Judge rejects Trump request to view Cohen files. TRANSCRIPT: 04/16/2018. All In with Chris Hayes
Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES
Date: April 16, 2018
Guest: Lisa Green, Adam Schiff, Chris Murphy
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: – handed justice, a profile in courage. And
that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. “ALL IN” with Chris
Hayes starts right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Tonight on ALL IN.
MICHAEL COHEN, LAWYER OF PRESIDENT TRUMP: I`m obviously very loyal and
very dedicated to Mr. Trump.
HAYES: A high stakes hearing for the President in federal court. What do
investigators have on Trump`s personal lawyer?
STORMY DANIELS, PORNOGRAPHIC ACTRESS: Mr. Cohen has acted like he is above
HAYES: Tonight, why a federal judge just rejected Trump`s attempt to
intervene. The documents the President doesn`t want his own Justice
Department to see. And Michael Cohen`s mystery client revealed.
SEAN HANNITY, HOST, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: The liberal mainstream media,
they`ve gone totally off the rails over the FBI`s highly questionable raid
on Michael Cohen.
HAYES: Then, Trump versus the Trump White House.
NIKKI HALEY, UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO UNITED NATIONS: Russia sanctions
will be coming down.
HAYES: New reporting that Trump blocked the new Russia sanctions. Senator
Chris Murphy is here to respond.
JAMES COMEY, FORMER DIRECTOR, FBI: There is a nonzero possibility that the
Russians have some sway over him.
HAYES: Plus, a new push from some Republicans to protect Robert Mueller.
And about last night –
COMEY: I don`t think he is medically unfit to be president, I think he is
morally unfit to be president.
HAYES: When ALL IN starts right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Good evening from New York, I`m Chris Hayes. Well, well, well, a
federal judge right here in Manhattan just rejected an effort by the
President of the United States to block federal prosecutors from looking at
thousands of documents seized last week in the criminal probe of the
President`s lawyer and associate Michael Cohen. It was an extraordinary
scene at a federal courthouse downtown today where Cohen, the President`s
personal lawyer and fixer was ordered to appear in person exactly one week
since being raided by the FBI. Now Cohen was joined by a new attorney for
the President, Joanna Hendon. That`s her right there representing
President Donald Trump in attempts to limit the federal government`s access
to those materials they seized last week from Cohen`s office, his home, his
hotel room, a safe deposit box, and a number of electronic devices. It was
the President`s lawyer in court arguing against the Justice Department
prosecutors from the President`s own administration. Also in attendance,
just to give it a little more spice, adult film actress Stormy Daniels
whose hush money payment before the election is reportedly of interest to
those federal prosecutors. Now she has also filed, of course, a civil suit
against Michael Cohen that may be delayed while he is under criminal
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DANIELS: For years, Mr. Cohen has acted like he is above the law. He has
considered himself and openly referred to himself as Mr. Trump`s fixer. He
has played by a different set of rules, or shall we say no rules at all.
My attorney and I are committed to making sure that everyone finds out the
truth and the facts of what happened and I give my word that we will not
rest until that happens.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: The day began with Cohen attempting to defy a federal judge`s order
to reveal the names of his legal clients. There are not many, I should
note. Now, Cohen is claiming the raids last week violated attorney-client
privilege, threaten his client`s rights, but in a letter to the court this
morning, Cohen`s lawyers agreed only to disclose two of his grand total of
three clients are. You see them right there. That would a man by the name
of Donald Trump, who is President these United States, and a man by the
name of Elliott Broidy, who is a Republican fundraiser who you probably
hasn`t heard about until well, he resigned from the RNC last week after he
was revealed to have paid $1.6 million in hush money, through Michael Cohen
again, that guy, to a former playboy playmate he had impregnated. He being
there Broidy, not Cohen. It gets confusing. Now Cohen refuse to name
client number three. One of his lawyers telling the court the client is a
“publicly prominent individual and he didn`t want the name released to the
public,” piquing of course everyone`s curiosity. The judge however was not
having it, forcing Cohen`s team to `fess up. And client number three was
revealed to be, drum roll please, none other than Trump T.V. host Sean
Hannity, who railed against the Cohen raids last week without disclosing
his own connection.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HANNITY: Cohen was never part of the Trump administration or the Trump
campaign. This is now officially an all hands on deck effort to totally
malign and if possible impeach the President of the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Oh, it`s all hands on deck, Sean. It is definitely all hands on
deck. Hannity insists he never formally retained Cohen`s services,
claiming they occasionally had brief discussions about legal matters. But
the real battle in court today was over how the government would separate
out seized materials that fall under the protection of attorney-client
privilege from material pertinent to the months-long criminal investigation
of Michael Cohen. Now, ordinarily, a group of independent investigators
known as the filter team through the FBI and the SDNY, or the taint team
would be responsible for doing the separating, withholding any protected
documents forever being used in the case. But in a remarkable letter to
the judge last night, the president`s own lawyer asked the judge to suspend
the government`s usual review process, making investigators instead hand
all the seized documents over to none other than Michael Cohen so Cohen and
the President could decide what`s okay to use. Think about that for a
second. Their argument is that the subject of a criminal investigation who
investigators did not trust to turn over material, hence the raids, instead
of obtaining a court-approved warrant, should get to rule out what can be
used as evidence against them. Not surprisingly the judge rejected the
President`s request. Emily Jane Fox was in that courtroom today. She is a
Senior Reporter for Vanity Fair and MSNBC Contributor. What a scene.
