Show: All in with Chris Hayes Date: March 29, 2017 Guest: Matthew Rosenberg, David Cay Johnston, Vladimir Kara Murza, Maggie Hassan, Jane Mayer, Joshua Green
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Good evening from Seattle. I`m Chris Hayes.
We have another big lineup of news tonight, including the president`s curious display of understanding or misunderstanding of the opioid crisis as the White House today announced a new commission. My exclusive interview with the activist and journalist twice poisoned in Putin`s Russia, today testifying before Congress. And the FBI Director is now claiming he had a plan to tell the world about the investigation into the Trump campaign.
But we begin with the coming out party for the least publicized but perhaps most important investigation into the Trump campaign`s Russia ties. This one is in the Senate. It has a chance to have a big impact. After a week in which House Intel Committee Chair Devin Nunes repeatedly undermined the credibility of his own committee`s investigation, Leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee today offered Nunes an implicit rebuke, telling reporters that when it comes to a serious bipartisan investigation of Trump and the Russians, they`ve got it covered.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Having served as an adviser on the Trump campaign, can you say hand over heart that you can oversee an impartial and serious investigation?
SEN. RICHARD BURR (R-NC), SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Absolutely. I`ll do something I`ve never done. I`ll admit that I voted for him. We always hide who we vote for. That`s part of the democratic process. But I`ve got a job in the United States Senate, and I take that job extremely serious. It overrides any personal beliefs that I have or loyalties that I might have. Mark and I might look at politics differently. We don`t look at the responsibilities we have on the committee differently.
SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA), SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE VICE CHAIRMAN: I have confidence in Richard Burr that we together, with the members of our committee, are going to get to the bottom of this. When we started this, we saw the scope and what was involved. I said it was the most important thing I`d ever taken on in my public life. I believe that more firmly now than even when we started. We`re going to get it right. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: There are three ongoing investigations into possible links between the Trump team and the Russians. The FBI investigation confirmed by Director James Comey last week in an open hearing, an investigation which will play out largely in secret. Then there`s -- then there`s the House investigation, which is frankly in disarray amid calls from every democrat on that committee for the Chair Nunes, to recuse himself. And then the Senate investigation, which will play out at least in part in the light of day, and which appears to reflect, at least as of now, a genuine and rare bipartisan effort to get to the truth.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator burr, have you -- have you personally coordinated with the White House at all on the scope of this investigation, and how do you prevent it from going off track?
BURR: No, Sir, I have not. And it`s the relationship and the trust we have.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there any circumstance in which you wouldn`t share with Mr. Warner your sources on this investigation?
BURR: He usually knows my sources before I do.
WARNER: And let me assure you, I`ve also got his cell phone which means he hears from me more than he sometimes like.
If we don`t come to some joint conclusion with the manipulation that took place in the election and with the spirit of the American people saying what`s going on here, I think we would not fulfill our duty.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Burr and Warner said there are seven staff members dedicated to the investigation. That they already -- are already reviewing, quote, "an unprecedented amount of documents that they are willing to issue subpoenas to compel testimony and that they have made 20 requests for interviews, including five that have been scheduled." Senior Adviser and son-in-law to the President, Jared Kushner, has volunteered to be questioned by the committee, which wants to hear about meetings Kushner arranged with the Russian Ambassador including one meeting with the head of Russia`s state- owned development bank.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BURR: The Committee will conduct an interview with Mr. Kushner when the Committee decides that it`s time for us to set a date because we know exactly the scope of what needs to be asked of Mr. Kushner.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Three sources tell NBC News the Committee is also in talks to interview former British Intelligence Operative Christopher Steele. The man who compiled the now infamous unverified dossier alleging a conspiracy involving Trump and the Russians, and who is trusted enough by the FBI that it arranged to pay him. Though Steele is concerned for his safety and reticent to leave London. The Committee is also exploring how and when to interview three Trump associates at the center of the investigation. Paul Manafort, Roger Stone and Carter Page, who have already volunteered to testify before the House. Congressional officials tell NBC News that if any seek criminal immunity in exchange for their testimony, it would be a deal-breaker but the committee would not accept.
The apparent seriousness of the Senate investigation combined with Nunes` much-derided performance leading the House effort which is undermining the effort by republicans there to slowwalk the investigation appears to be bad news for a president whose approval rating keeps hitting new lows. Today the Gallup daily tracking poll showed that just 35 percent of Americans approve of the job President Trump is doing compared to 59 percent who disapprove. Joining me now, Matthew Rosenberg, National Security Reporter for New York Times and former FBI double agent Naveed Jamali an MSNBC Contributor, the author of How To Catch A Russian Spy. Matthew, first you`ve been covering this. The development today was such a striking difference in tone and approach coming from Warner and Burr than what we`ve seen over on the House side.
