The impeachable offense of abuse of power. TRANSCRIPT: 3/4/19, All In w/ Chris Hayes.

Chris Murphy, Alyssa Mastromonaco, Ted Lieu, Gabe Sherman, Angelo Carusone, Aisha Moodie-Mills, Wajahat Ali

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  That`s HARDBALL for now.  Thanks for being

with us.  “ALL IN” with Chris Hayes starts right now.







abuses of power in obstruction of justice threats to the Mueller



HAYES:  Brand new allegations of Presidential abuse of power as Democrats

begin to lay groundwork for impeachment.


NADLER:  We can`t depend on the Mueller investigation for this.


HAYES:  Tonight, the Trump orders to block a media merger.





HAYES:  And the vast probe Democrats are launching into corruption,

obstruction, and abuse of power by the President.  Then –


TRUMP:  Do we love Sean Hannity by the way?


HAYES:  Blockbuster new reporting on the cable news channel running



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Sean Hannity and Trump speak regularly almost every

night after his show.


HAYES:  Gabe Sherman on the President`s symbiotic relationship with Trump



TRUMP:  Thank you to my very good friend Rupert Murdoch –


HAYES:  And as the Democratic presidential field swells –


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We`re facing a crisis that threatens everything we

stand for.


HAYES:  Why the 2020 primary is actually two races rolled into one.


SEN.BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT:  We`re not going to concede one state to

Donald Trump.


HAYES:  When ALL IN starts right now.




HAYES:  Good evening from New York.  I`m Chris Hayes.  After two years it

does get harder and harder to be shocked by the ways this President tries

to abuse the power of his office.  The latest example nearly revealed by

The New Yorker is truly an appalling violation of the country`s democratic



According to the magazine, the President pressured his administration to

intervene in a proposed merger between AT&T and Time Warner, the parent

company of CNN whose coverage the president regularly attacks.




TRUMP:  CNN is fake news.  I don`t take question – I don`t take questions

from CNN.  CNN is fake news.  I don`t take questions from.  John Roberts of

Fox.  Let`s go to a real – let`s go to a real network.




HAYES:  The New Yorker reports that in the summer 2017, the President

summoned then-economic advisor Gary Cohn and then Chief of Staff John Kelly

into the Oval Office saying I`ve been telling Cohn to get this lawsuit

filed and nothing`s happened.  I`ve mentioned it 50 times and nothing`s

happened.  I want to make sure it`s filed.  I want that deal blocked.


Cohn reportedly told Kelly as they left, don`t you dare call the Justice

Department.  We are not going to do business that way. 


But here`s the thing, the Justice Department did sue to block the murder. 

We don`t know if the President`s order is having to do with it.  According

to reports at the time, DOJ was actually demanding AT&T sell CNN as a

condition for the deal.


Ultimately, a federal judge ruled in favor of the merger over the

Department of Justice`s objections.  This would not be the first time the

president tried to use his power to retaliate against coverage he doesn`t

like.  Witnesses many tweets attacking the Washington Post and its owner

Jeff Bezos along with the salacious coverage and alleged blackmail attempt

on Bezos by the Trump allied National Enquirer.


It`s the kind of thing you might expect in countries where the press isn`t

free, where the rule of law as weak, and strong men can do whatever they

want.  And it is also completely consistent with the president`s behavior

throughout his time in office marked by frequent attempts at abuse of power

only tempered by how often they seem to be stymied.


His requests James Comey to let Michael Flynn go, his public browbeating of

Jeff Sessions over Sessions recusal and his refusal to investigate the

president`s political foes.  His insistence that his son-in-law get a

security clearance even after Jared Kushner was flagged by intelligence

officials as a danger, and then his repeated lying about it.


The abuses of power have become so routine as to be banal like for instance

the President`s tweet just this Saturday just touting his Scottish golf

course as a benefit diplomacy with the U.K.  He`s using his position as

president to promote his private business right there in that tweet right

in front of all of us.  That is on its face and abuse of power.


Many of these abuses don`t qualify as prosecutable crimes but they`re

exactly the kind of conduct that the impeachment process was designed to

address.  You know, after this show on Friday night, I had a conversation

with Elizabeth Holtzman, former member of Congress who sat on the House

Judiciary Committee when it introduced articles of impeachment against

Richard Nixon.  And Holtzman told me something that`s been sticking in my

head ever since.


She said we`re all too focused on the president`s potential crimes as

defined by the U.S. Criminal Code, but that`s not she said, what

impeachment is about.  There were crimes Nixon committed she said, that

weren`t in the articles of impeachment and there were articles of

impeachment that probably could not have been prosecuted as crimes.


The way Holtzman and her colleagues looked at it, high crimes and

misdemeanors were abuses of power committed from on high, from the lofty

perch of the Oval Office.  And that`s what`s now at issue in the case of

our current President Donald Trump.


Fudging your assets to avoid taxes as Michael Cohen just alleged may be a

crime but maybe it`s not impeachable, probably not.  On the other hand, it

may not be a crime to send the Justice Department after media outlets that

you don`t like, but it might be a high crime or misdemeanor in the context

of impeachment.


Just so happens that the current chair of the Judiciary Committee, the same

committee that Holtzman sat on, the one responsible for starting the

impeachment process sees things in very similar terms.




NADLER:  Crimes and impeachable offenses are two different things.  They

can be crimes that are not impeachable offenses and impeachable offenses

and not crimes.  They`re just two different tests.  So we can`t depend on

the Mueller investigation for this.  The Mueller investigation, number one,

we don`t know when it`s ending despite lots of rumors.  Number two, it`s

focused on specific crimes, and we have to focus much more broadly.




