Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: May 31, 2017 Guest: Philip Rucker, Paul Butler, Rebecca Ingber, Bianna Golodryga, Elias Groll
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HARDBALL HOST: - his behalf and spill the beans? Could it be worse than spilling a Presidency? 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: That dinner was arranged. I think he asked for the dinner.
HAYES: Countdown to Comey day.
TRUMP: I said, if it`s possible, would you let me know am I under investigation?
HAYES: James Comey officially cleared to give his version of events on live television. Tonight, what Comey will say and why the White House is suddenly clamming up as Hillary Clinton comes right out and says it.
HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: It`s a vast Russian conspiracy. Well, it turned out we were right.
HAYES: Then the alarming backstory to Kushner`s meeting with Putin`s banker. Plus -
TRUMP: This is not going to be easy. We`ll be right back. We`ll make a decision.
HAYES: The high stakes of treating the planet`s fate like an apprentice finale.
TRUMP: So, Ivanka, what do you think?
IVANKA TRUMP, PRESIDENT TRUMP`S DAUGHTER: I think you have a very challenging decision ahead of you.
HAYES: And the truth about late-night gibberish tweeting.
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The President and a small group of people know exactly what he meant.
HAYES: When ALL IN starts right now.
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HAYES: Good evening from New York, I`m Chris Hayes. As soon as next week, the American public will get a chance to hear directly from James Comey. The Former FBI Director fired by the President earlier this month in the midst of the Russia investigation, a source close to Comey tells NBC News Comey has been cleared for takeoff by Special Counsel Robert Mueller to testify in an open session of the Senate Intelligence Committee. It would be Comey`s first public appearance since his abrupt dismissal on May 9th. Multiple reports indicate the Former FBI Director plans to address his interactions with the President over the Russia probe, which we now know Comey documented in a series of contemporaneous memos. According to one of those memos, the President asked Comey to end the FBI investigation into his former National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn, during an Oval Office meeting in February, telling Comey, he is a good guy, I hope you can let this go. It`s been reported similarly that senior White House officials sounded out top intelligence officials about the possibility of intervening directly with Comey to encourage the FBI to drop its probe of Flynn. Comey has also told associates that back in January, he was summoned to a private dinner at the White House where the President demanded a loyalty pledge which Comey declined to give him. That report stands in sharp contrast to the President`s own version of the dinner, which he described earlier this month in an interview with NBC`s Lester Holt.
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TRUMP: I had a dinner with him. He wanted to have dinner because he wanted to stay on. We had a very nice dinner at the White House.
LESTER HOLT, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: He asked for the dinner?
TRUMP: A dinner was arranged. I think he asked for the dinner and he wanted to stay on as the FBI Head, and I said I`ll, you know, consider. We`ll see what happens. But we had a very nice dinner, and at that time he told me, you are not under investigation, which I knew anyway.
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HAYES: If the President tried to block the Russian investigation as Comey`s account seems to suggest, critics say it could amount to obstruction of justice. Asked today about Comey`s impending testimony, the White House declined to comment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did the President engage in obstruction of justice in repeated meetings with James Comey?
SPICER: Our job - we are focused on the President`s agenda, and all going forward, all questions on these matters will be referred to outside counsel, Marc Kasowitz.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: According to CNBC`S Eamon Javers, the White House says it will no longer take questions on Russia, quote, "on all of it", and the policy will remain in place until further guidance. All questions will be referred to the President`s outside lawyer. But it`s unclear whether that policy will apply to the President himself, who continues to discuss the Russia probe on Twitter. Minutes after Fox News aired a segment claiming House Democrats had delayed testimony by Trump campaign aide Carter Page, the President himself tweeted, "so now it is reported the Democrats who`ve excoriated Carter Page about Russia don`t want him to testify. He blows their case against him and now wants to clear his name by showing the false or misleading testimony by James Comey and John Brennan. Witch hunt." I`m joined by Philip Rucker White House Bureau Chief for The Washington Post. And Philip, we just got a story that The Washington Post published, it`s not under your byline, but - about the Trump - the Trump White House moving to possibly return the Russian compounds that were seized by the U.S. as a kind of punitive measure in response to Russian active measures and sabotage and hacking during the campaign. You know, what`s remarkable about this are the actions the White House continues to take where they have a choice between something that looks incriminating or not incriminating. They do tend to go towards the thing that looks incriminating whether it is substantively fine or not.
