American President suspected of being Russian agent. TRANSCRIPT: 1/14/2019, All In w. Chris Hayes.
Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES
Date: January 14, 2019
Guest: Greg Miller, Mike Quigley, Marcy Wheeler, Mimi Rocca, Elliot
Williams, Clint Watts, Philippe Reines
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: “ALL IN” with Chris Hayes starts right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Tonight on ALL IN.
LAURA INGRAHAM, HOST, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: Were you now or have you ever work
for Russia Mr. President?
TRUMP: I think it`s the most insulting thing I`ve ever been asked.
HAYES: Is the President of the United States working for Russia?
TRUMP: I never worked for Russia.
HAYES: Tonight, the Washington Post reports Donald Trump hid details of
talks with Putin and confiscated interpreter`s notes.
TRUMP: I said to myself, I said you know, this Russia thing with Trump and
Russia is a made-up story.
HAYES: (INAUDIBLE) Greg Miller joins me live. Plus –
TRUMP: Russia, if you`re listening –
HAYES: Former FBI investigator Clint Watts on the mountain of public
evidence the President was falling directions from the Kremlin. And
Democrats demand assurances from the President`s pick to oversee the
Mueller probe. And why Hillary Clinton is saying I told you so about Trump
and the Russians.
TRUMP: From everything I see has no respect for this person.
HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, that`s because he`d
rather have a puppet as president –
TRUMP: No puppet, no puppet.
HAYES: When ALL IN starts right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Good evening from New York I`m Chris Hayes. It is a question now
front and center in American politics. In fact, it`s become so central
that even Donald Trump`s absolute favorite Fox News host was forced to ask
him on live television this weekend, is the President of the United States
an agent of a foreign power. Is President Trump a Russian agent? Is he a
plant? Does he go about presidenting with the interests of Russia in mind?
Is he a puppet whose strings are being pulled for abroad?
This is the stuff of political thrillers of Hollywood blockbusters and it`s
a question that has floated around our very real-life president for some
time because of his bizarre, suspicious behavior with respect to Vladimir
Putin and Russia. Because of the fact that Russia interfered in the 2016
election for his benefit, because the 101 contacts between Trump steam and
Russia linked operatives. Because his campaign manager gave the campaign`s
private polling to a person assessed to be a Russian agent. Because the
president refuses to condemn Putin for anything. Because he`s repeatedly
lied about all of this.
It`s a question that was probably most acutely felt in this moment when the
world watch to the President was asked whether he believed U.S.
intelligence or Vladimir Putin and this is what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just now President Putin denied having anything to do
with the election interference in 2016. Every U.S. intelligence agency has
concluded that Russia did. What – who – my first question for you, sir,
is who do you believe? My second question is would you now with the whole
world watching tell President Putin, would you denounce what happened in
2016 and would you warn him to never do it again.
TRUMP: My people came to me, Dan Coates came to me and some others they
said they think it`s Russia. I have President Putin. He just said it`s
not Russia. I will say this. I don`t see any reason why it would be. I
have great confidence in my intelligence people but I will tell you that
President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today and
what he did is an incredible offer. He offered to have the people working
on the case come and work with their investigators with respect to the 12
people. I think that`s an incredible offer, OK. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: An incredible offer. An offer you might even say to collude on the
investigation. Now, we have two new pieces of information. Friday night,
the New York Times broke the story that the FBI was so freaked out by
Trump`s firing of James Comey that they started a counterintelligence
investigation into the sitting President of the United States. Not
something they would do lightly.
And then over the weekend, the Washington Post Greg Miller reported this.
President Trump has gone to extraordinary lengths to conceal details of his
conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin including on at least
one occasion taking possession of the notes of his own interpreter and
instructing the linguist not to discuss what had transpired with other
administration officials current and former U.S. officials said.
Just to be clear, this is wildly divergent from protocol. As president,
you want to create paper trails for all sorts of reasons when you speak to
foreign heads of state mostly because the information has to be shared with
the rest of the government so you can make policy. So then why the heck
would you rip up the notes from an i0nteraction with a world leader unless
you were covering something up.
And so, in the wake of these two stories and everything else, there`s Fox
News`s Jeanine Pirro attempting to dismiss the question is ridiculous while
also clearly needing to ask it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PIRRO: Are you now or have you ever worked for Russia Mr. President?
TRUMP: I think it`s the most insulting thing I`ve ever been asked. I
think it`s the most insulting article I`ve ever had written. And if you
read the article you see that they found absolutely nothing. But the
headline of that article – it`s called the failing New York Times for a
reason. They`ve actually gotten me wrong for many years before that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: You will notice the President does not answer the question. He did
earlier today when confronted by NBC`s Kristen Welker.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KRISTEN WELKER, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Mr. President, yes or
no. Have you or are you now – have you ever worked for Russia. Yes or
TRUMP: I never worked for Russia and you know that answer better than
anybody. I never worked for Russia. Not only did I never work for Russia,
I think it`s a disgrace that you even ask that question because it`s a
whole big fat hoax. It`s just a hoax.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Weird he didn`t say that it was a disgrace when Jeannine Pirro were
asking him that question. Notice that? As the longest ever government
shutdown enters day 24, the most core question of the President`s loyalty
to his own nation has never been more in doubt. That raises yet another
question what is to be done about.
