All in with Chris Hayes, Transcript 3/22/2017

Guests: Ben Cardin, Matt Miller, Olivia Nuzzi, Bernie Sanders, Josh Barro, Betsy Woodruff, Al Franken

Show: All in with Chris Hayes Date: March 22, 2017 Guest: Ben Cardin, Matt Miller, Olivia Nuzzi, Bernie Sanders, Josh Barro, Betsy Woodruff, Al Franken

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HARDBALL HOST: - with that murderous child and his nuclear bombs. And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes starts right now.

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC ALL IN HOST: Good evening from Boston, I`m Chris Hayes. It`s a remarkable day on Capitol Hill today as the Chair of the House Intelligence Committee in an apparent attempt to cover for the President took actions that have now thrown the multiple investigations into the President`s ties to Russia into further chaos and prompted this claim from President Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DEVIN NUNES, UNITED STATES CONGRESSMAN FROM CALIFORNIA: I recently confirmed that on numerous occasions the Intelligence Community incidentally collected information about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition. None of this surveillance was related to Russia or the investigation of Russian activities or of the Trump team.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: It sounded like Nunes was saying that U.S. intelligence spied on Trump transition officials. He even went on to say officials collected information from the President which, of course, sounds like a big deal, right? Except for some huge asterisk. Nunes said the new information did not contradict his earlier statement that President Obama did not order a wiretap of Trump and that the communications were intercepted legally and collected incidentally which would suggest that Trump and his allies were not the target of the surveillance. Nunes refused to say where he got this information, referring only to "sources" and, amazingly, he then went to the White House to brief the President on what he knew and hold another press conference. Keep in mind, Nunes is supposed to be leading the House Investigation into Trump campaign`s relationship to Russia, not telling the possible subjects of that investigation what he knows. In fact, if Nunes did, in fact, learn that communications involving Trump officials have been intercepted incidentally, he should probably be pretty curious, even perhaps concerned about who exactly they were talking to. Nunes` actions left veteran congressional observers as well as many democrats absolutely gobsmacked. Because Nunes did not even tell the top democrat of his own committee, Representative Adam Schiff, what he supposedly knows.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ADAM SCHIFF, UNITED STATES CONGRESSMAN FROM CALIFORNIA: I can say this. The Chairman will need to decide whether he is the chairman of an independent investigation into conduct which includes allegations of potential coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russians or he is going to act as a surrogate of the White House because he cannot do both. And unfortunately I think the actions of today throw great doubt into the ability of both the Chairman and the Committee to conduct the investigation the way it ought to be conducted.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Earlier this evening, Republican Senator John McCain told NBC News he was taken aback by the actions of Nunes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN MCCAIN, UNITED STATES SENATOR FROM ARIZONA: What this is now really, Greta, is requirement for a select committee. I believe that there`s a better relationship in the Intelligence Committee and the Senate between Senator Warner and Senator Burr, but this just shows a tremendous chasm between the two senior members of the House Intelligence Committee. What we need is a select committee. No longer does the Congress have credibility to handle this alone and I don`t say that lightly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Meanwhile, after saying Sunday, the evidence regarding possible Trump campaign collusion with Russia was circumstantial, Schiff today went a step further.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Would you admit it`s a circumstantial - all you have right now is a circumstantial case.

SCHIFF: Actually, no, Chuck. I can tell you that the case is more than that and I can`t go into the particulars but there is more than circumstantial evidence now so, again, I think -

TODD: You have seen direct evidence of collusion?

SCHIFF: I don`t want to go into specifics but I will say that there is evidence that is not circumstantial and is very much worthy of investigation so that is what we ought to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Joining me now, Democratic Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland, ranking member of the Senate Committee of Foreign Relations. And first just, the House Intelligence Chair says that sources has confirmed that the possibility or that it was the case that transition officials and perhaps the President were swept up incidentally in surveillance. He doesn`t say who the source is, he goes to the White House to brief the President, comes forward and tells the press without telling the ranking member, what is your reaction to that set of actions taken by Devin Nunes today?

BEN CARDIN, UNITED STATES SENATOR FROM MARYLAND: This is just hard to understand how a person could get confidential information and have a press conference, not talk to the ranking democrat of the committee, release that information to the White House and he`s supposed to be doing an independent investigation. I really agree with Senator McCain, there is no credibility in the ability to hold an independent investigation by the House Intelligence Committee. I go one step further, though. I think we need an independent commission made up of full-time experts that can look at all the aspects of this Russian connection to the United States and be able to give a full report to the American people and Congress. But it`s clear to me that the way that the House is conducting their investigation by releasing this information is just outrageous.

