Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: February 14, 2017 Guest: Chris Murphy, Mike Coffman, Tom Udall, Jerrold Nadler, Philip Rucker, Eli Lake, Julia Ioffe, Chris Lu
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HARDBALL HOST: If they`re connected, don`t you think? Anyway, Happy Valentine`s Day. And that`s HARDBALL for now. And thanks for being with us. "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes starts right now.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC ALL IN HOST: Tonight on ALL IN.
MICHAEL FLYNN, UNITED STATES NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: Yes, that`s right. Lock her up.
HAYES: General Michael Flynn is out.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I haven`t seen that. I`ll look into that.
HAYES: And President Trump is under fire.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did the President know and when did he know it?
HAYES: Tonight, three and a half weeks into Donald Trump`s Presidency, a full-blown scandal in the White House.
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think the first question should be where was the Department of Justice in this?
HAYES: Tonight, new bipartisan calls for investigations.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did he just do this as a rogue General Flynn, or did it come from somebody else in the White House?
HAYES: Major new questions about the White House version of events.
KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP`S COUNSELOR: I think misleading the Vice President really was the key here.
HAYES: And the same cold questions about just what happened during the campaign.
TRUMP: Russia, if you`re listening, I hope you`re able to find the 30,000 e-mails.
HAYES: When ALL IN starts right now.
Good evening from New York, I`m Chris Hayes. We are not even one month into the Trump administration and already a major scandal exploding in Washington, D.C. Last night, President Trump`s National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, who even before this scandal was intensely controversial figure, known for his bigoted views of Islam and Muslims, handed in his resignation after just 24 days on the job. Today, we got the Trump administration`s version of events. The President asked Flynn to resign not because of what Flynn did, which the White House says it has no problem with, but because he had lied about it to members of the administration.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SPICER: The level of trust between the President and General Flynn had eroded to the point where he felt he had to make a change. The President was very concerned that General Flynn had misled the Vice President and others.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Here`s what happened. On December 29th, then President Obama announced sanctions against Russia for Russia`s alleged hacking of democratic e-mail accounts in the Presidential Election in order to boost President Trump`s candidacy. That very same day, General Flynn in a move seen at best as irregular and somewhat suspicious had multiple phone conversations with Russia`s Ambassador to the United States. Now, Flynn insisted he did not discuss the sanctions with the Russian Ambassador. That was a claim that members of the Trump administration dutifully repeated on television. Among them, Press Secretary Sean Spicer, Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and Vice President Mike Pence.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REINCE PRIEBUS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: The subject matter of sanctions or the actions taken by the Obama administration did not come up in the conversation.
MIKE PENCE, UNITED STATES VICE PRESIDENT: They did not discuss anything having to do with the United States` decision to expel diplomats or impose a censure against Russia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: That was all false. Those statements made to the American public, those statements were false. Flynn, did in fact, discuss the sanctions with Russian Ambassador which we know due to leaks, it appears from members of the Intelligence Community, which wiretaps foreign diplomats and which reportedly reviewed transcripts from at least one of Flynn`s calls with the Russian Ambassador. The White House insists that it was Flynn`s lying that did him in, not his decision to discuss the sanctions with the Russians in the first place. That story only raises more questions.
It was over a month ago, before President Trump even took office, that the allegations of Flynn had discussed the sanctions first surfaced. A senior official told the New Yorker that White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus began a fact-finding exercise that same day. The FBI soon after interviewed Flynn himself about his conversations with the Russian Ambassador, then, in late January, again, last month, acting Attorney General Sally Yates who President Trump would later fire for refusing to defend his travel ban, informed the Trump White House that Flynn had not been truthful in his accounts of those phone calls. Yates even reportedly warning that the National Security Advisor to the United States was potentially vulnerable to Russian blackmail.
So why on earth would the White House allow Flynn to remain in his job with access to top-secret classified information until last night? That is question one. Question two, why, if the White House was warned about Flynn in January, did President Trump on Friday act as though he was completely and totally unaware of the whole situation?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Washington Post is reporting that he talked to the Ambassador from Russia before you were inaugurated about sanctions, maybe trying to -
HAYES: Actually I haven`t seen that. I`ll look into that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: That gets to our next question. Did Flynn really act alone, as the White House claims? Or was he being directed by the President? Consider the timeline, the Obama administration announces sanctions on December 29th. Almost immediately, the Russians vow their own countermeasures, sanctions of their own. Meanwhile, Flynn is discussing the sanctions with the Russian Ambassador, and then the very next day, the Russians say, actually, we take it back, we won`t retaliate. And then just a few hours later, Trump tweets out quote "Great move on delay by V. Putin. I always knew he was very smart."
The White House is currently insisting the President did not know Flynn was discussing sanctions. That Flynn was essentially freelancing on this massive policy issue. But given all we know, how credible should we find that contention? And that brings us to the ultimate question here. From the very beginning, the most scandalous allegation made against a Trump campaign regarding Russian election interference isn`t simply the Trump campaign gladly but tacitly accepted Russian assistance. It`s that the Trump campaign actively and secretly collaborated with the Russians in their efforts. And that allegation appears in that infamous and unverified dossier on Trump, and it is one that people, including myself, have rightfully been very skeptical of.