PHILIP RUCKER, THE WASHINGTON POST WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF: Well, what my colleagues Karen DeYoung and Adam Entous are reporting is that the Trump administration is in talks with Russia right now to return these two properties. These are compounds in New York and Maryland that are used as retreats, if you will, for Russian officials in the U.S. They were seized by the Obama administration back in December for retaliation for the election tampering, and Trump wants to give it back to Russia. It`s actually not clear at this point what, if anything, the United States would get out of that deal. There was some talk that maybe they could get clearance to build a new compound for the U.S. in St. Petersburg, but that was scuttled in a conversation between Secretary of State Tillerson and his Russian counterpart, Lavrov, here in Washington a few weeks ago.
HAYES: Is the White House prepared for Comey`s testimony?
RUCKER: That`s a great question. I think they would rather he not testify frankly. It`s just going to raise a lot of new additional questions. I mean we`ve all been waiting, and the Congress has been waiting to hear from Comey specifically about his conversations with President Trump about those notes that he took in those conversations. What exactly did the President tell him? And I think everything that Comey tells us that`s new is going to create another headache for this White House, which as you know is already enmeshed in its own sort of turmoil trying to figure out how to restructure and revive an agenda that seems to have been stalled.
HAYES: Yes. I mean I guess the question for you is how - as someone who covers that White House day in and day out, how palpable that is. It seems to me that the amount of political capital they`re spending on this is considerable. It also seems to me that whatever legislative agenda, they`re having a hard time sort of spearheading. How much does that read to you in the room as you cover this beat?
RUCKER: I mean some of the aides are despondent. There`s a - there`s a real morale problem in the White House right now, and that`s evident just in the kind of body language and the behavior of the spokespeople that you see out in public. But, look, they`re trying to staff up. They`re trying to beef up an operation, a war room if you will to deal with these Russia questions and revive the agenda. Health care has gone nowhere. Tax reform has gone nowhere. There`s no infrastructure plan. These are all things that President Trump wants to be taking action on, and I understand that the President is quite frustrated with the Senate for not doing more. But he at this point just doesn`t have a lot of leverage or political capital left to give this a push on Capitol Hill.
HAYES: All right. Philip Rucker, thanks for your time tonight.
RUCKER: Thank you.
HAYES: I`m joined by Josh Earnest, former White House Press Secretary under President Obama, now an MSNBC Political Analyst. And Josh, there`s a bit of news today, which is the House Intel Committee issued seven subpoenas for Flynn and for Cohen, and then unmasking requests, sort of looking at that part of the story on the other side. The question for you is can the White House kind of cordon this off and say, we`re not going to answer any questions about Russia, anything having to do with it. There`s an active investigation. Go talk to the President`s lawyer. How long can you do that? Is it a plausible approach?
JOSH EARNEST, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Chris, I think what the crux of the problem facing the White House staff right now is there is a pronounced information asymmetry that will be on display when Director Comey testifies. Director Comey is somebody who is a fastidious man, a copious note taker, who will be using those detailed notes to convey to Congress and to the American public exactly what he discussed with President Trump. It`s not clear that President Trump - well, I feel confident in saying President Trump didn`t take any notes from those meetings. It`s also not clear that President Trump will discuss in any detail or even be honest with his staff about what he remembers about those discussions with Director Comey. So that is going to put the White House at a significant disadvantage as they try to determine how they respond to what Director Comey says in open hearings.
HAYES: This is a key point. What you`re saying there is that if - basically if the principle at issue, in this case, the President of the United States, is not fully honest with the people in the staff, there`s no way that the staff can actually do their jobs.
EARNEST: Well, it`s no way to - it`s certainly not going to be possible to defend him if his staff don`t know the facts that they need to, to clear his name or at least respond to the charges that are delivered by adversaries of the Presidency. So, look, clearly, Sean is in a very difficult position as he answers questions about this at the briefing. Is this a tenable strategy? I don`t know if it is. When we see this daily briefing that goes on day after day after day and he is subject to these pointed, direct questions that raise significant doubts about the conduct of the President of the United States. And -
HAYES: Yes, like did the President commit a felony for instance?
EARNEST: Right. And his inability to answer that question certainly doesn`t make the President look very good.
HAYES: I want your respond to Hillary Clinton gave an interview today, a very fascinating, frank, open discussion at the Recode Conference. She had this to say about the Russia story particularly during the campaign. Take a listen.
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CLINTON: I think it`s fair to ask how did that actually influence the campaign, and how did they know what messages to deliver? Who told them? Who told them?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
CLINTON: Who were they coordinating with or colluding with? The Russians, in my opinion, and based on the Intel and counter-intel people I talked to, could not have known how best to weaponize that information unless they had been guided. And here`s a - here`s a -
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Guided by Americans.
CLINTON: Guided by Americans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: That`s quite a claim.