Greg Miller covers National Security over at the Washington Post. He broke
the story that Trump has concealed details of his face-to-face encounters
with Putin. He`s author of The Apprentice: Trump, Russia, and the
Subversion of American Democracy. Greg, first take us through what you`re
reporting indicates about how anomalous the President`s behavior around his
talks with Putin is compared to other presidents and their talks of world
GREG MILLER, NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes. It`s
beyond anomalous. I mean it is abnormal approaching unprecedented as far
as I can tell. I mean, all the presidents that we`ve known in our
lifetimes have had meetings with the Russian leader but always go into
those meetings with abundant staff with prep – with detailed preparations.
They want witnesses for these meetings for multiple reasons, one to make
sure nothing – there is no misunderstanding of what has transpired to
generate a record of what`s happened and then so that they partly so that
that record can then be shared with others in their own administrations so
that they can implement whatever agreements or policies are reached in
those discussions. And Trump doesn`t do anything like that.
He intentionally keeps his own aides on the outside of these closed-door
meetings. He doesn`t really listen to them going into the room. He
doesn`t really tell them what happened when he comes out.
And it`s more than – you know, there`s the remarkable story of him
confiscating the notes of the interpreter which is an amazing piece of
reporting that you got that information. But it`s also the case according
your reporting that in the other meetings he`s had there has been no paper
record, no post briefing, nothing that a member of the government could
access to look at what are the notes of what happened here.
MILLER: That`s right. I mean, he has had meetings or encounters or
conversations with Putin in five separate places around the world since
taking office and there isn`t a single comprehensive account of any of
those. And you know, it`s – you don`t have to take my word for it. You
can look up prior presidents transcripts of their conversations with world
leaders like this. You can – the Clinton meetings with Yeltsin in the
1990s have been declassified and you can read detailed transcripts of
everything they talked about.
I`m not sure we`re ever going to have records like that come out of this
administration and this president.
HAYES: The strangest meeting I think it`s fair to say was a dinner at the
G20 after the President already met with Putin earlier in the day. That
night he walks over to the empty chair, talks to him for somewhere shy of
an hour. Ian Bremmer who broke the story on that from other G20
participants said the most unusual thing about Trump`s nearly hour-long
private dinner conversation the Putin of the G20 Homburg is that he didn`t
tell any of his advisers about it afterwards. Does that scan with what
MILLER: Yes. I mean, that`s consistent with how – with how he has
carried himself. And of course, the White House didn`t reveal that that
conversation had taken place I think for more than ten days afterward. And
this is – that`s what we say in the story that we published this weekend
that this is – this is not just a one-off thing. This is a pattern with
this president of going to significant lengths to conceal details about his
conversations, his meeting with the Russian leader.
HAYES: Has the White House denied this reporting? No, they`ve denounced
it but not denied – but not denied the fundamental details here that this
– that this happened, that this interpreter was told to stay quiet about
what had happened, that this interpreters notes was taken from him. No,
and they`ve not disputed any of those facts.
HAYES: Do you know who that interpreter is?
MILLER: I have an idea who this person is. He hasn`t been publicly
identified. It is a different interpreter than the one that we saw in
Helsinki a year later. These are State Department officials who are
experts in the Russian language who do this for many high-level meetings.
I mean, we should note that they`re not there to serve as record keepers,
they are there to translate.
And so you know, the discussion at the moment about whether to subpoena
these notes or try to compel this individual to testify, I mean is really a
sign of the desperation here because there`s really nobody else you could
turn to get a reliable account of what happened.
HAYES: All right, Greg Miller, thanks. Great reporting. I appreciate it.
Joining me now Malcolm Nance, MSNBC Terrorism Analysts with 35 years
working in counterterrorism and intelligence, the Author of The Plot to
Hack America: How Putin`s Cyber Spies and WikiLeaks Tried to Steal the 2016
Election. Also with me Matthew Miller MSNBC Justice and Security Analyst
and former Chief Spokesman for the Justice Department.
Malcolm, I`ll begin with you. As someone who I think is for a long time
had this as the working theory of how the facts arranged themselves, what
do you think?
MALCOLM NANCE, MSNBC TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, I think the reporting that
we got this weekend really spells out what the FBI had to have thought. It
would have been malpractice for the FBI not to have considered with the
intelligence that they had going forward but certainly by the time that
Donald Trump came out of the meeting with Sergey Lavrov and Sergey Kisliak
and had said that he fired the FBI director because of the Russia thing and
stopping the Russian investigation. They had to assume that there was a
nefarious intent in his activities and that it`s quite possible he could
have been turned or was working in his own interest which equaled Russia`s
HAYES: What – let me follow up on that though. There`s all these terms I
keep hearing from you that he`s being run as an agent. He`s witting or
unwitting. He has been turned. What does that mean? Let`s take this away
from the President. Like, if a foreign power, intelligence power manages
to acquire an American individuals an asset person in business of the State
Department, there`s different ways that can play out. What are they? What
does that mean?
