All in with Chris Hayes, Transcript 7/3/17 Trump & The Russians

Guests: Jason Johnson, Michelle Goldberg, Nicholas Confessore, Michael Isikoff, Michael Schmidt, Jennifer Rubin, Oliva Nuzzi

Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: July 3, 2017 Guest: Jason Johnson, Michelle Goldberg, Nicholas Confessore, Michael Isikoff, Michael Schmidt, Jennifer Rubin, Oliva Nuzzi

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Tonight on ALL IN.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey. I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it is an excuse.

HAYES: While the President makes the case against himself.

JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: But I watched his interview, I read the press accounts of his conversations. I take the President at his word that I was fired because of the Russia investigation.

HAYES: Tonight, the reporting that fuels our knowledge of the investigation.

Breaking news tonight, a blockbuster report from the New York Times.

NBC News reporting tonight,

The Washington Post explosive report that the President of the United States is currently under a criminal investigation for the obstruction of justice.

How America learns about this major scandal as the White House shrinks from public scrutiny.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sean.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sean, come on Sean.

HAYES: When ALL IN starts right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Good evening from New York, I`m Chris Hayes. This President tells so many lies so often that news organizations are now employing entire teams of fact checkers to document them for posterity. And because it is so hard to get the simple and most basic truth from the administration, much of what we now know only came to light in spite of the White House.

Take for instance the saga of Michael Flynn. The first inkling that there was something sketchy about the Trump foreign policy adviser and his relationship with Russia came a year ago through Republican National Convention when Yahoo! News Chief Investigative Correspondent Michael Isikoff pressed Flynn on a trip he took to Moscow for the 10th anniversary of R.T.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL ISIKOFF, CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT, YAHOO! NEWS: Were you paid for that event?

MICHAEL FLYNN, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: You`d have to ask my -- the folks that I went over there to --

ISIKOFF: No, I`m asking you. You`d know if you were paid?

FLYNN: Yes, I went over there as a speaking event. It was a speaking event.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Then just one week before the inauguration, David Ignatius of the Washington Post reported that the very same day that President Obama sanctioned Russia for interfering in the election according to a Senior U.S. government officials, Flynn phoned Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak several times. What did Flynn say, and did it undercut the U.S. sanctions? The White House denied it. And the Vice President-elect went on national television to say Flynn had not talked sanctions. Then just hours after Michael Flynn was sworn in as National Security Adviser, the Wall Street Journal reported the counterintelligence agents were investigating his communications with Russia. A few weeks later The Washington Post broke the story that contrary to the White House denials, Flynn did, in fact, discuss U.S. Sanctions. Asked about it, the President pled ignorance.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Washington Post is reporting that he talked to the Ambassador from Russia before you were inaugurated about sanctions, maybe trying to --

TRUMP: I`ll look into that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Then the final hammer. The Washington Post reported the Justice Department warned the White House weeks before that Flynn wasn`t telling the truth and could, therefore, be vulnerable to Russian blackmail. Just hours after that report broke, Flynn was finally fired. The administration did nothing, despite the fact they knew this until the details of Michael Flynn`s contact with Russians became public. Public scrutiny once again played a major role just a few months later when President Trump suddenly decided to fire FBI Director James Comey while his campaign was under FBI investigation. And once again, the country only found out what was actually going on through the news media.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HAYES: Absolutely explosive news out of Washington tonight. The President of the United States firing the man who is leading the investigation into possible collusion between the government of Russia and his own Presidential campaign.

After the news broke this afternoon, the New York Times Michael Schmidt reported, the White House and Department of Justice had been working on firing Comey since at least last week, adding that Attorney General Jeff Sessions had been working to come up with reasons. Schmidt also reporting, Comey only learned of his firing as he addressed FBI employees in L.A. when TV screens in the background flashed news of the firing. According to a Washington Post report based on interviews with 30 sources, Comey -- Trump figured, was using the Russia probe to become a martyr. To a President obsessed with loyalty, according to New York Times, Comey was a rogue operator who could not be trusted as the FBI investigated Russian ties to his campaign. In his interview with Lester Holt today, the President himself explicitly linked Comey`s firing to the Russia investigation.

TRUMP: When I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it`s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.

HAYES: The New York Times reporting that when the President met with Russian officials in the Oval Office last week, the President told the Russian officials, "I just fired the head of the FBI, he was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia, that`s taken off."

COMEY: I take the President at his word that I was fired because of the Russia investigation. Something about the way I was conducting it the President felt created pressure on him that he wanted to relieve. But I watched his interview, I read the press accounts of his conversations, so I take him at his word there.

TRUMP: We had a very nice dinner, and at that time he told me, you are not under investigation, which I knew anyway.

HAYES: All right, we have some breaking news about that dinner that Donald Trump had with now-former FBI Director James Comey. New York Times citing conversations Comey had with associates report, the dinner began with small talk but the President then turned the conversation to whether Mr. Comey would pledge his loyalty to him.

