Trump lawyers: Presidents can’t obstruct justice. TRANSCRIPT: 06/04/2018. All In with Chris Hayes
Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES
Date: June 4, 2018
Guest: Jeff Merkley
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: 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.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: – simply put, does the President believe he is above
HAYES: The President claims absolute power.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The claim in the letter is I am the law. I`m the king.
HAYES: Tonight, the fallout from the President`s claims on pardoning
RUDY GIULIANI, LAWYER OF PRESIDENT TRUMP: He has no intention of pardoning
himself but he probably – it doesn`t say can`t.
HAYES: And the astounding parallels to Richard Nixon.
RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well when the
President does it, that means that it is not illegal.
HAYES: Then –
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You said he did not dictate, the lawyers said he did.
HAYES: White House caught in a massive lie over the Trump Tower meeting
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I have no more
respond to the letter from the president`s outside counsel.
HAYES: And this is what child separation looks like.
SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D), OREGON: American citizens are funding this
HAYES: Senator Jeff Merkley goes to Texas.
MERKLEY: I`m a U.S. Senator.
HAYES: To investigate the Trump policy of separating migrant children from
MERKLEY: Can I go in with you please.
HAYES: and he`s back to tell me what he found when ALL IN starts right
MERKLEY: I`ve now been asked to leave the property.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Good evening from New York I`m Chris Hayes. The President of the
United States is asserting absolute authority to shield himself from legal
liability, a power grab at least in what is being asserted the likes of
which we have not seen since Richard Nixon. And this is exactly the kind
of constitutional crisis experts have been warning about. And well now it
looks like we are in the thick of it. It`s happening right now before our
very eyes. The President tweeting this morning, “As has been stated by
numerous legal scholars, I have the absolute right to pardon myself. But
why would I do that when I`ve done nothing wrong?” Now it`s not clear
which legal scholars the President`s referring to, most seem to disagree
with his conclusion. And the last time the Justice Department officially
weighed in on this very question in the waning days of the Nixon
administration. As the walls were closing in on Richard Nixon the DOJ`s
office of legal counsel ruled that “Under the fundamental rule that no one
may be a judge in his own case the President cannot pardon himself.”
Three days later, Nixon announced his resignation from office. But
according to this president and his legal team, there are no constraints on
the chief executive`s power to intervene in a federal investigation
including an investigation of which he himself is a subject. As is they
would have it the President cannot commit obstruction of justice when
exercising his vast powers as head of the executive branch. In a letter
delivered to Special Counsel back in January and published by the New York
Times on Saturday, the President`s lawyers argue that his actions by virtue
of his position as the chief law enforcement officer could neither
constitutionally nor legally constituted obstruction because that would
amount to him obstructing himself. Think about that. And that he could if
he wished terminate the inquiry or even exercise his power to pardon if he
so desired. It`s a similar argument to the one Nixon famously made after
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIXON: When the President does it, that means that it is not illegal.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: By definition?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: In interviews over the weekend Rudy Giuliani who joined the
President`s legal team after the letter was sent to Mueller acknowledge the
potential political consequences if the President were to pardon himself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIULIANI: President Trump is not going to do that. He`s obviously not
going to give up any of his pardon powers or any other future presidents
pardon powers but under these circumstances, he`s not going to do that.
The President of the United States pardoning himself would just be
unthinkable and it would – it would lead to probably an immediate
impeachment. You know you get – the House now send it beyond tremendous
pressure. President Trump has no need to do that. He didn`t do anything
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Nevertheless, Giuliani has continued to assert increasingly
ludicrous hypotheticals claiming the President could have shot James Comey
and still not be indicted for it even under those circumstances according
to Giuliani. The only penalty would be a political one. “Impeach him and
then you could do whatever you want to do to him.” Ask today if the
President considers himself to be above the law, the White House had a
tough time answering.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does the President believe that he is above the law?
SANDERS: Certainly not. The President hasn`t done anything wrong –
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) that there`s anything wrong, I guess the
question is does the President believed the framers envisioned a system
where the president can pardon himself, that the president could be above
SANDERS: Certainly the Constitution very clearly lays out the law and once
again the President hasn`t done anything wrong and we feel very comfortable
on that front.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just a moment ago you said it`s not it`s not that clear
so. I guess it simply put does the President believe he is above the law?
SANDERS: Certainly no one is above the law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: For more on the President`s claim he can pardon himself I`m joined
by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat from Rhode Island, a member of the
Senate Judiciary Committee. And we`ll start with start with that first
claim. Can the President pardon himself?
SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D), RHODE ISLAND: Nobody seems to think so and
particularly not the Department of Justice. This has been one of a series
of five different assertions that they`ve made that take us into I guess
kind of a legal bizarro world where the President can`t be subpoenaed, the
President can`t obstruct justice, the President can`t be charged with any
offense, the President can pardon himself, the President can shut down the
investigation, and oh, by the way, the whole Mueller investigation is
unconstitutional. I think – I think they went 0-6 on all of those.