NANCE: Well, there are varying degrees. And the most common ones start
off with a useful idiot. That`s a person who does something for their own
interest which just happens to align with a foreign power`s interests.
Then there is a fellow traveler that is a person who has ideologically the
same as another power and they do things because they believe the same
Then you have an unwitting asset is a person who is doing things for their
own self-interest but are also understanding that other forces may be
impacting them and they don`t care. And finally a witting asset which is a
person who is well aware of who`s pulling the strings and is accepting
that. But that is different from an agent. Usually that`s a person who
has a contract, who is working with a foreign power knowingly as their spy.
HAYES: What do you think of this? I mean, you worked at DOJ. The
remarkable decision by the FBI to open a counterintelligence inquiry into a
sitting president, what`s your read on that?
MATT MILLER, MSNBC JUSTICE AND SECURITY ANALYST: You know, in a perfect
world, it`s not the kind of decision you would want the FBI to be making on
its own about democratically elected president. But often in the
government, your choices aren`t between good and bad, they`re between bad
and cataclysmic. And I think if you put yourselves in the shoes of the FBI
in that critical eight, nine, day period, between when Jim Comey was fired
and when Bob Mueller was appointed, so they`ve already been looking at this
question implicitly. It`s always been implicit.
The president recognized that there`s a reason why he asked Jim Comey so
many times whether he was under investigation. And the reason Comey
wouldn`t say it publicly was because it might change and you might become a
person on investigation at some point. So I think if you`re the FBI, you
now have seen the president move against her investigation. He`s fired the
FBI Director. And more tellingly, you`ve seen the Deputy Attorney General
help the president do it.
HAYES: Rod Rosenstein.
MILLER: And so – yes, Rod Rosenstein. The person that you would usually
go to consult with about this decision you think, maybe it`s working with
the President to try to end the investigation. So I think what they were
doing. One, yes they`ve decided we need to make this explicit because we
now have this evidence that the Times reported, the Lester Holt interview,
the letter which included mention of Russia.
But I also think they`re trying to protect their investigation. And
bureaucratically the one thing you can do to make this investigation
unkillable is make the investigation into the president. Make it hard for
anyone to move against it and maybe force the Deputy Attorney General to
appoint a special prosecutor which of course is happening.
HAYES: So that movement you think from a bureaucratic perspective is a way
of essentially protecting it as you`re watching the president in real time
apparently attempt to obstruct justice?
MILLER: Yes. Because making him an explicit subject of the
counterintelligence investigation doesn`t give them any new authorities if
they think they weren`t already doing. It`s just a bureaucratic thing. So
the only reason I think it makes sense to do it is if you`re really saying
we`re worried about this investigation. And remember, if you go back and
get in a time machine and go back to May of 2017, people the Department of
Justice were entirely freaked out that the wall that had always separated
the department from the White House was crumbling down they needed to do
something to build it back up.
HAYES: Malcolm, what is – what`s your understanding the worst-case
NANCE: Well, the worst case scenario is that Donald Trump is a wholly
owned subsidiary of the Kremlin, that he actually is not only in debt to
the Kremlin. He is aware. It has been made clear to him that that debt is
going to be used against him and he will be leveraged and that he will do
the bidding of Vladimir Putin.
Vladimir Putin is a KGB human intelligence officer. His job was to turn
people into traitors and to run agents into West Germany to steal
technology. He knows what he`s doing. His top for senior staff were all
ex KGB, FSB, and a person like Donald Trump would be a godsend. And now
Putin wouldn`t do it directly, Chris. What he would do is he would do it
through inference and he would use his oligarchy to act like a carrot and a
stick for Donald Trump to do the things that he wants. And he has already
And as you know, as we`re seeing now, these things are playing out and the
FBI had to have known it because the U.S. intelligence community knew this
well before the election and had to start an investigation to determine if
he was Moscow`s asset witting or unwitting.
HAYES: All right, Malcolm Nance and Matt Miller, thank you both.
Democratic Congressman Mike Quigley serves on the House Intelligence
Committee. And you now have power. You are in the majority. You control
that committee`s agenda though you`re not the chair. What are you going to
do about the revelations that we`ve heard.
REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D), ILLINOIS: Look, I think there`s a lot of questions
that have been raised recently but none of them are a great big surprise to
us. I`ll say this. After watching it for over two years, I would tell the
American public there are no coincidences. The fact that Deutsche Bank was
the only bank that would do business with the president before he was
elected was also the bank that laundered money for the Russians.
The fact that the President slow rolled out sanctions against the Russians,
the fact that he would rather trust a foreign adversary of President Putin
over his entire intelligence community, he fired Sessions and Comey, there
are no coincidences. I believe the President of the United States has been
compromised whether he made all these extraordinary policy decisions based
on bad policy choices or they were – he was compromised, must be the
subject of the investigation.
