EPA’s Scott Pruitt engulfed in scandal. TRANSCRIPT: 04/03/2018. All In with Chris Hayes
Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES
Date: April 3, 2018
Guest: Frank Figliuzzi, Barbara McQuade, Ben Wittes, Zerlina Maxwell, Nick Confessore
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: That’s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being
with us. I’ll be back in Washington tomorrow night. “ALL IN” with Chris
Hayes starts right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Tonight on ALL IN.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I’ve always found Paul
Manafort to be a very decent man.
HAYES: A bombshell from Robert Mueller confirming he is investigating
Trump’s Campaign Chair for collusion crimes.
PAUL MANAFORT, CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: That’s what he said,
that’s what I said, that’s obviously what our position is.
HAYES: As the first person heads to jail in the Russia probe, we’ll look
at who could be next.
TRUMP: Only time will tell.
HAYES: Plus, the latest on a shooting at Youtube’s headquarters and the
slew of stories engulfing Trump’s EPA chief in scandal.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Scott Pruitt, sir, do you support Scott Pruitt?
TRUMP: I hope he’s going to be great.
HAYES: Tonight Democrats and Republicans calling for Pruitt to be fired.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There’s a change coming, and there’s a change coming –
HAYES: When ALL IN starts right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Good evening from New York, I’m Chris Hayes. One of the most
infamous members of Donald Trump’s cabinet, the one living in a lobbyist’s
house in Washington, D.C., EPA Head Scott Pruitt now appears to be hanging
on to his job by his finger nails after a swirl of negative stories all
increasing the perception the Trump administration as a whole is an ethical
mess. According to Politico, the White House has been actively considering
firing Pruitt behind the scenes possibly following the release of an
Inspector General’s investigation into Pruitt’s lavish travel which we’ve
covered here but which for the record is not even the scandal of the
Because this morning, the White House claimed that Pruitt is still in the
President’s good graces. An administration official telling NBC News Trump
called Pruitt last night to tell him to keep his head up and keep fighting
and that the administration has his back. Of course, a supportive call
from Trump isn’t worth much. Last week Trump called now fired V.A. head
David Shulkin for a friendly chat on the very day that Shulkin got the ax.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID SHULKIN, SECRETARY, VETERANS AFFAIRS: He was very inquisitive about
the things that we were working on making sure that we were focused on the
job at hand.
HAYES: Wait, that’s before you were fired?
SHULKIN: That’s correct.
HAYES: You spoke to him. He made no mention of the fact he was about to
SHULKIN: That’s correct.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: At a photo op today Trump was well, non-committal when asked about
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is Scott Pruitt staying. Is Scott Pruitt staying?
TRUMP: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Scott Pruitt, sir, do you support Scott Pruit, sir?
TRUMP: Thank you all very much. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Scott Pruitt, sir, do you support Scott Pruitt?
TRUMP: I hope he’s going to be great.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: I hope he’s going to be great. Meanwhile, the calls for Pruitt to
go are growing. Today two Republican members of Congress Carlos Curbelo
and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said Pruitt needed to be removed. And all this
comes as the stench of the scandal around the administrator just keeps
getting worse. Last week, of course, we learned that Pruitt got a
sweetheart deal to live in this Capitol Hill condo with his adult daughter
for low, low price of 50 bucks a night and crucially he only had to pay
that when he actually slept there. So who would give him such a ridiculous
deal? Well, the condo just happens to be co-owned by the wife of a top
energy lobbyist, someone very interested in the goings on at Pruitt’s EPA.
Now, the EPA rushed out a defense of the arrangement as perfectly ethical
which was already an absurd position even before an avalanche of new
revelations that makes the whole thing look even more corrupt. For
instance, we know Pruitt’s lobbyist landlord also funded his Oklahoma
Attorney General campaign, even hosted a fund-raiser for Pruitt and that
the condo served as a hub for Republican lawmakers hoping to raise money
for their congressional campaigns while Pruitt was living there. So you’ve
got the head of the EPA, right? The largest environmental watchdog in the
whole government getting a sweetheart deal from a lobbyist with whom he has
a long relationship to live in a condo that doubles as a hub for Republican
fundraisers? It doesn’t get much swampier than that.
Oh, but there’s more. While the EPA vehemently denies any quid pro quo
arrangement involving the condo, the New York Times reporting that last
year the EPA signed off on a pipeline expansion plan from a Canadian called
Enbridge even though the Obama administration had previously moved to fine
Enbridge, that same company $61 million in connection with the 2010
pipeline episode that sent hundreds of thousands of gallons of crude oil
into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan and other waterways. And can you
guess who Enbridge was paying to lobby the government? None other than the
same energy lobbyist whose wife co-owned the condo where Scott Pruitt was
I’m joined now by the author of that Times piece, New York Times
Investigative Reporter Eric Lipton along with MSNBC Political Analyst Sam
Stein, Politics Editor from The Daily Beast who broke the news about the
GOP fundraisers at the condo. Eric, let me start with you and your
reporting. You guys took a look and what you find are places that were
being represented by this lobbyist in question had business before the EPA
during this very time.