EMILY JANE FOX, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: It was a day today. You know, they
were in court all day on Friday. Michael Cohen was not there and Stormy
Daniels was not there on Friday either. But I thought it couldn`t get much
more spectacular than Friday when you had Michael Avenatti, Stormy Daniels`
attorney walk in and you had a surprise visit from the woman who`s now
representing Donald Trump. That was a pretty miraculous day in court. And
today it just got even crazier. I have to tell you, the moment – there
was a long drawn out debate over whether or not this third client would be
named. It went on for quite a long time, and there was a lot of back and
forth. And finally, the judge said this client has to be named. You have
no standing under the law. And so Michael Cohen`s attorney said well, I
can give it to you in a sealed envelope, or I can just say it out loud, and
the judge said well, whatever you feel comfortable with. You can do
whatever you want. And it felt like there was that moment, that pause
where it was going to happen. They were going to say now, after the
commercial break. There was so much tension and build-up and it was such a
reality show moment. And when the name Sean Hannity came out of his mouth,
not only did most of the audience in the courtroom which was primarily
filled with journalists, I don`t – I don`t know how to describe it, there
was a laughter and a sigh and almost– hands over his head
HAYES: Oh, come on, you got to be kidding me.
FOX: Exactly. But the energy in the room felt like the whole courtroom
was going to explode.
HAYES: That – you see, you`ve got that moment, and we don`t know – I
mean, what the nature of their legal relationship is unclear. There`s sort
of I would say slightly different stories coming from each man about it?
Would you say that`s fair to say?
FOX: From a source who I talked familiar – talked to about it who`s
familiar with the situation, there was some sort of real estate discussion.
I don`t know. I have no backup for that claim.
HAYES: I will just say this. Sean Hannity make (INAUDIBLE) or can higher
whatever lawyer he wants to in New York, whatever team of lawyers, whatever
troop of lawyer, division of lawyer, army of lawyers. What he is talking
to Michael Cohen about legally, that`s sort of interesting, kind of an odd
FOX: Michael Cohen is friendly with a lot of personalities in New York,
certainly in the media. He deals with people in the media all the time.
Every time I have interviewed him, ten reporters will call him the course
of the time that I`m interviewing him. So it`s not uncommon for him to
speak to reporters.
HAYES: But you don`t – I mean, people that talk to Michael Cohen don`t
have attorney-client privilege, they`re not clients under a court.
FOX: It is certainly unusual and absolutely unexpected, as we could tell
by the reaction in the courtroom today.
HAYES: All right, Emily Jane Fox, great to have you. I`m glad you got to
witness that firsthand. I`m jealous of that. For more to Michael Cohen`s
investigation, I`m joined by former Watergate Prosecutor Nick Akerman and
Attorney Lisa Green. Let`s talk about the substance today. So we got
judge Kimba Wood, Senior U.S. District Judge who`s presiding over this.
The filing by the President of the United States was for what?
NICK AKERMAN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: To try and keep the documents from the
prosecutors. What he is concerned about is that Michael Cohen was probably
in Prague in the summer of 2016, and there is bound to be evidence in that
cache of documents about his visit to Prague. That`s what they`re worried
HAYES: Well you don`t know that.
AKERMAN: Well, you do know from the McClatchy report just recently.
HAYES: Yes. There is reason to be –
AKERMAN: There is reason to believe that why else would Donald Trump be
going to this length to stop something –
HAYES: Because he doesn`t know – Nick, because he doesn`t know what`s in
AKERMAN: Well, he must know what`s in there because he is not going to
care about Stormy Daniels, that`s already out. He doesn`t care about the
Playboy bunny, that`s already out. What he is worried about are the – is
the Russian investigation and Cohen`s involvement in Prague and the Trump
Tower in Moscow. There are bound to be documented in that seizure that
relate to both of those issues which completely undercut the entire
Republican narrative that`s been leveled against the Mueller investigation
since day one.
HAYES: So you think – your suspicions that this is all about Russia
AKERMAN: It`s all about Russia.
LISA GREEN, ATTORNEY: I just want to get to a more technical point.
Lawyers I know, former federal prosecutors are really outraged about what`s
going on. Here`s why. This is not abnormal, having, you know, a clean
team and a dirty team to review documents. Lawyers for the SDNY made the
point in court filings that look, there`s no – nothing in it for us to
inadvertently give over attorney-client privileged information because then
the defense can come at us, sue and maybe the case is done.
HAYES: Of course.
AKERMAN: I used to do this all the time.
GREEN: Yes, there was no incentive to turnover – hey, B, again, three
clients, thousands of documents? One client is someone he had a casual
conversation with real estate about like at bar? This is not a giant
cache, Chris, of attorney-client privileged information. And to that end,
what I would also say is people who are sort of gaming out today`s ruling
by Judge Woods are completely missing the forest or the trees because in
fact the President and Michael Cohen have sort of already lost this war.
HAYES: Why? What do you mean by that?