But, the mounting evidence makes it harder and harder to dismiss out of hand. Flynn reportedly didn`t just talk to the Russian Ambassador after the election. In a little noticed but crucial detail, the Washington Post reported the talks were part of a series of contacts between Flynn and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that began before the November 8th election, which means, it is essential that someone get Flynn under oath and figure out what exactly was going on. I asked Senator Chris Murphy what happens next.
CHRIS MURPHY, UNITED STATES SENATOR FROM CONNECTICUT: Well, clearly we need congressional investigation because the questions keep on multiplying. The most immediate questions are - were these communications with the Russian Ambassador done with the blessing or at the direction of the President? And was Flynn in communication with the Russians during the campaign? And if he was, was that done with the blessing or at the direction of the President? The questions are multiplying, and well, it may be that the CIA and the FBI and the Intelligence Committee are looking at some of these things. We have to ask these questions and get answers in the light of day. So republicans need to come to the table here, recognizing that this is a threat to democracy as we know it, if we leave these questions unanswered and convene a bipartisan process.
HAYES: So when you talk about a bipartisan process, as of now, there are investigations that are called through the respective standing committees on the House and Senate side and the Intelligence Committees. Do you think that there`s a need for some kind of special committee, some sort of special vehicle created particularly to investigate this?
MURPHY: I think we do need a special vehicle. My worry with the intelligence committee is multi-fold. One, Senator Burr of the Senate Intelligence Committee has already said that they don`t have the jurisdiction to look into the connections that Flynn had with the Russians, so that`s already a compromised investigation. And second, the intelligence committee really can`t release a lot of their findings publicly because of the way in which they solicit and glean information. So, a process that happens between the Armed Services Committee, the Intelligence Committee and the Foreign Relations Committee is one that`s going to much more likely have the results available for the public. Now, some of the way in which it gets information have to - might have to remain classified, but at least the hearings will be done in the light of day. That`s not going to happen in the Intelligence Committee.
HAYES: So, I want to talk about two things you mentioned. So there are two aspects to what`s unfolded in the last 36 hours with General Flynn. One of the underlying infraction which is a conversation with the Russian Ambassador that touched on the sanctions being put in place by the U.S. government in response to the alleged hacking as concluded by our intelligence agencies. The second there are - is the dissembling about that. Let`s start with that first phone call. Why is it not OK for the incoming National Security Advisor designate to have a contact with the Russian official on this day to say, "Hey, listen, don`t do anything crazy, we`re going to be in power in a little bit and we`ll deal with things then?"
MURPHY: Well, because we have one administration at a time. And we have certainly had circumstances in which important crises were playing out during that interregnum period. Think back to 2009, when the economic crisis was unfolding. And while President Obama was preparing to inherit the reins of the economy, he was not laying down plans, he was not making policy at the time. This is very dangerous to have the Obama administration continuing its policy of sanctioning Russia for their activity in the United States and around the world, and then having that undermined at the very same time by the Trump administration, even though it`s a short period of time between the election and the inauguration. That was a very important period of time in which something could have gone very wrong if our allies and our adversaries were getting mixed signals.
HAYES: Let me ask you this final question. If a constituent came to you and said, "Senator, can you assure me, are you positive, secure that there was no collaboration or collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government during the campaign?" Can you give them that assurance?
MURPHY: I absolutely cannot give them that assurance. And I think, what is most disturbing about this new (AUDIO GAP) is that Michael Flynn, one of the closest advisers to the President of the United States was lying to the American public and to the White House about his conversations with Russia during the period between the election and the inauguration. So it stands to reason that he might also be lying about the extent of his conversations with the Russians during the elections. Clearly, the White House was trying to keep this under wraps. They knew that Flynn had lied weeks before they divulged it. So it stands to reason that perhaps they also know about conversations that happened during the election, and they are trying to keep that quiet as well. I cannot give that level of confidence to my constituents, which is why republicans and democrats have to - have to understand the threat that this is to our democratic norms and convene this bipartisan process. Do it in the light of day, not bury it in the clandestine operations of the Intelligence Committee.
HAYES: All right. Senator Chris Murphy, thanks for your time tonight. I appreciate it.
MURPHY: Thanks a lot.
HAYES: All right. Joining me now, Republican Congressman Mike Coffman of Colorado, member of the House Armed Services Committee, who called on Michael Flynn to resign yesterday if quote - I`m quoting here, "He purposely misled the President." Congressman, I would imagine you agree that there are a lot more questions that need to be answered even after this resignation.
