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All in with Chris Hayes, Transcript 2/24/2017

Guests: John Dean, Karen Bass, Evan McMullin, Matt Miller

Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: February 24, 2017 Guest: John Dean, Karen Bass, Evan McMullin, Matt Miller TED JOHNSON, VARIETY MANAGING EDITOR:  Thank you.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  Not enough time for you, we can do a whole show with you, brother.  And thank you, we`re always reading your stuff.

JOHNSON:  OK.  Thank you for having me.

MATTHEWS:  And thank you Ann Hornaday my favorite.  Anyway that`s HARDBALL for now.  Thanks for being with us.  "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes starts right now.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  They are the enemy of the people.  Because they have no sources, they just make them up when there are none.

HAYES:  It`s Trump against the truth as the White House lashes out at the media and blocks news orgs from briefings after being forced to admit Reince Priebus asked the FBI to push back Trump Russia stories.


HAYES:  What we now know about White House efforts to influence the FBI.  And the central question, can the Bureau be trusted to investigate the President?

Plus, as Town Halls continue around the country, the President divides.

TRUMP:  The people that you`re watching, they`re not you.

HAYES:  New fears from the right that the resistance is winning.

REP. MO BROOKS (R), ALABAMA:  I don`t know if we`re going to be able to repeal ObamaCare now.

HAYES:  And speaking of Obama, a sighting.  When ALL IN starts right now.

TRUMP:  Sequester, sequester.

Good evening from New York, I`m Chris Hayes.  In the wake of an explosive story that`s been unfolding over the past 24 hours, involving improper communication between the White House and an FBI that is investigating the President and on a day that President Trump again called the media the enemy of the people, the White House did something news organizations are describing as an unprecedented retaliation.  Barring reporters from five prominent media outlets from entering an off-camera briefing while inviting in Breitbart News and other conservative outlets. 

Now, this action came after the Trump administration confirmed key details of the reporting of that remarkable breach of protocol and propriety, acknowledging that White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus did in fact ask a top FBI official to push back against news reports of contact between Trump aides and Russians during the Presidential campaign, prompting House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to call for a Department of Justice investigation.  Keep in mind what`s at issue here.  U.S. Intelligence Agencies have determined the Russians intervened to boost then-candidate Trump during the Presidential campaign. 

The open question is whether the President or his allies or campaign colluded at all with the Russians in such an effort.  There is -- and we should be very clear here, no proof that that happened.  But that`s precisely why last week`s explosive report that Trump campaign aides had repeated contacts with Russian intelligence during the campaign was such a blockbuster.  It was the first reporting to establish contact between Trump associates and Russian intelligence during the campaign, and that`s the claim that Reince Priebus wanted the FBI to publicly dispute.  The thing is, a lot of news outlets have already confirmed much of the story.  Law enforcement and intelligence officials tell NBC News there is in fact evidence of contacts between Trump aides and Russians, though they say they have not determined whether the Russians in question were intelligence officials, as they`ve been described by the Times. 

The White House today laid out its version of what took place.  It says FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe pulled Priebus aside last Wednesday to tell him that that New York Times report was "garbage."  In response, Priebus asked McCabe to go public with that claim.  A request that McCabe ultimately declined.  In an off-camera briefing, that same briefing in which many major news outlets were barred from attending including the New York Times, Sean Spicer explained the White House version of events.


SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  When presented with a story that we were told was not accurate, our answer was could you go tell other people that it`s not accurate or correct it or whatever you see fit?  We`re just not going to sit back and let -- you know, false narratives, false stories, inaccurate facts get out there.


HAYES:  Now tonight, the Washington Post is reporting it wasn`t just the FBI but that the Trump administration has enlisted senior members of the Intelligence Community and Congress in efforts to counter news stories about Trump`s associate`s ties to Russia.  We don`t know if the White House version of events which we just presented is true.  But here`s the thing, even if it is, it doesn`t exactly absolve the White House or, for that matter, the FBI, which, according to the White House, offered information from an ongoing criminal investigation to potential witnesses or subjects of that investigation.  To put all this in context for a moment, when Bill Clinton -- you`ll remember, met with then Attorney General Loretta Lynch last year on Loretta Lynch`s plane for a conversation that both parties say largely concerned golf and grandchildren, Republicans went, well, crazy, speculating that Bill Clinton was trying to intervene to quash investigations into his wife.


TRUMP:  So give the grandchildren two minutes, give golf three and a half minutes.  That`s a long time to be sitting there twiddling your thumbs.  What else are we going to talk about?  Let`s talk about Hillary.  Let`s talk about Hillary.


HAYES:  Now, imagine if the Obama White House had asked the FBI to knock down stories about Hillary Clinton`s e-mails.  If that had gotten out, it would have been a huge scandal.  And yet, that`s analogous to what the White House today admitted and confirmed to having done.  President Trump spoke today at the Conservative Political Action Conference where he suggested, falsely, that negative news reports are simply made up.