Breaking news tonight, a blockbuster report from the New York Times, since confirmed by NBC News, that the President of the United States asked then- FBI Director James Comey to end the Bureau`s investigation of Michael Flynn according to a memo written by Comey.

We`ve got absolutely massive breaking news tonight. The Washington Post reporting that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is now investigating the President of the United States for possible obstruction of justice.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HAYES: We here at ALL IN have lost count of the number of breaking news alert about the President and the Russia investigation and the obstruction investigation and we`re not even six months into this administration.

Joining me here in New York, Joy Reid, host of "A.M. JOY" here at MSNBC; Nicholas Confessore, Political Reporter of "The New York Times"; Jason Johnson, Politics Editor of The Root; and Michelle Goldberg, Columnist for Slate. And from Washington D.C., Michael Isikoff, Chief Investigative Correspondent for Yahoo! News and Michael Schmidt, Reporter for "New York Times".

And Michael in D.C. let me start with you. Michael Isikoff, you`re a veteran Investigative Reporter, I remember reading your work all from the Bush administration broke incredibly important stories then and have been doing this for a while. So I want to get a sense of context for comparison. It`s always hard to report on power. It is always hard to report with anonymous sources. It seems like something different with this administration because the stories are so explosive and the credibility of the official voices are so low, it really feels like you`re groping around a room blind. Is that how you feel? Does it feel different than other administrations?

ISIKOFF: Well, it`s hard to say. I mean, first of all, we have the advantage of President Trump`s constant tweets, which have done as much to drive this investigation and give us the inner thinking of the President, which is something we`ve never had before.

HAYES: We`re like patched into his brain basically.

ISIKOFF: Yes, right. And so if you think of all of the sorts of pivot points you`re highlighting there, the firing of Comey, the asking him to shut down the investigation, much of this sort of generates out of actions he`s taken, interviews he`s given and tweets he`s made. So I think --

HAYES: That`s a good point.

ISIKOFF: -- actually an asset we`ve had. But in terms of getting to the bottom of the real story and the facts, yes, there`s so much we don`t know. And you know, so much we have yet to learn.

HAYES: Michael Schmidt, it also seems to me that you`re tiptoeing through a land mile, particularly some of the reporting you have done. You`ve got anonymous sources, you`ve got former or current senior officials -- obviously they`re not going on the record. If you get it wrong, you have given ammunition to a President who says that the reporting on this story, in particular, is a hoax and conspiracy to bring him down. And it does seem like every day you`re kind of taking your journalistic life in your hands in that respect.

MICHAEL SCHMIDT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": I think that`s true. One of the biggest difficulties is the fact that so much of this information is classified. And it`s also very confusing stuff. It`s stuff about meetings between Trump associates in Russia, it is about things that Russia did to the United States. These are complex things that even if they were on the record would be difficult for us to unpack on the reporting side, and then on the explaining side to the reader. So in many ways, you`re sort of on a high wire here where you are, you know, trying to find out about classified information from folks who don`t want to talk on the record about it, and it can be very difficult and very challenging. And to your point, the partisan flames on this story are very fierce. So any story that you do will be seen certainly by one side, you know, differently than the other, and that can really, really engulf things.

HAYES: I want to talk about sort of process here because I think one of the things that I`ve found astounding about watching all of this develop is when you`re a reporter, A, you`re skeptical of people in power, right? You get lied to all the time. I remember -- I remember the first time I got lied to by (INAUDIBLE), he just looked to my face and lied. I was like, he just lied to me, and it is kind of sort of a really radicalizing, important moment in the trajectory of being a reporter, right? You always carry that with you. At the same time, you do develop relationships of trust with individual where you can go to them and say, am I wrong, like, where are we on this? That relationship of trust, any trust or credibility seems so gone here. That -- no seriously, that everyone is kind of floating in this dark ocean right, where there`s nothing to anchor you or moor you even amidst all these crazy information that`s coming through.

NICHOLAS CONFESSORE, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, it`s breaking down for a few reasons, right? And so, one is that the normal information process in the White House is breaking down.

HAYES: Totally.

CONFESSORE: His own staff isn`t always in the loop on things.

HAYES: Which is hugely important because even if you develop a relationship of trust with someone in the White House, they may not know anything.

CONFESSORE: Right. And the second thing is there`s so much factionalism in the White House, so much factionalism that people are constantly selling stories against their own inside the White House. This is not unusual, but it is to this extent.

HAYES: Weaponized.

CONFESSORE: And then, finally you have the overlay of the fact that people inside the bureaucracy are simply not trustful of the people in charge of the bureaucracy. And so there`s a relationship between the press and people deep inside as basically an alternative to the normal oversight process that has broken down.

JOY REID, MSNBC HOST, "AM JOY": Yes, I mean, and not even just not trustful, but you know, you talk to enough people, you find that people actually find the administration elements of it to be dangerous. And so, a lot of the leaks that you`re getting --

HAYES: Right, people in the civil bureaucracy.