GREEN: Because there`s never going to be a wholesale return of all this
HAYES: That`s just not happening. This idea that they were – I mean, the
filing which says tell you what, tell you what, why don`t you just go
ahead, give us all the evidence. We will look over it, and we will give
you what is relevant. There`s no way a federal judge is ever going to ever
sign off on that.
AKERMAN: No way. Not in a million years.
HAYES: As a non-lawyer, it sounded preposterous to me, but –
AKERMAN: You`ve got people who believe that the attorney-client privilege
applies just because you`re talking to an attorney or attorneys are in the
room or attorneys got your documents. That doesn`t work.
HAYES: This seems to be to your point, I mean, it seems to me like the
kind of idea here is that Michael Cohen is like, I`ve got a law degree and
I`m licensed to practice in New York. Hence, when I`m Talking to you when
we`re having a cigar outside the hotel, or we`re maybe coming up with some
hustle, we`re doing taxi medallion business, whatever it is, we`re in the
umbrella. We`re in the cone of privilege, and it`s all good you. You
could say whatever. Not the way it works?
GREEN: Tell that to all the lawyers we know, including ourselves who have
worked really diligently when you do a document production, even in a civil
case, and you`re carefully reviewing every document and taking notes and
stamping it privileged. This is not a joke and it`s not casual.
HAYES: Point being there`s got to be some sort of substantive. Like,
attorney-client privilege is a thing that pertains to an actual on-going
relationship with an attorney and a client and not just like anything that
happens with a lawyer in a room.
AKERMAN: No, you can`t just go to a cocktail party and approach somebody
and ask for legal advice. That`s not privilege. There has to be an
attorney-client relationship. In New York State you have to have an
engagement letter. I mean, according to Hannity, he didn`t even have an
HAYES: Well, that`s the thing. I mean, what do you make of the Hannity
part of this?
GREEN: I can`t figure it out but I`ll tell you this. The fact that he
didn`t pay his lawyer is definitely not indicative of not having a lawyer-
client relationship, because we`ve all chased clients who don`t pay, not to
mention pro bono clients for whom you work for free because they`re
indigent or because they`re immigrants under – you know, I`m sure Hannity
falls in that –
HAYES: Sean Hannity is not indigent.
GREEN: So for sure this wasn`t pro bono. But the fact that no money
exchanged hands is no importance at all.
HAYES: Here`s – let me just say what – let me play this. This is
Hannity sort of giving his side of the story on this radio show today.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
HANNITY: I have occasionally had brief discussions with him about legal
questions about which I wanted his input and perspective. Not one of any
issue I ever dealt with Michael Cohen on ever, ever involved a matter
between me and any third party. I never gave him a retainer, never
received an invoice, never paid any fees. I might have handed him ten
bucks. I definitely want attorney-client privilege on this, something like
(END AUDIO CLIP)
HAYES: Is that the way it works?
AKERMAN: Of course not.
HAYES: I give you ten bucks? Here`s ten bucks, give me attorney-client
AKERMAN: And he must have asked about a parking ticket that he got. I
mean, this is ridiculous.
HAYES: Plus, the other thing is that if the Hannity account of it is
accurate, it`s weird for Cohen`s lawyers to say we have three clients and
one is this guy, that we have this – right?
GREEN: Chris, go back and look at the letter that Cohen`s lawyer gave to
the court on Friday and it goes to great lengths, ambitious lengths to
protect the nature, the relationship with this particular unnamed client at
the client`s request. Fast forward to today, not so much.
HAYES: And Hannity is saying that I was not a party. I never made this
request. So like, someone is not telling the truth here. And that`s just
the tip of the iceberg. I mean, your point here, I think which is an
important takeaway from today is they are not going to get away with some
scheme in which they get the documents back.
GREEN: No. It`s really unfortunate that what we`ve done today is sort of
muddy the waters and I hope people don`t leave this with an – a
misunderstanding of how limited the privilege can really be.
AKERMAN: But this is really significant, really significant.
HAYES: I feel pretty clear on that. Nick Akerman and Lisa Green, great
help. Thank you both.
AKERMAN: Thank you.
HAYES: Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff is the Ranking Member of the
House Intelligence Committee. You`re – you have worked as a federal
prosecutor. You`ve worked in courts. Your response to the President`s
personal attorney filing a motion to sort of upends standard operating
procedure from the Department of Justice?
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE:
What I find refreshing about this, Chris, is the fact that the rule of law
won the day here. The President`s lawyer wasn`t treated differently than
any other lawyer. The same procedures that would be used in any courtroom
in the country to decide what is attorney-client privilege and what is not
were applied by this judge, which will probably mean the judge earns the
condemnation of the President. But I think it is very encouraging for
country to see that no one is above the law, including the President`s
lawyer or the President himself. The Justice Department was going to dot
every I and cross every T before they ever sought any warrant on an
attorney, let alone the President`s attorney. So you have to think they
put a lot of thought, did a lot of scrutiny of this before they went
forward. The fact that he has been under investigation apparently for
months means this is very serious business, and they wouldn`t go to this
step lightly, so you know, the right ruling by the judge here. Frankly,
Chris, the deal that you were marveling at that the Trump and Cohen lawyers
wanted where they got to decide what they turn over to the prosecutors is
basically the deal they got from our majority in our committee. We wanted
to subpoena Michael Cohen`s travel records. We wanted to get his credit
card records. We wanted to determine did he go to Prague or did he go to
somewhere else that he had this meeting? And interestingly, Chris, the
allegations in the Steele documents about Michael Cohen are that he was the
fixer, brought in to fix the Manafort problems, the information was coming
out about Carter Page. He was the fixer brought in. So that is certainly
consistent with the kind of work he was doing for the President. But we
were never able to pursue it. Basically, Cohen was able to decide, I`ll
let you know what I feel like turning over to you.