HAYES: What do you mean –
QUIGLEY: We must be able to get those records.
HAYES: I want to ask about that but I want to follow up. What do you –
what does it mean to you? Explain in sort of plain terms. What does
compromise mean to you?
QUIGLEY: I believe that the Russians were the sole source of funds through
the Deutsche Bank. I can`t believe that that was that coincidence. I
believe they were able to use that so that he relied upon them. And the
evidence around the corners bothers me a great deal. The fact that the
Trump Tower in Moscow was something that the President lied about through
the campaign and that they were offering President Putin the penthouse
suite. These are extraordinary revelations. The only way we`re going to
find out is we have all the information, all the communications, the actual
You know, I read the other day it`s something like 101 content. It`s hard
to believe that there aren`t a lot more. Until we get those financial
documents, until we get all those sources of information, we won`t know for
sure. But it is certain that the president has acted like he`s compromised
from the beginning of his campaign. He attacked – he attacked those
multinational agencies that fight back against Russian aggression, the
U.N., the E.U., NATO. I mean, putting this all together, it`s just to me
too much of a – too much of a coincidence.
HAYES: There`s been discussion today about the possibility subpoenaing the
translator or translators who have been in the room for these meetings. Is
that something you would favor?
QUIGLEY: Absolutely. I favor subpoenaing those transcripts, I favor
subpoenaing all his financial documents.
HAYES: No, but the translator. I just want to be clear. The actual –
the linguist of the State Department. It would be fairly unprecedented, I
think unprecedented –
QUIGLEY: Oh, absolutely.
HAYES: You want to see them before your committee?
QUIGLEY: It is totally unprecedented. It is an extraordinary act to do
that. Understand, the story coming out about the FBI is suspecting the
President of the United States having been compromised. I think it`s
important for the American public to recognize that and reflect for a
moment just the state of where our democracy is if that is indeed true.
The mere fact that people at this high level of the FBI would question the
loyalty of the President of the United States, that`s unprecedented. We
have to act the same.
HAYES: All right, Congressman Mike Quigley, thank you very much. The
President drafted a cover story about Russian adoptions, remember that, to
explain that infamous Trump Tower meeting promising dirt on Hillary
Clinton. It was just one day after secretly meeting with Russian President
Vladimir Putin. That`s next.
HAYES: A single most explosive detail from the Washington Post report on
the President concealing his talks with Vladimir Putin from the U.S.
government is that the President went so far as to confiscate his own
interpreters notes after his first face-to-face meeting with Putin a year
and a half ago, instructing the interpreter not to tell any other U.S.
officials what had happened. That reporting adds to what was already a
highly incriminating chain of events unfolding over the course of just two
days at the G20 Summit in July 2017.
We learn later that hours after that first meeting with Putin where the
interpreter was present, the President held a second totally undisclosed
meeting with Putin on the sidelines of a G20 dinner. And in a truly
unprecedented breach of normal practice, there were reportedly no other
Americans present. The only other participant was Putin`s interpreter.
The President was said to have concealed that second meeting from his own
Both of those meetings with Putin took place on July 7th, 2017 and they
were not the only significant events of that day. Early that very same
morning, according to the New York Times, the paper, The Times reached out
to the White House with its first questions about the 2016 Trump Tower
meeting between a Russian lawyer and senior campaign officials. But it
wasn`t until a day later after the President took off from the G20 on board
Air Force One that Donald Trump Jr. responded with a statement at Times. A
misleading account of the Trump Tower meeting that according to the
President`s own lawyers seems to have been dictated by the President
Statement reading in part, “We primarily discussed a program about the
adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American
families years ago and was sins ended by the Russian government. Marcy
Wheeler is a journalist who blogs about national security, the Mueller
investigation at emptywheel.net. She has posed the question, did Putin
dictate Don Jr. statement.
All right, Marcy, you wrote that piece a while ago before these
revelations, what was your theory of the case then?
MARCY WHEELER, INDEPENDENT PUBLISHER: Well, very simply. We now know that
the Trump people had been working on figuring out what happened at that
meeting for over a month by the New York Times called. But that day they
called and said can we get a statement about what happened and that I think
was before that first meeting with Putin so two and a half hours with Putin
with Tillerson, Rex Tillerson present, they promised the Trump people
promised that the next day they`re going to have a conference call with it.