HAYES: Would you – what is your action as someone who has the oversight
authority on a committee of the United States Senate that is there to hold
the executive to account to these kinds of claims being made even if not if
not in the commission of acts. He`s not actually pardoning himself in a
sort of general conceptual sense.
WHITEHOUSE: Well it`s probably the kind of thing that we should look into.
I`m hoping that there`ll be some hearings on this so we can explore it a
little bit. But it just seems – again what I said before, this is not
regular law. This is sort of bizarro law. If his lawyers really believed
all this stuff, why weren`t they saying it a year ago? I think we have
kind of squid ink lawyering happening as potentially the President
approaches his interview by Mueller or his subpoena from Mueller and
they`re stirring the pot as much as they can with whatever theory they can
come up with to try to put as much squid ink into the water as they can
before they have to face that what probably will be a debacle of an
interview. These are constitutional doctrines and theories, criminal law
theories that if they were real, there`s – these lawyers would have raised
them a long time ago, and all coming up now is just very suspicious.
HAYES: You know, it`s interesting to hear you talk, Senator, because what
I`m hearing from you, there`s two ways to interpret this. One is that this
is a dangerous sort of power grab by an executive that`s kind of feeling
its oaths, right? That it`s asserting larger and larger vistas of
WHITEHOUSE: Yes, I don`t see it that way.
HAYS: Yes, they`re operating from weakness is what you`re saying which is
WHITEHOUSE: I think – this feels to me more like weakness and desperation
and grasping at straws and being terrified at having to answer questions
under oath in a grand jury.
HAYES: Senator Chuck Grassley had this to say. He sits on your committee.
He chairs your committee and you`ve worked with him for a while of course.
This is what he had to say asked about whether the President could pardon
himself. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R-IA), CHAIRMAN, SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: If I
were President of United States and I had a lawyer that told me I could
pardon myself, I think I`d hire a new lawyer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: It doesn`t seem to be selling to Senator Grassley.
WHITEHOUSE: No, it doesn`t seem to have made the sale. You know, this is
– if you – if you`re a lawyer, if you do this stuff, if you do this stuff
pretty regularly, if you`ve watched it for years on the Judiciary Committee
like Chairman Grassley has, this is a little bit – I don`t know how to say
it any other way – this is bizarro law, not real law.
HAYES: Do you anticipate – can you anticipate a world in which they
actually put teeth in this? I mean, part of what`s been so strange about
this is there`s even assertions from the White House, there`s been trial
balloons, there`s been flags they`ve been running up, they`re giving these
pardons and all this sort of question is everyone`s circles about what
they`re going to actually do. Do you think they`re getting messages from
Capitol Hill about what they can actually get away with?
WHITEHOUSE: I suspect so. I think, as I`ve said before, one of the
biggest unanswered questions is what is the relationship between the Trump
legal team at the White House and the staff particularly on the House
Intelligence Committee who`s been doing the work here. How much has all of
Nunes`s stuff been scripted by the White House and isn`t even legitimate
congressional oversight, it`s just the White House legal arm acting through
its legislative colleagues? So there`s an awful lot that we still need to
learn about how this all connects, but that`s the biggest and baddest
question out there. Has the White House been driving the House
Intelligence Committee? What are the connections been between the staff?
Has Nunes been operating under instructions from the White House? So you
touch on a really important point but I think it goes to that bigger point.
HAYES: All right, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse is on the Senate Judiciary
Committee. Thank you for your time.
WHITEHOUSE: Of course.
HAYES: To help bring them the significance of this moment and the
parallels to Nixon I`m joined by MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST Jill Wine-Banks and
Nick Akerman, both former Watergate prosecutors. And let me start with
you, Nick. It was interesting to me what you – know, there are different
to view this and Senator Whitehouse is just like this is – this is
nonsense. This is flailing desperate nonsense. What do you think of that?
NICK AKERMAN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Oh I think it is. I mean, this would
be great arguments if the year was 1750 and we were talking about King
George, yes, these arguments would hold some water. But no, I think this
really – if you look at this memo and a first-year associate giving me
this memo, I would have fired the person on the spot. I mean, these are
just the weakest arguments that you could possibly raise: the idea that the
President can`t be subpoenaed. I mean U.S. v Nixon makes it very clear
that the President, all people have to give evidence. The Paula Jones case
makes it clear just by virtue of your office of being president doesn`t
mean you have some special you know, exception to being governed by the
law. I mean, the Supreme Court has already ruled on almost everything
that`s in that memo. I don`t see – this was just designed as a
promotional piece that they could use with the public to try and hoodwink
them and as part of what Donald Trump does in his usual sales pitch on
snake oil, this is snake oil put into a different package. That`s all it
is. It`s legal snake oil.
HAYES: Jill, do you agree?