EARNEST: That is a very serious charge. One of the troubling aspects of this story is there are some indications that there may have been people on President Trump`s campaign or people that advised President Trump who were aware of what was happening. There is the infamous tweet from Roger Stone, a close adviser of the President even though he didn`t work on the campaign, but somebody who President Trump trusts a lot and gave him a lot of political advice, who tweeted in advance, basically suggesting that John Podesta`s e-mails were going to be leaked by WikiLeaks. The tweet was something like, John Podesta better look out. That indicates some foreknowledge that is deeply troubling and does certainly seem to give - lend some credence to what Secretary Clinton there is saying, which is, it`s difficult to imagine that the Russians could have been this effective without at least some help.
HAYES: I should say Roger Stone says that he didn`t have any foreknowledge although there`s new reporting from the New Yorker today, the two sources close to Stone saying stone has been talking to the President even after Comey`s firing, which some people blamed on Stone. So that`s sort of to flesh out the record there. Josh Earnest, thanks for your time.
EARNEST: Thank you, Chris.
HAYES: All right. Let`s bring in Rebecca Ingber, she`s former attorney with the Office of the Legal Adviser at the State Department and Paul Butler, former Federal Prosecutor of the Department of Justice. And Paul, let me talk to you first about - there`s so much anticipation for Comey and there`s a question about what will he be able to say or not say? I guess from a legal perspective, what`s your anticipation of the breadth of what you would imagine he can talk about?
PAUL BUTLER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Chris, it could be really boring, or it could be really juicy. Boring would mean he talked this over with Special Counsel Mueller and Mueller said, don`t say too much. It would be kind of like when Rod Rosenstein went before the Senate Intelligence Committee they were like, well, why did you even come if you weren`t going to say anything? But he`s doing that to preserve our criminal case. The juicy part could be, you remember Trump called Mueller a show boat. He is a little bit of a drama king. He loves a moment. And the good thing here for the juiciness is that this isn`t a criminal trial. It`s a Senate Committee Hearing. So the criminal rules of evidence don`t apply. So they`ll be able to ask Mueller things like, well, when Trump told you to lay off Flynn, what did you think that means?
BUTLER: They could be any objection. They can actually answer that.
HAYES: That is a great point. Rebecca, you know, Comey is such a strange, unique, in some ways solitary figure here. You know, he has this strange role in terms of the level of independence he has and what do you expect of the latitude he himself feels he`ll have to speak in this hearing.
REBECCA INGBER, OFFICE OF THE LEGAL ADVISER AT THE STATE DEPARTMENT FORMER ATTORNEY: Well, I think when you said he`s a sort of a strange - you know, Comey has a history of acting independently far beyond what we typically see from an executive branch official. I mean in part, I think he occupies sort of this rare position, this exclusive club of officials who sort of cut their teeth as career officials, right? He was a career prosecutor, not unlike Sally Yates, maybe not unlike Rod Rosenstein. We have yet to see the extent which he`s interested in speaking truth to power. But these are officials who are not entirely any longer career officials, but they`re also not purely political animals. And so they are - they have sort of the institutional prerogatives of the executive branch as a whole at stake, right, in their hearts to some degree.
HAYES: And that in some ways - in some ways that precisely, like career versus political, which is a distinction in D.C. that makes a lot of difference. Like when you work in D.C. and you report in D.C., people who career which civil service and protected, people who are politicals, who are appointed. That`s a huge division and in some ways, one of the subtexts of the story of this administration so far that might cut to the bottom of obstruction of justice is kind of that battle.
INGBER: Yes. So one of the many sort of executive branch norms or governmental norms that this administration has continuously broken is this denigration of the government itself, right?
INGBER: So the President has continuously denigrated his own people, right, the career bureaucracy. And it is that bureaucracy and the sort of independence of that bureaucracy that is the reason we have so much information about what`s going on, right? It`s not the sort of traditional checks and balances that you see. It`s not because of Congress. It`s not necessarily even because of the courts although the courts are obviously engaging. It`s because of the bureaucracy, and it`s because of the press. And so we see how important those institutions are, and it`s interesting that the very institution that this President happens to be (INAUDIBLE)
HAYES: That`s a really great point. They have been this huge bulwark. Paul, there`s a development. As someone who has worked in the sort of public corruption office at DOJ, there is an interesting little news item today I thought I would get your reaction to. Andrew Weissmann, who is a fraud investigator, is joining Mueller`s Russia investigation team. He`s the head of the Justice Department`s Fraud Section in the Obama administration. His specialties have included corporate wrongdoing and foreign corruption. I thought of myself if I saw that news in the White House, I wouldn`t be super stoked.
BUTLER: Yes, that`s right. I mean among the other things, we now know that Jared Kushner has graduated from being a person of interest to probably being a subject of this investigation. So, you know, everyone`s concerned about collusion, properly so. But there are also some financial dealings with regard to Russia and Trump operatives where they could very well face criminal exposure. Those are off the radar, but probably at Trump world just as alarming as the collusion.
