Pressure Building on Scott Pruitt. TRANSCRIPT: 04/05/2018. All In with Chris Hayes
Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES
Date: April 5, 2018
Guest: Niall Stanage, Cheri Jacobus, Aswin Suebsaeng
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: – this country including an opposition and
right now looking at the toadying Republicans, we barely have one. And
that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. “ALL IN” with Chris
Hayes starts right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Tonight on ALL IN.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can`t speak to the future of Scott Pruitt.
VELSHI: Engulfed in scandals, Trump`s EPA chief is on thin ice.
ED HENRY, CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: You`re renting
it from the wife of a lobbyist.
SCOTT PRUITT, ADMINISTRATOR, EPA: Who has no business before this agency.
HENRY: Hold on a second.
VELSHI: Tonight, new reporting on what that lobbyist was up to and whether
Pruitt can hang on.
HENRY: Have you made mistakes?
PRUITT: I think this is something that needs to be corrected.
VELSHI: Then the President`s first comments on Stormy Daniels.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No.
VELSHI: Why that denial could create more problems for the President.
TRUMP: Michael`s my attorney and you`ll have to ask Michael.
VELSHI: Plus, new details from Robert Mueller`s investigation and reports
the President is ignoring his staff.
TRUMP: This was going to be my remarks. It would have taken about two
minutes, but what the hell.
VELSHI: ALL IN starts now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Good evening from New York, I`m Ali Velshi in for Chris Hayes.
Things are not looking good for Scott Pruitt. Amid an avalanche of
scandals, there are multiple signs the White House is getting fed up with
the EPA Administrator and could cut him loose. Pruitt did get a few
encouraging words today when President Trump on a very windy tarmac,
responded to shouted questions about whether he still has confidence in
Pruitt with the words “I do” and followed up with this on Air Force One.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I think that Scott has done a fantastic job. I think he`s a
fantastic person. You know, I just left – I just left a coal and energy
country, they love Scott Pruitt. They feel very strongly about Scott
Pruitt and they love Scott Pruitt.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: But Trump has offered kind words for plenty of top aides, right
before they`ve gotten the ax. And Trump seems to be cooling on Pruitt.
Officials familiar with the President`s thinking tell NBC News that as
recently as last week, Trump had been considering firing Attorney General
Jeff Sessions and replacing him with Pruitt. But a source said that is now
unlikely in light of Pruitt`s ethical lapses. And Pruitt, for his part,
just keeps on making the situation worse. In an absolutely disastrous
interview yesterday, Pruitt insisted there was no problem with his
sweetheart deal to stay in a condo, co-owned by the wife of a top energy
lobbyist for 50 bucks a night. Because that lobbyist, he said, had no
business before the EPA.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: You`re renting it from the wife of a lobbyist.
PRUITT: Yes, who has no business before this agency.
HENRY: Hold on a second. So Williams and Jensen, major lobbying firm,
ExxonMobil is a client.
PRUITT: Mr. Hart has no clients –
HENRY: ExxonMobil have business before –
PRUITT: Mr. Hart has no clients that has business before this agency.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: That was not even remotely close to the truth. The Daily Beast
reported today that, “Hart was personally representing a natural gas
company and airline giant and a major manufacturer that had business before
the agency at the time he was also renting out a room to Pruitt. And that
one of his clients is currently battling the EPA in court over an order to
pay more than $100 million in environmental clean-up costs. According to
the Washington Post, the White House has instructed Pruitt not to
participate in interviews, even with friendly media outlets like Fox, but
Pruitt ignored that advice, a move that likely did not endear him to his
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: You said some pretty tough stuff. You said about the President,
“this is in 2016, I think he`s an empty vessel when it comes to things like
the Constitution and rule of law.” You said that about Donald Trump.
PRUITT: Look, that was – I was misinformed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Now, The Post reported that the White House does not find Pruitt`s
excuses credible, particularly his claim that he was uninvolved in a move
to bypass the White House to give big raises to his favorite aides and the
White House is making its displeasure known.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is Scott Pruitt`s future?
HOGAN GIDLEY, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I can`t speak to the
future of Scott Pruitt. I can just talk about where we are now and that is
that the White House is aware of these reports. We`re obviously looking
into those. We don`t have any announcements to make as regards to staffing
right now, but we`re aware. And, you know, we believe that some of these
questions need to be answered.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Well, we don`t know what Scott Pruitt`s future is, but yesterday
we learned that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly had warned Pruitt
that the scandals needed to stop and asked what other shoes, if any, were
going to drop. Today we got an answer. Politico reporting that Pruitt
fell behind on payments for his $50 a night condo rental and had to be
pestered for payments by that energy lobbyist for $50 a night! He got the
sweetest deal in America and still stiffed the landlord. Also today, an
EPA ethics official said he did not have all the factual information when
he signed off on Pruitt`s sweetheart lease. That`s important because
Pruitt is hiding behind the fact that EPA ethics folks said the deal was
kosher. And The New York Times reported today that at least five officials
at Pruitt`s EPA, four of them high-ranking, were reassigned or demoted or
requested new jobs after they raised concerns about Pruitt`s spending and
management. The concerns included unusually large spending on office
furniture and first-class travel, as well as certain demands by Mr. Pruitt
for security coverage, such as requests for a bulletproof vehicle and an
expanded 20-person protective detail. The EPA told NBC News that it
disputes the veracity of the accusations. Joining me now is the co-author
of that story, New York Times Investigative Reporter Eric Lipton. Also
with me, Daily Beast Legal Affairs Columnist, Jay Michaelson who authored a
piece yesterday entitled “Too crooked to fail: Why Scott Pruitt still has
his job for now.” Gentlemen, thank you for joining me. Eric, let me start
with you. Your reporting is that five employees of the Epa, four of them
senior, have been moved, demoted, or left because they took issue with the
way Scott Pruitt was doing things?