TRUMP:  A few days ago, I called the fake news, "the enemy of the people", and they are.  They are the enemy of the people.  Because they have no sources, they just make them up when there are none.  They shouldn`t be allowed to use sources unless they use somebody`s name.


HAYES:  For the record, that comment came after White House officials anonymously -- that is to say without using their name, pushed back on the FBI report and didn`t allow their names to be used.  And then, the Trump administration barred five news outlets that we said that have reported aggressively in the Trump White House from Spicer`s off-camera briefing today prompting widespread anger and claims of retaliation.  But the unanswered questions about alleged links between Trump`s allies and the Russians are not going away.  New polling shows that 53 percent of Americans want congress to investigate ties between the Russian government and the Trump campaign and at CPAC today a rather brilliant troll handed out Russian flags with Trump written on them, which oblivious supporters waved during the President`s speech until CPAC Staffers figured out what had happened and confiscated them. 

Joining me now, John Dean, former White House Counsel to President Richard Nixon.  John, lets -- let us bracket for a moment the underlying substance of the -- of the reporting and the claims about the degree of contact between Trump campaign officials and Russian intelligence officials, which is being disputed, right?


HAYES:  Let`s just talk about this communication that is now been established on the record between the White House talking to the FBI about an ongoing investigation.  As someone who served the White House Council under Richard Nixon, how does that strike you?

DEAN:  Well, as somebody who was in that role during the Nixon Presidency, it`s because of the activities between the Nixon White House and the FBI that the Justice Department later wrote regulations to prohibit that kind of activity.  This is exactly the way you influence -- try to influence an investigation.  If they were playing it straight, if they really wanted to say we have -- there`s nothing to see here, they`d do what Hillary Clinton did.  They`ll provide all of her staff and herself to the FBI for very open inquiry, and that leaked very quickly, if you recall, as well.  And there was no complaint by the Trump people when that information leaked.

HAYES:  Right.  So you`re saying that the way to push back against the -- you know, against false reports is essentially make yourself open to the investigation --

DEAN:  Exactly, exactly.

HAYES:  -- and get to the bottom of it, and have some kind of clearing which is essentially in its own way what happened when James Comey famously delivered that speech about the investigation to Hillary Clinton`s e-mails.

DEAN:  That`s exactly what did happen.  While it is not a criminal offense to push back or to try to get them to correct what they perceive as a bad story nor to even push them about where they`re investigating.  It is certainly against the regulations of the Department and the norms of the Department post-Watergate.  But this administration has been busting norms from the -- from the beginning of the Presidency, not to mention throughout the campaign.

HAYES:  And these norms -- I mean, the regulations, the norms that were then enshrined in department regulation post-Watergate are precisely because at a certain point, the breaking point of Watergate was precisely in some ways an analogous situation in so far as the FBI was actively investigating the President of the United States and the President of the United States actively tried to intervene to quash that investigation?

HAYES:  What happened is, Nixon got caught in the lie of saying he knew nothing about the cover-up, yet it showed on the tapes when they were finally surfaced that he indeed had instructed Haldeman to use the CIA to block the FBI.

HAYES:  Right.

DEAN:  Now, that wasn`t the crime itself, it was the lie.  And you -- and the fact also by then there was a grand jury sitting because the grand jury couldn`t -- changes the whole complexion of FBI investigations.  Particularly when they`re doing something on behalf of the grand jury.  That`s where you get into the obstruction of justice.

HAYES:  Knowing what you know over the last 24 hours and what has been now essentially confirmed by the White House, although, again, the contours of that we only have the White House to trust here, we don`t have Mr. McCabe or Mr. Comey or anyone else.  So I -- we should take all that with a grain of salt.  Do you have confidence in the integrity of whatever existing investigation is happening in that FBI?

DEAN:  Well, the recent story that broke tonight by the Post, that other intelligence agencies have been in play in this also, looks like they`re overlooking and watching what the FBI is doing.  So the FBI is not exactly acting alone in this while they`re conducting the investigation.  They really can`t do it without the other intelligence agencies possibly being involved in this.  So this is going to make it very hard to play any games with the FBI.  And I don`t think the FBI in the sense is inclined to do so.  They have nothing to really benefit by it -- you know, particularly down into the rank and file.  While we`ve heard stories about the New York office and various offices, we know there`s three phases of this FBI investigation and two of them are outside of Washington while the Counterintelligence Operation is out of Washington, there`s a Pittsburgh office and a -- and a San Francisco office that are doing different phases of this investigation.

HAYES:  Right

DEAN:  So it`s very hard to make a go anything other than right down the middle.

HAYES:  All right.  John Dean, thanks for being with me tonight.  I appreciate it.

DEAN:  Thank you.

