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All in with Chris Hayes, transcript 3/7/2017

Guests: Buddy Carter, Jeff Merkley, Don Berwick, Richard Blumenthal, Catherine Rampell, Jennifer Rubin

Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: March 7, 2017 Guest: Buddy Carter, Jeff Merkley, Don Berwick, Richard Blumenthal, Catherine Rampell, Jennifer Rubin

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HARDBALL HOST:  "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes starts right now.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA:  This will be a plan where you can choose your plan.  And you know what the plan is.  This is the plan.

HAYES:  Trumpcare has landed?

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  Look at the size.  This is the democrats.  This is us.

HAYES:  Widespread backlash grows as Republicans revolt against a republican bill.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Why are conservatives so opposed?

HAYES:  And Trumpcare supporters make their case.

JASON CHAFFETZ, UNITED STATES CONGRESSMAN FROM UTAH:  Maybe rather than getting that new iPhone, maybe they should invest in their own healtcare.

HAYES:  Tonight, can the republican plan to fast track Trumpcare work as we get our first estimates for how many Americans may lose their healthcare.  Plus -

SPICER:  This is the ObamaCare replacement plan that everyone has been asking for.  The plan that the President ran on.

HAYES:  Can Trumpcare live up to candidate Trump`s promises?

TRUMP:  Everybody`s going to be covered.  This is an un-republican thing for me to say.

HAYES:  And more incoming for the White House on the President`s wiretap claims.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Can the President just ask the FBI Director if this happened?  Has he asked him?

SPICER:  No, the President has not.

HAYES:  As Senate Democrats press for answers from Sessions.

AL FRANKEN, UNITED STATES SENATOR FROM MINNESOTA:  I think senator sessions should come back.

HAYES:  When ALL IN starts right now.

Good evening from New York, I`m Chris Hayes.  And it has been 24 hours since they released the bill and the reviews are out.  Everyone hates Trumpcare.  Well, that`s an exaggeration but barely.  There are very few people who weren`t personally involved in crafting the GOP`s bill to repeal and replace ObamaCare, official known as the American Health Care Act, that have anything good to say about it.  But don`t take word for it, just listen to the conservative republicans who view the bill -in the words of Senator Rand Paul as "dead on arrival", an attempt at ObamaCare light.


MIKE LEE, UNITED STATES SENATOR FROM UTAH:  What`s been introduced in the House in the last 24 hours is not the ObamaCare replacement plan, not the ObamaCare repeal plan we`ve been hoping for.  This is, instead, a step in the wrong direction, and as much as anything, it`s a missed opportunity.

MARK SANFORD, UNITED STATS CONGRESSMAN FROM SOUTH CAROLINA:  Do we need to lower the bar in what we believe as conservatives simply because a republican is now in the White House?

RAND PAUL, UNITED STATES SENATOR FROM KENTUCKY:  I think what`s been put forward right currently divides us.  There is a way forward but the current way forward, I don`t think is going to work.


HAYES:  All right.  It`s not just them.  A near-united front of influential conservative groups including Heritage Action, the club for growth and the Koch Brothers Americans for Prosperity have all come out against the bill and the friendly fire isn`t only coming from the right.  Four relatively moderate republican senators have warned they can`t support a bill that could leave millions of Medicaid recipients uninsured.  One of whom, Lisa Murkowski, also objects the bill`s provision defunding Planned Parenthood.  And while the GOP is fractured, congressional democrats appeared fully united in their opposition.


CHRIS MURPHY, UNITED STATES SENATOR FROM CONNECTICUT:  Well, Trumpcare is here and you are going to hate it.  This is a dumpster fire of a bill that was written on the back of a napkin behind closed doors.  Because Republicans know it`s a disaster.


HAYES:  Bad news, the bill proponents doesn`t end there.  The American Hospital Association said today, "it cannot support the bill in its current form."  The very powerful AARP is complaining the bill includes an age tax that will cost older Americans thousands of dollars at the ad they`re running about that.  And even Steve Bannon`s old haunt Breitbart is attacking what it calls ObamaCare 2.0 for - and I`m quoting here, "giving illegal aliens healthcare through identity fraud."  Go figure.  The response on the bill is a sense unsurprising.  And not just because remaking one-fifth of the American economy is, as democrats can tell you, no easy task, the bill the republicans have cobbled together announced to a set of half measures that grew primarily out of a series of political calculations as opposed to an attempt to solve a healthcare problem which resulted in a bill that satisfies almost no one.


PAUL RYAN, HOUSE REPRESENTATIVE SPEAKER:  We actually ran on a repeal and replace plan.  That`s what this is, the repeal and replace plan we ran on.  Now I am intent on making sure that we fulfill our promises.


HAYES:  It is hard to overstate just how badly the role out of the bill has gone.  Representative Jason Chaffetz today admitted it could lead to less coverage and suggested Americans will have to choose between healthcare and a smartphone.


CHAFFETZ:  Americans have choices and they`ve got to make a choice.  And so maybe rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love and they want to spend hundreds of dollars on that, maybe they should invest in their own healthcare.  They`ve got to make those decisions themselves.


HAYES:  At the White House briefing Sean Spicer brought out stacks of paper to show the GOP bill was smaller than ObamaCare and thought that proved its superiority.


