Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: June 13, 2017 Guest: Adam Schiff, Cory Booker, Jim Jordan
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HARDBALL HOST: That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes starts right now.
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CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC ALL IN HOST: Tonight on ALL IN.
SEN. ANGUS KING (I), MAINE: Has the President invoked executive privilege in the case of your testimony here today?
JEFF SESSIONS, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: He has not.
HAYES: Stonewalling the Senate.
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), CALIFORNIA: Did you not ask your staff to show you the policy that would be the basis for your refusing the majority of questions that have been asked of you?
SESSIONS: Chairman, (INAUDIBLE) should be allowed to answer.
HAYES: The President`s Attorney General faces the Intel Committee.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Do you remember lingering? Do you remember feeling like you needed to stay?
SESSIONS: I do recall being one of the last ones to leave.
HAYES: Jeff Sessions on Russian collusion.
SESSIONS: Appalling and detestable lie.
HAYES: On the firing of James Comey.
SESSIONS: A fresh start at the FBI was the appropriate thing to do.
HAYES: And the future of the Special Counsel.
SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: Will you commit to this Committee not to take any personal actions that might result in Director Mueller`s firing?
HAYES: Tonight, what we learned and where we go from here with Congressman Adam Schiff. And Democrats continue to ring the alarm on the GOP`s secret Trumpcare plan.
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSSETS: Will the secret Republican bill let insurance companies go ahead and drop prescription drug coverage or kick people off Medicare?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator Warren, I can`t answer that.
HAYES: When ALL IN starts right
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HAYES: Good evening from New York, I`m Chris Hayes. In sworn testimony today before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Attorney General Jeff Sessions proved an often evasive witness, saying he couldn`t recall details about meetings with the Russian Ambassador and refusing to answer questions about his conversations with the President despite acknowledging the President has made no executive privilege claim. But on the question of collusion or possible collusion between Russian operatives and the Trump campaign on which he was a key adviser, the attorney General was unambiguous.
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SESSION: The suggestion that I participated in any collusion, that I was aware of any collusion with the Russian government to hurt this country, which I have served with honor for 35 years, or to undermine the integrity of our democratic process is an appalling and detestable lie.
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HAYES: Sessions insisted there was nothing improper in his two known meetings with the Russian Ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, but he did not entirely rule out the possibility of a third encounter last year at the Mayflower Hotel.
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WARNER: To the best of your memory, you had no conversation with Ambassador Kislyak at that meeting?
SESSIONS: I don`t recall that, Senator Warner. It will be - certainly, I can assure you nothing improper if I had to have a conversation with him and it`s conceivable it would have been nothing improper if I`d had a conversation with him, and it`s conceivable that that occurred. I just don`t remember it.
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HAYES: Sessions confirmed a key piece of fired FBI Director James Comey`s testimony last week, recalling leaving Comey alone in the Oval Office with the President. That, of course, is when Comey says the President told him he hoped he could let the investigation into Michael Flynn go. The Attorney General also recalled Comey later voicing concerns about the one- on-one meeting. When it came to the issue of Comey`s sudden termination last month, Sessions left key questions unanswered. He defended his involvement in Comey`s firing, arguing it did not violate the terms of his recusal from the Russia investigation.
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SESSIONS: Now, I do not believe that it is a sound position to say that if you`re recused for a single case involving any one of the great agencies like DEA or U.S. Marshals or ATF that are part of the Department of Justice, you can`t make a decision about the leadership in that agency.
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HAYES: Sessions also stood by the initial pretext for Comey`s firing outlined in a memo by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, which faulted Comey`s handling of the Clinton e-mail investigation. But when asked repeatedly about the President`s own suggestion that Comey was fired because of the Russia investigation, Sessions refused over and over again to answer Senators` questions.
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DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: Did you ever discuss Director Comey`s FBI handling of the Russia investigations with the President or anyone else?
SESSIONS: Senator Feinstein, that would call for a communication between the Attorney General and the President -
FEINSTEIN: I understand that.
SESSIONS: - and I`m not able to comment on that.
SEN RON WYDEN (D), OREGON: We`re talking about an attack on our democratic institutions and stonewalling of any kind is unacceptable. And General Sessions has acknowledged that there is no legal basis for this stonewalling.
SESSIONS: Senator Wyden, I am not stonewalling. I am following the historic policies of the Department of Justice.
SEN. MARTIN HEINRICH (D), NEW MEXICO: And now you`re not answering questions. You`re impeding this investigation. So my understanding of the legal standard is that you either answer the question - that`s the best outcome. You say this is classified, can`t answer it here, I`ll answer it in closed session. That`s bucket number two. Bucket number three is to say, I`m invoking executive privilege. There is no appropriateness bucket. It is not a legal standard.
SESSIONS: Senator, I`m protecting the President`s constitutional right by not giving it away before he has a chance to review it.
He has not had a full opportunity to review the questions and to make a decision on whether or not to approve such an answer.