HAYES:  Joining me now, Democratic Representative Karen Bass of California, member of the House Judiciary Committee.  And your colleague, the Democratic Leader in the House calling for Department of Justice Investigation.  Do you agree with that?

REP. KAREN BASS (D), CALIFORNIA:  Absolutely.  I think that`s very important to have happen.

HAYES:  What do you think needs to happen given the fact that we now know there`s all this behind-the-scenes jockeying.  We know that the White House is at least trampled on this sort of protective sphere, this norm about what communication you have with the FBI about an ongoing investigation.  What do you think needs to happen now?

BASS:  Well, I mean, I definitely think that there needs to be a thorough investigation.  I think that the White House needs to consider you know, sending Reince Priebus the way of Flynn but there`s so much more that`s happening here and you know, to me, I don`t see this disconnected from Trump`s attack on the press because to me he seems like he`s laying the basis for that when the truth finally comes out about the Russian connection that at least his base will no longer believe what comes out -- you know, in the press.  Because anything that`s negative is fake news.  So to me I see it as all interconnected but I believe that there absolutely should be an investigation and that they have to understand, we`re only 30 days into this Presidency.  They have to understand that the FBI and that the intelligence agencies are not the propaganda arm of the White House.

HAYES:  You know, you -- I just want to go back to something you said.  You said Reince Priebus should be sent the way of Michael Flynn.  You believe he should be fired over this?

BASS:  Right.  I absolutely do. 

HAYES:  And -- yes.

BASS:  Because it`s not the only thing.  I mean, you know, again, trying to pressure the Department of Justice, the Intelligence Agencies to speak on your behalf, I understand what Mr. Dean said in terms of it not being -- breaking the law but certainly violating regulations but what does this say about this White House?  You know, I remember when President Obama was giving his farewell speech and he said that we need to protect our democracy.  I actually thought about that statement as a little rhetorical.  I was thinking about the voting rights acts specifically.  But I feel like over the last 30 days, so many aspects of our democracy have been trampled upon.  And I think that for the White House to get its act together, I think it would send the right message just as the dismissal of Flynn did.  But they didn`t dismiss him until they absolutely had to.

HAYES:  Right.  And, in fact, the President has said essentially they made a mistake in doing so. 

BASS:  Right.

HAYES:  That it was the fault -- the fault of the media.  There`s -- I`m curious this polling which I found a little surprising, I have to say.  "Should congress investigate Trump/Russia connection?"  53 percent yes, 25 percent saying no, no opinion 21 percent.  Is that square with what you hear from your constituents?

BASS:  Oh, my goodness, no.  I mean, I had Town Halls over the weekend, 500 the first day, 800 the second day and I will tell you that the anxiety level is so high.  And one of the main things that people want to have happen is an investigation because there again they`re concerned.  People are afraid about a war being launched by this President.  And so, they see all of this as being intertwined.  And this is just so much, you know, out of the ordinary in terms of our tradition and our allies that demanding an investigation.  Well, I tell you one thing, in terms of the audience at my Town Halls, it was a lot more than 53 percent.

HAYES:  All right.  Representative Karen Bass, thanks for your time this evening.  I appreciate it.

BASS:  Thanks for having me on.

HAYES:  Joining me now, former CIA Operative and House Republican Conference Chief Policy Director Evan McMullin who ran for president in 2016 as an Independent.  I want to read to you what the President was tweeting this morning about the leakers.


HAYES:  "The FBI is totally unable to stop the National Security Leakers that have permeated our government for a long time, they can`t find the leakers within the FBI itself.  Classified Information is being given to the media that could have devastating effect on the U.S. find now."  What`s your reading of that?

MCMULLIN:  Well, there`s always been a problem with leaks, and there always will be a problem with leaks.  That`s just the reality.  But what I find interesting about this is that Donald Trump refuses, really, to deny in a full-throated way and repeatedly that his campaign had contact with Russian officials, possibly as we have read in the New York Times, Russian Intelligence Officers.  That`s what he should be talking about.  That`s what he should be refuting if it`s not true.  But instead, he goes after the leaks over and over again and I think that`s -- it`s very telling that that`s where he focuses.

HAYES:  What about this?  As someone who worked in the CIA, I`ve seen a sort of broad range of opinions on this and some say, look, the White House has a point, people are -- you know, they`re leaking information that should be closely held, it`s unfair to the President, it`s unfair to people in his campaign that this is -- that this is getting out and as someone who has taken an oath to keep classified information, what`s your view?

MCMULLIN:  Well, there`s a lot going on here.  But, first of all I would say that we don`t know for sure the leaks are coming from the intelligence organizations.  That`s a Trump construct.  That`s what his claim is.

HAYES:  That`s fair point.

