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All In with Chris Hayes, Transcript 6/12/2017

Guests: Eric Swalwell, Nick Akerman, Carrie Cordero, Sheldon Whitehouse

Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: June 12, 2017 Guest: Eric Swalwell, Nick Akerman, Carrie Cordero, Sheldon Whitehouse

CHRIS MATTEWS, MSNBC HARDBALL HOST: - speak by putting someone else down personally. I think this country is in for some really rough arguments for the next couple of years especially about Trump. That goes for both parties. Republicans have to start talking sensibly and courageously about how far they`re willing to go with this President. Democrats are going to have to talk sensibly and courageously about where they are going to stand politically if they`re going to move left, they have to consider, if they really believe that`s where they want to be and where they want the party to be when the voters take a look at them. And as I said, we`re in for some tough arguments. The only question is whether they`re going to make a stronger in our democracy or weaker. All I know is I don`t want this President, Donald Trump, to be a reason for both parties to lose control off their bearings. One party already has and that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes starts right now.



JEFF SESSIONS, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: We need to make America great again.

HAYES: Countdown to Sessions day.

JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: My sense was the Attorney General knew he shouldn`t be leaving which is why he was lingering.

HAYES: Tonight, the massive question facing the Attorney General as Jeff Sessions prepares to testify before a surprise hearing less than 24 hours from now. Plus, as the Special Counsel hires more fire power.

CHRIS RUDDY, NEWSMAX MEDIA CEO: I think he`s considering perhaps terminating the Special Counsel.

HAYES: The growing group of Republicans trying to get Robert Mueller fired. Then, Comey was not alone. What we learned when Preet Bharara broke his silence.

PREET BHARARA, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: When I`ve been reading the stories about how the President has been contacting Jim Comey over time, a little like deja vu.

HAYES: And the secret health care bill Mitch McConnell and Republicans are planning to spring on American sight unseen; when ALL IN starts right now.


HAYES: Good evening from New York, I`m Chris Hayes. Finding himself at the center of a Russia scandal that continues to eat away the Trump Administration and of what now be - may be an investigation to criminal obstruction of justice, Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, the nation`s top law enforcement officer will testify less than 24 hours from now before an open session of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Sessions appearance tomorrow at 2:30 p.m. comes just five days after fired FBI Director James Comey sat before the same Committee and accuse the President of the United States of lying and of attempting to possibly the interfere in the Russia investigation. According to the President and his legal team, Comey was lying under oath. Initially, it appeared Sessions was trying to maneuver his way out of testifying in public. Over the weekend, he canceled planned appearances before the House and Senate Appropriation Committees which of course allocate the Justice Department budget citing expected questions about the Russia probe. Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy, Appropriations Vice Chair responded on Twitter, "my message to Attorney General Sessions, Appropriations and Judiciary have oversight of DOJ. You need to testify before both in public, you can`t run forever." Sessions offered to testify instead before the Senate Intelligence Committee, but there were reports it would be in a closed session. Finally, after calls from both sides of the aisle, the Justice Department said today that Sessions had requested to testify in public, now the Attorney General no direct oversight of the Russia probe not because he recused himself in early March. That was after it was revealed he met twice during the presidential campaign with the Russian envoy to U.S. encounters he failed to disclose while under oath at his own confirmation hearing.


SEN. AL FRANKEN (D0, MINISOTA: If there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicate with Russian government in the course of this campaign what will you do.

SESSIONS: Senator Franken, I`m not aware of any of those activities. I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I didn`t not have to communications with the Russians.


HAYES: Sessions later acknowledged that wasn`t true while announcing his recusal.


SESSIONS: In retrospect, I should have slowed down and said, but I did meet one Russian official a couple of times. That would be the Ambassador.


HAYES: In his testimony last week, James Comey raised new questions about Sessions` role in the Russia scandal when he explained why he had declined to discuss his own concerns about the President with the Attorney General.


COMEY: Our judgment, as I recall was that he was very close to and inevitably going to recuse himself for a variety of reasons. We also were aware of facts that I can`t discuss in an open setting that would make his continued engagement in a Russia-related investigation problematic.


HAYES: Later, in a closed-door session, Comey reportedly told the Senate Intelligence Committee about a possible third meeting last year between Sessions and the Russian Ambassador, which may have taken place at Washington`s Mayflower Hotel on the sidelines of foreign policy speech by then-candidate Trump. Now, a spokesperson for Sessions denies that meeting took place, but you can bet senators will ask the Attorney General himself about it tomorrow just as they`re sure to ask him about his role in Comey`s dismissal last month which may have violated the terms of his own recusal.