HAYES: When you talk about an independent commission, do you think that there`s any bipartisan support for that kind of thing?

CARDIN: Well, we know that when we were attacked after 9/11 we had strong bipartisan support for an independent commission. We had an independent commission and it brought out changes that we needed to do in our government to keep us safe. Well, I think, with this attack of Russia against our free election system, we need a similar commitment and to me a bipartisan commission is the only way you`re going to be able to get the credible investigation that will give the American people confidence that we really are taking this issue seriously.

HAYES: You know, obviously things work differently in the House than they do in the Senate. But you`re - you`ve been in the Senate long enough to have been on both sides of the majority and minority. Just for those of us that do not work in the United States Congress, what would it mean for the Chair to do something like this without telling the ranking member?

CARDIN: I`ve never heard of this done before, ever. I`ve been involved in a lot of sensitive information with the ranking member, with the chairman and I have never heard of this being done before. There is an unwritten rule that you don`t go to the press without having conversation with your counterpart on the other party`s side, the ranking member or the chairman. That is the way that you do business. It really undermines the credibility of the confidence of the committee that the chairman truly interested in the investigation.

HAYES: You also have to say, do you - do you - the President came forward to say basically that the tweet storm that has now sort of famously sent all of Washington searching for its justification that this was essentially a validation of what he said. What do you make of that?

CARDIN: Well, I`m certainly not surprised by the President`s comment. He interprets anything he wants the way he wants to interpret it. But it is absolutely clear. It was absolutely clear that Russia used cyber-attacks to try to influence our election. The President of the - candidate Trump - President Trump was very late to endorse that finding. It`s very clear that there was no wiretap on Mr. Trump by the Obama administration, that has been clearly established and Mr. Trump is going to be late in accepting that finding. But the findings are what they are and Mr. Trump will use information in a way that suits him but it`s just not the facts.

HAYES: All right. Senator Ben Cardin, thank you. Appreciate that.

CARDIN: Thank you.

HAYES: I`m joined by Matt Miller, former Spokesperson for Attorney General Eric Holder. What is your reaction to the actions of Chairman Nunes today?

MATT MILLER, ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER FORMER SPOKESPERSON: Astonished. I have never seen a committee chairman come out in front of the press and just kind of pour gasoline over himself and light himself on fire, which is basically what he did. I mean, if you look at what he did today, you know, he, one, potentially leaked classified information. Two, he compromised the investigation his committee is supposedly conducting by briefing the President on it. And, three, he completely ruined his own credibility and exposed himself kind of as a partisan shill and it was all for no reason. The thing that he came out and revealed doesn`t even back up what it is the President said in his original tweet so it`s hard to even know what he was trying to accomplish. I think the only thing he did today with this kind of stunt is add more credibility, more voice to the calls for an independent commission which you now see Senator McCain joining the calls for.

HAYES: I want to start with the first thing you said because it struck me as well that a huge part of the testimony before that House Committee with Comey and Rogers the other day, from the republican side, focused on leaks.

MILLER: Yes.

HAYES: If it is the case that incidental surveillance were to have swept up people in the transition office or the President himself, I assume that`s probably classified information. That seems fairly closely held. So for the Chairman to - you know, for the republicans to spend all day on Monday to talk about leaks, I just was astonished that he would come forward and disclose that if it is in fact true.

MILLER: Yes. It`s absolutely classified information. I mean, it`s obviously classified. You know, that hearing was a real disaster for them on Monday because it didn`t just - you didn`t just have the two big headlines from it. One, that the White House is under - you know, federal criminal investigation. And, two, that what Trump said about wiretapping was completely false. But you saw the republican members talk about leaks in a way - you know, when you have the FBI Director come out and say, you know, we`re investigating whether members of the President`s campaign conducted treason and the only questions you can ask are about leaks, you know, it already made them look really bad. And so, for them to come out - and for him to come out today and then not only - you know, continue to look like he has no interest in investigating underlying charges, but then to come out and leak classified information himself shows what a mockery they were really making of that hearing on Monday.

HAYES: You were - you were the spokesperson at the Department of Justice and you noted today earlier, I saw you notice that there`s something sort of improper fundamentally about the Chair of this Committee going - the first thing he`s doing with the information he received to brief the White House which, again, is at the center of the entity that is currently, as we know, as confirmed by James Comey, being investigated.