ERIC LIPTON, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, NEW YORK TIMES: We found nearly half
a dozen cases where there were companies that were represented by Williams
and Jensen, Oklahoma Gas and Electric and oil and gas – another oil and
gas company from Texas, Colonial Pipeline and Enbridge that had matters
pending before the EPA. ExxonMobil is another company represented by them
that you know, that the EPA was considering regulatory matters at the same
time that Pruitt was living in a condo owned by the – owned by the wife of
the chairman of that firm. And so, what we don’t know that Pruitt was
asked explicitly to do anything or that the agency did anything on those –
on those clients’ behalf, it creates a question as to you know, how much
was the process compromised in any of those decisions. That – you know,
even if we don’t know that there was a quid pro quo, him living in that
unit at the same time as his agency had matters before that are related to
their clients undermines the integrity of that process in a way is not
helpful for the agency.
HAYES: I mean, this is why frankly if had he gone through a proactive
ethics review before he took the lease, no one would have signed off on it
because whether you get market rate or not market rate or whatever, like
just avoid that. Go live somewhere else. Don’t live in the condo of an
energy lobbyist, Sam, and not just any condo, right? I mean, you guys had
great reporting on what exactly was going on there.
SAM STEIN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, where else can you get a $50 a
night rental? You know, you can’t – some deals are too good to pass up,
Chris. No, obviously – you know, it’s almost refreshing this is such a
classic corruption scandal. It’s not unlike the usual Trump scandals which
aren’t sort of the traditional Washington scandals. This one we have the
guy who was the chief environmental watchdog staying at a condo that was
dubbed by the people on Capitol Hill as the Williams and Jensen’s condo.
Williams and Jensen is the firm of Steven Hart and Vicki Hart is the wife
who owned the place. And basically, this is not a place where people
traditionally live. It’s a hangout, it’s a hub and it’s close to Capitol
Hill and members of Congress and Senators would go down the street a few
blocks and they would host fund-raisers there. And so what we discovered
at The Daily Beast yesterday was at least four members of Congress had held
fund-raisers at this exact address during the exact time that Scott Pruitt
was living there.
HAYES: What’s key to me about this is you know, having covered D.C. for a
while, Sam, and was there at the same time you were for a while, you know,
access is so much, right? You’ve got – you’ve got like a five-minute
pitch about some regulatory issue or some pet amendment of the omnibus and
you want five minutes of the EPA administrator’s time and lo and behold he
comes home from work to the building where you’re there for a fund-raiser
like that matters.
STEIN: Yes, it’s funny. People you know, people look at lobbying
registration and rightfully so because lobbyists are chiefly responsible
for pitching legislation or political agendas. But truly, what it comes
down to is access. And that’s why a lot of what we think of as lobbying is
done by people who aren’t registered as lobbyist because they don’t put
most of their time into actual the form of act of lobbying. In this case,
having the guy who runs the EPA in your house as you are raising money for
a member of Congress is effectively the same thing as being able to lobby
HAYES: Eric, there was – there was a memo that was put out by the Deputy
General Counsel of EPA who I should say is a career attorney, Kevin Minoli
I believe his name is essentially saying this is fine, it passes ethical
muster (AUDIO GAP) essentially on the day the story broke. What’s your
reaction to that?
LIPTON: Yes, I mean, it was actually the day after the story broke. So I
mean, retroactive ethics you know, is sort of like what does that mean? I
mean, you don’t retroactively deem that a lease from 2017 in March of 2018
was kosher when it isn’t an apparent that they actually had done such a
review at the time that the lease was considered and that he was actually
living there. He has not live there for quite a while so he’s no longer a
tenant that have condo. And so – I mean, that is inexcusable to think
there was not such a document that existed at the time that the lease was
entered into that evaluated it. To do it retroactively after the ABC
breaks the story really undermines you know, any suggestion that this was
an arm’s length kind of evaluation of the appropriateness of him being
there and that the market rate. It looks like something they threw
together in a day to try to defend what he had already done and looked
HAYES: And I should note that the author of that is the Deputy General
Counsel Kevin Minoli who is a career person. I think he’s been there 12
years. It was striking to me he put his name to that memo because he now
owns that as a kind of independent career judgment about the ethical
probity there and one wonders under what circumstances that was written
given the way that the arrangement obviously flies in the face of sort of
common sense. You’ve also got a story, Sam, in the Daily Beast that the
Scott Pruitt lied to Congress about using private e-mail – have I ever
heard of that before – using private e-mail to talk to big oil as Oklahoma
Attorney General. What’s up there?
STEIN: Yes, this is – it all comes back to e-mails I suppose. In this
case, they’re looking into whether he actually lied to lawmakers about his
use of private e-mail and it just adds to what is a litany of corruption
and ethically dubious behavior that is plaguing Scott Pruitt. I mean, we
have the expenditures on things like a soundproof phone booth, we have
revelations that he traveled first class in that his own staff entertained
the idea of leasing a private jet which in any prior administration would
have been a firing offense. And I’m struck by this because you referenced
David Shulkin in your interview with him last night. David Shulkin was
axed ostensibly for far less than this, why is Scott Pruitt sticking on.