The Committee may also want to know what the administration intentions are regarding Robert Mueller, that`s, of course, the Special Counsel appointed to take over the Russian investigation. Some of the President`s allies on the right have already begun to try and discredit Mueller while three Trump surrogates are now on the record floating a possibility that Trump fire the Special Counsel. Newt Gingrich made the case for doing so in a video posted to Facebook. One of the President`s attorneys just refused to rule it out in an interview yesterday, and tonight, Trump confidant Christopher Ruddy told PDF the President is actively considering getting rid of Mueller.


RUDDY: I think he`s considering perhaps terminating the Special Counsel. I think he`s weighing that option. I think it`s pretty clear by what one of his lawyers said on television recently. I personally think it would be very significant mistake.


HAYES: Even though Sessions volunteered to come before the Committee tomorrow, it`s not clear how much he`ll be willing to say. According to reporter for ABC News, Sessions is not expected to answer Senate questions about talks he had before Comey`s firing, citing executive privilege. Asked today whether the Attorney General plan to invoke executive privilege, The White House Press Secretary left the door open.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When "When Jeff Sessions testifies tomorrow, do you believe that he should invoke executive privilege on conversations between himself and the President as it relates to Jim Comey?

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think it depends on the scope of the questions and to get into a hypothetical at this point would be premature


HAYES: I`m joined now, Congressman Eric Swalwell, Democrat from California, Member of the House Intelligence Committee. Let me start with you, Congressman, on the news just in the last hour, the President`s friend, confident Christopher Ruddy saying that the President is considering firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller, what you make of that.

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA), MEMBER OF THE HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: These legitimate questions, Chris, are not going away. So if he were to fire Mueller, which he can`t do, he would have to order the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to do that. But if he were to do that, Congress has the ability and I would really move for Congress to appoint, again, an Independent Prosecutor. These questions are not going away, no matter how much the President wants him to do it. And if the President is sincere and claiming that he did nothing wrong, he should not further obstruct our efforts and the FBI and the Department of Justice`s efforts to get to the bottom of what happened.

HAYES: Just to follow up on that, your colleague, the Ranking Member on that Committee, Adam Shift, tweeted this. If President fired Bob Mueller, Congress would immediately re-establish Independent Counsel and appoint Bob Mueller, don`t waste our time. Now, of course, that`s true from a sort of constitutional separation of powers perspective. But the question I think everyone says is, would Republicans go along with that. Are you confident there`s enough Republicans in the House and the Senate who would be so aghast by something like firing Mueller that they would join you?

SWALWELL: Courageous Congress that cares about our country would do that and I think that`s what the ranking member was alluding to. You know -

HAYES: Is that descriptive or aspirational.

SWALWELL: Right now it`s aspirational. Because too few people have come forward to support the independent commission bill that Elijah Cummings and I wrote. Only two republicans are on board. And so, we`re wondering what are the inflection points. He already fired James Comey if he were to move to get rid of Bob Mueller, I mean, wouldn`t that be enough, I would certainly hope so.

HAYES: Let me ask about the Attorney General Jeff Sessions and before I get to what you would like to hear from him tomorrow, I just want to ask you how unusual or anomalous it was this strange back and forth of you know. the heads of the federal department come before their Appropriations Committees to talk about why they had the budget needs they have. Is it strange, unusual or not that strange and unusual for the Attorney General to cancel and then off for Senate Intelligence Committee.

SWALWELL: Don`t know what to make of that, but I do agree that the most important questions that he should face right now are, what was his role in the campaign with Russia. Also, what was his role in the firing of James Comey and what has his role been in the hiring of the new FBI Director? I think that - those predominant any other questions that are out there right now because he seems to be - to use - it`s NBA finals tonight - the basketball analogy. A player that`s been thrown out of the game but is still calling the plays from the sideline.

HAYES: You know, the final question I think is an interesting one. It`s one that we do well to pay careful attention to, is the FBI Director. We don`t have one, I should note, which seems important but that aside, Jeff Sessions, is it your sense he has been consulting with the President on that hiring and what do you think about him invoking the executive privilege not to discuss any conversations he has with the President.

SWALWELL: We don`t know whether he`s insulting the President. That would be an important question tomorrow. But what we do know about the executive privilege, is it`s a privilege. It`s not a right and I believe that the President and the conduct he`s demonstrated in the Oval Office by James Comey`s testimony has lost the right to assert that privilege. He`s abused his power by seeking to have -

HAYES: Let me be clear here though. Let`s just be clear here. You`re making a legal argument that as found by the Supreme Court during Watergate that an exceptional executive privilege is to cover up evidence of wrongdoing. You think that pertains in this case. That`s your argument?

SWALWELL: The public`s right to know and the ability to inform a criminal prosecution is more important than any privilege that the President has to communicate with his aides. Yes.

HAYES: All right, Congressman Eric Swalwell, thank you for your time.

SWALWELL: My pleasure.