ERIC LIPTON, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, NEW YORK TIMES: Yes, what`s so
interesting is that these objections started way back in March of 2017.
Way before the public, reporters, or anyone knew that there were these
issues relative to you know, his desire to take first-class flights or
expenditures on special security or a special bulletproof desk, which is
something that was considered or a bulletproof car. And all – and there
were many – there were three different deputy chiefs of staff. One of
whom was a Trump campaign advance man as very popular with Trump and was
praised by Trump personally at a rally, in Delaware. And these are – you
know, these are also people that served as early as for George W. Bush.
They`ve been in the EPA all that time and helped with George Bush`s
transition, bringing people in. And repeatedly, these three different
folks who are deputy chiefs of staff, two people in a security detail were
saying, something`s wrong here. We are concerned about these requests for
these expenditures and each one of them then found themselves demoted,
asked to be transferred or pushed out. And, you know, this is way before
there was really any press coverage of it.
VELSHI: Jay Michaelson, reading that litany of things that Scott Pruitt
has allegedly done, it`s like comedy if it weren`t actually real. It seems
strange, given that Scott Pruitt has a mission at the EPA that is very
different from prior administrators of the EPA. And that is largely to
JAY MICHAELSON, LEGAL AFFAIRS COLUMNIST, DAILY BEAST: Right, to roll back
the administrative state. And I think the smart way to do that would be to
keep your head down, undo a bunch of regulations, and do it in a way that,
in a way respects the process. But Scott Pruitt`s done the opposite of
that. He fired all the scientists, he hasn`t responded to freedom of
information act requests, he`s gone after a lot of headlines. And now with
this flashy stuff, you know, I mean, Scott Pruitt seems to think he`s
Batman, I mean, who wants to fly in a chartered jet and have a bulletproof
car. That`s not the way to not draw attention to yourself.
VELSHI: Speaking of that, I want to show you a tweet from Chris Lu, Eric,
which says, “Criticism of Pruitt`s $50 a night housing deal is unfair.
There`s a place within walking distance of EPA for that amount. Granted,
it`s a youth hostel and you have to sleep with nine other people and share
a bathroom, but breakfast is included.” This – Jay and I were talking
before the show, this stuff that he`s getting into trouble for seems
amateurish and sophomoric. If you are – if you have a mission to
deregulate the United States government starting with the EPA, why make
stupid mistakes like this?
LIPTON: It`s hard to understand. This is a guy who was in the state
legislature in Oklahoma, he served as attorney general for six years in
Oklahoma. I mean, he`s a very smart person. He knows the environmental
regulations quite well. He`s battled the EPA in court, while he was
serving as attorney general. It`s just unclear as to why he would have so
many fumbles and distract from his mission because, in a way, the EPA like
the Department of Interior is one of the most effective players in Trump`s
strategy to roll back the administrative state. So, you know, again, I
think it is sort of a distraction. And I think that to some extent, you
know, the President is getting a lot of – a lot of pressure from
conservatives and from dark money groups to keep Pruitt just where he is
because, in fact, he`s been so effective in rolling back rules, but he
keeps causing a distraction. And that`s the – so there`s this tension as
to how long they can allow this distraction to keep playing out.
VELSHI: Jay, Scott Pruitt says that it`s all from the left. There are, I
think, three Republican members of the House now who are calling for Scott
Pruitt to go, but that`s not a groundswell.
MICHAELSON: No, but I think it`s crazy to say that this is some sort of
left-wing conspiracy when Chris Christie goes on television and says his
days are numbered, you know, and White House staff people say, we don`t –
we can`t comment at all. And even what President Trump said, you know, as
he mentioned, he says kind things about people before he fires them.
VELSHI: It`s like the kiss from The Godfather when he kisses Fredo.
MICHAELSON: Exactly. And you know, we`re all waiting until Friday
afternoon when these firings tend to happen. And who knows? I think it`s
notable that what President Trump did not say is that he`s innocent of all
of these allegations.
VELSHI: What do you make of that, Eric? Is this now passed the point of
no return for Scott Pruitt and what happens next?
LIPTON: Yes, it`s still impossible to predict, particularly with this
administration, as to what`s going to happen with personnel. I do think
that Pruitt himself has acknowledged that some mistakes were made, with
respect to particularly to raises to given to two employees. And I think
that now the ethics officials at the agency have sort of pulled back on
their clearing of the condo rental. So, I mean, there`s some culpability
here as to whether or not it`s efficient to result in his being forced out.