And the only real explanation right now is that Scott Pruitt is doing a
more effective job of carrying forth the Trump agenda. While this is all
happening, we are now talking about what was a major EPA announcement that
happened today which is the ending of the fuel emissions standards for cars
that was put in place under the Obama administration’s EPA. That is being
done even as Scott Pruitt is being dogged by all these revelations.
HAYES: It’s a really point to talk about that precise issue with our next
guest and also good point that these ethical lapses so far are orders of
magnitude greater than David Shulkin. We’ll see what the I.G. says. And I
have a funny feeling we’re going to hear some more things coming out. Eric
Lipton and Sam Stein, great reporting both of you. Thank you.
STEIN: Thanks, Chris.
HAYES: All right, with me now Congressman Ted Lieu, a Democratic of
California who sent a letter today to request the EPA’s Inspector General
investigate Pruitt’s sweetheart condo deal. And Congressman, what you do -
- what do you make of this news?
REP. TED LIEU (D), CALIFORNIA: Thank you, Chris, for that question. Let
me first say that what Scott Pruitt did is part of a pattern of corruption
in the Trump cabinet. We’ve seen Ben Carson order a $31,000 dining table,
Ryan Zinke spent $139,000 on office doors and Treasury Secretary Mnuchin
spent over a million dollars of taxpayers money to fly military jets that
he did not need. But what Pruitt did goes a whole another level. He
received a personal monetary benefit from the lobbyists and that’s the
reason that Don Beyer and I wrote this I.G. investigation letter because
now it affects the credibility of EPA decisions over any issues that
Williams and Jensen lobbies on.
HAYES: Two Republican members of Congress, both from Florida, both I would
say, people who have political reasons, Ros-Lehtinen is retiring and
Curbelo is in a district I believe Hillary Clinton won or at least with
close political reasons to be concern about this. Do you think we’ll see
more calls from Republicans for him tore fired or resign?
LIEU: I do because Scott Pruitt conduct is indefensible. So we’re
learning in addition to getting this below market rate lease on his condo,
he also used one of his staff members to go look for housing and then by
the way, gave that person a massive raise by using the safe drinking water
act which I think is probably the only environmental law Scott Pruitt might
actually like to bypass the White House which was not going to give that
person a raise. This is just not acceptable conduct by the EPA
HAYES: Yes, this is the person that went to go find him housing, and then
when he succeeded in doing that, he then got a raise using a provision in
the clean water act that allowed the bonus to go through without the –
without the White House signing off, right.
HAYES: So here’s my question though substantively, right? I mean, you
heard Sam Stein say look, he’s still there because he’s doing the
President’s agenda. Huge announcement today having to do with your state.
They are – they are wanting to yank back fuel efficiency standards and
want to go after California which sets a higher standard and other states.
So the sort of state’s right argument out the window. They want to yank
California back from its current fuel emission standards. What do you
think of that?
LIEU: It is a decision that is going to take us backwards. States like
California and others have shown us the future and that’s where the world
is heading. And when oil prices start to rise again as they inevitably
will, foreign automakers are going to eat our lunch if our domestic
automakers cannot deal with these new standards.
HAYES: We have been there before. Everyone remembers 2008 when the 0gas
prices spiked that summer absolutely decimated big auto here in the U.S.
which then got crunched by the financial crisis. It also strikes me that
fuel efficiency standard are kind of a win-win. I mean, consumers pay less
money for gas, the air is cleaner and healthier, bigger carbon reductions
in terms of climate change, like, what’s not to like?
LIEU: It also creates additional jobs. And you have lots of people
working in the clean energy industry. This is where the world is heading.
Coal is not coming back. Really fuel inefficient cars are not coming back.
And to sort of put this out there when consumers are not even demanding it
is really taking us a step backwards. That’s something the Trump
administration should not do. And by the way, Republican who’s oppose
climate change and want to get rid of efficiency standards, they’re a dime
a dozen. The President doesn’t need Scott Pruitt to do this. He can stick
any Republican in there to do the same thing.
HAYES: Please find a less corrupt climate denier says Congressman Ted Lieu
to the President, many thanks. Next, breaking news in the Russia
investigation. Robert Mueller has reportedly told Trump’s lawyer the
President remains under investigation. More on that new story in two
HAYES: All right, we’ve got breaking news tonight in the Mueller
investigation. Literally just a few minutes ago, the Washington Post
reporting the Special Counsel told the President’s attorney last month that
Trump is still under investigation but is not currently a criminal target.
This comes as Mueller sheds new light on his case against the President’s
former Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort. Documents filed late last night
revealing for the very first time that Deputy Attorney General Rod
Rosenstein specifically signed off on two areas of investigation, the
payments Manafort received for his work in Ukraine which are already the
subject of a 32-count indictment and crucially potential collusion with
Russian government officials to interfere in the 2016 election. Jennifer
Rodgers and Renato Marriott are both former U.S. Attorneys. We also have
Robert Costa from I believe from the Washington Post on the phone. Bob,
are you there?
ROBERT COSTA, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I’m here, Chris.