HAYES: Joining me now Nick Akerman, former U.S. Attorney and Assistant Special Watergate Prosecutor and Carrie Cordero, former Attorney for the Justice Department`s National Security Division. Nick, let me start with you.


HAYES: The Mueller thing, let`s start with that. The President, I guess, you know, the President can fire the Special Counsel. It is a unitary executive in some sense.

AKERMAN: Well, he can`t - he can`t fire him directly. He has to first fire Rosenstein who would then fire the Special Counsel. Now if Rosenstein -

HAYES: He would have to direct Rosenstein to do it, right?

AKERMAN: Exactly. And if Rosenstein refused, then it`s going to be Watergate all over again with having to reach down to the Solicitor General to do it. Because presumably, the Attorney General who recused wouldn`t be able to do it although who knows with this Attorney General, he`s apt to do anything.

HAYES: I mean, just to be clear, when you say Watergate all over again. The infamous Saturday Night Massacre, was the President of the United States seeking to fire the Special Counsel Archibald Cox and going to a series of Justice Department officials instructing them to do so then resigning until he found someone, Robert Bork who would do it.

AKERMAN: Exactly, exactly. And that`s likely what would happen here. It`s hard to believe that Rod Rosenstein who is basically the same thing that Elliot Richardson did who was the Attorney General at the time under Nixon made a pledge to the Congress that he would appoint somebody and Richardson felt under the same obligation he could not stay on and fire Archibald Cox and felt compelled to leave, as did Ruckelshaus who was the Deputy Attorney General.

HAYES: Carrie, is that - does that track with your thinking?

CARRIE CORDERO, FORMER JUSTICE DEPARTMENT`S NATIONAL SECURITY ATTORNEY: It does. I really cannot imagine a scenario where Rod Rosenstein voluntarily follows a direction to fire the Special Counsel. He made the decision to appoint the Special Counsel. He selected former Director Mueller to fill it. He knows that Director Mueller is one of the most respected individuals who can lead this complex investigation under these sensitive circumstances. And so, I just can`t imagine that he would, in any way, go ahead and take that action.

HAYES: Attorney, you were - you were - you serve in the Justice Department in the National Security Division, was it under the Bush administration, am I right?

CORDERO: Under the Bush administration and at the end during the beginning of the Obama administration.

HAYES: What are you - it`s been interesting to watch folks allies, I would say political allies of the President begin to circulate the idea that Mueller is essentially a partisan act, that he`s a hatched man and that he`s compromised. And that somewhat I guess during - at the Justice Department during the Bush administration, Mueller was the FBI Director and earliest parts of the war on terror. What do you make of that characterization?

CORDERO: I think it`s absolutely despicable. Bob Mueller is - has been a - he was actually a Republican Bush administration transition official as either the Acting Attorney General or the Deputy Attorney General and then he was confirmed as FBI Director. He has a stellar reputation. He is unquestioned in his integrity. He led the FBI during an incredible transition after the September 11th attacks. I saw Director Mueller on the floor on the FBI Strategic Operations Center on the day and the days after September 11th. And I really just can`t believe that there are Republican politicians who are out there trying to, in some way, insinuate that he`s a partisan actor.

HAYES: What ultimately gives - I mean, so let`s talk about Sessions, right? All of this - I guess what`s confusing here is that everyone is sort of obeying what are essentially internal Department Justice guidelines about recusal and then Special Counsel, right?

AKERMAN: There`s also regulations. He was appointed pursuant to regulations.

HAYES: But those regulations are internal regulations, internal to Department of Justice. Couldn`t the President just override them?

AKERMAN: He can`t override them, he has to have somebody in the department actually do his bidding. I mean, all he has to do is keep going down the chain of command until he finds the one -

HAYES: So, I guess my question is here. Just not this sort of play, too many hypotheticals here but what if Jeff Sessions just said I un-recuse myself and I`m firing Robert Mueller.

AKERMAN: He could do that and I wouldn`t be surprised. I mean, is a guy who has lied in his own confirmation hearing in the context of all of these other people coming down with amnesia. You`ve got Jared Kushner, you`ve got Mike Flynn, they all have Kislyaklidish. Every time they get near the Russian Ambassador, he is like one of those characters in Harry Potter, just sucks up all of his memory and leaves him totally non compos mentis - it`s unbelievable.

HAYES: Carrie, do you think - do you think that Sessions ultimately can get away with hiding - or not hiding, but essentially refusing to answer questions about any conversation, deliberations, policy discussions with the President of the United States.

CORDERO: You know, what will be interesting to watch is how he handles himself in comparison to how the Director of National Intelligence Coats and the NSA Director Rogers handled themselves last week. Because they did an interesting thing that was sort of unusual. They did not claim executive privilege for not answering certain questions. But what they did do is said that there were certain interactions between themselves and the President that they were uncomfortable describing an open session. And what that did, is it blurred the lines between when a senior government official -

HAYES: Right.