HAYES: All right. Rebecca Ingber and Paul Butler, thanks to you both. Appreciate it.
Still to come. Why Jared Kushner met with a sanctioned Russian bank that is essentially an arm of the Russian government. New questions surrounding that already suspicious meeting after this two-minute break.
HAYES: It was reported this week that both federal and congressional investigators are now looking into a pair of meetings that President Trump`s son-in-law and Senior Adviser, Jared Kushner, had with Russian officials during that Presidential transition period between election day and inauguration day. It includes a meeting with this guy, Sergey Gorkov. He`s the Head of a state-controlled Russian development bank which is known as VEB. Now, on its face, it`s a weird meeting. I mean why after a campaign in which Russia quite openly intervened to boost President Trump`s chances was the President`s son-in-law meeting with the leader of a Russian bank? But the whole thing is actually way shadier than it looks on the surface because VEB is not a normal bank. It is far closer to an arm of the Russian government. It was sanctioned by the U.S. and the E.U. for essentially underwriting the war on Ukraine. According to one observer, Vladimir Putin effectively runs VEB as his private slush fund, using it to bail out oligarchs and fund pet projects. The bank pumped billions of dollars into Ukraine at a time when Putin was seeking to move the Ukrainian government as a whole away from an alliance of Europe and closer to Russia. Putin appointed Gorkov to lead the bank (INAUDIBLE) two men together earlier this year. And Gorkov is a graduate of FSB academy, that`s the Russian school for spies. In fact, last year, the man seen in this courtroom sketch Eugene Buriakov, who has been posing as a VEB employee in New York, pleaded guilty to spying against the United States. In other words, he was working for the bank as cover. Yet Jared Kushner meets with Gorkov anyway and then did not disclose that meeting on his security clearance forms under penalty of perjury. As Atlantic Counsel Fellow, Anders Aslund, told foreign policy, VEB does not do any ordinary banking business. Therefore, it is so remarkable that Jared Kushner met with the head of VEB. Joining me now, Yahoo! News Finance Anchor Bianna Golodryga and Elias Groll who`s a Staff Writer at Foreign Policy Magazine. Elias, let me start with you. You wrote a really good piece about this bank. I mean, this bank is sort of a kind of functionally a part of the government projecting financial power for the kind of strategic interests of the Russian government.
ELIAS GROLL, FOREIGN POLICY MAGAZINE: That`s exactly right. It`s used to advance the foreign policy agenda of the Kremlin. It`s used to pump money into pet projects. It`s used to support Kremlin-friendly oligarchs. And as you mentioned, it`s been a key tool in the Kremlin`s efforts to bind Ukraine more closely to Russia and to try to keep it out of the west`s sphere of influence if you will.
HAYES: Yes. There`s a sort of amazing story you tell in the piece about basically propping up some steel factories in Ukraine, sort of against economic interests but just to keep people employed as a sort of propaganda victory that then had to be bailed out.
GROLL: Exactly. Zaporizhstal is one of these steel mills in question, and I think the most interesting one of these. And in fact, since that piece ran, The Wall Street Journal revealed that when VEB purchased its stake in Zaporizhstal in 2010, it did so from a man who was investor in a Trump project, Alexander Shnaider. He then took the proceeds from that money and funneled those funds into Trump`s development in Toronto, which has then been defunct - or has become defunct rather, and that money was used to bailout that project. Would have been described as a very key moment for that developer.
HAYES: You know, the broader picture here is that this bank is under sanction, and one of the things I think it`s easy to lose sight of is, the sanctions have taken a bite out of Russia and they do want them dropped.
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, YAHOO! NEWS FINANCE ANCHOR: Yes. It`s one of the priorities for Vladimir Putin, that`s for sure. And I remember when the story first came out earlier this year, I thought, wow, this is coming on the heels of major protests in Russia where you saw hundreds of thousands of people in the streets, thousands of people were arrested. They were fighting against corruption. They were fighting for freedom. So this headline coming out that we`re just learning that he met with this CEO of a sanctioned bank, he didn`t disclose it, raised a lot of eyebrows, to say the least. And one thing you have to understand with the Russian CEOs is unlike American CEOs, and unlike American billionaires, they`re tied to one person in Russia, and that is Vladimir Putin. If you look back to when business - by the way, there`s no word for businessman in Russia - the word - the Russian word for businessman is businessman because up until the 1990s, there were no businesses, right? So when Vladimir Putin came into power, he said, here`s the deal, I`m going to make with all of you oligarchs, all of you who want to go and start your own businesses. You stay in your lane, you stay out of my lane. So at the end of the day, they all answer to one person, and that is Vladimir Putin. So that`s the answer we want to know. Why did you not disclose this, and why on earth out of all of the CEOs from every country around the world would you meet with this man?