MCMULLIN:  That`s why -- that`s why his claims -- his lies are so dangerous.  They seep into what we accept as truth without there being validation of them and I think that`s an example of that.  But I will say that when you have a President who pits his own senior staff against its -- others in his senior staff, when you have a President that has a destructive vision for leadership in the country, as does his key strategist, and then you`re going to have more leaks because people are going to have disagreements that lead them to want to get back at --

HAYES:  Right.

MCMULLIN:  -- other staffers and they`re concerned about the direction of this Presidency so it`s really Donald Trump has himself to blame mostly for these leaks.

HAYES:  Let me ask you about the Washington Post reporting that Trump administration sought to enlist intelligence officials and key lawmakers to counter some of these Russia stories.  You know, there`s always concern about -- there`s always as complicated relationship between intelligence officials and the political arm and obviously they work for the elected government of the United States but there`s some degree you want them independent.  We saw what can happen in Iraq and another circumstances when politics sort of drives the intelligence.  Is this dangerous to you that they`re going to intelligence officials trying to get them to knock this story down?

MCMULLIN:  Of course it`s dangerous.  And it calls into question the investigations that are happening.  The FBI is conducting an investigation, probably with the contribution of the Intelligence Community.  And then you have the House and Senate Select Intelligence Committees also conducting investigations.  But the White House has gone to all of those players and then tried to enlist their help in claiming that the campaign did not have contact with Russian officials.  That`s part of what the investigation is all about so if they actually did these things then we have to ask, is there really -- are there really investigations happening?  And if there are not -- and I think this whole episode calls in into question these alleged investigations, I think that all of this tells us that we`ve got to have an independent prosecutor or independent prosecutor named by the DOJ or we`ve got to have an independent commission established by Congress.  But the American people deserve transparency and they deserve accountability in this process.  This is a matter of grave importance and we just don`t have enough of either of those right now.

HAYES:  All right.  Evan McMullin, thanks for being with me.  I appreciate it.

MCMULLIN:  Thank you.

HAYES:  These jarring admissions about FBI conversations to the White House is just the latest in a series of very questionable moves by the Bureau when it comes to Donald Trump.  We`re going to take a closer look at that next.


HAYES:  After news broke last night of contact between the White House and the FBI, this morning President Trump attacked the FBI in that series of tweets.  The irony is, there`s decent evidence -- at least a sort of plausible case, the FBI has really helped Donald Trump and continues to do so.  Most notably, of course, on October 28, the unprecedented act just 11 days before the election, arguably in violation of Department of Justice policy, FBI Director James Comey`s letter informing congress the FBI would review new Clinton e-mails.  That review turned up nothing, as you`ll recall, but according to many pollsters, it turned the election tide against Hillary Clinton.  There`s more.  On October 31, just eight days before the election, this headline in the New York Times, "Investigating Donald Trump, FBI sees no clear links to Russia." 

That based on FBI sources talking to the New York Times.  It does not seem to hold up very well right now, that headline, at least, but it was probably pretty helpful to the Trump campaign then.  Then, just six days before the election, the report of an Internal FBI battle over whether to investigate the Clinton foundation, which never materialized.  After the election, after Trump`s victory, the focus sharpened on Russian interference, but it was the FBI that wouldn`t initially sign on to the consensus of the other intelligence agencies that Russian interference into the election was intended to help elect Donald Trump.  Today, the latest, the White House defending Chief of Staff Reince Priebus asking the FBI to publicly knock down stories of investigations into contacts with Russia. 

Their defense, that both FBI Director James Comey and FBI director -- Deputy Director Andrew McCabe had knocked down such reports in private conversations.  Joining me again tonight, Matt Miller, former Aide to Attorney General Eric Holder, former Justice Department Spokesperson.  Now, I want to be clear here, this is the White House`s account that essentially just emanated (INAUDIBLE) from the FBI.  They wanted to say, "hey look, that`s not true in New York Times."  So I don`t know if that`s true or not.  If it is true is that proper.

MATT MILLER, ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER`S FORMER AID:  You`re right.  It`s always dangerous to assume that what Sean Spicer said is a fair and accurate rendering of what actually happened.  But if it is what happened, no, it`s not proper.  The -- this investigation is into the President`s campaign, into the campaign associates, people like Paul Manafort, people like Carter Page and you know, Reince Priebus was involved in that campaign.  He of course was the Chairman of the RNC.  He was in Trump tower all the time.  Multiple other, people in the White House, obviously including the President himself were involved in the campaign so in no way should the FBI ever be talking to the subjects of an investigation about where that investigation stands.  I can think of no other case, I you were investigating a bank, if you were investigating -- you know, someone for fraud, you would never, ever come to them and say "Oh, yes, there was a story that ran and by the way, we don`t think that story is true."  It just -- it just does not happen and it`s completely inappropriate.

HAYES:  Right.  I mean, so the point here as I understand it is, even if -- let`s say -- let`s assume the set of facts most charitable to the White House.  The reports were wrong and that, you know, and that this did emanate from the FBI.  It still strikes me even in the most charitable set of circumstances as a totally improper communication.