REID: That`s correct. People that you would normally never be able to get information, you could not drag information out of some of these quarters of the government, but they see their own administration as dangerous and so they`re giving information

HAYES: Which is a great irony of this administration, which is that it wants it`s more secretive than any ever and also we know about its inner workings in almost everyone at the same time.

MICHELLE GOLDBERG, SLATE: Right, that this thing -- you know, its ratio is so high. So on one hand, yes, we know who hates each other presumably. We`ve learned just -- yes, you know, we`ve learned when there`s been various blowups, people screaming at each other. But there`s also -- there`s both kind of -- there`s certain people who speak without regard to the truth and then there`s other people who are so deliberately manipulative of the truth. And some -- and you see reporting about this, where they say, will put things out there that aren`t true either just for fun or just to credit reporters when they report on something incorrectly. And so there`s -- I mean, there`s the sense that everyone is walking through a hall of mirrors all the time, right? And this kind of war on the nature of empirical reality is something that you`ve seen with elements of the right for, you know, decades and which has now reach this kind of a (INAUDIBLE).

HAYES: You see, you made an important point about this sort of booby trapping. And I think that`s actually a really important thing to understand here, intentional attempts to get false stories printed. I want to talk about that. We`re going to talk about governing in the dark, how this White House shrinks from any kind of scrutiny. What that means for reporters trying to cover this presidency next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES: Secrecy is now the standard operating procedure in the Trump administration. The White House visitors log, to President`s tax returns kept under lock and key. The White House press briefings have grown less frequent and less televised. As New York Times noted during June, the White House has held an average of one televised briefing per week, down from several each week in previous months. But when reporters complain, the administration stone walls.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you tell us why you turned the cameras off? Why are they off, Sean?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is a legitimate question.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Trey.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is a legitimate question.

SPICER: Trey.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are a taxpayer funded spokesman for the United States government. Can you at least give us an explanation as to why the cameras are off?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can we get this out of the way? Can we address the cameras issue? Do you think this will be --

SPICER: Yes, some days we`ll have them and some days we won`t. The President is going to speak today in the Rose Garden. I want the President`s voice to carry the day. You know, and I think that -- you know, look, this is nothing inconsistent with what we`ve said since day one.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: All right, still with me, Joy Reid, Nicholas Confessore, Jason Johnson, Michelle Goldberg and we have Michael Isikoff and Michael Schmidt. And Jason, so there`s two things happening as we were talking about, right? So the official channel have gotten squeezed in all kind --

JASON JOHNSON, THE ROOT: Right.

HAYES: State Department for instance, which is a huge deal for the rest of the world. Daily briefing where the Indonesian press and Saudi press and everyone else can ask them questions that would go out to the world. It`s very important, that`s basically been kind of put on the shelf. Those briefings we`ve been -- all of these official modes of communication squeezed. It`s all back channel stuff, and then that back channel stuff is much easier to booby trap or weaponize and leave people intentionally a false direction.

JOHNSON: Right. We used to think the worse situation was the sort of like, house of card, (INAUDIBLE) and I`ll take a drink when you`re right. You know, you sort of figure it`s like, OK, it`s going to be hard to get information but the information is legitimate. When you have different factions in the White House who are trying to make you look bad --

HAYES: Right.

JOHNSON: -- reporters have to worry about being weaponized against who they work for.

HAYES: That`s right.

JOHNSON: It`s like, I`m going to use you to take down the New York Times. I`m going to use you to take down CNN. It is -- this is not just a verbal war against the press, it is an actual intellectual war against the press by this administration.

HAYES: Yes. Michael Schmidt, as an Investigative Reporter, do you feel you have found yourself amidst booby traps essentially?

SCHMIDT: I don`t think it`s that much -- I`m not covering the White House itself on a day-to-day basis. We`re trying to get at the story of the Mueller investigation and what Mueller has found, and what -- are there connections between Trump associates and Russia. And that`s, you know, sort of an old school, you know, classified information that we`re going at --

HAYES: Right.

SCHMIDT: -- but then we`re going at as hard as we can. But to your point, the one thing on the other side of the argument is that the President has done a lot of interviews, I don`t have the numbers in front of me, but it would be my guess, he`s problem done more interviews in the first you know, several months of his time in the office than any other President. And that`s been interesting because you get to see, as you know, obviously as you pointed out through the tweets sort of an unvarnished, you know --you know, the President`s thoughts out there on a repeated basis. And that -- and that`s been interesting.

HAYES: That`s true, although there`s been a little bit of a change, right? So the President has traditionally been extremely accessible. During the campaign, he was probably the most accessible candidate who ever campaigned in the modern era, absolutely. There`s no question about that, calling into show after show. He`s only given one press conference, full press conference. He`s done this sort of two and twos with foreign leaders. And, Michael Isikoff, he has given interviews, but since that Lester Holt interview, which he basically admitted the reason that he fired James Comey, it`s really only been Fox that he`s been giving interviews to. There has been a real change, I would say, in the last bit of time about the accessibility of the President himself.