Then late that night Trump who`s at a banquet at the G20 gets up wanders
over to where Melania is sitting right next to Putin and starts a comment
hour-long conversation with him that nobody was there except for the
translator and maybe Melania. And then the next day instead of speaking to
the New York Times, they issued a statement that early last year Trump`s
lawyers claimed he dictated. but the statement is about adoptions. It`s
the Russian line that they used to kind of explain away Magnitsky
And Trump later that month so later last summer admitted to the New York
Times oh yes, we talked about adoptions. We talked about what this
statement actually was. So he`s admitted that he`s the one who told
everyone what to say and he later admitted that he and Putin spoke about
the subject that formed the basis for this statement which was by the way
pretty inaccurate as far as what we`ve subsequently learned happened with
HAYES: That point you make about adoptions being essentially the Russian -
- the Kremlin`s code for sanctions, right? I mean the adoptions were sort
of – the adoption program was shut down in response to sanctions being
imposed on Russia. When they say adoptions, what they really mean is we
want you to drop the sanctions.
WHEELER: Right. And Putin has used that sense in before to talk about his
relations with the United States. So he continues to insist on that line
for basically getting his oligarchs all their money back and their ability
to play in the United States again.
HAYES: I want to play that clip because it`s so I think telling. This is
Trump talking New York Times where he says yes – no, we actually talked
about adoptions. Weirdest thing. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Mere pleasantries more than anything else. It was not a long
conversation but it was you know, it could be 15 minutes just talking about
things. Actually, it was very interesting we talked about adoption. We
did, Russian adoption. It sounds interesting because you know, he ended
that years ago. And I actually talked about Russian adoption with him
which is interesting because that was part of the conversation Don had with
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: So interesting that they talked about the same thing. It strikes
me that it makes also sense of this piece from last year that Mueller has
zeroed in on the story put together about Trump Tower meeting. That was an
item a particular concern. And given what we now know about confiscating
the interpreter`s notes and the plausibility this line was fed to him by
the Kremlin, do you think that is part of why Mueller zeroed in on it.
WHEELER: Oh absolutely. I mean – and the fact that it was misleading.
Just as an example, part of the statement that came out was that there was
no follow-up. We know that Natalia Veselnitskaya who by the way recently
got indicted by the U.S. government for basically being part of the Russian
government. We know that she made significant efforts to follow up right
after the election. And right when the Agalarov had decided well, we can`t
get a proper back channel to Don Jr. that`s the day literally that Jared
Kushner asked Kislyak for a back – for a backchannel.
And so – and then that leads to these you know, to these Jared`s meetings
with other sanctioned banks. It leads to the December 29th conversation
where Mike Flynn told the Russians not to worry about sanctions. So it all
leads up to that meeting, that conversation between Flynn and Kislyak on
sanctions and that`s what Flynn lied about and that`s what Trump fired him
about and that gets you to Jim Comey.
HAYES: Marcy Wheeler, thanks for joining me. We don`t know if President
Trump is a Russian agent but we know that to some people in the FBI he sure
was acting like one. Former FBI Special Agent Clint Watts on the mountain
of evidence the FBI could – just could not ignore next.
HAYES: Nearly two years ago, former FBI agent Clint Watts went before
congress to describe the Trump administration suspicious practice of
parroting Russian propaganda during the 2016 campaign. And this weekend
after The New York Times revealed the FBI had, in fact, opened an inquiry
whether Trump was secretly working with Russia, Watts made the clear the
agency really hadn`t had much of a choice. “Imagine for a moment that you
are an FBI agent. You work on Russian
counterintelligence. And again and again, you watch as the GOP`s nominee
for president, and eventual president, repeats Russia propaganda, pushes
pro-Russia U.S. policy and stakes out position that
seemingly could only have come from the Kremlin.”
In a tweet storm over the weekend, Watts laid out the flood of evidence
that forced the FBI to take the remarkable step of opening an inquiry into
a sitting president. And he pointed to the evidence to ask a simple
question: how would a president compromised, coerced, or co-opted by the
Kremlin act any different?
Joining me now is Clint Watts, MSNBC national security analyst, former FBI
special agent with the joint terrorism task force.
So talk through how you would be viewing the run up of the campaign and the
actual time in office from the perspective of someone who specializes in
counterintelligence, specifically with respect to Russia.
CLINT WATTS, MSNBC NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yeah, so the whole point of
the Russian effort was to create a policy change. It is active measures
when through the force of politics by inserting people that support your
Donald Trump, on both parties, was the only one to speak so effusively
about how great Putin was and when you look at the summer, just that summer
period of 2016, you know that Russia is hacked into a wide swath of
American targets. He goes on stage and says, Russia, if you got those
emails. At the same point, you are investigating, you`ve already started
to investigate, several people tied to his campaign that have popped up
that are very odd characters who have all of these connections to Russia.
HAYES: And not only they shouldn`t be around an American presidential
campaign and yet they are and yet their connected to Russia.
WATTS: They are either players who have never played the game, or players
who play the game and in the Nixon era and have suddenly reappeared on the
stage and not only participating, are campaign managers, who also at the
same time cite Russian propaganda on CNN.
It is just remarkable when you look back at just that three-month period,
the number of contacts and the number of times it comes up.
HAYES: What is – there is part of this, too, about the president`s
positions, right. So, part of what is hard about this is is there are
positions that one could take independent of being co-opted that just
happen to align with Russian interests. There are certain things like
there is this report – Rachel did this amazing piece about concerns about
Belorussian aggression into Poland, or Poland was going to invade Belarus I
guess it was? Concerns about Montenegro joining NATO, that the president
spouts that seem to come from absolutely nowhere.