SPICER:  Look at the size.  This is the democrats`, this is us.  There is - I mean, you can`t get any clearer in terms of this is government, this is not.


HAYES:  Big stacks and little stacks.  Spicer also brought out Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price who pointedly ignored a question about whether the bill will cause millions to lose health insurance.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Can you guarantee that this plan will not have a markedly negative impact on the deficit or result in millions of Americans losing health insurance?

TOM PRICE, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY:  What I can say is that the goal and desire that I know of the individuals on the - on the hill is to make certain that this does not increase the cost to the federal government?

HAYES:  Notice he only answered only one part of that.  President Trump for his part offered up the senator sort of vague endorsement for the bill that seems, well, utterly disconnected from the granular reality.


TRUMP:  I think really that, we`re going to have something that`s going to be much more understood and much more popular than people can even imagine.


HAYES:  Now because the bill has yet to be scored by the Congressional Budget Office, we don`t know how much it will cost or crucially, how many people would lose coverage if it passes.  We do know that it is largely bad news for many elderly, working poor and sick people.  And that, as the AP notes, "It does add up to the big tax cut for the rich."  One preliminary analysis finds a passage recalls to ObamaCare enrollees $1,500 more per year with older Americans particularly hard hit.  According to the analysis, Americans ages 55 to 64 would see their yearly costs increase by more than $5,000 if the bill went into the effect today.

Joining me now, Republican Representative Buddy Carter of Georgia, a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee which released the healthcare bill.  And Sir, thank you.  I want to start with process, and I`d like you to respond to process critiques that are coming from your colleagues on the republican side.  This is Mike Lee.  "This is exactly the type of back room dealing and rushed process we criticized democrats for.  It is not what we promised the American people."  Your response?

BUDDY CARTER, UNITED STATES CONGRESSMAN FROM GEORGIA:  Well, first of all, I have a lot of respect for Senator Lee and I think he`s on the right track.  However, I have to disagree and respectfully disagree.  This is what we`ve been talking about.  What we have rolled out, this plan, is simply going to bring about more accessible, more affordable, more patient- centered healthcare.

HAYES:  Wait.  I know that`s - I know that`s the line that you guys have, but I want to talk about the timeline here.  You have Paul Ryan talking about marking this up in a matter of weeks and passing out of committee into the floor of the House.  You have Mitch McConnell saying "it`s going to get a floor vote in the senate by April recess.  That`s five weeks.  Do you remember when the Affordable Care Act got its floor vote in the House back in 2009?

CARTER:  Well, I wasn`t here, so no I don`t remember that.  But I could tell - I could tell -

HAYES:  It was in November - it was in November of that year.  It was nine months of legislative process, including over 100 amendments and you guys thought that that was too fast to process.

CARTER:  Well, unfortunately we don`t have that luxury that the democrats had because healthcare is imploding right now because ObamaCare is imploding.  We have to do something.  If we don`t do something and rescue healthcare now and do it quickly, then we`re going to have a mess in this country.

HAYES:  Congressman, I know you`ve said this before, you said it earlier today that ObamaCare is in a death spiral, this is a line I`ve heard from Paul Ryan and others.

CARTER:  And you`ve heard that from the CEO of AETNA as well.

HAYES:  That`s right, the CEO of AETNA is one individual who used that phrase.  However, the American Academy of Actuaries, the folks that actually do the calculations for the technical term that is a death spiral, right?  That`s an actual actuarial phenomenon, explicitly disputes the death spiral claim.  You have Mario Molina of Molina Healthcare which runs a bunch of ACA plans, he said that taking away the mandate, as your plan proposes, could push premiums up 30 percent in a year and inaugurate a death spiral.

CARTER:  Well, one things is for sure, that wouldn`t take any getting used to because let me tell you, premiums on average have gone up over 25 percent this year alone and in seven states they`ve gone up over 50 percent.

HAYES:  Right, but -

CARTER:  ObamaCare has been a total failure.

HAYES:  But if you -

CARTER:  And 16 counties in Tennessee -

HAYES:  I understand that, Congressman.

CARTER:  - they don`t even have a healthcare plan.

HAYES:  So Congressman - but my question to you is if the solution to ObamaCare, if you`re saying the bad old days of ObamaCare premium hikes of 25 percent, we now have this new plan and it`s going to push premiums up 30 percent next year, that`s not the solution?

CARTER:  No, that is not the solution and that is not what I said.  What I`ve said is that our plan is going to increase competition.  It`s going to increase choices, it`s going to increase patient-centered care.  By increasing competition and increasing choices, we`re going bring healthcare costs down.

HAYES:  But -

CARTER:  Look, we`ve got to trust something.  And we`ve been working on this plan for many months now and we`ve come up with this, it`s a better way.

HAYES:  Let me ask you this.

CARTER:  It`s a way to get better choices and better opportunities for people.

HAYES:  Choices and competition are sort of the watch words I`ve heard and I want to circle back to that.  But you said patient-centered care.  Secretary Price talked about that today and I think everyone agrees that patients are at the center of healthcare.  How does it help patients to repeal a tax break for health CEO`s making over $500,000 a year?

