All In with Chris Hayes, Transcript 5/18/2017

Guests: Bernie Sanders, Paul Butler, Michael Isikoff

Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: May 18, 2017 Guest: Bernie Sanders, Paul Butler, Michael Isikoff

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HARDBALL HOST: - is a witch hunt. Well, look, the flight plan for air force one may now be for Saudi Arabia, Israel and then Italy, but it sounds like the President himself remains in home detention somewhere deep in the land of alternative facts. And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes starts right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC ALL IN HOST: Tonight on ALL IN.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Does anybody have any questions?

HAYES: The President cries witch hunt.

TRUMP: I respect the move, but the entire thing has been a witch hunt.

HAYES: Donald Trump directly contradicts his fired FBI Director.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you at any time urge former FBI Director James Comey in any way, shape or form to close or back down the investigation into Michael Flynn? And also -

TRUMP: No, no. Next question.

HAYES: Tonight, as the President changes his story again, Rod Rosenstein briefs the Senate and the obstruction case against the President grows.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: It`s now considered a criminal investigation.

HAYES: Then, new reporting from Michael Isikoff. Why is President Trump ignoring his lawyers and contacting Michael Flynn? New questions about whether the Vice President knew about Flynn, the foreign agent.

MIKE PENCE, UNITED STATES VICE PRESIDENT: The first I heard of it.

HAYES: And as the collusion denials pile up.

TRUMP: There`s no collusion. Russia is fine.

HAYES: Why collusion with Russia isn`t even the question anymore.

TRUMP: Even my enemies have said there is no collusion.

HAYES: When ALL IN starts right now.

Good evening from New York, I`m Chris Hayes. It took just 12 hours from the measured statement released by the White House for President Trump to unleash his true feelings about the Justice Department`s decision to appoint a Special Counsel to oversee the Russia investigation. In an early morning tweet writing "this is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history." And later in an east room press conference with the President of Colombia, the President reiterated that same sentiment when asked about the Special Counsel.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Well, I respect the move, but the entire thing has been a witch hunt. And there is no collusion between certainly myself and my campaign, but I can always speak for myself and the Russians, zero.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Note there on the question of the collusion, the President made a distinction between himself and his campaign. "I can only speak for myself." And that was just the first of several denials from the President. He was asked about the reported Comey memo.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you at any time urge Former FBI Director James Comey in any way, shape or form to close or to back down the investigation into Michael Flynn? And also as you -

TRUMP: No, no. Next question.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: He also denied he had done anything worthy of criminal charges or impeachment and defended his decision to fire FBI Director James Comey.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Director Comey was very unpopular with most people. I actually thought when I made that decision, and I also got a very, very strong recommendation, as you know, from the Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein. But when I made that decision, I actually thought that it would be a bipartisan decision because you look at all of the people on the democratic side, not only the republican side that were saying such terrible things about Director Comey. Then he had the very poor performance on Wednesday. That was a poor, poor performance. So poor in fact that I believe, and you`d have to ask him because I don`t like to ask for other people, but I believe that`s why the deputy Attorney General went out and wrote his very, very strong letter.

HAYES: That version of defense - events describing the memo he received from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein citing Comey`s handling of the Clinton investigation as cause for his removal, that version contradicts what the President himself said last week when he told NBC News Anchor Lester Holt that he decided to fire Comey before Rosenstein wrote that memo and said he was thinking about the Russia thing. And today as Rosenstein himself briefed Senators, he seemed to suggest that his memo was merely political cover for the President, saying he knew the President planned to fire Comey before writing the memo. According to Senators attending the briefing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you believe that the Deputy Attorney General knew before he wrote that memo that James Comey was going to be fired?

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What was it that he said that led you to believe that.

DURBIN: He knew the day before.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did he say that he was pressured into writing that memo?

DURBIN: No.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He knew that Comey was going to be removed prior to him writing his memo.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: If the President had made up his mind to fire Comey before Rosenstein`s memo, then what was his reason and to what degree did the Russia investigation factor into that decision, which of course raises the looming question of obstruction of justice, something Senator Richard Blumenthal addressed after the Rosenstein briefing.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D) CONNECTICUT: There is mounting evidence of obstruction of justice. No conclusion yet that there was, but that evidence needs to be pursued and there are a variety of pieces of evidence. Bob Mueller is doing a criminal investigation. The Special Prosecutor is doing an investigation of criminal allegations that are extremely serious, including possible obstruction of justice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: As for possible obstruction, the investigation might want to take a look at a message the President reportedly sent to Flynn, now a key figure, possible witness, as the investigation was under way. A message to, quote, "stay strong." I just spoke with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and asked if he could confirm Senator McCaskill`s assertion that Rod Rosenstein knew Comey would be fired before he wrote his memo.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), VERMONT: I don`t want to get into classified briefings, but you know, Senator McCaskill made that public and that is in fact true. I think what is important is that right now where we are is this investigation has got to go forward in a very nonpartisan way. The American people have got to have faith in it. I think that Rosenstein made the right pick in a guy like Mueller who has support from the American people, from democrats and republicans. I think it`s important, Chris, that we not jump the gun here, that we let the facts speak for themselves and we proceed methodically.