MIKE COFFMAN, UNITED STATES CONGRESSMAN FROM COLORADO: Sure, there absolutely are. I think that this administration ran on holding itself to a higher standard than the prior administration. And so, in doing so, I think they ought to take a look at one of the things that certainly is, did he mislead the FBI when he was being interviewed? Did Mr. Flynn mislead the FBI? And if he, in fact, did, then that ought to be something that the Justice Department looks at in terms of whether there ought to be criminal prosecution.
HAYES: Do you find it at all suspicious that the White House was informed of this, the fact that he misled the Vice President of the United States. That they were informed of this three weeks ago - three and a half weeks ago, and are only acting now after it was reported and became public?
COFFMAN: You know, it seems pretty strange. This is clearly - this whole incident is an embarrassment to this administration. There`s no - there`s no question about that. But let me - let me just say, I am relieved at the decision by Michael Flynn to resign. I mean, merely on the fact that at the end of the day he mislead the American people.
COFFMAN: Let alone the administration. But the fact that he first said that he did not have a conversation concerning the sanctions then only after he was - he became aware of the transcript that, in fact, his conversation was in fact tapped into. Then he said, "Well, maybe I did." That in itself - I mean, as somebody who had 21 years in the military, I believe that those who are elevated to a roll in the administration based on their military back ground ought to beheld to the same standards that they were in the military. And anybody who did that in the military would have been relieved for cause and disciplined in accordance
HAYES: Speaking of that standard of truthfulness. You`re an interesting case because you`re one of those rare members of congress who represents lots of democrats and republicans. You have the swing district. You ran a very hard race. What do you say to a constituent that comes to you and says, this White House has lied about everything from when the sun came out on inauguration day, to attendance on inauguration day, to massive voter fraud they say is taking place with no evidence, to Vice President Mike Pence telling me that there was no contact with the Russian Ambassador? What do you say to a constituent that says "Why should I believe anything that comes from this White House?"
COFFMAN: I think - you know, of course we have the - you know, alternative facts. But I - but I think that this issue - there are issues that - that there are issues of --
HAYES: But congressman, what do you tell - what do you tell a constituent that said that? Why should I trust the information that comes from the most powerful office in the land when they have routinely, demonstrably been shown to not be telling the truth about things?
COFFMAN: Well, this is a real issue. This is a real issue with Mr. Flynn. And it becomes a real issue when you`re interviewed by the FBI, and there are issues of National Security involved, and you mislead the FBI. It is politics, albeit bad politics, albeit embarrassing politics, when you - when you do - when you say things -
COFFMAN: -- that are not true. But it becomes an issue - a question of actually criminal prosecution when you are interviewed by the FBI -
HAYES: By the FBI. Yes.
COFFMAN: -- and you mislead it. And this administration promised a higher standard than the - than the prior administration. And if this administration wants to deliver on that promise, and be transparent then they need to get down to the bottom of that interview. In fact, that if they misled the FBI, the Justice Department is going to move forward.
HAYES: All right. Congressman Mike Coffman, I appreciate you time tonight, Sir. Come back anytime.
COFFMAN: Thank you. I appreciate it
HAYES: Joining me now, Democratic Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico, also member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
TOM UDALL, UNITED STATES SENATOR FROM NEW MEXICO: Thank you.
HAYES: Your colleague in the Senate, the Republicans seem to have a variety of different views. Devin Nunes in the House - the House Intelligence Committee says he wants to invest the leakers and not the underlying possible relationship with Russia or the material misinformation that was given by General Flynn. Roy Blunt is even hinting he might actually call General Flynn for the Senate version of this. What is your position on how to investigate this going forward?
UDALL: Well, I think the first thing that needs to happen is we need a special prosecutor appointed by the Attorney General to move forward with an investigation. You know, I was a Federal Prosecutor and also a State Attorney General, and I think we have at least two serious criminal issues going on here. The first one is lying to the FBI, and the second one has to do with a private citizen, maybe under the direction of the President of the United States, interfering in the foreign policy of the United States of America -
HAYES: But Senator, you know -
UDALL: -- on a very critical, on a very critical National Security issue.
HAYES: I imagine you`re referring to the 1799 Logan Act, but you do know there`s no prosecution that`s ever been brought under that act and that -
UDALL: Well, maybe there`s been nothing so blatant as this.
HAYES: You really think that? You think there`s possible criminal exposure here?
UDALL: I think on these two areas and then we - there are a lot of other things that we don`t know right now.
HAYES: Let me ask you this. You call first -
UDALL: And the reason - hold it.
UDALL: The reason on a special prosecutor is because we know that Attorney General Sessions was a key adviser all the way through the campaign, gave legal advice a number of times and he may well have been giving legal advice to Michael Flynn on these issues.
UDALL: So how can he independently investigate it?
HAYES: Your colleague Chuck Schumer today called for Jeff Sessions to recuse himself precisely for that reason. He was an adviser to the campaign along with General Flynn. I want to ask you the same question that I asked Mike Coffman and that I asked to your colleague Chris Murphy. Which is, can you look - can you have any confidence at this point, as a Senator of the United States, talking to the White House, that you are getting truthful information from the President of the United States and from his staff on any issue, given what we`ve seen over not just the last 36 hours but the first 24 days of this administration.