MATTHEW ROSENBERG, NEW YORK TIMES NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: I mean, it was night and day. You had two people saying they were going to work together who appeared committed. If you noticed, they talked exclusively about going after Russian interference and any possible links. They talked about the subject at hand rather than Representative Nunes, who even before this kind of sideshow developed, when it was still looking like they might try and do a real investigation, would even talk about we`re not going to go on witch hunts, you know, would kind of almost limit their scope and their aims from the outset.
And then, you know, we`ve seen what`s happened with him running around making these claims about the Trump associates being swept up by incidental wiretapping and running off to brief the President before his own committee members. You get back to the Senate, and they`re standing there. We know they`re working together. I`ve talked to people on both sides of the committee, and they are making, you know, progress. They`ve got a list of 20 people. They`re having a hearing tomorrow, which is mostly experts. And I`m told that that hearing is largely to kind of show the world that they`re doing something, but the real interviews are going to be done in private. That`s going to be the Kushner interview and the other 19 people.
HAYES: Naveed, one of the questions that`s hung around the House Committee, and I think it applies to the Senate Committee as well even if it`s conducting itself in a different fashion is. Are these committees equipped to get to the bottom of it to use the term of Senator warner? I mean, this are complicated, essentially counterintelligence investigations. Do they have access to what they need to answer the questions everyone has?
NAVEED JAMALI, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, I think that`s -- that is a -- that`s the core question. You know, look, we still have an FBI investigation going on. I don`t think you know, the House or the Senate have expressed concern with the -- with what the FBI`s investigation and of the track it`s taking. You know, I do share concerns, Chris, that this has become politicized at its core. The question that I think every American and every democrat and republican wants to know is, did the Russians, not the Trump campaign, but in fact did the Russians attempt to interfere with our election? I think there`s ample evidence they did. And if they did, what exactly did they do? I believe very strongly that part of what the Russians did was try to recruit U.S. persons. I think that is something that, you know, there`s a lot of different ten tackles to look at that. And look, that shouldn`t be a partisan -- a partisan question. It should be something that both republicans and democrats would want to know the answer to.
HAYES: Naveed just mentions the FBI investigation and it`s still such a stunning moment just a week and a half ago when Director James Comey says in an open hearing, yes, I`ve been -- I`ve been given the OK to say this. We are currently conducting an investigation. Matthew, there`s reporting today I thought today was pretty interesting that Comey had tried to reveal the tampering months before the election. Of course, he`s come under tremendous criticism for the letter having to do with Hillary Clinton`s e- mails, the fact that the FBI seemed to waive the New York Times of a story about the Russians. I wonder what you make of this bit of reporting as a link in the chain.
ROSENBERG: Well, you know, I think you have two things in play here. First, everyone assumed Hillary was going to win, and that`s including the Russians. And so, the Obama administration was very hesitant to do anything that would be seen as tipping the scales. At the same time, especially in the final month of the campaign, you had Trump making noises about how it`s going to be rigged. They`re going to try and steal it from me. And inside the administration, they really thought what was going on here was the Russians, possibly Trump were trying to set it up so it looked like it was being stolen. On election day, you have disorder --
ROSENBERG: -- or there would be a post-election crisis. They wanted to head that off. And that`s why they wanted to be quiet about it. they don`t want to make announcements. Obviously, the election did not turn out the way everybody thought it would.
HAYES: That is a great point. And I`ve had -- I`ve had conversations on background with officials that echoed that. Naveed, to your point about the sort of investigation at the core of this. You know, there`s so much effort -- there`s so much attention to the possibility of collusion understandably because, in some senses, that would be this kind of explosive smoking gun, bigger than Watergate, etcetera. But in other ways, it also seems to be often as we watch the timeline of this that it`s not even clear that collusion would have been necessary for implicit signals to be sent from the campaign to a foreign adversary that is knowingly penetrating these accounts, basically sending a signal. I mean President - - the now President looked into a camera and said hack Hillary Clinton`s e- mails.
JAMALI: Right. You`re absolutely right. And you know, when it comes -- look, my experience with the Russians is, they hold their cards very close to their vest. And I don`t know that you`re ever going to have this gotcha moment where you`re going to have a tape of a surface of a Russian intelligence officer saying to someone, "hey, if you help us with this, we`ll help you with the election." That would just be really shoddy tradecraft. I don`t believe that happened. However, that does not believe the point that look, it`s very clear that Russians met with people in the Trump campaign. Now, is it possible that you could have someone who is just laundering money and is not a Russian spy? Of course, it is. But the likelihood that the Russians were attempting to do something with that contact, I think, that is something we need to focus on. Look, as Americans, having a foreign intelligence service intervene and try to recruit Americans is something we should all be concerned about. And I think there`s plenty of evidence that they`ve tried to do that.