MILLER:  Yes.  That`s right.  There is no other way to look at it.  I -- it`s hard to know what McCabe was thinking when he had that conversation with Priebus.  And then it`s hard to know what he was thinking when he had the -- I mean, the follow-up call -- I mean when Comey had the follow-up call where he apparently confirmed the same thing, if that indeed is what they did.  And part of the problem here is, so, you know, the FBI is -- you know, Senior FBI Officials, people like Comey, people like McCabe are constantly at the White House, they`re involved in intelligence matters, you know, the President referees disputes between the FBI and other agencies, so they have a lot of equities in play at the White House which goes to show how awkward it is for them to also be investigating the President and now, given what they`ve done, how compromised.  I mean, if it is -- if this is true, how compromised they are.  You know, they have now gone and because they briefed him, I think they did very difficult for them to continue to oversee this investigation.

HAYES:  Well, and then you also have something that you and I have talked about now for months.  And again, I don`t want to impugn the FBI as a massive organization that has thousands of people who do incredibly important work every day.  So I don`t want to sort of paint with a broad brush here but what has appeared to be the case, based on some of the leaks that happened both before the election particularly in the run up of the election was a kind of -- things coming out of the FBI that really seemed to be putting the thumb on the scale frankly against Hillary Clinton and for Donald Trump.

MILLER:  Yes.  There`s no other way to look at it.  I think look, most people in the FBI do lean conservative.  I think that if you look at the broad population of the FBI, they do.  But that doesn`t mean that most of them aren`t not fair and their job`s fair, and I think they do.  But without a -- without question some of the stories during the campaign -- you know, I think Comey did what he did for a lot of reasons, I don`t think they were partisan -- they were partisan reasons but the Wall Street Journal story that you flashed on the screen a minute ago, leaks from the New York Field Office were clearly done to hurt Hillary Clinton.  Those were leaks from field agents that clearly were done to target her to try to make it harder for her to be elected President and it`s a sign that there is a -- you know a problem and that makes it surprising that Comey, you know, isn`t more sensitive to that --

HAYES:  Right.

MILLER:  -- given what happened in the campaign that he then would have this type of conversation with Priebus and that McCabe would have this type of conversation.  You think if anything they would be bending over backwards to make it clear that they are going to be independent and accountable to the facts and the law and not to the President.

HAYES:  All right.  Matt Miller, thanks for your time again.  Appreciate it.

MILLER:  Thanks.

HAYES:  Coming up, President Trump`s speech today divided the country into the side that won, and the side that lost and made it clear exactly which side he is President of.  We`ll talk about that ahead.


HAYES:  The President of the United States used his appearance at CPAC this morning to paint his by now standard vision of a dystrophic world rife with violence and danger.


TRUMP:  I mean, can you believe what`s happening in Chicago as an example?  Two days ago, seven people were shot and I believe killed.  Seven people, seven people.  Chicago.  A great American city.

By the way, take a look at what`s happening in Europe folks.  Take a look at what`s happening in Europe.  Take a look at what happened in Sweden.  Take a look at what`s happening in Sweden.  Take a look at what`s happening in Germany.  Take a look at what`s happened in France.  Take a look at Nice and Paris.  Take a look at what`s happening to our world, folks.


HAYES:  But, for all of that, the President was noticeably silent on several other recent examples of political violence.  He said nothing about the arson fire set at a Tampa, Florida mosque early this morning.  Nor did he mention the hate crime investigation currently under way in Kansas after Adam Purinton, a navy veteran, reportedly opened fire on two engineers from India at a bar killing one of them, wounding the other as well as a bystander who tried to intervene.  According to the Kansas Star, at least one witness reportedly heard him say "Get out of my country" before the shooting.  He was later arrested at another bar when the bartender called police after the suspect allegedly said he killed two Middle Eastern men.  The father of the surviving Indian engineer is now urging his son to come home telling the local paper "The situation seems to be pretty bad after Trump took over as the U.S. President.  I appeal to all the parents in India not to send their children to the U.S. in the present circumstances."  According to Reuters, White House Press Secretary said it was too early to guess a motive for the attack and quote "It would be absurd to link the action to President Donald Trump`s rhetoric."  There`s a reason Trump brought up Chicago and Paris and Sweden this morning and not Kansas or Tampa.  He was telling his base what they want to hear.  What it looks like when the President of the United States is actually the President of his base.  Next.



REP. PAUL RYAN, (R) WISCONSIN:  Today, I am inviting President Trump to address a joint session of congress on February 28.  This will be an opportunity for the people and their representatives to hear directly from our new president about his vision and our shared agenda.


HAYES:  On Tuesday night, Donald Trump will deliver his first address to a joint session of congress.  It will be the first time he stands before both chambers in what amounts to a version of the State of the Union Addressed reserved for newly inaugurated presidents.

