Eric Holder: “Our democracy is under attack.” TRANSCRIPT: 04/17/2018. All In with Chris Hayes
Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES
Date: April 17, 2018
Guest: Andy Card, David Jolly, Barbara Boxer, Eric Holder
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: – and she played a role in that and he played a role
in that and them republicanization of Texas is a key fact in American
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It is and to this
day, we just had the news just a couple of weeks ago, it was a Bush
grandson who is running for office there and surviving a Republican Primary
there in Texas so that Bush family name in Texas carries on. Jon Meacham,
thank you for joining us. Michelle Goldberg, John (INAUDIBLE), Beth Fouhy,
I appreciate you being with us. Again, the breaking news at this hour, the
former first lady Barbara Bush, she has passed away at the age of 92.
Chris Hayes is here to take up our coverage.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: All right, Steve, thank you very much. And yes,
breaking news tonight, Barbara Bush has died at the age of 92, falling a
long illness. First Lady of the United States from 1989 to 1993, she was
the wife of one President George Herbert Walker Bush, the mother of the
second President Bush, one of the most remarkable lives in American
political history. Joining me now, NBC News Chief Foreign Affairs
Correspondent Andrea Mitchell. Andrea, your thoughts at this moment.
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Great
sadness, great appreciation for all she did for the grace, for the courage,
her loyalty to her family, for the way she chose to die because she went
through this passage with tremendous faith and also sending a message about
individual choice. She did not want more treatment. She had been in and
out of the hospital and any of us who know what it`s been like to nurse
your own parents or be with your own parents as they go through these
stages know just how complicated it is. And so she made – she made these
choices for herself and her family supported her. Her husband was with her
as she was going into her final sleep. Her children had been in and out of
Houston. Neil Bush was very emotion in an interview this morning and
others in the family obviously deeply affected. Our own Jenna Bush Hager
expressed her thoughts about the woman that she called affectionately the
enforcer “THE TODAY” show yesterday morning. They knew that she had been
very ill for a long time.
And although there had been so much focus, of course, on the former
President Bush, he suffering from Parkinson`s and in a wheelchair and very
frail, it was she with congestive heart failure and with the pulmonary
disease that really brought her down that was more gravely ill, so her
health had been failing for quite some time. In these last few days,
friends and family members were coming and reading to her, in particular,
reading from her memoir. She deeply appreciated that. One reader was
Susan Baker, the wife of the former Secretary of State, Treasury Secretary
and Chief of Staff, so very close friends, people who were deeply
religious. And she was very religious and increasingly so in recent years.
So her faith sustained her. Her love for this man that she fell in love
with 73 years ago, they were the longest married couple in American
presidential history and also she was the first woman since Abigail Adams,
only the second woman in American history to be the wife of one president
and the mother of another.
HAYES: You know, in accounts of Barbara Bush that I`ve read through the
years and talking to people that were around the Bushes, in every account,
she emerges as such a formidable presence. I mean, Jenna calls her the
enforcer. But this was someone who loomed very large in the world of what
would become essentially the most powerful political family in America.
MITCHELL: Indeed. She was more than just the matriarch, the mother, the
spouse. She in fact according to Nicolle Wallace whom I interviewed about
her yesterday who knew the family, knows the family so well, she was the
best politician of the whole bunch and that Jon Meacham shared his
thoughts, there would never have been a President Bush 41 if there had not
been a Barbara Bush. It was Barbara Bush who went to Texas. She was the
debutante from Rye, who fell in love at first sight with the Connecticut
Yankee at a dance when she was still – it was I believe before Pearl
Harbor. And he went off to become the youngest naval aviator of his
generation and she as a member of the greatest generation was at home.
They married during a leave. And then in 1948, when he was out of the
service and had gone back to school, and finished his college education, at
Yale, she moved to Odessa, Texas. And if she had not moved to Odessa,
Texas and then to Midland, Texas and given in particular her sons those
Texas roots, there wouldn`t have been either President Bush.
It was – she who understood the feelings, the – was empathetic to the
needs and feelings and strivings of more ordinary Americans than what the
patrician elder Bush family had been used to and even in her own upraising.
And so that was certainly what gave them the ability to embrace American
culture, the American West in a way they never would have been. If she had
not been willing to move 27 times in 73 years of marriage whether it was
going to China as the envoy there before we had diplomatic relations with
China, to the CIA as well as to the United Nations when he was the
Ambassador there. And then watching her son become president and then
watching, of course, the disappointments politically of her son Jeb and now
campaigning, as well in recent years for George P Bush, Jeb`s son. So, so
many generations of Bushes owe her so much, the love, the loyalty and the
fierce pride that she had and devotion to her family.
HAYES: I want you to stay with us if that`s all right, Andrea. I want to
bring in now by phone Michael Beschloss, who`s the NBC News Presidential
Historian. Michael, this is a – this is a historic figure in American
life and at the center of a family that will be written about for
generations to come in the American political project.
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, NBC NEWS PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: That`s for sure,
Chris. And you know, oftentimes it`s hard to know what the place in
history will be of an iconic figure like Barbara Bush but in this case,
it`s easy. There were only two women in American history who had a husband
who was president and a son who was president. One was Abigail Adams and
the other was Barbara Bush.
HAYES: And, of course, she played those dual roles alongside many other
roles that she played at a time of far more focus and intense spotlight
than in the era before the modern media.
BESCHLOSS: that is for sure. And you know, she already was a political
wife at a time changing in two particular ways. Obviously, the role of
women in American life and particularly American political life, look how
different it was at the time that George H.W. Bush went into politics in
1964 when he ran for the Senate from Texas, you know, versus the way it is
now. And the other thing is that the Republican party that both Bushes got
into in the early 1960`s, that was still a party where there was a big
northeastern wing. They had both come out of the northeast New York and
New England. In a way, they sort of symbolized the movement of the center
of gravity from New England and the northeast in the Republican Party all
the way down to the southwest. And in a way when George and Barbara Bush
went to Texas as this adventurous young couple in the late 1940s, they were
sort of preceding the movement of power within the Republican Party.