HAYES: All right. Matthew Rosenberg and Naveed Jamali, thank you, both.
ROSENBERG: Thank you.
JAMALI: Thank you.
HAYES: If in fact as Naveed was just saying, there was some conduit for relationship between the Trump camp and the Russians, a guy who secretly worked for Russian oligarch to benefit Putin government, former Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort would be a prime candidate for scrutiny at least. Manafort is now facing a string of new allegations tied to potential money laundering, including questions about his New York real estate deals as well as his business dealings in the Island Nation of Cypress where NBC News broke the news last night, a bank is now investigating Manafort-linked accounts. Here to bring us up to speed on the latest, Pulitzer Prize winning Columnist of the Daily Beast, man who revealed part of President Trump`s 2005 tax returns, David Cay Johnston, also the author of The Making Of Donald Trump. David, Manafort is so central to all of this in terms of the fact that he`s the Campaign Chairman and he`s also the person with the -- with the longest history of relationships both to pro-Putin figures in Ukraine and actually Putin- aligned oligarchs, that all of these new questions about his financial transactions has me thinking at the very least, he must be lawyering up to the hilt right now.
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, DAILY BEAST COLUMNIST: It may very well be at this point that Paul Manafort has been turned by the FBI. His actions make him vulnerable to a whole series of very harsh laws, good laws in my opinion to protect the national security of the United States that could strip him of every single dollar he has, including money he may have passed on to other people. So he and General Flynn are the two people over whom the FBI would have the most leverage. And among the things the FBI is very good at is using leverage to get one person to tell about other people.
HAYES: Well, that -- and that is the reason that I keep coming back to Manafort and Flynn, and particularly now the reporting about these real estate transactions, which again, there`s no facial evidence of impropriety. It`s simply they`re structured in such a way that resembles away people will structure money laundering in other contexts, that, you know, these are the people at the center of this entire thing. If you get anyone talking, that seems to me like things start to break open.
JOHNSTON: Well, hopefully. I mean, you know, this really is not complicated to look at. We have Donald Trump, who as you pointed out called on the Russians to hack Hillary Clinton, getting as his campaign manager for roughly a third of the campaign a foreign agent who is deeply on the payroll of people hostile to the united states of America. We have a republican campaign manager who is in the pay of a hostile foreign power? You know, connecting the dots here does not require some high level of sophisticated thinking.
HAYES: And in your experience having been sort of an investigative reporter, particularly on both the tax and final side, you know, how important ultimately is -- are finances and financial movements in a situation like this?
JOHNSTON: Well, they`re -- will allow you to track and connect people. And when given the budget authority to do so, we have people at an agency called FinCen who can literally find a dollar in a haystack scattered all over the world of billions of dollars. In this case, there`s a money trail, and we keep coming back to the Bank of Cypress, to its chairman, who was the head of Deutsche Bank, the single biggest bank Donald Trump is known to be in debt to. And the -- all of these Russian connections. You know, it`s not like they were talking to Citibank and HSBC. They were talking to banks that have a history of laundering money for the Russians. There will be fingerprints on this. There will be electronic transfers. There will be shell companies, and so there`s plenty of records there, Chris, to be gotten at about what was going on here. Why in the world do we have a man in the White House who appoints the vice chairman of an utterly corrupt Russian have more than half Russian-owned bank deeply involved in money laundering for the Russian oligarchs?
HAYES: Do you think there`s any way that the Senate Committee, in this case, has the wherewithal to get to the bottom of this, or is this ultimately something that the resources are -- you need law enforcement resources like the FBI?
JOHNSTON: Well, you need to have subpoena power, and what I`ve said is we have to have two parallel investigations. We need to have an FBI counterintelligence and criminal investigation, which Comey has told us is going on. We also need to have a select committee of the Senate or the House or both in combination where both the ranking member and the committee chairman have subpoena power.
JOHNSTON: And we need to have public hearings once we`ve fleshed out the facts. It is absolutely crucial that we have public hearings and testimony. And Chris, it`s very significant that the position may have been taken here that if somebody wants immunity, we don`t want to talk to them. No honest investigator would ever say that.
HAYES: Interesting. All right. David Cay Johnston, thanks for joining me tonight.
JOHNSTON: Thank you.