MILLER: Yes, that`s exactly right. And it`s important because there aren`t - you know, it`s not just that Nunes hurt the credibility of his own investigation, depending on what it is that he has, what it is that his source came and told him, if it`s something that relates to the investigation that the FBI is conducting, and he went and briefed the President on that, and that goes to other people in the White House, including people that maybe under investigation, it could potentially compromise that investigation. It`s absolutely - you know, another way and what he did is just so inappropriate and so far beyond - so far outside the bounds of what he should be doing as a committee chairman.

HAYES. All right. Matt Miller, thank you.

MILLER: Thank you.

HAYES: All that is just one part of the larger story around the Trump campaign`s potential ties to Russia. Tonight, new explosive revelations about President Trump`s former Campaign Manager Paul Manafort who the Associated Press reported today was secretly working for a Russian billionaire a decade ago to advance the interests of Vladimir Putin, eventually signing a contract paying him $10 million a year for his work. Manafort proposed in a confidential strategy plan as early as June, 2005, that he would influence politics, business dealings and news coverage inside the United States. Europe and the former Soviet Republics to benefit the Putin government, the A.P. reported. In a statement, Manafort responded quote "i did not work for the Russian government. Once again, smear and innuendo are being used to paint a false picture." Trump`s connection to Manafort dates back to the 1980s, when Trump hired Manafort`s lobbying firm to fight the expansion of Indian casinos and change the flight path of airplanes over Mar-a-Lago. Manafort would go on to buy a condo in Trump tower and last march Trump hired Manafort as adviser and then quickly promoted him to Chief Strategist and Campaign Chairman giving him control of daily campaign operations.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I have fantastic people, Paul Manafort just came on. He`s great. He doesn`t have to do this, like I don`t have to. He didn`t need to do this but he wanted to.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Manafort was fired in August after ledgers surfaced suggesting he may have accepted more than $12 million in undisclosed cash payments from a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine. At the time, Trump`s allies lauded Manafort`s contribution.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought Paul did an important job in getting through the convention and getting the campaign more of a national campaign, more of a professional campaign. Nobody should underestimate how much Paul Manafort did to really help with this campaign to where it is right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Yet this week White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer claimed Manafort had, "played a very limited role in the campaign." And today Spicer cast Manafort as little more than a delegate wrangler who, quote "was involved in the campaign for just a total of just under five months." Of course, that is two months longer than the famous and controversial Steve Bannon. Spicer had this to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you say today with certainty that Paul Manafort never tried to pressure or encourage the campaign to take on a more pro- Russia position on any issues?

SPICER: Not that I`m aware of, I can`t - but there`s nothing that suggests that that was the case.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Spicer was also asked if he can say with certainty that no one in the White House is working in the interests of a foreign government.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SPICER: I can tell you that every form has been filled out that it -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you trust --

SPICER: Absolutely. You`ve got to - people who are filling out forms, to sit here and ask me whether I can vouch for whatever it is, a few hundred people that have filled out everything, you know, that would be ridiculous for me to stand here and suggest that I possibly could.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Joining me now, Olivia Nuzzi, Washington Correspondent for New York Magazine. Olivia, I want to talk about Manafort, but first, I want to - that answer was so interesting to me. I mean, the answer I thought he would give is -

OLIVIA NUZZI, NEW YORK MAGAZINE WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: It was definitely interesting.

HAYES: - Of course, I can vouch for the honesty of the people that work for us that they haven`t lied on their forms and are not working as foreign agents. When asked if he could assure the public there`s no foreign agents working in the White House, his response instead was "they have filled out the forms."

NUZZI: Right. It`s like bad satire. I can`t believe that that is - was his answer on something so important. I think, he`s probably concerned like a lot of people right now of saying something incorrect and later being - you know, proven to be wrong. So I don`t blame Sean Spicer but it`s shocking to see him not be able to answer that question.

HAYES: You know, watching them try to minimize the role of Manafort is somewhat absurd because we were all there during the campaign. But one other thing that`s come through is that it wasn`t - this is not a relationship with Manafort that just started during the campaign. It`s actually extends much further back than that.

NUZZI: Right. Not only in the 80s when Trump hired him but remember Paul Manafort is a long-time associate of Roger Stone who has known Trump since the 1970s. They were all friends with Roy Cohn who is Trump`s political mentor. So it`s completely absurd for Sean Spicer to suggest that Paul Manafort was like a minor intern on the campaign just herding delegates when he was an instrumental part of it. You know, it was only five month, sure, but the campaign was not that long in general. So five months was quite a large chunk of the campaign and he was an instrumental part of the campaign. They hired him not only to heard delegates but to professionalize the operation. Remember, Trump did not have any establishment figures working for him. He had people like Corey Lewandowski who had never been part of Presidential campaigns before. So Paul Manafort, he was seen as someone who was going to come in and professionalize Trump and bring in this Presidential Donald Trump who obviously never arrived in the end.