ISIKOFF: Yes, no. I would agree with that. I mean, you know, a lot of these interviews are Fox interviews where he doesn`t get challenged, where he doesn`t get push-back. The fact that there`s been only one press conference, and not for a while, means that opportunities to ask him really tough, important questions, you know, we haven`t had. And I should also just point out that some of the rhetoric here is pretty disturbing. I remember being at the CPAC conference back in February where he was using the enemy of the people line, which, you know, is a line that has historical resonance and is, you know, to demonize the press as the enemy of the people is something that -- is rhetoric, I don`t think we`ve seen before and is noteworthy.

HAYES: What do you think about that, Michael Schmidt?

SCHMIDT: Well, he has demonized the press, but it also, it`s interesting how much time he spends obsessing about the press.

HAYES: This is -- the central paradox is that he -- there`s a great -- someone tweeted this the other day, someone noted this that he had went out and gave a speech where he talked about how terrible the press was -- I think it was in Iowa. He was doing one of those campaign rallies and then went back and talked off the record to the pool for 30 minutes, which is sort of Donald Trump`s relationship to the media, in a nutshell, Michael.

SCHMIDT: So is he using the press as a diversion to demonize the press, and then he`s obsessing about the press? It seems like he spends so much of his morning and maybe the rest of his day, you know, looking at the morning shows, tweeting about them, criticizing our coverage, demonizing us. It`s just interesting how much time and energy he has focused on this one issue. And I -- if you talk to White House officials, they`ll tell you it`s because of the Russia stuff. They see the Russia stuff as a cloud and he`s trying to push back on that. But at the same time, his criticisms in the media go far beyond that.

HAYES: Well, and he is also -- I mean, as a sort of matter of buy -- biographical matter about the man, he has been obsessed with the press and press coverage from the moment that he first started appearing on the tabloids.

REID: That`s right. And remember, the sort of you hate the thing you love. If you think about what Donald Trump is truly actually been successful at in his life, it hasn`t been real estates, it hasn`t been casinos, it`s been working the New York media. The New York tabloid press was the thing he was good at, getting them to write about Donald Trump, getting them to write who Donald Trump is dating, planting stories, even using a fake name and pretending to be his publicist to get them to talk about Donald Trump, look at Donald Trump, marvel at Donald Trump. His one success has been self-promotion. Now he finds himself in a position where he cannot cause the press to praise him or talk about him or shine him in glowing light, and he is clearly, incredibly frustrated by it.

CONFESSORE: His biographer once reported that he had saved the clipping from the first time he made the paper is actually when he was a kid. He even quoted in a paper and he saved it and he remembered that moment and the power of the moment. The story says, he finds that his usual relationship has been short-circuited and I think he craves validation from the press. He has all his life and he is not getting it.

JOHNSON: And that`s one of the reasons why it leads to the leaks he`s complaining about. Because we`re seeing report after report of people in the White House saying, look, he won`t listen to us, we have to leak it so he will pay attention.

HAYES: Right. Michael Isikoff and Michael Schmidt, thank you, both for your time tonight. Appreciate it.

ISIKOFF: Thank you.

SCHMIDT: Thanks for having me.

HAYES: Still ahead, a concrete reminder of why it`s so important to ask the President a hard question. The most significant interview of Donald Trump`s young presidency next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES: It had been in the works for a while. The first interview between the anchor of NBC NIGHTLY NEWS, the President of the United States, then two days before the scheduled sit-down, President Trump fired his FBI Director while the FBI was actively investigating his campaign. Suddenly the interview became the interview. And instead of sticking to the line from his own White House that Comey was fired because the brand-new Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein recommended it, the President, President Trump told Lester Holt that firing the FBI Director was his idea and he inadvertently revealed the real reason he did it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Look, he`s a showboat, he`s a grandstander, the FBI has been in turmoil. You know that I know that, everybody knows that. You take a look at the FBI a year ago, it was in virtual turmoil, less than a year ago. It hasn`t recovered from that.

LESTER HOLT, NBC ANCHOR: Monday you met with the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

TRUMP: Right.

HOLT: Did you ask for a recommendation?

TRUMP: What I did is I was going to fire Comey, my decision. It was not - -

HOLT: You had made the decision before they came in the room?

TRUMP: I was going to fire Comey. There`s no good time to do it, by the way. They --

HOLT: Because in your letter you said I accepted -- I accepted their recommendation.

TRUMP: Yes, well, they also --

HOLT: You had already made the decision?

