Scott Pruitt faces 13 federal investigations. TRANSCRIPTS: 7/3/2018, All In with Chris Hayes
Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES
Date: July 3, 2018
Guest: Kevin Chmielewski, Eric Lipton, Juliet Eilperin
STEVE KORNACKI, NBC NEWS NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: – Chris Hayes
starts right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Tonight on ALL IN.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have to get the best
HAYES: As the President molds his pick for Supreme Court –
TRUMP: We have to pick a great one.
HAYES: The cloud of scandal around his EPA chief grows.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would urge you to resign before your scandals push
HAYES: Tonight, my exclusive interview with the EPA whistleblower who says
Scott Pruitt is not fit for office. Then, new bipartisan findings that
Russia was trying to elect Trump as the President heads off to meet Putin.
Plus, the latest on Michael Cohen’s slow-motion flip.
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER LAWYER OF DONALD TRUMP: Says who?
HAYES: And as the Trump administration rolls back affirmative action.
TRUMP: I hope the other side realizes that they better just take it easy.
HAYES: Can Republicans win the midterms with white racial grievance?
TRUMP: Democrats want open borders and crime, crime, crime.
HAYES: When ALL IN starts right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Good evening from the great city of Chicago, I’m Chris Hayes. The
President is now rushing through one of the biggest decisions he’ll make an
office, determined to pick a new Supreme Court justice who will shape
American law for decades to come in less than a week. The President prides
himself on his ability to spot talent. He campaigned on a promise to hire
“the best people to serve in his administration.” But consider the
President’s actual track record. Tonight, his former campaign Chairman
sits in jail where he’s awaiting two separate trials on a litany of charges
including money laundering and fraud. The President’s Deputy Campaign
Chairman, his former National Security Adviser and a foreign policy aide to
his campaign all pleaded guilty already to felonies and are cooperating
with the criminal investigation into the President and his campaign.
Meanwhile, the President’s longtime lawyer and fixer who is also under
investigation may be getting ready to flip on his former boss. And then
there are the people this President chose to help run the federal
government like Staff Secretary Rob Porter tasked with handling all the
President’s classified documents despite being credibly accused a domestic
abuse by two ex-wives, there was former Health and Human Services Secretary
Tom Price who lost his job after spending hundreds of thousands of dollars
in public funds on chartered flights, Anthony Scaramucci, you may remember
who lasted as White House Communications Director for just 11 days before
being fired over an unhinged interview, and of course there are many other
lower profile flameouts like for instance the 24-year-old recent college
grad who briefly ended up helping to lead the nation’s drug policy office
at the height of an opioid crisis. All in all the Trump Administration has
broken every record for the sheer number of people fired or departed in the
first year and a half. But there’s one person who is still sticking around
despite being the swampiest of all swamp creatures. I speak of course of
EPA Administrator Pruitt who has become the poster boy for corruption in
Donald Trump’s Washington facing a legendary record-setting 13 separate
federal investigations for allegations of abusing public funds, tried to
profit from his office, cozying up to the industries he’s supposed to be
regulating. Just yesterday he was confronted in public politely by a
citizen who asked him step down.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is my son. He loves animals. He loves clean
air. He loves clean water. Meanwhile, you’re slashing strong fuel
standards for cars and trucks, for the benefit to big corporations. You’ve
been paying about 50 bucks a night to stay in a D.C. condo that’s connected
to an energy lobbying firm while approving their dirty sands pipeline. So
I would urge you to resign before your scandal push you out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: According to that woman Kristin Mink, Pruitt got up and left
without responding. In just the last 24 hours, literally the last 24 hours
of Pruitt scandal watch, here’s what we’ve learned. We’ve learned that
Pruitt according to an aide asked staff to find a lucrative job for his
wife, that’s at least I think the third allegation that he was using public
employees to land his wife a job, or a gig, or Chick-fil-A, also that he
requested aide from senior officials in a dispute with his Washington
landlord who happens to be married to a lobbyist with business before the
EPA and that according to a whistleblower, he maintained a secret calendar
behind his contacts with industry members and other controversial figures.
That whistleblower former Deputy Chief of Staff Kevin Chmielewski says
aides met regularly in Pruitt’s office to scrub his calendar of anything
that might look bad. Despite all that, Pruitt still thought himself
deserving a promotion in recent months at least according to a new report
directly asking the President to fire Jeff Sessions as Attorney General and
replace him with Pruitt himself. Pruitt denied that report in a statement
to NBC News. Joining me now is EPA whistleblower Kevin Chmielewski.
Kevin, as folks are watching this and they see the backdrop there, let’s
start with something that I think I want to get clear and you want to get
clear. You are a supporter of the President of the United States. You
have no ideological or political ax to grind against him or his
administration as you talk about your experience in the EPA, is that
KEVIN CHMIELEWSKI, FORMER DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF, EPA: Not at all. It’s
actually just the opposite. I’m still the biggest Trump supporter. I’ve
been a lifelong Republican and I’d go through a brick wall for the man
today including the Vice President also.
HAYES: So, let’s talk about your tie to EPA and Scott Pruitt. I want to
talk about the calendars. It’s not uncommon that agency heads will have
two different calendars. There’s a public calendar. These are all the
things we’re doing publicly and there’s a private calendar because you
know, you have meetings and staff get together and things like that you
don’t put on your public calendar. But my understanding is there was
something other than that going on during your time at EPA in terms of the
schedule. Explain what was happening.