UDALL: I have no confidence that we`re getting truthful information. And that`s why we need a criminal investigation here of the criminal activity. And I would like to see a 9/11 type commission which we`ve already called for dealing with the hacking of the Russians, this particular incident, and all the election issues that are out there. And the American public has a right to know what happened, how it happened, and how do we prevent it in the future.
HAYES: All right. Senator Tom Udall, thanks for joining us. Appreciate it.
UDALL: Thank you. Thank you. It`s great to be with you. Thank you.
HAYES: Still ahead, will Michael Flynn face an investigation like the Senator called for, for his discussion with the Russian Ambassador. A look at the unfolding politics in the aftermath of Flynn`s exit and how Rand Paul showed his hand after a two-minute break.
HAYES: Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer, as I just mentioned, called for an independent investigation today, pointing to potential criminal violations by Michael Flynn and possibly others. A call echoed just now by Democratic Senator Tom Udall on this show, but Republicans are not quite there yet.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
RAND PAUL, UNITED STATES SENATOR FROM KENTUCKY: I just don`t think it`s useful to be doing investigation after investigation, particularly of your own party. We`ll never even get started with doing the things we need to do like repealing ObamaCare, if we`re spending our whole time having Republicans investigate Republicans. I think it makes no sense.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
HAYES: Joining me now, Congressman Jerry Nadler, Democrat from New York. And Congressman, that was an admirably honest articulation by Senator Rand Paul. What do you make of that?
JERROLD NADLER, UNITED STATES CONGRESSMAN FROM NEW YORK: Well, it was admirably honest. And the fact is, the republicans have stonewalled any kind of investigation, and of course, all the questions that we`ve seen about General Flynn, his lying, his talking to the Russians, his talking to the Russians apparently during the campaign, when they were trying to influence the election in favor of President Trump, are the tip of the iceberg. And the iceberg is all the President`s conflicts, his working with the Russians, and of course, the elephant in the room is the fact that while this President is truculent, even belligerent with everybody else, with our NATO allies, with France, with China, with Mexico, even with Australia. With Russia, he`s fawning. He`s fawning over them.
And the question is why? Do they have - what do they have over him? Does he have business interests that they are holding at bay in Russia? We have to know these questions. To know if we have an American President who`s working in our interest or the Russian interest. And that`s why I introduced the Resolution of Inquiry, which is a way of getting around the Republican refusal to investigate. We`ve written letters to the Republican Chairman of various committees who have ignored them.
The Resolution of Inquiry is a way of forcing the Republicans either to have a public hearing on asking the Department of Justice to give - to give to the Congress all relevant documents on the - on the business interests of the President, the emoluments clause, his dealings with the Russians, or to force a vote on it. That`s the only way we can force a vote on the Republicans` refusal to have an open inquiry for the American people.
HAYES: Yes. We should say that Devin Nunes, as I said, basically says, he`ll be investigating the leaks. Jason Chaffetz of the Oversight Committee saying, the situation has taken care of itself. The Intel committee has looked at hacking issue previously. One question I have for you. The representation of the White House at this point is the President did not direct General Flynn to have the conversation with the Ambassador. Do you believe that?
NADLER: Well, I don`t know. But the point is, you can`t believe anything they say because a number of them have been shown to be lies already. We now know that it was a lie that General Flynn did not speak to the Russians about the sanctions. We now know it was a lie that he did not speak to the Russians during the election campaign when they were trying to influence the election campaign. We now know that it was a lie when the President said during the campaign that he would release his tax returns as soon as the non-existent audit was over. So we can`t believe anything.
HAYES: All right, Congressman Jerry Nadler, thank you for your time tonight. I appreciate it.
NADLER: Thank you.
HAYES: Joining me now, Philip Rucker, the White House Bureau Chief for the Washington Post, Eli Lake, columnist for Bloomberg View. And Phillip, you`ve been at the center of the reporting for this. And when we think about where this goes next, one of the key dynamics it seems to me is, whether or not there`s going to be an investigations, it has been essentially the leaks that have driven this story, whether officialdom wants to investigate it or not.
PHILIP RUCKER, WASHINGTON POST WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF: Yes. That`s exactly right. And there are couple things that are going to be key if they ever were to emerge, including the transcripts of the actual conversations that Flynn had with the Russian Ambassador and with any other officials who might be involved. We simply don`t know the specific details that were exchanged there. We also don`t know what role Trump had. We obviously know what Sean Spicer said at the podium today at the White House, but it`s unclear whether Flynn ever - even got into any kind of detail with the President-elect at that time, about his conversations with the Ambassador.
HAYES: Eli, you wrote a piece today about the sort of - what you find some of the troubling aspects of these leaks. Isn`t it the case, though, that there`s a material misrepresentation made to the American people about a key point of policy here, a fact of the matter, whether this man was having this conversation with the Russian Ambassador? Isn`t it good that America knows that?