CORDERO: - asserts executive privilege versus when they say they need to talk about something in closed session because it`s classified.

HAYES: And (INAUDIBLE) Angus King basically said, wait a second, what there is - he said there`s essentially there`s no legal recourse for you here. You can assert privilege or not, but you can`t just say, I don`t feel like talking about it, right?

AKERMAN: Yes. No, it`s exactly what they did. I mean, what he tried to do is to pin them down as to what the basis was for refusing to testify. Ultimately, if they`re put into a Grand Jury by the Special Counsel, they can`t - the only thing they can do is take the fifth amendment at that point. They`re not going to take - they can`t take executive privilege. A conversation in furtherance of a criminal act is not privilege period.

HAYES: So - and to extend that, right? So again, we don`t quite know this but redo as Mueller Special Counsel has within his purview an investigation of obstruction which would be a criminal act, that - all of that then sort of, would fall broadly under, that is your case?

AKERMAN: Absolutely. He`s have the right to question both of those individuals, I think he will put them into the Grand Jury. There`s no doubt in my mind that he will.

HAYES: That`s really remarkable. Nick Akerman and Carrie Cordero, thank you very much.

AKERMAN: Thank you for having me.

HAYES: Ahead, Senate Republicans have a secret health care bill they plan to vote on this month but they are literally refusing to show anyone or any Democrats or the public what is in it. First, another federal law enforcement officer capable of investigating the President describes his uncomfortable interactions with the President before being fired and that`s after this two-minute break.


HAYES: Former FBI Director James Comey is not the only federal law enforcement officer with possible investigatory powers over the President in his campaign who wound up being fired by the President. One other, of course, is Preet Bharara, he`s the former United States Attorney in Manhattan who sat right behind Comey during his Senate testimony last week. Yesterday for the first time we got Bharara side of the story in regards to his abrupt dismissal in March. Like Comey, Bharara said that Donald Trump tried to cultivate a relationship before firing him. During the transition, then President-elect invited Bharara to Trump tower to ask him to stay on as U.S. Attorney for New York Southern District. That was followed up by a pair of phone calls.


BHARARA: When I`ve been reading the stories about how President has seen contacting Jim Comey over time, I felt a little like deja vu.

he called me in December, ostensibly just to shoot the breeze and asked me how I was doing and wanted to make sure I was OK. It was similar to what Jim Comey testified to with respect to a call he got when he was getting on the helicopter. I didn`t say anything at the time to him. It was a little bit uncomfortable, but he was not the president, he was only the president- elect.

He called me again two days before the inauguration.

It`s a very weird and peculiar thing for a one on one conversation without the Attorney General, without warning, between the President and me.


HAYES: Bharara received a third phone call from Donald Trump in March after the man became President and according to the Associated Press, Bharara reported the call to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Chief of Staff who agreed it was best that Bharara not speak directly with Trump. The very next day on an order from the President, Sessions, the Attorney General, asked for Bharara and other 45 other U.S. Attorneys to resign. But Bharara was fired by the Trump administration after refusing to do so.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When he was actually President you refused to take the call, I guess the next day, you`re fired.

BHARARA: So the call came in, I got a message, we deliberated over it, I thought it was inappropriate to return the call and 22 hours later I was asked to resign along with you know, 45 other people. Till this day I have no idea why I was fired.


HAYES: Joining me now Senator Sheldon White House, he`s a Democrat from Rhode Island. And Senator, you served, if I`m not mistaken as U.S. Attorney for Rhode Island. You have some familiarity with that role. I want to play you what Bharara has said about the phone conversations he did or did not have with President Obama and then asked about your appearance - your experience. Take a listen.


BHARARA: The number of times President Obama called me in seven and a half years was zero. The number of times I would have been expected to be called by the President of the United States would be zero because there has to be some kind of arm`s length relationship.


HAYES: Did you talk on the phone a lot with President Clinton when you were U.S. Attorney?

SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D), RHODE ISLAND: Not once. One of the reasons that that didn`t happen is because a firewall existed between the Department of Justice and the White House and there were very, very limited possible connections across that firewall. I want to say there are two or three people on the White House side or maybe two or three people on the DOJ side and everybody else with respect to anything that could bear on criminal prosecution you weren`t supposed to have a conversation with. So Presidents usually don`t waste their time just exchanging pleasantries with folks and U.S. Attorneys usually do criminal cases so there`s not a whole lot of room to maneuver there.