CARTER:  Look, this plan does not discriminate against any group, against any industry.  We`re making sure that everyone is treated fairly.  And that is very important in our plan.

HAYES:  Right.  But how does that help - how does that help - I`m just asking how that helps patients?  That`s a provision of the bill.  It`s not a very long bill.  You guys have only - it`s only 60 pages as Sean Spicer showed today.  But you made sure to include a tax break for health CEO`s making over $500,000 a year.

CARTER:  It is.

HAYES:  My question is, how does that help patients?

CARTER:  This is not a tax break.  It is not punitive like ObamaCare is.

HAYES:  Right.  But it`s repeal exchanging existing law.


CARTER:  And that is what we did not want to do.  What we wanted to do was to be as fair as we possibly could to everyone involved.  Not to discriminate against --

HAYES:  To healthcare CEOs?

CARTER:  - any group or any industry.

HAYES:  Right.  But do you think that that has a connection to whether patients get good care?

CARTER:  I think it`s very - look, ObamaCare has built up obstacles.  We`re trying to take down the obstacles, to cut the red tape between patients and between healthcare professionals so that health - so that individuals can have control.  They can be empowered and have - empower - and have control over their own healthcare.

HAYES:  Right.

CARTER:  And make healthcare decisions between the pharmacist, between the doctor and between the patient and not have all those obstacles in between.

HAYES:  I hear that and I hear that that`s what Secretary Price said.  I want to ask you this question which Secretary Price didn`t answer today.  The President has said in the campaign trail everybody is going to have insurance and I want you to just say for the record, can you guarantee that millions of people won`t lose health insurance under this plan?

CARTER:  What I can guarantee is that this plan will create more competition and more choices for people.  It will empower them.  It will rescue healthcare in our society.

HAYES:  But - I got to know crucially, that`s not a response that answer the question.  Can you guarantee that millions of people won`t lose health insurance under this plan?

CARTER:  I cannot guarantee anything.  But I can guarantee that our plan will increase competition and will increase choices and it will increase patient care.  And that - and it will make patient care and it will empower patients so that they`ll have the ability to make healthcare decisions along with their healthcare professional and it won`t be mandated from Washington, D.C.

HAYES:  Right.

CARTER:  It won`t be some cookie cutter program that we say, oh, in Washington we know what you need and we know what your healthcare needs are and here`s what you need to do.  No.  We want to pass it along and empower patients and healthcare professionals to be making healthcare decisions.

HAYES:  Final questions.  The AARP says you have an age tax in there, that there`s going to be more expensive to older Americans.  It specifically lifts the cap on how much health insurance companies can charge in terms of the ratio from 3:1 to 5:1 based solely on age.  That will hurt older Americans, won`t it?

CARTER:  Well, certainly that is something that we have to work on.  We`d look into that very diligently.


CARTER:  It`s - you know, age is a factor let`s face it.  And it would be wrong for us to discriminate against any particular group.  Let`s remember that this is just the beginning of the process.  We got a long ways to go.  This is a first bucket in what will surely be three buckets.

HAYES:  Right.

CARTER:  And let`s also remember, we can`t let perfect get in the way of good.

HAYES:  Representative Buddy Carter, I remember that phrase from covering the first round of healthcare fights back in 2009.  Thanks for your time tonight.  Appreciate it.

CARTER:  Thank you.

HAYES:  Joining me now, Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon, member of the Senate Budget Appropriations Committee.  I guess first response to this idea that this plan represents empowerment choice and competition.

JEFF MERKLEY, UNITED STATES SENATOR FROM OREGON:  Well, if empowerment means as a working family you`re going to pay a lot more then it`s not imperilment.  If it means as a senior you`re going to pay more, then that`s imperilment.  If it means as a rich person you`re going to get an incredible deduction in your taxes, an average of about $200,000 for those who earn more than $250,000.  I guess you`ll got empowerment for the very wealthy.  But this is - this is the worst possible plan for working America, for seniors and then for struggling families who are on Medicaid expansion.  This is a terrible plan, it`s going to basically destroy the expansion of Medicaid.

HAYES:  OK.  Well then the question may come and I see where you are on this.  What can you as a democratic member of the United States senate do to stop it?

MERKLEY:  We`re going to team up with the republicans from the far right who hate this and the moderate republicans who hate it and that gives us a majority and we can stop this bill.

HAYES:  Do you think, though - I mean, they`re saying they hate it now.  But I heard - I remember reading lots of - I remember seeing interviews with republican legislators saying they were so aghast at Donald Trump they couldn`t bring themselves to vote for them and look their daughter in the eyes and lo and behold they voted for him.  So let me just say, I`m not going to bank on a lot of republican no votes.  It seems to me that you guys have to convince three republican senators to vote no on this if you want to kill it.

MERKLEY:  And I think we`re going to get those three votes and I`ll tell you why.  It`s because Grassroots America is turning out and saying that they hate this strategy.  You know, out in rural Oregon, one out of three individuals is on Medicaid, or the Oregon health plan.  They are very, very worried that if they get sick after this republican plan is implemented, that they won`t be able to access healthcare, their loved one won`t be able to access healthcare.  And they certainly don`t want to pay a lot more just for there to be a big massive tax break for multimillionaires and billionaires and there`s nothing in this for them.  There`s no positive for the vast bulk of Americans in this bill.