HAYES: Andrea, I wonder where her sort of political center is in terms of
the trajectory of the party that Michael describing because it has been
fascinating to watch a party that obviously her husband was a name in the
Republican politics. He comes from a long line of politicians. Prescott
Bush and business holders and sort of stalwart pillars of the northeastern
Republican establishment into the Party that it has become and she`s an
interesting sort of person to observe that trajectory up close.
MITCHELL: The traditional conservative Republican, certainly not a Trump
populist, certainly not someone who would be anti-immigrant. I think on
freedom of choice, on the whole issue of abortion, that`s been a
complicated decision for a lot of the Bush women. And I think that
privately certainly I think she is – she would lean toward being much more
liberal than the conservative policies that her husband and her son had to
follow given the influence of the conservative right and the evangelical
right within the party. But this is not the Republican Party of Donald
Trump. This is the Republican Party of traditional Middle America and also
Wall Street, the east coast certainly Prescott Bush, the Senator who was
the father of George Herbert Walker Bush. So there`s a long line of very
strong people in their family and very devoted to public service.
I mean, think about someone who had been not only the CIA Director, the
U.N. Ambassador, the envoy to China, the Republican National Chairman when
Nixon was going through Watergate, loyal to a fault, but also Vice
President for two terms under Ronald Reagan and then President for one
term. And of course, the huge disappointment in 1992 when he failed to win
presidency, it was clearly the passing to a new generation. And I was
covering the Clinton-Gore campaign and you could see the baby boomers as we
traveled to bus trips across America replacing George Bush who never was
the retail politician certainly that his son became.
HAYES: Joining us now by phone is Andy Card, he`s a former Chief of Staff
to President W. Bush. Andy, your recollections of Barbara Bush.
ANDY CARD, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO GEORGE W. BUSH: Barbara Bush is a –
she`s a force. And she`s even a force when she`s not with us. Her
conscience will last for a generation or two or three. There`s not a doubt
in my mind. But she was someone who was unvarnished in her telling the
truth and she would hold you to that unvarnished truth. So she was – she
was a force. And the truth is, I consider her continue to be a force
because she was a true deep conscience to her husband, to her sons, to her
daughter. She was a conscience for anyone close to her environment and I
think about her all the time and I`m not with her all the time and I
continue to think about her.
HAYES: It`s interesting you said that, Andy. She was obviously – she was
the mother of the President when you were working as the chief of staff for
George W. Bush. As the Chief of Staff, I mean, and this relates to
something I was saying before. She was a presence in that White House,
right? I mean, she was someone that you would interact with and who also
had opinions and views about how the country should go and how the
presidency should go.
CARD: It`s funny. She never put her thumb on the scale of policy. It was
always on the scale of do the right thing. And so it was less about the
policy and more just do the right thing. And she had great understanding
of the role, the tough decisions are for a president. She knew that. And
she would – she would frequently talk to me and she wanted to know how her
son was doing. She cared about her son. And yes, he could almost always
tell if I had heard from his mother. So – but she was a presence and
she`ll continue to be a presence. But more than that, there was a
tremendous love story that Barbara Bush and George H.W. Bush defined for
the world. And it`s a love story that I got to witness back in the 1970s
and all the way through the unbelievable successes they had and the
frustrations they had, the disappointments they had. But their love was
like so rock solid. And even within the last few weeks, I was down in
Houston and I was having lunch with the President and he had come from the
hospital where he had been with his wife and after lunch, he was going to
go back to the hospital. And he said to me, she still likes to hold my
hand. And I was weeping as he said it. Theirs is a love story and she
knew how to give tough love and she knew how to give soft love but it was
always love and that`s great thing that I got to witness.
HAYES: All right, I want to thank Andy Card, Michael Beschloss, and Andrea
Mitchell. Thank you all for joining us for this breaking news covering the
passing away of Barbara Bush, First Lady, mother of President George W.
Bush at the age of 92. Joining me from West Palm Beach, Peter Alexander
who traveled with the current President, President Trump to Florida where
he is for the week. And Peter, I understand, the White House has issued a
PETER ALEXANDER, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we did hear from
the President and First Lady within the last few minutes posting a
statement just moments ago celebrating the life of the former First Lady
Barbara Bush, speaking about her devotion to family and to country. The
President with a lot of words of praise, the First Family sending their
thoughts and prayers to the friends and family of Mrs. Bush, as well. But
you really are struck on this night about the sort of fact that this is a
president, as a candidate who really ran against what the Bush family
represented. You remember some of the fierce attacks that President Trump
and Candidate Trump lashed out against Jeb Bush, of course.
Frankly, he said that her mom had swooped in to try to help save her son.
He was biting in his criticism which is what`s striking as you hear the
kind words of course from Donald Trump tonight, of course, as president.
The bottom line this President tonight continues with his efforts, he`s
focused on other topics hosting Shinzo Abe and his wife alongside, the
First Lady at Mar-a-Lago tonight, their focus on North Korea and trade
talks as well. But it will be interesting to see who represents this
administration for the funeral in the days ahead. I wouldn`t be surprised
if we either see the Vice President or the First Lady attend, but that
information hasn`t yet been provided.
HAYES: You don`t think the President is going to go. Is that right?
ALEXANDER: We don`t know. It`s possible. He`s scheduled to be here
through the end of this week. No, there are no indications at this time
about what the White House`s plans are, whether the President himself will
travel. So at this point, it`s frankly too early to tell. But obviously,
there is – there is a great fraternity among past presidents. All the
former Presidents haven`t been in one place together before. Remember, the
Bushes didn`t make it to President Trump`s inauguration. Of course, a lot
of it due to the failing health of the senior Bush at the time back then.