HAYES: You know, there`s a theory that`s been forth by some of the defenders of the President of the United States including Paul Ryan that essentially this is a man who is naive, who sort of stumbling into transgressions of norms because he doesn`t realize any better. And I guess, considering that he had this same behavior with two men, both with investigatory powers over the possibility of looking into this campaign, James Comey and Preet Bharara and fired both of them, how do you think that - what does that do for that argument, that he doesn`t know what he`s doing?

WHITEHOUSE: Well, it looks like he`s trying to work the rest either by trying to charm them, I guess if you think he`s charming, or in the case recently of the leaks that he might be interested in filing Mueller trying to, you know, frighten him and suggest that he might be fired, but all of that is exactly the kind of thing that any prosecutor takes a look at and recoils from. This is not a New York real estate deal where you can take somebody out to a fancy dinner and smooth them up or try to bully their lawyer and have that effect the outcome. These are professionals and they`re going to play by the rules, and they`re certainly no better and allow themselves to be messed around with, with this kind of ham-handed effort to work them like you`d work the refs.

HAYES: Given the fact that it was - the timing here is fascinating to me. The President had asked Preet Bharara to stay on. He then - a day after the U.S. Attorney from Southern District refused to call him backfired everyone. I wonder if you had the suspicion that the mass firing of all the U.S. Attorneys was essentially a way of covering for this individual firing.

WHITEHOUSE: It`s hard to tell, but the other piece of that chain of event was that very same week, just a few days earlier, Attorney General Sessions had had a phone call with all of the sitting United States Attorneys to cheer them on and sort of pass the message of good will and you know, get a signal from the new boss and all that sort of stuff. That`s not something that you do to people that you know you`re going to fire in two days. So something happened between that original Sessions phone call to the troops and the mass firing and that`s something that I think Jeff Sessions should come before the Judiciary Committee and answer some questions about.

HAYES: Are you confident that the President is going to conduct himself - if in fact, the Ryan case is correct, that he`s unaware of the protocols here. Are you confident that his behavior will change?

WHITEHOUSE: No and I don`t think he`s unaware, either. I think he`s unaware of other people having a moral compass that tells them they have to do their jobs because that`s not part of his life experience. So he knows perfectly well when he`s working the refs. He just finds it hard to believe that anybody could have a moral compass.

HAYES: What would you do if you were U.S. Attorney in that position and you like Preet Bharara had gotten a third call like he did from the President, would you have taken a similar course of action?

WHITEHOUSE: I would have made a very careful contemporaneous notes and I would have referred it upstream to the Department Of Justice to, probably, even the Deputy Attorney General who usually is the gatekeeper for the Attorney General to say I don`t know what`s going on, guys, I`m getting weird calls from the President of the United States and in the case of Preet, I`ll be able to add, oh, by the way, I`m the U.S. Attorney who has jurisdiction over meetings and other things that might have happened at Trump Tower in New York because I`m the Southern District of New York, U.S. Attorney and this needs to be cleaned up. I can`t just leave this hanging out there.

HAYES: All right. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, thanks for joining us. Coming up, why Senate Republicans are trying to draft a health care bill, no one else gets to see and how their unprecedented effort is working. That`s next.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The House passed the bill, the Senate has it right now, Mitch McConnell is working very, very hard as are the Republican Senators. We will have zero backing from the Democrats, even though they should get in and do something, but we expect to get zero. If we had the greatest bill in the history of the world on health care, we wouldn`t get one vote from the Democrats.


HAYES: There`s one thing the President was absolutely right about today. When Senate Republicans poised to vote on the health care bill before July 4th - just a few weeks - there is not one single Democrat who backs the legislation. And the reason for that is because they know literally nothing about it. Senator Brian Schatz tweeting Friday, "13 Republican men are meeting in secret to make healthcare plan, they`re plan is to do it so fast we can`t stop them. Stop them." And last week, Senator Claire McCaskill appealed to her Republican colleagues directly.


SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: You couldn`t have a more partisan exercise than what you`re - what you`re engaged in right now. We`re not even going to have a hearing on a bill that impacts 1/6 of our economy. We`re not going to have an opportunity to offer a single amendment. It is all being done with an eye to try to get it by with 50 votes and the Vice President.


HAYES: The Republicans can send the bill to the Congressional Budget Office for a score, get this before anyone else even sees it. Axios reporting they have no plans to publicly release it. Again, this is going to be a law, presumably. One GOP Aid explaining why they won`t release it to the public quote "we aren`t stupid". No, they aren`t. Nor is the man who is one of the transformational figures of our time, and the man leading their secret efforts. I`ll explain the McConnell Doctrine after the break.


HAYES: The Republican effort to overhaul health care remains extremely unpopular. A poll just last week found that, get this, just 17 percent of Americans approve of the health care bill that`s already been passed by the House while a whopping 62 percent disapprove.