And it will be the president`s first opportunity to lay out his extended vision for the country since his rather brief inaugural address.

But today, the president gave a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference and whether it was his promise to throw, quote, "criminal aliens the hell out of the country" or when he was discussing the ubiquitous protests against the repeal of the ACA, it seemed to be very clear he was not speaking as president of all the American people, just his base, the winners.


TRUMP:  Obamacare doesn`t work, folks, I mean, I could say, I could talk, it doesn`t work.  And now people are starting to develop a little warm heart, but the people that you`re watching, they`re not you.  They`re largely -- many of them are the side that lost.  They lost the election.  It`s like how many elections do we have to have?  They lost the election.


HAYES:  Joining me now Michelle Goldberg, columnist for Slate who recently today got back from CPAC.

I thought that was such a perfect indication of the president`s world view, genuinely held.  They`re not you.  The people that I represented -- I am the president of the people that voted for me.

MICHELLE GOLDBERG, SLATE:  Right, to the victor goes the spoils.

HAYES:  Exactly.  And we won, they lost.  And so they don`t matter.

And he almost seems offended that they still want to have a say in the country.

GOLDBERG:  I mean, he said the same thing during his press conference when he was talking about the town halls and saying, but they`re not the Republican people who our Republican representatives are representing, right, so they don`t get to be represented. 

And there`s a kind of mystification when Trump talks about quote/unquote the people.  You know, when he talks about the people, he really means the small minority or -- not small--

HAYES: Sizable minority, a huge minority.

GOLDBERG:  The minority of America that elected him, and either he`s convinced himself that they really are synonymous with the American people or else he just believes that they`re the people who matter.

HAYES:  And there`s this thing that`s happening, right, where he`s talking about the -- he`s presenting the nationalist vision.  And you had a dispatch there that I thought was fascinating where you just were sort of bumping into people who were just sort of avowedly white nationalists.


HAYES:  Someone saying to you "people think alt-right is simply about being mean to other people.  It`s really not.  Alt-right is identity politics for white people."  That`s the line of Richard Spencer who is a white supremacist.

GOLDBERG:  And keep in mind, he`s saying that as a good thing, right.  I mean, there`s other people who said alt-right is identity politics for white people as a criticism.  He didn`t mean it that way.  And let`s be clear, this is somebody, a president of his college Republican chapter speaking to me with his name.  You know, I`ve been covering CPAC on and off, you know, for longer than I`d like to admit, certainly since the administration of George W. Bush.  It has not, in the past, you can always find somebody at CPAC to say something outrageous.  You don`t -- I`ve never seen before kind of young people under their own names so eager to associate themselves with white nationalism.

HAYES:  just walking around willing to talk to a reporter and say, yes, that`s my game.

GOLDBERG:  Right, so one of the big shows on Thursday was the white nationalist Richard Spencer crashed CPAC and kind of held a little impromptu gaggle in the hallway and they eventually after a couple hours threw him out.  But what was really interesting was seeing all the college kids coming up to him and taking selfies and, you know, being, like, one of them was like that`s the coolest guy.

HAYES:  And like flashing his journal at him.

GOLDBERG:  Yeah, not his journal, he picks up out of his bag a t-shirt with the name of Richard Spencer`s white supremacist journal like flashing it at him like he just had this on him.  He didn`t know Richard Spencer was going to be there.

HAYES:  And let`s be clear, this is the crowd that the president of the United States addressed today.  Those are the same people that the president of the United States addressed today.

GOLDBERG:  Right.  And there are -- I mean, I`m not using white nationalist here as a slur, that`s how they would describe themselves.  Their goal is a white ethnostate in America., And that was -- even though CPAC -- CPAC is now in this weird position because on the one hand they`re riding this energy.  They obviously want to celebrate their Republican president.  At the same time, they want to  distance themselves from the alt-right.  And so they`ve now kind of created this bizarre alternative alternative history of the alt-right in which it`s really a left wing movement.

It`s so weird and demented.

But because the base at this thing are now people who celebrate not just hyper-nationalism in the United States but you got, you know, crazy applause for Nigel Farrage, the British--

HAYES:  Architect of Brexit.

GOLDBERG:  Right, who then, you know, he kind of gave a shoutout to Marine Le Pen, you know, again wild applause.

HAYES:  The far right xenophobic Front National movement in France.

GOLDBERG;  Right.  You did not used to -- these kind of ideas it`s very new for them to have a foothold at CPAC, much less--

HAYES:  Dominate. 

GOLDBERG:  I shouldn`t say -- they`ve always been maybe around the fringe of CPAC, now they are CPAC.

HAYES:  Michelle Goldberg, thanks for joining us.  Appreciate it.

Still to come, after a week of passionate and fiery town halls all across the country, what will next week look like when congress is back in session?  Charlie Pierce, Jesse McIntosh join me to talk about that ahead.