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HAYES: Joining me now, Congressman Adam Schiff, Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee. And as someone who is a Ranking Member on an Oversight Committee, what`s wrong with essentially pre-emptively or proactively let say preserving the possibility of Presidential privilege - if I can say that ten times fast - as the Attorney General suggested today?
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Well, there`s no privilege to reserve a potential privilege later. You either invoke a privilege or you don`t. And here there was really nothing unanticipated about the questions. We all knew what the Senators were going to ask. If he had come to the House, we would have asked exactly the same questions. He came prepared to answer some and not to answer others. So there was no reason except the fact that the White House wanted to try to have it both ways, didn`t want to actually have the spectacle of having to invoke the privilege but also didn`t want him to answer.
Now, Congress cannot let that stand. And you know, in particular, those questions that go to whether he violated his recusal, whether the President fired Director Comey as a way of obstructing or impeding the investigation, if he is privy to information that the memo that Rod Rosenstein prepared, his own letter would serve as mere pretext or window dressing to conceal the true reason for Comey`s firing, he cannot hide that behind a privilege. So we need to pursue this in Congress. We need to litigate it if necessary. But we can`t take that non-answer as the last word.
HAYES: There`s been three officials who have testified before Congress all sort of occupying a similar space in terms of how they`ve answered Committee. Dan Coats, Director of National Intelligence, Admiral Rogers of the NSA and now Jeff Sessions. Am I - I guess, is this anomalous? Is it normally the case that those in the executive branch before Congress will answer questions under oath or invoke privilege? Is this middle space unusual, or is it something that happens a lot?
SCHIFF: No, it`s very unusual, and it`s completely unacceptable. The fact that it may be inconvenient or it may be embarrassing, that`s not a privilege. But, you know, again, when you have a clash between the executive and the legislative branch, it really is a test of wills. We have the legal right to get the answers, and the only question is whether we`ll demonstrate the will to insist on them, we`re going to have to. I`m confident that Bob Mueller is going to as well but the public has a right to know this. We, you know, cannot allow the executive to try to cloak what may be impropriety or illegality behind claims of privilege.
So you know, among the most striking things to me today were, you know, the fact that he tried to hide behind this non-privilege, but also the degree that you pointed out to which he corroborated Director Comey about that key meeting where Comey was asked to drop the Flynn case. The following day, Comey goes toSessions. Sessions acknowledges Comey was uncomfortable about what took place, and he says basically don`t let that happen again. Now, Sessions testified today that meeting with the President as an FBI Director in and of itself may not be wrong. It`s only wrong when it`s about a pending case. Well, because the Director was uncomfortable, he knew it was about a pending case, of course, that case was the Russia case.
HAYES: I want to play one moment that was really interesting to me in which Sessions talked about the degree to which he knows about the nature of the investigation into what Russia did. Take a listen.
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KING: After the election, before the inauguration, you never sought any information about this rather dramatic attack on our country?
SESSIONS: On - no.
ANGUS: You received no briefing on the Russian active measures in connection with the 2016 election?
SESSIONS: No. I don`t believe I ever did.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Were you surprised by that?
SCHIFF: I was surprised by it. And you know, to me, it very much echoed a question that Director Comey was asked, and that is, did the President ever ask you about the Russian hacking, what we need to do about it, how we protect the country, what steps we should take to deter them, and the answer was similarly no. Now, it surprised me more, I think, with Sessions because with the President, it`s very clear that his only interest is in how does this affect me, not to how does this affect America or how do we protect America, but how does this affect me. I would have thought, hoped maybe, that the Attorney General`s answer might have been a bit different, that he would have shown a concern that certainly the rest of us that work in the national security space have and had. He was a member of the Armed Services Committee so, yes, I thought that was very striking.
HAYES: All right, Congressman Adam Schiff, thanks for your time.
SCHIFF: Thank you, Chris.
HAYES: Just after today`s Senate Intelligence hearing wrapped up, I got a chance to speak with Democratic Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, who told me that Jeff Sessions should not be Attorney General. I started the interview by asking him what else he learned from today`s hearing.
SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), NEW JERSEY: Well, very little because he really had a case of either convenient amnesia where he didn`t recall details of conversations that could have been implicating on him, and he frankly found a very creative dodge that I think is problematic. And I think when witnesses refuse to testify, refuse to respond to inquiries like we saw in the House Republicans, they should be held in contempt.
HAYES: The argument that the Attorney General gave today about why it did not violate the terms of his recusal to be involved at all in the decision to fire James Comey, was that his responsible for the totality of the Department of Justice, he`s recused from one particular case, but he cannot allow that to impede him in dispatching his duties and if, in fact, Comey was so incompetent or so deserving of termination, that would be a dereliction to point to the recusal so as not to effectuate that. What`s your response to that argument?
BOOKER: Well again, this again is the knot that they`re being tied into. If what the President said, he was being fired in relation to the Russian investigation and the person who recused himself in the Russian investigation is getting involved in that firing. To me, that violates the reasons for which he gave a recusal. So there is a whole bunch of twisted and conflicting reasoning going on here and today did not shed light on that, did not get to the bottom or at least unravel all of this twisted, convoluted reasoning that`s been put forth.