HAYES:  There is something remarkable about the geographic impact of this bill as I read it, particularly on the Medicaid front is that, a lot of healthcare policy wonks I respect seem to think that this will hit rural areas the hardest.

MERKLEY:  It will hit them very hard.  For one thing ObamaCare has resulted in a huge reduction in uncompensated care for rural hospitals and a big expansion in funding for rural health clinics, so on both measures rural health has done very well under ObamaCare and it`s at risk now.

HAYES:  What if they do something where they basically - they take the Rand Paul strategy, right?  So the idea originally was to repeal the thing and then basically march you, democratic members of the Senate and the House, particularly the Senate, towards a cliff where you would have to implement replace.  What if they go back to that strategy?

MERKLEY:  I just don`t think that strategy is going to work.  I think the whole idea of repealing without replacement has been dismissed by a lot of my republican colleagues.  It`s irresponsible.  It`s going to scare the bejeebers out of everybody across the country.  I mean, people are turning out at Town Halls like we have never seen.  I do a Town Hall every County every year, a lot of them are republican counties, most of them are republican counties and it`s a whole change in tone right now.  They`re not coming out to attack me.  They`re coming out and saying please save us from the republican congress.

HAYES:  Do you think that`s having an effect?  I had Mark Sanford on, Congressman for South Carolina, of course, former governor, who said that he thought that the protesters and the pressure of Town Halls had already moved the ball in certain ways even before the bill is released.  Do you agree with him?

MERKLEY:  Absolutely.  It has sent shock waves and tremors through the republican caucus.

HAYES:  All right.  Senator Jeff Merkley, thanks for being with me.  Appreciate it.

MERKLEY:  You`re welcome.

HAYES:  Still to come, Senator Al Franken is now going there.  Saying Attorney General Jeff Sessions perjured himself during Senate testimony about the Trump campaign and the Russian.  The latest on today`s tense hearing in the Senate.  What it means the investigation ahead.

And it was candidate Trump who promised healthcare for everyone and said the government would pay for it.  We will show you how Trumpcare stacks up to the President`s lofty promises in just two minutes.  Don`t go anywhere.


HAYES:  What standards we use to judge the GOP`s healthcare proposal?  Well today, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the plan that was revealed was the one that the President ran on.


SPICER:  This is the ObamaCare replacement plan that everyone has been asking for.  The plan that the President ran on and the plan that will ultimately save the system.


HAYES:  All right.  So, what were the promises about healthcare made by Donald Trump as a candidates as President-elect and as President?


TRUMP:  We`re going to terminate ObamaCare.  We`re going to replace it with something that`s going to be great and a lot less expensive for you and a lot less expensive, frankly, for the government.  You`re going to have such plan.  You`re going to have people competing all over but we`ve got to get rid of the lines.  We`ve got to get rid of the lines.

MARCO RUBIO, UNITED STATES SENATOR FROM FLORIDA:  I understand the lines around the state, whatever that means.  This is not a game where you draw maps -

TRUMP:  And you don`t know what it means.

RUBIO:  What is your -

TRUMP:  The biggest thing we`ve got and the reason we have no competition is because we have lines around the state.  When you get rid of the lines it brings in competition. 

There will be a certain number of people that will be on the street dying and as a republican I don`t want that to happen.  We`re going to take care of people that are dying on the street.

Repeal and replace was something terrific. 

It will be repealed and replaced.  Then we`ll know.  And it will be great healthcare for much less money.

And we`re going to have a plan that`s going to be great for people.  And it`s going to be much less expensive, and nobody is going be dying on the streets with a President Trump.  We want to take care of everybody.

We`re going to repeal and replace and I think you`re going to see something very, very special.


TRUMP:  And today the promises just kept coming.


TRUMP:  The plan that will lower costs, expand choices, increase competition and ensure healthcare access for all Americans.  This will be a plan where you can choose your doctor, this will be a plan where you can choose your plan.  And you know what the plan is?  This is the plan.  And we`re going to have a tremendous - I think we`re going to have a tremendous success.


HAYES:  Joining me now to talk about whether or not Trumpcare fulfills any of the President`s promises, Don Berwick, former Administrator for the Center for Medicare and Medicaid services, co-founder, President Emeritus of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.  So Don, you know, if you look at the - if you look at the promises, it was - one of the big ones was lower cost.  You are going to pay less for healthcare.  Is this going to deliver on that?

DON BERWICK, INSTITUTE FOR HEALTHCARE IMPROVEMENT PRESIDENT:  No, absolutely not.  The proposal destabilizes insurance markets, it will.  You`ll see that premiums will go up.  Partly because under the proposals here people aren`t going to have enough money to buy insurance.  And the only ones that will are going to be the sicker people because they have to, leaving the people who are well or outside the system.  That unravels insurance premium.  Premiums will soar and costs will soar because the safety net will get weakened over the - over the trajectory of this proposal.  Medicaid gets severely weakened.  A lot of very vulnerable people are going to be back in emergency rooms and getting sicker instead of getting the care they need.  This is going to go the opposite direction and it`s not just the poor that are going to pay.  The middle-class are going to find that they have a lot less support for buying their insurance.