HAYES: Also, I mean, there`s also the fact that the bank was being used as functional cover for actual Russian spies, which should not go unnoticed. But Elias, there`s also the fact that no one - there`s no agreement between the White House and the VEB itself about what the meeting was about. VEB says, we were meeting lots of foreign investors as if they were meeting with Kushner as the Head of the Kushner group, which again, has a massively overleveraged building they were looking for financing for. And the White House says, he was meeting as the President`s son-in-law as part of the transition. We don`t even know if this was sort of business or pleasure to kind of use the saying.
GROLL: Exactly. VEB and the Trump administration, they can`t get on the same page as to what this meeting was exactly about, and this is clearly a question for investigators at this point, something that the FBI is probing through its investigation and is also something that congressional investigators are trying to get answers to.
HAYES: It also seems plausible to me, Bianna, that, you know, there`s this question of collusion, right? We`re sort of this like projects idea of symmetrical relationship.
HAYES: But it also seems possible that - you know, that this bank and Putin and the Kremlin were just interested in possibly lending money as a kind of, sort of asymmetrical entanglement toward someone who is going to be very powerful in the new administration.
GOLODRYGA: Winning favor. We`ve done similar stories about China as well. Look, I do not think that Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump sat on the phone talking to each other about how they would work together -
GOLODRYGA: - on bringing their countries together and helping the Trump Corporation. I really don`t think that that happened. Having said that, Jared Kushner, weeks after the election, had said that he was going to disentangle himself from his family company, he`s going to focus on moving to D.C. and not his company, not his own company. That`s one of the reasons - that`s what VEB said they were meeting with him about, was the Kushner properties, the Kushner business. The U.S. government is saying, no, this had more to do with policy. Why on earth would this bank have anything to do with regards to the Syrian crisis, and why on earth would it be such a pressing issue that they had to discuss it right then and there? Syria has been unraveling for years.
HAYES: And again, Elias, I mean, the question here again, if there`s nothing here underlying this, this is just a meeting for about bringing peace to Syria or a back channel or about how great Kushner properties are, you know, prudentially, the choice to take the meeting itself is strange given the environment under which it was taken.
GROLL: Exactly. And Gorkov is not somebody who is seen as somebody who is extremely close to the Kremlin. If you were looking for a trusted intermediary -
GROLL: - with the Kremlin or the Putin administration, you would probably look for somebody who was closer to the regime. Gorkov is certainly an insider, but he`s by no means somebody who is in the very inner circle of power. Somebody like Ashurkov who is closer to Putin.
GOLODRYGA: But don`t forget who is the Chairman of the Board of this bank, and that`s Dmitry Medvedev who is the Prime Minister of Russia. So he could very well be described as close to Vladimir Putin.
HAYES: It`s sort of two degrees of separation as I`ve learned to the entire sort of (INAUDIBLE). Bianna Golodryga and Elias Groll, thanks for both being with me.
Ahead, President Trump faces possibly the most consequential decision on a global scale. Could it come down to the last person he speaks to? What`s at stake coming up.
HAYES: Just past midnight, a message from the President. "Despite the constant negative press covfefe." That was it, a single line of (INAUDIBLE). I think clearly coverage misspelled. Tweeted out to 30 million followers and the longer the tweet stayed up, the more the internet loved it of course. By 1:00 a.m. it was trending worldwide, covfefe, spawning spelling bee memes and video game mock-ups and even a response from Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Someone finally deleted the original tweet about 6:00 a.m. The President resurfaced to say, who can figure out the true meaning of covfefe. Enjoy. The President seemed to be acknowledging the silliness in a sort of charming way, I thought, surrounding what seemed to be everyone to be the run of the mill mistakenly sent tweet. No big deal. But it did come up with Sean Spicer today in a briefing the White House decided would not be on camera, probably because the briefings have not been going particularly well lately. And all Sean Spicer had to do was the same thing the President did.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think people should be concerned that the President posted somewhat of an incoherent tweet last night and that it then stayed up for hours?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why did it stay up so long? Is no one watching this?
SPICER: no, I think the President and a small group of people know exactly what he meant. Blake?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wait a minute.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What does it mean?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is covfefe?
SPICER: Blake? Blake? Blake?
(END AUDIO CLIP)
HAYES: OK. So covfe was not a mistake, but covfefe was a code word to a small group of people. And well, there`s a growing sense that in the eyes of his aides and spokespeople, the President can do no wrong ever. And the ways people are talking about was described by one republic analyst as dear leader ask. What`s that all about? Coming.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (inaudible).