HAYES: I want to ask you about the sort of question of collusion. He was extremely indignant - the Attorney General today about the any implication that in his conversations with Sergey Kislyak, which he had failed to note in his previous testimony, that he would have colluded in any way, conspired, talked about subverting American democracy. Isn`t it indeed farfetched to think that this sitting U.S. Senator is saddling up to an Ambassador from Russia and you know, exchanging laughs or cryptic information about the hacking of John Podesta`s inbox?
BOOKER: Look, we have a pattern right now that is really disturbing. You have people not revealing their contacts or nature of their conversations with leaders from Russia, and that`s Manafort, Flynn, Kushner, Sessions. We see a pattern now of multiple contacts and what we do know from Comey and from Sessions is they`re not talking about the urgency to defend ourselves from Russian attacks. And so it is natural to ask the question, what was going on? What those conversations were about? What was the substance? And that`s the reason why this larger threat of Russia and possible collusion, that we have a Special Prosecutor today.
So there - to me, this - unfortunately, many people want to cast a shadow of some sort of partisan inquiry here. No, they`re legitimate questions and a lot of Trump close associates Kushner, Manafort, Flynn, and others have had repeated contacts with Russian officials under the context and at a time that the Russians were actively engaged in a major effort to undermine our democracy. So I`m sorry. This is serious. It should be taken seriously. And for the fact that we have a President of the United States at a time that our country is being attacked - and by the way, will do so again. Putin has shown on the international scene that when he pushes and if he`s not stopped or met by force, that he`s going to continue to do this.
And this President seems to be in many ways not only not stopping him but continuing to coddle Putin, somebody who is - who is a threat to our country. And so today`s inquiry was all a legitimate, focus, and - but unfortunately, we did not get satisfactory answers from the Attorney General. That`s why again it`s consistent. You`re right, I blocked him beforehand. I thought he should have resigned after his being caught in not being forthcoming with the truth in his confirmation hearings. He would not tolerate that from a kid from Newark in a judicial process, this law and order guy. His testimony was not forthcoming, and this is further proof to me that he should not be the Attorney General. And let me just say one specific thing.
BOOKER: The Attorney General has a very unique position in the President`s cabinet. It demands a level of independence, objectivity, a focus on the rule of law. And clearly what we saw here was more of a partisan to the President than someone who was focused as our chief law enforcement officer in dealing with threats to our country and getting to the bottom in a forthcoming way, in a transparent way to what the facts are, what we`re dealing with right now. And contrast him to Comey, who had specific remembrances, who had credible recall and we have Sessions here who is invoking a level of executive privilege that hasn`t been asserted, who doesn`t recall contacts with Ambassadors. I`m a United States Senator, I remember my conversations with ambassadors from different countries and what I discussed. This whole thing to me is just another example of a person that should not be the Attorney General.
HAYES: All right, Senator Cory Booker, thanks for your time.
BOOKER: Thank you.
HAYES: Later, Senate Republicans continue to hide their Trumpcare bill. I`ll talk to a Democrat who is talking about shutting down the Senate before any vote can happen. And more rumors and reporting swirls about the President`s intentions over the future of the Special Counsel investigating Russia as one Republican goes to the House floor and says, get rid of Mueller. He`s dirty. That story after this two-minute break.
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REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R), TEXAS: We don`t need a Special Prosecutor. We certainly don`t need Mueller. He`s done enough damage. It`s time to let the Special Prosecutor that Comey created needlessly go.
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HAYES: Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert on the House floor calling for the firing of Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Joining me now, Republican Congressman Jim Jordan of Ohio who serves in the House Judiciary Committee, your colleague, Mr. Gohmert, had some more to say. I want to play you a little more about what he had to say about Mueller and get your reaction. Take a listen.
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GOHMERT: We know now for sure there is no collusion between this administration and Russia. Let`s at least stop that facade. Let`s stop that distraction.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Louie, what about -
GOHMERT: Get rid of Mueller. He is dirty. He created all kinds of problems.
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HAYES: He is dirty. Do you think Bob Mueller is dirty?
JIM JORDAN (R-OH), HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Look, Chris, that`s one member of Congress. Here`s what I do know. All kinds of Republicans, all kinds of Democrats wanted James Comey to go. Republicans didn`t like what he said in July of last year. You Democrats didn`t like what he said in October. I actually criticized both times. I criticized him in July, and I took some heat for it when I did that in October. I thought he messed the whole investigation up. So lots of people are calling for Jim Comey to go and I think based on what we saw from him last week, we now know why. He leaked information to The New York Times to protect himself.
HAYES: Wait a second. Wait a second. But -
JORDAN: He did to create this push for a Special Counsel, and it actually is now what we have. So -
HAYES: Wait. But to get back, the question at issue is not James Comey, who`s been fired. There`s nothing anyone with do about that. James Comey is gone. The person who does occupy a position of authority is Robert Mueller, who`s the Special Counsel appointed by the Deputy Attorney General. There are a lot of folks conservatives and Republicans saying that Mueller has to go, that they don`t trust him, that he`s dirty -
HAYES: I`m just curious whether you agree. Do you believe in his integrity?