TRUMP: I was going to fire regard regardless of recommendation. He made a recommendation. He`s highly respect, very good guy, very smart guy. The Democrats like him, the Republicans like him. He made a recommendation, but regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey knowing there was no good time to do it. And in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it is an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won, and the reason they should have won it is the electoral college is almost impossible for a Republican to win. It`s very hard because you start off at such a disadvantage. So everybody was thinking, they should have won the election. This was an excuse for having lost an election.

HOLT: But are you angry with Mr. Comey because of his Russia investigation?

TRUMP: I just want somebody that`s competent. I am a big fan of the FBI. I love the FBI.

HOLT: But were you a fan of him taking that investigation?

TRUMP: I love the people of the FBI. I think that -- about the Hillary Clinton investigation?

HOLT: No, about the Russia investigation and possible links between --

TRUMP: No, I don`t care -- look, let me tell you. As far as I`m concerned, I want that thing to be absolutely done properly. When I did this now, I said, I probably maybe will confuse people, maybe I`ll expand that -- you know, I`ll lengthen the time because it should be over with, it should -- in my opinion, it should have been over a long time ago because all it is, is an excuse. But I said to myself, I might even lengthen out the investigation, but I have to do the right thing for the American people. He`s the wrong man for that position.

HOLT: Let me ask you about your termination letter to Mr. Comey. You write, "I greatly appreciate you informing me on three separate occasions that I am not under investigation." Why did you put that in there?

TRUMP: Because he told me that. I mean, he told me that.

HOLT: He told you, you weren`t under investigation --

TRUMP: Yes, and I`ve heard that --

HOLT: -- with regard to the Russia investigation.

TRUMP: I`ve heard that from others. I think --

HOLT: Was it in a phone call? Did you meet face to face?

TRUMP: I had a dinner with him. He wanted to have dinner because he wanted to stay on. We had a very nice dinner at the White House very early on.

HOLT: He asked for the dinner?

TRUMP: Dinner was arranged. I think he asked for the dinner.

And he wanted to stay on as FBI head. And I said, I will consider. We`ll see what happens.

But we had a very nice dinner, and at that time, he told me, "You are not under investigation," which I knew anyway.

HOLT: That was one meeting. What were the other two?

TRUMP: First of all, when you`re under investigation, you`re given all sorts of documents and everything. I knew I wasn`t under.

And I heard it was stated at the committee, at some committee level that I wasn`t.

HOLT: So, that didn`t come directly from him?

TRUMP: Then, during a phone call, he said it, and then during another phone call, he said it. So, he said it once at dinner, and then he said it twice during phone calls.

HOLT: Did you call him?

TRUMP: In one case, I called him. In one case, he called me.

HOLT: And did you ask, am I under investigation?

TRUMP: I actually asked him, yes. I said, if it`s possible, will you let me know, am I under investigation? He said, you are not under investigation.

HOLT: But he has given sworn testimony that there is an ongoing investigation into the Trump campaign and possible collusion with the Russian government. You were the centerpiece of the Trump campaign. So, was he being truthful when he says you`re not under investigation?

TRUMP: Yes, all I can tell you is, well, I know one thing. I knew that I`m not under investigation, me, personally. I`m not talking about campaigns. I`m not talking about anything else. I`m not under investigation.

HOLT: Did you ask him to drop the investigation?

TRUMP: No, never.

HOLT: Did anyone from the White House...

TRUMP: No. In fact, I want the investigation speeded up...

(CROSSTALK)

HOLT: Did anyone from the White House ask him to -- to end the investigation?

TRUMP: No, no. Why would we do that?

HOLT: Any -- any surrogates on behalf of the White House?

TRUMP: Not that I know of. Look, I want to find out if there was a problem with an election having to do with Russia. Or by the way any -- but -- any -- anybody else. Any other country.

And I want that to be so strong and so good. And I want it to happen.

(END VIDEO CLP)

HAYES: We should note before going forward that a lot of what the president said in that interview simply is not true or has been contested by James Comey under oath.

But up next, how the fallout from that interview is still reverberating through the Russian investigation and why the president hasn`t sat down with anyone who isn`t from the conservative media since that interview. We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey, knowing there was no good time to do it. And, in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it is an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: That was the moment now cited throughout the ongoing inquiries on Capitol Hill that President Trump admitted he fired the FBI director because of the Russia investigation or at the very least had it in his mind when he did.

Joining me from Washington, D.C., Jennifer Rubin, conservative columnist "The Washington Post", Olivia Nuzzi who is Washington correspondent for "New York Magazine"; still with me here at the table Joy Reid, Nicholas Confessore, Jason Johnson, Michelle Goldberg.

Jennifer, that interview was a kind of turning point I think because we have not had an interview with the president with a non -- I think this is correct, with a not Fox outlet since then, not conservative, sort of friendly outlet since then. I think there`s an awareness around the people around him, that they kind of can`t let him go out there and talk anymore because there are actual legal ramifications at this point.

