Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: March 30, 2017 Guest: Michael Isikoff, Chris Murphy, Rick Wilson, Jeff Merkley, Christina Greer, Jennifer Rubin, Eric Swalwell
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC ALL IN HOST: Good evening from New York. I`m Chris Hayes on a day that saw the President launch an all-out assault on a faction of his own party, the public launch of a second investigation into the Trump campaign ties to Russia, and a report the White House orchestrated its own vindication of Trump wiretap claims. The biggest story of the day is all about Michael Flynn. Tonight, Wall Street Journal is reporting that Donald Trump`s former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn today told the FBI and both congressional committees he will testify in exchange for immunity from prosecution. A congressional official confirms to NBC News that Flynn told the Senate Intelligence Committee he will testify in exchange for immunity. A spokesman for the committee declined to comment.
Flynn of course was President Trump`s closest adviser on National Security throughout the campaign and was named National Security Adviser by Trump, but only lasted a month. He was fired in mid-February after lying about conversations he had with the Russian Ambassador. That coming weeks after acting Attorney General Sally Yates had warned the White House that Flynn was vulnerable to blackmail by the Russian government because of the nature of those conversations and the falsehoods he used to describe them. Tonight after news broke that he offered to testify in exchange for immunity, Flynn`s lawyer released a statement reading, in part," General Flynn certainly has a story to tell, and he very much wants to tell it should the circumstances permit.
He is now the target of unsubstantiated public demands by members of congress and other political critics that he be criminally investigated. No reasonable person who has the benefit of advice from counsel would submit to questioning in such a highly politicized witch hunt environment without assurances against unfair prosecution." Congressional officials have previously told NBC News there was no agreement yet on how and when to interview former Trump associates, and that, at least in the Senate Committee, criminal immunity in exchange for testimony was not an option. Republican Chairman Richard Burr was asked specifically about Flynn just yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you guys been in contact with Michael Flynn or, you know, representatives of Michael Flynn?
RICHARD BURR, SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: I think it`s safe to say that we have had conversations with a lot of people, and you would think less of us if General Flynn wouldn`t be in that list.
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HAYES: We should note here, of course, that requesting immunity does not mean you`ve necessarily done anything wrong. However, Flynn himself had this to say on that very topic last year on "MEET THE PRESS."
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MICHAEL FLYNN, U.S. FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: The very last thing that John Podesta just said is no individual too big to jail. That should include people like Hillary Clinton. I mean five people around her have had - had been given immunity, to include her former Chief of Staff. When you are given immunity that means you`ve probably committed a crime.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: When you`re given immunity, you probably committed a crime. For the latest on the investigation, I`m joined now by NBC News National Security Reporter Ken Dilanian. Ken, this seems like a big development.
KEN DILANIAN, NBC NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Huge development, Chris. And there`s a - there`s a lot of possibilities here. You know, we know that Mike Flynn did not tell the truth about his conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak to the Vice President. What we don`t know is whether he was interviewed by the FBI, and what did he tell the FBI about those conversations. We also don`t know what he listed on his form SF86 that he would have had to fill out to get a security clearance at the White House. And of course, you know, his lawyer filed on his behalf, forms explaining that he was actually lobbying for Turkish interests during the election campaign and the transition when he hadn`t filed those forms as required. So there are a lot of potential openings here that the FBI would be interested in, Chris.
HAYES: It seems to me that there are so many different threads in the sort of various and parallel investigations, but Flynn is at the center of all of them. I mean, all of this in some senses, you know, the way this story has played out, the biggest part of it, the thing that really set off this round of recriminations was the phone call to Kislyak on sanctions day and deception, lies to the Vice President and to the public about the nature of those calls being about the sanctions themselves.
DILANIAN: That`s one way to look at it. Another way to look at it is that that was ancillary, you know, that it was a deception but it wasn`t necessarily related to collusion with Russia, to people like Roger Stone seeming to know in advance that things were coming out in WikiLeaks. You know, we just don`t know. I mean, it could be that Mike Flynn got in trouble on something else entirely, and now they want to know what he knows about other matters relating to did the Trump campaign collude with Russia? There`s so many questions, Chris.
HAYES: There`s also something strange here, which is that the idea that he`s sort of offered this deal up to the three different sort of entities that are undergoing - that are doing investigations, the FBI, the House Committee, the Senate Committee. He hasn`t had any takers. Is there anything to glean from that?
DILANIAN: Well, when your lawyer says you have a story to tell, that sure seems like he`s dangling something before somebody, right? I mean, it seems unlikely that the congressional committees would be willing to grant a witness immunity. That really can mess up a criminal investigation. Everyone knows that, and we`ve seen that in the past.
DILANIAN: So they`re just not going to do that. And so, unfortunately, I guess that means we`re not going to hear his story in public for some time.
HAYES: Yes, the story that he has to tell will remain a mystery at least in the short term, although something tells me the way this is all going that we will eventually learn it. Ken Dilanian, thank you.
DILANIAN: You`re right. Thank you, Chris.
HAYES: I`m joined now by Michael Isikoff, Chief Investigative Correspondent for Yahoo News. And - I mean this seems big and partly because it has always seemed to be that Flynn was the most exposed of all of these figures because he`d been sloppy, and there was a lot of stuff he`d done that seemed like really corner-cutting.