So it would be a remarkable scene to see all the presidents gathered
together. But at this time, we just don`t know the answer to that.
HAYES: All right, Peter Alexander, thank you. With me now, David Jolly
from Republican Congressman from Florida, Barbara Boxer former Democratic
Senator from California. David, your thoughts about Barbara Bush and more
broadly the Bush family and how it intersected with the broad trajectory of
the party you call home, the Republican Party.
DAVID JOLLY, FORMER CONGRESSMAN OF FLORIDA: Sure. Barbara Bush was a
remarkable woman. There was a certain grace, dignity, a quiet power, if
will you, to her presence. She was – she and George Bush were the very
first couple I ever met as a young campaign volunteer in Atlanta. They had
flown in from their last debate in Michigan, that 1992 presidential race.
The race had largely gotten away from them but they arrived and spent the
next 24 hours as though win or lose, they were doing what they felt was
right for the country and they were going to win or lose with great
dignity. And to your point, Chris, we can`t overlook the contrast between
the Bush legacy and state of the Republican Party today. The reality is,
there is not much room for the dignity of the Bush family in today`s
Republican Party. That`s a political conversation that continues to be had
within the GOP. But tonight we celebrate a truly wonderful and remarkable
HAYES: Senator Boxer what, are your recollections?
BARBARA BOXER, FORMER SENATOR OF CALIFORNIA: Well, I have great memories
because I was in the House of Representatives when Barbara Bush was First
Lady and George Herbert Walker Bush was President. They were very
gracious. She was always gracious. But what I loved about her, what I`ll
always remember is that she was fiercely independent. You could tell. She
was always by her husband`s side. She`d do anything for her family, but
she had her own views and with a twinkle in her eye as her husband had to
move to the right on issues such as a woman`s right to choose, she sent out
a lot of signals that don`t worry about it. She was still there for women
and she did it in a way I can`t even describe it. It was charming.
HAYES: You know, it is the course of the Republican Party and the family
dynasty that she has now overseen for a lot of these many years, David
Jolly, and to Peter Alexander`s point about Donald Trump running against
it. I mean, Donald Trump spent months basically calling her son Jeb a
simpering doofus over and over and over again. And a lot of that was
animated by a certain kind of anti-dynastic feel among the Republican base.
JOLLY: Sure, no, that`s absolutely true. And listen, I admit to taking
Jeb Bush`s side of that argument and not Donald Trump`s. The Bush legacy
is one of rich experience and qualifications, frankly that contrast existed
between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, as well. The Bush family and the
Clintons each brought rich government experience that as we saw in the last
election was largely rejected because of this kind of nativist tribal
populism that Donald Trump has sold. Listen, there are many reasons to
condemn Donald Trump`s populism tonight in the state of the Republican
Party. It is worth as a nation though, taking a pause to celebrate the
Bush legacy and Barbara Bush personally for her contribution to our nation.
HAYES: Senator Boxer, how do you think about the women in the Republican
Party and the Republican Party that Barbara Bush was part of for so long
and where it is right now?
BOXER: Well, there`s just hardly any moderates there. David will tell you
what happens if you`re moderate, if you even talk to a Democrat and what
Trump did to the Bush family when he went after Jeb the way he did, so
cynically and brutally, was to take a wrecking ball to the history of the
Republican Party. And you know, you might say, well, Barbara, what are
your credentials for speaking about Republicans, I`m a lifelong Democrat.
But you know, my first big campaign I supported a Republican named Peter
Bear for the State Senate because he was a great environmentalist. We had
a different Republican Party. And of course, the Bushes were part of that.
And it was a big tent. I mean, Barbara was in one side of the tent, her
husband was kind of moving toward the right. But it was very different
then. And the Republican Party has changed so dramatically, it saddens me.
HAYES: All right, former Congressman David Jolly and former Senator
Barbara Boxer, thank you so much for making time on this evening. NBC`s
Kelly O`Donnell joins us now from Houston where Barbara Bush died tonight.
Kelly, what`s the latest?
KELLY O`DONNELL, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE & CAPITOL HILL CORRESPONDENT: Well,
good evening, Chris. This is a mix of a beautiful evening in a city she
loved and the sadness of this news. Barbara Bush passed away peacefully
today as you`ve been discussing and this city will now play host in a
matter of days to dignitaries from around the world, around the country,
and from the pages of our own recent American history. The stature of a
First Lady passing is always particularly notable because they remain among
the most popular people in the political sphere. That was certainly true
of Barbara Bush, it`s true of first ladies since that time. And it is part
of where the American family has the opportunity to acknowledge what first
families mean to us. Those who serve in the office of president are about
the days in and out of the difficulties of politics, the first ladies
typically give us some themes that matter.
Tonight, we`re already seeing responses from lawmakers. Senator Cornyn of
course, from Texas, talking about the blessing she was to this country.
The President and First Lady also acknowledging her contribution to the
American family and her quest to try to help many more enjoy the real
possibilities of literacy, one of her important works in office as the
First Lady and an influence in the time since. One of the things I can
tell you having not covered them in the White House but often in the years
since is that toughness of Barbara Bush. President George W. Bush who I
covered extensively always talked about his mother as the enforcer. And
perhaps the most recent time among those recent times where I saw her was
at Kennebunkport and President George H.W. Bush 41 wanted to take a small
group of us around for a tour at Kennebunkport. Mrs. Bush was there and I
could see by her expression the idea of taking reporters around for a tour
was not what she had in mind. That enforcer quality whereas President Bush
41 was in a mood to sort of show off their family estate there at Walker`s
Point which is such a treasured part of the family history.