The other concern that I have is that while we`ve become engaged with this investigation, which is obviously enormously important, we do not lose faith with the American people today who economically continue to hurt. And I don`t want to see all of the discussions just on Trump. They want to know are we going to raise the minimum wage, are we going to beat back this republican effort to throw 24 million people off of health insurance, can we move to a Medicare for all, can we rebuild our crumbling infrastructure and create millions of jobs. So on one hand, we`ve got an investigation, which has got to go forward in a bipartisan way. Second, of all, we cannot forget about the pain of millions of Americans.

HAYES: To that point, what`s interesting is that republicans, it seems to me, and Lindsey Graham basically said this, they`re hoping in a kind of mirror version of what you`re hoping, right? They are hoping that this investigation can get siloed with Mueller and they can get back to their agenda on the Senate floor. What do you say to people who are watching this that think that the investigation is helping to destroy the legislative capital of republicans in pursuing things like tax cuts?

SANDERS: Well, what I think is that - you know, as somebody who has, needless to say, very strong opposition to Trump`s reactionary billionaire- led agenda, I think we`ve got to do everything that we can. And I think we can do that. But I think simultaneously it`s important that the American people have faith that the process of this investigation is done fairly, objectively and it goes where it goes. What our job right now, and I`m going to Montana tomorrow to help do this, is we have got to rally the American people around what is clearly an extremely reactionary right-wing agenda which is being pushed by the billionaire class. And the essence of that agenda are many hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks going to the top 2 percent, massive cuts in education, in health care, in environmental protection and the needs of our senior citizens. And mark my words, they`re going to come back shortly, unless we stop them, for cuts in Social Security, the privatization of Medicare. So two issues, objective investigation, stand up and protect American workers and the middle class.

HAYES: So it seems - I`m glad you raised Montana because in some ways the Montana race and the Georgia 6 race are these kind of feature dishes for what`s going on, right? They`re laboratories of where the country`s politics are at the moment. It seems to me, though, there`s a third issue which is obstruction. There`s the underlying facts of the Russia investigation. There`s the substantive agenda of the GOP which you`ve mentioned, whether it`s health care or tax cuts, but there`s also this really core question about abuse of power of the President of the United States. And I would imagine that`s something that voters are going to be thinking and talking about in a state like Montana or Georgia.

SANDERS: The answer is yes. To what degree, I don`t know. But clearly when you have a President - and these are the facts that we have to ascertain. But according to the media, the President asked Comey to back off on the investigation of Flynn. Was Comey in fact fired in the middle of the investigation because he was going in a direction that Trump did not want him to go? Bottom line is, was there collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians? These are issues that absolutely have to be pursued. But I would say this, Chris. While here on Capitol Hill, this is you know, what media talks about 24 hours a day. Back home, whether it`s in Montana or Vermont, you know what, people are worried about whether they can be able to afford to send their kids to college. They`re worried about why the United States is the only major country not to guarantee health care to all people. They`re worried about Trump`s disastrous positions on climate change. And democrats have got to continue to focus on those issues while the investigation proceeds.

HAYES: I think it`s a really - it`s a - it`s a fascinating sort of open question to me as an observer of all this of where people`s priorities lie. I don`t disagree that there`s - it`s very easy to sort of get lost between what people`s daily struggles are and what the D.C. story is. At the same time, it also seems to me this is something people are really paying attention to. It`s not just a kind of bubble phenomenon.

SANDERS: No, I think they are. And I think this is very, very serious stuff. You know, we know, you know, the day that Trump was elected, this is a guy who does not have, I believe, a lot of respect for facts. Does not have a lot of respect for the constitution, does not have a lot of respect I believe for democracy. So these are very important issues. But on the other hand, you know, if you`re working 60 or 70 hours a day - a week trying to put bread on the table for your kids, you know what, you`ve got other problems as well.

HAYES: All right. Bernie Sanders, who heads to Montana tomorrow, that election just in a few weeks will be a fascinating one. Thank you very much, Senator.