HAYES: Since you brought up Prague, I want to ask you about this McClatchy
reporting that broke Friday. We covered on this show that sources –
Mueller has evidence – I want to be careful here – has evidence Cohen was
in Prague in 2016 confirming part of the dossier. Did that come as news to
you? Is that credible to you?
SCHIFF: Well, you know, it came as news to me what the special counsel
has. As I was mentioning, we were never really allowed to pursue this.
And it was you know, part of a trend with our committee. The only
subpoenas, the majority was really interested in pursuing were subpoenas
against our own government, not against witnesses who were trying to be
recalcitrant or stonewall us. And so they subpoenaed the Justice
Department, they subpoenaed the FBI. They threatened to impeach the FBI
Director. But can we get a subpoena for Michael Cohen`s travel records?
No. Can we get a subpoena to get Steve Bannon to answer questions or Hope
Hicks or the President`s son? No. So we were not able to get the answers
we needed which is why there`s so much work left undone. Why we can`t
figure out whether Roger Stone was being truthful or whether Erik Prince
was being truthful. That work is still going to have to be done, if not by
us, then by the Special Counsel.
HAYES: There`s a school of thought I hear coming from Republicans, allies
of the President that there`s something illegitimate, if it ends up being
the case that the investigation into Russia and the possibility of
collusion and Russian interference leads investigators towards other
evidence of wrongdoing or crimes committed by people in the President`s
circle or by the President himself. That stuff somehow doesn`t count.
It`s in some other category. The only thing that matters is this sort of
narrow question of did the President collude. What is your response to it?
SCHIFF: Well, first of all, the scope of the investigation, the charter
that Bob Mueller has been given is to do a Russia investigation, the
relationship between Russia and the Trump campaign, but also to investigate
anything that arises from that. Now, I don`t know that you can say that
the Stormy Daniels stuff – and I`d have to look back at the origin of it,
that seems to arise independently and it may be part of the reason why that
was referred to the Southern District of New York and not pursued by Bob
Mueller. Now it may very well be that when they go through these documents
that they do find evidence that`s very pertinent to the Mueller
investigation, which case it would be provided to Bob Mueller. But just
because there is a Russia investigation doesn`t mean the President or his
lawyer or anybody else gets a get out of jail free card if it comes to the
attention of law enforcement that they have violated the law. So I think
the Justice Department, I think Bob Mueller are doing exactly what they
should. I think the judge today did exactly what the judge should. And
this is evidence of the system working. But of course, that system is at
risk every time the President threatens to fire people at justice or the
special counsel because he doesn`t like the way the system works.
HAYES: Finally, Congressman, do you have an opinion on Sean Hannity and
the President sharing a lawyer apparently?
SCHIFF: Well, you know, it is interesting, of course, why this particular
lawyer who doesn`t have an expertise in real estate, why would Sean Hannity
of all people seek out legal advice from Michael Cohen? And if – you
know, the insinuation of Sean Hannity is I paid him ten bucks because I
wanted to make sure that that conversation couldn`t be disclosed unless it
was some kind of a shady real estate deal, that really doesn`t make sense
either. If you`re just asking about flipping houses or where good
investments or you know, how do I get the deed for something. That`s not
the kind of thing you worry about needing to protect from attorney-client
HAYES: All right, Congressman Adam Schiff, thanks for your time tonight.
SCHIFF: Thank you.
HAYES: Next, Senator Chris Murphy and the President`s sudden decision to
reverse Russia sanctions just one day after they were announced. Senator
Murphy joins me in two minutes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HALEY: You will see that Russian sanctions will be coming down. Secretary
Mnuchin will be announcing those on Monday, if he hasn`t already and they
will go directly to any sort of companies that were dealing with equipment
related to Assad and chemical weapons used.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Yesterday U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley announced new Russia
sanctions. And then today, after Russia complained, President Trump walked
them back. Washington Post reporting Trump was, “upset the sanctions were
being officially being rolled out because he was not yet comfortable
executing them.” Joining me is Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of
Connecticut, Member of the Foreign Relations Committee. And Senator, this
fits with a broader pattern in which the President seems to be at odds with
his own administration over Russia. What do you make of it?
SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT), SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: Well, the
foreign policy of this administration is a slow-motion car crash. And
every single time that an administration official gets trotted out just to
be overridden by the President hours or days later, it weakens American
credibility across the board. So separate and aside from the specific
question of what the heck our policy is vis-a-vis Russia, we are seeing
American influence atrophy because Rex Tillerson and Nikki Haley are often
contradicted by the President within the news cycle. I have no idea what
the President`s policy towards Russia is. On one hand, he has been very
slow to sanction Russia. He is walking back Haley`s commitment with
respect to these latest sanction. On the other hand, he did take steps
that the Obama administration was unwilling to take, sending lethal arms to
the Ukrainians in the middle of that fight. The sanctions he finally did
announce a week and a half ago resulted in a ten percent diminution of the
Russian stock market. It just seems to be you know, a policy that`s made
up on the fly on a day-to-day basis. And you know, ultimately, you know,
that makes no sense to the rest of our allies who are trying to be in this
with us together.