That`s unclear. And I think that to some extent, it`s going to depend upon
how much pressure the administration is getting from the coal industry, the
oil and gas industry, and outside players that want to see Trump kept – I
mean want to see Pruitt kept where he is.
VELSHI: I was going to say, I was going to make note of that, Jay. Scott
Pruitt is a darling of the oil and gas industry.
MICHAELSON: He`s really one of them. I mean, he meets with them all the
time, The Times earlier pointed out that he meets with representatives in
the industry more than anyone else. But I actually want to quibble with
this a little bit. Scott Pruitt is not the only Scott Pruitt in town.
We`ve talked about Andrew Wheeler who, you know, worked for Robert Murray
and helped draft probably that 16-point plan of regulations he would like
to see undone, all of which were then undone, already processed. You know,
there are other people with these ties and at this point, I think the folks
in the fossil fuel industry, in the dark money groups, want to start
thinking about Scott Pruitt as more of a liability than an asset.
VELSHI: All right, thanks to you guys both Eric Lipton, Investigative
Reporter For The New York Times and Jay Michaelson, Columnist at the Daily
Beast for your reporting and analysis tonight. All right, with me now is
Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii. Aloha, Senator. Good to see
SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D), HAWAII: Aloha, Ali.
VELSHI: Tell me what your take is on this. Every week we tend to be
discussing some other senior administration official who`s on the line for
something. What`s your take on Scott Pruitt?
HIRONO: I don`t think he`s long for his job. However, he`s just one in a
long parade of administration appointees for whom the words “conflict of
interest,” “ethical violations,” “breach of the public trust” do not seem
to enter their minds at all as they brazenly do the things that have come
to light regarding Scott Pruitt. I didn`t vote for him, by the way.
VELSHI: Do you need to do anything about this, or is this one of these
things that on a weekly basis, someone comes to light and it gets talked
about in the ether and a Friday afternoon or some time thereafter, Scott
HIRONO: We`ve certainly seen enough of this parade of really terrible
administrators and secretaries depart, and that`s why I think that Scott
Pruitt is not long for his job. And even Chris Christie has said he should
never have been put there in the first place. And while he may be doing
the bidding of the gas and oil interests, even for them, I would say that
maybe this is too much.
VELSHI: Well, Jay Michaelson made that point –
HIRONO: But I don`t expect – I don`t expect –
VELSHI: I`m sorry. Sorry to interrupt you.
HIRONO: I don`t expect that it ends with Pruitt. There are others. Ryan
Zinke comes to mind and there are others who have various kinds of ethical
and other issues that arise as to them.
VELSHI: What do you – part of the issue here whether it`s with Ryan Zinke
in Interior or it`s with Mick Mulvaney at the Consumer Financial Protection
Bureau or Scott Pruitt at the EPA, there is something similar here. These
are people at the heads of agencies there with the intent of essentially
dismantling what many Americans would think those agencies or bodies are
there to do. The EPA is thought of by most Americans as an agency which
protects us from the excesses of corporate America that would dirty our
water and air if they didn`t have regulation. That`s not Scott Pruitt`s
HIRONO: That`s exactly right. And then let`s add people like Betsy DeVos
who doesn`t even believe in public education. So I have not voted for very
many of President Trump`s nominees, because oftentimes, they are
antithetical to the mission of the department`s and agencies that they`re
being asked to run. And it`s all coming to light. And in addition, what I
finding particularly telling is how brazen they are about using taxpayer
money for all kinds of personal expenses and furniture and airplane rides
and all of that. It`s just so brazen that it`s –it makes your head spin.
VELSHI: It`s a bit strange, though, because it`s brazen and it`s obvious
and it would be something that a good chief of staff could explain to you
that you shouldn`t be doing this stuff. If you`re intent is to dismantle
government agencies or to, you know, to have a big effect on policy, why
get in trouble for the kind of stuff that Scott Pruitt is getting in
HIRONO: Well, I think that they also take a page from the top and you have
a President who lies every single day. You can`t even rely upon his
pronouncements and positions from one day to the next. And maybe they
think that they can get away with this kind of stuff, running their
agencies. As long as they`re dismantling the agency, as Scott Pruitt is
doing, as long as Zinke is doing what he`s doing over there in interior and
you name it, I think that one of the telling things about this
administration is their behavior that very much runs contrary to the public
VELSHI: Senator, always good to talk to you. Thank you for being with us.
HIRONO: Thank you.
VELSHI: Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii. I should tell you, by the way, in
this whole thing, the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs
has found that the condo that we`re all talking about does not have a
business license to operate as a single-family rental. The owner got a
notice of infraction and could be fined $2,034, which is a lot of $50 a
night nights. Coming up, the President speaks about the Stormy Daniels
payout for the first time and her lawyer says it`s only making Stormy`s
case stronger. What Trump said aboard Air Force One in two minutes.
VELSHI: For the first time, President Trump addressed the Stormy Daniels
scandal, telling reporters today on Air Force One that he had no prior
knowledge of the payment his lawyer, Michael Cohen, made to the adult film
actress just weeks before the 2016 election. Listen.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, did you know about the $130,000
payment to Stormy Daniels?