DONALD J. TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Very soon. I`m hearing from a lot of people both ways. Both ways, believe me.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you meeting with the Russians, sir?
TRUMP: I`m hearing from a lot of people both ways.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (inaudible).
TRUMP: Thank you, everybody. Thank you very much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, ALL IN: President seems to be treating his decision on whether to pull out of the world`s most significant climate agreement ever like an episode of The Apprentice.
Yet administration officials with knowledge of the decision have told various news outlets the president has already made up his mind to do so. If that`s the case, he`ll have the support of 22 Republican Senators including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who signed on to a letter to the president last week, calling for the US to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement.
And there are dueling contingents in the White House, reportedly with EPA Chief Scott Pruitt and top strategist Steve Bannon arguing to leave and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, former CEO of Exxon - one should note - and the president`s daughter arguing to stay.
The option to stay is also the position of these Fortune 500 companies that signed the letter that will appear in full-page ads tomorrow in "The New York Times" and "The Wall Street Journal" urging the president not to pull out of the Paris climate agreement.
A few days ago, the chief executive of Exxon Mobil, the current one, also wrote the president a letter arguing he should keep "a seat in the negotiating table" to ensure a level playing field.
And then, there is the entire rest of the world. The Paris climate accord has been agreed to by 193 countries, plus the EU and Palestinian Authority.
If the US does leave, we would join the two countries on the entire planet not in agreement with the accord. One is Syria, which is, well, in the middle of a brutal and ghastly civil war, and Nicaragua which does not think the deal goes far enough.
Now, the Paris climate deal is non-binding, meaning it`s for all intents and purposes a voluntary collective effort to name targets and then hit them by the majority of the world`s countries, the overwhelming majority, to try to curb the warming of the planet.
If the president does pull out, it could have severe implications for the world and the US` role in it. According to German ambassador, if US withdraws from the Paris agreement, China may become the world`s leader.
Joining me now, Senator Ed Markey, Democrat from Massachusetts, member of the senate committee on foreign relations and committee on environment and public works.
Now, senator, what are the stakes here to you?
SEN. ED MARKEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Well, the stakes are huge. If he says that he does not want to break a promise to the coal industry, that means he`s going to have to break a promise which the United States made to the world that we would be the leader, a promise that we should make to every subsequent generation of Americans throughout the 21st century that we solve a problem that could cause catastrophic consequences not just for the poorest countries in the world, but also for the United States itself.
It`s an economic, a national security and a moral responsibility of the United States to be the leader. And what the president is doing is walking away from global leadership. And the consequences will be great in terms of how the rest of the world views us in terms of our ability to keep our word to a huge issue, which is at the core of what that entire planet wants the United States to be the leader of.
HAYES: So, I want to zoom in here because I want to hear from you. There`s two possible consequences, right? The sort of catastrophic one, to my mind, would be that they would unravel the deal, countries would start to pull out. Even though this is voluntary, countries announced their targets for carbon emission reductions. They agreed to audit and to publish them. So, it`s all public.
But what I am hearing from you and what I`ve heard from other people that it`s going to make other countries pull out. The deal is going to hold whether the US is in or not. Is that your sense?
MARKEY: OK. China has already announced that it is going to produce by 2030 as much renewable energy electricity as all of the electricity that is produced in the United States in 2017, meaning that China, that India, that Germany has a plan.
Their plan will be made to brand made in China, made in Germany the clean energy technologies, the all-electric vehicles that are going to be produced in 2030 and the United States is just going to be left in the rear view mirror of economic history in this clean energy sector because the president wants to keep a promise to the coal industry that only has 70,000 jobs left, while today we already have 350,000 jobs in the wind and solar industries, industries that for all intents and purposes didn`t even exist ten years ago.
HAYES: You`re in the United States Senate. And the United States Senate is home to a large percentage of the people that don`t like this deal. I mean, basically, the entire world is signed on except for Syria and Nicaragua.
But the Republican - 22 Republican senators wrote that letter. And Jonathan Chait wrote this, which I thought was interesting. "Of all the major conservative parties in the democratic world, the Republican Party stands alone in its denial of the legitimacy of climate science. Indeed, the Republican Party stands alone in its conviction that no national or international response to climate change is needed."
Is that going to change anytime soon?
MARKEY: Well, the national academies of science of every country in the world has concluded that the planet is dangerously warming -
MARKEY: That human beings are principally responsible and that there is a moral responsibility and a technical capacity to deal with the problem.
HAYES: And the conservative parties of Germany, and of England, and of France, and of Australia, and of Italy all basically sign on to that, but not the conservative party, the center-right party of the United States. Why?