HAYES:  So, the support meaning that the sort of subsidy structure has been altered in ways that folks are going to be out of pocket paying more, do you think?

BERWICK:  Yes, the Affordable Care Act expanded Medicaid for the poorest people but for those in the kind of lower middle-class, $40,000-$50,000, these people got help buying their buying their policies with subsidies -

HAYES:  Right.

BERWICK:  - tax rebates.  And those are - those are progressive so that the less money you had, the more help you got.  Under this proposal, the amount of Subsidization A is the same across income categories up to $75,000 a year for an individual, $150,000 for couples.  So that people at lower levels of income don`t get more help and the amount of help that everyone`s getting isn`t enough to buy insurance.  People are going to find themselves really out in the cold.  This is going to be really painful and more painful for older people because this is a - this is a - it`s really a transfer of assistance from older people back to the young healthy people.

HAYES:  So this is - this is a key point.  It was interesting to me, the AARP comes out right away and says it`s got a age tax in it.  I just asked Congressman Buddy Carter about this and he really wouldn`t defend it, he basically said "well, this is just a starting point."  You`ve got a provision in there that allows insurance companies to charge a lot more based strictly on age.  Do you think you`re going to see an older cohort paying more out of pocket out of this?

BERWICK:  Definitely.  It goes two ways.  First of all, the amount of subsidy doesn`t rise enough with age so - think of this has got in Mobile, Alabama, a 60-year-old who makes $40,000 a year under the Affordable Care Act is getting about $10,000 in subsidy to buy their health insurance.  Under the proposal it would be $4,000.  So -

HAYES:  So that`s - just to be clear, that - you`re talking about a 60- year-old in Mobile, Alabama, who, if this is the plan is losing $6,000 in purchasing power?

BERWICK:  Right, exactly.  The government is going to hand them a check for $4,000 and say "go buy your insurance" instead of the subsidy they`re now getting of $10,000.  This is a big take away for people in the upper age brackets before they`re eligible for Medicare.

HAYES:  I want to - I want to ask this - final question.  Because one of the things that Donald Trump said throughout the campaign always was "We`ve got to take care of everybody, I don`t want anyone on the street, we got to take care of everybody."  It`s been the sort of refrain.  "I`m compassionate unlike these other republicans."  I mean, is this compassionate?  Will this quote "take care of everybody" particularly the most vulnerable folks?

BERWICK:  No, this man came into office with a law in place that increased coverage in this country by over 20 million people.  That`s expanding coverage.  If you really want to make things better, build on that.  No, this is a take away, it`s going to go backward.  And I think we`re going to have a lot of people, as the President put it, on the street without the kind of care they need.  It`s bad.  It`s bad for America.  It`s bad for the poor, and it`s bad for the middle-class.

HAYES:  All right.  Don Berwick, thank you.  Appreciate it.

Still to come, Sean Spicer forced to answer for President Trump`s baseless wiretap claims.  We`ll play you what he said.

And meet the man that stands between democrats and a special prosecutor.  Why his confirmation hearing today got a fiery.  Next.


HAYES:  The Senate Judiciary Committee met for a Confirmation Hearing today for a man who if confirmed, will immediately become one of the most important figures in American government.  Federal Prosecutor Rod Rosenstein, a man with a strong reputation on both sides of the aisle, a George W. Bush appointee who remains through Barack Obama`s administration has been nominated to be the Deputy Attorney General of the United States.  And now that Jeff Sessions has recused himself from any investigation into the 2016 campaign, including any Russian interference in the electoral process.  Rosenstein would be in charge, if confirmed, which means it would be him who would be deciding whether or not to appoint a special prosecutor.  At something nearly 2/3 of the country wants, and all of which was a friend of mine from members of the judiciary committee.  Although at no point did Rosenstein pledge he would name a special prosecutor if confirmed.


ROD ROSENSTEIN, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL NOMINEE:  You view it as an issue of principle that I need to commit to appoint a special council in a matter that I don`t even know if it`s being investigated and I view it as an principle that as a nominee for Deputy Attorney General, I should not be promising to take action on a particular case.


HAYES:  Now, less than 24 hours before today`s hearing, Sessions sent a letter to the Judiciary Committee attempting to clarify testimony during his confirmation hearings when he somewhat famously told Senator Al Franken he did not have communications with the Russian which is we now know is not true.  Today Franken addressed Sessions letter.


FRANKEN:  I asked him what he would do as Attorney General if it was true that members of the campaign had met with the Russian.  So he says, I did not mention communications I had with the Russian Ambassador over the years because the question did not ask about them.  He answered a question I didn`t ask.  And for him to put this in his letter as a response is insulting and I - he should come back and explain himself, Mr. Chairman, I think he owes that to us.  Because this appears to me like he was - and I have been - I bent over backward not to say that he lied.  He needs to come back.  I`ve bent over backward.  I have given him the benefit of the doubt.  But he has to come back.


HAYES:  Tonight Senator Franken is saying that Attorney General Jeff Sessions perjured himself during a Senate Confirmation Hearing.  We`ll play you that sound next.