TRUMP: No. What else?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Then why Michael – why did Michael Cohen make it if
there was no truth to the allegation?
TRUMP: You have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael is my attorney and you`ll
have to ask Michael.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you know where he got the money to make that
TRUMP: I don`t know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: You obviously can`t hear a lot of that, but it`s important what
the President said and why this may have an impact on this whole case.
Joining me now is Attorney Elie Mystal, Editor of the Above the Law Blog,
and Lisa Green, also an Attorney and Author of On Your Case: A
Comprehensive, Compassionate, And Only Slightly Bossy Legal Guide for Every
Stage of Woman`s Life. Thank you, both of you, for being here. Lisa, let
me start with you. In fact, let me start with you, but I want to – I want
to play what Stormy Daniels` lawyer, Michael Avenatti said a little earlier
to Ari Melber on “THE BEAT” about what this means.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL AVENATTI, LAWYER OF STORMY DANIELS: This is an undisciplined guy
who, you know, he just – he finally cracked. And we knew he would crack
eventually. We`ve been patient, I`ve been waiting, and lo and behold, who
would have thought that it would arrived on this Thursday, this glorious
afternoon here in New York.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: He felt it was Christmas coming early. Tell me why. Tell me –
for those of us that are not legal minds, what was so significant about
what the President said?
LISA GREEN, ATTORNEY: I think the only thing missing, the bow on the
present for Michael Avenatti would have been if he could have rushed a
court reporter and a bible and a judge on to that plane and had Donald
Trump repeat that under oath, right? Essentially, what is the President
saying? That there`s basically no grounds to enforce this contract. If
there was no money changing hands, you need a meeting of the minds, it`s
contracts 101. I give you money, you give me cable service. I give you
$130,000, you agree not to talk about our night. You know, if there was no
understanding on the party to the contract that the money was supposed to
change hands, I don`t quite know what`s left other than just paper and ink.
ELIE MYSTAL, EDITOR IN CHIEF, ABOVE THE LAW BLOG: Yes, I mean, to quote
VELSHI: I love that.
MYSTAL: – I`ve never seen somebody ruin their own life like Trump just
did on this plane, OK. The whole point, the whole point Michael Avenatti
has been trying to make is that there is an agreement between Stormy
Daniels and Michael Cohen, not in agreement between Stormy Daniels and
Donald Trump. For that to be in agreement as Lisa was saying, you have to
have something it`s called consideration. You have to have some kind – so
if I say, here`s $10, give me a sandwich, that`s a binding contract. If I
say, give me a sandwich, that`s a gank. I just robbed you. You can`t
enforce that. All Trump had to do was to shut up. All he had to do was to
not say that. Instead, he has gone on and said that there was no actual
contract between – because he didn`t do – he didn`t do anything. He
didn`t give Stormy Daniels anything, so there was no contract between him
and Stormy Daniels, which is all Michael Avenatti wanted him to say.
VELSHI: But Michael Cohen said – Cohen says something else, his lawyer,
these are lawyers of lawyers, he made a statement and he said in response
to what the President said, this is an accurate assessment of the facts.
This is exactly what I`ve been saying all along. Michael Cohen made the
payment to protect reputation, family, and business. It had nothing to do
with the election. This is from David Schwartz, a lawyer for Michael
Cohen. So this complicates things a little bit more because he now said,
he`s – the payment to protect reputation, family, and business, but we
still don`t have a clue as to what the there-there is.
GREEN: I`m going to go back to the agreement. The most you know,
publicized nondisclosure agreement in the history of nondisclosure
agreements. If you look at it, although he`s under a pseudonym, the
President is a party. And to have Michael Cohen`s lawyer say “there`s
nothing there,” does make you wonder one more thing to add one more wrinkle
to the legal analysis is, remember, the President joined a motion to remove
the fight over this NDA to federal court. If he didn`t know about the
payment, why is he at the same time joining the battle –
VELSHI: This is a very good question.
MYSTAL: The entire argument here is legally and intellectually
incongruous, right? He`s saying that he wants to enforce an NDA that he
VELSHI: Has nothing to do with him.
MYSTAL: Has nothing to do with him. Michael Cohen is saying that he paid
hush money on Trump`s behalf without consulting his client. Look, I`ve got
a lot of good friends and isn`t one of them going to buy me a drink in a
bar if I`m not in a bar, right? But that`s just not – that`s just not
what happens, right? So what they`re – their whole strategy right now
seems to be to enforce an agreement that they don`t agree exists.
MYSTAL: It makes no sense.
GREEN: And if you wonder why our blood pressure is collectively rising to
like the point, it`s – this is sort of unheard of across the board, in
conventional lawyering, right? I was willing to give Donald Trump and
Michael Cohen the benefit of the doubt and say, you know, perhaps that`s an
enforceable agreement. Maybe it ought to go to arbitration, Stormy Daniels
got the money and they had an understanding, but after today`s
developments, it`s really hard to make the argument with a straight face
that she`s required to, wait, remain silent about what happened? Oh, she`s
already talked about that, too.