MICHAEL ISIKOFF, YAHOO NEWS CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: And also remember, he`s so central to so many aspects of this. I mean he was the National Security Adviser to the Trump campaign throughout all of last year.
ISIKOFF: Then he`s sitting in on the classified tension briefings. What we didn`t know then is that he was also had this private lobbying business for the government of Turkey. That`s actually one part of this that may explain what he fears his exposure is. Remember he only recently retroactively filed with the Justice Department -
HAYES: That he was a - let`s be clear. He was a secret foreign agent quite literally. That`s not a hyperbolic statement. He was a secret foreign agent during the period of time, during the campaign up to election.
ISIKOFF: Right. He had gone to Moscow and been paid by R.T. -
ISIKOFF: - in December 2015. How much of that he disclosed, we still don`t know.
HAYES: Whether the - when the pentagon says he did not get clearance to do that, possibly in violation of their protocols.
ISIKOFF: That`s certainly one issue. So just one sort of hesitation about getting too excited about all this is that what he might be worried about are things that are not central -
HAYES: Of course. Yes. That`s right.
ISIKOFF: - to what the committees are looking at.
HAYES: No, but in some ways, I think that`s what makes him such an interesting figure, right? Because if he`s exposed on other things, that is leverage. I mean I`ve, you know, covered criminal investigations and FBI investigations, and they don`t care how they get you to talk. They just care to get you to talk.
ISIKOFF: Right. And so, look, I mean, he could be the John Dean of this case.
ISIKOFF: Or he could be the Bryan Pagliano. Remember that`s the guy who got immunity on the Clinton server investigation and led to nothing, right? So -
HAYES: Well, I also - I also have to note whatever has happened, we played that "MEET THE PRESS" clip. I don`t know if we have the RNC appearance by Michael Flynn cued up or not. But, you know, this was an individual who ran - who help run a campaign and particularly as a spokesperson, talked about essentially the criminality, the scandalousness, the deception of the Clintons. That was the central thing. I sat in that stadium in Cleveland and watched him do it.
ISIKOFF: If hypocrisy was the crime, there would be a lot of people in jail right now.
HAYES: That`s right. You`re right.
ISIKOFF: But, look, on the other hand, it is very unlikely that the committees are going to grant him immunity, I wouldn`t think, absent a really good proffer, and the primary game is with the FBI and the Justice Department.
HAYES: Of course.
ISIKOFF: But, you know, this - so this actually could be quite the setback. We did need - we do need to hear Flynn`s testimony. We do need to hear all the circumstances around Kislyak. If for no other reason, we want to know was he talking to the then President about the conversation - then President-elect about the conversations he was having with the Russian Ambassador. We don`t know. But he`s not the only one who - you know, whose story we need to hear more about.
HAYES: Well, I`m glad you said that because it`s basically been force or principles in this. There`s Paul Manafort of course who I would imagine is quite lawyered up to this point. There`s Michael Flynn, there`s Carter Page who sat in that chair talking to me and there`s Roger Stone who I`ve interviewed and you just recently interviewed.
ISIKOFF: I interviewed him today.
HAYES: I want to - I want to play a clip of that interview because that`s not another piece of this puzzle. Take a listen.
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ISIKOFF: In early August, you`re speaking to a Republican Party group, and you say this, and I think we have the clip.
ROGER STONE, POLITICAL CONSULTANT, LOBBYIST, AND STRATEGIST: I actually have communicated with Assange. I believe the next tranche of his documents pertain to the Clinton foundation, but there`s no telling what the October surprise may be.
ISIKOFF: Have you talked to Julian Assange?
STONE: Not directly, no.
ISIKOFF: You just said you were communicating.
STONE: No, is said communicated. Talk to and communicated are two different things.
ISIKOFF: Did you exchange direct messages?
STONE: No. I`ve been very forthright about this. We had a mutual friend, and at some points, I call him a back channel, a little showmanship there. Other places I refer to him as an intermediary and thirdly I call him what he is, a friend of Assange and a friend of mine.
ISIKOFF: Who was your friend?
STONE: Do you disclose your sources? I`m not disclosing mine.
ISIKOFF: You just - you just said you were going to answer every question.
STONE: Well, that`s the one question -
ISIKOFF: Did you say that?
STONE: Yes, I did, but that is probably the one question that I would decline to answer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ISIKOFF: And that is the key question here, right?
ISIKOFF: If there was a back channel with Julian Assange about the hacked e-mails, who was the back channel? You know, this is a step back from where, you know, the -
HAYES: He had pledged to be entirely forthcoming.
ISIKOFF: - fully cooperate with the investigation, fully answer every question. He told me at the start of the interview he would answer every question. But then when I got to what is the key question, he didn`t answer. He also said, by the way, in the same interview, he won`t talk about his conversations with President Trump.
ISIKOFF: Which I think would be another part of any congressional inquiry.
HAYES: All right. Michael Isikoff, thank you for coming by. Joining me now, Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut who`s member of the Senate Foreign Relations - Committee on Foreign relations. And Senator, your reaction to this news.