HAYES: Is there a risk there? It seems to me that it`s fair to
characterize the Trump administration as both being more solicitous and
easier on Russia and Putin, and also more aggressive at the same time.
MURPHY: Yes. Listen, and I think you have to be fair that you know, this
policy has been somewhat schizophrenic. There have been aggressive steps
taken and then there have been moments in which Russia has gotten much of
what it wanted. But this the broader sense, let`s be clear that Russia is
the winner in this relationship over the last year and a half because let`s
set aside these specific policies regarding sanctions. By America`s
withdrawal from the Middle East, Russia has inserted itself in a way that
has empowered it in a region that they have long been asking for power.
The assault on the State Department, which is the primary means by which we
push back against Russia`s asymmetric methods of warfare in and around its
periphery, has been a gift to Russia. So whether or not we`re you know,
going to do the next round of sanctions, Russia is getting a gift by
America`s general withdrawal from the places that it cares about.
HAYES: Finally in this, do you – do you think the President is motivated
by being compromised in some way?
MURPHY: There is certainly a possibility of that. I mean, it`s hard to
understand why he has been unwilling to take steps that both Republicans
and Democrats in Congress have wanted him to take. And the message that he
has sent overall to the Russians is that they are by and large free to
manipulate the 2018 elections in the way they did in 2016. And I think we
are all trying to figure out what the reason is for this very bizarre
positioning that we`ve watched on Russia.
HAYES: The President ordered strikes on three sites in Syria controlled by
the the Assad regime, alleged to be involved in the production or storage
of chemical weapons. On Friday night, he said this via Twitter. “A
perfectly executed strike last night. Thank you for France, the United
Kingdom for their wisdom, and the power of their fine military. It could
not have had a better result. Mission accomplished.” Was it mission
MURPHY: What was your mission? If your mission was to look tough and
dominate a news cycle, he did that. But if your mission is to actually
bring the civil war to an end, to save the people of Syria, then there is
no way the mission is accomplished. Evidence suggests that these surgical
missile strikes end up just quickening the pace of Assad`s assault on his
own people. That`s what happened after last year`s strike, and the
politics of escalation in which American actions get met with equal or
greater reactions from the Iranians and the Syrians and the Russians is
ultimately awful news for the people of that country. So that mission is
certainly not accomplished.
HAYES: I would just interject that there is some reporting indicating
there has been further strikes just in the last hour perhaps carried out by
the Israelis. That`s not – it`s all sort of unconfirmed. That`s sort of
floating around right now. But that`s in the background. Do you – I just
want to be clear. Did you oppose the strikes? Do you oppose them?
MURPHY: Yes, I did oppose the strikes.
HAYES: Substantively, not just on a sort of legal basis?
MURPHY: On both strategic and legal grounds. I understand that it makes
us feel good to hit Assad, and he deserves everything that he gets. But
ultimately if our desire is to bring this civil war to an end, we are going
to have to live with some very unsavory terms. That will likely mean that
Assad or some successor to Assad stays in power. And every time that we
continue this policy, which has been the Obama policy and the Trump policy
of providing just enough pushback against Assad to keep the civil war
going, but never enough pushback to actually dislodge him from power. All
we are doing is postponing the misery of the Syrian people without actually
having any policy that will mean that Assad is removed from power. And so
I argue for a reorientation of our policy here that seeks a diplomatic end
that may end up with Assad or his allies staying in power for a period of
time but ends the carnage.
HAYES: Finally, you announce today you`re a no on Pompeo for Secretary of
State. Quickly, why?
MURPHY: Yes, listen, Pompeo may end up being a better Secretary of State
than Rex Tillerson, but that`s a pretty low bar. What I`m worried about is
that there`s going to be no one walking into the President`s office that is
going to recommend diplomatic solutions to big complicated problems in the
world. Bolton is going to advocate for a military response.
Traditionally, the Department of Defense comes in with military options.
Now Pompeo, who has a reputation of thinking about military options before
diplomatic options will just add fuel to that fire. And so I see both
sides of the ledger with Pompeo. I actually think he will restore some
morale to the Department. Ultimately I`m worried about the advice that he
will give side by side with the advice that the President is going to get
from his new National Security Adviser.
HAYES: All right, Senator Chris Murphy, thanks for being with me tonight.
MURPHY: Thank you.
HAYES: Next, over 500 former staffers at the DOJ say the attacks on
Special Counsel Robert Mueller are so concerning, Congress needs to act.
The efforts to protect Mueller after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN: Can you assure the American people that Rod Rosenstein
and the special counsel are safe, that the president will not move on them
until the work is completed?
KELYANNE CONWAY, WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: So the president and his team have
complied with everything that they`ve been asked to do.
CUOMO: Not the question. Is there a chance that he will get rid of
CONWAY: No, no. I`m saying – you want to say Kellyanne struggles to
answer the question. She won`t…
CUOMO: You are struggling to answer the question. Do you think there is a
chance that the president will remove Rod Rosenstein and/or Bob Mueller?