HAYES: Fill me in on this story you just broke.
COSTA: So Carol Leonnig and I at the Washington Post just broke a big
story that we’ve been working on for a week which is an update on the
Mueller investigation. And we know based on our reporting that Bob Mueller
has personally informed President Trump’s attorneys that he is – he
remains under investigation, he is not a criminal target at this point.
He’s the subject of the investigation. And that means he still wants to
have an interview with the President. So there’s negotiations that are on-
going whether the president will sit down and he’s by no means in the clear
but he’s not about to get charges either according to Mueller.
HAYES: That’s according to your sources who have learned about this
communication from Mueller to the President’s attorneys. Is that correct?
COSTA: Correct. That is correct.
HAYES: And this is in the context of negotiating the terms under which the
President gives testimony to Robert Mueller’s investigators and they’re
saying that he is the subjects of an investigation but not a criminal
COSTA: That’s right. But that, of course, could change if the President
stumbled in an interview. And it is clear in our reporting that Bob
Mueller at this moment based on our reporting and our sourcing is working
on a report about potential obstruction of justice by President Trump
looking at President Trump’s conduct in office, looking at things like the
firing of former FBI Director James Comey. He is going to prepare a report
in the coming weeks perhaps likely by June or July that’s going to look at
what did the President do while he was in office, was it obstruction of
justice or not and he wants to understand the President’s intent. What was
the President’s intent? Was it criminal or not. He says for now, the
President is not under criminal investigation at all but he wants to figure
out the intent. That’s why there’s a big disagreement in the President’s
circles about whether to do this interview or not.
HAYES: The disagreement in the President’s circle is whether to agree to a
specific set of terms or whether to do it at all?
COSTA: There’s a real disagreement because you had President Trump’s top
attorney John Dowd decide to quit the legal team. He’s someone who’s
pushing the President not to do the interview. There are other people in
the White House who are urging the President to do the interview to try to
close up the investigation.
HAYES: So I’m a little unclear just because it doesn’t seem like they have
recourse get out of it, right?
COSTA: At this point, the President because he’s just a subject of the
investigation, he is not compelled, it’s not a subpoena to come sit down.
But Mueller is trying to signal to come talk to us –
HAYES: I see.
COSTA: But he’s not saying at the same time you’re totally in the clear.
So it’s a complicated legal challenge for the President. But Mueller is
saying you’re not just – you can’t just walk away from us right now. You
have to sit down. But he’s trying to do it in a cooperative way.
HAYES: That’s interesting. OK, Robert Costa of the Washington Post with
that story breaking that news about the President’s attorneys being
informed by Robert Mueller that the President of the United States is
subject of his investigation but currently not a criminal target in the
context negotiation about the President giving an interview to his
investigators. Robert Costa at the Washington Post, thank you that. Thank
you for breaking that story. And I want to bring in Jennifer Rodgers and
Renato Marriotti, who as I said earlier, both former Federal Prosecutors.
This is the turn of our subject first, criminal target. Break it down,
Jennifer, what’s the difference?
JENNIFER RODGERS, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, a subject is someone
who is of interest and who you want to speak to but isn’t yet someone who
you have criminal evidence against who you’re about to charge basically.
So I’m not surprised to hear that the President isn’t a target on the
collusion side of the house. I am a little bit surprised if the Special
Counsel was so clear as to say he’s not a target of my obstruction
investigation. I feel like –
HAYES: Who could obstruct?
RODGERS: Exactly. He is really the only target of that investigation and
even if the special counsel doesn’t feel like he has enough evidence yet,
it still seems to me that that’s the direction that they’re heading into
the extent they continue to investigate this. So that surprises me a
little bit and makes me wonder whether he was more careful about you know,
which investigation he was – he was talking about. But you know, I don’t
know. I mean, as you pointed out earlier, they were just talking about an
interview at this point. So technically they’re answering the question
about a subpoena that’s been issued but Mueller is a stand-up guy. I mean,
he’s not going to try to mislead them about where he’s going here.
HAYES: What’s your reaction, Renato?
RENATO MARIOTTI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: You know, I have a slightly
different view of it, Chris. A target under the U.S. Attorney’s manual,
the guidelines that federal prosecutors use is somebody who the prosecutor
views as what’s called a punitive defendant. In other words, someone that
the prosecutor currently intends to charge, somebody who is a subject is
somebody whose conduct is within the investigation. So you know, a lot of
the criminal defense attorneys say on the federal side that a non-target
letter isn’t worth the paper that it’s printed on because the prosecutor
can just decide two days after he writes the letter that he wants to – now
he made up his mind to charge you. I think what this means you know –
HAYES: Wait, wait, stop right there. I want to make sure I understand
this because you also did defense work in federal courts and other places.
So you’re saying like getting a letter saying like you’re subject but not a
criminal target. You should talk to us, that from a defense attorney
standpoint it’s like what – that’s not – no one’s writing that in stone.