CHRIS MURPHY, UNITED STATES SENATOR FROM CONNECTICUT: Well, this is as serious as it gets. I think it`s likely right that Flynn wouldn`t be crowing about his need to have immunity if there wasn`t some fire underneath all of this smoke. It just speaks to our need to keep this process in the Senate going along by partisan means. You know, many of us have been asking for a special committee, for a special prosecutor because we worry about the ability of a partisan process to stay bipartisan. But so far, both Richard Burr and Mark Warner have been committed to getting to the truth. And clearly, now more than ever, we know that Flynn is a conduit to that truth. We need to get his testimony. We certainly aren`t going to give immunity for it. I don`t believe the select committee will do that, but his story is one that has to come out one way or the other.
HAYES: I saw someone, a sort of liberal activist tweeting the following phrase earlier today. "no probe, no robe." And it was a reference to the Gorsuch nomination, basically, the idea being that as all this plays out, without - in the absence of an independent commission or special prosecutor, that democrats shouldn`t vote for a nominee to serve a lifetime appointment under the constitution by this President with this cloud of suspicion. What`s your feeling about that?
MURPHY: Well, I`m going to vote no on Gorsuch based on the merits. And yes, I`d recommend that my colleagues make up their mind who - as to whether they think that Gorsuch is going to be a qualified Supreme Court Justice or not. But it certainly does compromise Trump`s ability to get anything done regardless of how democrats act. I would submit that part of the reason why the healthcare bill fell apart is because when Trump got involved, it frankly made it much less popular, right? How does a bill that`s only been out there for 17 days get down to 17 percent approval? Well, it`s in part because his legitimacy has been harmed by this drip, drip, drip of connections to Russia. So I think it`s a question that`s already out there regardless of how democrats act.
HAYES: Do you think - that question of legitimacy - and I sometimes can`t, right? I can`t tell the degree to which your colleagues on both sides, the House and the Senate, that this is front of mind or back of mind. Particularly republicans, like I just wonder whether your sense of your colleagues - this is pretty front of mind for them, and there`s a worry, right, that they`re kind of rolling the dice on a whole bunch of unknowns about what they know and don`t know, or whether they think this is essentially the way that democrats viewed Benghazi, essentially a witch hunt.
MURPHY: So we meet as a democratic caucus every week and every single week we talk about the Russia investigation. This is front of mind because to the extent that there was coordination between this campaign and potentially the President himself and Russia, that does call into question. Not just the legitimacy of this President but the legitimacy of our democracy. And part of the reason why we think we have to get to the bottom of this and fast is because if there is no accountability, then there is no end to Russia`s potential manipulation of elections. It won`t just be about Presidential elections. It will be about Senate elections and Congressional elections as well. Any of us that try to take on Russia will be subject to this kind of interference. So this is absolutely front of mind, and there is, I think in many of our minds and in republicans` minds too, no comparison between this and Benghazi. Remember, Benghazi was a partisan endeavor from the beginning. This in the Senate at least has been largely bipartisan.
HAYES: All right. Senator Chris Murphy, thank you for your time tonight.
MURPHY: Thank you.
Hayes: Still ahead, a member of the House Intelligence Committee reacts to the breaking news on Michael Flynn. But first the latest twist on who it was that gave Chairman Nunes his secret surveillance information. Two White House aides named and now implicated. That extraordinary story in just two minutes.
HAYES: We continue to follow tonight`s breaking news. Wall Street Journal reporting that former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn has offered to be interviewed by investigators probing possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia in exchange for immunity from prosecution. Much more on that shortly.
We turn now to one of those three ongoing investigations into Trump and Russia, the one in the House, which today descended even further into farce. You`ll recall that last Wednesday, the republican leading that investigation, House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes held a pair of rather strange press conferences in which he seemed to be trying to give President Trump cover for his unsubstantiated claim made in an early- morning tweet to have been wiretapped by President Obama. Nunes` performance prompted Trump that very evening to then declare, well, that he felt, quote, somewhat vindicated by Nunes` claims. And Nunes had told reporters that during the transition period, U.S. spy agencies had, "Incidentally collected information about members of Trump`s team - different from the President`s claim, we should note - citing classified documents as his source. We then learned that Nunes, who had been a member of Trump`s transition team, had viewed those classified documents that served as the basis for his claim on the grounds of the White House itself.
And today, the New York Times named names, reporting that a pair of White House officials played a role in providing Nunes with the intelligence reports. The Times story seems to confirm what many had suspected all along. That instead of investigating Trump and his allies, Nunes was effectively working with the White House to try to make the investigation go away. Now, the two leakers were identified as Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the Senior Director for Intelligence for the National Security Council, and Michael Ellis, a lawyer who works on National Security issues at the White House Counsel`s office. Ellis has, of course, a direct connection to Nunes, having worked as general counsel to the House Intelligence Committee that Nunes leads.
While Cohen-Watnick is an ally of Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner who Politico reported successfully pressured the President himself to overrule his own National Security Adviser and keep Cohen-Watnick in his position at the National Security Council even when the NSA wanted to get rid of him. The Times report came out shortly before White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was sent out to brief reporters today. That briefing was delayed. When Spicer finally emerged, he told reporters the White House had quote, just recently sent a letter to the leaders of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees asking them to come to the White House to view classified documents. And he then refused to answer questions about the Times report.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sean, are you saying that the New York Times report today is not good?