JORDAN: I think there`s been one member of Congress called for that. So that`s one member`s view. Look, I understand Mr. Mueller`s reputation. I will tell you this. The one interaction I had with him was pretty disappointing, and it happened four years ago, five weeks after the targeting at the IRS was discovered and proven to be actually happening, Mr. Mueller was in front of the Judiciary Committee and I asked him three simple questions. Who`s lead agent on the case? How many agents have you assigned? Have you talked to any of the victims? His answers were I don`t know, I don`t know, I don`t know. Not real impressive when that was the key issue in the country at that time. So all I know is my one interaction with Bob Mueller wasn`t too encouraging.
HAYES: On the IRS investigation.
JORDAN: Yes, of course. I mean, he`s the FBI Director. It`s the number one story in the country. The President and then Attorney General Holder said they`re going to do a criminal investigation, and the Head of the FBI doesn`t know anything about the case after it`s been there five weeks?
HAYES: Let me ask you this -
JORDAN: That`s what caused people to be concerned.
HAYES: You`re talking about the IRS case and I know you were on the Benghazi Committee and there were lots of questions in getting to the bottom of that, which is you know, the constitutional role of the United States Congress. Do you think that you, to your satisfaction, understand fundamentally what happened with Russia, what they did, and why it`s the case that three associates of the President have not given truthful answers about their meetings with Russian officials under penalty of perjury?
JORDAN: What I know is what Jim Comey said last week, and he confirmed what the President said three different times, that Mr. Comey told the President he wasn`t under investigation. Mr. Comey confirmed that last week. What he also confirmed last week was never has the President of the United States, President Trump, been under investigation but Secretary Clinton was under investigation, and James Comey - let me finish. James Comey misled the American people at the direction of then Attorney General Lynch. He said it`s not a criminal investigation.
HAYES: Right, so -
JORDAN: He was told to say it was a matter. So he misled the American people in that investigation, the real investigation. And then with Mr. Trump, he allowed the perception to be that the President was under investigation when he wasn`t. So he misled the American people twice.
HAYES: Congressman, Congressman, I get that. I asked you a question. There are three associates of the President of the United States, one of them Attorney General Jeff Sessions. He said under oath he had not meddle with a Russian official, that was not true. Michael Flynn, who was appointed to be National Security Adviser -
JORDAN: Mr. Sessions has corrected that.
HAYES: He apparently told FBI investigators, which is a big deal, that he - that he had not had conversations about sanctions with Sergey Kislyak. That`s not true. There`s criminal investigation pending on that. And Jared Kushner said on his security clearance form under penalty of perjury, says the writing at the top - I`m sure you`ve seen that form, that he did not omit meetings. He omitted a secret meeting with Sergey Kislyak. Three associates of the President under the penalty of perjury, have not told the truth about meetings with Russian officials. Do you understand why that`s the case? Why did that happen?
JORDAN: Mr. Sessions has corrected the record.
HAYES: That was a mistake.
JORDAN: Mr. Flynn has been fired, right?
HAYES: But you don`t understand why he did that? Why did he tell that deception?
JORDAN: No, we have an investigation going on, Chris but all I know so far what`s come out has proven that the President has been right along and that he wasn`t under investigation. What he said has been - has been proven true all along based on Mr. Comey`s testimony last week.
HAYES: But I`m just asking - but don`t you - I get that and I`m not saying the President is under investigation, I (INAUDIBLE) James Comey`s word. I`m just saying, for those of us watching this -
JORDAN: Right, but Mr. Comey - Mr. Comey allowed the perception to exist that he was under investigation -
HAYES: But Sir - Congressman --
JORDAN: - when he wasn`t.
HAYES: Congressman, Congressman, for those of us watching this -
JORDAN: He also told the country it was a matter when Secretary Clinton was actually under investigation. Those are important. -
HAYES: Congressman, for those of us - for those of us watching this, we`re just trying to figure this out, it doesn`t strike you as weird as three people close to the President of the United States under penalty of perjury gave misleading or false answers about meeting with Russian officials? Does that sound strange to you?
JORDAN: We`ll get the answers to that.
HAYES: But that`s not weird to you? That doesn`t pique your - as a man who has overseen investigations, who sat on the Benghazi Committee, who looked over the IRS, who looked at fact patterns and said, something doesn`t add up here when Barack Obama was President, you see that and you say to yourself, I don`t know.
JORDAN: No, no. Look, I want to get the answers. I think the American people want to get the answers, but we want - we want the full truth. We want the full story.
JORDAN: We weren`t getting that. We started to get some of that last week when we learned about the secret memo that Mr. - excuse me - when we learned about the conversations that were only memorialized relative to President Trump. None of those important conversations that happened under Mr. Comey`s tenure, the day they made the decision to give Cheryl Mills immunity, did he memorialize conversations with key Justice Department officials on that day?