CHMIELEWSKI: Well essentially, obviously, like you said you have the two
calendars but there was third calendar. And when you say the third
calendar, the bigger thing was we would go on and do these trips and then -
- or before the trips into and the next thing you know we would be asked to
basically scrub things that he did that would be controversial. Cardinal
Pell being one of them and there were some other trips. Like I said, this
was about a weekly occurrence, sometimes every other week where we would
take the actual schedule printed out and they would literally – the Chief
of Staff would basically take some of the stuff that they thought were
controversial off of there.
HAYES: Just to be clear, they would delete off the – so he had a third
schedule that he kept on his iPad I understand and that was the real deal
Scott Pruitt schedule –
CHMIELEWSKI: Yes, sir.
HAYES: And the public one, the one – the one that was a public record
which is these are all public records, this is the key point here, they
would literally delete events from the public record if they thought they
would be too controversial.
CHMIELEWSKI: Yes, sir. And it would start off by – they would basically
print out a paper a copy of the schedule and then the Chief of Staff Ryan
Jackson or Pruitt, Administrator Pruitt would literally take a pen or
pencil, take out the stuff that they did want on there and then that’s what
would go on to the official schedule. When we talk about the official
schedule, another big thing that I think everyone would should know is it
took months at the beginning and they refused to give those out and then I
even still to this day my understanding is it takes a month or two for that
stuff to come out.
HAYES: Let me just stop you there. Do people – did you or others think
this is sketchy or this is strange behavior, why are we doing this?
CHMIELEWSKI: So I’ll make it even easier than that. I’ve basically lost
my whole career something that I’ve worked 20 years for. I was one of the
President’s first advanced guys. I just couldn’t put up with it anymore.
I love this administration, I love the President but Scott Pruitt, I mean
everything I was – everything I witness I couldn’t be a part of anymore.
I mean, this is just one of dozens and dozens of things that he did that I
just did not feel comfortable. Not comfortable, I mean it was just
HAYES: There were low-level – another report today, low-level staffers,
people were 23, 24, 25 being asked to charge trips on their credit card and
then not being reimbursed which is just an astounding detail. Did you ever
– is that something you have witnessed firsthand?
CHMIELEWSKI: Absolutely. I actually saw where the Chief of Staff Ryan
Jackson had to give one of the younger staffers literally pulled six $100
bills out of his wallet and gave it to this young lady.
HAYES: Wait, what? Because she had charged something for the
administrator and not gotten reimbursed?
CHMIELEWSKI: It was hotel rooms from the inauguration that his family
stayed in is what it was.
HAYES: OK. So his – so the hotel rooms for the inauguration, you’ve got
this first-class travel, you got the trip to Morocco, you’ve got the $400
meal in Rome, you’ve also got him – what was the deal with him? He seemed
really desperate to find his wife a lucrative job between the Chick-fil-A
CEO getting a call trying to get her job for making at least $200,000. Did
you witness that? Was that something he talked about?
CHMIELEWSKI: Yes, I heard about the Chick-fil-A a couple times. The one I
heard about the most is apparently she’s an interior decorator and they
tried numerous times to try to find her jobs around town in D.C. as an
interior decorator was the one I heard most often.
HAYES: Again, by “they” you mean public employees of the federal –
Environmental Protection Agency which are paid by public funds.
CHMIELEWSKI: Yes, sir. Other than myself, most of the core staff that was
around him every day came from Oklahoma. And don’t get me wrong these
people were great people still to this day I’ll say it. I wish I’d be a
little bit more truthful and a little more upfront with what happened
because if so there would be more people like me coming out but 100 percent
would have these staffers doing all of this stuff. And it was three or
four of the key staffers that came with him from Oklahoma City. They’re
from Oklahoma City, most of which worked when he was the Attorney General
there. But these were all friends. These were are all people that he
brought from Oklahoma City.
HAYES: But on the public payroll. I mean, they work for us. They work
for the American people.
CHMIELEWSKI: 100 percent. Yours and my tax dollars, that’s why I had a
problem with it. Not only were they misspending our tax dollars but it was
taking time away from our job and everything else and that was the problem
that I had. I mean, if this thing happened once in a while, it’d be one
thing. This consume days, weeks, months.
HAYES: So, let me – can I ask you a broader a question here? I mean,
everyone sort of watching this scratching their heads. I mean, you know,
there are people who cut corners, there are people who get into public life
and are careless. This seems like a very concerted, determined effort to
grift basically, to sort of get perks to use public office to land his wife
a job, to get a sweetheart $50 a night lease. I mean – and also to be –
you know, to talk in secret with people that he has to regulate, what is
driving this? I mean what is your assessment of the man’s motives here?
CHMIELEWSKI: So I think everyone in life, it doesn’t matter if you work in
McDonald’s or if you work at the White House, everyone tries to better
themselves and try to use the situation they’re in but this went well above
and beyond that. I mean – and the biggest thing where I knew that there
was even bigger problem is after and you – I heard early you bringing this
up after Secretary Price was fired and that’s when we all got together and
said enough is enough guys. We’re not going to do anything like that
anymore. And in my opinion, Administrator Pruitt that doubled and tripled
down and it got even worse, that’s when the $100,000 a month private plane
came in and that was when I knew that that was my last couple days and that
I had to be moved to a different agency or did quite frankly have to leave.