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I`m saying that in order to - in order to comment on that story would be to validate certain things that I`m not at liberty to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: A source familiar with the matter tells ALL IN that the Democrat leading the House investigation, Adam Schiff, did not receive the letter Spicer referenced until after the Times story came out. At a press conference this afternoon, Schiff suggested the National Security Council staffers would seem to have no legitimate reason to leak to Nunes.
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ADAM SCHIFF, UNITED STATES CONGRESSMAN FROM CALIFORNIA: If, in fact, the National Security Council staff that discovered these materials reportedly in the ordinary course of business are the same National Security staff that provided them to the Chairman to be provided to the President, it raise a profound question of why they were not directly provided to the White House by the National Security staff. If that was designed to hide the origin of the materials, that raises profound questions about just what the White House is doing.
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HAYES: Joining me now is Republican Political Strategist, Media Consultant Rick Wilson. Well, Rick, I keep describing this as a farce, like a classic tootsie, Mrs. Doubtfire, importance of being earnest farce. And every day it gets more farcical.
RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN POLITICAL STRATEGIST: Look, Chris, we`re at a moment right now where - if you wrote this as a Hollywood script, they would send it back and say this is too preposterous, this is too broadly drawn. These characters are too absurd, too, over the top. But you know, today we`re seeing that`s never the case with this White House, and with Nunes himself and this cast of characters that keeps expanding and expanding where, you know, the obstruction of justice follies is going to be the hit of the fall, I think.
HAYES: You know, we should say - I mean, first of all, let me just take one second to remind people because we just went through the chain of events. But I just want to remind people, it was the President clearly - it appeared to read a Breitbart write up of a right wing radio rant, accuses his predecessor of wiretapping him. In open hearings, the people who would have a way of knowing, say that`s not true, including Director James Comey.
HAYES: Devin Nunes says, surprise, I have a source who says it sort of is true. Not true but kind of trueish. It then turns out that his source is at the White House. We now know that it was two - and Washington Post now reporting three figures at the White House who appear to have invited him over to essentially launder the information through Nunes, to then reverse engineer some plausible basis for a ridiculous claim made by the President.
WILSON: This is - you know, I picked up on the Ellis situation over the weekend on Saturday morning that there was a pretty strong indicator that he was one of the people that engineered it because of his long relationship with Nunes. And Cohen obviously was an interesting story because he had been saved for his job. McMaster wanted him gone. I`m told Pompeo wanted him gone. But he was saved on his job by appealing to Kushner and Bannon, who went to McMaster and said, we want him to stay. McMaster apparently said, no, he`s out. They went to the President to go back. This has got - this guy is here, he`s a stay-behind agent left by Mike Flynn. He came there because of Mike Flynn. This is a guy who obviously is unsuited to be in the White House, and he`s obviously there right now to filter intelligence material outside of the - from the Intelligence Committee through the National Security Council to give it to Bannon and the rest of their team for political pushback. And Nunes was their patsy in this whole affair.
HAYES: Well, and clearly the next question is, ok, it looks - there`s multiple people reporting these two individuals. Another individual in the Washington Post is a lawyer at the NSC. If in fact it is these folks and it appears to be, well, they weren`t just freelancing. Presumably, someone said, go find something in the capacious surveillance and intelligence that the U.S. takes, go find something to back up the claim and feed it to Nunes. And the question is who did that?
WILSON: Well, look, I mean, I think there`s an obvious suspect in this, and that`s Steve Bannon. There`s no one else who would have the sort of political will inside the White House to push this far against the law and the handling of National Security information. And look, all of this is top secret Comm and SCI material. None of it is something you just go dredge around -
WILSON: - and read it for fun if you`re a National Security staffer. This is a directed program, this is obviously something that did not come from a couple of 30-year-old guys acting entrepreneurially to try to help Devin Nunes in his - in his brilliant investigation. This is something that came from much higher up, and I would really, really like to see these guys under the lights because we`ve got some questions now that obviously are pushing up against the FBI investigation, against the Senate and House investigations. And this is a serious matter now. This is not just, you know, White House high jinx anymore. This is not just spin. This is something that`s reached a whole new level.
HAYES: And I think the point you make there, which is a key one, is to what other political ends are these folks in the White House accessing intelligence materials? For what other political purpose.
WILSON: And this is why Steve Bannon should - this is why Steve Bannon should never have been put on the National Security Council. He is obviously acting purely from a political motivation. And, look, these guys are terrified of Russia. They know this is now an existential threat to this administration. They`ve lost control of the media agenda. Trump can`t just tweet some craziness every day and hope that the subject will instantly change. He`s tried it several times now, and the magic has faded on that - on that particular ability. So, you know, unless he posts a Geraldo-style nude selfie, I think he`s going to have this as the subject matter for the next few days.
WILSON: Thank you, thank you, Rick. Thank you. And on behalf of the viewers, thank you for putting that in our heads. Rick Wilson, thanks for being with me tonight.
HAYES: Up next, the Senate investigation into whether anyone from team Trump potentially colluded with Russia gets under way with shocking testimony from a former FBI agent.