HAYES: And not only that, I mean, the reporting you`ve done and others indicates that - and this I think is crucial, is that his relationship to the campaign didn`t end after he lost his job. In fact, reporting that he was a key figure behind the scenes during the transition.

NUZZI: In November at the Daily Beast where I worked at the time, I reported along with my colleague Austin (INAUDIBLE) that two sources confirmed to us that Paul Manafort was working on the transition, was advising on personnel matters and was in direct contact not only with President-elect Trump at the time but also with Vice President-elect Mike Pence almost in daily contact with him. So it`s absurd for anyone to suggest that he just sort of vanished right when he left the campaign in August and also remember, he was not paid by Trump during the campaign. So it`s very difficult to be able to actually measure during which period he was working for the campaign. Remember we could track Corey Lewandowski`s involvement with the campaign after he had formally left the campaign because we saw the payments still going to his firm but we never got that with Paul Manafort. So for all we know he`s still talking to Donald Trump. We really don`t have any solid facts about this.

HAYES: I just want to highlight one thing in the Manafort statement to the A.P. because I think it`s worth just pointing out to people. The A.P. reports that he had a contract with an oligarch closely aligned to Putin who paid him to interest further - the interest of Putin. The denial that came from Paul Manafort in which he called it smears and innuendo, was "i never worked for the Russian government" which is not the actually the allegation that has been made in the reporting of the A.P.

NUZZI: That`s a minor fact.

HAYES: All right. I`ll -

NUZZI: I mean, It`s ridiculous and I think - I think he`s expecting people to just sort of accept that answer and to not press him further and hoping that it will go away. Maybe something more important will happen and all of our attentions will be deflected towards that. But this is a big story and there`s a drip-drip happening and I think it`s going to continue for a very long time.

HAYES: Yes, he`s wanted for questioning, we should say in Ukraine and there are questions still swirling about the payments that ended up getting him kicked off the campaign. Not to mention the things surrounding him now. Olivia Nuzzi, thanks for joining me.

NUZZI: Thank you.

HAYES: Still to come, Senator Al Franken on calls to halt the Gorsuch vote until the Trump-Russia investigation is completed. Plus hours away from the vote on Trumpcare and the republican defections appear to be mounting. Senator Bernie Sanders joins me on this battle over Healthcare after the two-minute break.

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How confident are you that the bill will pass? And if it doesn`t pass, is there a plan B? Like --

SPICER: No, there is no plan B. There`s plan A and plan A. We`re going to get this done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Sean Spicer made very clear today the affirmative argument for the GOP Healthcare bill now has nothing to do with its substance. The argument is that you have to pass it because there`s no plan B and if it`s not passed, it will be a disaster. But that argument doesn`t seem to be working so well. The chairman of the group that appears to be the most intent on sinking this bill, the House Freedom Caucus, is calling for tomorrow`s vote to be postponed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK MEADOWS, UNITED STATES CONGRESSMAN FROM NORTH CAROLINA: We believe that we need to postpone the vote and get it right. They are fully engaged but I can say this at this particular point, we need changes to the underlying bill before we vote on in the House.

There`s not enough votes to pass it tomorrow. There are more than enough Freedom Caucus Members to be against this to keep it from passing tomorrow.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Freedom Caucus Members may have their own ideological reasons for postposing the bill. It appears thought to be losing moderate votes as well. In fact, the more we learn about this bill, substantively, the worse it looks. A Kaiser Family Foundation analysis finding that deductibles would rise under the GOP Healthcare plan from an average of about $2,500 to $4,100, an increase of $1,550. And if there`s one thing that republicans both in the White House and Congress have hammered on, it`s been high deductibles under ObamaCare. Their plan, according to Kaiser, would increase those deductibles. Joining me now, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Chair of the Senate Democratic Outreach Committee. And Senator, let`s start on deductibles. This is something that I think both has been a genuine critique of the plans offered on the exchanges, that they have been fairly high deductible plans and also apparently something that this bill would exacerbate.

BERNIE SANDERS, UNITED STATES SENATOR FROM VERMONT: Well, Chris, I think it`s probably wrong to refer to this legislation as a healthcare plan. Its primary purpose is to give some $300 billion in tax breaks over ten year period to the wealthiest 2 percent. It is a tax plan to help the very wealthy and the pharmaceutical industry and the insurance companies with huge tax breaks. In terms of the essence of their so-called plan, as you know, they`re going to throw some 24 million people off of health insurance, defund Planned Parenthood and according to the AARP, if you are 64 years of age and you`re trying to get by on $25,000 a year, your healthcare costs are going to go up from $1,700 today to $13,000. And as you`ve just indicated, as difficult as the deductible situation is now - and it is a real problem for millions of people - this plan makes it even worse.