CONWAY: The president has done everything that he and his team have been
asked to do to comply with this investigation, and you know it.
CUOMO: Why aren`t you answering this question?
CONWAY: He makes the personnel decisions around here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway refusing to answer whether
the president will fire, and then commenting on her refusal, Deputy
Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Now a
bipartisan group of senators plan to introduce legislation to protect
Mueller but it faces a very tough battle in the senate. If Trump does fire
Mueller or Rosenstein, my next guest says it will be an attack on the very
foundations of the country. Ian Bassin is a former associate White House
counsel and executive director of Protect Democracy, and he joins me now.
You guys came out with this letter, hundreds of ex-DOJ workers signing a
petition to protect Mueller and Rosenstein. Who are these people? And
what are they saying?
IAN BASSIN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, PROTECT DEMOCRACY: Look, these are
hundreds of officials who have served in our Department of Justice from
everyadministration between Kennedy and Trump. They come from 43 states.
They served under Democrats and Republicans. If you total it up, they have
served the public for more than 5,320 years.
These are people who are saying this is not a partisan issue, this is about
the rule of law and the foundation of our republic. We are at a Rubicon
moment, and they are telling the president we are a nation of laws and not
of men, and firing Mueller or Rosenstein would be a very dangerous moment
for the very foundation of our country.
HAYES: Do you view them as equivalent in terms of the danger, in terms of
firing either is essentially the same?
BASSIN: I think I do for this reason: none of us, as American citizens,
get to choose our own prosecutors, our own investigators, who decides what
we did or what we didn`t do, or whether what we did was right or wrong,
neither does the president. We only give power to elected officials in
this country under certain constraints. And what the president would be
doing by removing either of them is saying those constraints don`t apply to
me. And that`s completely inconsistent with American government.
HAYES: The other side of that, though, and this is the argument that some
make – Alan Dershowitz is one of them, prominently, is that none of us get
to decide who the deputy general is, right. Like, there is something
special about the president, and the special thing is he runs the federal
government, and one of the things he does is he nominates and appoints
people, and he also fires them. They serve at sort of at his pleasure.
BASSIN: Within certain limits, and this is, I think what is really being
missed in this entire debate, right. People are talking about, well, the
president has the power to appoint and remove certain officials. Yes.
Except for one restriction, he took a oath and the constitution requires
him to take care that the laws be faithfully executed. Removing an
official for a corrupt purpose such as blocking an investigation into one`s
self is not a faithful execution of the law.
So, this is fundamentally not just potentially evidence of obstruction, but
it`s a violation of the constitution of the president`s oath.
HAYES: Paul Ryan has been very circumspect about taking any actions.
There has been some movement in the Senate. Thom Tillis, Republican
Senator from North Carolina talking about getting behind some sort of bill
to protect Mueller, Chuck Grassley making some noise about that in the
house. You hear basically nothing. Here is Paul Ryan talking to Chuck
Todd this weekend. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHUCK TODD, HOST, MEET THE PRESS: Do you believe that if the Senate passes
this bill to protect Mueller, protect the (inaudible) firing, you`ll bring
it up in the House?
REP. PAUL RYAN, (R) WISCONSIN: I don`t think it`s necessary. I don`t
think he is going to fire Mueller. I think it would be…
TODD: Insurance isn`t necessary – insurance might not be necessary, but
you buy it. I mean, this is an insurance policy.
RYAN: First of all, I don`t think he should be fired. I think he should
be left to do his job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Is that enough?
BASSIN: Chuck Todd`s point, you could take a step further, right? This is
like saying I`m not
going to get insurance for my house because I don`t think it`s going to get
robbed, except in this case the robber has told you that he is trying to
rob your house. He has told his associates to case it. He even tweeted,
hey, I`m looking at your house, right.
HAYES: He is standing outside with a boombox playing a song calling I`m
going to rob you.
BASSIN: And is someone said that about your house, you wouldn`t just get
insurance, you would get heavy-duty security. So, it is absolutely remiss
of any member of congress to say, as Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan have no,
there is nothing going on here. There`s nothing that worries us. That`s
just – they`re looking at a different reality than the rest of us.
HAYES: Ian Bassin from Protect Democracy, thanks for making time.
BASSIN: Thanks, Chris.
HAYES: Still to come, as Trump world remains in attack mode, the important
takeaways from the first day of James Comey`s book tour, have you heard of
Plus, tonight`s Thing One, Thing Two starts next.
HAYES: Thing One tonight, we all make mistakes, this show included for
sure. But the Trump White House has become somewhat notorious for its
frequent and careless errors. For instance, the slew of typos like the
president`s official schedule listing his travel on Air Force once, a
snapshot story about the secretary of education that managed to somehow
misspell the word “education,” or ahead of Trump`s first meeting with
British Prime Minister Theresa May, misspelling her name three times which
matched the spelling of a former British porn actress.
Now, to be fair, those mistakes were relatively harmless. But even on the
most crucial matters, issues of war and peace, life and death, this White
House has shown they little regard for the accuracy or veracity of just
about anything they put out.