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CLINTON WATTS, CENTER FOR CYBER AND HOMELAND SECURITY AT THE GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY SENIOR FELLOW: Part of the reason active measures have worked in this U.S. election is because the Commander in Chief has used Russian act of measures at times against his opponents.
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JAMES LANKFORD, UNITED STATES SENATOR FROM OKLAHOMA: This is not new for the Russians. They`ve done this for a long time across Europe. But it was much more engaging this time in our election. Why now?
WATTS: I think this answer is very simple and is what no one is really saying in this room, which is part of the reason `active measures` have worked in this U.S. election is because the Commander in Chief has used Russian active measures at times against his opponents. He claimed that the election could be rigged. That was the number-one theme pushed by RT Sputnik News white outlets all the way up until the election. He`s made claims of voter fraud, that President Obama is not a citizen, that, you know, Congressman Cruz is not a citizen. So part of the reason active measures works, and it does today in terms of Trump tower being wiretapped, is because they parrot the same lines.
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HAYES: Former FBI agent Clinton Watts testified today before the Senate Intelligence Committee that regardless of whether there was actual coordination between Trump associates and Russian actors, the President of the United States himself play a key role in the Russian campaign to spread disinformation and to undermine the election. Today`s meeting was an open session focus mainly on Russia`s digital propaganda efforts. But on the coming days, the Committee will begin closed-door interviews with the number of key witnesses including the President`s son-in-law and Senior Adviser Jared Kushner. Three sources with direct knowledge told NBC News, the committee is currently in talks to interview Christopher Steele. That, of course, would be the former British intelligence officer who compiled the unverified now infamous dossier alleging a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia. This all comes amid reports that Michael Flynn, the President`s former National Security Adviser offered to testify for the Senate Intelligence Committee in exchange for immunity. We`ll discuss that with a member of the House Intelligence Committee just after this break.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Given Russians` longstanding desire to cultivate relations with influential U.S. persons, isn`t the American public right to be concerned about Mr. Flynn`s conduct, his failure to disclose that contact with the Russian ambassador, his attempts to cover it up, and what looks like the White House`s attempts to sweep this under the rug?
Don`t we, as the American people, deserve the right to know, and shouldn`t our FBI investigate such claims?
JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: I can`t comment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: FBI director James Comey wouldn`t answer any questions about former national security adviser Michael Flynn`s ties to Russia at a house intelligence committee hearing earlier this month. But it now appears we may get some answers from Flynn himself shortly.
Joining me now to discuss the breaking news about Michael Flynn, all the latest in the investigation, House intelligence committee member Eric Swalwell, Democratic congressman from California. Good to have you hear, congressman.
REP. ERIC SWALWELL, (D) CALIFORNIA: Nice to be here, Chris.
HAYES: Your reaction to the Flynn news.
SWALWELL: Well, innocent people don`t ask for immunity. But that`s not something that I`m familiar with in our investigation.
But, you know, if has something to say and he`s not worried about what he did, he should just come forward and testify in a public setting.
HAYES: Well, but innocent -- I mean innocent people can ask for immunity, right? You`re worried about perjury, or you`re worried about the ways in which things you say could be used against you later on.
I mean, it`s not entirely incriminating. I know you`re a former prosecutor.
SWALWELL: And we shouldn`t seek perjury charges against people who, you know, innocently kind of screw up a timeline or what happened, you know. It`s also an innocent thing to just kind of forget. But what we have here is a pattern of deceit with Michael Flynn. It`s not forgetfulness. And what really concerns me is when you look at the number of individuals involved, you know, you can take the cunning, and you have Paul Manafort, who was, you know, financial transactions with the Russians.
And then you have people -- it`s questionable whether they were unwitting participants helping Russia. Michael Flynn was the director of the defense intelligence agency. He knew exactly what Russia`s capabilities were and that they used financial entanglements to influence people.
So to be paid by RT, Russia Today, that to me is very powerful evidence that he had a financial entanglement with a broadcasting service connected to Russia`s intelligence service.
HAYES: I want to talk about your chair, Devin Nunes. So, tell me if you think this is - have you come to the conclusion that I have and everyone else, which is that the president fired off these tweets and essentially someone in the White House said, we need to reverse engineer some plausible substance for this, accessed highly classified information and brought in Devin Nunes to show it to him to justify the tweets?
SWALWELL: That`s what it looks like.
And the president, if you remember, also invited the House intelligence committee to investigate his claims. And so he asked us to make him a part of the investigation. Of course Democrats and Republicans agreed.
So at that point for Chairman Nunes, that should have been a bright line that he should not have crossed to go to the White House.
HAYES: I want to play this clip of the president himself seeming to signal there that there would be some information coming out. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Don`t forget when I say wiretap, those words were in quotes. That really covers -- because wiretapping is pretty old-fashioned stuff. But that really covers surveillance and many other things.
And nobody ever talks about the fact that it was in quotes, but that`s a very important thing.
But wiretap covers a lot of different things. I think you`re going to find some very interesting items coming to the forefront over the next two weeks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Do you think the president ordered officials in his White House to go find information to substantiate his claim?
SWALWELL: Don`t know yet. We need to find out. But that has a ring of familiarity.