MARKEY: Because this conservative party in the United States is funded by the Koch Brothers. It`s funded by the coal industry. It insisted Scott Pruitt, the attorney general of Oklahoma, that actually sued the EPA 19 times on clean air, clean water, soot, Mercury issues becomes the head of the EPA.
HAYES: Well, let me ask you this, senator. Wait a second. Because, look, the fossil fuel industry - ExxonMobil wrote a letter to the president telling him to stay in the Paris. So, at a certain point, the explanatory framework that it`s basically doing the bidding as a front for the fossil fuel companies almost gets stretched beyond belief if some of the fossil fuel companies want him to stay in the deal.
MARKEY: Well, some of them may, but the coal industry does not. And that`s why Mitch O`Connell`s name is at the top of that letter. And so, this is really a campaign promise he made. But that campaign promise is going to undermine American leadership.
And moreover, it`s going to undermine our national security. Part of our plan is to increase fuel economy standards to 54.5 miles per gallon by the year 2025, to move to all-electric vehicles. Well, that`s going to back out a lot of oil, which we now import from Saudi Arabia, oil that we import from the Middle East.
So, the president was just over there last week and dancing around, and the Saudis are very happy because that`s one country that is definitely hypocritical about this whole climate change issue. They want to be selling more oil in the years ahead.
And the United States instead is going to be sending over young men and women in uniform to protect the tanker ships coming to our country from Saudi Arabia and other countries when we should be telling them that we, with a climate plan, with a clean energy plan, with an all-electric vehicle plan, are going to back out all of those issues that compromise our national security, compromise our ability to step back and be neutral in terms of our attempts to bring peace to the Middle East.
HAYES: All right. Senator Ed Markey, thanks for joining us.
MARKEY: You`re welcome. Thank you.
HAYES: Coming up, the bizarrely over-the-top praise of President Trump that steps outside of White House spin and into the territory of something more like propaganda. Plus, a gripping thing one, thing two starts after this break.
HAYES: Thing one tonight, an update on President Trump`s odd, overly aggressive handshake he frequently uses to greet people, the yank and pull, which he doesn`t just reserve for staff members and Supreme Court nominees, but the power grab is deployed on unsuspecting world leaders visiting the White House like that one.
So, what happened today when the prime minister of Vietnam met with President Trump? Actually, a pretty normal, mutual, consensual, respectful handshake. No one was pulled out of their chair, which just makes you think, was this an anomaly or has something changed since the president`s first foreign trip.
Thing two in 60 seconds.
HAYES: During President Trump`s first foreign trip, when his hands weren`t secured on a glowing orb, he got a taste of his own medicine when it came to handshakes.
The strongman leader of Tajikistan exhibited a show of force during their greeting, but, of course, it was the French President Emmanuel micron who stole the show with a white-knuckle grip Trump tried twice to pull away from before Macron let go.
Now, back in February, when Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau forcefully grabbed Trump`s arm to block the legendary yank and pull, there was speculation that Trudeau had studied up on some game tape.
However, we learned days after that Macron handshake from the French president himself is not only an acknowledgment of the yank and pull, but Macron actually did prepare for it.
In an interview, Macron called the handshake with Trump a moment of truth, saying my handshake with him, it wasn`t innocent. Donald Trump, the Turkish president or the Russian president see relationships in terms of a balance of power.
I don`t believe in diplomacy by public abuse, but in my bilateral dialogues, I won`t let anything pass. You have to show you won`t make small concessions, not even symbolic ones.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEANINE PIRRO, FOX NEWS HOST, JUSTICE WITH JUDGE JEANINE: President Trump has wrapped his intense nine-day overseas international voyage that by all accounts was a home run. Our Commander-in-Chief, the pillar of strength, and a true advocate for America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Fox News hosts aren`t the only ones praising President Trump despite historically low approval ratings for a president during his first months in office.
There are people whose job it is to talk about the president who speak of him as if he is nearly perfect.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: He just absorbs information. I`ve never seen a more brilliant communicator, a more natural connector.
SEBASTIAN GORKA: There is no one better. I really recommend people read his book. It is The Art of the Deal.
CONWAY: He`s the ultimate dealmaker. He`s the most brilliant communicator and natural connector with people I`ve ever seen.
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I want to begin by recapping the incredible, historic trip that the president and the first lady have just concluded because it truly was an extraordinary week for America and our people.
It was a historic turning point that people will be talking about for many years to come.
GORKA: The president in just 10 days has changed the geopolitical reality wherever he went.
SPICER: And a correspondent in one of the leading Israel publications wrote that "in the short space of three days, Trump carried out a semi- revolution."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Is that level of effusiveness normal? Jenna Johnson of the "Washington Post", Neera Tanden of the Center for American Progress join me next.
HAYES: I just want to read you a statement from White House spokeswoman Hope Hicks.