JILL WINE-BANKS, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: I agree. I would also say that the
President is exerting powers that are not only non-existent for the
President but are more like that an emperor who has no clothes might claim
because it is ridiculous to have said any of these things. And it`s very
much like what Richard Nixon said when – as you quoted him tonight if I do
it it`s not illegal. But I would like to point out that Richard Nixon
didn`t say that until after he had been forced to resign and so it`s much
more dangerous to have a President who is actually in office now saying
that he has that power. That is very scary. It is delusional thinking of
a would-be dictator.
It is not appropriate for the President`s lawyers to be saying that. One
big difference here that`s important between Nixon and Trump is who is
running the show in Congress. And it seems to me the legal argument
they`re making which isn`t really legal arguments but it`s political
arguments, primarily is there is a single and lone constitutional remedy
for the conduct of the President in office and that is impeachment and he
can do anything he wants and the only card he runs up against is
impeachment and go ahead if you think you`re going to get these Republicans
to impeach this guy.
AKERMAN: Yes. And there`s no way the Republicans are going to impeach
HAYES: So it`s not that – it`s not that dumb an argument. I mean, it may
be legal hogwash, it maybe squid ink or snake oil but from a political
standpoint it`s basically saying, look we`ve got our base. We control the
levers and come at us.
AKERMAN: Well, they certainly control the impeachment levers that`s true.
But it there`s always a question about whether or not he could be indicted
and I truly believe that –
HAYES: You think that`s not as close to cases.
AKERMAN: I don`t think it`s a closed case. I think if you have a very
strong case, if you can actually prove that this President committed
treason, that he conspired with the Russians to get himself elected, to me
that would be –
HAYES: Over bar.
AKERMAN: That would be the bar to overcome.
HAYES: But there is this political question, Jill, I mean, when you guys
were working back on Nixon, I mean, the political lay of the land was
different with the Democratic Congress.
BANKS: It was. And we also had a special prosecutor at the time who
really believed that impeachment was the politically correct way to
proceed. That doesn`t mean that I personally or many members of my team on
the obstruction case did not believe, we did. We believed that the
President could be indicted and we thought that he should be indicted, that
justice demanded that he face the same consequences as his –
BANKS: Yes, absolutely. But we actually had Leon Jaworski appear before
the grand jury to explain why he didn`t think they should indict because
the grand jury agreed with us and they wanted to indict the president. The
evidence was quite clear. We chose the path of naming him an unindicted
co-conspirator which meant that the evidence of things he had said would be
admissible. It was very important for that reason. We also turned over a
report which was a roadmap of impeachment to an existing committee that
actually we felt we could trust with the information. I have to say now
that no matter how strongly worded the report is, I fear that the
Republicans will ignore it. At that time, the Republicans in – at the
time of Watergate the Republicans and Congress are the ones who went to
Nixon and said you must resign. We`ve seen the evidence. You will be
convicted. It was the Republicans who took that upon themselves. And
that`s what we need is some Republicans with some backbone to stand up to
HAYES: Well that is not on the horizon right now.
AKERMAN: No, no, absolutely not. I mean, that`s the big difference. I
mean, what Leon Jaworski did is he asked the entire staff to actually give
him memos as to their position on whether or not Richard Nixon should not
HAYES: Wow. All right, Jill Wine-Banks and Nick Ackerman, that was really
illuminating. Thank you. Great to have you both. Next the White House
and Don Jr. both caught in a major outright lie open-and-shut case, black
and white about the aftermath of the infamous Trump Tower meeting. What
this means for the Mueller investigation in two minutes.
HAYES: The White House is caught in a major lie tonight concerning that
now infamous Trump Tower meeting the Don Jr. convened to get Russian
government dirt on a Hillary Clinton. You remember that meeting. One that
came after Russians offered documents they claimed would “incriminate
Hillary” and Don Jr famously jumps to the opportunity writing “if it`s what
you say I love it.” As news that the meeting was about to break, but
before we knew the whole story in the public, the White House went into
crisis mode and the President and his advisors huddling on Air Force One to
craft some sort of explanation. What emerge you`ll remember was a
statement purportedly from Don Jr saying the meeting had been primarily
about Russian adoptions and making no mention of the real goal of getting
dirt on Hillary Clinton. Trump`s lawyer insisted that Don Jr. on his own
had written that misleading statement. Well, White House later said that
dad might have helped out but that the statement was largely Don Junior`s
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAY SEKULOW, LAWYER OF DONALD TRUMP: I do want to be clear that the
President was not involved in the drafting of the statement and did not
issue the statement. It came from Donald Trump Jr.