Last week when the president was considering taking military action in
Syria, the White House statement released reading in part we are continuing
to asses the intelligence. And the day after Trump ordered strikes on
Syria, his press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted, quote, “last
night the president put our adversaries on notice. When he draws a red
line, he enforces it,” along with a photo of Trump and senior staff in the
Situation Room. There is just one problem. See Vice President Mike Pence
there sitting right next to Trump`s right? Pence was over 3,000 miles away
from the Situation Room on Friday when Trump ordered the strikes on Syria.
And that`s Thing Two in 60 seconds.
HAYES: White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders sent out this
tweet on Saturday,
“last night the president put our adversaries on notice. When he draws a
red line, he enforces it,” along with a photo captioned “inside the
Situation Room as the president is briefed on Syria.”
In that photo, President Trump is surrounded by senior members of his
staff, including Sanders herself on the far left, and Vice President Mike
Pence to Trump`s right. That, however, doesn`t quite add up because Vice
President Pence was in Peru on a Friday when Trump issued the order to
Syria, so this couldn`t possibly be a picture of Trump ordering decisive
action against, which was roundly mocked on Twitter until Sanders Tweeted a
clarification the next day, the photo was taken Thursday in the Situation
Room during Syria briefing.
HAYES: Time once again to check in on the cartoonishly corrupt EPA chief
Scott Pruitt. Today, the General Accountability Office, the budgetary
watchdog, found that the EPA broke the law with the installation of that
$43,000 soundproof phone booth Pruitt insisted on for his office.
According to their regulations, any renovation over $5,000 requires
congressional approval. So, that`s a $38,000 overrun.
Now the EPA, in its defense, argued the super secret soundproof booth was,
quote, analogous to other functional items an employee might require to
perform his job duties, such as a high speed computer, high speed
copier/scanner, or television.
The Government Accountability Office did not buy it. We should note that a
totally secure area for communication known, as a skiff, already exists on
another floor at the EPA.
And all this, of course, comes amid a seemingly endless stream of Pruitt
revelations, including his first class travel, his massive, totally
unprecedented security detail, which is quite expensive to boot, his $50 a
night sweetheart deal to stay in a lobbyist`s condo, his big pay raises to
certain staffers going around the White House, which he denied but which
appeared to have originated with him and his attempt to have an EPA
souvenir coin be redesigned to strip off the EPA logo and name on it.
Today, the GAO report concluded the EPA must officially report its own law
breaking to congress with regard to the phone booth. As for everything
else, we are left to wonder when Scott Pruitt will finally be fired.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: I don`t buy the stuff about him being
mentally incompetent, early stages of dementia. He strikes me as a person
of above average intelligence who`s
tracking conversations and knows what`s going on. I don`t think he`s
medically unfit to be president, I think he`s morally unfit to be
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Nearly 10 million people watched that interview with fired FBI
Director James Comey last night. It seems the president was one of them,
not surprisingly rage tweeting this morning at Comey claiming Comey
committed many crimes.
Here to help me process all of this, MSNBC contributor, New York Times
investigative journalist Nick Confessore; MSNBC contributor Jennifer Rubin,
a columnist at The Washington Post; and Jason Johnson, MSNBC political
analyst and the politics editor of The Root.
Jason, let me start with you. What was your takeaway from the interview
JASON JOHNSON, POLITICS EDITOR, THE ROOT: I thought that if – look, Comey
could either be right or he can be liked. I didn`t find him to be
particularly likable, but he seemed to really make the case of the
corruption that`s going on in this administration. I think he was still
inconsistent about why he made some of the decisions that he made. And I
think – I mean, this guy threw more shade than Lenscrafters. I mean,
every other comment he made about Donald Trump, about his tie, about his
hair, about he`s got above average intelligence and can track a
conversation like he`s a chihuahua or something else like that. I don`t
think he came off personally particularly charismatic, but the facts he
laid out are the facts. And this administration seems like they`ve been
HAYES: What did you think, Jennifer?
JENNIFER RUBIN, THE WASHINGTON POST: I think two things. One, you can be
honest and also have horrible judgment. And I think both things are true
of Mr. Comey. I think he honestly related what happened with the
If I were the special prosecutor, I would not be pleased with a witness who
is so obviously, shall we say, biased against the president. I share that
bias with Mr. Comey, but he wouldn`t want me as
a witness either, so that`s not good if you`re trying to make the case this
is a guy by the book.
But with regard to Hillary Clinton, again and again this guy showed such a
lack of self-awareness, such ego, that he was going to race in and save the
day. He was going to run over the normal protections that we have, like
you don`t explain why you`re not prosecuting someone, like you don`t step
into a election cycle 11 days before, because he was going to save the day.
He was going to protect the FBI and himself, by the way.
And you just have to go back and look and say guy, you know, you really
should have been a little bit more humble, a little bit more self-aware.
HAYES: And the rules – I mean, one of the things I find interesting here,
Nick, is this back and forth between Loretta Lynch where he`s got this kind
of stuff in the book and the interview about
doubting her, how neutral she was, her integrity, one foot in, one foot
out. And she put out a long statement in response. I thought this part
was very interesting. She said, “at critical early stages of this case, I
followed the department`s long-standing policy of neither confirming nor
denying the fact of an ongoing investigation. The policy both predates my
tenure in the department and will live on long after the current debate is
over. It neither misleads nor misinforms, instead both protects
investigations and guarantees equal treatment of those under scrutiny
whether well known or unknown. Any suggestion I invoked this bedrock
policy for any other reason is simply false.”