SANDERS: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HAYES: Joining me now, NBC News and MSNBC National Security Analyst Clint Watts, Former FBI Special Agent and Former Federal Prosecutor Paul Butler who is a Professor at Georgetown University School of Law. And Paul, there`s a headline today, advisers urge Trump to hire an outside lawyer. Seemed like good advice. And then a politico article that Donald Trump convened his legal team today to possibly discuss that. Would you be looking into that if you were advising Donald Trump in the White House?

PAUL BUTLER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: 118 days into his first term, the President of the United States needs a criminal defense lawyer. You know, he played Rod Rosenstein by using Rosenstein`s good name as a cover to fire the FBI Director. It`s hard not to read the appointment of Robert Mueller by Rod Rosenstein as Rosenstein`s sweet revenge.

HAYES: Right.

BUTLER: Mueller`s going to put together a team of hot-shot prosecutors. He`s going to subpoena every document the Trump campaign ever touched. And he`s going to interview hundreds of witnesses. That is not good news for President Trump.

HAYES: There was some interesting news out of the Rosenstein briefing today about whether this is primarily a counterintelligence investigation or criminal one and that has to do with which side of this operation is the focus, right? The counterintelligence is the Russian infiltration and sabotaging and hacking, criminal would be if there`s any - I imagine American actors. Do you think that`s significant that both Graham pointed to that and Blumenthal?

CLINT WATTS, MSNBC NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Absolutely. It says there are Americans involved that could come up on criminal charges and it could probably be in two ways. One, they`re violating some sort of law with regards to how they`re dealing with foreign agents or foreign powers but the other one is the cover-up piece. It seems pretty consistent now that President Trump has either been talking to Flynn at different times, trying to side-step the amount of contact between the Russians and Flynn and to this day is still reaching out to him when he knows that he`s under investigation.

HAYES: You know, Paul, you worked - if I`m not mistaken, you worked in public integrity, right? When you were -

BUTLER: I did.

HAYES: OK. Public integrity is the most fascinating part of the Department of Justice, right, because you`re prosecuting politicians, it`s inherently political, it`s a very, very delicate stuff. And I wanted to ask you from your experience there about obstruction, about what you experienced or saw where politicians try to quash investigations or try to manipulate things around them, because that`s really the only analog to what it would mean in the White House.

BUTLER: You know, it really is always the cover-up. And so, obstruction of justice means corruptly trying to impede an official proceeding. So you look at circumstantial evidence. Corruptly means you knew it was wrong. In this case, it means, why when President Trump wanted to have this one- on-one conversation with Comey did he ask the FBI - did he ask the Attorney General and the Vice President to leave the room. Remember, the Attorney General says to Trump, look, I`m the boss of the FBI Director. I need to be here. Trump says, no, you`ve got to go. I need to talk to Comey one on one. That`s what prosecutors call consciousness of guilt.

HAYES: Right. And today there`s new reporting from Michael Schmidt at The New York Times about this relationship between Comey and Trump. Also, it appears both (INAUDIBLE) goes on the record, also drawn from some of the memos. It`s not just this one time, it`s multiple times in which the President seems to be trying to draw Comey in, extract pledges of loyalty, kind of put him under his umbrella and Comey resisting. What does that say to you?

WATTS: From day one, his plan was - and I think it`s because he saw Comey as a threat. He knew these investigations were going, we know that now. Prior to the inauguration, the Trump team knew that Flynn was under investigation. There`s one version of the story that says, he asked Flynn to be the next National Security Advisor. So he was aware of these things. And he probably saw Comey as a threat from the outside. And so in typical Trump fashion from everything he`s done in his life, I`m going to try and you know, saddle up to this person and make him under my umbrella, and I think it completely backfired on him.

HAYES: You know, Paul, I`m going to talk to Michael Isikoff in a moment who has a pretty amazing story about the President reaching out to Flynn. From a legal perspective, I mean, what kind of -what kind of advice would you giving a client who says, let me just -- I want to reach out to him and talk to him to tell what he`s up to. What would you tell them?

BUTLER: I`d say what every criminal defense attorney says to her client, shut the heck up. But when the client is the President of the United States, especially this President, Chris, I think that`s a very difficult order for the client to follow.

HAYES: All right, Clint Watts and Paul Butler, thank you, gentlemen.

WATTS: Thank you.

BUTLER: Great to be here.