HAYES:  Under Nadler, the House Judiciary Committee is now launching a

massive investigation of the President requesting documents from 81

entities and individuals close to him.  And they`re targeting the exact

category of conduct that yielded articles of impeachment against Nixon,

abuse of the president`s power.


To help understand what that category means, how we should evaluate this

president, I`m joined by Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, a

member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  Senator, I`ve already

seen colleagues of yours including Chris Van Hollen expressing their shock

and dismay about the reports about the president lobbying his

administration to file suit to block that merger.  What`s your reaction to



SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D), CONNECTICUT:  Well, I think as you correctly pointed

out, this is a long line in abuses.  The fact of the matter is it may be

that that merger was worthy of high level of scrutiny whether or not it was

because of the malevolent motives of the president, but it`s just more and

more proof.


Listen, you`ve got – you`ve got a couple different avenues here.  You`ve

properly identified impeachment as a means by which you can try to control

a president who has gone far afield of ethical norms, but you can also take

powers away from him that were granted to him through the legislative

process.  Approval of mergers would be one of them.  You could – you could

put more boundaries around the President`s ability to influence that



Right now in the Foreign Relations Committee, we`re talking about

sanctioning Saudi Arabia because the President has refused to do that, has

violated the law and not given us a report on the culpability of the Saudi

regime that he`s required to do.


And so Congress can also take steps to just handcuff the President, to take

powers away from him, to do more ourselves if we find that the abusers are

maybe short of impeachment but still worthy of being addressed.


HAYES:  You know, you just mentioned Saudi Arabia.  I want to follow up on

that because that`s a place in which you know, Jared Kusner is meeting with

MBS.  He has the security clearance granted by the president over the

objections we now know of almost everyone in that White House including

intelligence agencies, his chief of staff and his White House Counsel.


And new reporting that the body of the Washington Post columnist that was

apparently hacked to death was burned in an oven at a Saudi diplomat`s

home, and a briefing today that you walked out of frustrated that you got

no more information.  Where is the administration, where are we on this



MURPHY:  So we had another briefing on the Khashoggi murder behind closed

doors briefing today that was so devoid of any relevant information that

the chairman of the committee, Jim Risch who`s been a reliable supporter of

the president asked all of us Democrats and Republicans to stay behind

after the briefing was done to talk about what to do next.


And I think there`s a growing sense on this issue from Republicans and

Democrats that Congress is going to have to take the reins of the U.S.-

Saudi relationship ourselves because the President is unable to get it



Now,1 we are going to do everything in our power to try to figure out why

Trump has the Saudi relationship so backwards.  We`ve got an emoluments

lawsuit in court right now that may seek to divine whether the president

has financial connections.  Clearly the House will have some ability to

find out those answers as well.


But as we try to explore those links between the President and the Saudi

government, Congress may be in the process of just taking back some of the

reins of foreign policy and you know, that`s probably a good thing for the

long run of democracy anyway.


HAYES:  Here`s another example of that right?  So when you`re talking about

abuse of power, how to rein in a President who many feels abusing power. 

The vote now that the House kicked off to essentially withdraw the

President`s declaration of emergency about the southern border, something

that seems facially preposterous since he said he didn`t have to do it

himself.  It now looks like the Senate has the votes to pass that

revocation of the emergency declaration.


MURPHY:  Yes.  And you know, Rand Paul who maybe isn`t always the best vote

counter in the United States Senate claiming today that there are at least

ten Republican votes which you know, gets you a little bit closer to a

veto-proof majority.


You know, listen, again, there are so many different ways that you can

check a president the Free Press checks the president, the Judiciary checks

him, and Congress checks him.  But you are also right that the ultimate

check is impeachment.  And what know is that the President`s behavior has

already crossed the threshold of what was brought for impeachment before

the House in the Nixon administration and the Clinton administration.


In fact, he crossed those thresholds in the first weeks or months of

office.  And so that is another means if these other means fail to control

this president.


HAYES:  You know, in all of those cases right, so when you`re talking about

it may be an override on the Saudi sanctions, you`re talking about possibly

getting to a veto override although I think that seems unlikely in the case

of the national emergency declaration or were you to talk about removal of

film office pursuant to impeachment in the House.


You know, those all require a degree of bipartisanship.  They do they

require essentially margins that so far have been very difficult to muster

except for a few Russia-related pieces of legislation.  I guess the

question always is, is that changing?


MURPHY:  Well, I think that that`s why somebody like Mark Warner who`s the

ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee was you know so careful to

try to you know, maintain bipartisan agreement as they went through their

Senate investigation.  Because he knew that if they uncovered something

impeachable, if Mueller did as well, he needed to be able to still work

with Republicans.


I also think that we all overestimate some of the informal ways that

Republicans check this president.  I complain just as much as everybody

else does about their general silence.  But I think Mitch McConnell and

others have made it pretty clear behind closed doors to President Trump

that if he actually did try to fire Mueller that there would be



HAYES:  Right, yes.  It`s a good point.


MURPHY:  And I think the only reason that Mueller is going to be able to

deliver a report that I think will ultimately see the light of day is

because Republicans have quietly made sure that he gets to do his job.


HAYES:  All right, Senator Chris Murphy, thank you for your time tonight. 