HAYES: Well, that’s interesting. So you’re saying it’s not ignorance is
no excuse right after the Price thing. People coming and saying look,
we’re making decisions here that are exposing us, we got to stop doing
this. He keeps doing it. But let me – let me return to that question.
What’s the motive? Is he financially stressed? Is he desperate? Is he
greedy? Is he venal? Like why is he doing all this?
CHMIELEWSKI: I’d be lying if I said I obviously don’t know his financial
situation but regardless if he – if he had a financial issue or not, I
mean, all of us you know, you can’t do that type of stuff. I mean, when
you’re a cabinet-level secretary, you cannot do that stuff. I mean, when I
have my first couple days within the administration I had to go through a
fixed training and courses so did he. His were a lot more elaborate than
mine. You can’t say you didn’t know. Every single one of us from the
lowest level to the highest level knew the rules and regulations and the
stuff that we couldn’t do. If any of us would have done that, not only
would we have been fired more than likely also in legal trouble.
HAYES: Final question for you. You are a big supporter of the President.
Obviously, he has decided to not fire this man despite the fact is infamous
catchphrase is you’re fired. What – if he’s watching this or if he sees a
clip later, what’s your message the President? Should he fire Scott
CHMIELEWSKI: Absolutely. I joined this administration. I’ve been in
politics 17 years. I’ve worked for people like Governor Mitt Romney, John
McCain, President Bush. I can – a whole laundry list of other politicians
that I know, love, admire still to this day. The problem with this is I
joined the Trump campaign even before his announcement and why that was is
because of the whole message of draining the swamp. And not only did we
not drain the swamp with this man, I think we put a bigger swamp creature
HAYES: All right, Kevin Chmielewski, I really do appreciate you taking
time tonight. Thank you very much.
CHMIELEWSKI: Of course. Thanks for having me.
HAYES: I’m joined now by two reporters who have been all over the Scott
Pruitt beat Eric Lipton Investigative Reporter for The New York Times and
Juliet Eilperin Senior National Affairs Correspondent for The Washington
Post. I don’t know what – Eric, what do you – how – what’s the theory
here? Like why is this happening?
ERIC LIPTON, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: It really is hard
to understand because Scott Pruitt is a smart guy who has very ambitious
and had a lot of promise for a future career and he’s done so many things
that have brought unwanted attention to himself. Just as Kevin said, it’s
really sort of hard to understand why he would have engaged in so many
activities that clearly he should know or unethical.
HAYES: You know, one of the things, Juliet, that is key is this is – that
goes to a sort of broader question about conflicts of interest, right?
There’s the sort of using public office to enrich himself or to try to get
his wife a job but there’s a question about who he’s meeting with and what
he’s saying and what he’s promising to them. And this question of the
calendars, I mean, I’m not wrong that those should be public records and
it’s important those to be preserved, right?
JULIET EILPERIN, SENIOR NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON
POST: Well, certainly yes. There’s an integrity with public records.
Obviously, the Washington Post, the New York Times and a slew of outlets
depend on those records when we’re doing our reporting and were
reconstructing what has happened under this administration so there’s no
question that those are supposed to stay unadulterated and so certainly I’m
sure this is going to be added to the list of things that investigators
will be looking at.
HAYES: Do you have a sense of why he has been able to endure, Juliet?
EILPERIN: Well, yes I feel like you know, obviously we’ve done a lot of
reporting on this and our sense is that there are two things. One is
clearly that he has worked diligently to execute the President’s agenda on
energy and the environment. He has moved to roll back dozens of major and
smaller regulations that were put in – put in place by the Obama
Administration, so there’s that. But also he has a personal rapport with
the President. He spends a great deal of time in the White House, eating
at the White House mass, spending time in the Oval Office itself, talking
on the phone with President Trump. And so those personal ties have also
helped sustain him during this period.
HAYES: Eric, Kevin just mentioned something I thought that I’ve been
thinking about a lot which is he said, if any of us did this we would be
fired and also possibly played – face legal peril. And obviously, there
are statues guiding what you can do with public taxpayer dollars. It seems
to me a prima facie violation of the law to get your publicly funded
employees to try to get your wife a job but that seems pretty well-
established at this point.
LIPTON: Yes, if he used government resources to pursue something that had
a potential you know, a personal financial benefit to him or if he used his
own powers and position and title to get something of benefit to him or his
wife, that would be a violation of ethics rules and perhaps a criminal
offense. And so these are things that are now being investigated and
clearly, there is an e-mail record trail that shows that staff was engaged
in working to try to get his wife work. The question is whether or not he
directed them to do that. I’ve heard some suggestions from the EPA that
perhaps they were doing this on their own and maybe that’s an excuse. But
you know, there’s a lot of paper trail here that is the subject of many
investigations and to some extent, this summer is only going to get worse
for Scott Pruitt as all these investigations start to actually material
produce you know reports of findings of potential wrongdoing or clear him.
And so we’re still just in the process now of gathering the allegations as
opposed to reaching the point where these investigations will put them in
an even better but worst place potentially.