HAYES: Coming up, remember the time President Trump objected to the suggestion that Vladimir Putin is a killer?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Will I get along with him? I have no idea.
BILL O`REILLY, FOX NEWS TELEVISION HOST: He`s a killer, though. Putin`s a killer.
TRUMP: There`s a lot of killers. We`ve got a lot of killers. What, you think our country is so innocent?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Up next, the political activist who was on his death bed just a month ago after being poisoned for a second time in Vladimir Putin`s Russia. Vladimir Kara-Murza testified today in the Senate about standing up to authoritarian rule and he joins me exclusively after this break.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Vladimir knew that Putin is a killer, and he`s a killer. He might very well be the next target. Vladimir knew there was no moral equivalence before the United States and Putin`s Russia. I repeat there is no moral equivalent between that butcher and thug and KGB Colonel and the United States of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Senator John McCain took the floor of the U.S. Senate a little more than a month ago soon after learning that Russian political activist Vladimir Kara-Murza, who joins me live in a moment, had been poisoned a second time. McCain clearly took issue with President Trump making an apparent moral equivalency between the tactics of the Russian President Vladimir Putin and United States. Just days ago, tens of thousands of Russian citizens, many of them high school and college students, turned out for anti-government rally across Russia. Just hours ago, our next guest testified before the Senate, once against about human rights abuses under the Putin regime.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VLADIMIR KARA-MURSA, RUSSIAN POLITICAL ACTIVIST: More than 1,500 people were arrested this past weekend, and there are no indications that the authorities may be preparing criminal charges against some of the participants. But there are, of course, worst fates than imprisonment. In the last several years, investigative journalists, opposition figures, human rights activists, anti-corruption campaigners and whistle-blowers have met untimely deaths. In what was the most brazen political assassination in Russia in decades.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Joining me now Russian Political Activist Vladimir Kara-Murza. Sir, can you explain a bit what it does -- I mean, we keep seeing these stories about figures that are in some ways associated with opposition of Vladimir Putin meeting, quote, "untimely deaths." There`s the murder in broad daylight in a gunshot in Ukraine. There`s a lawyer who is tossed out of a window. You, yourself, were poisoned twice. What does that do psychologically to anyone that f feels the desire to speak out against what`s happening in Russia?
MURZA: Well, what they wanted to do, what the Putin regime wants this to do is, of course, intimidate people, to scare people into stopping the opposition activities, into submission, into fear. And of course, there has been an increasing number of people who have been either political opponents of the Kremlin or whistle-blowers or investigative journalists or anti-corruption campaigners who have died one way or another. By the way, both inside Russia and outside of Russia. And of course, just a little more than two years ago, the leader of the Russian opposition, former Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, the most prominent opponent of Mr. Putin has been assassinated just 200 yards from the Kremlin. And this, of course, is supposed to intimidate us and frighten us and scare us. And, you know, I`m not going to hide.
Of course, we realize the risks. We understand the risks. But when we see what we saw just this past weekend, tens of thousands of people across Russia, 82 cities and towns east to west, Vladivostok to Kaliningrad coming out to the streets to say no to Putin`s regime, to say no to its corruption and its impunity and its lack of accountability and frankly the arrogance of that same group of people who has now been in power in in our country for 17 years, almost a generation. Just think about this number, when we see those people, this really gives hope, and this really gives reason to everything that we`re doing. And this also gives confidence that one day we will be able to succeed, and Russia will be a country with democracy and rule of law and respect for human rights.
HAYES: One of the pieces of legislation that you had advocated for, that you were associated with, which is the Magnitsky Act, which is sort of individual sanctions that Russian officials for association, connection to human rights abuses. The sort of theory is that the folks associated with that have had -- have had payback in all sorts of means. You were poisoned twice from the Kremlin. How seriously does the Kremlin take sanctions? How important to them, how insulting or, you know, powerful do they find them?
MURZA: Well, there are very few things that they`re afraid of more than individual western sanctions, and I stress individual. I`m not talking about sanctions on Russia or even the Russian government. These are individual sanctions directed at the people who engage in corruption, who engage in human rights abuse. The officials and operatives of the Putin regime, the oligarchs close to the Kremlin regime. Just do give you an idea how high on their priority list this is, just a few hours after his inauguration, on May 7th of 2012, Mr. Putin signed a degree requesting that the Russian foreign ministry try to stop the passage of the Magnitsky Act. This was one of the declared foreign policy priorities of the Putin regime. The Magnitsky Act was passed -- that was passed with a strong bipartisan majority in both houses of congress a little more than four years ago.