SEN. AL FRANKEN, (D) MINNESOTA:  Listen, I`ve been cutting him a lot of slack.  I`ve been refusing him to say that he lied.  I`ve been wanting to wait for this letter to come out.  It`s hard to come to any other conclusion that he just perjured himself.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR:  So you think he perjured himself?  What do you think the penalty should be?  Do you think he should resign?

FRANKEN;  I think he should come before the committee and explain this.


HAYES:  Senator Al Franken is the only Democrat on the judiciary committee calling for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to return and explain why he did not disclose his contact with Russian officials.  Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal says Sessions needs to give a credible explanation or resign and Senator Blumenthal joins me now.

Do you agree with your colleague that - have you reached the conclusion that Attorney General Sessions has perjured himself?

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, (D) CONNECTICUT:  I agree he has to be brought back before the committee to explain these apparent false statements.  What was said in this meeting, why he failed to disclose it andwhat the ties were, in fact, to the Russian meddling, the massive attack on our Democratic institutions which is could lead to a coverup that these false statements indicate.

Now, I think his failure to come back is going to leave a lot of people with the inescapable conclusion that he made these false statements with and attempt to mislead the committee.  And that`s the conclusion that my colleague, Senator Franken, is drawing.

I think this issue is part of what a special prosecutor has to investigate.  And it is the very reason that an independent special prosecutor is necessary because the deputy attorney general Rob Rosenstein, can`t investigate his own boss for perjury.  He can`t investigate the president for possible collusion with the Russians in their meddling with our election. And the events of the past few days have redoubled my determination to fight this nominee with every tool at our disposal unless and until he agrees to appoint a special prosecutor.

HAYES:  I want to get to that but first just very quickly, do you think Attorney General Sessions should resign or are you still waiting for him to come back to the committee?

BLUMENTHAL:  If he has no credible explanation and he`s offered none so far, then he must resign.  The letter he spent us, which, by the way, is unsworn, as you know, was equivocal and evasive.

Senator Franken called it insulting and I believe that it only deepens the need for him to be brought back to the committee.  If he fails to do so and offer a credible explanation i believe he must resign.

HAYES:  As for the deputy attorney general, you`ve been very vocal in basically saying you will not support his confirmation unless he pledges in advance to appoint some kind of special prosecutor.  What do you - respond to the argument he made which is that it would be wholly improper of him, before even taking the job, before examining the evidence, before knowing what he`s getting into, to make that commitment ahead of time to the committee?

BLUMENTHAL:  There is no question, Chris, that he is a career prosecutor with an impressive pedigree and great poise, which he demonstrated today, but he should know having spent 26 years in the Department of Justice that the trust and confidence of the public in the impartiality and objectiveness of this institution depends on its independence from political influence.  Now he is an appointee of a president and attorney general who could be subjects and targets of the investigation.  Common sense and professional knowledge certainly should inform him as to the absolute need for him to commit to an independent prosecutor.

And, by the way, Elliot Richardson did it in the midst of Watergate when he was designated attorney general.  He committed at the request of the committee that he would appoint one and he did, Archibald Cox.  And so this kind of commitment is hardly unprecedented or novel and a career prosecutor should know more than anyone else how necessary, because it he is the only, now that the attorney general has recused himself and taken himself out of this investigation who can make this commitment.

Are you confident of the integrity and the independence of the Department of Justice at this moment.

BLUMENTHAL:  I am very confident that there are professionals, career prosecutors, investigators in the FBI and other agencies within the department who are more than capable with integrity and elect of pursuing the evidence wherever it leads under the direction and leadership of a special prosecuctor.

HAYES:  Senator Richard Blumenthal, thanks for joining us.

BLUMENTHAL:  Thank you.

HAYES:  Coming up, why so much of the health care bill focuses on lottery winners that are on Medicaid.  We`ll talk about governing by right wing talking points ahead.

Plus, some great news for people who still want to see President Trump`s tax returns.  That is tonight`s Thing One, Thing Two, and it starts right after this break.


HAYES:  Thing One tonight, it`s that time of year again when Americans begin filling out their tax returns.  Of course, we never got a chance to see the president`s returns from last year because - well, you know.


TRUMP;  Just so you understand, I`m under audit, a routine audit.

My current returns will be released as soon as...

At the appropriate time I will release them, but right now I`m under routine audit.

I`m not releasing the tax returns because as you know they`re under audit.


HAYES:  Now, let`s be clear, the IRS said publicly over a year ago there`s nothing that prevents Trump from releasing his tax returns whether or not he is under audit.  But that has been and still remains the company line.  And today Press Secretary Sean Spicer said he believes those tax returns are still under audit.

But, I can say with 100 percent certainty, which tax return from Donald Trump is not under audit -- it`s the one he`s going to file this April 15.  And that`s Thing Two in 60 Seconds.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Millions of Americans are working on their tax returns right now.  Will the president commit to releasing his tax returns for this year?  And is he still under audit for his past returns?

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  My understanding is he`s still under audit and I`ll follow up on the question.


HAYES:  Did you catch the end of that answer? Sean Spicer saying he`ll follow up with regards to whether the  president release this year`s tax filing.  But it shouldn`t be a tough question, because while President Trump and his surrogates have maintained last year`s tax filing is still under some kind of never-ending audit, we know for sure that his upcoming tax return, which hasn`t been filed yet, is not, and wouldn`t be until the IRS reviews it and potentially decides to audit, which would happen down the road.