SANDERS: The President weighed in as any father would based on the limited
information that he had. He certainly didn`t dictate but you know, he –
like I said, he weighed in, offered suggestion like any father would do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Like any father would do in widely incriminating e-mail when
(INAUDIBLE) by his son`s activity. Even Don Jr. himself tried to cover for
his dad telling Congress, and this was under oath, I will note, that he did
not know if Trump was involved in drafting the misleading statement and
claiming that “I never spoke to my father about it. So for nearly a year,
let`s be clear here, team Trump claiming the President had little to no
involvement. Now, in that newly released letter to Robert Mueller, Trump`s
own lawyers say Trump himself dictated the misleading statement on his own
which would seem to implicate the President in an effort to cover up his
campaigns entanglement with Russia. Today Sarah Huckabee Sanders was
repeatedly asked to reconcile her past claims at that very poor very podium
in front of everyone like we saw on the tape with the new disclosure from
the President`s own lawyers and she did not have much of an answer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you say from the podium that it wasn`t dictated by
the President because his lawyers are saying something entirely different
and contradicting. How are we supposed to know what to believe? How can
we believe what you`re saying from the podium if the lawyers are saying
it`s entirely inaccurate?
SANDERS: Once again, I can`t comment on a letter from the President`s
outside counsel, I`ll direct you to them to answer it. John?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Literally you said he did not dictate, the lawyer said
he did. What is it?
SANDER: I will not respond to a letter from the President`s outside
counsel. We purposely walled off and I would refer you to them for
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Joining me now MSNBC Contributor Natasha Bertrand, Staffer at the
Atlantic covering the Russia investigation and Fordham Law School Professor
Jed Shugerman who argued in Slate yesterday the letter from Trump`s lawyers
amounts to an admission of obstruction. Natasha, let me start with you.
The significance of this lie now being exposed, what do you think it is?
NATASHA BERTRAND, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I mean, it`s always been fairly
obvious that Trump played a direct role in crafting the statement. Now we
have it in black and white which is actually kind of rare that we see this
kind of – it`s just this lie just so plainly out there. But the
significance of it is that it could be considered obstruction of justice as
Jed wrote in his piece for Slate. Of course, Trump was trying to perhaps
throw Mueller off the scent of potential coordination between his campaign
and Russia when they did meet with the Russians at Trump Tower or in the
height of the election in June 2016. And of course, we know that the
events surrounding all of that were extremely chaotic.
Trump dined with Putin the night before this bombshell story was released
by the New York Times that they talked about adoptions which of course is
code word for sanctions, for U.S. sanctions on Russia. And then the very
next day he assisted on dictating this statement on behalf of his son that
had to do with adoptions. And then you had Hope Hicks, the former
Communications Director who was saying to Mark Corallo, the former legal
spokesman that these – that these e-mails would never get out and
therefore they really had no reason to actually get out ahead of this and
say that in fact the real reason that the President`s son campaign chairman
and son-in-law met with the Russians was because they had offered dirt on
Hillary Clinton. So there was just this whole chaotic swirl of things that
were happening and the President was at the center of it.
HAYES: Yes. I want to get back to the timeline you just mentioned about
the possibility that he literally talked about this with Vladimir Putin,
but first Jed your argument. The memo makes this interesting. It says it
is a private matter I believe is the cause they use that look, basically,
they say the President can lie to whoever he wants about anything. That`s
not a legal issue. The President can craft a misleading statement that`s a
“private matter.” Why do you think that`s not true?
JED SHUGERMAN, PROFESSOR, FORDHAM LAW SCHOOL: Well, it turns out Congress
has passed a statute about witness tampering. And so that statute says
that whoever corruptly persuades or engages in misleading conduct with the
intent for influencing testimony, that`s a felony obstruction of justice
witness tampering. So first of all, the statement was a lie, right? It
was not about Russian adoptions. It turns out – Hope Hicks thought the e-
mails would never get out. I just want to be clear the reporting is that
Hope Hicks told Trump, President Trump on the conference call.
So this team is meeting not just about you know, they`re not issuing a
media statement about The Apprentice. They`re formulating a both a
political and a legal strategy because this is what is going to play out in
not only in the statement but in Trump`s upcoming – Trump Juniors upcoming
Congressional testimony that`s covered by the statute and it`s forced –
it`s not only foreseeable it`s inevitable that there will be an official
proceeding. So that lie was part of a legal – it was it was to corruptly
persuade right and use misleading conduct to influence testimony. That is
a felony under you know, under statutes that apply to everybody including
HAYES: The timeline you mentioned here is so fascinating right? So I want
to play the sound – so the night before – here`s the timeline. New York
Times contacts the White House and they say we got this something about
this Trump Tower meeting. Then the evening, Trump has a private chat with
Putin, they`re sitting together at this international summit. They talk to
each other just the two of them with no American translator and only a
Russian translator and Russian note-taker and then you get the dictated
statement for the President about adoptions. And when President is asked
about that meeting with Putin, this is what he says when he`s talking the
New York Times. Take a listen.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It was that a long
conversation but it was you know, it could be 15 minutes just talking about
things. actually, it was interesting. We talked about adoption.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You did.