Boris Nemtsov called this law the most pro-Russian law in the history of any foreign parliament because it targeted those who abused the rights of Russian citizens plundered the resources of Russian taxpayers. And the reason this is so important to the Kremlin is because of the nature of this regime. When people often compare the regime of Vladimir Putin to the regime we had back in Soviet times and there are indeed many comparisons and many similarities. We have political prisoners. We have government censorship of the media. We have the absence of free and fair elections in our country and so on. But for all these similarities, there`s one absolutely crucial difference, and that is that members of the Soviet Politburo didn`t keep their money in western banks. They didn`t send their kids to study in western schools. They didn`t buy out real estate and yachts and palaces and mansions in western countries. People around Putin do that. And this -- you know, this principle of individually sanctioning corrupt officials and human rights abusers strikes at the very heart of the corrupt and rotten system that we have. And we hope that this law, the Magnitsky law, continues to be implemented to its full extent.
HAYES: Final question for you. You`ve been poisoned twice. You`ve been on your death bed if I understand correctly. Are you scared for your own life?
MURZA: Well, we`ve always known that it`s a risky vocation to be in opposition to Vladimir Putin`s regime. Many of our friends have lost their lives. Boris Nemtsov was a very close friend of mine. Many other opponents are in prison. Many have been driven into exile. And you know, I`m a human being. Of course, it`s disconcerting, to say the least. But at the same time, I believe that what we do is important, and I think frankly, you know, if we care about our country, which we do very much, we have to do what we can to make sure that it has a better future and that its citizens and especially its young generation, those people who we saw coming out in the tens of thousands to the streets of Russia this past weekend have a future and have prospects and have a future in a democratic Russia based on rule of law. So we will continue our work to the extent that we can.
HAYES: All right. Vladimir Kara-Murza, thank you very much.
MURZA: Thank you.
HAYES: We finally learn the fate of two major players in the Bridgegate scandal today. Bill Baroni, former ally of Governor Chris Christie of the port authority along with Bridget Ann Kelly, that`s Christie`s former Deputy Chief of Staff, the author of the infamous Time For Some Traffic Problems In Fort Lee e-mail were both handed prison sentences today. Kelly receiving 18 months. Baroni, two years. Now, Governor Christie was conveniently not in New Jersey today for the sentencing. He was at the White House, and we`ll tell you why right after this break.
HAYES: Chris Christie finally has a job in the Trump administration. New Jersey Governor is advising new White House efforts to combat the deadly opioid epidemic, participating in a roundtable with the President today. Christie might actually be well suited to the job. He`s spoken movingly about losing a friend to drug overdose and championed programs in his state to stem the tide of addiction. There was some confusion, however, about whether the White House was establishing a formal commission to address the crisis.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is a commission being created? Is Chris Christie the head of that commission? He was sort of talking about it, but I haven`t seen anything on it.
SPICER: The goal is to figure out. I think Governor Christie has been a leader of this in New Jersey. It`s an issue that plagues countless communities more and more. It`s sitting there and figuring out best practices and how can we get it down and how can we provide the treatment. There`s a lot of it. And I -- so I think today is the first step of bringing some of these stakeholders together.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: The President later tweeted photos of himself signing what was, after all, an executive order to create a formal commission. Hopefully, someone will tell Spicer. The opioid epidemic is arguably the single biggest social crisis facing this country today. It`s destroying communities, killing tens of thousands of Americans every year more people than guns or even car accidents. But as we`ve reported right here on this show, most fatal overdoses aren`t from illegal drugs like heroin smuggled over the border by Mexican cartels. They`re from legal painkillers, manufactured and distributed by American corporations, shipped by the millions to pharmacies across the U.S. For the President, however, the drug epidemic is all about one thing and one thing only. Border enforcement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: During my campaign, I promised to take action to keep drugs from pouring into our country, and I want to just thank secretary Kelly. He`s done an amazing job. Down 61 percent at the border right now in terms of people and the drugs are being stopped.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Today the President heard from two recovering addict who both got started through prescription painkillers and he heard from DEA administrator who spoke about presenting access to prescription painkillers. But even after all that, the president still seemed to think this was a border issue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHUCK ROSENBERG, DRUG ENFORCEMENT ADMINISTRATION ACTING ADMINISTRATOR: We consume as Americans most of the world`s supply of hydrocodone and oxycodone. And as these good folks have attested to, once you get hooked on that, heroin is cheaper and more plentiful, and folks just make that transition. I never thought we would enforce or prosecute our way out of this. That`s a part of it. It`s a really important part of it. But we`ve also at the DEA now turned to education, prevention. We talk about those things all the time. We do a national take-back program twice a year. The next one is on April 29th. And people can drop off at 5,000 sites around the country, courtesy of DEA and our local partners, anything in their medicine cabinet that they don`t want.