WATTS: These are issues that are not even on U.S. foreign policy radar.
They are very obscure. And I can specifically remember the change in RNC
platform to be less Ukraine, more pro-Russian. I remember watching that
and being, whoa, this is like a major change out of nowhere.
The next one, you hear them talk about Poland and Belarus, you go I`m not
sure the president even knows who these two countries are, that is a very
specific and I never heard it from anywhere but Russia.
You jump to the Montenegrin prime minister, pushing him. You know that
Russia had just tried to actually do overt election interference, they put
a plot in an an election day just a few months before, that`s the one
person he picks, and he goes on Fox News and says Montenegro is an
aggressive country. It`s the Rhode Island of Europe. It is a tiny country
that is not going to challenge Russia in any way.
HAYES: And so you think if you are sitting there in the FBI, what are you
thinking? What is the suspicion forming in your mind?
WATTS: Well, at first you`re going to say there is no way this is
possible. You don`t believe it. But then you take that whole influence
campaign – the president, the candidate, the president-elect and the
president is consistently citing what is only coming out of the Kremlin,
and you know that from
foreign intelligence aspect, and at the same point, he can`t stop asking
you about Russia. And every time your investigators go talk to someone in
his team, like Flynn, hey, are you doing quid pro quo
for sanctions? He lies to your agency about it.
So now you are saying, OK, on this side I have constant worry from the
administration. Am I a target of the Russia investigation? Oh, you told
me I wasn`t a target. Don`t put that in a memo.
Lester Holt, by the way, Russia was on my mind. And, hey, Russian guys are
in the Oval Office, I got rid of Comey, you don`t have to worry about this
I mean, as an FBI counterintelligence agent, I can`t think of anything else
that would come up that would not cause more alarm at this point. This is
a year-and-a-half of behavior.
HAYES: And this then pushes that faithful decision. Matt Miller was here
before saying that he thinks that sort of formal move to open a
counterintelligence inquiry was the kind of bureaucratic forcing mechanism
to push to get the special counsel protection of the investigation. Does
that make sense to you?
WATTS: I agree. When I hear the stories of Rosenstein/McCabe showdown,
that is probably what it was about.
HAYES: Right, because we had those stories about.
WATTS: Right. I imagine that Rosenstein comes in. He gets set up – this
is my interpretation.
he gets set up as the fall guy for firing Comey, probably didn`t understand
what was going on. He`d been there about a week. This happens. They fire
Comey. He goes over to the FBI. He finds out probably at this point about
memos, the FBI director that just got fired was doing, maybe other memos
going on. He may have learned other investigative leads. He says how do I
get control of an FBI that we can`t have investigating the president, a
president who keeps bringing up Russia for odd reasons, foreign policy
statements that are being made, and how do I bring that in.
Robert Mueller, that is my answer, I`m going to do a special counsel and
try and move this
into some independence. And my boss, by the way, has recused himself from
this investigation, and I`ve been here a month.
HAYES: It`s a hell of a decision to make.
Clint Watts, thank you for your time tonight.
WATTS: Thank you.
HAYES: The man who will be in charge of the Justice Department at a
critical time for the Mueller probe, as Clint was just discussing, goes
before the Senate for his confirmation hearings. That is next.
HAYES: Special Counsel Robert Mueller has long anticipated report is
expected to be released as soon as next month. And the person who will
decide what we, the public, actually get to see from the report is the
Tomorrow, after more than two months with an acting A.G. of dubious
constitutional legitimacy, the senate will finally hold confirmation
hearings for an official attorney general, William Barr, who is trying to
get ahead of anticipated questions about Mueller by saying in his prepared
opening statement released today, quote, “I believe it is vitally important
that the special counsel be allowed to complete his investigation and I
believe it is very important the public and congress be informed of the
results of the special counsel`s work.”
I`m joined now by Mimi Rocca, MSNBC legal analyst, former federal
prosecutor for the Southern District of New York; and Elliot Williams,
former deputy assistant attorney general for legislative affairs at DOJ
under President Obama.
Mimi, how important do you think this line of questioning is going to be in
MIMI ROCCA, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Hugely important. And, you know, it is
like when someone is a Supreme Court nominee and they say – and they are
asked about Roe v. Wade and
they say it is binding precedent. He is going to give a sort of standard
answer of think I the public should see – I mean, he`s already said it –
should see the results of Mueller`s work.
It is not enough to just take that answer on face value. They need to get
underneath that. What does that mean? That is not a clear statement: see
the results. That doesn`t mean I`m going to release the report in its
entirety in its unclassified form, and that is what he should commit to.
HAYES: That is the pledge you would like to see?
HAYES: What do you think Elliot?