ELI LAKE, BLOOMBERG VIEW COLUMNIST: I`m always for more information but I`m not entirely sure we know what all this is yet. I think Philip is absolutely right, we should see these transcripts. And we may find out that there was a substantive conversation and it`s impossible to believe that Flynn would have forgotten talking about the sanctions with the Ambassador, or we could find that it was an incidental part of the conversation where the Ambassador brings it up, Flynn said, "All right, you know, we`re coming in soon, we`re going to look at all Russia policy." And I think that that would have been a very different sort of thing. So there`s a lot we don`t know and I sort of, can`t help but notice a lot of your guests tonight have been rushing to a lot of judgment.
HAYES: Well, but don`t you think part of that has to do with the fact that it does seem like the actions taken around the supposed infraction have been -there`s been a lot of dissembling about them, right? I mean, even if Sean Spicer giving a timeline, it seems to me that, if what happened was the Ambassador - even at the direction of the President-elect, called Russia and said "Look, just wait to make up your mind about responding, we`ll be in power in January 20th." That would be not so terrible. But that`s not the way they`ve acted, is it?
LAKE: No, I mean, I can`t defend a lot of the dissembling, as you say. And we`re getting all these different versions of events and it`s unclear if he`s resigning and everything like that. But I think it`s very important to not lose sight of the fact that some of the most closely held information about an American citizen and a senior official, intercepted communications, incidentally caught up, were disclosed to the press. That`s something we associate with police states because it can ruin someone`s reputation and we entrust the Intelligence Community to make sure that sort of thing is not selectively leaked and disclosed to the public to affect our politics. And just as it was wrong for the FBI to leak before the election affecting politics regarding investigations into Hillary Clinton`s foundation, I think this is also a kind of interference from the National Security State and our politics and we should be very troubled by that.
HAYES: Do you agree with that, Philip?
RUCKER: Well, it`s an interesting thought. You know, I`m not going to speak to the motivations of the sources. I would point out to defend myself and my colleagues at the Washington Post, these were not sort of handouts that were just handed to that.
LAKE: I wasn`t saying that. And I - and I -
RUCKER: I know. I know.
RUCKER: But the reports were the product of very dogged and hard reporting over many days to try to get this information from officials in the U.S. government.
HAYES: Philip, where does this go next? I mean, part of the - it`s hard to sometimes to take stock of all the moving pieces because what appears if you sort of step back is that there is an active possibly cross agency investigation that`s happening about the kind of core issue here, which is, was the Trump campaign or Trump surrogates interacting with Russia in some fashion? That there`s an ongoing investigation about that, the size, scope, and details of which we don`t know but seems to be at the center of what we`re all trying to get at.
RUCKER: I think so and that`s why this is such an important issue for the White House right now. It`s not just the credibility of Michael Flynn.
RUCKER: Whether he may or may not have lied to the Vice President. It`s a much bigger issue of Russian interference with the election and the extent to which anybody affiliated with Donald Trump and his campaign over the course of the campaign was involved in some of the activities that the Russians were doing. And I think that`s what a lot of the Congressional Democrats want to get to the bottom of and it`s going to take time to get those answers.
HAYES: Yes. We should note there`s Paul Manafort and Carter Page and now Flynn, all of them are figures involved in the campaign and or the transition administration that have had ties to Russia. Philip Rucker and Eli Lake, thanks for joining us, appreciate it.
RUCKER: Thank you.
LAKE: Thank you.
HAYES: Just ahead, coming to the defense of Michael Flynn but not exactly helping the situation. What Russia and Russian media are saying after this quick break.
HAYES: If Michael Flynn felt yesterday like no one was taking his side, he should have turned his attention to the news from Russia. First, state sponsored Russia Today tweeted out the news of his ousting as, quote, "General Michael Flynn retires as national security adviser." RT later deleted - corrected that tweet.
Then there was the support from key members of the Russian parliament who claimed today that Flynn was forced out by a climate of Russophobia.
While the Kremlin has no official comment on his resignation, the response from other Russian politicians and state sponsored media doesn`t exactly tamp down speculation about Flynn`s relationship with the Putin government.
Joining me now, Julia Yoffi, national security foreign policy reporter at The Atlantic. And Julia, how has this played in Russia?
JULIA IOFFE, THE ATLANTIC: Well, it`s been mixed. On one hand, people are kind of gobsmacked by this. They did not see this coming and they think that this is -- that Trump is the next target, that the Russian-American reset is the next target. But they`re also hanging back and saying, you know what, this is all you guys. This is an internal matter. You fix this.
Because what the Russians and the rest of the world are seeing on one hand, you know, President Trump during the campaign didn`t even know that Russia was in Crimea. Then Nikki Haley comes out with a speech saying, you know, Crimea is part of Ukraine. Period. The White House says something else. Today, Sean Spicer says something else entirely.
I think the Russians are kind of just hanging back and waiting to see what happens.