For more on how the president tries to abuse his administration`s power,

I`m joined by Alyssa Mastromonaco, former Deputy Chief of Staff and

Assistant to President Barack Obama.  She has a new book out So Here`s The

Thing: Notes on Growing Up, Getting Older, and Trusting Your Gut.  And

MSNBC Legal Analyst Nick Akerman, former Assistant Special Watergate



Let me start with you Alyssa.  Imagine a situation in the Oval Office that

the President decides to reach into some antitrust questions for the

Justice Department to go after say Fox News or 20th Century Fox because he

doesn`t like what they`re reporting about him.



PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:  That would never happen.  You know, I think about

it when I listened to Senator Murphy speak.  The first day – first or

second day we were in the White House, the president was very clear that we

serve the people not his post-presidency or anything like that.  And so

when we talk about sort of what Trump – whatever his offense is, he`s

putting his own wealth and his own success ahead of the American people.


HAYES:  And in this case maybe even his own grudges about the coverage,





HAYES:  I mean –


MASTROMONACO:  He`s putting his ego, he`s putting his wealth, he`s putting

everything above that of the American people including those who voted him

in.  This this revelation today you know, it`s – there are few things

striking about this one, Nick, is one is at the time the big question was,

was this done for improper reasons?


I mean, that was the first line in all of the coverage of it.  And number

two we`re just finding out about now.  And number three it does seem to be

an abuse of power on its face.


NICK AKERMAN MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST:  It does.  I mean, this is actually no

different than what happened in Watergate.  This is history again repeating

itself.  Back then, there wasn`t AT&T, it was ITT, the International

Telegraph and Telephone company where there was a similar allegation about

a misuse of power with respect to a merger in a whole series of items with



I mean, even the Attorney General who succeeded John Mitchell who went to

jail and was convicted of obstruction of justice, Richard Kleindienst pled

guilty to lying to Congress about his dealings with ITT.


HAYES:  About his intervention in their case on behalf of the President.


AKERMAN:  Yes, exactly.  So this is not something new.  I mean, this is the

exact same thing that happened 45 years ago or more.


HAYES:  Are you – when Chris Murphy says that he already crossed the

threshold for impeachment in the first few months, I mean Chris Murphy`s

not a you know, sort of wildly out there in his rhetoric.  Does that

surprise you to hear that from the U.S. Senator?


MASTROMONACO:  No.  I do think that people have for the most part been

pretty measured.  I personally don`t think impeachment is a good thing. 

It`s not good for the country, it`s not good for the Democrats.  I think

that it`s always better for a president to be voted out than it is –


HAYES:  Why do you think that?  Why do you think it`s not good?


MASTROMONACO:  In this case, I think – and other instances it`s maybe

different but I think that the way just in the speech that Trump gave at

CPAC, that the way that he tries to really beat his base is dangerous.


HAYES:  Because why>


MASTROMONACO:  Because he incites them.  He gets them all worked up.  He

says that the people who don`t agree with him are their enemies, that the

press is the enemy of the people.  Those are not I disagree with you and

you disagree with me statements.  Those – that is him inciting action.


HAYES:  So you think there`s – the impeachment precipitated some kind of

crisis for the country.




AKERMAN:  I would agree with that to an extent, but I think it depends on

what Mueller finds.  If you get a situation just like you have with the

Stormy Daniels where you`ve got Individual Number One as the conspirator in

chief – and that comes up in the Russian matter where he is shown to join

that conspiracy to release documents during the campaign with the Russians,

then I think your impeachment territory.


MASTROMONACO:  I totally agree with you.


HAYES:  But let me push back on that because I mean, part of the point here

right, is it like the abuses of power have happened.  They`re happening in

front of our face all the time.  What is the check on that other than the

fact which I guess you can arguing on the other side is that the only check

is that he seems pretty incompetent in abusing his own power and can`t

quite get people to carry out his orders.


MASTROMONACO:  He`s not subtle.  He doesn`t really have – right, he

doesn`t have the skill set.  I think it`s almost that exact thing though

that he`s doing it in plain sight.  And so, it`s not that – you know, some

of it is definitely hidden, but some of what he says it`s just so

outrageous and obvious, and says to the public that I think that maybe the

average person thinks, maybe it`s not that bad.  Like if he`s saying it out

loud, maybe it`s not that bad.


AKERMAN:  Yes.  But at the end of the day, this is a political process,

impeachment.  You not only have to get a majority of the House which you

could to vote articles of impeachment, but you have to get two-thirds of

the Senate which means you need a number of Republicans that feel strongly

enough that what he`s done is off the charts.


HAYES:  To remove him – but there`s also the case – there`s also a case

we made – I mean, and people made this – have made this case in the

previous – in the – in the three previous instances in the case of Andrew

Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Bill Clinton, very, very different fact

patterns in all of those cases, that part of it is just defending

constitutional principles.  Like the president going around saying you

should prosecute my political enemies is a kind of redline thing that needs

to be fought against.


AKERMAN:  But that`s what Nixon did.  He had an enemies list.


HAYES:  Right.  I know.  But I`m saying, this guy is –


AKERMAN:  But he was not going to be impeached for that.


HAYES: Right.


AKERMAN:  He was going to be impeached because he was trying to use the CIA

and the FBI to cover-up the Watergate matter.


HAYES:  So is the question here like efficacy?  Like the president is not

as good at abusing his power?