VELSHI: So now what happens because we still have a situation where
there`s arbitration versus the courts of law, what does this all amount to?
MYSTAL: Well, here`s the thing, right? Trump still wants to enforce the
agreement. And so as long as he wants to enforce the agreement, Avenatti
has an argument to depose him under oath. All Avenatti I think wants at
this point is to get Trump under oath so Trump can lie, so Avenatti can
say, I`m the guy that got Trump caught up on perjury, right? The other
thing that I think we have to consider, and I don`t want to sound like a –
I think we have to consider the fact that at this point, Avenatti and
Daniels has only – have only talked about things that generally we kind of
already know. If Avenatti is able to get the NDA ruled non-enforceable,
does he – does she have more information about Trump that hasn`t come out
yet, that they`ve been holding back –
VELSHI: You really want to hear more information about Trump?
GREEN: You know, it looks like –
VELSHI: The spanking with the magazine sort of –
GREEN: – was plenty for you, right? I mean, it certainly reads like a
form agreement. I think you`d agree if you`ve had the luxury of having
time to read it several times. And of course, the second question I have
is, if it was unenforceable as it relates to Stormy Daniels, and if, I`m
speculating, it was ever used with other social friends of Donald Trump, is
it enforceable then?
MYSTAL: That`s a nice way of putting it.
VELSHI: We`ll have to leave on that note. Good to talk to both of you.
Elie Mystal and Lisa Green, thank you both for being here. All right,
coming up, new evidence that Robert Mueller`s investigation is looking at a
previously unknown angle in the Russia probe. I`ll explain after the
VELSHI: We`ve got new evidence that Robert Mueller may be pursuing a
previously unknown angle in the Russia investigation, whether healthy
Russians – whether wealthy Russians illegally funneled cash to the
President`s campaign or his inauguration. Now, according to a new report,
Mueller`s team has been questioning Russian oligarchs who traveled to the
U.S., stopping at least one and searching his electronic devices when his
private jet landed at a New York Area airport.
Now, those details were corroborated by The New York Times, which reports
that one such search and seizure took place about four weeks ago, according
to CNN. At least two other Russian oligarchs have been questioned or asked
for an interview with Mueller`s investigators. Harry Litman is a former
Federal Prosecutor, now a Professor at UCLA law school and David Corn is
Washington Bureau Chief of Mother Jones and Co-Author of the best-selling
book, Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin`s War on America and the
Election of Donald Trump. Thanks to both of you for being with us. David,
let me start with you. The significance of this, the idea that you don`t
get to be an oligarch in Russia if you`re not tight with Putin and probably
not if you don`t have a business relationship with him. We`ve always
known, with certain sanctions like the Magnitsky Act and other things, this
is the way to Putin, to get to the oligarchs.
DAVID CORN,WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, MOTHER JONES: Well, excuse me, it is.
And we talk in the book about how Trump connected with one oligarch to do
Miss Universe in 2013. And it was through that oligarch that the Russian
government reached out to the Trump campaign and offered them dirt on
Hillary Clinton. So Trump has had a long-standing relationship with
certain oligarchs that have been important to him on business and in terms
of his political campaign.
And the fact now that Mueller is looking at whether any Russian money
flowed into the campaign, into the Trump campaign or towards the Republican
Party, I think is highly significant and
can open up a whole new dimension for the inquiry.
VELSHI: And this is important, Harry, because that is – this doesn`t seem
to be a fishing expedition, it looks like Mueller is looking for something
In particular, McClatchy has reported that the FBI is investigating whether
Russian money went to the NRA to help Trump. Mother Jones has reported
that Putin friendly oligarchs, top executive – top U.S. executived donated
$285,000 to Trump. So, he`s trying to find real connections to the Trump
campaign or ways in which the election would have been influenced?
LITMAN: Yes, I agree. So, he`s not fishing, but he is casting a wide net.
On the one hand, he`s looking very discreetly at potential violations of
election law by
both Russians and people in the States. You can`t have foreign
contributions to an election. It looks like the oligarchs here might have
funneled money through think tanks, through possibly the NRA, through straw
donors. So very specific stuff.
But then it`s generally part of the whole, whole mess of Russian money that
he`s beginning to
uncover more and more. It`s like, you`ve seen on TV in TV shows, the index
cards on the wall. And I think that`s what we`re sort of having. You
know, figures moving east, you know, Manafort and the Malik (ph) and Carter
Page and now figures moving west from Russia – Konstantin Kilimnik. If
they meet and when they meet in the middle, there`s possible conspiracy,
there`s possible collusion. He`s putting it together
HAYES: David Corn, you were working on this before this was a story,
before anybody knew it was a thing. You are one of the original
journalists who have uncovered the connection between Russia and the Trump
What Harry just said, the mess of Russian money, what`s the distance
between there being a mess of Russian money and possibly some real intent
on the part of Putin cronies and oligarchs to influence the outcome of the
election and a connection to the Trump campaign?
CORN: OK, we know there was an attack. I don`t like to use the word
meddling or intervention. We know there was a Russian attack on the
campaign, right? That`s – that`s clear. We also know that the
intelligence community said it was done in part to help Trump. So the fact
– and we also know that Trump has relationships with oligarchs and we also
know that Putin uses oligarchs to do
his will around the world.