MARIOTTI: I mean, that doesn’t mean anything really. I mean, it’s very
little to me. Now that I’m on the other side and I’m representing people
who are subjects of criminal investigations, that would not give me much
comfort at all. All it means is that the investigation hasn’t wrapped up
yet because a prosecutor is not going to make those final decisions about
whether to indict or not until they’ve collected all the evidence and
interviewed everyone. But you know, so what this tells me – what this
would tell me as a – as a criminal – the federal criminal defense
attorney and a former federal prosecutor is that my client is his conduct
is under investigation but they haven’t made up their minds yet about an
indictment. And that doesn’t mean he’s out of the woods yet at all.
HAYES: I want to read from the Washington Post piece which sort of
(INAUDIBLE) of that. Other advisers noted the subjects of investigations
could easy by become indicted targets and expressed concerns the special
prosecutor was baiting the Trump in an interview (INAUDIBLE) and create a
legal peril. It seems like there’s twos dynamics here that I still don’t
feel like I have a really great grasp of. One is like what Mueller is
doing. What the subject of the negotiation is and then the kind of
psychodrama on the Trump team side about like whether we do it or not.
With that latter question, this feels like an emanation of that, right?
Like we’re finding out about this because there’s still having this fight.
RODGERS: Yes, I mean, you know, look they’re all trying to decide what he
should do and if he goes in, there is a pretty decent likelihood that he
will get into the legal trouble because we know he’s you know, the kind of
witness who will exaggerate and make things up or hide things or what have
you. You know, on the other hand, I think Mueller would be hard pressed to
try to charge him with obstruction based on evidence that doesn’t include
anything from that interview if he’s now basically said he’s not a target
at my investigation as of now. I mean, I understand Renato’s point is that
HAYES: I see what you’re saying that should he interview the President and
not get information in that interview would be hard to then go back and
charge him with something or issue a report recommending that.
RODGERS: That’s my view. And you know, look, I think they want some
assurances. They’re not going to get the assurances they want because as
you said, I mean, if he gives them anything in the interview, you know, the
game is up and he switches over to a target. But you know, obviously,
they’re just – they’re just trying to get what they can now, they’re
trying get these assurances before he walks in there.
HAYES: Also, Renato, what is the – what’s the timeline here? Like I feel
like we’ve been covering the story now for weeks and weeks and weeks.
Maybe six weeks or so, or something in that, you know, Mueller obviously
wants to talk to the President. His lawyers going back and forth and John
Dowd leaves, like at a certain point, something’s going to happen, right?
MARIOTTI: Well, certainly, this decision as to whether to sit for
interviews is a really important one. And I will tell you as a lawyer in
this area, knowing what I – knowing even as little as I know about what’s
happening, I’m sure the President’s team knows more, I would never let
President Trump sit for this interview. I think they would be crazy to do
it. The only reason to do it would be political reasons. And I think
they’re really weighing the political costs. And what Mueller is probably
trying to do here is send him a signal that hey, the risk is manageable
here. It’s worth taking the risk so that this way they’ll sit for the
interview because that’s in his interests. I think, you know, prosecutors
always want to interview everyone as a subject of an investigation if
they’re willing to sit for an interview. Usually, there’s a dance and the
person on the other side wants to take the Fifth. And that’s really the
question that Trump needs to decide here, is he going to ultimately take
the Fifth or not.
HAYES: All right, that’s clarifying because – right, there’s no other
way. Like you either take the Fifth or you go to court to fight it because
you have some sort of presidential superpower that says you can’t be
brought before a subpoena. There’s no other option other than that.
Jennifer Rodgers and Renato Mariotti, thank you both. All right, we have
much more on this breaking story as well as a number of other things
happening in the Mueller investigation front including the first person to
be sentenced in connection to the Mueller probe. All of that is next.
HAYES: Dutch lawyer Alex Vanderzwan was sentenced today to 30 days in
prison and a $20,000 fine, the first person to receive jail-time as a
result of the special counsel’s Russia probe. Now, Vanderzwan pleaded
guilty to a single count of lying to investigators about his contacts with
Rick Gates, a former Trump campaign official and business partner to Paul
Manafort and a Ukrainian associate identified only as person a whom the FBI
believes to be a Russian intelligence
Vanderswan is one of many characters at the fringe of the Russia story who
important as time goes by. And we’ve got our expert panel here to break
down this and other developments in the investigation. Barbara Mcquade, a
former federal prosecutor and MSNBC justice analyst; Frank Figliuzzi,
former assistant FBI director for counterintelligence and an MSNBC national
security analyst; and Benjamin Wittes is editor-in-chief of the Law Fair
blog and also an MSNBC legal analyst.
Let me start with you, Frank, on the Vanderzwan sentencing and then I want
to move to
this Manafort filing. What do you interpret as the reason to hammer this
guy? In the way that Mueller did?
FRANK FIGLIUZZI, FORMER ASSISTANT FBI DIRECTOR: So an even bigger story
the 30-day prison sentence, which to most people would seem like small
potatoes for lying to Mueller’s team, is what Vanderzwan lied about. And
that’s the message that Mueller is sending. If you’re lying about
pertinent information here? Vanderzwan lied about conversations between
Rick Gates, the deputy campaign manager, and this person a, believed to be
a Russian intelligence operative, with
connections right up to the campaign to the Russian intelligence services.