HAYES: You know, one thing, Juliet, that’s coming through in your
reporting and Eric’s reporting and others is something that Kevin said
which is that it’s clear that this behavior was viewed as aberrant by a lot
of people around him. I mean, this was making people uncomfortable, these
sorts of decisions not from an ideological perspective, not from a
political perspective, just from a basic ethics integrity. There are
people watching this happen saying you can’t – can someone tell them we
can’t do this?
EILPERIN: Absolutely. And one of the – one of the things that obviously
we reported yesterday in our story is that both Samantha Dravis who was
Associate Administrator in the Office of Policy and has left the EPA but
also Scott Pruitt’s current Chief of Staff told congressional investigators
on Thursday and Friday respectively that they objected to this travel.
They are on the record saying this to Republican and Democratic staffers in
a setting where you could be liable if you make false statements to
officers of the federal government. So clearly that gives you a sense that
this is not something that was endorsed by many of the top folks who were
picked by Scott Pruitt to serve in the federal government.
HAYES: Does that jive with what you found as well, Eric?
LIPTON: Yes. There’s a lot of people who feel as if almost there’s a lot
of roadkill from his closest people, the political staff has you know, has
been hurt by this and Pruitt still is there in his position. And there’s a
lot of feeling as if they signed up for a mission to help him pursue an
effort to roll back you know, excessive regulations from their perspectives
and they’ve gotten caught up and hurt through this. And you know that –
and so we’ll see how it’s going to play out. But it doesn’t – it’s
looking – I mean it’s going to be a hard summer for Scott Pruitt is from
what I can tell.
HAYES: Although on the other side, one motto of the Trump years is
shamelessness is a superpower and he’s a comic book hero in that respect so
far. Eric Lipton and Juliet Eilperin, great to have you.
LIPTON: Thank you.
HAYES: Still to come. What percentage of Americans think the President is
racist? The new polling and the new policy Donald Trump is advancing to
help fire up his base for the midterms, and after the break why did Michael
Cohen decide to speak now? What we’re learning about the dramatic turn for
the President’s former right-hand man in two minutes.
HAYES: If you’re wondering about whether Michael Cohen is having second
thoughts about telling the world that his loyalties no longer lie with
Donald Trump, it sure doesn’t look like it. This morning Cohen treated out
the explosive interview with ABC in which he made clear that his family and
country now come before his old boss. And a new report from Vanity Fair
reveals that Cohen is adjusting to his new role as a potential John Dean
figure and see if that plays out. The man who once said he would take a
bullet for Trump is now seeking to “protect his family by repositioning
himself in the vortex between Trump and prosecutors.” Joining me now the
author of that report MSNBC Contributor and Vanity Fair Senior Reporter
Emily Jane Fox, Author of the new book Born Trump: Inside America’s First
Family, also with me is MSNBC Contributor Barbara McQuade, a former Federal
Prosecutor, Author of a new piece headlined Michael Cohen Must learn the
Rules of Cooperation in Criminal Cases. We’ll get to that in a second.
Emily, let me start with you. What’s going on? I feel like this is like -
- we’re watching this like Hamlet routine play out in real time you know.
What will Michael Cohen do? His destiny lies in front of him. He’s torn
between his loyalties. Where are we at here?
EMILY JANE FOX, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: At this chapter in the Trumpian reality
show is a very weird portion of the series but we’re in the thick of it and
we’re about to get to a new portion of it. You know, the review for
privilege documents is over and we are very clearly at the point where we
may or may not get an answer very soon about whether or not Michael Cohen
will cooperate with the government. What I will tell you is that the
decision for him to go on the record this week was something that was
thought about and discussed within his circle for months. This was
something he has been desperate to do. This is a man who likes to tell his
side of things, who is a Pitbull, an attack dog and the fact that he had an
attorney who was urging him to stay quiet for as long as he did was very
difficult for him to do. And so he entered this window in which his old
attorney is leaving at the end of this week and he gets a new attorney. He
also knew that he was likely going to be facing a string of attacks by
Trump surrogates in the coming weeks and he’s been having people around
him, close friends, strangers on the street telling him look, you could
turn this whole thing around if you cooperate with the government. You can
go from guy who everyone’s calling a moron and an idiot and mobbed-up to
potentially a hero in this whole thing. And so the confluence of all of
those factors all happening at once led to the interview that we saw on the
HAYES: I like the idea – I like the idea of like the sidewalk approaches
really working their way and then Michael Cohen –
FOX: Look, this is a man who’s been alone essentially on an island in his
hotel room. And so those little interactions do matter.
HAYES: Keep working them over baristas in America. Barbara, what is –
what does Michael Cohen need to learn? What rules does he need to learn
BARBARA MCQUADE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, the first rule most lawyers
would advise their clients is to keep your mouth shut because anything you
say can be used against you later on cross-examination. And I know it
seems that he wants to rehabilitate his public image but that’s not really
what matters. What might matter later is his image before a jury or other
fact-finder. And if he’s on record as saying I’ll do what it takes to
protect my family, a good defense attorney can use that as cross-
examination to suggest that he’s fabricating his story because he wants to
reduce his prison time to help. So that’s one important rule. The other
is sometimes you just have to wait and the waiting can be the hardest part.