TRUMP: Russian adoption. Yes, I always found that interesting because you
know, he ended that years ago. And I actually talked about Russian
adoption with him which is interesting because that was a part of the
conversation that Don had with this meeting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: So interesting, Natasha what a coincident.
BERTRAND: Why would he volunteers that stupid information?
HAYES: That`s amazing.
BERTRAND: I mean, no one even knew that he had dined with Putin on that
night until a geopolitical analyst Ian Bremmer came out and told the world
about it because he had heard it from someone at the G20 summit and the
White House didn`t even say that this dinner had happened. And then you
have Trump telling the New York Times that he spoke about the very issue
that was at the center of a meeting that he then later claimed to have
known absolutely nothing about. I mean, that was his whole defense was
that he didn`t know that the meeting had ever occurred. He didn`t know
anything about it. But then the night before he was talking to Putin and
all of a sudden this just came up when the White House had been briefed
that very morning by New York Times reporters about the fact that they were
going to move ahead and publish this story. I mean, it just seems like way
too much of a coincidence that Putin would bring this up, that the Trump
and Putin would talk about this and that it was absolutely totally
unrelated and unconnected to the story that was going to be published the
HAYES: Are they going to – are the lawyers are going to regret putting
this in the memo, this admission?
SHUGERMAN: I think they did this on purpose. So this is the question I
was asked talking about today. Why would the lawyers make this kind of
mistake unless it wasn`t a mistake? So understanding the context is for
this letter we are – Mueller can`t talk to Trump. You can`t subpoena him,
you can`t get a direct interview. Why? One, it`s a legal matter, the
President is above the law right? The Congress can`t touch him, Mueller
can`t touch him. But on these specific questions, on these ten different
obstructions of justice and Russian questions you have, we`ve given you all
of the documents and because we`ve given you all the documents, executive
privilege protects Trump because that has to be a last resort.
SHUGERMAN: That`s correct, right? That – interviewing a President should
be a last resort. They`re saying we`ve already given you documents, you
don`t need this interview. So I think this was a strategy to stipulate and
cut their losses. So we`re going to confess, we`re going to concede to
obstruction of justice.
HAYES: Right. Because they`re going to find it.
SHUGERMAN: They already know. Mueller`s already – they already know.
They`ve already – they have the documents. They interviewed Hope Hicks.
They`ve interviewed Mark Corallo. Why – the reportedly why did Mark
Corallo resign? Because he thought that they were involved with
obstruction of justice. So they Mueller – they`re not telling Mueller
anything new. They`re conceding it and they`re saying because we`re
conceding, the facts of obstruction of justice – we`re going to say that
the President can`t legal justice.
HAYES: Right, so here`s – right, here`s the confession – here`s a
confession but you can`t get us.
SHUGERMAN: Because they`re petrified of a live interview.
HAYES: Natasha Bertrand and Jed Shugerman, thank you both for being with
me. Next, the police are called to the scene as U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley
tries to get into a Texas detention center housing immigrant children.
We`ll play you that incredible video and the Senator joins us after this
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JEFF MERKLEY, (D) OREGON: Hello, officers. Senator Jeff Merkley.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you doing?
MERKLEY: Good, good. I called the number here on this sign, and the young
lady said a supervisor would be very happy to come out and talk with me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: On Sunday, United States Senator Jeff Merkley, who you saw there,
went to an immigrant detention center in an old Walmart that`s been
decommissioned in Brownsville, Texas to try understand why the Trump
administration is ripping immigrant children from their parents at the
And here is what happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MERKLEY: Yes, hello there. Yes, this is U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley. And
I`m here at Tasa di Padre (ph) facility for the children. I called – my
team called last week to arrange for me to be
come and visit this facility. Can you please give me a tour of it?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A tour?
MERKLEY: Can I talk to the supervisor who is here, because maybe they can
explain to me…
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, maybe. I can give you the number, but you
cannot come in.
MERKLEY: I don`t really want the number, because we called last week. I
wanted to actually talk to the supervisor.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is – right there is no information.
MERKLEY: Whatever individual is in charge would be great to come and share
and talk with me.
Greetings. Is your supervisor coming out? Mr. Sanchez? You are the
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
MERKLEY: I want to introduce you to my team here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`ll be with you guys in just a minute.
MERKLEY: Hello, officers. Senator Jeff Merkley.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you doing?
MERKLEY: Good, good, good.
I called the number here on this sign and the young lady said the
supervisor would be very happy to come out and talk to me.
I haven`t been asked to leave the property, but I`m guessing that`s about
what`s to happen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, that`s what they`re going for.
What is your name again, sir? I`m sorry…
MERKLEY: Senator Jeff Merkley. U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Merkley. How do you spell it? I don`t want to
misspell your name.
MERKELY: Yes. M-E-R
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: M-E-R?
MERKLEY: M-E-R – yeah, M-E-R.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: M-E-R-K-L-E-Y.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: K-L-E-Y?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And your date of birth, sir?