More recently I saw Mrs. Bush when she was in New Hampshire a little over a
year ago with Jeb Bush at a time when his campaign was flagging. And you
remember the history where after having a husband and a son in the White
House, she publicly expressed concerns about another Bush running, another
American family may be their time. But she did come out for Jeb Bush. And
that was a night where he talked about any mistakes had he made, they were
his own, not his mother`s. And it was a time when New Hampshire voters
were called back to past campaigns for the other George Bushes and then
trying to translate that you to Jeb Bush. Well, we know where that history
went. But on that night, she was a mother trying to help her son. We also
saw her helping George P. Bush who is a statewide official here in Texas.
So when you look at the sweep of Barbara Bush`s contributions, she was in
some ways a very traditional First Lady, she was also the backbone of a
family that had so much success. And now, over the next few days, the
country will come here to Houston to remember her. Chris?
HAYES: All right, Kelly O`Donnell, thank you very much. Still ahead, a
lot of news to bring you tonight after this break. Former Attorney General
Eric Holder joins me on set. That`s in just two minutes.
HAYES: All right. The branch of government charged with maintaining and
enforcing the rule of law in this country, the Department of Justice, has
been facing unprecedented and potentially transformative attacks on its
legitimacy, many coming often directly from the President of the United
States. There`s no one better to discuss the attacks on the rule of law
and the Department of Justice in this county, my next guest, the man who
led the Justice Department under President Obama from 2009 to 2015, former
Attorney General Eric Holder. It`s great to have you here. First, I just
want to ask for your recollections of Barbara Bush.
ERIC HOLDER, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: She was a formidable woman and
exhibited a quality that I think is so lacking in our – in our lives now,
class. She was a woman of class. I have to say that is true of her
husband, as well. I would not say that they were ideological soul mates
and yet, had I great respect for them. I`ve gotten to know George W. Bush
a little bit and he exhibits I think that same characteristic, class.
HAYES: You`re here at state of time that many people feel the Republic is
in peril, that we`re nearing a crisis point. Do you feel that way?
HOLDER: I think I`ve said this and I don`t think it`s hyperbolic that I
think our Democracy is under attack. If you look at the question of
gerrymandering, the question of voter suppression, if you look at the way
in which the norms that have normally kind of cabined the way in which the
government interacts with the people, the way in which government – people
in government interact with each other. A lot of these things are falling
by the way sided.
HAYES: What do you say to people say, you know, it`s held so far. You
know, the country hums along and unemployment is low and Robert Mueller is
continuing. I mean, look, you talking about independence of the Justice
Department. SDNY raided the President`s lawyer the other day. That`s a
pretty – it looks like everything is actually functioning.
HOLDER: Yes, our systems are holding but they are certainly being pressure
tested and that`s not necessarily a good thing. I mean, the fact that we
have the ability to say that a lot of this pressure is being placed on
these systems and that they are standing in place, it`s not necessary in a
normal situation, that pressure should not be applied to the situations,
the institutions in the way that they – in the way that they have been.
HAYES: Does the President have the authority to fire Rod Rosenstein?
HOLDER: I don`t think he has the ability to do it directly. On the other
hand, I don`t want to give them any ideas. But they`re – I think if he
were to rescind the regulation that –
HAYES: You`re talking about Mueller. I mean Rosenstein. I mean,
HOLDER: Rosenstein, yes, yes. He could do that.
HAYES: Would that be – would that constitute in your mind more evidence
of obstruction were he to do that.
HOLDER: I`m not sure it would necessarily by itself constitute
obstruction. The question would be, what was his intent in doing so? But
it would play into a narrative that I think leads one to conclude that the
President probably has engaged in some obstructive behavior.
HAYES: You know, James Comey obviously making the rounds this week and
someone that you worked with, had interactions within government. What is
– what is your assessment of his character and his truthfulness?
HOLDER: I think he is a truthful person. I think he`s a man of honor, a
person of integrity. I think he`s also a person who made some really
serious mistakes. And I wrote an article after he held that – after he
released that material in which I said that you know, good men can make
mistakes. And I think that`s what happened to Jim in 2016. But in terms
of his credibility, I think that that is a touchstone for him. He tells
the – he tells the truth.
HAYES: You know, he had – he had something to say about you that I wanted
to get your response to about – for a specific case which was the David
Petraeus case. And this is him saying – I thought David Petraeus should
have been prosecuted not just for the mishandling of classified information
but also for lying to the FBI because lying is it strikes to the heart of
the rule of law in the country. And in the end, the Attorney General at
the time, Eric Holder decided he would be charged only with a misdemeanor
mishandling of classified information. Did you go too easy on David
Petraeus? Do you step into that chain of authority to reduce the penalties
HOLDER: No, I followed the recommendations of all the lawyers who were
involved in the case including the United States Attorney who had the
responsibility for that matter, and taking it to account all the facts in
that case and some unique circumstances and taking into account the
recommendation that came from Jim, from Jim Comey. I thought that the
resolution that we ultimately decided was appropriate.
HAYES: It was not a political determination on your hand that David
Petraeus, his political capital meant that charging with him a felony would
be politically toxic?
HOLDER: No. That never entered my calculation at all. I knew General
Petraeus as a colleague for a very limited amount of time. And in terms of
politics, that never entered my mind.
HAYES: One of the things about watching Mueller go to work right now, it
sometimes feels to me like is it true that there`s just a bunch of really
egregious ehite collar crime that`s just hanging out there that is not
Like, Paul Manafort`s pattern of doing what he was doing with his various
bank accounts and real estate dealings, it was out there in the public,
WNYC reported on it. And here comes Mueller. And puts out an indictment
that tracks the reporting on it. And it makes me wonder like should I
think that there`s a lot of stuff like this that just isn`t being
prosecuted? Or is there something special happening here with the people
around the president`s circle.
HOLDER: I`m not sure about that. I mean, you know, there`s a lot of crime
that happens I think generally that doesn`t get reported. People are
stealing things out of grocery stores. There are people doing things in
banks that they shouldn`t be doing.