So, it is not a far stretch of the imagination that oligarchs during the
campaign or after the
election, in terms of the inauguration and the Republican Party, falling on
Moscow`s lead, wanted to support Trump in some way or another. And the
story that I did last year with Dan Friedman, we found the cousin of Victor
Vexelberg (ph), a very prominent oligarch, who runs a company here in the
United States, who is an American, gave $250,000 to Trump`s inauguration.
Why was that unusual? This guy had never given more than $2,000 to anybody
else, once to a Republican, and twice to Democrats.
So where does heed a all of a sudden give this much money to Trump? It`s
worth looking at.
VELSHI: Right. But, Harry, Bill Browder`s lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, lost
his life looking at these types of connections. It`s very hard to prove in
Russia. If it`s hard to prove in America, it`s hard to prove in Russia.
So let`s say Mueller finds out that there are these oligarchs like the
reporting in Mother Jones by David that gave money to the campaign or gave
money to the NRA. What`s the route from A to figuring out whether there
was collusion when you`re looking at Russian oligarchs?
LITMAN: Yeah, I mean, look, we do still have the rule of law and we still
– we don`t expect anybody to take a poison needle. And Mueller is being
very aggressive here. You think of the oligarchs and their private planes
being stupefied when someone comes in with a search warrant and says give
me your phone.
The immediate route is to try to get someone, especially a straw donor who
is an American subject to the jurisdiction of the courts, who can be
subject to real criminal penalties and get them to turn, same thing as
you`ve done with Flynn, same thing as you`ve done with Manafort`s partner.
And from there, begin to work your way back to the States.
VELSHI: And worth noting that there is an exception to – for searches
that take place at
points of entry. You don`t need a warrant or probable cause for those
LITMAN: I think that`s right, Ali, but I think they got one here,
meanining a court did fine
out of a surfeit of caution, I believe they got one and the court would
have been – found probable cause.
VELSHI: Good information. Harry, thanks very much. Harry Litman and
David Corn, great to have you both on the show tonight
All right, coming up, Trump is now calling for more tariffs on China
tonight, $100 billion worth, as the tit for tat continues markets are
already responding. Are we headed for – are we in a
full-on trade war? Former U.S. Ambassador to China joins me after this
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I have great respect for the president of China, President Xi.
He`s a friend of mine. And I`m a friend of his. And I like him a lot.
But he`s representing China and I`m representing the United States of
America, and it was time that we did something.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Now, that something that Trump was talking about doing was
potentially starting a trade war between the world`s two biggest economies.
After he recently proposed tariffs on Chinese goods, China is now
threatening tariffs of their own, including on many American farm products
from the heart of Trump country. And now just moments ago, President Trump
firing back yet again, threatening $100 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods
or tariffs on $100 billion worth of Chinese goods.
Max Baucus, the man you see here, has seen U.S./China trade relations from
the inside as a
former ambassador to China and a former U.S. Senator. He joins me now.
Ambassador Baucus, thank you for being with us.
MAX BAUCUS, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO CHINA: You bet.
VELSHI: Who wins a trade war?
BAUCUS: Nobody. Both sides lose in a trade war. Both sides have to pay
higher costs. Both sides lose. Both people in China and the people in the
I think it`s important, though, for us to keep in mind that China is a –
they got a lot of bounce in their step. They think they have the wind at
their back. They`re a very proud country. They think in the long-term.
They`re very patient. They`ve got a plan here. And that plan is to be as
strong as they can economically. They put together this China – made in
China 2025 program and they`re going to do all they can to accomplish that
Now, some of what they do is unfair, and that`s what Trump is addressing,
but I think he`s addressing it in the wrong way. China is going to take
VELSHI: But he`s not wrong about that. You would find bipartisan support
for the statement that China is not always a fair player. In fact, it`s
often not a fair player. But President TGrump`s complaint has been that no
one has done anything about it.
I`m not sure that`s entirely true. Tell me what you think of that.
BAUCUS: Well, it`s – we`ve tried in the past administration, and in the
one before that, to address some of these issues. But frankly, China has
become much stronger in the last several years. And they are able to push
back more easily than they have in the past.
Frankly, it is time for us to take China`s measure and to stand up against
China. And we`ve not done that. But it`s going to take a really strong,
thoughtful measure, part of our president, our country to think through a
very strong strategic policy as we deal with China.
All these tariffs aren`t going to do it. And frankly, I think that China
is going is chuckling a little
bit now. This extra $100 billion that you mention, I think, ironically, it
makes us look weak. Trump`s shooting from the hip. It`s not something
that`s thought through.
China is going to stand up. China`s going to take care of itself. They
had $3 billion worth of tariffs when we announced ours against aluminum
and steel, then they announced their 50 when Trump announced ours. Trump
announced 100 now. They`re going to come back.
VELSHI: 24 hours from now, we`ll probably have another announcement.