So, there should be no reason, according to President Trump`s own logic, why he can`t make  that return public at the time he files it.  So mark your calendar, six weeks until tax day, which falls on April 18 this year since the 15t is on a weekend.  Oh, my gosh, I`ve got to get on that.  When the public should finally get a peek into Donald Trump`s finances here and abroad, or, of course, maybe it was never really about the audit anyway.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISER:  The White House response is that he`s not going to release his tax returns.  We litigated this all through the election.




SPICER:  Look at the size.  This is the Democrats, this is us.  There is -- I mean, you can`t get clearer in terms of this is government, this is not.


HAYES:  Now, this was not the first time Republicans used a giant stack of paper to make a point about big government and the Affordable Care Act.

Witness Mitch McConnell with what he said was a copy of the law at CPAC in 2013.  B ut today with the rollout of the GOP`s health care bill what once was just a conservative stunt is being used to make and sell actual policy, which could impact the lives of millions of Americans.  This is just the latest example of the Trump administration turning obscure tropes popularized by right wing media into real-world government policy, because that appears to be where the president of the United States gets his information.

Among the 60 odd pages of the new health care bill, for example, six of them -- about 10 percent -- are dedicated to letting states kick lottery winners off Medicaid.

Now, you might not think lottery winners collecting federal benefits was such a massive problem deserving of so much attention in this long-awaited bill -- unless you watch Fox News.


BILL O`REILLY, FOX NEWS:  The CBS TV station in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, has been investigating how tax money is being looted in shocking ways.  This woman, 39-year-old Jamie Frankford has collected $344,000 in lottery winnings since 2009 yet she still collected child care subsidies, medical insurance and food stamps.


HAYES:  There`s an even darker side to the administration`s use of far- right narratives to drive  policy.  One theme of Donald Trump`s campaign was the totally false idea that immigrants are inherently criminal or dangerous or more criminal than the native-born population, something he seems to have borrowed from conservative talk radio among other sources.


LAURA INGRAHAM, CONSERVATIVE RADIO SHOW HOST:  Over the years we`ve brought you a lot of stories about crime committed by people who`ve violated our immigration laws, not just the crime of violating the immigration law, of course, but DUIs, violent crime, rape against children and so forth.


HAYES:  Now that idea has become policy.  A federal office established by the president`s executive order on immigration to spread propaganda about crime committed by immigrants even though immigrants commit crime at a lower rate than native born citizens.  But the president`s new travel ban there`s now a similar policy to spread propaganda about Muslims in this country directing the Department of Homeland Security to disseminate information about so-called honor killings committed in the U.S.

Now, honor killings are not known to be a pervasive problem in this country, though you`d get a different impression from reading Breitbart, which just yesterday published a story on the so-called growing silent epidemic.

The biggest right wing trope of all, following a direct path of talk radio to the president`s Twitter feed is the claim that President Obama personally ordered the wiretapping of then-candidate Trump.  Today, Sean Spicer was forced to defend that claim in public and we`ll play you that tape next.


HAYE:  Today, White House press secretary Sean Spicer held his first on- camera press briefing in more than a week.  And he was forced to defend the president`s baseless wiretap claim before the American people.


SPICER:  The president, we put out a statement on Sunday saying that we would have no further comment and we were asking the House and Senate intelligence committees to look into this concern.

UNIDNETIFIED MALE:  Do you believe that President Obama...

SPICER:  I get that`s a cute question to ask.  My job is to represent the president and to talk about what he`s doing and what he wants and he has made very clear what his goal is, what he would like to have happen.  And so I just -- I`ll leave it at that.


HAYES: I`m joined now by Jennifer Rubin and Catherine Rampell, both opinion columnists for the Washington Post.

And Jennifer, I`ll start with you, but before we get to this idea of the ways in which these kind of talking points have made their way into policy, I thought this exchange with Sean Spicer today, there was this moment where you just wanted someone to name the elephant in the room, which was to be like obviously this isn`t true.  You know it`s not true, I know it`s not true, but the president just read a Breitbart article.

Like, there this tension that hangs over that room where no one can say the obvious thing.


I mean, listen, the president said something either to intentionally to distract or because he believes in these loony conspiracy theories, but there`s a real world ramification, he`s actually smear the FBI which now operates under a cloud.  President Obama doesn`t run around with electric equipment plugging it in to tap people`s phones, you would have to go through the FBI and probably a FISA or regular Article 3 court.

The president of the United States has defamed all of them.  Those people are living under a smear.  So he should either fire Comey, because he`s the head of the FBI and apparently let this go on or he should retract it and clear the name of the FBI.

If I were the FBI, I would be going public and be very upset about this.

HAYES:  So, Catherine, there was an amazing moment when the bill came out.  Everyone is tearing through it.  And you start seeing people who are reading it all the same thing, like what`s with the Medicaid lottery winners?  And you saw -- like people were reading this and it really jumped out at you.  I had the same response, OK, I get this is the subsidy structure and then it`s just like six pages of people on Medicaid - people on Medicaid.  And it didn`t take us long to track this down as a trope that has made its way through the right.  And it was a sort of striking example of how much these sort of sound bites have made their way that this government is legislating.