That’s a big deal. You can’t lie about that because that’s what Mueller’s
investigating is Russian intelligence, Russian government
connections to the campaign.
And that’s what the message is tonight: you lie to me about my
investigation of Russian collusion, you go to prison.
HAYES: Yeah. And we should say that that person, who we believe is
Konstantin Kilimnik is
trained in the GRU and of course was Manafort’s kind of deputy in Ukraine.
He’s the person who received that infamous email saying, hey, has this
Russian oligarch, Oleg Deripaska, who I owe a lot money to, has he seen the
news that I’m on the Trump campaign? Can we use this to get made whole?
Let’s talk now about Paul Manafort, about the person who sent that email,
Barbara. There was this part of the filing yesterday that was fascinating
to me. And it was unredacted. And it was the
Mueller team saying here’s why it’s OK for us to bring this prosecution in
the scope of our – what we’re allowed to do as a special counsel.
Basically saying, look, we are not investigating him because people
have made allegations that he was involved in the collusion. What do you
make of that?
BARBARA MCQUADE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Yeah, it’s very interesting.
I think to date, you know, certainly because of the public filing and
charges, we were all aware that
Paul Manafort was charged with these financial crimes, with acting as an
agent of Ukraine without
registering, but there was a specific mission from Rod Rosenstein to also
investigate collusion with
Russia. And so I think that’s something new. I suppose many of us could
speculate that that investigation has gone on, but it makes me wonder the
status of that investigation is? Has there
been some indictment that’s filed under seal.
And I think the other fascinating piece of that document, that memo that
sets out in greater detail what Rod Rosenstein tasked Robert Mueller to do
is there’s almost an entire page of the document that’s been redacted. So
he listed a number of different things that he was tasking Robert Mueller
with investigating we don’t know yet. And so as much as what we know in
that document is fascinating, I think what we don’t know is even more
HAYES: Ben, what was your reaction to that document.
BEN WITTES, MSNBC LEGAL ANSLYST: Well, so I agree very much that it’s
interesting any shedding light on the collusion component of the Manafort
probe, which has not been what we’ve focused on to date. I also think,
frankly, it was a clever bit of lawyering by Mueller to get that specific
letter from Rosenstein early on.
WITTES: That lays it out in much more detail than was in his general
public appointment letter. And that really inoculates him now from the
suggestion that Manafort has made in this motion
that he is straying beyond the mandate that he was given.
And he gets to turn around and say no, no, back at the beginning, here’s
the letter that Rod Rosenstein gave me and here’s what it says I’m entitled
to do. And so I think it’s actually an important document in publicly
clarifying his authority.
HAYES: It’s a great point, right. It’s like sort of the showing of
receipts, which was a real James Comey special during the entire time that
he and the president were going back and forth. Like, no, I actually have
the document from last summer that says yes, go look into this.
Frank, can we talk about what the news that just broke, to sort of come
back around obviously, because the president sits at the top of this. It
was his campaign that’s being investigated. Paul Manafort worked for him.
Rick Gates worked for him. He is the one who sat atop the enterprise that
is the subject of a criminal investigation. The news that Mueller
communicated that he is subject to that investigation, but not a criminal
target in the context of discussions about getting him to talk to them.
What do you make of it?
FIGLIUZZI: So here’s how to read this. It’s not that oh, thank goodness
if you’re in the White House the president’s not a criminal target. It’s
oh, my, the president is a subject of this investigation. That’s how I
look at this. And everything else is lawyering with regard to trying to
give some comfort level to the White House that hey, hey, we’re negotiating
with you for an interview. No problems. We want to sit down with you.
You’re not a criminal target yet, Mr. President.
But as been said previously on your show, you’re a day away from that. You
don’t it’s only as good as the paper it’s been written on. So, he’s the
subject of an investigation. He’s not yet a criminal target. He could be
tonight, tomorrow or whenever Mueller chooses to say he’s got the evidence.
HAYES: And you’re nodding your – yeah.
WITTES: The most important element of that story is not the distinction
between subject and target. The most important element of that story is
the disclosure that the special counsel is preparing a report on the
president’s conduct and wants an interview so as to assess his state of
mind at the time that he did certain things. And that’s a reflection of
the fact that the primary vulnerability on the part of the president is not
a vulnerability to criminal charges right now, it’s a vulnerability to
impeachment. And so the relevant, the most relevant issue is not the
distinction between being a target and being a subject, it’s between being
the subject of a report that is presumably either going to be made public
or sent to congress or sent to somewhere. And not, right?
And I think that’s the stunning fact in that Washington Post story.
HAYES: You know, Barbara, it also occurs to me, this is somewhat uncharted
territory. I mean, obviously there was Archibald Cox and there was Nixon.
But, you know, if you had a normal non-presidential person who you’re
dealing with, you know, you might charge them, you might not. It’s unclear
whether you can charge the president of the United States. So, we’ll see a
memo saying you can. It’s unclear whether that still stands or whether can
be contested. But how do you navigate this if
MCQUADE: Well, I think one of the things that Robert Mueller was directed
to do at the beginning was to comply with all policies of the Department of
Justice just as if he were any other U.S. attorney. And so I think because
of that, it is likely that he will comply with that OLC memo. And as you
said we don’t know how the Supreme Court would decide this.