HAYES: A lot of the drugs moving around that never get busted.
HOLDER: Yeah. And – but when it comes to the things that are truly
consequential, truly important, I think that law enforcement generally,
generally, not all the time, but generally focuses its attention on those
kinds of matters and generally holds people to account.
HAYES: What is Mueller`s strategy here as you watch it develop?
HOLDER: I think this is a classic case. He`s building from the bottom up,
you know? And people have to understand that this is going to take some
time. This is – we`re only about a year or so into this. From my view of
this, I always thought this was about a two-year case.
HOLDER: Yeah. But I think they`ve been really moving almost at light
speed what they have done in that first year. But this is – you`re
building from the bottom up. You build the cases that you can and try to
flip people until you work your way up to the top. It`s a classic public
HAYES: I want to play you something that Mitch McConnell said about
protecting Mueller. And I thought it was interesting whether there would
be legislation introduced.
There`s been some movement in the judiciary committee. There`s some
interest from Thom Tillis, Republican of North Carolina, Chuck Grassley,
Republican as well. This is what Mitch McConnell had to say about it
today. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s a move afoot among some of your colleagues just
to make sure the president doesn`t get rid of Mueller, to institutionally
shield Mueller from being fired. How do you feel about that?
MITCH MCCONNELL, (R) KENTUCKY: Well, that`s not necessary. There`s no
indication that Mueller`s going to be fired. I don`t think the president`s
going to do that. And just as a practical matter, even if we passed it,
why would he sign it?
I`m the one who decides what we take to the floor. That`s my
responsibility as the majority leader. And we`ll not be having this on the
floor of the senate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: What do you think about that.
HOLDER: You don`t build a hurricane wall when you see Katrina five miles
out from the shore. I think there`s a basis for us to conclude that Bob
Mueller potentially could be fired by this president. So, let`s put in
place a mechanism that would prevent that from happening.
You think about the chaos that wouldbe unleashed in there country, the
constitutional crisis that
this nation would go have to face and undoubtedly then have to try to
endure. You can take this preventive measure that would stop all of that
in its tracks.
HAYES: Why do you think they won`t do it?
HOLDER: I think that they are afraid of angering the Trump base, which is
the Republican base. And we can`t make that distinction anymore. This
notion there is a Trump base which is different from the Republican base is
inconsistent with all the polling I think that we`ve seen. They are
concerned about making sure their base comes out, their base votes in
November, that their base is behind them, people who still have to deal
with primaries. And I think at some basic level, they`re afraid of him.
HAYES: Do you understand that base is motivated primarily or in large part
by racial animus?
HOLDER: NO, I`m not sure about that. I think there`s a lot of fear that
this president has certainly stoked, and he has certainly used race as a
mechanism to engender that fear. But I don`t think that is a primary
motivator of the Trump base.
HAYES: What about Jeff Sessions?
HOLDER: You know, he is an interesting are case. He`s a person I think
who is kind of stuck in the 1980s, you know in the failed policies of that
era. The notion that we want to get as many people as we can, put them in
jail for as long as we can, and think that that in and of itself is the way
to keep the American people safe without really looking at all of the
things that have happened since then.
HAYES: Does it strike you there`s a contradiction between the way the
president talks about the rule of law when it`s people like Rob Porter who
was accuse of domestic violence by two
different women and he talks about there`s no due process for him and he
talks about how there`s no attorney/client privilege. He`s a real kind of
almost bleeding heart liberal public defender-minded
person when he talking about due process and protection for people in his
inner circle. And when he talks about drug dealers, he says we should
execute drug dealers and we should deport all these immigrants. How do you
make sense of those two different ways the president talks about law and
HOLDER: Well, believes in situational law and order. And there is no way
that I think you can resolve the tension that you have you just described.
He is not a believer in the rule of law. He wants to make sure that those
people who he likes, the people who support him, are treated in one way and
those other people, whoever those other people are, are treated in a
HAYES: We`re going to now do something slightly strange, which is going to
play a game of Eric Holder, this is your life with an individual that you
worked with at the Justice Department who is
going to come and join the table who is a friend of the show. Matt Miller
is going to join us. We`re going to talk about what is going on the in
that Department of Justice right now and the attacks that are happening on
it. Stay with us if you would.
And you at home, as well. We`ll be right back.
HAYES: We are back with my guest, former Attorney General Eric Holder.
Also joining me, MSNBC Justice Analyst Matt Miller, chief spokesman at the
Department of Justice when Holder was the attorney general.
We talk a lot in this news cycle about the independence of the Justice
Department. It`s a word that has a lot of force and meaning. But I think
for people outside it, what does that actually mean, lik day-to-day lived
reality how you think about it and the culture of that place when you were
there in the Obama administration?
HOLDER: Given the power that the attorney general has, the ability to
deprive people of their liberty, the ability to actually execute people,
that power has to be used in a way that is independent of any political
influence. And so on a day-to-day basis, we were – we made sure that we
made our decisions on the basis of the law and the facts without any
consideration of what the White House wanted us to do, sometimes to the
detriment of the relationship that we had with the White House, not
anything that was necessarily expressed directly to me, but things that I
heard, you know, maybe some time thereafter.
Because I think in the Obama administration, the president realized that an
independent Justice Department was something that was important.
HAYES: What did it mean to you when you were there, Matt?
MATT MILLER, FORMER DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE SPOKESMAN: Well, I came to the
Justice Department from politics and learned pretty early that you had to
take this job – you had to look at this job differently than any job you
had ever had, because there is this culture inside the department. And you
learn it on day one. And everyone understands it that you don`t talk to
the White House about criminal cases. You can talk to them about some
things. You can talk about policy matters. You can talk to them about
communications matters, but you don`t talk to them about criminal cases.