MERKLEY: Yeah, it`s October 24…
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: October.
MERKELY: 24, 1956.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 1956.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you say you`re a senator?
MERKLEY: I`m a U.S. senator.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, sir.
MERKELY: Yes. And U.S. policy is involved right now with children. Are
you familiar with this policy?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. Negative. Actually, this is not something that we
specifically deal with, you know what I`m saying? But just so I can ID it
and advise my sergeant that you`re
MERKLEY: We`re hear. The supervisor is here. If he wants us to leave the
property, he can ask, but he hasn`t asked yet.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, would you guys mind?
MERKLEY: I have now been asked to leave the property, and so I`ll comply
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: And Senator Jeff Merkley, Democrat of Oregon, joins me now from
Washington, D.C. It`s good to see you, Senator.
I want to just be clear on this, you reached out to DHS through your staff,
through official channels, to arrange some sort of visit before going down
MERKLEY: Well, I was seeking to get into three different places. One is a
processing center run by DHS, the Department of Homeland Security. And I
was given permission to do that. This third place is after DHS hands the
children over to the Department of Health and Human Services, and it`s run
by the office of refugee relocation. And so this was technically we
reached out to that office to get into this facility, and they said no.
HAYES: And that facility, that is the blacked out windows – that`s an old
Walmart with blacked out windows that has children, both who come
unaccompanied and also children who have been taken way from their parents
who are then housed in that facility? Is that correct?
MERKLEY: That`s my understanding. I wasn`t able to get precise answers,
but those who work with refugees there say that is the case, that there are
roughly a 1,000 children inside behind those doors without adults.
HAYES: Now, you went to a facility in McAllen, right, and you got to see a
kind of processing center. What did you see there? What did you witness?
MERKLEY: Well, the first room had a series of cages that look a lot like
dog kennels in which people had recently arrived and been put into them.
They were very crowded. The individuals had space blankets, so you had all
these silver space blankets. No mattresses. And people looking very
distressed and upset, a number of women holding children in their arms.
And then adjacent to that is a very, very large warehouse with much larger
cages. And in those, the children have already been separated away from
the parents. There is one cage that had children who – young boys who
were being lined up for food. And they started with the smallest in front,
so you had a little toddle – I don`t know, he must have been 4 or 5 years
old – up through youth that are 16 or 17. And they – some of those may
have been unaccompanied, others were undoubtedly taken
way from their families, for families that are seeking asylum.
So these are families that are coming to the U.S., having gone through
horrific circumstances abroad, having this vision of the Statue of Liberty
and the fact that Americans, virtually all of us, have some member of our
family tree at some point who came here escaping oppression, expecting that
finally made to it the shores of the U.S., and now they`ll get a fair
chance to present their case for asylum, and instead they go through a new
trauma with their children ripped out of their arms, sent away until they
have no idea where, no idea where they are going, no idea how to contact
their children. It`s hugely stressful for the parents for sure. But think
of the trauma to the children who know nothing about this new land, except
the security of their parents and they`re torn away from them.
HAYES: I want to play for you – you know, the Trump administration has
been a little coy about whether this is what they`re doing or not. And
their line is we have a zero tolerance policy. We prosecute everyone who
crosses the border. Here is what DHS Secretary Nielsen had to say in
last week. I`d love to get you to respond to it. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KIERSTJEN NIELSEN, DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: It appears
our critics want a two-tier legal system. They think illegal aliens should
get different, perhaps better treatment, than U.S. citizens because they
happen to be illegal aliens. No jail if they have family, no critical
consequences if they have children. I`m here today to tell you
differently. If you smuggle illegal aliens across our border, we will
prosecute you. If you cross the border illegally, we will prosecute you.
And if you make a false immigration claim, we will prosecute you. The
lawlessness has to end.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: What do you think of that?
MERKLEY: Well, Kiersjen should be absolutely ashamed of herself on this,
because here you have families who are presenting themselves at the border
and they are saying we are here. We have gone through these horrific
circumstances. We are seeking asylum.
We have always treated such families not as illegals, but as people
legitimately under international law seeking asylum while the children have
been kept with the parents. There is no reason not to keep them with the
parents. They`re going to go through an adjudication. If they are judged
that they have enough documentation that they meet the standard, they`ll be
granted asylum. And if they don`t, they`ll be returned to their host
But we never treat them by inflicting a new cruel tragedy on the children
by ripping them out of their parents` arms. If that`s just the new
The administration is trying to change the topic in every possible way.
But on this, they have no moral standing to tear these children away from
their parents who are seeking asylum.
HAYES: All right, Senator Jeff Merkley, thank you.
MERKLEY: Thank you.
HAYES: Tomorrow, actually, the new episode of our podcast “Why is this
Happening” is all about this topic, about the act of separating children
from their parents, and what it is like for people seeking asylum in this
country. Lee Gelernt is the lead lawyer on the ACLU`s lawsuit against the
Trump administration to stop this very practice, and he gives some powerful
context about what we are witnessing unfold.