Roger Stone, right? He also intimated that John Podesta was about to spend his time in the barrel. That was long before anyone knew what he was talking about. Weeks later, Gucifer 2.0 uses Russian hacked emails to put out John Podesta`s emails.
This is a pattern, Chris.
HAYES: Can Nunes last as chair? I mean, he`s not going to be the chair of your committee for long.
SWALWELL: He shouldn`t last as the leader of this investigation. I mean he has gone over to the White House after an open hearing, after the president invited our committee to investigate him, and he canceled the public hearing. And I think that might have been something that`s forgotten this week.
We had a public hearing scheduled with Sally Yates, John Brennan, and James Clapper, and the continued progress that we`re supposed to show is not happening.
So we`ve lost independence, credibility, and progress. He should step aside, so we can reclaim that.
HAYES: Quickly, is an appropriate thing to do for councilmen, (inaudible) in the White House Counsel`s office, or a staffer on the NSC to access this kind of information and give it to the chair of the committee to sort of justify a presidential tweet?
SWALWELL: Only if you`re sharing it with both parties.
HAYES: All right.
Congressman Eric Swalwell, a member of the Housse intelligence committee, thanks for joining me. Appreciate it.
SWALWELL: My pleasure.
HAYES: Up next, much more on tonight`s big breaking news. And Michael Flynn is reportedly seeking immunity in return for his testimony.
Senator Jeff Merkley, who is on the foreign relations committee, joins me next.
HAYES: Big breaking news tonight from The Wall Street Journal that Donald Trump`s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, has reportedly offered to testify in the Trump Russian investigations in exchange for immunity from prosecution.
Joining me now is Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon, a member of the Senate committee on foreign relations. Nice to have you in the studio.
SEN. JEFF MERKLEY, (D) OREGON: Good to be with you.
HAYES: Your reaction to the Flynn news?
MERKLEY: Well, certainly this is not entirely unexpected given the landscape because Flynn was involved in misleading the FBI over his conversation with the Russian ambassador. He didn`t file his appropriate forms for representing Turkey. He received funding from RT in Russia, and that`s a potential emoluments clause issue. And finally the possibility that he was involved in helping coordinate between the Trump campaign and the Russians during the campaign.
So that`s a lot of stuff that if he`s seeking immunity, as he himself has said on a previous occasion, if you`re seeking immunity, you`re probably guilty of something.
HAYES: I`m going to ask you the same question I asked your colleague, Chris Murphy, which is how are you conducting your day to day business with this lingering in the background?
MERKLEY: Well, it`s certainly a cloud over everything. And right now we`re facing the Gorsuch nomination next week. We`re saying that this should be postponed, because we need to get to the bottom of the Trump campaign`s involvement with the Russians before this president is able to place somebody potentially on the Supreme Court should the Senate confirm him.
HAYES: Are you going to filibuster Gorsuch?
MERKLEY: Absolutely, 100 percent.
HAYES: Are you guys going to get to 40?
MERKLEY: We are going to succeed in filibustering Gorsuch.
HAYES: You think so?
HAYES: Heidi Heitkamp and Joe Manchin coming out today saying they will vote for him. You can afford to lose, I guess eight, right? Eight senators in your caucus.
HAYES: Seven. I`m sorry, seven.
So there are people who say if you filibuster him now, they`ll blow up the nucleaar option and you won`t have a card to play for the next vacancy.
MERKLEY: So, picture this.
I pull out my sword and say, look, I can stop you. And you pull out your laser gun and say, I trump you. Well, no pun intended there.
But - and I say, OK, you want me to throw down my sword now, but the next time we meet, you`ll still have your laser gun. And so how is that possibly putting me in a better position?
MERKLEY: And so for the Senate Democrats to say, we`re going to allow there to be a 5-4 court of conservatives who do not believe in the we, the people vision of the constitution is to set up a stage in which decision after decision on labor rights, on women`s rights, on consumers, on every possible issue is on the wrong end of the spectrum.
HAYES: You guys had a 50-50 vote, the rare 50-50 vote today. And it was on an issue about repealing a rule that had stopped states from preventing Planned Parenthood from getting certain federal grants, right? Did I get that right?
MERKLEY: Yes, allowing states to discriminate against Planned Parenthood, absolutely.
HAYES: Right, right. The Republicans brought in Mike Pence to cast the tie-breaking vote there. This strikes me as one of these things that, like, while all this is happening, right, that`s sort of grinding on in the background.
MERKLEY: Yes. No, absolutely.
And this was kind of an echo of the health care debate we anticipated having. We thought we were going to be debating the House bill, which would throw 24 million people off health care, but instead we`re debating this congressional review act proposal that would sabotage health care for 5 million mostly low income American women.
And so it`s still a very big deal what the Republicans did today.
HAYES: The president has made noises about working with Democrats. He seems to be picking some fights with members of his own party.
If the president called you up to extend a hand to work on something, do you feel like you could trust him sufficiently to work on it with him?
MERKLEY: I would certainly sit down and hear him out as I`m sure most of my colleagues would as well.
It is - we want to solve problems, and if this president can find a place where he is willing to work with us on immigration, on infrastructure, on taxes, we`ll carry on that conversation.