HAYES: You know, this is an important perspective because I think there is a tendency in the American press to project this sort of like master chessmaster projection on to Putin and the Kremlin and Russia and it -- in many ways it`s a vestige of the Cold War. But, you know, they`re surprised by events as much as anyone else is.
I mean, it seems to me there`s a little bit of what exactly have we gotten ourselves into that is emanating from Russia as it is from many parts of the world.
IOFFE: Well, in some ways this is similar to what happens in Russia. In Russia, you know, this narrative to me never felt right, that Russia is this well-oiled machine with these hackers in the galley rowing in tune with the guy with the drum. You know, it`s a very - it`s also full of haphazard actions and incompetent people.
They didn`t expect Trump to win. And they would have done just fine with Hillary Clinton as president, too. They like having, you know, an anti-Russian foil in the White House that people can rally around the flag, around Putin.
So, they`ll be fine either way. They didn`t expect Trump. And they didn`t expect this level of chaos.
They knew that he`s unpredictable. I don`t think they knew the extent to which he`s unpredictable and the extent to which he doesn`t have a singular message and the extent to which all of this internal fighting would be made public because, for example, when the Kremlin has infighting you don`t see much of it.
HAYES: That`s a really good point. Julia Ioffe, thanks for your time tonight. Appreciate it.
The uncertainty and upheaval in the White House, which Julia was just talking about compounded by Michael Flynn`s ouster is, as we said, rippling out across the globe. One European intelligence official telling BuzzFeed News in what I have to say is the quote of the day, and I read a lot of them "I was hoping you could tell me what the blank is going on over there."
Adding "I have to counsel my policymakers as best I can and right now it`s prepare to handle some crises without U.S. support."
Joining me now, Colonel Laurence Wilkerson, former chief of staff at the State Department, currently a distinguished visiting professor of government and public policy at the college of William & Mary.
And I want to talk about the dynamics of international policy, what it means to the world, to the world order, to watch the U.S. enmeshed in what, frankly, must look -- looks to us domestically, like chaos.
COL. LAWRENCE WILKERSON, WILLIAM & MARY: You`re right, Chris. I was just in Paris. And in Paris, I was meeting with Germans, French, British, Belgians. And I got to tell you, the degree of concern in their minds about where America is going, where it`s headed, who it`s being led by, what its policies are, is as deep as I`ve seen it in some 45 years of working with European allies. It`s serious.
ANDERSON: What does it mean as -- you know, the national security council is in some ways for people inside the government it`s so central and so important. To people outside the government it seems obscure. What does it mean for America - for American security and preparedness to have this level of just tumult, turnover, dysfunction in that core function of the White House?
WILKERSON: Since World War II, the National Security Council has become the central place where presidential decision making with regard to foreign and security policy takes place. It`s that simple, and its staff, sometimes as many as 300 or so, are the people who actually direct the information going to the president for these decisions to include people from the intelligence community and so forth.
So, it`s central to this sort of decision-making. And to have it in chaos like this. To have it in disarray, to have its National Security Adviser, its titular head, if you will, leave in the middle of already deep concern about where this presidency is going amounts to something I`ve never seen before nor did I think I would see it in my lifetime. It`s a disaster in short.
HAYES: You predicted that General Michael Flynn would be out in fairly short order. And I have to say, I talked to a senior official, former official, who told me he thought it would either be Flynn or Mattis out in the first year.
Why did you -- why were you confident that was the case? And how did you get it right?
WILKERSON: I would say Mattis, too, because I think Mattis will be the one who, with sane and sober forethought, will stand up to this ridiculous administration in a way that will force him to have to leave.
Flynn was a very different matter. He had neither the temperament, the character, or, more importantly, the experience to be National Security Adviser. This is a position that is appointed, it`s not subject to advice and consent in the Senate, but it is one of the most powerful positions in the White House.
Just look back on Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski or Brent Scowcroft to understand why.
In this case, Flynn I feel somewhat sorry for him because he was completely out of his element. He`s not leaving because of some objection to what the administration is doing, which is what will be why Jim Mattis leaves, he`s leaving because he simply couldn`t do the job. And some other things that you`ve talked about already on your show that we need to get to the bottom of.
HAYES: Yeah, there is this quote from current General Tony Thomas, head of the military special operations command that jumped out at me in The New York Times piece today on the turmoil of this first month: "our government continues to be in unbelievable turmoil. I hope they sort it out soon because we`re a nation at war. As a commander, I`m concerned our government be as stable as possible."
It struck me as a remarkable thing for a sitting general to say.
WILKERSON: Yes. And I must tell you that I was just up at the army war college talking with a number of colonels there. I talked with a number of other flag officers in the last week or two. I have to tell you that there is some concern about exactly where we`re going, whether it`s the budget and Trump`s promises to plus it up majorly in the face of 20 plus trillion dollars of debt and recruiting costs that are off the charts. Two security policy in general.
What is our policy towards China? What is our policy towards Russia? What is our policy towards North Korea and other issues of great conern?