TRUMP: So it`s been really spiked over the last eight to ten years. Would that have anything to do with the weakening of the borders because a lot of it comes from the southern border?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: While the president was in the West Wing kicking off his administration`s efforts to fight the opioid crisis, his health and human services secretary was on Capitol Hill, trying to explain why health insurers should no longer be required to cover addiction treatment. We`ll show you what happened next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. KATHERINE CLARK, (D) MASSACHUSETTS: As you know, addiction treatment was one of the ten essential benefits that were covered by the Affordable Care Act. Do you support a mandate for insurance coverage for treatment?
TOM PRICE, SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: What I believe and what we believe is that every single American needs access to the kind of coverage that they want for themselves.
CLARK: But do you support mandating it? That is the law under the ACA. Do you support that mandate?
PRICE: We support the ability for every single American to have access...
CLARK: Can you answer me specifically? Yes or no? Do you support a mandate that insurance companies cover addiction treatment?
PRICE: It`s not a yes or no question, as I mentioned.
CLARK: It actually is.
PRICE: No. because the answer to it is that we believe that it`s absolutely vital that every single American have access to the coverage that they want for themselves, not what...
CLARK: So I`m going to take that as a no.
(END VIDEO CLP)
HAYES: The president`s Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price was grilled today by Massachusetts Congresswoman Katherine Clark, a Democrat, over Republican plans to strip out the essential health benefits mandated by the Affordable Care Act, including required coverage for addiction treatment.
And that came on the same day that the president rolled out a brand-new commission headed by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to combat the nation`s deadly opioid epidemic.
Few states have borne the brunt of that crisis more than New Hampshire, and I`m joined now by New Hampshire Senator Maggie Hassan, a Democrat who also served as the state`s governor.
Senator, your response today to the commission or group that met in the White House. Do you take this as an encouraging sign or does this look like essentially a photo op?:
SEN. MAGGIE HASSAN (D), NEW HAMPSHIRE: Good evening, and thanks for having me on tonight.
Look, I`m encouraged that the White House is turning some attention to this issue. The heroin, fentanyl, and opioid epidemic is our most pressing public health and safety challenge in New Hampshire and across the country. But we need urgent action. And we know because so many of us have been dealing with this, so many of our constituents have themselves or have friends or neighbors or co-workers who are suffering from substance misuse. We know what best practices are. We know what we need to be doing.
More than anything, we need to support and encourage more states to enact Medicaid expansion because in my state, it was our bipartisan Medicaid expansion program that for the first time offered treatment to thousands of people who needed substance misuse treatment. We also know that we absolutely need those essential House benefits. You just played the clip of Congresswoman Clark talking about that.
Before the requirement that insurance companies cover substance misuse treatment, they often didn`t. And so it`s really critical that the administration stop trying to roll those efforts under the Affordable Care Act back and support expanded treatment. And then here in the senate, I`m a co-sponsor on three different bills. The STOP Act, which would help us crack down on fentanyl importation into this country. The SALT Act, helping us crack down on synthetic opioids. And then the Lifeboat Act that Senator Manchin is championing, which would create a permanent revenue stream for treatment funding.
HAYES: What do you think of the argument that the president has repeated time and time again on the campaign trail, and he was today, that the border is the source in some senses of the epidemic despite the fact that the numbers clearly show this is overwhelmingly a product of the domestic consumption of prescription drugs?
HASSAN: Well, look, it`s always important to crack down on the importation over the border of illegal substances and drugs. But our law enforcement were some of the first people in New Hampshire to say we can`t arrest our way out of this. And that`s why we came together in New Hampshire, across party lines, and expanded our drug court program, came up with additional funding for substance misuse treatment. We are focusing on prevention treatment and creating a robust recovery network too.
HAYES: Can I ask you this?
HASSAN: Governors are doing this around the country, and what I would say to the president right now is we need urgent action, because people are dying.
HAYES: So, you said -- I`ve heard everything that you`ve said. And I`ve seen other governors talk about the same thing, and I`ve heard you say that we sort of know what to do. But as far as I can tell from looking at the data today, which is stark, is that it hasn`t gotten better even under the implementation of programs like that. Am I mistaken, or is there just not enough to deal with the are they not scaled up enough to deal with the size and scope of it?
HASSAN: Well, scaling up has been a challenge, so has workforce. We need more workforce in this area so that we can scale up. Medicaid expansion takes some time to be implemented.