HAYES: What - I mean, I know you think that this is primarily driven - this is basically a tax bill. It`s a tax cut that`s got healthcare wrapped around it. But if that`s the case, why are they going through all the trouble to do this when they could just like straight up pass a tax cut. I just don`t get it.

SANDERS: Well, Chris, trust me, they`re going do that as well. I mean, coming on down the pike are massive tax breaks for the wealthiest people in this country, but this is the start. But there is something else involved in this legislation. And that is, this is the implementation of the Koch brothers ideology which wants to basically eliminate every piece of legislation passed in the last 80 years which protects the elderly and working people and children and the sick and the poor. These guys believe, this is the Koch brothers, that government should not play a role in helping people in need or working people. So what this bill does is decimates Medicaid. It will make Medicare less solvent, cuts three years of solvency off of Medicare and they`re going to come back with more and more cuts to programs that working people need. And by the way, remember, this is from a President who campaigned, the guy who campaigned as a champion of the working class. His healthcare proposal and other - their budget will be horrific for working class families all over this country.

HAYES: Let me - let me - I want you to respond though, because you say this is sort of an embodiment of this kind of Koch brothers vision which is to sort of strip away part the social safety net, it`s true. It will cap and cut Medicaid, it will reduce Medicare solvency but respond to the argument that`s being made by right now, the most politically potent force that threatens the life of this bill, the House Freedom Caucus. They say that this is a republican welfare, that you`re throwing money at the problem, you`re creating a new entitlement, that this betrays conservative principles.

SANDERS: No. Those are the true believers. You know, what people like Ryan understands - if you can`t do it all at one time. You can`t go before the American people and say we are tomorrow going to pass legislation to eliminate Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, we`re going to wipe out the Postal Service and the Veterans Administration. They understand you can`t do that. What the so called - what the Freedom Caucus is about is they`re more ideological. They want to move quicker. They say, look, let`s end this whole damn thing, why are you talking about tax credits? Forget about it. Government should not play any role or almost any role in providing healthcare to the American people. If you`re middle-class, if you`re working class, if you`re poor and you get sick, tough luck, you`re on your own. You may have to die, you may have to go bankrupt, government is not there for you. So, they are leading the effort but Ryan and his friends are not all that far behind.

HAYES: You are a veteran legislator. I mean, you`ve been in both the House and the Senate, you`ve had - and you`ve played a sort of unique role because you`re an independent so even though you caucused with democrats - I mean, what would it mean to bring this vote to the floor of the House and have it fail?

SANDERS: Well first of all, if it fails, a lot of - the reason for that, I think, goes to people all over this country who stood up and said to republican legislators, "sorry, you`re not going to decimate Medicaid because my mom is in a nursing home and I need Medicaid to help pay for her care. Or for people who have pre-existing conditions who understand that they need that protection when they go to a doctor. So I want to thank all of the people who`ve stood up and fought back from a political point of view. Yes, I think it will be clearly a defeat for Ryan and for Trump. I think that they will regroup and come back, but I think the good news, Chris, that in the midst of this Trump disaster, millions of people, a lot of working people, some of whom voted for Donald Trump catching on that Trump lied. Remember, Trump said I am going to bring you a wonderful program, healthcare for all people. Well, guess what? He lied. He`s going to throw 24 million people off of health insurance. The American people are catching on. Our job is to not forget for a second we remain the only major country on earth not to guarantee healthcare to all people as a right and the fight continues for a Medicare for all single payer system. That is my long-term goal.

HAYES: All right, Senator Bernie Sanders, thank you.

SANDERS: Thank you, Chris.

HAYES: Still to come, much more on what tomorrow`s big vote means for the President and his agenda going forward. Plus, the democratic push to suspend any voting on the Supreme Court until the investigation of Trump ties to Russia are over. Senator Al Franken on the credibility crisis in the White House and Judge Gorsuch ahead.

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HAYES: We`re following breaking news out of London tonight where a man apparently acting alone plowed a car into pedestrians and then stabbed a police officer outside of Parliament in what police are now calling an attack inspired by international terrorism. The police officer, 48-year- old Keith Palmer, was killed along with three civilians and about 40 people were injured. The attacker was also shot and killed by police. We will, of course, be following on the latest developments in this story, bring you more updates as they become available.

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SCHUMER: It is unseemly to be moving forward so fast on confirming a Supreme Court justice with a lifetime appointment while this big gray cloud of an FBI investigation hangs over the presidency.