We`ve heard all about how he`s going to destroy ISIS and he`s going to get rid of terrorism, which most military people think is farcical, because you`re never get rid of terrorism, it`ll always be with us. You just want to bring it to a manageable level.
So, yes, there`s great concern amongst military officers as to what this means.
HAYES: Are you confident that we have the institutions in place to definitively make findings a fact about the connection to Russia. It seems to me massively important that the sort of suspicion be removed, to have some sort of definitive public record of what is and is not true with regards to that?
WILKERSON: I`m coming to believe that we don`t have that capacity, Chris. And that`s a big shortcoming. I harken back to Truman and his investigative committee in the senate that looked into so many acts of malfeasance and corruption and outright boondoggling during World War II. It was a very effective committee. And it did a lot of good for the war effort.
We don`t seem to have that anymore. Look at the Senate intelligence committee, which has a lot of responsibility here. We have got a chairman from North Carolina in Senator Burr who seems to want to bury things under the table like he did the torture report, for example.
I`m not confident that this legislature has the political will or the skill to do this kind of investigation.
HAYES: all right, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, thank you for your time tonight, sir. Appreciate it.
WILKERSON: Thanks for having me, Chris.
HAYES: Still to come, the campaign that promised non-stop wins, now an administration struggling to get through the day. The first three weeks ahead.
Plus, Kellyanne Conway stars in tonight`s Thing One, Thing Two. You don`t want to miss it. It starts right after this break.
HAYES: Thing One tonight, it was a rough morning for White House counselor Kellyanne Conway how was grilled on the timing of Michael Flynn`s resignation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLYANNE CONWAY, WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: Vice President Mike Pence was misled by General Flynn or General Flynn could not completely recall what his conversations had been.
GEORGE STPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: But you knew that -- but Kellyanne, the White House knew that almost three weeks ago.
CONWAY: As time wore on, obviously the situation became unsustainable and General Flynn...
MATT LAUER, TODAY SHOW: Kellyanne, that makes no sense. Last month the Justice Department warned the White House that General Flynn had misled them. And that as a result he was vulnerable to blackmail and at that moment he still had the complete trust of the president?
CONWAY: Matt, I`m telling you what the president has said.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYW: This afternoon, Conway showed up to the White House press briefing to watch Sean Spicer take a swing at similar questions and throughout the briefing she was on her phone, which, no harm there. We`re all doing that all the time.
Now, we don`t know what she was doing on her phone. We do know midway through that briefing, 1:43 p.m., it appears she saw a Twitter user post "Kellyanne Conway, your strength and resiliency is a daily inspiration. Love you," which she apparently re-tweeted adding "love you back."
It is Valentine`s Day after all.
So, why just a few hours later did Conway say she never sent that tweet and claims someone else must have gotten access to her account? That`s Thing Two in 60 seconds.
HAYES: While sitting in the White House press briefing today, Kellyanne Conway apparently re-tweeted a user named @libhypocrisy.
As BuzzFeed first reported, the user seems to be a white nationalist. Their bio includes the hashtags #whiteidentity #nationalist far right Dutch politician #GeertWilders and #SteveBannon.
Oh, also, a frog imagine, which just might be a reference to the alt-right icon Pepe the Frog.
When presented with that information, Conway had an interesting response telling BuzzFeed, "I don`t know had access to my account. Let me see who tweeted that. That`s terrible." Adding, "it will be immediately deleted. Everybody makes mistakes."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We`re going to win so much you`re going to get tired of winning. You`re going to say "this guy is winning too much," because you`re not used to winning. Because we never win. We don`t win with war. We don`t win with trade. We don`t win on the borders. You`re going to win so much, you`re going to love it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Three and a half weeks into his administration, Donald Trump isn`t doing much winning. In fact, he`s taking a lot of "Ls." His latest loss, the resignation of Michael Flynn amid an escalating scandal over his contact with Russia. That`s just the tip of the iceberg. Today, Office of Government Ethics officially recommended disciplinary action against senior White House adviser Kellyanne Conway for her on-air plug of Ivanka Trump`s clothing line.
In Virginia, yesterday, yet another federal judge ruled against President Trump`s travel ban in the strongest his latest language to date citing, quote, "the impermissible motive of disfavoring one religious group."
On top of that, House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz, who`s not so into investigating the White House in general, is now looking into possible security violations at Mar-a-Lago this weekend where the president was photographed in public discussing response to North Korea`s missile launch.
So, three-and-a-half weeks in, we want to ask how are things going? The answer from someone who knows a thing or two about working in the White House next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHEN MILLER, WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: I think to say that we here in control would be a substantial understatement. The president of the United States has accomplished more in just a few weeks than many presidents accomplish in an entire administration.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: I`m joined by Chris Lou, who is assistant to the president and White House cabinet secretary for former President Barack Obama.
And, first, Mr. Miller`s contention that more in three weeks -- you`re already laughing. Is that a fair assessment?