Plus, a new Obama sighting today in tonight`s Thing One, Thing Two after this break.


HAYES:  Thing One tonight.  As President Trump sought to portray the media as fake news and proclaim the journalists the, quote, "enemy of the people" at CPAC today, he said this.


TRUMP:  By the way, you folks are in here. The place is packed.  There are lines that go back six blocks, and I tell you about that because you won`t read about it, okay?  But there are lines that go back six blocks.


HAYES:  That was a pretty easily checkable claim.  All you need to do is go outside and look.

And no, you won`t be reading about it, because it was, of course, not true.  Minutes after that comment, a reporter from Jezebel shared these two photos from outside the convention center and hotel.  There was, we should note, a small group gathered across from the convention center.  They were anti- Trump protesters.

And a reporter from Refinery 29 noted "didn`t see lines personally, but lots of space here in the back of the ballroom."

Now, it so happens we did find a crowd of enthusiastic supporters waiting outside for a U.S. president today, it just wasn`t anywhere close to CPAC.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  More people -- he`s coming!  He`s coming!  He`s coming!



HAYES:  Barack Obama`s surprise appearance in New York City is Thick Two in 60 seconds.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  No, don`t be disappointed, there`s more people -- he`s coming!  He`s coming!  He`s coming!




UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Obama, you rock.  You rock.



HAYES:  Obama exited an office building in Manhattan holding a coffee as throngs of people packed the street and even climbed scaffolding to see him. 

It`s not clear what the former president was doing in the city, but after flying under the radar since inauguration, these folks were pretty psyched to catch a few seconds of 44.







UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Three members of my family, including me, that would be dead, dead and homeless if it was not for ACA.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I`m an angry constituent.  You work for us!



UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I`m on Obamacare.  If it wasn`t for Obamacare, we wouldn`t be able to afford insurance.

Don`t repeal Obamacare.  Improve it, for god`s sake.



HAYES:  As this week of incredible mobilization and protests at town halls nationwide, draws to a close, it seems like the odds of the Affordable Care Act being repealed today are lower than they were just one week ago.  And that`s not only my assessment, it`s also the assessment of a man who wants to repeal the ACA, conservative Republican Congressman Mo Brooks of Alabama who dispairingly had this to say in a radio interview yesterday.


BROOKS:  I`ll tell you, Toni, there are a, in my opinion, a significant number of congressmen who are being impacted by these kinds of protests a their spine is a  little bit weak and I don`t know if we`re going to be able to repeal Obamacare now because these folks who support Obamacare are very active, they`re putting pressure on congressmen, and there`s not a counter effort to steel the spine of some of these congressmen in tossup districts around the country.


HAYES:  Now, keep in mind, this is just the first recess after the first month of Donald Trump`s presidency.  Republicans haven`t even proposed a bill on Obamacare yet.  Congress will be back in session on Monday, though, and Democrats will be electing a new party chair over the weekend.

So, the question is, where does all the anger, intensity, mobilization and organizing that we saw this week go next?  We`ll discuss after the break.



WAYNE LAPIERRE, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION:  Truth is, the far left, they`ve turned protesting into what seems like a full-time profession.  I mean, seriously.  I mean, you`d think that for $1,500 a week they`d at least know what they`re protesting.  But -- and you`ve seen it.  I mean, half of them, they can`t even tell you.


HAYES:  At CPAC this afternoon, CEO of the National Rifle Association and well known troll Wayne Lapierre resorted to the same fiction many conservatives have been peddling about paid protesters at town halls, $1500 a week.  Imagine.

They don`t want to believe it, but there really is real energy on the left, so how does it get channeled now?

Joining me now, Jess McIntosh, former Clinton campaign adviser, executive editor at Shareblue, an anti-Trump media company; and Charlie Pierce, writer at large with Esquire.

So, how do you understand what happened this week and then what happens going forward?

JESS MCINTOSH, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, SHAREBLUE:  I think it has been truly incredible to see the organic response at these town halls.

HAYES:  well, all these people are being paid $1500.

MCINTOSH:  It`s a very, very lucrative thing to do.

HAYES:  Like the 62-year-old pig farmer who talked to Chuck Grassley.

MCINTOSH:  Entirely in the pocket of George Soros.  That`s where he`s getting his money.  It`s not the pigs.  No.

Obviously, these are real people.  And watching them wave their state IDs and putting their zip codes on their name tags, they do not want to be labeled paid protesters of the left.  They are mad about that. 

I mean, the Democratic infrastructure is rushing to catch up to the groundswell of actual organic grass-roots support for this stuff.  We are trying to put together where do you find your town halls?  Everybody is asking how do we make sure that we don`t miss anything and organizations are scrambling to put out links to make sure that they`ve got -- it`s not being driven the other way.