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HAYES: For Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, this is not the time to be voting on the president`s Supreme court nominee while the FBI is investigating possible collusion between Trump`s campaign and Russia.

Senator Elizabeth Warren also seems to be suggesting a pivot towards obstruction tweeting "Neil Gorsuch is up for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court, for a president whose campaign is under FBI investigation."

But despite those protests, the confirmation hearing for Judge Neil Gorsuch continues.

Yesterday at the hearing, Senator Al Franken called into question not the judgment of the president, but the man he`s nominated for the Supreme Court.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. AL FRANKEN, (D) MINNESOTA: It is absurd to say this company is in its rights to fire him because he made the choice of possibly dying from freezing to death or causing other people to die possibly by driving an unsafe vehicle. That`s absurd.

Now I had a career in identifying absurdity. And I know it when I see it and it makes me, you know, it makes me question your judgment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Joining me now is Senator Al Franken, Democrat from Minnesota.

And, Senator that moment in yesterday`s hearing struck me because largely I feel like observers have said that Judge Gorsuch has no inflated glove on him, et cetera. That moment got a lot of attention.

I guess my question is it - do you feel - what do you say to people who say you are cherry-picking of - among many, many opinions one specific set of facts to cast him in the worst possible light?

FRANKEN: Well, senators on our side of the aisle asked him about all kinds of cases and this is one in which the facts were -- I don`t want to go through all the facts, but everybody in that big hearing room when this driver had to face the choice of either staying there in 14 below weather while he had hypothermia, staying there with this disabled tractor-trailer where the trailer`s brakes were frozen or take off with it knowing that the truck wasn`t sound and possibly being a danger to everybody.

What he did was he took out -- separated the trailer and went with the cab and he got -- found a place to get warm.

He was very in danger of dying from freezing to death. He had fallen on the sleep already once. And so when I asked everybody, basically, in the hearing room what would you have done? Wouldn`t you have done what the driver did -- and he was fired for this and Judge Gorsuch said "well, I hadn`t thought about it."

So he was the only one there who would haven`t done the obvious thing that he was fired for and there is a sort of plain meaning, clear meaning test that he applied to this statute because he operated the -- you can`t be fired for refusing to operate an unsafe vehicle and he focused on the word "operate" and he did operate the vehicle. And I said, well, yeah, but there`s an exception to that rule which is absurdity and having to choose between possibly dying one way or possibly killing people another way, requiring that is absurd and that`s what I was talking about.

And I think it connected because it spoke to some kind of rigidity in his judgment.

But basically we talked about all these 5-4 decisions the Roberts courts had made.

Go ahead, sorry.

HAYES: I want to ask you your opinion on what Chuck Schumer has said and what Elizabeth Warren seemed to hint she might also be moving towards, which is the idea that against the backdrop of a world in which the FBI is actively investigating the possibility of collusion between the president`s campaign and a foreign adversary that this lifetime appointment procedure should be essentially put on pause.

FRANKEN: Well, you know, I`ve been in these hearings all week and we had an unusual thing where we had a Supreme Court -- a nomination hearing on Monday and all the attention was on the House intelligence committee, so I think it wouldn`t hurt to take our time on this because I don`t think the American people really had the time to pay attention given this very, very serious news that came out of that hearing and that we`ve been hearing since.

HAYES: All right, Senator Al Franken, thanks for joining us.

FRANKEN: Sure, thank you, bye.

HAYES: Still to come, less than one day before the vote on the long- promised Republican health care bill, the Republican defections are mounting tonight. We`ll have the update ahead. Plus tonight`s Thing One, Thing Two starts right after this.

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HAYES: Thing One tonight, remember the president claimed without a shred of credible evidence that millions of Americans voted illegally and that`s why he lost the popular vote? Well, the commissioner of the FEC, Ellen Weintraub has not forgotten, and again today demanded answers in a letter to the president writing, "this country should make policy based on facts, not unsupported statements no matter how high-ranking the source. Facts matter, Mr. president."

But today we did get evidence of voter fraud, not thousands or millions, but one single case involving this ex-Republican Party chairman.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE CURTIS, FRM. GOP COLORADO CHAIR: It seems to me -- and correct me if I`m wrong -- that virtually every case of voter fraud I can remember in my lifetime was committed by Democrats. Am I on to something here or do I just not have facts?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: The irony of this story is almost impossible to believe and it`s Thing Two in 60 seconds.