"President Trump has a magnetic personality and exudes positive energy which is infectious to those around him. He has an unparalleled ability to communicate with people, whether he is speaking to a room of three or an arena of 3,000. He has built great relationships throughout his life and treats everyone with respect. He`s brilliant with a great sense of humor and an amazing ability to make people feel special and aspire to be more than even they thought possible."
Joining me now, Jenna Johnson, White House reporter for the "Washington Post" and Neera Tanden, President and CEO, Center for American Progress, who worked in the administrations of Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.
And, Jenna, you`ve been writing a bit about some of the sort of palace intrigue there. And it does seem that part of the performance expected of people is to talk about the president in terms that really, to me sort of like in aesthetic sense, stretch past the normal degree of puffery and spin. Is that fair?
JENNA JOHNSON, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "WASHINGTON POST": I think that`s fair. I think that`s fair.
Now, let`s remember, Trump has always loved receiving praise. And those around him have long praised him in an effort to win his trust and his loyalty and things like that.
But this is coming at a time when it`s very clear that the president is not happy with his communications staff. He`s not happy about how the message is going out, that this Russia investigation is taking over the narrative, and there have been talk of maybe Sean Spicer taking less of a role, kind of shifting around the way that they do things.
And as that`s happening, you`re seeing his spokespeople coming out and just being very Trumpian in the way that they talk about their boss.
HAYES: Yes. It does seem to me that like the way to his heart is to talk - like, the thing that they think he will like the most is to speak like him, and he has a very particular cadence, like lots of hyperbole particularly.
JOHNSON: Yes. I mean, the word historic was used six times in the nine- minute monologue that Sean Spicer gave the other day about the president`s trip overseas.
And again, there are successes in that trip that the White House could be rallying around and promoting and talking about. But instead, by trying to cast this as this historic trip, more historic than all of these trips in history -
JOHNSON: It kind of overshadows that and it also brings attention to the weaknesses of it.
HAYES: Right. It`s sort of - Neera, sort of a boy who cried wolf, but there`s also just the psychodrama here, which I sort of - I both kind of hate following and can`t look away from, because even in normal times, like a White House is a vortex of intense pathos and envy.
It is. I mean, those are intense places to work. The pressure is intense. The psychodynamics can be intense.
NEERA TANDEN, PRESIDENT AND CEO, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Yes. And probably what you don`t want is an incredibly insecure leader of that institution who demands intense fealty unlike - or much like what you would expect the North Korean leader to expect from his staff and this is the kinds of things that they say.
I mean, it is an intense place. And the fact that they are saying incredibly over-the-top things that just, obviously, stretch credulity just adds to the fact that we can`t really trust a lot of what they say day to day, minute to minute, second by second.
HAYES: What do you make - as someone who has worked in White Houses and know that White Houses and campaigns can be - they can be dysfunctional. They are sort of are necessarily always kind of dysfunctional just because of the amount of pressure and scrutiny they have. Like, what is your read of what is happening there?
TANDEN: I mean, what was actually refreshing about the White Houses I worked in, particularly I would say President Obama was a person who kind of had a BS detector. I mean, people who overly praised him, he tended to be kind of suspicious of because he really wanted like the straight facts.
And I think that`s actually a great quality in a leader because you don`t want a competition for the most sycophantic staff member because then you`re not going to get the honest facts about what`s happening. Then you`re not going to get bad news delivered to you or the straight face delivered to you.
I mean, I think this is actually kind of a dangerous sign that there is this rush or competition it seems to just be the deliverer of goods news because things like your bad poll numbers because you`re not doing a good job is - no one is going to tell him that.
HAYES: And, Jenna, I do wonder like - I really wonder about the kind of advice he is getting, to the extent that people - who are people who can tell the president hard truths, for instance, which is a really important thing in any organization, particularly in the White House.
Right now, he keeps doing things that seem utterly reckless even from the sort of narrow legal standpoint, like he keeps contacting people that are witnesses in investigation or tweeting about it. And it does seem like there is no one that can tell him to stop doing that.
JOHNSON: Well, so here`s the thing. The number one person that Donald Trump listens to is himself. He thinks that he`s his own best spokesperson, that he is his own best strategist, that he`s his own best pollster. And he has said that because that - that`s one of the reasons he`s in the White House that he went against the grain, did it totally different and he`s the president now and Hillary Clinton is not and he`s continuing to trust his gut and go with what he thinks is the right thing even if people around him around him are saying, stop, don`t do this, get your tweets vetted before you send them out, things like that.
HAYES: The electoral college confers a kind of infallibility. Jenna Johnson and Neera Tanden, thanks to you both.
That is ALL IN for this evening. "The Rachel Maddow Show" starts now -
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