JENNIFER RUBIN, THE WASHINGTON POST: Right. And it is not even that they will talk to anyone at Fox. They won`t talk to Chris Wallace, for example. They won`t talk to bret Beier who are real news people. He is just doing these softball interviews going on again and again and again Fox and Friends and basically the dialogue goes, "aren`t I swell" and they say, "yes, you`re swell." So, that`s about all he can handle at this point.

And I think it`s two things. One, I think there`s the legal ramification, and, two, he doesn`t know what he is talking about. Someone is going to ask him a question, what`s in the health care bill.

HAYES: That`s right.

RUBIN: What is in the budget? Why are you doing x, y and z? And he doesn`t have an answer. So he can`t go on a real interview.

HAYES: That second point, Olivia, is the thing that I`m really obsessed with in the midst of this huge domestic policy priority, one-sixth of the American economy is health care, an effort to reshape a huge parts of it, implications for tens of millions of Americans. And all I want more than anything in the world is for the president to do a press conference just on health care, basically just say, the ground rules of this are no Russia questions, none of that, we`re just talking health care. We`re going to stay on the substance of health care.

And basically everybody knows, and I think everyone on the Hill, Republican, Democrat, would admit that he just would be totally incapable of doing that in any way.

NUZZI: Right. I mean, what could go wrong if he did that from the White House`s perspective? I think Jennifer is absolutely right, he just doesn`t have the knowledge about, you know, what his own administration is doing to do an interview like that. And I don`t know whether or not he`s aware of it. It is very difficult always to guess what the president is thinking.

But I do -- it is very interesting because during the campaign, of course, he did do many television interviews. He did talk or attempt to talk about policy. But the difference is now he`s walked himself into all of these different land mines and there are legal ramifications if he says something very wrong. And so I think the White House has to be much, much more cautious than the campaign was.

HAYES: Well, and there`s also a difference between the campaign and being president because now there`s an actual bill. So, there`s so much hand waving you can do on the campaign trail where you never actually have to choose, but the bill text is going to be the bill text.

NUZZI: The thing with Trump is he enjoys doing these interviews. He enjoys feeling important and having cameras on him, and so it is probably very difficult for him to stay away from doing that.

HAYES: Absolutely.

NUZZI: I mean, he just doesn`t have the discipline to do it right now, and I`m sure it is very difficult for his team to convey to him that it is not in his best interests.

GOLDBERG: I mean, during the campaign he would say, "nobody`s going to have their Medicare cut, we`re going to protect Medicaid, we`re going to protect all these social programs. We`re going to have lower premiums...

HAYES: Lower deductibles.

GOLDBERG: Lower deductibles.

HAYES: A great plan for everyone.

GOLDBERG: Right, he could just.

NUZZI: Everyone gets covered.

GOLDBERG: It didn`t have to have a relation to a tangible bill, to kind of tangible numbers. Now that there is an actual piece of legislation that he has to answer for, that`s completely incompatible with everything he promised the country. He can`t talk about that. I mean -- and apparently...

HAYES: I so desperately want him to. I mean, I honestly as a citizen, as a journalist, as an American, I just want -- I really nothing more right now...

JOHNSON: He`d have to read it first.

GOLDBERG; It`s a sign of how low standards have sunk.

HAYES: That`s exactly right.

GOLDBERG: We can`t -- I feel like it is hard for everybody to keep in their minds all the time how much we`ve lost as a country in these last few months. But one of the things we have lost is any expectation that the president would have even a glance of familiarity with the policy.

HAYES: That`s priced in. No one even...

CONFESSORE: This is important, though, because imagine a functioning administration on communications. So, on Earth II, President Rubio is making the rounds of the Sunday shows, making the case for Obamacare repeal. His tweets are all about Obamacare repeal. He`s working closely with the Senate. Their messages are all coordinated. That is how it normally works.

REID: But at the same time, though, if there was anything popular about Obamacare repeal, trust me, Donald Trump would be out there selling it. I think the problem is that Donald Trump only knows how to cheer lead for things people already like. You know, he knows how to cheer lead for himself.

And by the way, this is not even his bill. This is Donald Trump making agreements in order to become president of the United States and get the Republicans behind him. So, he agreed to give the right that wants to repeal Obamacare, that was part of his stump speech. He agreed to do it. This is something Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan have been dreaming about their whole lives, getting rid of the social net.

Do you think Marco Rubio could sell the idea of getting rid of 22 million people`s health care any better than Trump? Maybe he could have the wonk of it better. But this is an unpopular thing. And Donald Trump doesn`t do unpopular...

HAYES: Olivia.

REID: Americans would still not want to lose their health care.

HAYES: Olivia.

NUZZI: I disagree. I think it is more the fact that Donald Trump is disinterested in policy for the most part. And it is not as fun to talk about Obamacare on Twitter as it is to -- as it is to insult people or talk about television or whatever it is that he`s thinking about.

So I think maybe it is about his being unpopular, but it also is about the fact that he just doesn`t care about the business of governing.