But the other thing to realize is that increasingly, about 70 percent of the overdose deaths we`ve seen in New Hampshire have involved fentanyl, which is a far more deadly opioid even than heroin. So at the end of the day, this was an epidemic that grew out of addiction in particular to legally prescribed opioids here in the United States.
It is taking time to turn this tide, but we are going to reverse it. We are going to beat this thing as long as we understand the cause of the problem and we can expand treatment and, again, also build the kind of recovery network that we really need to do and continue to work with our law enforcement too.
But we have to attack both the demand side as well as the supply side.
And, again, I`m very concerned that the president`s event today, you know, it was a first step, but we need urgent action because people are dying.
HAYES: Senator Maggie Hassan, thank you for your time.
HASSAN: Thank you.
HAYES: Coming up, as President Trump`s approval rating hits another record low today, we`ll show you the new TV ad campaign trying to sway public opinion.
But first, what do top Republicans look at online? And how much would you pay to find out?Tonight`s Thing One, Thing Two is just after this break.
HAYES: Thing One tonight, someone is raising money through crowd funding to purchase the browsing history of U.S. members of congress to see exactly what websites they`ve been visiting. The effort has a GoFundMe page that has reached over $100,000 already, and the website, Searchinternethistory.com today held a poll today to select whose Internet history to buy first with speaker Paul Ryan up top followed by Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
If you`ve ever browsed the internet, you know your browsing history is not necesssarily something you want falling into the wrong lands, which prompts the question who would allow something like this?
That`s Thing Two in 60 seconds.
HAYES: A Tennessee resident named Adam McEleney (ph) is trying to raise $1 million to purchase the Internet web history of members and congress. First and foremost, Paul Ryan, Marsha Blackburn, and Mitch Mcconnell.
Why? Because they were drivers behind the Republican led repeal of internet privacy rules, which had passed under President Obama last year. Put simply, yesterday Republicans in congress voted in favor of letting internet service providers sell your browsing history, allowing them to profit off your personal data without getting your consent.
Not one single Democrat supported the measure in the Senate or the House, and it now heads to President Trump`s desk where he`s expected to sign it, which brings us back to the crowd funding effort of Adam McEleney (ph), who writes, "I plan on purchasing the Internet histories of all legislators, congressmen, executives and their families and making them easily searcheable."
Now, he doesn`t outline exactly how he plans to purchase the data from Internet Service Providers, but his point is clear.
And it echoes the questions poised by Democrats like Mike Capuano.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MIKE CAPUANO, (D) MASSACHUSETTS: I have a simple question. What the heck are you thinking? What is in your mind? Why would you want do give out any of your personal information to a faceless corporation for the sole purpose of them selling it?
Just last week, I bought underwear on the internet. Why should you know what size I take or the color? Or any of that information?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: The majority of Americans think the president is doing a bad job. The Huffington Post job approval average has the president hovering just above 40 percent, while the latest survey from Gallup, which has been tracking the daily percentage of Americans who approve or disapprove of the president`s job since the 1930s found that only 35 percent of Americans approve of the job Donald Trump is doing.
To put that number into perspective, it`s lower than Nixon during the Watergate hearings, lower than Reagan during Iran-Contra, it`s even lower than Bush after Katrina, a historic low for a president at this stage of his term.
And although many people in his core base still support him and will keep doing so, apparently no matter what he does, these numbers suggest that some Trump voters are turning against him.
And so to try and turn the tide, as Joshua Green reports in Bloomberg politics, a group of wealthy backers is launching a 10-state media blitz to pressure Democratic Senators to support him or at least think twice about piling on.
And one family behind this ad buy not only helped bankroll Trump`s presidency, but it`s one of the main stakeholders in Breitbart News. We`ll tell you who that is and play their new TV ad next.
HAYES: The Making America Great PAC, run by influential Trump donor Rebecca Mercer, is up with that ad in 10 states that Donald Trump won, part of a million dollar ad buy to goose the president`s historically low ratings just over two months into his presidency.
Joining me now, two people very familiar with the Mercers and their campaign to keep Trump afloat. Jane Mayer, staff writer for The NewYorker, whose latest fantastic piece is about the reclusive hedge fund tycoon behind the Trump presidency and Joshua Green, national correspondent for Bloomberg politics who wrote about the new Mercer ad today.
Josh, I`ll start with you. Where is this coming from? Why are they doing this now?
JOSHUA GREEN, BLOOMBERG POLITICS: Well, there was a lot of frustration among Trump donors that during the whole healthcare fight you had hospital groups, nurses, doctors all coming out publicly against Trump`s healthcare bill, and he really didn`t have a lot of outside supporters. And the Mercers, who had been among Trump`s larger donors and supporters during thecampaign had put together this group, it was a little slow getting off the mark. But now with that bill having failed and Trump`s approval ratings historically low I think that they`re trying to rally the support both of Trump voters in these 10 states where the ad is running and also to put a little bit of pressure on Democrats in these states who are going to be up for re-election next year.