Defense attorneys and defendants often say that even worse than the time
they did in prison it was the time they were waiting for that other shoe to
drop when they couldn’t control their destiny and there’s that temptation
to do something to control your own narrative but so much better to just
wait because the prosecution isn’t going to want to talk to him and work
out any cooperation deal until it has its arms around those documents
obtained in the search. We’re just now completing the end of the privilege
review so I’m sure the prosecutors in the Southern District of New York
don’t yet know what’s in there and they’re not going to offer any plea or
make any charging decision or sit down with him to talk about what he knows
until they know what’s in those documents so that they confront him, can
confront him with them and I sort of gauged his truthfulness by confronting
him with those documents. So my advice would be sit tight and not worry so
much about what the public thinks and think more long-term about what a
fact-finder might think down the road.
HAYES: You know, it’s funny you say that because one of the things that
has been strange about this entire thing from the beginning is how sort of
public-facing all the players in it have been and how many press
interviews. Emily, you’re saying he’s someone who wants to you know, speak
up defend himself. Obviously, this is a guy who legendarily talks to
reporters all the time. And that brings me to sort of the question of the
White House and the President, the messages they’ve been sending. They’ve
been fairly muted. There was the National Enquirer hit piece on the cover
which you know, you could think comes from the White House in some respect
or is on their behalf. I guess the question is, is he ready or prepared
for like an outright war publicly to happen?
FOX: I think that what we saw in this interview this week was a step to
try and get ahead of an outright war. He’s going to have to remain silent
if he is going to be cooperating with prosecutors. And so I think that
there’s a sense in his world that this was their shot to try and get ahead
of what an outright war against him might look like when he can’t talk. I
think that we saw a little bit of a taste of it from Rudy Giuliani early on
and some of the comments that the President himself made saying that he did
such a small portion of the Trump Organization legal work. And one thing
that really rankled Michael Cohen was that the President said I liked him
when talking about Cohen a few weeks ago on the White House lawn. The use
of the past-tense there was something that was a real sticking point. And
so that was a very subtle dig. I think that there are potentially way more
overt digs to come and this week this on the record interview was a chance
to get ahead of that.
HAYES: Yes, just wait until you get a nickname. Emily Jane Fox and
Barbara McQuade, thank you both for being with me. After the break, as a
Senate Intelligence Committee concludes that Russia did try to help Donald
Trump win the election, the President reportedly prepares to meet Vladimir
Putin one-on-one. That story next.
HAYES: In March, Republicans on the House intelligence committee said they
had found no evidence of Trump/Russia collusion and even went so far as to
claim that U.S. intelligence officials were wrong to conclude that Moscow
wanted Trump to win.
Today, the Senate intelligence committee explicitly rejected that
conclusion, releasing their own unclassified report that backs up our
intelligence agencies and says that Russia did, in fact, want Trump to win.
Now, the news comes ahead of Trump’s July 16 summit with Vladimir Putin
where the two men may meet without anyone else present except for
Last week, Trump himself contradicted U.S. intelligence tweeting, quote,
“Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with meddling in our
election.” He also recently called for Russia to be readmitted to the G7,
and even left the door open to recognizing Russia’s annexation of Crimea,
an absolute dream scenario for Putin.
At the same time, Trump continues to antagonize America’s closest allies,
demanding that several NATO countries, including Canada and Germany, spend
more on defense, or else. He even demanded that Britain spend more on
defense, even though they already meet the NATO targets.
Joining me now to break down what Trump’s actions mean for the world order,
Julia Ioffe, correspondent at GQ magazine who has reported extensively on
Trump and Russia, and MSNBC contributor David Ignatius who writes a foreign
affairs column for The Washington Post where he is an associate editor.
David, let me talk to you, because I think you have been in Europe and
doing some reporting from the point of view of sort of European leaders,
NATO leaders and diplomats about Trump in the runup to the sort of back-to-
back NATO summit and then the Putin meeting. What is the mood there?
DAVID IGNATIUS, THE WASHINGTON POST: Chris, I was in Brussels less than
two weeks ago at NATO headquarters and met with some of the NATO
ambassadors, and to be blunt what I found was a state of anxiety heading
towards the summit that takes place July 11-12, uncertainly about what
Donald Trump would say and do in the runup to the summit, concern that his
summit meeting, which was already rumored with Vladimir Putin would
overshadow the NATO summit.
It’s a strange situation in which there’s disarray within the NATO
alliance, and every sign that Trump is prepared to, in some respects,
embrace America’s traditional adversary, Russia.
HAYES: Yeah, Julia, you know, I think you could go too far by saying,
well, this is just what Putin wants. Because, you know, Putin can want
things and those are independent of whether they are good ideas or not.
But in this specific instance, I mean you have got the crazy spectacle that
happened in Canada, where he is meeting with the G7 and sort of, you know,
lashing out at everyone, including Canada, or like closest ally, and then
has this summit with North Korea, and you know next thing you know we’re
not doing military exercises with them.
It seems like a similar set up here. And this really is, like, in the top
three goals that Vladimir Putin has, this has got to be in the top three.
JULIA IOFFE, GQ: Sure, the other being unilateral lifting of sanctions
against Russia for illegally annexing Crimea and invading eastern Ukraine.
IOFFE: I mean, it is kind of crazy to think, you know, Trump, the way he
approaches NATO, it is all about money, and the way he approaches North
Korea and South Korea as these military exercises are about money and how
much money we’re spending. And who can – you know, which celebrity leader
can he strike a deal with and get a photo op with.