HAYES: Up next, a new report that President Trump ignored lawyers` advice and contacted his fired National Security Advisor. What does Michael Flynn know, and why, why is the President going to such great lengths to keep him in the Trump camp? I`ll ask Michael Isikoff in two minutes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES: Right now, the most central figure in the Trump administration`s unfolding scandals is President Trump`s now disgraced Former National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn. And the question there is no good answer to is why the President has been so devoted to Flynn. A man, it is becoming clear, who has the potential to possibly bring down his presidency. From the start, there were just a ton of red flags around Flynn, even putting aside issues like his record of his Islamophobia, his praise for (INAUDIBLE) or his reported attempt to get a security clearance for his Pizzagate conspiracy theorist son. Flynn was paid more than $45,000to speak at a Russian state TV gala in 2015 - that`s him with Vladimir Putin - a payment lawmakers say he did not disclose.

And that came after the Obama administration fired Flynn in 2014 as Head of the DNI - DIA, largely because of mismanagement and temperament issues. When President Obama sat down with Donald Trump after election day, officials tell NBC News he offered two warnings. Stay vigilant on North Korea and don`t hire Michael Flynn. Weeks before the inauguration, according to The New York Times, Flynn told President Trump`s transition team he was under federal investigation for secretly working as a paid lobbyist for Turkey during the campaign. The Trump administration denies they were told that. But we know Flynn was paid more than half a million dollars for working as an unregistered foreign agent for Turkey, even writing an election day op-ed headline, our ally Turkey is in crisis and needs our support. President Trump hired Flynn despite all that, and he kept him on for 18 full days after then Acting Attorney General Sally Yates warned the Trump administration in two meetings that Flynn was lying about secret conversations with the Russian Ambassador and was susceptible to Russian blackmail. Yates would also later be fired. President Trump fired Flynn after, and only after the story about those contacts with Kislyak leaked.

But instead of expressing anger, he defended Flynn as a wonderful man who was treated very unfairly by the fake media and said Flynn should ask for immunity in the Russia witch hunt. The President also urged James Comey to drop the FBI investigation into Flynn, according to reporting on a memo Comey wrote at the time of the conversation, now denied by the President. And despite warnings from his lawyers, reportedly, the President apparently kept in touch with Flynn, sending him a message to stay strong. He even reportedly has hopes for Flynn to rejoin the White House in some capacity after the FBI investigation ends. Joining me now, Michael Isikoff, Chief Investigative Correspondent for Yahoo! News who broke the story that President Trump had messaged Flynn last month telling him to stay strong. And Michael, start with what your reporting says about the relationship - the ongoing relationship between Flynn and the President.

MICHAEL ISIKOFF, YAHOO! NEWS CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Well, that`s the remarkable thing, because it is ongoing. Flynn is the central figure as you point out in this Russia investigation. The FBI, he`s getting grand jury subpoenas. The FBI is scrutinizing every aspect of his affairs. And yet the President is staying in touch with him. And this is the piece I wrote today talks about a dinner that was held on the evening of April 25th. This was a pretty tough day for Michael Flynn. That`s the day that Jason Chaffetz and Elijah Cummings both came out and said they had reviewed classified Pentagon documents and saw that Flynn had not disclosed his foreign work for - foreign payments from Russia and Turkey while getting a renewal of his security clearance.

HAYES: Right.

ISIKOFF: And they both said they saw no indication that he had complied with the law. So Flynn has assembled a group of old friends, loyalists, dinner in a restaurant in Northern Virginia and afterwards everybody was looking for what was Flynn`s thinking about Trump? And you know, was he sticking by him? Not only was he sticking by him, he tells some of those there as the dinner is breaking up, yes, I just got a message from the President and he told me to stay strong. Now, this could be interpreted in various ways. One is the President is sending a message by saying stay strong, don`t buckle, don`t say anything about -

HAYES: Right.

ISIKOFF: - that might harm me or these are two loyal friends who went through a lot during the campaign. Flynn stuck with him and he`s going to buck up a friend who`s on this hard times.

HAYES: Is it - right. Is it your buddy saying hang in there or is it Tony Soprano saying stage drama, right?

ISIKOFF: Exactly.

HAYES: I mean, here the question. Do you have a theory of the case? I mean, I`m running a bit Corey Lewandowski in which there`s some similar behavior. And that Lewandowski was - there were a lot of red flags about that guy. He was a campaign manager. He was arrested at one point or charges filed against him for manhandling a reporter. He was ultimately fired. But even after fired, the President stayed in touch with him and still spoke highly of him. So there`s some precedent here. Do you have a theory for what it is about Flynn and why the President continues to defend him despite all the things we know and why he hired him in the first place?