ELLIOT WILLIAMS, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: Absolutely. He
needs to make clear not just, you know, are you just going to let it go out
to its completion, but what will you do with the respect to the
investigation. So, for instance, Matthew
Whitaker was on the record saying he was committing to starving the
investigation of its funding, and so on, and Barr needs to be read those
statements and he needs to make a – you know, either disavow of them or
comment on them.
So what is your position with respect to the funding of the investigation?
What is your position with respect to following the advice of career ethics
attorneys as to whether you should recuse yourself from the investigation?
And none of this sort of generic, like Mimi had said in the context of
judicial nominations, well I`ll follow the law and of course I will listen
to career attorneys.
He needs to give clear answers given all of the problems and all of the
questions that have
arisen thus far.
Like, we should all sort of be alarmed based on his writings and his
conduct thus far.
HAYES: Yeah, the 20-page memo he sent to DOJ.
I want to play this clip, because it`s amazing. We`ve been through here
before. Elliot Richardson gets brought before the Senate to be confirmed
when he is nominated, and basically has to pledge he is going to keep the
special prosecutor Archibald Cox. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELLIOT RICHARDSON, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: Mr. Cox will full
independence, as far as I`m concerned. He has been given, or will be
given, upon his appointment full
authority to investigate all aspects of the Watergate case itself and other
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Is that a template?
ROCCA: Absolutely. But here I think it is a two-part template, because of
the way the special counsel statute is now structured. One is, will he be
allowed to finish his investigation into all areas, including the area of
obstruction which Barr has expressed skepticism on.
HAYES: In his memo, right.
ROCCA: And then the second part is does the memo in full come out, because
that is now going to in the hands of Bill Barr.
HAYES: I really can`t imagine a universe in which the memo just sits there
in a box.
ROCCA: No, but he could decide to release only certainly parts of it. He
could decide to release only a summary of it. I mean, there are ways he
could cut the corners off.
HAYES: There is also, Elliot, the question of the Southern District of New
York, right. I mean, there`s not just one inquiry into the president. The
Southern District of New York has already brought charges and accepted a
plea from the president`s lawyer who said the president directed him to
commit a crime.
WILLIAMS: Right. Absolutely. And, you know, there are decisions that are
going to be made at main Justice, sort of the headquarters of the Justice
Department, that are going to be touching all of
these investigations in the Southern District and elsewhere. And the
question is once again for Barr, what is your role – or how do you
envision your role with respect to these, and just not generally, well, I
will be behave in the manner that other attorneys general have.
You know, he`s sort of – if you read his comments, he sort of tries to
blunt that criticism, saying, well, you know, I`m just a simple 68-year-old
country lawyer and I`m just here to do a job when in reality we need pretty
clear answers as to how he is going to handle all of these investigations.
And I think – you know, playing that Elliot Richardson quote is striking,
because we`re in a different era now where we seem to let nominees get away
with not really answering questions.
HAYES: That is a great point.
WILLIAMS: Yeah, and it is not an effective way to vet people in the manner
that the American people deserve.
HAYES: Yeah, that point about – that is definitely going to be the way
they are going to try to coach him through this. Mimi Rocca, Elliot
Williams, thank you both for joining me.
The Trump shutdown and the Trump wall have nothing to do with law and
order. The ethnonationalist motives of Steve King and Pat Buchanan and the
HAYES: After days of voicing concern and regret about Steve King being
shockingly forthright about his affection for white supremacy, tonight
House Republicans have taken the pretty remarkable step to kick him off all
This comes following Congressman Bobby Rush, Democrat of Illinois, and Tim
Ryan of Ohio, both filing resolutions to censure King; and House Majority
Whip Jim Clyburn introducing a resolution of disapproval.
But as I noted here last week, the problem with King is more than his
comments and his own striking honesty about his own racist views, the
problem is that King`s policy agenda has taken over the Republican Party,
and the Party is currently shutting down the government over it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. STEVE KING, (R) IOWA: I`m going to do the two-minute drill on the
King wall. I also say we need to do a few other things on top of that
wall, and one of them be to put a little bit of wire on top here to provide
a disincentive for people to climb over the top or put a ladder there.
We could also electrify this wire with the kind of current that wouldn`t
kill somebody, but it would simply be a discouragement for them to be
fooling around with it. We do that with livestock all the time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES; When I played that clip last week as part of a commentary, I argued
that the core of the shutdown was catering to a part of the Republican base
that has an explicitly ethnonationalist project: maintaining white
dominance in America at all costs.
That observation prompted some whining in certain quarters, which was
little more than the hollering of hit dogs. But I`m grateful to President
Trump for explicitly making my point for me. Last night, the president
himself provenly quoted as justification for his wall shutdown a Pat
Buchanan column that explicitly makes this argument. Buchanan says that
“mass migration from the global South is the real existential crisis of the
West.” And says “Democrats have a devious plan to make America less white
and more diverse because of their supposed antipathy to white men.” The
only way to foil their plot, Buchanan argues, is to make sure the nation
doesn`t get more diverse, keeps it white, by building the wall.