JORDAN: I don`t think so. He said he did it. So, I want the full picture. Context matters. The full story matters. That`s what we`re trying to get.
HAYES: I could not agree more on that point. Congressman Jim Jordan - by the way, I have to say thank you for coming back. I`m sorry for the logistical difficulties. I genuinely appreciate the comeback.
JORDAN: No problem. My pleasure.
HAYES: All right. Thanks a lot.
I`m joined now by MSNBC Political Analyst Josh Earnest, the White House Press Secretary under President Barack Obama from 2014-2017. I guess my question is it does not strike me - and again, there`s a sort of partisan nature to this. People are skeptical of people on the other side. They`re more inclined to give charitable readings to people on their side. That`s just the true thing. But it does strike me that Republicans are sort of edging towards coming right out and saying get rid of the Special Counsel. We know all we need to know.
JOSH EARNEST, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, it is a strange phenomenon that somebody like Bob Mueller, whose bipartisan credentials are as bulletproof as any other human being that`s walking the planet. He is somebody that you`ll recall was appointed to the FBI Director by Republican President George W. Bush, was confirmed with strong bipartisan support in the United States Senate in 2001. In 2011, after his ten-year term was about to come up, President Obama recognized that appointing a new FBI Director about a year before his re-election campaign would have the potential of being pretty controversial.
So President Obama got together with Republicans in Congress about a year before the election, a little more than a year before the election, and said, why don`t we just extend Bob Mueller for a couple of years so that we can get past the election, and Republicans who were always ready to attack President Obama readily agreed and said, let`s just leave Bob Mueller there. That`s why he has the distinction of having served longer as FBI Director than any other FBI Director other than J.Edgar Hoover. He extended beyond his regular term. So he is somebody that has impeccable bipartisan credentials and it`s only since he`s been appointed to investigate President Trump do we now see that the knives out for Bob Mueller.
HAYES: But isn`t that though - but Josh - but Josh, I feel like sometimes I hear people say that and it`s like they`re talking from an alternate universe. Isn`t the lesson we`ve learned in the 21st-century version of Washington peak polarization, there`s really no such thing as impeccable bipartisan credentials? Is this surprising to you they`re going after him?
EARNEST: I am mildly surprised. I think it remains to be seen what exactly comes of it. You know, there was this report from President Trump`s friend, Mr. Ruddy, who indicated that President Trump was considering firing Bob Mueller and the White House spokesperson put out a statement yesterday, last night, indicating that Mr. Ruddy should not be talking publicly, questioned his sources, but didn`t actually say that what Mr. Ruddy says was wrong.
EARNEST: They didn`t deny the report that President Trump actually was considering firing Bob Mueller. So, look, you know, I`m not going to put it past the Trump administration to do something wildly unpredictable. But what I do hope is that at some point Republicans in Congress - and I know that this is in some ways this is the great white whale, right? We`ve been hoping at some point Republicans in Congress would step up and put their allegiance to the country ahead of their allegiance to the party. And certainly, one way they could do that would be to ensure that Bob Mueller has the independence that he needs to conduct a thorough investigation and actually get to the bottom of what happened in the context of the 2016 election.
HAYES: Well, we will see if this - if this bluff as it were, is called. Josh Earnest, thanks for joining me.
EARNEST: Thank you, Chris.
HAYES: All right. Coming up, while trying to get to the bottom of Jeff Sessions` refusal to answer questions, Senator Kamala Harris was interrupted by her colleagues for the second time in a week, that moment after this quick break.
HAYES: When Senator Kamala Harris, the former Attorney General of California pressed Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein during his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee last week, she was scolded first by Senator John McCain, who isn`t even a full-time member of the Committee, and then by Chairman Richard Burr.
HARRIS: Can you give me a yes or no answer, please.
ROD ROSENSTEIN, UNITED STATES DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: In a close briefing. Well, it`s not a short answer Senator. The answer is -
HARRIS: It is either you are willing to do that or not as we have precedent in that regard.
ROSENSTEIN: But the -
JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Mr. Chairman, they should be allowed to answer the question.
SEN. RICHARD BURR (R), NORTH CAROLINA: Would the Senator suspend? The Chair is going to exercise its right to allow the witnesses to answer the question. The Senator will -
HARRIS: Ability to filibuster.
BURR: Mr. Rosenstein, would you like to thoroughly answer the question.
ROSENSTEIN: Thank you Mr -
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: That prompted this response from Senator Elizabeth Warren, "silencing Kamala Harris for not being `courteous` enough is just unbelievable," Warren tweeted. "Keep fighting, Kamala! #neverthelessshepersisted.
Then at today`s hearing, the same thing happened. Senator John McCain who, again, is not actually a full-time member of the Senate intelligence committee but has ex-officio status, because he chairs the armed services committee interrupted Senator Harris while she was questioning attorney General Jeff Sessions about DOJ policies on executive privilege, prompting once again Chairman Burr to intervene.
(BEIGN VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: Sir, I`m just asking you about the DOJ policy.
SESSIONS: It`s a policy that goes just beyond the attorney general.