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HAYES: There is still no evidence to support the president`s claim that millions of illegal votes were cast in 2016, but one case of voter fraud just popped up. Meet Steve Curtis, the former Colorado GOP chairman who said on his radio show just last year that only Democrats commit voter fraud and who has now been charged with -- wait for it -- voter fraud for allegedly filling out and mailing in his ex-wife`s 2016 ballot for president.

The state was tipped off after his ex-wife tried to register to vote in South Carolina only to find out her ballot had been cast in Colorado. A local reporter caught up with Curtis at the courthouse yesterday.

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UNIDENITIFIED MALE: Did you vote for your ex-wife in the last election, Steve?

CURTIS: We`re not going to talk about this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m going to talk about it. Did you vote for your ex- wife in the last election? Do you owe her an apology?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Steve Curtis is the only 2016 voter fraud investigation in Colorado that resulted in criminal charges. Curtis now faces up to three years in prison, a $5,000 fine and I guess he has to become a Democrat now.

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CURTIS: It seems like there`s something about being a Democrat that either -- and maybe this is the chicken or the egg, but something about being a Democrat that lends people to criminal behavior or something about being prone to criminal behavior that draws people to the Democrat Party.

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RYAN: There was a claim that there`s 24 votes against it. We`re getting a lot of Freedom Caucus members to support this bill. We`re adding votes by the day. We`re not losing votes, we`re adding votes. And we feel like we`re getting really, really close.

HAYES: The speaker`s optimism does not appear to be supported by the events of the past 24 hours in which momentum seems to have shifted strongly against the American Health Care Act. We keep hearing from the House Freedom Caucus, including from the mouth of its chairman they alone have the votes to kill this bill.

But there are other House Republicans who are not part of the Freedom Caucus coming out against it today as well. Congressman Daniel Donovan of Staten Island, which voted for Donald Trump "why I will vote no."

Congressman David Young of Iowa, "I cannot support it in its present form."

Congressman Frank LoBiondo of New Jersey, "I will vote no on this healthcare plan."

The sentiment seemed to be summed up by congressman Thomas Massie of Kentucky "sorry to let you down. I`m changing my vote on the AHCA from no to hell no."

Last count indicates there are enough no votes, at least publicly stated right now to sink the bill. But public whip counts in these situations are notoriously unreliable and there`s also reporting the GOP leadership is going to bring the bill to the floor even if they are seven votes short. So they`re planning to go through with this without knowing whether they have the votes on what could be a make or break moment for the president`s entire domestic legislative agenda.

The tremendous risks and consequences for a president already playing defense next.

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TRUMP: I want to get to taxes. I want to cut the hell out of taxes but, but -- I had no choice. I had to go with health care first. You know how it works.

Frankly, the tax would be easier, in my opinion. I would have loved to have put it first, I`ll be honest. But for statutory reasons and for budgetary reasons we have to submit health care sooner.

We`re going to be doing trade deals as soon as we get health care finished. Oh, I`m looking forward with these trade deals.

But we had to go with health care first. And we`re doing well. I think we`re going to have some great surprises. I hope it`s going to all work out, then we immediately start on the tax cuts.

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HAYES: Joining me now, Betsy Woodruff, politics reporter for The Daily Beast, and MSNBC contributor Josh Barro, senior editor of Business Insider. His latest piece "Republicans lied about health care for years and they`re about to get the punishment they deserve."

First of all, I love that montage because the president is basically selling health care as a chore that you need to get out of a way before you can get to the fun stuff is basically how he`s selling it at this point.

And Betsy, what is your judgment based on your reporting. Let`s talk about the House Freedom Caucus, whether this is them bluffing or not.

BETSY WOODRUFF, THE DAILY BEAST: I don`t think they`re bluffing. The sense that I got just from having spoken to Republican and health care sources over the last day or so is that this bill is in serious trouble. And one point that a source made to me is that the House Republican leadership team as it stands right now does not have a particularly impressive record of being able to count votes well. At least twice in the last year or so, they`ve brought bills to the floor under the suspension of the rules and they haven`t been able to get those bills passed.

In my understanding, that`s pretty unprecedented. You don`t normally bring bills if you can`t pass them, especially bills that aren`t necessarily must pass.

So, among House Freedom Caucus members there`s a sense that, look, Paul Ryan may be overplaying his cards here in projecting more confidence than necessarily is warranted and I think they`re comfortable with where they`re at.

HAYES: I`ve got to say, Josh, the thought that they`re going to put this thing on the floor tomorrow and might lose it, it just seems catastrophic to me. But in some sense is the catastrophe is a bit baked in. Your piece does a great job of explaining why in certain ways from a political perspective they are in a bind whether they pass or do not pass this bill.