And you never in a million years would talk to him about a criminal case
that involved someone at the White House or someone close to the White
House, which is what has made watching this White House so hard is that the
White House intervenes all the time about the things that affect the
president, things that affect the president`s friends. And the other
side, too, trying to affect the president`s political opponents, so trying
to get them to prosecute Hillary Clinton.
HAYES: I mean, here`s the president – these are just some tweets from the
president. “Everybody is asking why the Justice Department isn`t looking
into all the dishonesty going on with crooked Hillary Clinton and the
Dems.” “Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a very weak position on
Hillary Clinton crimes. Where are emails, DNC server and intel leakers?”
Why is AG Jeff Sessions asking the IG to investigate potentially massive
FISA abuse will take forever. Has no prosecutorial power. Isn`t the IG an
Obama guy? Why not use Justice Department lawyers. Disgraceful.”
I mean, this amounts to the president ordering his AG publicly to prosecute
his political enemies.
HOLDER: Right. And that`s a very frightening thing.
And, you know, our institutions have held. And I think our institutions
will probably hold. But these are tests of our institutions and we have
seen these kinds of things in other countries in earlier times. And I
think we have to be cognizant of that.
This is – there are things that are at risk here by that kind of conduct
of the president.
HAYES: But here`s the thing – yeah, go ahead.
MILLER: I was going to say, so the institutions have held. You haven`t
seen Hillary Clinton
be indicted and them trying to prosecute.
But you see the Justice Department scurrying around all the time trying to
do little things to make the president happy. So, appoint a U.S. attorney
to document review, coming over and meeting with the president to turn over
documents about the Clinton investigation. You see them freeing up a so-
called whistleblower on the Uranium One thing to go testify to congress
because the president was angry and had his White House counsel call over.
So, you see all these little…
HAYES: Chipping away.
MILLER: …lines being crossed. They can`t give the president the big
thing he wants. They can`t fire Mueller. They can`t prosecute Hillary, so
they do these little things to try to make him happy.
HOLDER: But taht erosion on the margins has an impact, you know. And it`s
something that we should not discount.
There is not a huge line between having a system that works correctly and
one that works incorrectly, and the more of this little stuff that you do,
that line disappears.
HAYES: That to me is the most profound take away from this moment. As I
sit here every day and try to process and listen to the news is, you know,
we think about the constitution – everyone talks about the constitution.
Like, all this stuff we`re talking about, the Department of Justice, the
White House, none of is it in the constitution. The Justice Department
doesn`t get created until the Grant administration, if I`m not mistaken,
All this stuff about – well, the president shouldn`t just direct people to
prosecute his enemies – that`s not in the constitution. You can do that,
right. I mean, I guess the question is, at the end of the day, what is
stopping it? What holds it back?
HOLDER: There are norms that have – we`ve always had.
HAYES: God, does that sound insufficient to the task.
HOLDER: Insufficient to the task, and yet it is part of I think the
American DNA, the American
governmental DNA. But we`re being tested now.
And the question is whether or not we have sufficient amounts of that DNA
in our system.
HAYES: But there`s got to be – what does that DNA look like? Like,
there`s got to be something – that means people – when you say DNA, what
that means is people make decisions, like the people in the SDNY make the
decision that we are going to be a search warrant on the president`s
lawyer, because that is what our job in the law demands.
MILLER: Yeah, it`s in the – right now it`s the DNA kind of embedded in
people at all level of the department. But if you had an attorney general,
for example, who decided he wanted to take a
different approach and said, you know what, the president wants this done.
I`m going to do it. You could see that change.
You would see, I think, people resign. You would see people walk away, but
the attorney general could probably do some of it.
I think the question that will happen – you know, trump is going to go
away some day, I hope. And one of the questions we`ll have to look back
and say, you know, kind of like after Watergate, are norms enough or do we
need to codify some of these structures that prevent this kind of
HAYES: Do you have faith fundamentally in the judgment and integrity of
Jeff Sessions to uphold the norms we`re discussing?
HOLDER: I worry a great deal.
HAYES: That`s not a yes.
HOLDER: It`s not a yes. And this is a very difficult thing for me to say.
It`s a very, very difficult thing for me to say. I`m not a person who
likes to criticize my predecessors, successors, because I know how tough
the job can be, and yet the actions he has taken in response to criticisms
that he`s received from the president, his desire it appears to me to curry
favor with the president who
views him disfavorably worries me a great deal. I`m not at all certain
that he has got the steel that an attorney general has to have.
I mean, in my conference room, as Matt will note, you get to pick four
attorneys general that you display. I had Elliott Richardson, left, two
down, to remind me that at some point an attorney general has got to say no
to a president. And maybe you`re going to lose your
job as a result of that. And I don`t have faith in Jeff Sessions that he
would look at Elliott Richardson in the same that way I did.
HAYES: I`m not sure I`ll get the most honest answer from you for this
question, so I`ll ask you,
is he running for president? Is Eric Holder running?
MILLER: I keep asking him, because I want to know if I have to quit my job
and move to Iowa, so I don`t know…
HOLDER: If he will promise to be my press secretary, I might consider it.
HAYES: You are considering it.
HOLDER: Yeah, I`m thinking about did. But I`ve not made any
determinations and focusing on the work I`m doing with the National
Democratic Redistricting Committee and trying to deal with gerrymandering.
HAYES: Which successfully got Scott Walker to call a special election he
was trying to get out of.
HOLDER: Yeah, and we elected a Wisconsin supreme court justice there,
campaigned there, and got into a bit of a Twitter war with Governor Walker.
HAYES: Dude, stay out of Twitter wars. First person, let me tell you. If
there`s one piece of
life advice I can offer you, Eric Holder, it`s – there`s one thing I know
about really deeply, is stay out of Twitter wars.