MASTROMONACO:  Yes.  I mean, I just think – I actually think he`s not that

smart.  And I think that he is  –I mean even from the security clearance

process you know, the fact that we talk about oh he was – he gave Jared

Kushner a top-secret security clearance.  Top-secret, we`re overlooking the

fact.  Top secret is not even adequate for what he`s doing.  It`s not the

highest –


HAYES:  He did not give him the highest clearance –


MASTROMONACO:  He did not give him the highest clearance.  He doesn`t have

codeword clearance.  Like he doesn`t – it`s – but that`s the thing. 

We`re like oh, he gave him a top-secret clearance but that`s not even half

of the story.


HAYES:  But – well then, what does that say to you about this presidency

and how it does or doesn`t work?


MASTROMONACO:  I think that it is a chaotic whirlwind of garbage that we

can`t possibly keep up with.


HAYES:  Right.


MASTROMONACO:  You know.  And then and when you look at the things that

he`s doing, it`s like well, I mean, do I really care that much about Jared

Kushner`s clearance?


HAYES:  Right.  But this gets us back to this thing and I seen this defense

and I think you were going increasingly see this defense which is that

essentially what we`ve seen it already marshaled in favor of the President

as allies in Russia and we`ll see it now which is that essentially they`re

too incompetent to rise to the level of committing serious offense.


AKERMAN:  Yes, but they haven`t been that incompetent.


HAYES:  That`s my point.  Yes.


AKERMAN:  I mean, absolutely not.  When it comes to Russia –


HAYES:  The DOJ brief got filed for the record.  It got filed.  He may have

rancid 50 times and Comey has said yes, I do, but someone got it done.


AKERMAN:  Right.  It got done.  We don`t know how it got done and that`s

going to be an investigation and hopefully we`ll find out what that was

about.  But if it is true that he conspired with the Russians, that they

were able to help on the campaign, that he agreed to and take away the

sanctions in return for that, I mean – and keep it – you know this – to

this point, where it hasn`t been totally revealed, that`s pretty amazing.


HAYES:  Well, that I will agree.  I would also say that we just learned

this thing about the order of Cohen now.




HAYES:  Right?  Not everything leaks at the time it`s happening.  Alyssa

Mastromonaco and Nick Akerman, great to have you both.




AKERMAN:  Thank you.


HAYES:  Next, Democrats take the first real steps towards potential

impeachment today launching an extensive investigation that President, the

people around him from Donald Trump Junior to the NRA.  Congressman Ted

Lieu on who his Judiciary Committee wants to hear from and why in two





HAYES:  Today Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee unleashed an

incredibly sweeping and wide-ranging investigation into President Trump and

his many associates.  The opening salvo in an inquiry that seems like it

will very likely move towards impeachment at some point.  So this is it. 

This is the thing Democrats said they were going to do in which the

President really fear which is to legally compel document production.


Now, they are not subpoenaing yet but they can.  And reading through the

list of 81 people in organizations is like reading a compendium of

presidential scandal, corruption, and abuse of power.  Like Viktor

Vekselberg, remember that guy, the Ukrainian born Russian oligarch who

showed up at Trump`s inauguration and whose investment firm just happened

to pay Michael Cohen $500,000 through the same LLC that Cohen used to pay

hush money to Stormy Daniels.


That`s Viktor Vekselberg.  Or Rhona Graff, Donald Trump longtime executive

assistant at the Trump Organization who has been asked to turn over among

other things all documents related to the contents of meeting between

President Trump and Vladimir Putin.  It`s been pointed out that while

Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, and Jared Kushner on the list, Ivanka Trump

is noticeably absent.


Politico though reporting tonight “it also won`t be the only document

requests.  Chairman Jerry Nadler staffs said another round of letters will

be going out soon and cautioned against reading into why some people didn`t

receive letters on Monday.


Joining me now one of the members of the Congressional Committee behind the

new investigation Democratic Congressman Ted Lieu of California.  What can

you tell us about the logic of this list?  What unifies it?  Why these

names and these entities?


REP. TED LIEU (D), CALIFORNIA:  Thank you, Chris, for your question.  Let

me first say that I hope our investigation exonerates Donald Trump.  I

don`t want to think that our president is a crook but I fear that our

investigation will not that.  We`re going to take the facts whoever it may

lead us and we`re going to leave no stone unturned.  This is just a first

salvo of 81 organizations and individuals that we want to get documents



And with regard to Ivanka Trump that you mentioned, I just want to note

that running a business into the ground is interesting, I`m not sure that`s

a crime.


HAYES:  Let me – let me ask you this.  The argument that you are seeing

from folks and allies of the President, Devin Nunes for instance, is that

essentially there`s no collusion they haven`t found collusion and so

they`re just going to go rooting around all of the president`s other stuff. 

This is Nunes saying there`s no collusion.  All these investigations are in

search of a crime.  Democrats have no evidence to impeach President Trump,



What do you say to the argument that this is fundamentally not a fact-

finding mission but politically motivated where the facts are being reverse

engineered around what you already feel about the president?


LIEU:  Based on public reporting, Donald Trump`s Campaign Chairman Paul

Manafort colluded.  He gave the Russians internal polling data and he was

working with the Russians based on the public reporting.  So the question

of whether Donald Trump knew about what was happening, we don`t know yet. 

The special counsel has not concluded his investigation, but it is a

limited investigation Mueller`s investigation.


They just want to know did someone commit a crime related to Russia and

appearance.  The House Judiciary`s oversight mission is far broader.  We

want to know that Donald Trump or his associates or family members commit

any crime.