Now, Republicans in the Senate are crafting their version of the bill now, entirely behind closed doors without a single hearing or any input at all from the public or from Democrats.

Bernie Sanders today tweeted the words breaking: Senate they just released a schedule hearings, committee mark ups and public testimony for their health care bill followed by a blank piece of paper.

Senate Republicans are so wary of what people might think of their bill, they refused to even release a draft to the public, which raises the question, why do they want to pass such a toxic bill at all? Why not just let it die? And understand that, you have to understand one of the most influential political figures of our time: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who has reshaped and bent political institutions into his supremely cynical vision.

McConnell is the architect of the GOP strategy of stonewalling President Obama`s Supreme Court nominee before he was even nominated for more than nine months. It was an absolutely unprecedented violation of norms and precedents, the sort of thing that you just don`t do. But he did it. And crucially, it worked proving what I call the McConnell doctrine, which this in, an error of extreme polarization and weakening institutions you can get away with whatever you`re shameless enough to pursue.

Joining me now, Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan.

Senator, how long have you been in the Senate?

SEN. DEBBIE STABENOW, (D) MICHIGAN: Chris, I was first elected in 2000 and I have to tell you that I have been a member of the finance committee, we held 53 hearings on health reform, I was at every one of them.

HAYES: You`re saying for the ACA, you held 53 hearings.

STABENOW: For the ACA, not counting what the health committee did. The health committee, also in the Senate, did hearings. All together in the Senate there were 100 hearings. And in the final Senate bill there were 147 Republican amendments, even though they decided not to support the bill.

HAYES: I want to be clear here, because I think it could be - the legislative process can feel obscure or opaque or maybe even not that important, but just to be clear here, and I covered those hearings, I was in reporter in Washington. I sat through interminable hours of testimony, this - have you seen anyone try to pass a bill of this significance and magnitude entirely secretly the way that they are doing right now?

STABENOW: No. And, Chris, it`s absolutely outrageous. When I think of somebody in Michigan with cancer who could lose their treatments, they have a right to know what`s in this bill, or somebody who is trying to care for their mom with Alzheimer`s that will lose nursing home care. they have a right to know. They have a right to see this bill.

And the reality is we know that they`re rushing it through the budget office this week. I think Mitch McConnell is trying to get it on the floor as early as next week. He`s hoping everybody is going to be talking about Russia, so I`m so grateful that you`re talking about this tonight because we`re talking about one fifth of the economy, tens of millions of people losing their health care coverage and everybody else is going to see their health care costs go up and the insult is, all of that is going to go to pay for a tax cut for multimillionaires and billionaires. And they`re doing this whole thing in secret.

HAYES: OK. So then the question becomes, and I should note, I want to quickly read a tweet from Hally Bird (ph) who is an excellent young Capitol Hill reporter who said she asked a conservative Senator today if their office had seen any text of the mostly drafted health care bill. We are assuming since they sent it to CBO today, which by the way I should note, I don`t think it went over there, it will then make its way to K Street, then to Politico, then we will see it, you know, the way government is suppose to work. And I think the tipoff there is I`ve heard from other folks that K Street has been involved, lobbyist know it. Public doesn`t. You don`t.

So, here is my question for you, if Mitch McConnell is willing to, essentially, disregard these norms of procedure, if he`s willing to use reconciliation process in fairly unprecedented way, what are Senate Democrats going to do? Will you withdraw unanimous consent. Will you escalate procedurally as well to make sure that this is not rammed through?

STABENOW: We will do everything in our power, Chris, to be able to stop this.

HAYES: Do you really mean that, because Tom Coburn showed everything in one`s power back in the day. I used to cover him, too, he would not allow unanimous consent for anything to happen until he got his way. So, that means, not grinding the Senate to a halt fundamentally, would you do that?

STABENOW: Well, we are right now putting in place a strategy and also -- yes, we`re going to be moving forward to do everything we can to stop this, but we`re also engaging the public, because I want to remind everybody, they originally said that they were going to do this through the House and Senate by January 27th. It didn`t happen. Why? Because they were women`s marches and health care marches and emails and sit-ins and indivisible groups and so on.

This is the moment to do that. So we will be doing our part knowing that we don`t have 51 votes. It`s going to be up to the Republicans to decide whether or not there are three people that will step away and vote on the side of the American people and having health care, but we also know what has happened when the public has gotten engaged in the past.

So, I really encourage people to do that.

What people in Michigan want me to be doing right now is figuring out how to lower the cost of prescription drugs and make health care better, not see a secret health care bill rammed through that`s going to take away health care from tens of millions of people.

HAYES: By the way, let me just say, I would love to talk to any member of the Senate from the Republican Party about the bill. We could talk about the details, the policy details, Medicaid, anything you want for as long as you want. It seems like an important topic.