And it is so divorced from what foreign policy and geopolitics actually
look like. And in some ways – like, he said this all throughout the
campaign that NATO is irrelevant, that why don’t we get along with Russia.
You know, NATO is stupid, NAFTA is stupid, except that in the first year of
presidency, we were kind of lulled into complacency, because he was
surrounded by people who kind of acted like his harness and his soft
helmet, you know, who kind of kept him from doing too much damage.
Now, all of those people have been pushed out. You have John Bolton who
was against engaging with all kinds of despots in the past saying I don’t
really make the policy, maybe Crimea should, you know, go to Russia. He is
just completely unfetterred and acting out all of his worst instincts, and
being taken for a ride by all of these guys who are just eating his lunch,
to mix metaphors.
HAYES: Julia raises an interesting point here, David, which is like it
does seem a new phase, right. You’ve got the initial phase where this
scramble to sort of appease Russia or to maybe make good on a quid pro quo
if that’s the allegation vis-a-vis the interference, and then a kind of
running up of political boundaries against this.
Now it seems a kind of renewed interest in that in terms of the
relationship with Russia.
IGNATIUS: I think Trump very much would like to make agreements with
Russia in particular about Syria. I think there were a range of issues in
which he would like to reach out to Russia. He’d love to show that, as he
thinks he has done with North Korea, he’s had a real breakthrough.
The strange thing about Trump is that he is going into the summit with such
a disorganized alliance. In a sense, he’s making the U.S. position weaker
than it should be. He’s maybe making his own position or visibility
Trump really was in a position at this NATO summit to record a win. This
wide agreement that yes, European countries should pay more, and Trump has
made that point. And that – instead of taking the win, and just kind of
saying OK, we made our points, I did it. He has instead basically blown
this summit up with the letters he has sent to our NATO partners. And I
think he is going to the Helsinki summit with Putin, in that sense, in a
much weaker position. It’s strange.
IOFEE: Can I just say one thing about Putin. Putin and Russians in
general – I hate to generalize, but this is generally true – Putin is a
very kind of zero sum thinker. And when you’re going into a meeting with
him already conceded things like Crimea, like NATO, he is going to take
those things and pocket them, because giving up anything is a sign of
weakness. And so Trump looks weak to him and he is happy to pocket those
wins and not give anything in return.
Even when Trump was being inaugurated, the Russians were saying, you know,
if you want to lift sanctions, that is great, that is your own business, we
don’t have to give you anything for you to lift sanctions. And they haven’t
changed their tune, you know, and I don’t think Putin is going to give him
anything for any of this.
So, you know, to quote Michael McFaul, who used to be the Obama
administration’s ambassador to Moscow, he said, OK, you want to have good
relations with whoever, with Russian, for example, but to what end? You
want to just be friends with them for the sake of the friendship?
HAYES: Right. What is the objective?
IOFFE: Right. Why are you being friends with them. And here it feels
like he’s just – like with North Korea and South Korea, he is giving away
the store without getting anything in return.
HAYES: Julia Ioffe and David Ignatius, thanks for being with me tonight.
Still ahead, a federal judge delivers another blow to the Trump
administration’s immigration policies. Those details coming up.
And the story I genuinely thought was too ridiculous to be real, but
definitely is, that is tonight’s
Thing One, Thing Two next.
HAYES: Thing One tonight, it has been tough out there for the president’s
defenders. First, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen had to
leave a Mexican restaurant when protesters confronted her and chanted at
her over separating kids from parents at the border. And then senior
policy adviser Stephen Miller, an anti-immigration policy architect, was
called a fascist when he decided to dine at a Mexican restaurant. Even
Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who has spent so many hours
defending Trump policies was asked to leave a farm to table restaurant in
Virginia after the owner consulted with her wait staff and comped her
But perhaps no, no one has had it tougher right now than renowned Harvard
lawyer and Trump defender Alan Dershowitz who is now fighting back against
his public detractors by writing an entire op-ed against, quote, those who
shun me on Martha’s Vineyard.
That is Thing Two in 60 seconds.
HAYES: Alan Dershowitz is upset, writing in an op-ed last week that just
because he’s, quote, defended Trump’s civil liberties, some people don’t
want to hang out with him anymore, specifically some of the people he
normally hangs out with on the elite Martha’s Vineyard social circuit,
quote, “they are shunning me and trying to ban me from their social life on
Martha’s Vineyard. One of them has told people that he would not attend
any dinner or party to which I was invited.” And according to Dershowitz,
“this is all familiar to me since I lived through McCarthyism in the 1950s.
I never thought I would see McCarthyism come to Martha’s Vineyard, but I
After much mocking on the internet, including a Gofundme campaign with a $5
million goal to buy Alan some new friends, Alan Dershowitz came out
swinging defending his op-ed to the Martha’s Vineyard Times today, telling
the paper, I’m not complaining. I’m not lamenting. And is supportive of
what he calls Trump’s civil liberties. Quote, “for me, it is a red badge
of courage.” If Alan Dershowitz ever feels like it’s all just too much on
Martha’s Vineyard, Mar-a-Lago is lovely this time of year.
HAYES: President Trump is taking some truly extreme steps to stop legal
asylum seekers fleeing violence and persecution, but a federal judge now
says the administration has gone too far. Now we’ve reported on accounts
of U.S. border agents stopping stopping asylum seekers from coming in to
ports of entry, stopping them at the bridge. We’ve reported on a spike in
immigrant detention rates, and of course the Department of Justice making
it essentially impossible for those fleeing gang and domestic violence to
even obtain asylum.