ISIKOFF: Well, look, those are all good questions, but, first of all, if you look at not just Corey Lewandowski, look at Roger Stone, Trump does have a habit of sticking with guys he likes, guys who he`s fond of even after he`s fired them. There`s a habit of that. I don`t know. I do know that if you go back to - you know, there`s a lot about Flynn`s conduct that`s being scrutinized here. The Turkish business, the RT payments, but also just go back to what it was that got Flynn fired in the first place. Those meetings with - the conversation with Kislyak December 29th, the day Obama has imposed sanctions because of the election hacking and Flynn tells him don`t worry, we`re going to revisit this when Trump takes office in a few weeks. That was the - that was the event. The one question that`s never been answered here is what did the President know about that?

HAYES: That`s right.

ISIKOFF: Did he authorize Flynn to have that conversation? Was he briefed on the conversation afterwards? Key questions in this.

HAYES: There`s a - yes, and there`s a lot that Flynn may know that we may want to know, all of us, that`s also part of this. Michael Isikoff, thank you for joining us.

ISIKOFF: Thank you.

HAYES: Senator John McCain wants the Turkish Ambassador thrown out of the country after this insane scene unfolded in the streets of D.C. What happened, after this quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES: The President continues to praise Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan despite his widely condemned crackdown on democratic institutions. And earlier this week, he welcomed Erdogan on a visit to the White House. Hours after their meetings concluded, this was the scene outside the Turkish Embassy, where Erdogan was visiting later in the day. D.C. Police called it a brutal attack on peaceful anti-Erdogan demonstrators carried out by a group of Erdogan supporters, including crucially, you see those men in suits there, members of his own personal security detail, of Erdogan`s personal security detail. Two people were arrested, at least 11 injured in the scuffle which took place in our nation`s capital blocks from where the Obamas and Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner live.

New video immerged today showing President Erdogan himself watching the violence, his bodyguards setting upon the protesters. A statement from the Turkish Embassy blamed the protesters for quote "aggressively provoking what they said were Turkish American citizens gathered to greet Erdogan, saying the Turkish Americans merely responded in self-defense. NBC News has confirmed that two members of the Turkish Security Detail were briefly detained in the (INAUDIBLE) and later released after releasing a critical statement, the State Department summoned the Turkish Ambassador to a meeting yesterday. Senator John McCain is advocating a more forceful response.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: We should throw their ambassador the hell out of the United States of America. This is - this is United States of America. This isn`t Turkey, this isn`t a third world country. And I - and I - this kind of thing cannot go unresponded to diplomatically and maybe in other ways.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: So far the attack on the nonviolent protesters on American soil by the personal security detail of the Turkish President has come in for widespread condemnation across the ideological and political spectrum. To date, the White House has declined to condemn what happened.

Coming up, what did Mike Pence know and when did he know it? The new charge the Vice President knew Mike Flynn was under federal investigation before the inauguration, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES: The Trump administration is denying a report by The New York Times that the president`s transition team knew Michael Flynn was under investigation for his undisclosed lobbying on Turkey`s behalf before he came to the White House as National Security Adviser. The White House called the story, quote, flat wrong.

But even if Flynn`s attorney didn`t inform transition lawyers as The Times reported, Trump officials had plenty of chances to find out what Flynn was up to. His Turkish lobbying ties had been covered in the press and they were the subject of a November letter from Congressman Elijah Cummings to Vice President Mike Pence who was then running the transition.

But in March when news broke that Flynn had belatedly registered as a foreign agent, the vice president claimed, unprompted, to have been in the dark.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let me say hearing that story today was the first I heard of it. And I fully support the decision that President Trump made to ask for General Flynn`s resignation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re disappointed by the story?

PENCE: The first I heard of it, and I think it is -- it is an affirmation of the president`s decision to ask General Flynn to resign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: But that`s neither the first nor the only time one of Pence`s statements has come into conflict with the facts. Just last week, Pence said on the record on camera that the president`s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey was based on the recommendation of the deputy attorney general, only to have the president contradict him saying he had already made up his mind for the recommendation.

And then there was the time that Pence insisted, again on camera on the record, that Michael Flynn had not discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador. Press reports later revealed that to be untrue.

So either Pence is consistently out of the loop or he`s got a very, very serious credibility issue.

I`m joined now by McKay Coppins, staff writer for The Atlantic, and Betsy Woodruff, political reporter for The Daily Beast.

Betsy, let me start with you. I think Pence has managed to convince people that he`s out of the loop on all this, but at a certain point there`s only so out of the loop that you can be before people start asking questions.

BETSY WOODRUFF, THE DAILY BEAST: In Pence`s defense, of course, he`s not the only senior White House staffer that seems to be wildly unaware of what the president is doing. Just about everybody in the White House was pushing the narrative that the president himself subsequently debunked that the president fired Comey because of the Rosenstein memo. That wasn`t just Pence.