Senator Debbie Stabenow thanks for your time tonight.

All right, still ahead, is President Trump actually considering a modern day version of Richard Nixon Saturday night massacre? What we know about what the White House is considering and what it would mean. And next, the extraordinary scene, it`s really extraordinary, at President Trump`s first cabinet meeting. And next, the extraordinary scene, really extraordinary, at President Trump`s first cabinet meeting today in tonight`s Thing One, Thing Two.


HAYES: Thing One tonight, a scene today as President Trump held his full first cabinet meeting after declaring that with the possible exception at FDR, there has never been a president who has done more things than himself. He invited his VP and cabinet secretary to, quote, go around and name your position, or as most chose to do take a moment to publicly shower the president with praise.


TRUMP: Mike.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you, Mr. President. And just greatest privilege of my life to serve as vice president to the president who is keeping his word to the American people.

TRUMP: Alex.

ALEX ACOSTA, LABOR SECRETARY: Mr. President, my privilege to be here, deeply honored. And I want to thank you for being here your commitment to the American workers.

TOM PRICE, HEALTH AND HUMAN RESOURCES SECRETARY: I can`t thank you enough for the privilege that you`ve given me and the leadership that you`ve shown.

ELAINE CHAO, TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: I want to thank you for getting this country moving again and also working again.

REINCE PRIEBUS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: On behalf of the entire senior staff around you, Mr. President, we thank you for the opportunity and the blessing that you`ve given us to serve your agenda and the American people. And we`re continuing to work very hard every day to accomplish those goals.


HAYES: White House reporter Glen Thrush tweeted this interminable candidate spray where everybody pays tribute to Trump is one of the most exquisitely awkward public events I`ve ever seen.

Jonathan Karl noted the approval rating among cabinet members is sky high, but the best response came from a Senate office on Capitol Hill, and that`s Thing Two in 60 seconds.


HAYES: The heaping of praise on President Trump by his cabinet members in front of the cameras and a kiss of the ring fashion did not go unnoticed by reporters and lawmakers. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer tweeted, "great meeting today with the best staff in the history of the world," along with this video.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, (D) NEW YORK: I want to thank everybody for coming. I just thought we would go around the room. Lucy, how did we do on the Sunday show yesterday?

LUCY: Your tone was perfect. You were right on message.

SCHUMER: Michelle, how did my hair look coming out of the gym this morning?

MICHELLE: You have great hair. Nobody has better hair than you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, before we go any further, I just want to say thank you for the opportunity and blessing to serve your agenda.




HAYES: It is truly stunning that we`ve reached the point that someone who is at the White House today, Chris Ruddy (ph) of NewsMax has now said President Trump might fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller.


CHRIS RUDDY, NEWSMAX: I think he`s considering, perhaps, terminating the special counsel. I think he`s weighing that option. I think it`s pretty clear by what one of his lawyers said on television recently.


HAYES: Now, the White House says the president`s meeting with Chris Ruddy was postponed, so we don`t know if Ruddy has firsthand knowledge the president is considering firing the special counsel. But the trial balloon has been released, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich sidestepped the legal prohibition of the president doing it himself by saying that Republicans in Congress should somehow do it.

Gingrich says that since Comey leaked the content of his memos about his meetings with the president in order to trigger the appointment of a special counsel, that somehow the special counsel himself is now tarnished.


NEWT GINGRICH, FRM. SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: And I think what that brings into question is whether or not the congress should shutdown the independent counsel because it is poisoned fruit. The independent counsel, by Comey`s own testimony yesterday, was created because of his manipulation, because of his leak, because of his deliberate intent to force it to happen.

I think that what Republicans ought to focus on is closing down the independent counsel, because he`s not independent. He apparently is very close to Comey.


HAYES: This is now part of the emerging strategy to combat the Russian investigation, to go after Robert Mueller. But we know how Newt Gingrich felt about Mueller when his appointment as special counsel was announced. It was very different. That`s next.


HAYES: Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich now says that special counsel Robert Mueller who was President George W. Bush`s FBI director during the earliest days on the war on terror is too much of a Clinton loving liberal to independent, even though this is what he had-to-to say about Mueller on the day he was announced as special counsel, quote, "Robert Mueller is superb choice to be special counsel. His reputation is impeccable for honesty and integrity, and media should calm down."

Now things have changed.

Joining me now Lynn Sweet, Washington bureau chief of the Chicago Sun Times, and MSNBC Political analyst Heidi Przybyla, a senior politics reporter at USA Today.

Lynn, I guess at some level, this is sort of the nature of these kind of fights in Washington, but it is still remarkable and head snapping to watch the beginnings of the process by which Republicans are going to go after Robert Mueller.