But I think he is likely to comply with that directed memo that does give
the opinion that a sitting president cannot be indicted and instead the
only remedy is impeachment.
So, it is my guess, as Ben has said, that what might likely happen is a
report that goes to congress for them to decide whether they think
impeachment is appropriate.
HAYES: Well, it’s a fascinating thing to contemplate now that we know a
report is being written according to reporting that just broke just a few
minutes ago that Ben was referencing earlier, the idea that the output of
it all, vis-a-vis the president has a report that says, here, we believe
you did this. Take away congress.
And the question of where that would go is going to be a very fascinating
one if that’s exactly how it turns out.
Barbara McQuade, Frank Figliuzzi, and Ben Wittes, great to have you all.
Still to come, the president continues to use his position to settle his
personal vendettas, escalating his attacks against Amazon. I’ll explain
Plus, tonight’s Thing One, Thing Two starts next.
HAYES: Thing One tonight, President Trump has been stewing in anti-Amazon
rage in recent days, tweeting up a storm about how he thinks the retailer
is hurting the U.S. Post Office.
Take a look at his latest tweet on the subject from just this morning, “I
am right about Amazon costing the United States Post Office massive amounts
of money for being their capital D delivery
capital B boy.”
“Amazon should pay these costs plus and not have them borne by the American
Now, first of all, of course, the United States Post Office is Amazon’s,
quote, delivery boy. It is literally their job to deliver items to people,
it’s not because they’re like new on the job and low on the totem pole.
It’s what they do.
Secondly, Amazon is getting a deal on shipping costs from the post office,
but the Postal
Service makes money on the deal, badly needed money for an agency that has
been losing billions of dollars a year for the last decade.
Now, if Amazon gets their drone delivery service off the ground, then
President Trump could really start worrying about the Post Office. Amazon
has been working on Prime Air since 2016, which would deliver packages to
customers in 30 minutes or less, and unfortunately the Postal Service drone
race with the Russians has already begun. And that’s Thing Two in 60
HAYES: Russia debuted its first delivery drone today, a $20,000
hexicopter. That looks pretty dope, actually, emblazoned with the Russian
Post logo, meant to carry a small package from one village to another.
(inaudible) held a ceremony to mark the drone’s maiden voyage, the crowd
gazing up in awe at the future of Russian package delivery.
Oh, man. Well, I hope that package wasn’t fragile. The drone only made it
in the air before losing control and crashing into a residential building
with speed falling to the ground in pieces. Thankfully, no one was
injured. The building wasn’t damaged. And officials said more than 100
wi-fi connections in the area it could have disrupted the flight, or it
could have been Russian meddling.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDRE CAMPBELL, SPOKESPERSON SAN FRANCISCO GENERAL HOSPITAL TRAUMA SURGEON:
Once again, we are confronted with the specter of mass casualty situation
here in the city and county of San Francisco where we now have three
victims who have come in that we’ve taken care of. This is unfortunate,
and it continues. You think that after we’ve seen Las Vegas, Parkland, the
Pulse nightclub shooting that we would see an end to there, but we have
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Less than seven weeks ago, the horrific shooting in Parkland,
Florida focused the
nation on the tens of thousands of gun deaths every year in this country,
something for which there is no corollary in any other nation as rich of
And today, news broke of another shooting, this time San Bruno, California
YouTube. Employees were evacuated with their hands up, familiar scenes
we’ve time and time again. People tweeted about being barricaded inside
with coworkers and seeing blood on the floor, which we have seen time and
Three people are now being treated for gunshot related injuries. The
suspected shooter, a woman in her 30s, is dead. Police think she killed
Senior law enforcement officials tell NBC News, they don’t believe there
was any terrorism connection. The shooting was related to a domestic
This was, thankfully, not another Parkland, but is still yet another
episode of gun violence in America, what has become, what is a daily
occurrence across the nation day after day leading to more than 10,000
firearms homicides every year. This was not another Parkland, but it is
nonetheless exactly what the students from Parkland are talking about, the
daily bloodshed that has simply no counterpart in any similarly wealthy
And it wasn’t just the Parkland students calling attention to the simple
brutal fact about America, but thousands upon thousands upon thousands of
people all across the country, people who filled the streets just a week-
and-a-half ago marching to put a stop to gun violence.
Gun violence is a kind of American exceptionalism that cannot end soon
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: You take a look at the Post Office, and the Post Office is losing
balls of dollars and the taxpayers are paying for that money, because it
delivers packages for Amazon at a very below cost and that’s not fair to
the United States, it’s not fair to our taxpayers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Basically, all of that is untrue, like just every little detail.
President Trump is factually
wrong about the Post Office losing billions because of Amazon packages. As
we told you earlier, the
postal service makes – says it makes money on the deal. In fact, as
Politifact notes, in 2006 Postal
Accountability Enhancement Act, which by the way is a bad piece of
legislation, made it illegal for USPS to price parcel delivery below its
Trump, however, continues to repeat the false claim over and over again,
using his position to bully and threaten Amazon, which he also falsely
calls the, quote, Amazon Washington Post.