JOSH BARRO, BUSINESS INSIDER: Yeah, I think it`s a disaster either way, because either way they have to break a zillion promises they`ve been making for seven years. This bill does not lower premiums, it raises them. It makes health care more expensive for people. It will mean higher deductibles, higher co-payments, 24 million fewer people with coverage even though President Trump said that he wanted insurance for everybody that is much cheaper and much better.

So if they pass this they have to be held to account for having broken all those promises. And if they don`t pass it, then they`ve broken promises to repeal Obamacare and all their promises to improve health care.

So, yeah, I think the disaster is baked in either way. I don`t think the votes are there. The particular reason I believe that is Politico is reporting tonight that the White House is willing to reopen the bill again to add new provisions that would intend to win over some of those conservative members. They`re going to create new problems for themselves with those new provisions. And then there would be the open question of you already have some moderate members who are unwilling to vote for the bill. If you make it even more to the liking of the conservatives you can create problems on that end. And then when it gets to the senate, those changes will be unacceptable to a lot of Republicans in the Senate.

HAYES: This is a great point because that Josh made, Betsy, because all the attention has been on the House Freedom Caucus, but you got 22 members of the House that are from districts Hillary Clinton won. And then you have got people like Dan Donovan who`s from a district that Donald Trump won. He won Staten Island in New York, but this is him talking about what`s happening in terms of how he`s thinking about the bill. "There are portions of it I have grave concerns with" Donovan said. "Calls to his office are running 1,000 to one against the Republican plan, though Donovan said he couldn`t be sure all the calls are from his district."

The so-called moderates, they`ve been getting less attention but the possibility of a lot of defections there as well.

WOODRUFF: Yeah, without a doubt. And I think the branding by the opponents of this bill has been really effective. It hasn`t had the president`s name connected to it very closely. You have Jenny Beth Martin referring to it as Ryancare, a riff on the term Rinocare.

On the right, there`s - and particularly from reporters at Breitbart, the way that they craft their headlines the messaging is this bill is Paul Ryan`s problem, it`s not Donald Trump`s problem. So far all these Trump supporters it`s not necessarily seen as something that would be a blemish on his record, and even in that montage you played earlier, Trump isn`t putting a lot of himself out there to extensively to push for this bill.

He sees it as something to get done, not as something he`s staking his entire reputation on, which of course is different way from the way President Obama pushed for health care reform when he did it. He presented it as a central issue, a ride-or-die issue, something that would be worth Democrats losing their seats over. Trump isn`t doing that. And I think that`s why you see members in the Trump-friendly districts kind of saying maybe we don`t want to do this right now.

And of course, what people are forgetting, too, is that anything that Paul Ryan and Trump do to this bill to make it more amenable to conservatives in the House is going to make it harder for it to pass in the Senate. We`re talking about the House like it`s the end all be all, but you`re barely halfway there when you`re finished with it. The reality is, Susan Collins`s of the world are going to be stressed.

HAYES: That`s right. And the desperation I think is showing in what the fact Josh said is that they`re now going to try to open up some of the regulatory side of this, which they had done in the beginning because it can`t pass through the reconciliation.

Now they`re saying, well, maybe we`ll get to that to get the House freedom votes, but then you screw yourself in the Senate, right Josh?

BARRO: Well, yeah, and then also you get rid of these regulations you for example, you are going to have members voting so that insurers can sell plans that don`t cover substance abuse treatment, which is a big issue in states that have been hit by the opioid epidemic.

They would have to allow insurers that sell plans that don`t cover pregnancy, so it`s making the vote even tougher for those moderate members who have their own various concerns. In Donovan`s case, you know, New York is a state that spends a lot on Medicaid. There would be big negative budgetary consequences for New York City and New York States. So you have a lot of those members who already have a lot to answer for in their home districts if they vote for this. These changes will only add even more for them to answer for to vote for a bill that very likely won`t even become law anyway. So they`ll take the bad law and won`t even get the policy.

HAYES: All right, Betsy Woodruff, Josh Barro, thank you.

BARRO: Thank you.

HAYES: I am currently in the midst of my book tour. In fact, I came straight from an event here in Boston to do this show. Thanks to the great folks who came out to do that.

Tomorrow, I`ll be at the Free Library of Philadelphia before heading to the West Coast. You can check out our Facebook for the latest dates and events for all of the events in the tour.

There`s also a new excerpt of the book in Vanity Fair that you can read. It draws on the reporting I did for this show where I got firsthand experience in a virtual reality police training simulator. I found it illuminating, eye opening. I hope you check it out and pick up the book, "A Colony in a Nation." It`s out now.

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

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END

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