The episode comes out tomorrow on TuneIn or wherever you get your podcasts.
Ahead, the president got a nice envelope photo with North Korea while
tensions are escalating with Canada. How the Trump foreign policy is
But first, Scott Pruitt leaves the last S off for savings in tonight`s
Thing One, Thing Two, next.
HAYES: Thing One tonight, Scott Pruitt is still employed. And not only
that, the EPA administrator seems to be going for the all-time world record
for ethical scandals by a government employee. There is, of course, the
nearly $3 million we`re paying for his round-the-clock security, and his
penchant for first-class travel, routinely spending thousands on airfare
and staying in high-end hotels. He famously got a sweetheart deal on a
D.C. apartment owned by an energy lobbyist who had
business before his agency. And don`t forget the $43,000 soundproof phone
booth that he got put in his office.
Scott Pruitt is now facing no less than one dozen investigations into his
conduct. But what puts him in the top tier of corrupt Trump administration
officials is that no grift is too small for the EPA administrator, spending
$1,500 for a dozen pens is one thing. But can you go lower? How about,
oh, I don`t know, getting a government employee to try to buy you a used
mattress from Donald Trump? That happened, and it`s Thing Two in 60
HAYES: The latest in a long list of scandals for Scott Pruitt involves the
EPA administrator assigning government employees to do personal tasks for
him, like apartment shopping for him and arranging a vacation for his
family, or trying to buy him a used mattress from President Trump. No, not
that mattress, get your head out of the gutter. This one was from the
Trump International Hotel in
Scott Pruitt wanted to buy one used to save money, and he tasked one of his
top aides with
doing the dirty work. In addition to being the president, Trump of course
sells mattresses. Of course, why not? He has tweeted about them here and
there. And this a great deal for the president, because he already got
paid once when the Trump hotel bought the Trump mattresses from Trump. And
now Scott Pruitt comes along to pay Trump again for the same Trump
If you`re wondering, it was the Trump Home Luxury Plush Eurotop that Pruitt
was after, which
does actually sound like a really nice mattress, although I guess that
depends on who`s been using it before you.
HAYES: Breaking news tonight that we just learned a few minutes ago, OK.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller has just asked a judge in U.S. district
court for the District of Columbia to revoke former Trump campaign manager
Paul Manafort`s bail.
Reuters reporting tonight the federal prosecutors say that Manafort tried
to tamper with
potential witnesses while out on supervised release, that he called,
texted, and sent encrypted messages to two people in February to influence
their testimony and to otherwise conceal evidence.
Now Paul Manafort is currently facing two trials this fall and is out on
bail with two ankle
bracelets, though perhaps not for long.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN, (R) WISCONSIN: It`s not too much to say that our enemies
no longer fear us and too many of our allies no longer trust us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our enemies no longer fear us, and our allies no longer
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: It seems we`ve gotten to the point where our
allies don`t trust us and our enemies don`t fear us.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO, (R) FLORIDA: Our allies don`t trust us. Our enemies
don`t fear us.
DICK CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think our
friends no longer count on us, no longer trust us, and our adversaries
don`t fear us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Republicans railed against President Obama`s foreign policy,
accusing him of abandoning America`s allies and placating America`s
enemies. But that critique seems much better suited for where we are right
now with this current administration. 17 months in the Trump presidency
the White House has announced new tariffs on the EU, Canada and Mexico. It
pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal, enraging its allies in Europe, pulled
out of the Paris Accords. And meanwhile, President Trump is getting
letters from Kim Jong-un and planning to sit down with him next month.
With me here in New York is MSNBC`s newest political contributor Ben
Rhodes, former deputy national security adviser for Barack Obama who has a
new book that goes on sale tomorrow called “The World as It Is: a Memoir of
the Obama White House.” It`s great to see you here. It`s a very well
BEN RHODES, FORMER DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Thank you.
HAYES: That – that line was really a central idea of the critique of the
Obama administration, particularly like the Iran deal. It`s like you guys
are running around chasing the Iran deal, and you`ve alienated all our
friends. What do you make of where we are right now between the red carpet
being rolled out for North Korea while we`re giving Canada the metaphorical
RHODES: Well, Chris, it is kind of a whiplash on a daily basis, because
they would hurl that
critique at us but Barack Obama`s standing among our closest allies in
Europe and Asia was higher than any president in recent memory.
What they`ve done is profoundly alienate our allies, not just on an issue,
but to the point where
I think in Europe and Asia they`re beginning to fundamentally question
their relationship with the United States. I mean, this is the actual
crisis that they used to rail about happening before our eyes, and it`s not
just on one issue, it really could be a drift apart between the United
States and the countries that we count on the most in the world.