HAYES:  And is that – do you think about crime – to go back to what

Gerald – Jerry Nadler was saying, and what Elizabeth Holtzman told me, do

you think about crime in the sense that the U.S. Criminal Code?  Do you

think about crime in terms of wrong actions?  Do you think about it in

terms of the constitutional provision about high crimes and misdemeanors

vis a vis impeachment?


LIEU:  Those are great questions.  So first of all, we want to know that

Donald Trump, his family or his associates commit any crime.  Second, we

want to know, did they commit any unethical misconduct whether or not it

rises to the level of a federal offense.  And third, how do we prevent this

from happening again and would it be transparent with American people.


If it takes us to impeachment, we`re going to go there, if it doesn`t, then

we won`t go there.  But we have to build a record and share this with

American people before we decide how to proceed.


HAYES:  How much are you willing to go to the map my.  Understanding is

these are voluntary requests at this point.  Sometimes these are second

letters that have been sent because they were sent in the minority.  But at

a certain point, there`s a question about how much do you fight this?  Do

you issue – does the chair issue subpoenas?  Do you go to court over this



LIEU:  It will depend on each individual company.  If you look at the

letters we sent, they are not mass form letters.  They`re very detailed

individual letters to companies and individuals with very specific requests

related to their own set of facts.  And based on what we send out, we hope

to get a lot of documents back.  And if people don`t want to send that,

then we will negotiate with them.  And then if we have to, we will start

looking at subpoenas.


HAYES:  Should we expect when you look at this list of individuals, you

know, everyone from the NRA to Hope Hicks and Sean Spicer used to work

there, too the Trump campaign itself, to Eric Prince who`s implicated in

possibly trying to set up this back-channel and this sort of obscure

meeting in the Seychelles.  Should we expect that these are also people

that are going to come before the committee or be compelled to do so at

some point?


LIEU:  So we want to talk to all these individuals.  At some point, we

certainly want their documents.  Some of these individuals were like before

a public hearing, some we can simply interview either with members or with

our staff.  Again, it depends on the individual.  I`m glad you mentioned

Hope Hicks.  So let`s give an example of Hope Hicks.


She lied to the American people basically saying repeatedly that Trump had

nothing do with Russia and his associates, had no meetings with Russia. 

What turns out now that that was just a lie and we want to know well, did

Donald Trump tell her to lie, what does she know about, what happened, what

kind of orders was she given or did she just make this stuff up at the



So that`s why we have all these individuals that we want to talk to because

we want to connect the dots and really put out a narrative as to what

happened, why it happened, how we prevent this from happening again.


HAYES:  All right, Congressman Ted Lieu who`s on the Judiciary Committee,

thank you for taking some time.


LIEU:  Thank you, Chris.


HAYES:  Coming up, new reporting on the lengths Fox News went to ensure

Donald Trump won the election and the codependent relationship between a

cable news channel and the President of the United States.  Those details

right after this.




HAYES:  We have long known that Donald Trump and his allies were absolutely

terrified of Stormy Daniels telling the world about their alleged sexual

encounter with Trump.  And we know that because they went to extraordinary

lengths to keep Daniels from telling that story with the famously tight-

fisted future president even arranging for $130,000 hush money payment

shortly before the election.


Today, we learned more about a second part of that effort.  Jane Mayer

reporting in The New

Yorker that Fox News knew about the alleged sexual encounter and the hush

money payment before  the election, but killed the story their own reporter

found in order to protect Trump.  It`s a story that Oliver Darcy of CNN

first reported last year, but Mayer adds some new details.  She reports

that in killing the story, the then head of Fox, Ken LeCourt (ph),

told the reporter Diana Falson (ph), quote, “good reporting, kiddo, but

Rupert wants Donald Trump to win, so just let it go.”


Rupert, would of course be Fox News founder Rupert Murdoch.  LeCourt (ph)

denies making the comment, but does not deny killing the story, which did

not break until a year after Trump became

president.  LeCourt (ph) told Mediaite, the he didn`t do it to protect

Donald Trump and insisted the story, which we now know to have been true,

was nowhere near being something that would have passed muster, echoing a

comment from Fox News last year.


The network declined to comment on Mayer`s new reporting.  The decision to

kill the story

came in October 2016, which you might remember also happens to be when The

Washington Post

published the Access Hollywood tape in which the president boasts about

sexual assault.  Particularly in the context of that tape, the Stormy

Daniels story could have been devastating for then candidate Trump, but

because Fox News killed the story and the president paid hush money, the

Daniels` affair

did not get out until after the votes were cast.


Joining me now is MSNBC contributor, Fox News specialist Gabe Sherman, a

special correspondent for Vanity Fair; and Angela Carusone, president of

the liberal watchdog group Media Matters.


Your reaction on the new detail here from Jane Mayer, and you`re cited in

this piece and quoted in the piece on them actually just spiking it with

those terms.  Like Rupert wants him to win.


GABE SHERMAN, VANITY FAIR:  Can we just all revel in the fact that a Fox

News producer saying a story doesn`t pass muster on a network that spews

misinformation and lies every day, so that on its face shows you the

lengths that they went to cover up to help Donald Trump win.


But we knew that in 2016 that there was this sort of alliance after Trump

got the Republican nomination that Fox News was going to become what

ultimately became state TV, that`s what the audience wants.  They were

beholden to the Trump base, which formed basically the entire Fox News

audience.  They had no power, even if they wanted to break with Donald

Trump, that would be game over for their business.


HAYES:  You mean marketwise.