HAYES: And Jennifer, that`s the thing that has been so evident throughout, right? I mean there is a certain level -- I mean politicians really vary on this, I`ve got to say. LIke, there are politicians who really don`t know policy at all, there are some know it quite well. I remember this moment, actually, in the Republican primary debate when there was a battle about defunding Planned Parenthood where all of the governors all of a sudden you were like, oh, wow, they know what they`re talking about because they were in the weeds of how the funding works for their state and they can get into it, and Donald Trump is standing up there just like looking back and forth.

But ultimately you wonder, I guess, how long you can skate on this, right? Like is there some time that you have to kind of -- how long can they hide him, I guess?

RUBIN: Yeah. I think the time is about a month when the president is still going around and announcing cabinet positions. And now they really do have to keep him under wraps, which is bizarre. That`s not how our democracy is supposed to work. That`s not how a president is supposed to put forth his agenda.

And to Joy`s point, I think there is a lot of it, that the bill is incredibly bad, but that is also a function of him. He doesn`t know what`s in it. He has no priorities.

HAYES: Right.

RUBIN: He has no bottom lines. So they put together this mishmosh (ph) of stuff that no one likes, so even Marco Rubio couldn`t sell it.

I do think, however, that it is beginning finally to erode his base. You see his poll numbers coming down now, really across the board in the mid- 30s. We`re getting down to blood relatives and staff here, all but the completely cultist following has pretty much woken up.

HAYES: That is true, although the sort of aggregate numbers are in the 37, 38 percent, which is, you know...

RUBIN: Depressing.

HAYES: Yeah, but it`s also like -- he won with 44.5 percent of the vote, so it`s -- I mean it is not an outside the ballpark of people who voted for him.

Up next, there is one branch of the news media that has escaped the president`s fake news label. How the right wing is covering President Trump next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President Trump has wrapped up his intense nine-day oversees international voyage that by all accounts was a home run. Our commander-in-chief, the pillar of strength and a true advocate for America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Joining me now Jennifer Rubin -- still with me, Jennifer Rubin, Olizia Nuzzi, Joy Reid, Nicholas Confessore, Michelle Goldberg, Jason Johnson.

I have been fascinated by how the conservative media has dealt with particularly the last month or so. And one of the things I find really interesting is the fact that while the country has been -- you know, this health care bill, particularly recently, has consumed -- they want nothing to do with it. It is really astounding when you think about it.

I mean, eight years of repeal and replace, Tea Party rallies -- and let me just say, like I have talked to conservative citizens, just random people who know a lot about Obamacare. Like -- and they have critiques of it that are quite sophisticated and have thought a lot about it and really, you know, dislike it. And here it is, the moment, the crowning achievement, victory at the precipice of the grand, epic win, and it`s silence. It is so fascinating.

And Jennifer, I want to you ask you, as someone who sort of comes more from the world of conservatism, as an entity, like what is that about?

RUBIN: I think it is two things. One is it is not going well. So if they can`t say anything nice, they change the topic.

HAYES: Yeah, right.

RUBIN: These people are cheerleaders.

And by the way, by right wing media, I think we should be specific, we`re talking about the Fox hosts, we are talking about some of these blogs. There are conservative outlets, The Weekly Standard, for example has done excellent reporting. So, it is not every conservative.

HAYES: Let me just say this, though, I want to be clear on this. This is true, you have got people at The Weekly Standard, The National REview, The Washington Examiner, Phil Klein is a good health care reporter we`ve had on, and all of those people are writing about it. But if you go to any of their web sites, it is not leading, it is not dominating.

And I will say that I lived through this on the other side at The Nation magazine as the Washington editor on the Affordable Care Act, and let me tell you it was -- that fight was at the top of the page. No one was burying the health care fight. People were really, really invested in that.

(CROSSTALK)

RUBIN: You know, there are two things.

HAYES: Continue.

RUBIN: There are two things. One is that it is not going well. And the other is the not so secret truth is a lot of these very virulently anti- government people don`t understand it, they don`t know what`s in it, they don`t know what it means. This is what happens when you become so antagonistic towards government you don`t know what is going on, you don`t have facility of the information, so you go on to something you know, which is screaming at the liberal elite. It really is a statement on the state of conservatism actually.

NUZZI: And there`s also an element of bad faith here in that some of the conservative goals are, for example, higher deductibles, right. I mean, there`s a lot of people who do health care policy who believe that higher deductibles will make people get less...

HAYES: Skin in the game, like, literally.

NUZZI: They will use less health care, they will be more...

HAYES: Judicious.

NUZZI: Right, will approach it as consumers, that it will drive costs down. But nobody wants to make a public case for higher deductibles, which is part of this plan, particularly when they`ve been complaining about high deductibles in Obamacare for the last eight years.