HAYES: Do you think – so, I used to think that a lot of this was driven
by both ideology and sort of interest group politics, right, in terms of
these – so that you`ve got certain – you know, the Democrats have a
coalition, the Republicans have a coalition. They have different interest
But I sat there and I watched a crowd of people I think in Indiana chant
“Nobel, Nobel,” about Donald Trump and North Korea. And I thought to
myself, well, maybe it`s just cult of personality, like whatever the
opposite of Obama does they`re going to go for.
RHODES: Well, Chris, you know, in the book I go all the way back to the
beginning on the campaign when I went to work for Barack Obama. The week I
went to work for him he said in a debate that he would sit down with the
leaders of Iran and North Korea and Cuba if it could advance our interests.
And you know, I describe how there was this explosion on the right of how
dare he. How could he? He`s selling out America and he must be a
foreigner if he`s – you know, he must be un-American. He`s probably from
Kenya if he`s willing to sit down with the leaders of these countries.
worst thing we could ever do.
And he said, well, it`s common sense. We`ve gotten nowhere with Iran,
nowhere with Cuba, I`m
willing to do that if I can change the dynamic. And he did.
Now you have a Republican president doing the exact same thing and suddenly
they`re chanting Nobel. It goes to show that this is not rooted in any
ideology or any set of ideas about how America should act in the world, it
really is just the R or the D next to the person who`s in the office.
HAYES: Did you come to internalize that in the White House? Did you come
to – I feel like
there was a long trajectory, but by the end of the Obama White House sort
of understood the world they were in in a different way than they began.
RHODES: We did.
I mean, one of the things that I write about is Cuba, where you know,
essentially the only – nobody could argue that our Cuba policy was
working. You know, even if you think that we should
apply maximum pressure on the Castro regime, it`s not like the embargo had
worked the last 50 years.
And part of of what we had to do was say, we`re not going – they`re going
to criticize us no
matter what we. So we`re going to do what we want to do. And that`s how
you get a Cuba opening and an Iran deal and a Paris climate agreement
because there was not an opportunity to bring them along on military
intervention. They were all for intervening in Libya until the day Barack
Obama did it and they were all against it. And you just had to realize
that we had an opposition party that had no iterest in doing anything with
HAYES: What do you think about watching this administration function? You
know, I –we just got the news that Paul Manafort is – Robert Mueller has
filed in court to maybe revoke his bail and put him in jail, because they
say he`s trying to influence witnesses improperly.
There`s the Mueller investigation. There`s the Russia issue, which hangs
over everything. What has it been like to process this?
RHODES: Well, number one, they don`t operate in any recognizable way. As
someone who was there for eight years, you know, the way they conduct
themselves, their fidelity to the truth, the way they treat the news media,
the way they treat allies doesn`t comport with any standard of behavior
that I would come to expect in the White House.
The second thing is the corruption. You know, in foreign policy just the
blurred lines with China and Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates
between what might be financial interests for the
Trump family and decisions that are being made about our foreign policy
that is not getting any scrutiny. You know without congressional oversight
it`s not going to get scrutiny. That to me is a threat that I would like
to see people pulling on.
But the last thing is that they think they can throw a bunch of sand up in
the air and put distractions out there to belie the actual issues. And
what you see on a daily basis is you have an investigation about the most
profound question imaginable: did a foreign adversary collude with the
candidate for a major – the nominee of a major party to win the election?
But it`s got to be about some other issue every day. It`s always a
conspiracy theory that they need to have directed at somebody else,
sometimes it`s me., because they don`t want that to be on them.
HAYES: Why does – I`ve asked you this before, and it was in the context
of the Iran deal. You have become a poster boy for a certain kind of
critique of Obama White House policy, arrogance. There`s this like real
anti-Ben Rhodes cult that centers on you as somehow the mastermind behind
what? Behind the fecklessness of the Obama regime? Like, what is it? Why
do you – why do you provoke so much animus?
RHODES: Well, first of all, it was interesting, in writing the book I had
to go through this experience. You know, I was 29 when I went to work for
Obama. I was 31 when I came to the White House. I was relatively
anonymous. I was a blank slate. And what they did is when they figured
out that I was a close adviser to Obama, personally close to him a few
years in, I think they decided, well, we can turn this guy into whatever we
want, because I had no established image, and so one manufactured scandal
They kind of created this cartoon of me. You know, first it was Benghazi
and leaks and then Iran. You know, and I think it was my proximity to
Obama and I was seen as close to him, so it was a way of getting at Obama
without necessarily hitting him directly. And it was the fact that, you
know, I was this guy, they could invent whatever personality they wanted
for me because I wasn`t John Kerry or Hillary Clinton.
HAYES: Right, yeah. It`s sort of useful to be a blank slate in those
Ben Rhodes, whose new book “The World as It Is: A Memoir of the Obama White
House,” goes on sale tomorrow. Thanks for joining us.
RHODES: Thanks, Chris.
HAYES: That is All In for this evening. The Rachel Maddow Show starts
right now. Good evening, Rachel.
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