HAYES: I thought that was interesting, because I think right now the political calculus shows they`re not sweating that at all. And the ads attempt to do that.
Jane, can you just -- for folks that are unfamiliar with who the Mercers are, who are these individuals?
JANE MAYER, NEW YORKER: Rebecca Mercer, who you just talked about, is an heiress. She`s the daughter of the daughter of Bob Mercer a hedge fund gazillionaire. And they are both very, very far right. And they came in and supported Trump starting about last August.
And they are credited with helping pull him over the finish line. Rebecca Mercer sat on the transition team. She`s been calling some shots on who Trump has hired. And now they`re running this outside support group, kind of a private propaganda machine run by a couple of multi-multi-millionaires and billionaires.
HAYES: And the father, Mercer, as relayed in your article, has some pretty extreme, eccentric views?
MAYER: Well,, this is one of the things that fascinated me was there have been stories about the Mercers, but it`s been very hard to know like what did they really believe? Who are they? What do they want? And so I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what they really believe and finally found people who work with Bob Mercer who said he barely speaks. He`d rather talk to cats than humans. He doesn`t give interviews, but he has very odd views of things like nuclear war. He thinks that, for instance, that it was good for the Japanese health after the bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the area outside the blast zone. He thinks that low level radiation is good for people.
He certainly is against global warming, doesn`t believe it really exists. He thinks the Clintons are murderers, literally. He thinks that the Civil Rights Act was a tremendous mistake and that there is no such thing in America as white racism. He thinks the only racism that exists is black racism against whites.
So, he has got weird views. And people might not care and it would be just another eccentric. He`s got -- except that he has put so much money into politics getting his way.
HAYES: And, Josh, I mean, this nexus with Breitbart, too, because it`s not just this campaign. It`s not just the super PAC. I mean, this is from Jane`s piece. A year before Bannon joined Trump`s campaign staff, he described himself in email as Trump`s de facto campaign manager, because of the positive coverage Breitbart was giving Trump. That coverage largely been underwritten by the Mercers.
There`s a Mercer-Bannon connection that`s very tight as well. Right, Josh?
GREEN: Very tight and very wide. I mean, the mercers are, or were Bannon`s key financial backers, not only at Brietbart, but also the Government Accountability Institute, which is a Florida nonprofit that produced the Clinton cash book back in 2015 that was so damaging to Clinton, just as her candidacy was taking off.
So, the Mercers were really the money not only behind these ads and behind Trump, but behind the effort to smear and tear down Hillary Clinton.
MAYER: That`s absolutely true. I mean, they`ve been -- because Bannon was their political adviser before he was Trump`s political adviser, their spending became very strategic once they joined forces with Steve Bannon. And that was about late 2011 or 2012.
And at that point, they built up really -- and Bannon himself told me. He said that they more than any other donors launched the Trump revolution, as he put it. And what he`s talking about is they built these various organizations up that helped pull Trump towards the White House.
HAYES: You know, Josh, we live in this sort of brave new Citizens United dark money world, but Trump didn`t have a ton of money in terms of matching dollar for dollar? Do you think they will open the spigots? I mean, do you think as -- if those approval ratings stay where they are, we are going to see more money pouring in?
GREEN: I think it depends. I mean, one of the things with these groups is the giving is essentially unlimited. So, you don`t need to have a huge, broad group of donors, what need to have, and what Trump has in this group is a handful of billionaires willing to right million dollar plus checks to fund these kinds of PR campaigns that we`re seeing launched today.
HAYES: All right, Joshua Green and Jane Mayer, thanks.
Be sure to check out Jane`s excellent book, Dark Money, which is now out in paperback.
It has been great meeting so many people, so many of you at events from my new book A Colony in a Nation. Thanks so much for coming out tonight. I`m right here in Seattle. And I`m heading to town hall, which is an incredible venue after the show. Then, I will be back in New York actually tomorrow. And then on Friday I`ll be in Chicago with a couple of different stops there including Friday night and Saturday night. As always all the details are on our Facebook page. And so you can take a look.
I am also going to be on The Daily Show tomorrow night with Trevor Noah. That is, of course, if all my travel goes OK, including the many flights that I`ve been taking just about every single day. I`m looking forward to being back on Trevor`s show.
If I`m in your area, if I`m going to be in Chicago and you can come by, it would be great if you could by. I might see some of you...
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