SHERMAN:  Yes, marketwise.  You know, back during the campaign when Megyn

Kelly was

feuding with Donald Trump, Fox News producers would see her ratings going

down and other hosts` ratings go down when they aired critical segments of

Trump.  The audience just did not want to hear it.


HAYES:  Angelo, that gets us to the relationship as it exists today, which

Jane Mayer goes into in some detail here as well.  It`s described as

symbiotic, it`s sort of a partnership.  It`s almost impossible to

distinguish the White House operation now run by Bill Shine, the Comms

operation who used to

run Fox News and was Roger Ailes` sort of second in command and the White

House itself.


ANGELO CARUSONE, MEDIA MATTERS:  Yeah, no, and I think just to underscore

that, just to give one example, there was a time last summer where the Fox

& Friends segment was actually an entire package built around one of the

claims in Donald Trump`s tweet.  Donald Trump tweeted about that segment,

seemingly disconnected from the fact that he was even the source of it,

which I think was just amazing.  And it really gets to the…


HAYES:  He tweeted about the segment as if like oh here is some new

information I just learned in my morning shows.


CARUSONE:  Correct.  And I think – and I think to me, you know, that goes

to show how

difficult it is sometimes to tease out really who`s leading who.  But it

gets to what I think was one of the key takeaways here, aside from the fact

that it was more of a propaganda operation and that is that Fox is sort of

afraid of its own audience too now.  So could they stop even if they wanted

to?  And it doesn`t seem that way.


HAYES:  Well, that`s what happened during the shutdown, which was really

interesting to me was at a certain point he`s trapped in a corner.  His

approval ratings are going down.  Like it`s really bad politically for him

and there`s no way out.  So he sort of cuts his losses.  And then it`s like

you watch the Fox machine whir into gear to essentially defend it and sell

it to a base that they`re both mutually scared of.


SHERMAN:  Yeah, yeah, exactly.  And you`re basically – and, you know, this

is why just looking at the Cohen hearing the other day, you know, what`s so

dangerous about those is people can see these events with their own eyes. 

And in moments like that, the Fox News machine has to  basically try to

convince the audience, don`t believe what you are seeing, this is the

reality in which we think you shouldn`t have it.


HAYES:  You know, there`s sort of a bunch of stuff in the article as to

where precedents might be for this, and obviously there have been

relationships between media moguls and executives and heads of state and

people in power for a long time.  Is this new and distinct what we`re

seeing in the last two years to your mind, Angelo?


CARUSONE:  I think it`s very important that, because there`s always been so

much criticism of Fox News, right.  And I think it`s – one of the things I

think is really, really important to make sure we articulate now is that

it`s not just the fact that they`re biased or the other critique about Fox

is that they sort of became a political operation, this is very different

and distinguishable and that it`s actual aligned propaganda, and that gets

to what Gabe was mentioning before, the ability to completely transform

reality for the key viewer, Trump, and the audience.


And the other example was last summer, you know I think just to rewind,

when the Mueller was first appointed, in the 40 days after that, Jay

Sekulow, Donald Trump`s lawyer, was on Fox News every single night.  He was

practically Sean Hannity`s co-host.  That affects the ability for that – I

mean, this is the world we live in now, it`s different.


SHERMAN:  One other point I want to make is this is not just about

politics, this is about big  business, right.  Rupert Murdoch, the media

mogul who controls Fox News, has a personal relationship with the

president.  The Democratic congress might want to find out what favors,

potentially, did the Murdoch family get because of this access.  I`ve

reported in the past that Trump asked Rupert Murdoch to submit names for

the FCC chairman.  Close Murdoch associate told me that, in fact, Murdoch -

- Rupert Murdoch reached out to Donald Trump and asked if his ex-wife,

Wendy Murdoch, was a Chinese spy.  And the allegation is that Murdoch –

that Trump talked to the intelligence agencies about her connections to the

Chinese government.


HAYES:  Have you reported that?


SHERMAN:  Yes.  I mean, that`s what sources are telling me.  So…


HAYES:  Wait, but has that been in print yet?




HAYES:  Wait, say that again.  I want to make sure I understand this.  The

allegation is what?


SHERMAN:  That sources close to Murdoch told me that in a conversation with

the president, he asked him if the intelligence agencies could look into

whether his ex-wife was a Chinese asset.


HAYES:  And this is in the context of a divorce between the…


SHERMAN:  Yeah, they have already been long divorced.  But this was just,

you know, saying, hey, this is my ex-wife, could you look into that.


HAYES:  That`s a crazy thing.


SHERMAN:  Yeah.  Now, I don`t know if Trump actually did follow through on

that, and as Jane Mayer reported, Trump also, you know, vented about we

should get the Justice Department to stop

the CNN merger.  Nothing was followed up on that.


But the fact that these conversations and these mutual relationships are

happening is something that crosses a line from just access journalism to

whether there is an abuse of power.


HAYES:  Yeah.  And the conversations happening, which we know are just

documented between Murdoch and (inaudible).


But let me just say one more thing, Angelo, because you talk about the

propaganda.  I will say that having watched Fox News in 2003 and the run up

to the Iraq War, that was state TV then, too.  I mean, it would have made

North Korean programmers blush if you go back and look at what they were

doing to sell the war at that point.


CARUSONE:  That`s true.  But the one thing I would point out that that

makes that a little different is that a lot of places got sort of – were

sort of fell into the trap of bringing on military…


HAYES:  Everyone was broadcasting propaganda.


CARUSONE:  Yeah, I feel like unfortunately in that case that was more of a

collective problem instead of a specific one.