But listen, ambassador, Donald Trump has not been a fan of these trade
deals for decades. We knew that going into it. In the last election, we
knew Bernie Sanders wasn`t, and eventually Hillary Clinton came around to
the idea that she, too, would have walked away from the Transpacific
Partnership if she were elected president.
The bottom line is, we knew we were getting out of the deal that was
probably our best case
for standing up to China, it was probably our best opportunity to stand up
to China`s growing influence, to be the leader and a participant in the
Transpacific Partnership. But we walked away from that opportunity.
BAUCUS: Yes, we did. It was a big mistake. And I was over there, the
most important geopolitical matter to cross my desk was the Transpacific
Partnership. I lobbied so hard in favor of
that. I came back to Washington two months before the election, met with
45 members of congress, Republicans, Democrats, because I thought it was so
important. Huge mistake.
We`re creating a huge vacuum as a consequence in East Asia and China is
filling it. They`re smiling when we dropped off from that. It`s a big
mistake when we dropped out.
VELSHI: All right, what happens next, ambassador? Because we keep talking
about provoking a potential trade war. Looks to me like we might be in
one, even though none of the ink has dried on any of these proposals.
BAUCUS: Well, neither country really wants a trade war. China really does
not want that, because that harms their economy. We don`t want it, it`s
going to harm ours.
And so during this next 60 days or so, it`s very important that cooler
heads prevail. It`s going to cool the rhetoric here, start talking and
find some way to get some resolution here.
But President Trump is correct that we have to find a way to deal with some
of these unfair trade practices of China. I think China understands that,
and China is going to give in just enough, that`s my experience in dealing
with them, just enough to get America off its back.
VELSHI: All right, Ambassador Max Baucus, good to see you. Thank you for
your time tonight.
BAUCUS: You bet. Thank you.
VELSHI: All right, still to come, new reporting that the chief of staff
John Kelly is losing his influence over the president. What Trump
unleashed looks like, coming up.
VELSHI: Facebook is in full damage control mode after the company exposed
the data of at least 87 million people to Cambridge Analytica, CEO Mark
Zuckerberg will go before the House and the Senate next week to testify
about what happened and what Facebook is going to do to protect user`s
In the meantime, Facebook has rewritten its terms of service to better
inform people of exactly what data it`s collecting, which is the kind of
transparency the leader of Apple, Tim Cook, called for when he sat down
with MSNBC`s Chris Hayes and Recode`s Kara Swisher in Chicago last week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TIM COOK, APPLE CEO: Everybody should know what they`re doing. Everybody
should know what they`re giving up. And not only the specific data point,
but the issue is more of the whole line that people can draw, right? It`s
the – when I know this plus this plus this plus this, I can infer a whole
bunch of other things. And that can be abused, and it can be abused
against our democracy, it can be abused by an advertiser, as well.
To me, it`s creepy when I look at something and all of a sudden it`s
chasing me all the way across the web. I don`t like that.
CHRIS HAYES, HOST, ALL IN: Particularly when I bought it, right?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: That`s a good discussion. You can catch more of it, all of it,
with Chris Hayes and Kara Swisher`s exclusive town hall with Tim Cook right
here tomorrow night. Revolution Apple: Changing the World, 8:00 p.m.,
tomorrow night, MSNBC.
VELSHI: This week, President Trump signed an order to send National Guard
the U.S./Mexico border. He`s edged closer and closer to a trade war with
China. Today, speaking in West Virginia, he resurrected the false claim
that millions of people voted illegally. And ever since signing a budget
bill that drew flak from his supporters, the president has sounded more
like Trump the candidate saying the kind of things that often appeal to his
Meanwhile, Chief of Staff John Kelly is sidelined with the president
increasingly trying to
go at it alone. The Hill reporting that a source within Trump`s orbit said
John Kelly – John, I think is frustrated because his influence has been
diminished and can`t control what the president does.
The author of that article, Niall Stanage, White House columnist for The
Hill joins me now along with Cheri Jacobus, a Republican strategist and
columnist at USA Today, and Aswin Suebsaeng, White House house reporter for
The Daily Beast. Welcome to all of you.
Sherrie, let me start with you, what are you hearing about the influence of
John Kelly within
the White House, the John Kelly who so many people were relieved to have
there because along with
Rex Tillerson and Mattis and McMaster, that they were going to be the
adults in the room that kept the president contained.
CHERI JACOBUS, USA TODAY: Well, that`s the thing. He`s not in the room.
He`s not in the room when big decisions are being made and he should
probably quit. Quite frankly, he`s on his way out. Nobody comes back from
this sort of thing and I mean, there is great instability in this White
House. It is alarming.
This is a president who does not want adults in the room. If you look at
him like a racehorse where you have a jockey, you have a trainer, you have
professionals, you also have a goat in the stable
with the race horse for the sole purpose of keeping them calm. They are
called comfort goats.
His chief comfort goat, Hope Hicks, is gone. I think Corey Lewandowski is
a comfort goat, who he is trying to bring back in. These are people who
will not say no. These are people who will not tell the president the
truth. And he doesn`t want the truth. He doesn`t wanted advisers. He
doesn`t want trainers. He doesn`t want jockeys. He only wants comfort
goats and that`s what we`re going to get.