HAYES: But given the way he`s conducted himself and the White House has conducted itself, can you take him at his word on anything? Is his word any good to you. If he says to you, senator, yes, we`re going to do X, Y, and Z. We`re going to put that in the bill, can you trust that?
MERKLEY: It would simply come down to what`s printed on the page in that final bill that`s being presented because that`s, I think -- the verbal promises are one thing, the reality is what you really negotiate in ink.
HAYES: You`re a proud hometown sports fan.
MERKLEY: Oh, my goodness.
HAYES: It`s a big time for you.
MERKLEY: Ducks are in the final four. I know you`re going to be cheering them on tomorrow night. I wanted to make sure you were properly prepped.
HAYES: You were giving me some fandom here.
HAYES: All right, Senator Jeff Merkley, thank you very much.
Much more on the Michael Flynn news and what it means for Trump`s presidency next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL FLYNN, FRM. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: We do not need a reckless president who believes she is above the law.
CROWD: Lock her up. Lock her up. Lock her up.
FLYNN: Lock her up, that`s right. That`s right, lock her up.
I`m going to tell you what, it`s unbelievable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Michael Flynn at the Republican National Convention in July. He, of course, went on to become President Trump`s national security adviser for a full month until he was fired for misleading the vice president about his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the United States.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Mike Flynn is a (inaudible) person. And I asked for his resignation. He respectfully gave it. He is a man who there was a certain amount of information given to Vice POresident Pence, who is with us today. And I was not happy with the way that information was given. He didn`t have to do that because what he did wasn`t wrong, what he did in terms of the information.
Mike was doing his job. He was calling countries and his counterparts. So it certainly would have been okay with me if he did it. I would have directed him to do it if I thought he wasn`t doing it. I didn`t direct him, but I would have directed him because that`s his job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: You follow all that?
The latest on today`s late breaking news, the White House in crisis next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FLYNN: The very last thing that John Podesta just said is no individual too big to jail, that should include people like Hillary Clinton. I mean, five people around her have had - have been given immunity to include her former chief of staff. When are you given immunity, that means that you`ve probably committed a crime.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES; A central question, the exact nature of the testimony Flynn has reportedly willing to give in exchange for immunty. And whether that means he committed a crime, at least by his own logic.
Joining me now, Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post, who writes the Right Turn column; Christina Greer, associate professor of political science at Fordham University.
Christina just - I can`t help but in all of this just go back to how that campaign was run. And you know, the central message was that the swirling questions meant that she was guilty, that she was corrupt, she was deceitful. He`s up there chanting lock her up. It`s just like, it`s pretty stunning to go back to that footage.
CHRISTINA GREER, FORDHAM UNIVERISTY: He`s saying that all while knowing that he has met with these individuals and heh as taken money from particular individuals.
And so, if I...
HAYES: Right. He said lock her up while he was a secret foreign agent for the Turkish government, we should say.
GREER: That we know of. And that`s just one of the dominoes that we know. I mean, now, everything you know comes out, there`s something new that comes out every single day. So the audacity that he`s going to sit there and sort of consistently talk about chanting lock her up, lock her up and talking about her credibility and how she`s untrustworthy knowing good well he might be looking at severe jail time. I mean, if he`s lucky.
And the issue with Trump is that Trump has no loyalty to anyone except for Trump. And so we are going to start seeing people jumping like rats on a ship because Trump will make sure that he is okay. His money is okay. He doesn`t care about these people, he doesn`t know these people.
HAYES: Jennifer, I think that point by Christina is such an important one when you`re sort of thinking about all this. I mean, really in a prisoner`s dilemma sense, right, in the game theory sense.
It seems to me that no one has incentive to sort of take a hit for Donald Trump, because he`s not an individual who has sort of like deep networks of loyalty. He`s got his family around him. He`s shown the willingness, as Christina said, to cut people loose whenever he needs to.
JENNIFER RUBIN, THE WASHINGTON POST: That`s right, and this sort of artifice of power, of intimidation, of bullying is really nonsense.
What is he going to do to you? He is not like Vladimir Putin. You`re not going to show up with a hole in the back of your head on the street one day.
So he doesn`t really have any power over these people. And you`re right, he`s going to cut them loose.
You know, I think of those three aides who have now been uncovered. They didn`t do that on their own. They didn`t let Congressman Nunes into the White House just on a lark because they thought it was a good idea. They obviously had to have instruction from somebody, and, hmm, who do you think in that White House is political enough, is devious enough, is sort of far- looking enough? It`s got to be a Steve Bannon type, right, if not the president himself.
So those guys are not going to go to jail for these people, those guys are not going to take a hit.
So, little by little, I think we`re going to chip away and get to more ask more truths. And you know, there are a lot of people behaving very peculiarly for a bunch of people who claim that nothing they did was wrong.
HAYES: Yeah, I just want to be clear here that we don`t have any evidence so far that any of the behavior by those individuals in the White House exposed them to criminal liability or exposure. They all have clearances. They accessed information for which they had clearances, it appears. And I just want to be clear like it may be inappropriate, but we have nothing to suggest at this point that there was a criminal infraction, just so we`re sort of on the same page about that.
GREER: But here`s where Trump and his allies are in trouble in the sense that LBJ understood the rules. These are people who have never served in government.