HAYES: That`s a fair point.

WOODRUFF: That said, though, obviously you would expect the president and the vice president to be on the same page about these decisions of enormous consequence. And yeah, it does raise really serious credibility questions. What does the vice president know about the basic processes that the president goes through when he makes decisions that have significant impact on federal law enforcement?

It`s a challenge. It`s going to be a big challenge for him if he wants reporters to take him at his word when he makes statements that appear to be factual or that he alleges are factual about how the president is making decisions.

HAYES: Well, and also on the Flynn stuff, McKay, I mean, the Flynn stuff is at the core of this all now. And he`s unprompted saying, oh, it`s the first I heard of it. I mean, there were press reports, there was a letter written to him, and now you have a reporting that the transition officials informed them. Now you`ve got pushback from a senior aide off the record saying, well, the lawyer never told Mike Pence.

But there`s part of me that wonders how much of this is Mike Pence massaging the perception of how in or out of the loop he is?

MCKAY COPPINS, THE ATLANTIC: Well, that`s possible, but it`s interesting because he`s left with two bad options, right? One option is that he has to admit that he`s been misleading or lying in these cases and the other is that he literally is so out of the loop that he doesn`t know basic things about people who he is helping advising the president on appointing to important serious positions.

I mean, look, I don`t know what we`re going to find out here. I do think that to Betsy`s point, and what you guys were talking about earlier, I think one problem for Pence here is that he`s known Trump for long enough. He`s worked with Trump for long enough that he has to know at this point that he can`t just go with whatever convenient talking point Trump tells him.

HAYES: Right.

COPPINS: And then run with it and go on TV and start, you know, attaching his name to it.

So to me that suggests that he`s willfully misleading us when he says things like this that turn out to be false.

HAYES: So, the other side of this, of course, is that in the last few weeks, and again I think people get way out ahead of this because people tend to spin out of control when they`re looking at all this news, but this is President Pence Politico article, conservatives begin to whisper. I like that. It`s evocative. President Pence.

And then also this news, which is interesting, that he has his own PAC, which is rare. That`s not usually a thing that vice presidents do. How much do you buy this people are whispering, Betsy?

WOODRUFF: I mean I`m sure there are people on Capitol Hill who have very high blood pressure levels right now who like to live in the fantasyland of Pence becoming president. But as long as Republicans control the House, Donald Trump isn`t going anywhere. The reality is Pence is flexing his political muscle, that makes sense. It makes sense for him to have a PAC like this so that he can do fund-raising, potentially use those funds to boost lawmakers who can be helpful to him, helpful to the president when it comes to pushing the legislative agenda. But, yeah, I think people are way ahead of their skis on this.

I`m old enough to remember when everyone thought Kasich was going to be the nominee at a contested convention. You know, color me skeptical about this President Pence stuff.

HAYES: Well, that I agree with. That I completely agree with.

But McKay, I`m not quite - Betsy is talking about the motivation for setting up this PAC to me. Having covered politicians, all of whom wake up every morning and see the next president of the United States in the mirror, I`m not quite sure that this isn`t being set up as just a thing to have there just in case.

COPPINS: Well, sure. But I also think that it`s possible that he could use this PAC to run in 2020 if, for example, Donald Trump decides not to run for re-election. That is not a totally implausible scenario. It doesn`t necessarily require impeachment or resignation or anything like that.

You know, I think that Mike Pence is being politically savvy and expedient and he knows that he`s probably not done advancing in his government career with this job.

HAYES: I just continue to think that -- I don`t know, maybe I`m wrong. But I think that Republicans, particularly prominent Republicans, underestimate the downside of reputational damage that may be coming their way. Is that fair, Betsy?

WOODRUFF: It`s a good question. I think the Republican Party is very big, right? There are some Republicans on Capitol Hill who are clearly in full panic mode, who are stiff arming the president, who are obviously very stressed about this. One district to keep an eye on is Barbara Comstock in Northern Virginia. She`s tried very hard to stay as far from Trump as possible.

Then on the other hand, though, you do have members who really embraced him. The weird reality we live with is that the GOP is not a monolith. It`s kind of two parties, perhaps even three parties cobbled together into one.

That said, though, speaking broadly I think the potential electoral fallout here for the GOP could be pretty ugly, but of course it`s hard to game this stuff out. And the president seems to be much more effective when it comes to campaigning than when it comes to actually making things happen on The Hill, so TBD.

HAYES: Benjamin Franklin famously said we must hang together or surely we will hang separately, which is I think is the thinking right now.

McKay Coppins, Betsy Woodruff, thank you.