The president’s behavior draws from the kind of playbook we’ve seen around
the world. It’s very common from autocrats like Turkey’s Erdogan, Russia’s
Putin, et cetera.
MSNBC political analyst Nick Confessore is a reporter for the New York
Times and MSNBC political analyst Zerlina Maxwell, senior director of
progressive programming for Sirus/XM.
I wanted to have you on, Nick, because I wanted to ask you about what the
Republican donor class thinks of this.
Like, you have done a lot of great reporting about money in politics for
years and I just think about like your average rich Republican donor in any
other context this would be a nightmare. They would be screaming about how
Hugo Chavez in Venezuela with the president attacking a private citizen
whose got a successful business, because he doesn’t like the fact they own
NICK CONFESSORE, NEW YORK TIMES: I spent six years hearing donors on the
right talk about how he can’t pick the winners and losers in the economy,
we have to have a neutral government policy. And now there is a president
who taking their money, who talks down stocks of companies he doesn’t like,
and attacks individual companies in a very specific way and often makes up
things about them.
This thing with Amazon is classic Trump trope, right. He says we’re being
screwed by this party. We’re being – it’s a bad deal, and it’s not true.
HAYES: Right. And then, you know, again, everyone has to go around saying
like, well, here is the actual context of the deal, but there’s also –
it’s like it’s one thing when he goes after private companies, which again,
I feel mixed about that like I think it’s OK sometimes for a president to
that, but this is specifically an attack on the free press, like it is
about the fact that the guy owns a newspaper that reports things he doesn’t
ZERLINA MAXWELL, SIRIUS/XM: Right, he’s using the bully pulpit to bully a
private citizen, essentially, because Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post,
not Amazon. And so he’s attacking the company when he’s really mad at an
Beyond that, though, I think it’s actually a dangerous precedent to set for
the president of the United States to attack a person in this particular
way just because he doesn’t like what the newspaper is reporting.
MAXWELL: And I also think that the president, you know, he’s lying in that
clip, of course, but also, I think it’s important for us to understand the
president, you know, when he’s attacking people in this particular way and
lying about it, that has a dangerous precedent in that the consequences of
the lies are what can actually be real in real life, right?
HAYES: Well, there are millions of people who now think that’s true.
MAXWELL: Amazon loses money because he’s lying about what the company is
actually doing and how they have a relationship with the USPS.
HAYES: Plus, in this case – you know, sometimes what people talk about,
like he’s all talk, which is true, often, you know, like he’s like – Jess
Sessions, you should…
MAXWELL: He’sl flailing about.
HAYES: He’s just like – he’s like the guy at the bar. But in this case,
it’s like the talk is the act. You know, Jonathan Chait I thought had a
good point of this. He said survival of vital source of independent
reporting, now hangs upon a billionaire’s willingness to sustain financial
loses over a matter of principal – no offense to Bezos or other
capitalists – but the moral conscience of a billionaire is a precarious
branch upon which to fasten something so weighty as the freedom of the
CONFESSORE: John is right and The Washington Post is a great paper and
doing great work, but there is no substitute for readers supporting a
I think it’s really important and helpful to the cause of a free press.
But the president, though, is doing – he is talking down his opponents.
He’s now talking, as well, behind the scenes, about preventing Amazon from
getting a Pentagon cloud computing contract.
So, this is not about a policy issue, this is personal peak expressed as
talking down a stock.
HAYES: What do you think of the idea – I’ve seen this, because Amazon,
there are a lot of problems with Amazon. There are all kinds of things
they are doing to the economy that are very significant and problematic
from a labor perspective, from a monopoly perspective. I’ve seen some
people on the left and liberals being like, well, he’s sort of got a point
MAXWELL: Well, I think that the agencies that regulate those issues will
and not be led by the president off to investigate or overregulate this
The other piece of this, too, and I’ve been thinking about this all day. I
think he’s actually mentioning the taxpayer issue, because of the
corruption in his own cabinet. Often, he uses the same language that is in
pieces that are negative.
MAXWELL: About him in attacking his opponents. And so I think it’s
interesting that he’s using the idea that it’s a waste of taxpayer money in
attacking Amazon because his cabinet is buying expensive dining room tables
and private phone booths and taking first class flights.
CONFESSORE: And so it’s also – it’s very important to understand the
president comes from a
culture in which the owners of newspapers actually use them as political
instruments. He thinks that Bazos uses The Washington Post the way his
friend David Pecker used the National Enquirer over the years to buy
stories and shut tome down. He sees the media as owned by its owners.
He’s not used to have a paper that does what it’s supposed to do.
HAYES: Slash he’s thinking about like if I, Donald Trump, own a newspaper
I, of course, would use it entirely as a vessel to pursue my political
projects and attack my enemies and he’s projecting that outward.
Nick Confessore and Zerlina Maxwell, that was great. Thank you.
That is All In for this evening. The Rachel Maddow Show starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
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