And then there is the intentional cruel policy of taking away children, of
people who immigrated and asked for asylum legally.
Now a federal judge late yesterday said the administration cannot simply
detain asylum seekers arbitrarily in just the latest legal blow to the
Trump administration’s immigration policy.
Cecilia Wong is the deputy legal director of the ACLU, which is one of the
groups that took the Trump administration to court yesterday.
Cecilia, what was the sort of – what was the cause of this lawsuit? And
what are the ramifications of the ruling?
CECILIA WONG, ACLU: Chris, I think you’re right that the big story of this
week is that now a second federal court has joined the people of the United
States in speaking out against the president’s cruel and illegal policies.
This latest ruling is in a case called Damus. We represent a man called
Ansley Damus is a Haitian refugee. He spoke out against a corrupt local
official in his hometown in Haiti. He is an ethics and math teacher, and
he fled after local thugs beat him up, because he was outspoken about this
local corrupt official.
Although, Mr. Damus has been granted asylum by an American immigration
judge twice and has passed every hurdle toward winning his asylum claim, he
has been locked up for a year and a
half by ICE in a county jail, most of the time in isolation.
And Mr. Damus, and about a 1,000 other people are a victims of the Trump
administration’s policy of having blanket detention of people who are
seeking asylum for the purpose of deterring people from applying for asylum
in the United States.
So, yesterday, a federal court in our case blocked this policy saying that
the Trump administration practice actually violates their own stated
policy. In addition, what we’re going to show in the lawsuit is that it
violates the due process clause in the constitution.
HAYES: This is key, because this is a single individual, right. So, we’ve
been talking about
families. We’re talking about family detention. This is a single man
obtained by himself, detained for a year-and-a-half in a county jail in
penitentiary conditions who has an asylum claim that has been ratified by
American courts. And that goes to show the sort of scope of the issue.
In terms of the latest ground, where things are in family separation and
reunification, we have got a story on NBC today that basically has the
Trump administration basically going to separated parents and saying, you
can deport by yourself or be deported with your kids, but those are your
options. And that seems like a similar violation both of due process and
the sort of statutory framework for asylum in the country.
WONG: That’s right, Chris, it does violate due process for this latest
outrage, for the Trump administration to say to parents who have been
ordered reunited with their kids by the federal court in our case. The
Trump administration today is saying, OK, we’ll give you a choice, parents,
you can leave with your kids. We’ll reunite you in that case, or you can
leave without your kids and we’ll deport you.
And this really reinforces, actually, reports that we’ve heard for some
time now that there’s a disturbing pattern of ICE officials, of immigration
officials, telling parents, give up your claims, agree to be deported, do
not apply for asylum even if you have a valid claim, and that’s the way
you’re going to get your kids back.
This is not only illegal, but it is really unconscionable. And I think
another important part of the story in addition to the federal court ruling
last week is that we saw 600 women arrested at the Heart Senate building in
D.C. and hundreds of thousands of people around the country on Saturday
against the Trump administration policy. That’s the conscience of the
HAYES: There are no words strong enough to describe how vile it is to use
a child that you have taken from a parent who is fleeing danger, as a
hostage, frankly, in trade for them to sign away
their asylum claims which are protected both under international law and
It is unconscionable indeed.
Cecilia Wong, thanks for joining me. I appreciate it.
WONG: Thank you, Chris.
HAYES: Some eyeopening new numbers today from the latest Quinnipiac poll.
Almost half of respondents, 49 percent, a plurality, said that yes,
President Donald Trump is racist. 44 of respondents said that Donald
Trump’s, quote, racist beliefs are the main motive behind his immigration
While Donald Trump might be gambling that racism will turn out his base,
that could mean trouble for congressional Republicans.
FiveThirtyEight’s current generic congressional ballot showing Democrats up
by over 7 points, a lead that has increased as immigration has been in the
Here to help me understand the divisions Donald Trump is fostering will
help Republicans in the fall, Tara Dowdell is a Democratic strategist,
Erika Andiola, communications director for the
Movement Voter Project, which works to build progressive political power,
and Gabe Sanchez, a senior research analyst with Latino Decisions, which
focuses its polling work on Latinx voters.
Gabe, let me start with you. There is, I think, this kind of conventional
wisdom that comes from the White House, and I think a lot of pundits and
political analysts buy into, which is that if you’re talking about
immigration, Donald Trump is winning. That’s the terrain he wants to play
on. That’s where he fires up his base. And he’s got the better side of
the argument. And I feel like the data actually doesn’t show that. What’s
your read of the data?
GABE SANCHEZ, SENIOR RESEARCH ANALYST, LATINO DECISION: Yeah. I mean,
obviously the separation of powers, as you noted, failed in the courts this
week, and is failing miserably in the court of public opinion.
Every reputable poll that’s been conducted shows that two-thirds of the
American public strongly opposes this particular policy. So if they’re
arguing that he’s winning on immigration, one key
finding across these polls is that not only in terms of approval rating
overall as those numbers dropped,
but specifically on handling of immigration has dropped considerably, and
it is arguably the least popular element of any domestic policy for the
president right now.