HARRIS: Is that policy in writing somewhere?
SESSIONS: I think so.
HARRIS: So did you not consult it before you came before this committee knowing we would ask you questions about that?
SESSIONS: well, we talked about it. the policy is based...
HARRIS: Did you ask that it would be shown to you?
SESSIONS: The policy is based on the principle that the president...
HARRIS: Sir, I`m not asking about the principle, I`m asking when you...
SESSIONS: Well, I am unable to answer the question.
HARRIS: ...asked these questions and you would rely on that policy, did you not ask your staff to show you the policy that would be the basis for your refusing to answer the majority of questions...
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: Chairman, the witness should be allowed to answer the question.
BURR: Senators will allow the chair to control the hearing.
Senator Harris, let him answer.
HARRIS: Please do. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Senator Harris continues to persist, tweeting "after the hearing, it`s unacceptable that sessions, a top law enforcement official in the country, cannot name his legal basis for evading questions. So, what about that? I`ll ask a congresswoman who served on the House judiciary committee that drafted the articles of impeachment against President Nixon next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ANGUS KING, (I) MAINE: You testified a few minutes ago, I`m not able to invoke executive privilege, that`s up to the president. Has the president invoked executive privilege in the case of your testimony here today?
SESSIONS: He has not.
KING: Then what is the basis of your refusal to answer these questions?
SESSIONS: Senator King, the president has a constitutional...
KING: I understand that, but the president hasn`t asserted it.
KING: You said you don`t have the power to assert the power of executive privilege, so what is the legal basis for your refuse to answer these questions?
SESSIONS: I am protecting the right of the president to assert it. I`ll assert it if he chooses.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Senator Angus King tried hard this afternoon to understand just how Attorney General Jeff Sessions could cite executive privilege when the president himself had not done so. Joining me now, former Congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzmann, who served on the House judiciary committee during its drafting of three articles of impeachment against then President Richard Nixon, and Bob Bauer, former White House counsel to President Obama.
And Bob, let me start with you, in my experience, people that served as White House counsel tend to be executive power maximalists, let`s just say. So, I wonder if you think it`s fine for someone who serves in an administration to sort of proactively not answer on the off chance that privilege might be invoked over those conversations?
BOB BAUER, FRM. WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: I don`t think it was inadvertent. I think this was a quite deliberate strategy to not have the president invoke executive privilege, which would have been highly controversial, but in effect have Attorney General Sessions come to the same place.
He didn`t alert the committee that this was an issue. He came prepared to argue this vague confidentiality concern that was linked to executive privilege, but in what way, not at all clear. So, I think it got him out of the immediate problem of having the president stand on the privilege, which would have been of course major news and very controversial.
HAYES: Did you ever send someone out, or have consultations when you were in the White House in which you outlined a similar approach for folks that were going to go before committees?
BAUER: No, I have to say I didn`t. I mean, the circumstance never arose in which that was even presented to me as an option. I can`t say I did, no.
HAYES: What do you think about this Sessions sort of non-invocation of privilege, but as a means of not answering questions?
ELIZABETH HOLTZMAN, FRM. U.S. SENATOR: It`s just a fancy dance, and it doesn`t...
HAYES: It doesn`t have a legal basis?
HOLTZMAN: No legal basis, it`s legally nonsensical. The president had opportunity to know that Sessions was going to testify. He knew that Sessions was going to testify. The president watches television. He reads the papers. He tweets. He`s very current. So he knew. He didn`t say, I`m invoking executive privilege.
So what are we giving the president? A year, two years? How long do you protect the possibility? This is nonsense. There is no such thing as a protection of the possibility the president might invoke executive privilege because the president has to invoke executive privilege and then it could be challenged, because the president in fact may not have a right to executive privilege, because maybe they`re talking about criminal activity, as existed in Watergate. And then there was no executive privilege.
So the point is you can invoke executive privilege, but it may be an invalid invocation.
HAYES: So, I want to follow up on that, right. So, for a White House that tends to be sort of maximalist and assertive about a lot of things, right, you think to yourself, why don`t they just invoke privilege? And what I hear from you is, the reason they don`t do that is because that could be contested in court. And one of the arguments against invoking it would be to point to evidence of underlying wrongdoing that was being covered up, which is an exception to the privilege. And they dont` want to go into a court and have to open that Pandora`s Box.
HOLTZMAN: Not only wrongdoing, but criminality. Let`s start with that. I mean, that`s what was in the Nixon tapes. And it was a case called the United States against Richard Nixon. And Nixon lost.
HAYES: And that`s the precedent we have.
Bob, is that - would you be advising the same thing if you were in the White House counsel`s office, which is if we assert privilege, we are then marching ourselves into a judicial process that is going to be devoted to questioning whether there`s evidence of wrongdoing?
BAUER: well, yes. I think eventually that`s what you face. In the short term, you face a fairly sensational bit of news, which is that the president decides to invoke executive privilege with respect to a number of issues that would be raised with Attorney General Sessions, including, for example, whether he had any conversations with the president about firing Special Counsel Mueller or any other aspect of the Russia investigation.