HAYES:  All right, Gabe Sherman and Angelo Carusone, thank you both for

being with me.


Still to come, how Democrats can distinguish themselves in an ever-growing

field of presidential candidates.  In tonight`s Thing One, Thing Two starts





HAYES:  Thing One tonight, huge news about Trump TV that we haven`t gotten

to yet, they have dumped one of their most powerful thinkers.  No, not

Brian Kilmeade, this guy.




SEBASTIAN GORKA, FORMER TRUMP ADVISER:  The era of the pajama boy is over

January 20th, and the alpha males are back.




HAYES:  Yes, the era of Sebastian Gorka at Fox News is over.  Gorka says he

simply decided not to renew his contract with Fox, but the timing is

terrible.  He just gave that amazing please boo speech at CPAC.




GORKA:  That is why Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez…




GORKA:  …has introduced the Green New Deal.  They want to take your

pickup truck.  They want to rebuild your home.  They want to take away your

hamburgers.  This is what Stalin dreamt about, but never achieved.




HAYES:  I`m not sure Stalin was dreaming about your burgers, but Gorka is,

as was, to be fair, like half of CPAC.




REP. MARK MEADOWS, (R) NORTH CAROLINA:  With this Green New Deal, they`re

trying to get rid of all the cows.


SEN. TED CRUZ, (R) TEXAS:  Let me say I support cows.  I hope to see PETA


the Republican Party now that the Democrats want to kill all those cows.



mentioned, I`ve got 100 cows.  You just let Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez show

up at my house and try to take my cows away.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I love cows, Jerry, they`re delicious.




HAYES:  Welcome back to cow talk.


Trump Jr. loves him some cow as does his father, especially the kind you

can get through a

drive-through window.  That`s Thing Two in 60 seconds.




HAYES:  The North Dakota State Bison are the FCS title winners in college

football.  Now FCS used to be Division I-AA and usually that doesn`t quite

warrant a presidential visit.  But Donald Trump`s new thing is to summon

large groups of elite athletes to the White House and feed them piles of

healthy fast food.


He first did this, of course, with the NCAA Division I championship

winners, the Clemson Tigers.  His reasoning was that the government

shutdown had closed the White House catering operation, but there was no

need for a cover story today, just a giddy president and a small mountain

of room temperature Big Macs.




TRUMP:  We had the Clemson Tigers here and I did the same thing.  We could

have had chefs, but we got fast food because we know what – I know you

people very well, OK.  And I`m going – I`m going to finish this quick,

because we`ve got to get that stuff, although it`s being kept pretty warm.




HAYES:  I know you lunking hunks of meat.


The president, whose idea of patriotism is to literally embrace the

American flag as he did in CPAC on Saturday, just couldn`t stop talking

about those great American burgers today, even though there was no exactly

a mad rush for the fare.




TRUMP:  And then we weren`t going to do this, because I`ve never done that

before, before Clemson.  But we were during a shutdown and we had nobody

working.  And somebody suggested – I said, yeah, but we don`t have people

working.  But the staff is so good, they would have come back.  But I said,

you know, don`t worry about it, fellas,  let`s just go get some McDonald`s,

Wendy`s, Burger King.  We have – we like American companies, OK.  Chick-

fil-a, they say.  Chick-fil-a.  Go grab yourself something we can eat right

here.  In fact I would have one right up here, but I don`t think I want to

do that because it will be too big a story for these people. 




HAYES:  As more and more candidates announce their intentions for 2020, we

have an announcement of our own here tonight.  I will be hosting MSNBC`s

very first town hall of the election

season two weeks from tonight with 2020 hopeful Kirsten Gillibrand.  We`re

going to meet in the all-important state of Michigan Monday March 18th to

talk to some voters, take some questions, as the Senator from New York

makes her case to be the Democratic nominee for president.


We`ll have more details in the coming week, including ways for you to come

see it live if you`re in Michigan, so check back with us often.


Gillibrand is part of a field that so far includes governors, senators,

mayor, and even private citizens, all of whom are trying to distinguish

themselves as voters figure out who to back.


How the White House hopefuls figure that out is coming up next.




HAYES:  The newest entrant to jump into the presidential race this week,

two term Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper.  He follows another two-term

governor, Jay Inslee, of Washington State who kicked off his presidential

campaign on Friday.


And on Saturday, Bernie Sanders officially got things started the second

time after his announcement video with a campaign rally in Brooklyn.  And

there`s a report out today that former Vice President Joe Biden is trying

to get his fundraising in line before announcing his much anticipated run



And as the field expands, I think it`s helpful to think about the

Democratic primary as essentially two different contests.  One is policy

focused, a kind of ideas primary in which different constituencies and

interest groups and voters will debate what Democratic priorities are from

universal health care, to college affordability, to meeting the

civilizational challenge of a warming plant.


The other race is candidacy focused, and candidate focused, where 2020

hopefuls are going to have to figure out a way to distinguish themselves in

order to stand out.


To talk about the tension between these two different contests, how it all

might play out, I`m joined by Aisha Moodie-Mills, she`s a fellow at Harvard

Kennedy School of Institute and Politics, and Wajahat Ali, a contributing

opinion writer for The New York Times.