CHRIS LU, FRM. WHITE HOUSE CABINET SECRETARY: Chris, there`s no comparison between what we went through in 2009 and what the Trump folks are doing at this point. It is amateur hour right now.
And let`s not forget, we were dealing with the greatest recession of our lifetime in 2009 as well as two wars at that time.
You did an impressive job before the commercial in listing a series of mistakes that have happened. I would add a couple others. I`d add the DeVos nomination. I`d add strained relations with Mexico, Australia. And what do these things have in common? They`re all unforced errors. These are problems of their own making.
They haven`t even gotten to the hard stuff yet. They haven`t even started on repealing Obamacare or tax reform. So, it`s any wonder how they`re going to accomplish those things.
HAYES: Or -- and this is why I wanted to talk -- I`ve known you for a while, because I met you - my wife worked with you when she worked in the administration in the White House. And I know that you were there for a long time. You got to see the inside of how a White House operates.
And what happens when a White House that is this apparently disorganized and scattered reaches its first crisis, its Katrina or Deepwater Horizon or something that comes out of the blue? Like, what is it like to be in a White House when that happens? And how important is it to have processes in place that are working in normal times?
LU: Well, you`re right, Chris. it`s not only having processes in place, it`s having people in place. This is a White House right now that does not even have a communications director. They don`t even have anywhere to a full cabinet. Below that, they don`t have most of their deputy secretaries, none of their assistant secretaries.
The one thing you know is that there will be a crisis. You always need to anticipate the thing that can`t be anticipated and whether it`s a hurricane, whether it`s Deepwater Horizon, whether it`s a Katrina, you know that`s going to happen.
HAYES: This was something that really caught my eye. I`ve been talking about this brown M&Ms theory, which is the famous story about a contract rider of Van Halen where, you know, they said no brown M&Ms and it was a way of sort of immediately when the band came into the green room. If they saw brown M&Ms they knew they didn`t read the contract rider carefully enough and that small mistake meant there were bigger mistakes. And I saw this piece today in USA Today on the wrong executive order text, that the White House is posting wrong versions of Trump`s orders on its web site.
What does that say about just the basic level of confidence, rigor, and execution?
LU: You know, Chris, it`s not only the wrong executive order, it`s the number of typos, it`s foreign leaders` names that have been misspelled.
I agree with you completely. If you can`t do the little things well, there`s no way you can do the big things well.
And I don`t know if that`s lack of process. I don`t know if lack of experience, but I can tell you, we double and triple-checked everything that we did in the White House back in 2009.
HAYES: This is another thing that caught my eye. I know that the Presidential Records Act is a real bear for folks in the White House because it -- it`s a pain. It means that everything you do, you, Chris Lu, anyone in that White House is actually property of the United States citizens, not of you. It has to be preserved. And this is something that comes from The Washington Post, staffers are so fearful of being accused of talking to the media, some have resorted to a secret chat app, Confide, that erases messages as soon as they`re read.
That is, on its face, a violation of the Presidential Records Act.
LU: It`s absolutely a violation. In 2014, congress passed an amendment to the presidential Record Act that specifically included electronic text messages. And if you text you have to keep a record of that or forward to that to some other system where it can be track.
So, a system that automatically deletes it, absolutely violates the Presidential Records Act.
HAYES: And I mean I think people are probably watching this and thinking, well, giving what we`re dealing with, the Presidential Records Act, but it is the law. I mean, it is the law for the White House staffers and there has to be some culture and compliance in which you obey the law.
LU: Well, Chris, why would this surprise you? You have Kellyanne Conway standing in the White House press briefing room hawking Ivanka Trump`s products when she is apparently counseled you then read stories indicating that the president was not happy with the use of the that term.
As you pointed out today, the Office of Government Ethics is calling for disciplinary action to be taken. But given the tone and culture of this White House, none of us have any confidence that will actually happen.
HAYES: How much do you put this at the feet of the White House counsel, Don McGahn. I mean, it seems to me White House counsels can vary tremendously in power, but they are the kind of check, they are the lawyers saying you can`t do this, you can`t do that, you have got to preserve your records. How important is it that that person be essentially policing what goes on in the White House?
LU: You know, the White House counsel has an important function. There is an old expression about the job of a White House counsel is to prevent brushfires from becoming infernos. We`ve already now seen three infernos with the travel ban, the ethics issues, conflict of interest issues as well as Flynn and all fingers point to the head fireman, Don McGahn.
HAYES: Do you think there`s a learning curve they can ascend? You must have some sympathy of how hard the job is?
LU: Oh, absolutely. I mean, I`m not going to say we were perfect in what we did in 2009. There are always bumps in the road. But what is - and obviously with experience, with more people in place, some of these things will iron out.
But ultimately it all goes back to the tone that is set at the top. We had an organization that was run by no drama Obama and this organization is run by all chaos Trump.
HAYES: All right, that`s Chris Lu. Thank you for your time tonight. Appreciate it.
And that is All In for this evening. The Rachel Maddow show starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END