So, thank you to the president for making my thesis clear. Pat Buchanan,
Steve King, and Donald Trump want the wall built explicitly part as an
ethnonationalist project to maintain white dominance in America.
It`s a welcome step that after 16 years House Republicans are finally
taking some action to wrap the knuckles of their most notorious racist, but
the fact remains that on day 24 of the longest ever government shutdown,
Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy and congressional Republicans are still
all active collaborators in pursuing Steve King`s project.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Look, from everything I see has no respect for this person.
HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, that`s because he would
rather have a puppet as president…
TRUMP: No puppet. No puppet.
CLINTON: And it`s pretty clear.
TRUMP: You`re the puppet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: The Clinton campaign pointed out repeatedly all the ways in which
their opponent appeared to be manipulated by, or compromised by Russia.
Today, Hillary Clinton, referencing that moment, tweeted, “like I said, a
Joining me now is Philippe Reines. He`s the former adviser to presidential
candidate Hillary Clinton.
What is your reaction from your perch of having gone through that election
and watched (inaudible) explicitly this case to the news we`ve gotten over
PHILIPPE REINES, FORMER ADVISER TO HILLARY CLINTON: Well, watching that
clip and watching a piece that the campaign put out later, it`s just
freakish. I mean, it`s almost like you have to wonder whether or not it
was fake today.
But I think there`s an important point here, which is when you look at the
timeline backwards, there was, you know, the saying that where there`s
smoke there`s fire. If you look at 2016 it`s where there was fire there
was fire. You had things going on left and right. You had carter page –
are things I`m saying that the government was aware of, specifically Jim
Comey – you had Carter Page under surveillance, you had Mike Flynn being
tied to Putin, you had Manafort tied to Russia, you had Trump himself
saying if you have her emails. Amazingly, right after the campaign, Comey
decides to brief Trump on the so-called dossier, and then by March of 2017,
he`s testifying before congress that there`s an active investigation. So
my point is, this isn`t like it started the day after the election or the
day after the inauguration.
We have to wonder, again, you know, I can`t resist taking a shot at Jim
HAYES: I was just about to say, but continue.
REINES: But what`s the – he felt the need 10 days before to say hold on,
we found another couple of emails, never mind. But he chose not to tell
the American people that Donald Trump was up to his eyeballs in Russia.
HAYES: Well, here`s the question, if you go back – I was going back, I
was looking at that video which is video that Brian Fallon and the campaign
put out about all the Russia connections, it was something that your
campaign talked about a lot. Was that partly due to private information
you were getting through, say, the Steele Dossier or anything like that? I
mean, we know the Democratic Party paid for it. This was all public record
REINES: Yeah. And I`ll do you one better – I mean, if you don`t want to
trust Hillary Clinton or Brian Fallon or the Clinton campaign, don`t forget
that it was before the GOP convention that Kevin McCarthy, the speaker in
waiting of the House told Paul Ryan on tape and others in the room that
there were two people he thought that Russia paid, Donald Trump and Dana
Rohrbacker. I mean, this is something that people saw everywhere.
And it`s not like it was Sweden, I mean, it was Russia, our leading
adversary. And, you know, antenna should have gone up, and Comey said his
antenna went up, he just thought that she would win and it would be
Now, conversely he won and it`s tainted.
HAYES: There`s also someone else who figures, I think prominently here
when you go back to that period, which is Mitch McConnell. And I want to
read you this from The Washington Post, “Obama administration officials
privately asked senior congressional leaders,” this is back in 2016, right
before they were about to make this announcement, “in both parties to go
public with the united front against Russian interference. McConnell
refused, claiming in The Post`s words that he would
consider any effort by the White House to challenge the Russians publicly
an act of partisan politics.”
What do you think of that?
REINES: Well, I mean, Mitch McConnell was the majority leader, and the so
called gang of eight includes the majority leader. And I remember vividly
when Harry Reid, his counterpart from the
Democrats one day sent this scathing letter that it`s worth reading in
hindsight basically said, “hey, Mitch, you know what I know, and Comey, you
know what I know.” And you know, Mitch McConnell has been absolutely
complicit. And it goes back before Trump. I mean, it goes to obviously
the Merrick Garland.
But I think Mitch McConnell did a huge disservice to his party and some
ways, I would say that he has probably contributed a great deal to the
death of his party.
HAYES: This is an emotional question but I`ll ask it. Like where is your
mind about all this two years later?
REINES: It`s how the hell did this happen in the sense of why did some let
this happen? And when I say some, I mean obviously the former FBI
director, but it was hiding in plain sight. And I would like to think that
a lot of people, including Jim Comey, though he won`t acknowledge it, but I
think a lot of these other players, whether it`s Peter Strzok, Lisa Paige,
I`d like to think that if they could do it over again, that they would do
it very differently.
REINES: And I wish that had happened differently. We`d be in a different
world where we`re not keeping secrets with the Russians instead of from the
HAYES: Philippe Reines, thanks for joining us.
That is All In for this evening. The Rachel Maddow Show starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
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