CATHERINE RAMPELL, WASHINGTON POST:  Yes.  You know, the expression is that people like to campaign in poetry and govern in prose.  I think Trump likes to govern in limericks or something.  I don`t know that metaphor goes. 

But you know, he likes things that are catchy and kitschy and that appeal to his base that are not necessarily well thought through, because hey, why would you need expert advisers when you have Pepe the Frog - you don`t tell me what to do.

HAYES:  Well, and that`s part of it, right.  I mean, Jennifer, there is this kind of - there is this sort of contempt for expertise that we`ve seen, this sort of contempt for the establishment that - and you see it in this -- and also sort of a desire to use the power of the state as essentially a propaganda outlet.

I mean, I find this sort of VOICE idea that the government is going to publish these official reports of crimes committed by undocumented or unauthorized immigrants or honor killing research is, you know, this is really using the power of the state in some pretty alarming ways.

RUBIN:  It sure is. And the VOICE thing is worse, it just says aliens.  He doesn`t even say illegal aliens.

HAYES:  Oh, that`s a good point.

RUBIN:  So, it could be a visa holder, you could be a green card holder.  Because they are creating a mob mentality where they are trying to once again vilify immigrants.  And this is a very disturbing pattern.  I would actually argue that that is unconstitutional.  We`re not allowed to collect information and publicize information based upon national identity, but put that aside for a moment, they don`t care much about the constitution, either.

I do think it`s very troubling and I think that`s why they hate the press so.  They don`t want independent verifiable facts to get out there.  They want to be the sole source of knowledge so they can put out their nonsense that they pick up from Fox or wherever they pick it up from.

HAYES:  Well, and this point about the constitution, we should note, we just got news I think the state of Hawaii is going to sue on the new executive order, the one that replaced the last one, the travel ban.  It looks like - oh, Neal Katyal, who is the former solicitor general of the United States will be on that suit.

The Muslim ban to me strikes me as sort of the original way in which the sort of a kind conservative talking point got made into policy and the court - it was because of that that the court said you can`t do this, because we saw what you were trying to do when you announced it.

RAMPELL:  Right, again this was throwing red meat to his base, sloganeering during the campaign, which served him well during the campaign, right.  I mean, he lad a much more memorable message in terms of the overall motto of his campaign than did Hillary Clinton, but also the actual points of his agenda were much more memorable, too.  They may be unconstitutional, but they did...

HAYES:  You remember Muslim ban, for instance.

RAMPBELL:  Yes, exactly.  That kind of sticks in your brain in a certain way.

That has been held against him, because you can`t govern with slogans.  You can make policy with slogans.  You do have to have the messy guts of actual policy, hopefully informed by expert advice, although, again, as you said, this administration has a lot of disdain for that.  But thisis what Trump is good at.  He`s good at the marketing, he`s not so much good at creating actual policies that are either good policy or that will stand up in court.

HAYES:  Well, and Jennifer, I thought of this today because I remember covering the ACA fight in 2009/2010.  I was the Washington editor of The Nation at that point.  I was there day after day covering this thing.  And it was very often the case that President Barack Obama would at a press conference, at a speech, in any -- had to give -- had long back and forths about the granular details of health policy.

Now, you know, in -- and health policy is complicated.  Whatever your ideological commitments are, it`s genuinely complicated.  This president at some point is going to have to do that.  He`s going to have to talk about why they had the subsidy rates they do and why it`s age and not other things.  And I just - I can`t imagine that he has the wherewithal to do that.

RUBIN:  I think he`s going to fake his way through it and actually I think this has come back to haunt him.  I think he left and embraced this bill not knowing how awful it was, not knowing that it is going to hurt his constituency, not realizing that conservatives on the right hate it, moderates in the middle hate it and now he`s stuck because he`s embraced something he probably never read.  And, of course, he doesn`t read anything, which is part of the problem.

So I think in terms of the details, he`s going to duck and he has these run-on sentences and this word association game that he plays and he`ll avoid answering specific conversation -- questions or he`ll bring Mr. Price around as his answer man now wherever he goes.

HAYES:  Slight correction to that, we do know the president does read a stack of clippings of press coverage of him every day.  This is a true thing.

RAMPELL:  And maybe some chirons on the TV.

HAYES:  Robert Costa reported that yesterday.

But this is where - to me this is where the rubber hits the road on health care, because health care cannot be legislated or dealt with in bumper stickers and soundbites.

RAMPELL:  I don`t think Trump cares.  I don`t think he`s...

HAYES:  No, that`s true.

RAMPELL:  Even when he finds out the details, if he finds out the details, he`s going to steam roll over them and say no, I promise you, this is going to reduce the cost of your care.  This is going to ensure more people.

HAYES:  That is going to be one of the most interesting fights when the CBO comes out with the score and other independent experts say no and whether they just steam roll over that.

Jennifer Rubin, Catherine Rampell, thank you.

Really quick, I mentioned I`ll be on the road in a couple of week for my new book A Colony in a Nation.  You can find details for that on our Facebook page. The book comes out two weeks from today.  Until then, you can now read an excerpt, first one published, in Vanity Fair.  Head over and check it out. 

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