Coming up, the president cancels an international visit after being told you can`t land this helicopter on a world heritage site.

And another leak from the White House in tonight`s Thing One, Thing Two next.

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HAYES: Thing One tonight, lost in the stunning White House revelations over the past week was another embarrassing White House disclosure, this coming from Keith Schiller, former NYPD detective turned Donald Trump bodyguard. Schiller, seen here ripping the sign out of the hands of a nonviolent protester during the campaign and then punching him in the face when the protester tries to get the sign back.

And here`s Schiller physically pushing Univision host Jorge Ramos out of a press conference for asking a question without being called on.

But Schiller isn`t just hired muscle, he is one of the president`s closest aides in the White House where he sits at a desk just steps from the president as director of Oval Office operations. According to the AP, while chief strategist Steve Bannon learned about FBI James Comey`s firing from TV, Schiller was among those Trump consulted about Comey. The president then had Schiller personally deliver a letter to the FBI offices while Comey was in L.A. informing them he had been fired.

But it is what Schiller is carrying in this photo that`s problematic for the White House, specifically that Post-It note. What`s on that little sticky note is Thing Two in 60 seconds.

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HAYES: The Washington Post published an article about the president`s bodyguard, Keith Schiller, and originally the article happened to feature a picture of the two men walking. In this picture you see here. On first look, there`s nothing odd about it but a closer investigation of the photo, if you flip it upside down, reveals a Post-It note with a name and phone number that we blurred out. And when you really zoom in, there`s a name written above that number. It says Jim "Mad Dog" Mattis, of course is the defense secretary of the United States.

Now, The Washington Post only found out about this when a concerned reader contacted the paper to alert them they had just broadcast Mattis` personal number to the world. The Washington Post reporter Rachel Mantufl (ph) was originally skeptical of the reader thinking way more care than that is taken around the president, right? The Secret Service is good at secrecy, generally.

But then she writes with the monitor turned 90 degrees and the photo blown up, indeed I could make out a number and what might be Jim "Mad Dog" Mattis. I called, I got the voice mail, itwas him.

The Post immediately took down the photo. Mantufl (ph) noting that Schiller is employing the yellow sticky note system of information security. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES: Tomorrow, President Trump will embark on his first foreign trip, an ambitious nine-day, five-country affair in one of the most diplomatically sensitive regions of the world. Trump has reportedly expressed dread about the trip asking aides whether it can be shortened to five days from nine.

Despite Trump`s apparent misgivings, the trip is happening. The president will first travel to Saudi Arabia, where he will address some 50 leaders from across the Muslim world with a speech that reportedly is being written by presidential adviser Stephen Miller, who is instrumental in write the first travel ban targeting majority Muslim countries.

The president will be joined in the Saudi capital by none other than country star Toby Keith, who will be performing at a men-only concert while Trump is in town.

From Saudi Arabia, Trump will travel to Jerusalem where he`s reportedly scheduled to spend no longer than 15 minutes at Yad Vashem, a memorial to victims of the holocaust. He will not, however, be making a previously scheduled stop at the ancient mountain fortress of Masada. According to Israel`s Channel 2 broadcaster, the trip was canceled after Trump`s team was told they could not land his helicopter on top of the UNESCO world heritage site. Now, that is all before the president goes to Vatican City, Belgium and Italy, a trip that will put him out of the country during the burgeoning scandal threatening to consume his presidency. And today there`s some remarkable news on the key part of that scandal, in fact the central question of this controversy. That`s next.

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HAYES: The president once again today denied there`s been any inclusion wean his campaign and Russia and that may well be true. But in January the White House said it had no contact with Russian officials during the campaign, yet evidence to the contrary continues to mount. In a (inaudible) report published this morning by Reuters reads, quote, Michael Flynn and other advisers to Donald Trump`s campaign were in contact with Russian officials and others with Kremlin ties in at least 18 calls and emails during the last seven months of the 2016 presidential race.

A third of those contacts included Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. At one point, Kislyak and Flynn, the former National Security Adviser, discussed establishing a back channel for communication between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin that could bypass the U.S. national security bureaucracies with both sides considered hostile to improve relation.

So, what`s at issue here is not a matter of collusion in the sense of secret meetings and money being funneled and spy craft and the like, the point is that between April and November of last year at the time Russia was quite openly meddling in the presidential election while flagrantly attempting to sabotage Donald Trump`s political opponent, the Trump campaign repeatedly made in public, and not it appears we know in private made sure to let Russia know they were planning to be more friendly to them if they want.