HOLDER: Native New Yorker, born in the Bronx. Can`t take too much…
HAYES: Born in the Bronx here, as well.
All right, former Attorney General Eric Holder, you are invited to come by
this table any time you`re in New York City. I loved having you. And DOJ
former chief spokesman Matt Miller, who recently had a child in your
family. Congratulations on that. I haven`t had a chance to congratulate
All right, up next, another incredible day of news regarding the
investigation into the president`s lawyer, the one we were just talking
about. What we learned about Michael Cohen and Trump`s favorite cable news
HAYES: Tonight, two of the closest allies to the president of the United
States are caught in a
tightening legal vice. Michael Cohen, the president`s personal attorney
and long-time fixer, and Sean Hannity, his informal adviser and on air
water carrier, whose show the president has promoted as recently as last
week. A day after being exposed in court proceedings as Cohen`s mysterious
client number three, Hannity is downplaying their relationship, blaming the
controversy on the president`s political foes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: Yeah, I did have attorney/client conversations
mostly over real estate. You know, it just is so corrupt, it is such a
double standard, and it is so obnoxious on so many different levels, but
it`s never going to go away because the mission, when you really look at,
is Bannon, has been, to never let Trump get elected. And then from the day
he was elected to undermine
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Now, Hannity failed to disclose his relationship to Cohen when he
repeatedly, on air, blasted the FBI`s raids on Cohen last week, exposing
him, possibly, as his sort of client, maybe.
He has also failed to inform his bosses over at Trump TV, though they don`t
frankly seem to care much, saying in a statement, “while Fox News was
unaware of Sean Hannity`s informal relationship with Michael Cohen, and was
surprised by the announcement in court yesterday,” join
the club, “we have reviewed the matter and spoken to Sean and he continues
to have our full support.”
It`s nice when bosses stand behind you.
Now, the same cannot be said for frequent Trump TV guest, and informal
Trump legal adviser Alan Dershowitz, who scolded Hannity last night during
an unrelated segment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALAN DERSHOWITZ, FOX NEWS CONTRBITURO: Well, first of all, Sean, I do want
to say that I really think that you should have disclosed your relationship
with Cohen when you talked about him on the show. You could you have said
just that you had asked him for advise or whatever. But I think it would
have been much, much better had you disclosed that relationship.
You were in a difficult situation, obviously.
HANNITY: If you were to understand the nature of it, professor – I`m
going to deal with this later in the show. It was minimal.
DERSHOWITZ: I understand. But you should have said that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Yeah, Alan Dershowitz speaks the truth.
It turns out that, though, that is not the full extent of Hannity`s legal
involvement with Trump world, because it goes way beyond Michael Cohen.
Check this out. That other guy, the one who was on last night with Alan
Dershowitz, he is, of course, conservative lawyer named Joe Digenova, who
came comes on the show quite frequently to bash the Mueller investigation.
He was at one point slated to actually join the president`s real-life legal
team with his wife, attorney Victoria Tensing.
According to The Atlantic last year, a radio station in Oklahoma received a
cease and desist letter from some lawyers for Sean Hannity, who were, Joe
Digenova, Victoria Tensing, and one Jay Sekulow, who is currently the only
attorney representing the president full-time in the Russia probe.
The Hannity letter was reportedly sent before Sekulow joined the
It kind of makes you wonder what else, besides lawyers, Hannity may be
sharing with the president.
But while the scrutiny on Hannity is causing headaches, it`s the criminal
investigation of Michael Cohen that has people panicked inside the White
House, including reporetedly the president himself.
According to the Associated Press, Trump`s moods have grown darker in
recent days. He lashes out at the overreach of the raid. In court
yesterday, his attorneys lost a bid for the president to personally screen
the material that was seized last week before investigators get a look at
Prosecutors told the court they took 10 boxes of documents from Cohen`s
properties, plus countless files from different electronic devices,
including recordings, according to reports.
It`s just one sign of the serious legal jeopardy that Cohen now faces, and,
crucially, the increasing pressure he is likely to come under to cooperate
with prosecutors and flip on his one-time boss.
According to Stormy Daniels` lawyer, Michael Avenatti, who has had a front
row seat to all this, and in the court room yesterday, Cohen`s time may be
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS` ATTORNEY: From what I have heard, from
what I have seen, there`s no question that Michael Cohen is going to be
charged, it`s only a question of when, and I think it is going to happen
within the next 90 days. Based on my experience in white collar criminal
investigations, and prosecutions, the likelihood of him not rolling over is
very, very slim. I can`t imagine he is going to go to trial or potential
face 10, 15, 20, 25 years in a federal penitentiary for anybody, let alone
a guy, Donald Trump, who left him behind when he went to Washington, D.C.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Rosie Gray is the White House correspondent for The Atlantic, who
broke the story that Sean Hannity was represented by additional Trump
lawyers, besides Cohen; New Yorker staff writer Adam Davidson; and Joyce
Vance, former U.S. attorney for the southern district of Alabama.
And Rosie, let me start with you. What`s the story there? He just uses
the lawyers that he has
on his show?
ROSIE GRAY, THE ATLANTIC: Well, I`m not sure exactly how the relationship
first came about, but what we do know is that Tensing, Digenova and
Sekulow`s names were on this cease and desist letter that was sent to this
radio station in Oklahoma.
And so, in other words, these are people who have frequently been on Sean
Hannity`s show, and who have also performed legal work for him.
HAYES: Yeah, it makes it seem like it`s not a one-time thing, Adam.
ADAM DAVIDSON, THE NEW YORKER: Yes. It – you see a small group of people
who go around servicing people like Hannity and others. There`s, for
example, Jay Sekulow has been representing by the PR guy, Ron Terosian (ph)
who has represented many of the characters involved in
And you start to get a picture of a sort of New York-centric, but not
exclusively New York, club that these people have access to that Trump is -
- was a part of and now is at the center of.