HAYES:  Charlie, this is a great point, because I think there`s a -- the idea I think on the right is that this is a top-down, that, you know, people are being told what to do.  And it really is the opposite and I think it relates to what`s happening this weekend where the DNC is going to have its election to see who runs the DNC, the top two candidates as of now, Tom Perez, former secretary of labor, Keith Ellison, current congressman from Minnesota.  And it`s sort of viewed in some ways as a kind of proxy war between the sort of Bernie Sanders wing of the party, because Ellison was a prominent Sanders surrogate and the sort of the Obama/Clinton wing, because Perez is more associated with them.

Do you think -- I guess the question is how does that intersect with what we`re seeing as this groundswell of activism?

CHARLIE PIERCE, ESQUIRE:  Well, first of all, $1,500 a week and I`ll march against puppies and rainbows.  I`m just putting that out right now.  I am for sale at that price.

No, I think the most important thing that`s going on down here is what you and Jess were just discussing, which is how is the structure of the Democratic Party take advantage of all this creative tumult going on on that side of the political spectrum and how does that side of the political spectrum integrate itself, if that is, in fact, what it wants to do, with the structure of the Democratic Party?  To me, that`s a much more interesting story and a much more important story than who is eventually the Democratic National Chairman, which, frankly, having been around it for a couple days, looks like the world`s biggest student council election.

HAYES:  And what do you think -- one thing I think is key here is how this gets channeled and diverted.  So, one place people are looking at is starting to think about electoral consequences.  And we saw -- remember, I`ll never forget walking -- I will never forget walking around Capitol Hill the day after Scott Brown won and I ran into a member of congress, a Democratic member of congress who looked like he had just been told that his family had perished in an accident.  He looked so forlorn.  He said to me "it`s over, it`s done."

Now, it wasn`t done.  There are opportunities for Democrats to put points on the board.  There`s the Kansas fourth special election replacing Mike Pompeo April 11, that is an incredibly difficult district.  It`s very red rock Republican.

But Georgia sixth, Tom Price, that was a very close district.  That is a -- that`s going to happen.  So there are -- you don`t to wait until 2018 until you start to see.

MCINTOSH:  No.  And these are low turnout election, which is means that with a lot of highly motivated folks, even if you`re in the minority, you can pull one out.  So I want to make sure that we`re looking as Democrats at 2017 and all of these options so that we`re not telling people in 2018 for the first time, hey, turn some of this activist energy into an electoral victory.

We need to be doing it now.  There are state legislative elections tomorrow.  In Delaware, there`s a special election that could decide control of the state legislature.  We need to see if Democrats--

HAYES:  Which we have learned matters a tremendous amount, whatever your politics are.

MCINTOSH:  And progressives have consistently lagged behind Republicans in our organizing around those things.  This is the year we have to correct that.

HAYES:  Charlie, since you`ve been covering this DNC race and what you said about the student council race, it does strike me, though, that there is this real question, right, about the sort of Sanders wing of the party, people that activated around Bernie Sanders, that have sort of activated around Keith Ellison, the message it will send to them if Ellison loses.

Ellison, I saw just now sort of talking about the need for unity.  Do you think that`s a real a danger from what you`ve reported?

PIERCE;  Yeah, I think that there are people who are seeing this as an opportunity to re-litigate the 2016 primaries, and that`s incredibly destructive.

But I also went to a panel today that was put together by all these kind of organizations that have sprung up in the last few years -- Black Lives Matter, the women`s march, a couple of other ones I hadn`t heard of including one very interesting thing called the Sista Precinct Project which is about taking people in areas and precincts and congressional districts that Democrats can`t lose and channeling them, or partnering them up with tough races in redder states.

HAYES:  Interesting.

PIERCE:  Which I think is a great idea.

But I hope -- the other thing -- the thing about these organizations, Chris, is that they`re not necessarily attached to Bernie Sanders, either.

HAYES:  right.

PIERCE:  I mean, these people are free-floating activists on their own hook asking to essentially be included in whatever comes out of here.

HAYES:  And on the sort of electoral part of this, one of the things I think that to sort of keep in mind is as gerrymandered as things are, there are 23 house Republicans who hold seats in districts that voted for Hillary Clinton and when you heard Mo Brooks said -- there are people, I had one of them last night, Leonard Lance, on this show, pressure is going -- that`s the point of the spear.

MCINTOSH:  Oh, absolutely.  I mean, you had a Republican freshman come out today and agree with his town hall crowd that Donald Trump ought to release his tax returns.  And this is a guy who had previously ended town halls by chanting "make America great again."  This is not somebody who would typically be caving like that.

So there`s pressure to be applied and we`re seeing it this week.

PIERCE;  This is also the guy who wants to eliminate the EPA.

HAYES:  Right, well, universal law, pressure works.  Jess McIntosh, Charlie Pierce, in all endeavors in life.

That is All In for this evening.  Rachel Maddow Show starts right now.  Good evening, Rachel.