VELSHI: That`s like a bacon wrapped insult.
Aswin, let me ask you, the Associated Press is reporting something similar
without using the term comfort goats. It says Trump has increasingly
expressed fatigue at Kelly`s attempt to shackle him. Trump recently told
one confidante that he was tired of being told no by Kelly and instead has
chosen simply to not tell Kelly things at all.
ASWIN SUEBSAENG, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, Trump has actually been expressing
that sentiment to aids and confidantes for several weeks if not many weeks
and if not months now, it`s just that in the past couple of weeks or so, it
seemed to be ramping up a bit. And it`s not only the president who is
getting more frustrated with Chief of Staff John Kelly, it`s Kelly`s
colleagues within the West Wing who see that the promise of John Kelly and
his main selling points to why he should take over after the
Reince Priebus area are kind of falling flat right now.
What were the main promises of John Kelly? It was that he would kill off
the palace intrigue and factionalism. He would put a lid on the chaos and
he would keep people away from the president in the West Wing and away from
the Oval Office who more quote unquote serious people did not want near
The chaos is still there. The factionalism is as bad as it ever was. And
people, such as Seb Gorka, who John Kelly fired shortly after he got on the
job, as we at The Daily Beast reported a couple of weeks ago was back in
the White House residence dining with President Trump.
So all the things that John Kelly seemed to be promising with his new era
of supposed stability seemed to have not at all come to fruition.
VELSHI: So, now the issue here, though, is that you may not care about the
palace intrigue at the White House and the inner workings and whether Jared
and Ivanka like John Kelly, but we have a brewing trade war with China.
We`re about to rip up the Iran nuclear deal. We`ve got this spontaneous
and unexpected summit with the North Koreans. We have the Russians saying
that they were invited to a meeting in Washington, which we can`t confirm.
This is the world at stake, not the White House. Most Americans could
careless if the White House implodes, it`s actually about the world and the
NIALL STANAGE, THE HILL: Yes, absolutely. And let me add one other issue
to your list, Ali, Syria. What is this administration`s policy in Syria?
We don`t know. And the reason that we don`t know is that a short time ago,
the president apparently in an off the cuff manner, said oh we should get
out very soon. Then he sort of gave him a milder version of that, then the
White House press secretary came out with a statement that was intended to
clarify and didn`t really clarify anything.
You have to think to bring this back to John Kelly, what does a retired
four-star marine general think when there are 2,000 American troops
approximately in Syria and no one really seems to know what the actual
VELSHI: And that they got conflicting views on this.
Cheri, I guess to your remarkably vivid comfort goat`s sentiment, the issue
here is we kind of need somebody whispering into the president`s ear about
these various things. And by the way the fact that we now – we`ve got
something going on on the southern border that we can`t understand either,
someone to keep things straight.
So, what kind of person is that? The president doesn`t want to take
instructions from people
who seem to have a certain amount of self-discipline. John Kelly, by the
way, raised eyebrows in the last several months about whether he is that
disciplined guy, but the bottom line is what happens next?
Because Axios is reporting that to White House insiders, this is the most
dangerous phase of Donald Trump`s presidency so far from the brewing trade
war with China to the perilously spontaneous summit with North Korea, it`s
It`s going to probably be somebody that he doesn`t hire, it going to have
to be somebody in
congress, the congressional leaders who grow a spine. As we get closer to
the midterms, they know that their members, their candidates running for
reelection, and other candidates out there, are going to have to answer to
some of this as they go home and particularly once you get out of primary
and they`re no longer playing to the Trump base and they have to appeal to
independents and Democrats who might be interested in them, they cannot
defend this president.
So, it might be somebody from the outside who doesn`t really care about
getting the approval of
Trump and who Trump didn`t hire. Maybe they have to have a come to Jesus
meeting where a bunch
of them go down to the White House. That`s not unprecedented. I`m
surprised it hasn`t happened many, many times so far, but I think that`s
probably the only chance there is of breaking through. It`s not going to
be somebody within the White House.
VELSHI: What do you think, Niall?
STANAGE: I think that one of the difficulties is that people expect a
chief of staff to be able to make Donald Trump not Donald Trump. I think
that`s where expectations got out of whack with John Kelly. I think that
Donald Trump is particularly adverse to anyone telling him what to do and
will go to almost any lengths to prove that he cannot be reigned in in that
way by anyone.
VELSHI: Aswin, do you think the elections will have a meaningful impact as
we get into it and polling starts to show up or after the elections? What
changes this trajectory?
SUEBSAENG: Well, if the 2018 midterms are a complete wipeout for
Republicans, I can`t think that will change the trajectory for the
president of the United States in some ways that say Republican leaders on
Capitol Hill would like it, I think that would make him dig in even more to
his position of, oh, all the people around me who have been trying to
control me and been trying to control my message are keeping the make
America great again message shackled to the point that it is costing us at
Trump could win and these losers, as the president so affectionately calls
them, could not.
VELSHI: All right. Thanks to the three of you for being here. Niall
Stanage, Cheri Jacobus, and Aswin Suebsaeng, thank you for your analysis
and your help tonight. And that is All In for this evening.
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