So, I don’t know where they’re getting this notion that he’s winning. The
data just does not support that.
HAYES: You know, Erica, I saw this piece in The New York Times making a
similar argument. It says an analysis of voters, it says “we found that
Mr. Trump did only slightly better than his Republican predecessors among
anti-immigration white voters. Among pro-immigration rights, however, Mrs.
Clinton far outpaced John Kerry in 2004, Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012,
getting 72 percent of that group as opposed to 50 percent.”
Do you think that what’s happening about immigration is sort of polarizing,
but also kind of radicalizing voters in the direction of a more open view
ERIKA ANDIOLA, MOVEMENT VOTER PROJECT: I hope so. I mean, looking at
children in cages and seeing what this administration has been willing to
do now to go against undocumented folks, to prove their point that they
don’t want immigrants in this country. What they are willing to do, if
that doesn’t show the American people how racism in the administration is,
and how much we have to do to change that, then, you know, I don’t know
what else we can do.
I think that we have to talk about immigration, we have to show what is
going on. And at the same time, we also have to talk about issue that
affect the American public as a whole as well.
You know, there’s so much that happened in the elections. You know, just
in New York with Alexandria, I was so excited. I was so happy. Somebody
who talked about, you know, abolishing ICe as one of her campaign issues,
and also talked about working class people and other issues that people
really care about. And so it’s not either/or, we have to talk about all of
HAYES: I want to talk about abolish ICE in a second, but first, Tara,
there is this interview – so it seems very clear the president, right, is
very focused on sort of amping up the base in the run-up to the mid-terms.
He views that as the way that he’s going to win. White grievance politics,
saying extremely odious things about immigrants, you know, comparing
children to an infestation, to vermin who are fleeing El Salvador.
And there is this moment the other day, he did an interview with Maria
Bartiromo, which was really head-spinning for a lot of reasons in which she
basically throws him a softball to be like how can you bring the country
together? And his answer is so revealing. I want you to take listen and
give me your thoughts on it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARIA BARTIROMO, FOX NEWS: As the commander-in-chief, as the president of
country, what can you do to bring us together?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our people are so
incredible. Do you know, there is probably never been a base in the
history of politics in this country like my base. I hope the other side
realizes that they’d better just take it easy. They’d better just take it
Because some of the language used, some of the words, even some of the
radical ideas, I really think they’re very bad for the country. I think
they’re actually very dangerous for the country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: So he’s asked, how could you bring people together? He said the
other – he basically starts talking about the other side and how they
better take it easy. But that’s the way he sees things.
TARA DOWDELL, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Exactly. Look, we knew that Trump
had no interest in being the president of the United States. He has
interest in being president of his base. However, it was actually good to
hear him finally admit it publicly, because it is something that we all
Trump has been for a while running this base only strategy. And as was
mentioned earlier, it
is not working for him. Trump lies, but the numbers don’t lie. And the
numbers are showing that his divisive politics, particularly the separating
of small children, babies from their parents, forcing toddlers to represent
themselves in court, that that is not playing well with the American people
And so Trump has no choice but to run this base only strategy.
But I would make one note of caution, though, while there is the Trump
base, and we talked a lot about the Trump base, there are also what I refer
to as the secret Trump voters, those are the folks who are more well off.
The folks that don’t overtly support Trump in public, but support his
policies behind closed doors. So those are the people that we have to be
careful of, who actually believe a lot of what he says but would never be
caught dead saying it themselves.
HAYES: Well, and I think there is also uncommitted voters, right, there
are still swing voters. And, Gabe, I want to talk about something Erika
mentioned abolish ICE, which is something that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez ran
on. And I think the president really is alluding to. He’s talking about
this. He talked about it today, right.
This is an idea that comes from sort of the left part of the coalition.
There is a guy named Shawn McAlwy (ph) who is a sort of activist and
thinker who has been sort of pushing this. It has gotten widespread cache
recently. I think there’s a substantive argument about why it makes sense.
What do you think of it politically?
SANCHEZ: Well, I think you’re seeing a greater number of folks in surveys
also indicate that they would be supportive of abolishing ICE. So,
although it’s nowhere near majority support, it is gaining momentum. And
thinking about, you know, the Trump base, a couple of key underlying trends
in the data that are worth noting here, one is that we’re seeing a greater
number of folks defecting from
the GOP in self-identified surveys, and I think that’s because of the
partisan policies that have a lot of folks questioning and moving towards
the independent base.
When we look at those number, we might even see 50, 55 percent of
Republicans supporting the
separation of families. Remember, that’s a little bit misleading, because
that’s of a shrinking number of
folks who identify as Republican.
So there’s important things in there in the data that we want to pay close
attention to. I do agree that the secret Republican voters are real, and
we have to be mindful of that. But all the other trends, including a small
but noticeable increase and support for abolishing ICE are all indicating
some problems with the GOP as we head into the mid-terms.
HAYES: All right. Well, Tara Dowdell, Erika Andiola and Gabe Sanchez,
thank you all for your time.
Before we go, we have a new episode of “Why is This Happening?” up today
with special guest Eliza Griswold. I learned so much from that
conversation. Download it on Apple Podcast or wherever you normally do.
You can find bonus content at Think by visiting NBC.com/whyisthishappening.
That is All In for this evening. The Rachel Maddow Show starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
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