He was in a position to say, no. He really couldn`t do that. He couldn`t discuss those matters because he was preserving, as the Congresswoman Holtzman just said, the potential for invoking the privilege in the future.
HOLTZMAN: Look, Sessions invoked executive - I mean this potential of executive privilege over the fact of whether the president asked him to get out of the room. He said, oh, I can`t discuss that when Mueller is there and the other people are there. What is this -- it was just an exercise in obfuscation and what I call, in good old Watergate language, cover-up.
HAYES: Well, and you also have a situation in which a lot of the sort of heart of this matter is this firing of Comey about which there is written - mean, they both wrote memos. And the president has talked about it. It`s not like, you know, everyone is sort of on the record. It seems to me that that`s something, Bob, that you should be willing to talk about. You signed a memo, you know, saying this is why James Comey should be - was - getting fired.
BAUER: Well, he did refer to the memorandum. He said, those are my reasons. They are the only reasons. I never had an occasion to talk to the president, so he implied, about Russia and the Russian investigation as a possible ground for firing Comey, and he stuck with that. And that had been made public, so there wasn`t any question of his having to discuss it or not having to discuss it, he clearly had to.
HAYES: You wonder how long officials of the executive come before congress all the time. We`re going to see how long this is going to last, sort of trying to occupy this sort of middle space.
Elizabeth Holtzman and Bob Bauer, thank you both.
Still to come, Senator Elizabeth Warren sounds off on senate Republicans crafting their health care bill in complete secrecy. Plus, tonight`s Thing One, Thing Two starts after the break.
HAYES: Thing One tonight, as senate Republicans push for a vote this month on a secret health care bill they won`t let anyone see, today on Capitol Hill, NBC`s own Kasie Hunt reported, alert, reporters at Capitol have been told they are not allowed to film interviews with senators in hallways contrary to years of precedent. Gallery staff were dispatched to issue verbal directives, stop filming.
Shortly after, a senior Democratic aide told Roll Call the directive was a unilateral decision by the rules committee chair, Republican Richard Shelby.
Several Senate Democrats pushed back immediately: Claire McCaskill tweeted, huh? Maybe worried you will catch the group of guys writing health care bill in back room somewhere. Ron Wyden wrote, this is Senate GOP trying to hide from their terrible health care bill. And minority leader Chuck Schumer said, press access should never be restricted unfairly, particularly not when one party is trying to sneak a major bill through congress.
Even Republican Ben Sasse agreed this is a bad idea.
There was a resolution to this story today, but not before one Republican senator gave absolutely the worst defense of this new level secrecy, and that`s Thing Two in 60 seconds.
HAYES: While Senate Democrats and even several Republicans blasted a new directive banning reporters from interviewing lawmakers in hallways, Republican Senator Tim Scott defended the idea saying, in part, folks have been at ATM machines and folks have been using cameras, I want to keep my PIN private.
He may have been referencing this moment following the Comey hearing last week when Senator Richard Burr answered questions at the ATM. However, today Senator Burr said he had nothing to do with the changes.
In fact, Burr left his bankcard in the ATM that day, and a Buzzfeed reporter retrieved it.
Good thing reporters were there.
Amid Senator Scott`s defense of the crackdown on the interviews, he did acknowledge that reporters deserve the access necessary to do their jobs. And his office added in a statement later, he`s not lying awake at night concerned about ATMs, which would be ridiculous.
Well, thanks for that.
Meanwhile just hours after the directive became public, the Republican chair who secretly ordered it backtracked. Kasie Hunt reported, Senate rules committee reverses course on hallway interviews. You may continue to follow the rules as if it was yesterday.
HAYES: It was supposed to be a routine hearing on Capitol Hill today. The Senate health committee meeting to discuss lowering prescription drug prices. It`s the kind of low key, bipartisan committee hearing that happens all the time on the Hill.
But there was an enormous elephant in the room, which is of course the secret Republican health care bill currently being written without a shred of transparency or bipartisanship - no hearings, no discussion, not even text available to the public, not a single Democrat has seen one word of the bill.
The process has been so secret that even some Republicans have been shut out, including apparently Senator Bill Cassidy, prompting this offer from Democratic Senator Patty Murray.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. PATTY MURRAY, (D) WASHINGTON: I know you want to go crash the secret meeting, so I don`t want to hold you up too much longer. Can I came with you to crash that meeting because I will tell you people across the country want to know what`s in it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Senator Elizabeth Warren pressed Cassidy for the bills contents right then and there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN, (D) MASSACHUSETTS: Mr. Chairman, I assume that you`ve seen the bill, and I`m not asking for details on this, but can we get some general outlines of the Republican plan? Will the secret Republican bill let insurance companies go ahead and drop prescription drug coverage or kick people off Medicare?
SEN. BILL CASSIDY, (R) LOUISIANA: Senator Warren, I can`t answer that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: There is at least one Democratic Senator who isn`t ruling out any options to stop the secret health care bill dead in its tracks. And he joins me live, next.