NICK CONFESSORE, NEW YORK TIMES: Listen, I`m not sure that either Comey or
Lynch comes out great in this scenario. It seems pretty clear that Lynch
was putting some pressure on him to take some pressure off Hillary Clinton,
that she was interceding.
Look, I think we see in this interview…
HAYES: I`m not sure that – I think it seems pretty clear that`s the case.
CONFESSORE: It is to me.
HAYES: I think he interpreted that as being the case. Go ahead.
CONFESSORE: All right.
But look, this whole rollout shows a side of Comey – Comey is a
politician. And he hates that idea. And I`m not saying that to criticize
him, but he is a politician. The institution he happens to lead or led was
the FBI, but he acts as a politician. And so what happened – this is the
great irony of Comey, right – he did all these things he said to keep the
bureau away from politics, but at every point his decision dragged the
bureau into politics.
CONFESSORE: Right from the decision. And I think the real questionable
one really on its own merits from his description was to announce the
reopening of the email investigation, which
was then over in a matter of days. There is no compelling argument – with
his experience, he should have known that they could easily have figured
that out in a few days.
CONFESSORE: But instead he jumped the gun.
HAYES: And he still defends it.
I think, Jason, my thing about Comey, and obviously there`s a lot of reason
that he has had a
very storied career and incredibly impressive guy, very smart,
accomplished. I know a lot of people that worked with him in both the Bush
and Obama administration think very highly of him.
There`s a bit of like a roommate problem with him, which is that if your
buddy has got a bad roommate and your buddy is complaining about that
roommate, that`s fine. But if your buddy has a
succession of six bad roommates in a row you start to think like maybe
you`re the bad roommate. And there`s a little bit of like James Comey is
always the last honest man surrounded by all these people who aren`t as
virtuous as he is.
JOHNSON: Right, isn`t it funny the self-righteousness of like I just don`t
understand why everyone else doesn`t have my ridiculous level of Boy Scout
ethics. But here`s what`s interesting, in the process you managed to
ignore what your boss said – I mean, Loretta Lynch, regardless of what her
personal biases may be, she`s absolutely correct in saying we don`t talk
about any of this, James. We don`t talk about any of this. That`s the
most ethical and responsible way to go forward.
He ignored his boss. He endangered basically the presidency of the United
States by involving the FBI. He damaged the FBI`s reputation all because
he claims he didn`t know any better, but he was
supposedly sick to his stomach.
You know, all of that is extremely problematic and these problems always go
back to him. If we had a more ethical president these will be legitimate
reasons to fire the guy.
HAYES: Well, here – this sort of segues, Jennifer, to the way that he
talks about the president. And I thought there was nothing, I think
substantively new in the interview last night, because a lot of it had been
previewed, but what I did think was interesting was his characterization of
Trump as canny and as wily and attempting to suborn him at every turn in
ways that weren`t haphazard, but rather quite intentional. And I think
that picture of him to me at least quite convincing. What did you think?
RUBIN: I did. I think Trump has an intelligence not that you and I might
recognize as book intelligence, but a way of persuading and manipulating
people. And I think that`s what Comey saw. It was pretty obvious,
actually. He didn`t try to straighten himself or try to conceal it at all.
He makes a lot of references to the mafia references.
So I think Trump is like a bulldog. He knows what he wants. And he`s just
going to roll over anyone and anything, of course any norms or rules, to
get what he wants. And I think that was right, that was Comey was viewing.
And by the way, on the subject of politics what is this guy doing
prognosticating the election? He said we were all operating in the world
that Hillary was going to win. That`s exactly why you don`t have people
making decisions that could affect an election 11 days before.
HAYES: I also thought his impeachment answer was almost a parody of some
kind of version of centrism where he says like the guy`s unfit to be
president, possibly obstructed justice, I can`t definitively say he`s not
compromised with the Russians, but impeachment would be too easy an out for
the American people who need to stand and vote again.
CONFESSORE: I mean, look, Comey has an opinion on so many things about the
president, so many things from the size of his hands and to his height.
And yet on this one thing – now, look, it maybe a legitimate view on his
point, right. And there`s a certain argument you could make that the
country needs like a bloodletting or something to get rid of this.
But look, he chose his shots very carefully. It was all very deliberate.
And I think what he was saying about the president was that the president
has an instinct for leverage and influence, and so keep that in mind as you
watch this play out.
HAYES: Yeah, and that to me was important, because I think sometimes –
and I had Hillary Clinton was sitting right in that chair when I
interviewed her for almost an entire show, for an entire show. The first
exchange we had was on this, you know, that which school are you in, the
kind of like
dottering accidental doofus or the very canny and wily operator? And she
is wholly in the latter, and Comey is. And I think a lot of the people
that have had the experience of being on the underneath the
truck that he is driving come away feeling that, and that was interesting
to me about that interview last night.
Nick Confessore, Jennifer Rubin, and Jason Johnson, thank you all for being
I would be remiss, of course, not to mention that James Comey is sitting
down with our own
Rachel Maddow this Tthursday night in what I`m certain will be a phenomenal
interview which I am going to be watching and you should too.
That is All In for this evening. The Rachel Maddow Show starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
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