Joining me now Julian Sanchez, senior fellow at the Cato Institute, and Evelyn Farkas, former deputy secretary of defense, MSNBC national security analyst.

Julian, you wrote a piece about this that I thought was quite right on, which is that the bar has sort of been put at collusion.

JULIAN SANCHEZ, CATO INSTITUTE: Right.

HAYES: And it seems to me that we don`t need collusion to explain what happened. And what happened itself is quite scandalous in a very public sense.

SANCHEZ: That`s right. I mean, I think it`s a mistake to focus on this idea of some sort secret knowing collusion, first because I think there`s a lot of other things an investigation might turn up that would be relevant for the public to know about and might have implications for national security, and so focusing on that as though if we don`t find that, if an investigation doesn`t find that, there`s sort of nothing to see and move along is a mistake.

But also yeah, I don`t think the campaign was acting as though they were coordinating in secret. They were coordinating publicly. You have Trump quoting directly from Russian state media. This isn`t necessarily the behavior of someone with a secret back channel already.

I mean, the story you just quoted they were talking about establishing a secret back channel which suggests at least that there wasn`t previously one. And again there was so much sort of public back and forth, I`ll scratch your back, you scratch mine, that it seems like that`s best explained by the absence of a private channel.

HAYES: That, Evelyn to me, it`s both of these entities had the same goal. Donald Trump wanted to be elected president and said publicly time and time again that the Russians were getting a raw deal, that Vladimir Putin wasn`t so bad, that he would be friendlier, that the relationship would be better. His campaigns contacted him, and the Russians we know really didn`t like Hillary Clinton. This is new reporting in May, a Russian military intelligence officer bragged to a colleague that his organization GRU was getting ready to pay Clinton back for what Putin believed was an influence operation she had run against him five years earlier as secretary of state.

So, the oars are all rowing in the same direction already, right?

EVELYN FARKAS, MSNBC NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: And you forget remember when Trump said Russia, if you`re listening, give us Hillary`s missing emails. I mean, he did it live on television. It was so odd.

You are right. And I think it gets to the pint that are other guests made which is we need an investigation that looks at political accountability because it`s not necessarily just about whether people broke laws, and I think laws actually are going to find were broken have more to do with corruption and the emoluments act in Flynn case and in the foreign agent act actually in his case, and in Manafort`s case.

But the real question is, what did Russia do? How did they do it? Who helped them? How did they help them? And then you can establish sort of whether you want to keep people or institutions accountable.

And then the next order of business is how do we stop russia from doing what they`re doing to this day. I mean we know that there`s still propagating fake news overseas, but also here in the U.S. so, how do we stop them? Do we tell them if we find evidence we`re going to fry that institution`s network, or - I mean, we really need to come up as a government with a plan for how we`re going to stop Russia.

HAYES: Julian, and to me the other thing a bout this is, you know - and it relates to the Washington Post reporting yesterday about the conversation members of congress had, the Republicans - which is that independent of the hacking, if the Trump campaign just said, hey, look this is a policy priority for us to be more Russia friendly, that`s fine, that`s a debatable element of policy you could think is good or not. But it`s in the context of everyone knowing they were fragrantly doing this thing in everyone`s faces and to continue to do that itself just shows an incredible lack of deference to some basic kind of norms about what the integrity of the electoral process?

SANCHEZ: Right. Which, you know, at this point perhaps should not be surprising. I think maybe the best argument against collusion is that if you were running a secret information operation, if you had anything you wanted to keep secret, would you tell Donald Trump about it?

I mean, our own intelligence community is sort of grudgingly doing so, but they don`t have a choice whereas Russia`s intelligence agencies do.

HAYES: Yeah, and Evelyn, do you think there`s going to be accountability or a conversation we can have even if no collusion is had about what the findings ultimately are.

FARKAS: Only if we have an independent commission.

So, I was executive director of the child of the 9/11 commission, which was looking at whether the government was doing a good job preventing terrorists from getting WMD, weapons of mass destruction.

We had actually only nine months to put the office together and put out a report and we did. We did it, basically, in six months because we took experts who had security clearances who were subject matter experts already and had them work on it.

So, I think this is what needs to be done in addition to whatever former Director Mueller is going to be doing.

HAYES: All right, Julian Sanchez, Evelyn Farkas, thanks for joining us.

A reminder, if you live near New York City, I have a book event this Sunday at Lehman College in the my home burrough of the Bronx. There will be a discussion and a Q&A about my book, a Colony in a Nation. My parents will be there. You can meet them.

You can buy the book there through Lip Bar, which you can read about, which is a great operation on our Facebook page as well. The event is free, so if you`re in the area, come on out. Ihope to see you then.

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

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