LYNN SWEET, CHICAGO SUN TIMES: Well, absolutely. And here`s - I do what to kind of defend Newt Gingrich a little bit. He did that first tweet without knowing that Comey was going to say that he tried to rig the system to make sure that a special counsel was appointed by getting a go between to get his memo to self out there.

But, no, we`re on the ground floor of a political and legal territory that we have never been on because no president has proceeded in the way that President Trump has. I know I`m saying the obvious, but one quick observation here, if I may, to set the predicate, I think all this unfolding chaos we`re seeing is because President Trump I think still hasn`t absorbed that even the president of the United States has limit to his or maybe one day her power, and that, I think, is a basis for this too. That`s why you could float the idea that he could or would fire Mueller and not suffer for it.

HAYES: Right. I mean, let me just say that I don`t use the word rigged to describe Comey. I mean, that Comey wanted there to be a special counsel. I would say that he was essentially trying to sort of facilitate, initiate, help along, inspire. Ultimately, he didn`t make the decision, right. I mean, that was Rosenstein`s decision.

But I do think that there`s - to Lynn`s point, Heidi, about the sort of question about presidential power, which, you know, we`re kind of grappling with an elemental question about it. And to Lynn`s point, the president does have constitutional authority to do a whole lot of things - launch nuclear weapons, preemptively pardon every Republican office holder in the country from federal crimes.

HEIDI PRZYBYLA, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I`m not sure that Comey`s intent is relevant here at all. He was being a whistle blower in this case, not necessarily a leaker, because the evidence is what it is. In this case he`s now they`re moving on to kind of defame Mueller when the same people, like Carl Rove, were out there saying that he had done a superb job.

So it`s just not a credible argument when a week later the only thing that`s changed in this case is that Mueller is starting to staff up. You have to have cause in a case like this, and the only cause that we have is that Mueller`s showing that he`s going to conduct a credible investigation by hiring, who? One of the top criminal defense lawyers in the country. And that seems to be the thing that`s changed, not that Comey gave his testimony, because like I said the evidence and the memos are what they are, and I`m not sure that his intent matters in this case.

HAYES: Although, I should say, Lynn, this is interesting to me, I`m watching conservatives circulate - they started circulating the donation records, the campaign donation records of people Mueller`s is hiring. A number of the prominent folks he`s hiring, who are career folks, have given money to Obama back in 2008 and 2012. And you could see the building of the case that this is fundamentally a partisan undertaking.

SWEET: Well, right. And that`s why Ivanka Trump hired Jamie Gorelick, who is a Democrat, to defend her. OK, so I think what you`re seeing here is a playing to the base where Trump can do no wrong and this just helps establish to the base why this probe isn`t fair, that the umpire somehow is -- I don`t want to use rigging, Chris, because I don`t want to upset anyone here - that Mueller isn`t a fair umpire.

But none of that I think really matters whether or not there`s a blitz to try to muddy up the people that most people have never heard of who are working for Mueller. He could hire endless numbers of people. He`s got basically endless resources, endless time, enlist people he could hire if it`s not - that`s not the point.

The point here is that tomorrow, Attorney General Sessions is going to testify in an open hearing before the Senate intelligence committee. The point is that Trump sees that this is a massive distraction to try and have the conversation be about Mueller rather than about the fundamental question and about what may unfold tomorrow.

HAYES: And Lynn`s point, Heidi, I think is right about the sort of - again, this is all sort of aimed at consolidating the 35 percent, the 40 percent of people who were sort of bedrock and diehard supporters of the president.

But in terms of the calculation on Captiol Hill, I just - as someone who covers the political dynamics in Washington, what do you think of this idea that like if he fired Mueller Republicans in congress would move to vote for or initiate a special counsel, independent counsel. That struck me as not likely, actually.

PRZYBYLA: Yeah, I think you may be right about that. Just because with so many things, throughout the course of this probing of Russia, we`ve moved on from one to the next and kind of swept things under the rug. And it seems like, for example, in the House when lawmakers had a chance to vote for a special counsel right after Comey was fired, they didn`t.

And so that`s just one example of how even though in the face of something that to all of us would seem, oh, my goodness, this is a four alarm fire that congress would act. So, I don`t know that you can count on that. And I also at the same time, though, don`t know how serious to take this because like Ruddy is now making clear, he didn`t necessarily get that firsthand from the White House.

And I do think there would be a big uproar. I think there would be demonstrations in the street. And maybe at some point that would push congress to do something, but it`s not a given.

HAYES: Yeah, Lynn Sweet and Heidi Przybyla, thank you both.

Before we go, a quick note, I`ll be signing copies of my new book, A Colony in a Nation this week here in New York. I`ll be at The Shop at NBC Studios on Wednesday at 4:00 p.m. You could find more information on our Facebook page. Please stop by. I`d love to see you.

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