to vote on Monday, the public will know
what`s in it.
HAYES: Well, see, that`s what…
RAMPELL: Lawmakers will themselves might even learn what is in it and not
like it anymore.
HAYES: Not only that, to me, it also relates to the Flynn news today.
This is John Harwood I thought had a really good column today. He said
barely 10 months exuberant Republicans took control of the entire federal
government, their prevailing mood has now turned to desperation. And you
get the sense of like, you know, the president`s former National Security
Adviser got indicted today for committing a crime in the White House. You
better get your stuff passed now.
MCMULLIN: That`s right. And so this is a do or die moment for the party.
They have to get something done. They have to get something that will keep
their base with them especially heading into 2018 and beyond that. And
they have to get something done.
Now, the challenge here, I think, is still going to come in garnering more
support than just
their most hard-core base, because this is such an unpopular bill. But
they are in a tough spot. And
then you look at the Roy Moore race and if he were to lose, then the
Republican would have an even harder time getting things done.
So, they are just in a tough spot. They are not going to have Donald Trump
to help them in 2018 or beyond. So they have got to have something to show
for it, and they see this administration
going down the tubes now. This administration is more vulnerable than its
ever been with the news about Flynn today. And this is what they made the
grand compromise for.
HAYES: This is it.
MCMULLIN: And so if they don`t get it – if they don`t get it done,
RAMPELL: Yeah, but even Republicans are not so keen on this bill. Like,
if you look at the voting public and you ask people do you think this bill
will lower your taxes? Only a quarter of Republicans think that it will
HAYES: Yes. Although, the donor class is into it, we should say.
RAMPELL: Not even all of the donor class, because…
HAYES: Some of the donor class.
RAMPELL: They are upset about the fact that the state and local tax
deduction will be eliminated.
HAYES: Yes. The people of Greenwich…some of them in Greenwich are going
to take it on the nose.
RAMPELL: That`s where the donors are based.
HAYES: Well, here is to me the larger thing, right, is that if you are –
Jeff Flake to me is a perfect example, right. Jeff Flake, who wrote his
book about how terrible Trump is. He`s going to give his speeches. At the
end of this whole thing, Jeff Flake is a yes on this bill.
MCMULLIN: Yeah, but I would say on that.
RAMPELL: It`s very disappointing.
MCMULLIN: Look, I think the way this is moving forward is a
disappointment. I think the fact that it is going to add to the debt is a
disappointment. I would like to see corporate rates lowered. I would like
to see us more competitive. But I think – I think it`s irresponsible to
do what they`re doing now at a time when unemployment is at a record low,
the stock market at a record high.
If we can`t institute fiscally responsible policies in this context when
Republicans control all of Washington we`re never going to do it.
HAYES: Well, when you are going to do it is when there is a recession and
the austerity hammer is going to be brought down on health care spending
and things like that.
McMullin and Kathryn Rampell, thank you both.
That is All In for this evening. The Rachel Maddow Show starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
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