HAYES: The Senate`s health care bill is being drafted by a small, all-male group of Republicans who refuse to hold hearings, get input from Democrats, or release a draft to the public. And despite the fact that nobody knows what`s in the bill, Republicans are trying to put it up for vote before July 4th.
Today, President Trump met with a group of Senate Republicans to talk about the secret bill.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We`re going to come out with a real bill, not Obamacare. And the results are going to be fantastic and hopefully it will be announced at the appropriate time and everyone is going to be happy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Trump added that he wanted to see a kind bill, one, quote, with heart. And the Associated Press reports that behind closed doors, he argued the House bill he once celebrated with a big Rose Garden celebration is mean, but the Senate version should be, quote, more generous. The president also reportedly calling the House bill, and I quote here, a son of a bitch.
Later, the president shook hands with some people the White House called victims of Obamacare and complained about the Democratic refusal to support the secret GOP plan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: No matter how good it is, we will get no obstructionist Democrat votes. No matter how good it is, if it`s the greatest health care plan ever devised, we will get zero votes by the obstructionists.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Joining me now, Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon.
Well, the president thinks the House bill is mean and a son of a bitch, if you trust the reporting on that, which has not been denied by the White House. He says you, the Democrats, are obstructionists and Obamacare is failing. What say you to that?
SEN. JEFF MERKLEY, (D) OREGON: I certainly agree that the House bill is an abomination and the Senate bill is going to be an abomination, too. It`s going to do more slowly, the same bad deed to American workers and struggling American families at the House...
HAYES: Can I stop you right there. When you say that, is this based on published reports, because there are some published reports of extending the horizon for Medicare -- Medicaid expansion phase out, things like that. Are you getting that info from reports, from your colleagues, like how do you know what`s in there?
MERKELEY: This information has been leaking out from colleagues across the aisle and they`ve been sharing a little bit here and there.
Now they might change it before it comes to the floor, but it makes sense that they would try to slow down implementation so they -- they feel like they won`t take as big a hit in 2018 and 2020 if they simply implement this over a period of six to seven years instead of doing all these bad deeds right away.
I mean, we have to recognize what they`re up to. They are talking about stripping health care from millions of Americans, demolishing the financial foundation for rural clinics and hospitals, and doing all this without consulting with their constituents,without having a bill in the light of day to be considered, without any opportunity to amend it in committee. I mean, this is a dark and evil deed.
HAYES: Have you seen a process like this before in the time you`ve been in the senate?
MERKELEY: No, not at all. Consider what happened when we were considering health care eight years ago. We adopted 150 Republican amendments just in the health committee, another group of amendments from Republicans in the finance committee. It had the second longest debate in finance ever, the longest ever in the health committee. It was before the public for about a year. I mean, this is completely different. This is a secret 13.
Going into a room and locking the doors and saying, OK, politically, what can we get away with here and to do that, we have to put it through the Senate in just a few hours.
HAYES: OK. So if that`s the case, let`s say stipulating that this is anomalous, unprecedented, a real sort of deviation from the norms of Senate procedure, activists are calling on Democrats for a sort of by any means necessary campaign to stop it.
We know the Senate basically functions on unanimous consent. It`s the kind of nuclear option Senator Coburn used to use it to basically say I`m not letting anyone do anything in this place until I get my way. It is extremely unpopular with fellow Senators. It is extremely aggressive. But activists want to see Democrats take leadership on that.
You signaled you might be open to it. What are you considering?
MERKELEY: Here is the battle cry. No hearing, no vote. No hearing, we`re going to do everything possible to keep this bill from coming to a vote. We owe that to citizens across this country who now have the peace of mind that if their loved one gets sick, they`re going to get the care they need, the peace of mind that they`re not going to go bankrupt in the process.
And the Trump team, Trumpcare team and the secret 13 are going to try to reverse all of that without it being in the light of day.
HAYES: So, I want to be clear. I want to be clear here, senator. Your demand is there`s a hearing on this bill when the bill text is made public, there`s a hearing. And if there`s no hearing, they try to vote without a hearing, you are going to what?
MERKELEY: We`re going to use every procedural mechanism that we possibly can. I don`t want to give you an exact list but we`re looking at every possible way to slow this down, delay it, stop it, block it. It`s just -- it`s unacceptable.
And here`s the thing, we need grassroots movement. They`re doing this in the middle of summer. They`re doing this when Russia is in the headlines and they`re doing it deliberately trying to sneak it through. And so we need everyone to wake up. Wake up, America. What`s about to happen is totally unacceptable.
We need activists to field the phone lines and overflow the emails and fill the streets in front of the offices back home for these senators.
HAYES: All right, Senator Jeff Merkley, thanks for your time tonight.
MERKELEY: Thank you.
HAYES: A quick reminder, I`ll be signing copies of my new book A Colony in a Nation tomorrow at 4:00 p.m. at the shop at NBC studios right here. Details on our Facebook page. If you`re in New York, please stop by.
That is All In for this evening. The Rachel Maddow Show starts right now.
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