Aisha, what do you think about this thinking about this very, very crowded

field along these two axes, what – there is a sort of substance to the

policies, which I think are kind of like tugged at an fought over, and then

there`s like – what is you`re pitch to breakthrough the noise when there

is maybe

two dozen candidates?



here is the thing, there was a poll that just came out that showed that

Democratic primary voters actually most of them want people that have

substance and some big bold exciting ideas, so it`s not just so much about

which candidate can beat Trump, which is kind of resist mode that we came

into 2018 on with those wins.  So, I think that this conversation around

policy ideas and who has the biggest proposals that are really going to

captivate the imagination and talk about where we go is actually going to

be fun for the party to explore.


HAYES:  So, wait, let me just follow that, so you think actually those sort

of policy ideas end up being a kind of like distinguishing aspect in this



MOODIE-MILLS:  Sure, they do.  I mean, so many people are running on

progressive ideals, but they`re going to have to distinguish themselves

about how they get some of these policies passed.  You`re seeing people

double down on economic disparities and figuring that out, you see people

double down on climate change, you see people talk about Medicare for All. 

I think that those are going to be driving factors, because a lot of lip

service has been paid and these ideas, and now the voters are looking to

see, well, who actually got a plan to get this stuff done and are

stimulated by that conversation.


So, I think that that is really going to play out in a way that is fruitful

for the party.


HAYES:  Waj, I thought Inslee`s announcement and sort of the way that he is

pitching his campaign is interesting.  Because he really is just saying I`m

a climate candidate, like I`m a – this is the one issue that`s the most

important issue by far, it`s the one that I`m focused on, it`s the one I`m

running on, you don`t often see candidates sort of do that, and it`ll be –

it`s interesting to me as a way of shaking up the race, or sort of forcing

different kinds of conversations.


WAJAHAT ALI, THE NEW YORK TIMES:  Yeah, that Hickenlooper/Inslee ticket,

that`s – the kids are tweeting about that, raving about that ticket. 


Look, the good thing about Inslee, though, is he probably doesn`t have a

chance in hell, but I do hope that whatever candidate actually takes the

ticket actually takes his lead on climate change, that`s very impressive. 


I think you need policy.  Look, this is what shouldn`t happen, we don`t

need a remake of 2004

and have this milk toast, mushy, you know, vanilla yogurty appeal to this

invisible centrist, right, this magical unicorn, Rust Belt voter, the real

American who drinks real coffee and has real economic anxiety, what you

need is a bold progressive vision.  You need to be aggressive about it,

double down on it.  And communicate that well.


I`ll give you one example, AOC talked about this, AOC, who is taking our

hamburgers, if she takes our fish burgers, the Muslims will rise.  But AOC,

the 70 percent tax on the 1 percent, right.  For the first week everyone

was like this is insane.  She communicated it, and then Fox and Friends


actually supported it, and the hosts went apoplectic, right, they went



So because it was that raging socialist Dwight Eisenhower, that was his

policy, by the way.


So, you need a bold progressive vision, number one.  And you also need the

right messenger, Chris. Look at 2018 mid-term election.  People want to see

a representative democracy, women, people of color, and that`s my slight

concern about Biden and Bernie Sanders and Trump that 2020 is going to be

like the ticket of Ben-Gay versus Vicks VapoRub versus Metamucil, not

trying to be ageist, but at the same time, I am concerned as a person of

color that I want to see that type of representation and that message, that

progressive message boldly stated by messengers who look like the rest of



HAYES:  Aisha.


MOODIE-MILLS:  Yeah, the representations absolutely going to matter, and

because we have such – this is the most diverse presidential field ever,

the message is also going to matter.  And I think that we`re going to look

at some of these candidates who are diverse and try to figure out like

where their platitudes stop and their real policy ideas start.  And that`s

going to be the trick, because right now it`s nice to look at the picture

of kind of the big umbrella tent of the Democratic Party and everybody will

be standing up on the stage looking pretty and looking reflective, but then

when people open their mouths we`ll actually start to see how deep folks



HAYES:  Yeah, it`s a great point, because there is a bunch of different

vectors, right, so there is sort of policy and substance, like what are you

campaigning on?  There is the sort of representational question, there`s

the sort of just political charisma and being able to break through in

terms of the message.  And I think, Waj, to your point, I think what we`ve

seen so far is like left, liberal, sort of progressive ideas are pushing

the agenda right now, but I think we`re going to start to see

Hickenlooper`s entrance, maybe with Biden, people sort of self-consciously

trying to go after a more sort of moderate or centrist perspective, because

I think there`s perceived room there.  What do you think?


ALI:  Which is a huge mistake, because the American people are actually

more liberal than the Democratic Party.  I mean, look at the platform,

right, people want to combat climate change.  They want gun control.  They

want to combat income inequality.  They want affordable health care.  This

is very popular.  And look at the mid-term elections, 40 Democrats won. 

That blue wave turned into a tsunami.  And I know this poll came out that

said 46 percent of Americans love Donald Trump and people are freaking out,

look, another way of framing that, Donald Trump should have low 60 percent

approval rating with this bullish economy.  The most he`s ever gone is 40s,

right.  He is a weak candidate.  He only one by 70,000 votes in three

states.  So, they should bold, they should be hopeful, they should

communicate that message, and be unapologetic about it.  And hope Biden,

whoever else does not just court this mystical unicorn centrist voter. 

That would be a mistake.


HAYES:  I think that – I think perception is the president`s strength will

actually end up doing a lot about how people think about what kind of risks

they can take, which I think will be an interesting, complex dynamic as it

plays out over the next two years.


Aisha Moodie-MIlls, Wajahat Ali, thank you for joining us. 


That is ALL IN For this evening.  “THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” starts right

now.  Good evening, Rachel.







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