HAYES: I`m just going to tell viewers that if we have a lawyer on the show
who is doing legal work for me, I will definitely let you know that.
Joyce, my sense is that Michael Cohen, when you take a step back, when yhou
sort of process the raid, and process the sort of hearing yesterday, he is
facing very, very serious exposure and very serious possibility of
indictment and many years in prison.
JOYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: He absolutely is.
So, one of the charges prosecutors identified in the search warrant, you
know, there were three that they looked at – but the bank fraud charges,
for instance, face a 30 year mandatory – but rather a 30 year maximum
When defendants are actually charged, it`s usually less than that
statuatory maximum, but even with that accounted for, Cohen is looking at a
lot of time in prison, and that will give him, as Michael Avenatti pointed
out, a significant incentive to cooperate with prosecutors.
So, the question becomes, what does he know? What does Michael Cohen have
to say? And one of the most interesting things, Chris, is just a few
moments ago, apparently, he filed, Michael Cohen, yet an additional
pleading in the Stormy Daniels case, reaffirming his request that the judge
stay that civil proceeding, setting it aside, so it won`t go forward during
the criminal investigation, because, Cohen says, he would violate his Fifth
Amendment right against self-incrimination, if he had
to testify in the civil case.
So that`s really stunning. The president`s lawyer is saying my testimony
in a civil case would tend to incriminate me in a criminal one.
HAYES: Rosie, as someone who covers the people in this universe and covers
Sean Hannity, as well, like do you think of Cohen and Hannity as having a
relationship, as being associates?
GRAY: It wouldn`t have been the first thing that sprung to mind. It
doesn`t surprise me that they know each other. I believe that Cohen has
been on Hannity`s program before, so it`s not that much of a surprise that
they know each other.
But, I mean, I think I was as surprised as anyone else when that he was the
mystery client number three.
HAYES: I wonder – Adam, you wrote this piece that got a lot of attention
that very, very sharp, and really I`ve been sort of thinking of – you said
Michael Cohen and the end stage of the Trump presidency. Now, people have
been predicting since the day he came down the escalator, like it`s all
going to be done in three days and we said – I like people that haven`t
been captured about John McCain, they`ve all been proven wrong, right.
We`re still here.
But I thought you meant something more than that. What did you mean in
DAVIDSON: Well, in the piece, I talk about times in my professional career
as a journalist where the facts on the ground, the things I was confronted
with, were very different from the national narrative. I thought of Iraq.
When I was in Iraq, actually on the day, and for a year after, that George
W. Bush landed with the Mission Accomplished sign, it was very clear at
that moment in Baghdad this thing is a disaster, this occupation is a
disaster. And that only became clearer. And yet presidential approval and
the war`s approval was sky high. And then I saw the world catch up.
The same thing happened with the financial crisis. I was late to it for
insiders, but I was much earlier than most of my friends in the national
conversation. But once it became clear, once the facts were clear, there
was just no question.
And here`s the thing, like many people who have covered the Trump
organization, this is an organization – I think the full – there are two
things we have not yet fully embraced as a country: how sketchy, how really
evil some of the people they did business with are. I mean, real sanctions
violators, sex traffickers, terrible people, not that the Trump
organization directly, that we know of, participated in that…
HAYES: But the people that they were doing business with.
DAVIDSON: That they were doing business with, the worst of the worst, and
clearly so. This was not some investigation you had to uncover, clearly
And what a small, sad pathetic business it was taking crazy risks to make a
million bucks here, two million there. Michael Cohen for the last decade,
he was not the top guy at the company, but he was, along with Ivanka and
Don Jr., the main person interfacing with these really sketchy people in
other parts of the world. He knows what Trump himself knew. He knows what
Ivanka and Don Jr. knew, because he was the one who would have told them.
HAYES: You know, Rosie, Cohen says – that this is one of my favorite
snapshots of our era. Michael Cohen said today “I would rather jump out of
a building than turn on Donald Trump.” According to Donny Deutsche (ph),
who ate lunch with him at Barney`s in Manhattan.
I think that was like the day after the raid.
The White House has to be hoping that`s true.
GRAY: Well, right.
I mean, the big risk here is that Michael Cohen would choose to cooperate
with the investigation and potentially say things that would be
incriminating for people even closer to Donald
Trump or Donald Trump himself. And so I think that obviously what they are
You know, you could sort of take the recent pardon of Scooter Libby as
maybe sort of an indication that Donald Trump is trying to send a signal
that he is willing to make certain kinds of pardons, which would be sort of
reassuring for somebody like Michael Cohen. But obviously the thing that
is a concern here is how much Michael Cohen knows and how much he would be
willing to say.
HAYES: As a veteran prosecutor, Joyce Vance, what do you expect happens
next in this?
VANCE: Well, one thing that prosecutors know is that it`s always dangerous
to have any kind of a crystal ball, because you don`t know how the evidence
will shape up. And prosecutors, the one thing that I`ll predict is that
they will methodically go through the evidence. They will determine
whether it matches up with any of the crimes that they believe it`s
possible to charge, and there will be an indictment if and only if after of
a thorough and rigorous consideration they believe they can prove beyond
all reasonable doubt that crimes were committed.
HAYES: And we have additional reporting the president continues to be
apoplectic about the raid of Michael Cohen.
And we should also note that it was revealed in one of the filings, the
government has been
reading his email for months.
DAVIDSON: And then raided him.
HAYES: And then raided him. So, that`s just sort of hanging out there in
Rosie Gray, Adam Davidson, Joyce Vance, thank you for joining me.
I want to revisit, of course, the big, breaking headline from this hour,
that is that former first lady Barbara Bush, the wife of President George
H.W. Bush, mother to president George W. Bush, has
died tonight following a long illness. She was 92-years-old.
That is All In for this evening.
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