HAYES: Yeah, that`s a good point.
GREER: They have no history of public service. They`ve never served in the military. They`re just hanging out in D.C. in a kleptocracy essentially. And so they don`t understand certainly how the way committees work.
HAYES: The point is that LBJ knew when he was cutting corners because he knew where the corners were because he had been there.
GREER: He`d been a member of the house. He`d been a member of the senate. He`d been a vice president. He`d been speaker.
So he knew everything. And so these people are just showing up, you know, like the Beverly Hillbillies basically with suitcases at the White House, and there is no loyalty. And we know that Trump will tweet about anything, right? And then walk it back.
But think about this with the health care bill, right? He tells his -- the members of his party if you don`t vote for this bill, I`m going to make sure I go and primary you. The Koch Brothers then say, if you do vote for this bill, we`re going to make sure we primary you. Where do they go?
HAYES: Who do you trust? What`s more credible?
GREER: They trusted the Kochs.
HAYES: And this, Jennifer, gets to the president today sort of launching this tweet storm, calling out three particular members of the House Freedom Caucus, Raul Labrador, Jim Jordan, Congressman Meadows, basically saying like we have to fight the Freedom Caucus.
You know, the problem it seems to me is again what is his leverage over this caucus at this point, particularly when he`s at 35 percent in approval ratings?
RUBIN: It`s not like this guy has an abundance of allies. He can`t afford to lose anyone, let alone three of these people.
I think he is impulsive, irrational. Of course he needs these people, and these people just showed they have leverage over the president of the United States. They were able to sink the health care bill. So what is he thinking? What is he going to do to these people?
I think he is very rational (ph). Listen, I agree entirely. These people are not ready for prime time.
Just look at the White House plot for example. Did they think it wasn`t going to come out that he was let onto the White House grounds? I mean, people know that you just don`t wander onto the White House grounds.
HAYES: Right, there`s literally a system called waves that literally is recorded that anyone who has ever been to the White House, like they know who comes in and out of the White House because it`s the White House.
RUBIN: So there`s this amateurishness mixed with a complete disdain for any kind of democratic norms, any kind of responsibility. You`ve got Nunes lying to the cameras, lying to reporters. You`ve got Trump doing the same.
So I think at this point, you know, there`s no honor among thieves, and I think they`re all going to be turning on one another before this thing is out.
HAYES: Well, and the other thing is, you know, the most significant -- you know, watching the president threaten these members explicitly on Twitter today, the point you made, you know, when you make a threat and you don`t carry it out, that`s a very dangerous thing in any situation, because you`ve now given away your credibility.
HAYES: And the president and the White House were threatening these members. We`re going to have a vote whether you like it or not and you`re going to have to be called on the carpet. And then they backed off that. And so it`s just from that basic sense, when Donald Trump offers a threat to you like, at this point why are you taking him seriously.
GREER: Right. But also like there`s two things. One, the only thing more dangerous than a non-credible threat is an insecure man who has power. We`ve already seen that.
Number two -- and we`re living that. Number two, he`s made this threat with health care, and it`s completely bombed. Now we`re about to go into taxes, because keep in mind repealing Obamacare was of the utmost importance. It failed. And now we`re just going to walk away from it. Oh, okay. That`s a great strategy.
So, now we`re going to go with taxes and already as he says, you know, there are these things called factions. Well, it`s like, maybe you should watch MSNBC a little more because we`ve been talking about the factions in your party for quite some time. And it`s not like these factions went away. He still has moderate Republicans, he still has party faithfuls.
HAYES: That`s the point. Is that you can`t steam roll the actual divisions that are there for structural reasons through sheer force of personality because it is not an Atlantic City casino deal.
Jennifer Rubin and Christina Greer, thank you both.
The news about Michael Flynn broke just as I was sitting down to tape an interview with The Daily Show. We`ve talked about and why my new book is called A Colony in a Nation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TREVOR NOAH, HOST, THE DAILY SHOW: You know, when I started reading, I was like I don`t know what to expect. I don`t know where this is going, but it is a fascinating argument that you make here. Why the title?
HAYES: You know, the title comes from a sort of throw away line in a Richard Nixon speech in 1968. This big law and order speech, right?
And at one point he says, you know, black citizens want the same as white citizens. They don`t want to be a colony in a nation.
And I kept thinking about that phrase as I was doing reporting in Ferguson and in West Baltimore and just talking to people over and over, doing all this reporting in which people were experiencing their own government like an occupying force, like a colony.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: That full interview airs tonight on The Daily Show. I`ll be back in New York next week for a book event at Barnes and Noble in Union Square.
First, tomorrow I`m off to Chicago for a couple of different events. Full details as always on our Facebook page.
Now, the last time I was in Chicago was a month ago for our special town hall event on violence and the conditions in the south side of that city, and the west side. We could barely scratch the surface of what`s happening there, and so we`re doing our best to stay on this story.
Tomorrow night, a special report from our reporter, Trymaine Lee, on the cycle of violence and trauma, particularly, the importance of trauma in Chicago. It is a shocking report. We`ll bring it to you here at 8:00 p.m. tomorrow.
That is All In for this evening, the Rachel Maddow Show starts right now.
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