JOHNSON: And this goes to what we were talking about with Trump and his inability, whether it is Rubio or not, he can`t sell it, he can`t explain it. Here`s your superstar, but you have got to hide him on defense, like - - and that`s what happens every single time. They know that their biggest name can`t play...

HAYES: OK, but there`s also something else here I think is happening, which is about power and perceptions of power. Here is a movement that controls all branches of government. There are five appointed, Republican- appointed Supreme Court justices. They have majorities in both houses. And they have the White House, OK. They`re running things. And I will click over to Fox and I will watch a Fox News host leading their show interviewing a 19-year-old freshman at Kenyon who burned an American flag.

And I`m thinking to myself, you guys are -- you have it. You`ve got it. You`re running the country...

CONFESSORE: ...the story about the Obamas on vacation.

HAYES: Yes...

JOHNSON: Right. Exactly.

(CROSSTALK)

NUZZI: ...I think the point is that it really wasn`t about Obamacare. I mean, the fact is it`s much easier for them to be the opposition, for them to be, you know, arguing in favor of Donald Trump against somebody else, but they don`t have Hillary Clinton right now. And so instead they`re going to talk about CNN. They`re going to talk about MSNBC. They`re going to talk about the liberal media, because that is Donald Trump`s enemy right now, because there are no others.

And they can`t talk about something extremely unpopular that doesn`t make it seem like Donald Trump is winning.

REID: And also when Barack Obama is face of health care, right. It`s a lot of -- of course, it`s easy to demonize, that`s an Obama thing. But it is just fundamentally much easier to go to war to expand health care, to make that an open fight that you`re proud of, because I want to give more people health care.

This is a fundamental fight that the bottom line is we want fewer people to have Medicaid. That is 72 million people. We want to take Medicaid from them. We want to turn it into a block grant.

The actual policies that conservatives have run on all of these decades are unpopular, but they`ve been able to make them seem more popular when they`re in opposite...

(CROSSTALK)

HAYES: And I will say this, I will say this, one of the amazing things about this where we stand is that the one person who really figured this out more than anyone was Donald Trump.

REID: Is Donald Trump!

HAYES: In the primaries, he realized that there was no constituency among the Republicans for Paul Ryanism and here he deviated from it. And now here we are.

REID: Amen. That`s it.

HAYES: Jennifer Rubin and Oliva Nuzzi. Many thanks.

Much more on the difficulties of covering a president who has only given one solo press conference in his entire presidency next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRIAN KAREM, THE SENTINEL NEWSPAPER: What you just did is inflammatory to people all over the country who look at it say see once again the president is right and everybody else out here is fake media. And everybody in this room is only trying to do their job.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I just -- I disagree completely. First of all, I think if anything has been inflamed, it`s the dishonesty that often takes place by the news media.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Still with me, Joy Reid, Nicholas Confessore, Jason Johnson, Michelle Goldberg. We`re talking about a conservative media and Trump and Trump and the press in this era. And it really is true that he sort of has replaced, both he and the conservative media, have replaced Hillary Clinton, who was of course the foil during the campaign with the media. I mean, this is just a very clear substitution.

And what I find so fascinating is the desire to feel like you are disempowered and the victim. And people that are really do run the country. I mean, the man is the most powerful man in the world. He can literally end human life on the planet in about a ten-minute sequence. It`s not like a hyperbolic, this is the power that this man has.

The idea that you`re still even with this power besieged and what that -- because I think that emotional space is a key part to understanding the entire era.

GOLDBERG: And that emotional space I think is where he connects to all of these people.

HAYES: Absolutely.

GOLDBERG: Don`t share in any way shape or form his life experiences, but share his sense of being looked down on and sneered at and not validated by the The New York Times and the mainstream media.

HAYES: And sometimes, I should say, correctly. I want to be clear about this.

GOLDBERG: Well, in the case, maybe, of some of his follows, not in the case of Donald Trump.

HAYES: That`s what I`m saying I`m saying among...

GOLDBERG: And Donald Trump`s resentments against the media are like much more personal and less ideological but there is that shared core of...

HAYES: Grievance.

GOLDBERG: Resentment and really a demand for a media that reflects themselves back the way they want to be seen.

REID: That`s right.

HAYES: And the emotional fuel is so powerful.

REID: I mean, if you go back to why Rush Limbaugh was successful. Donald Trump just strikes me as like a guy who listened to Rush Limbaugh for a long time and watched Fox and absorbed all the same messages.

HAYES: Yes. He sounds like them.

REID: Which is why he sounds like them. And there was this sense that came out the late 70s, early 80s that people, white men in particular, of a certain kind felt that they were no longer valuable, that the civil rights movement has elevated, and has this great nobility, that black people are able to derive this nobility from victimhood in terms of civil rights and voting rights, but that they can never derive...

HAYES: So what about us?

REID: When are we going to be the noble people that are uplifted?

CONFESSORE: It`s a key part of the intellectual narrative of the right. For 30 or 40 years has kind of always been the establishment is liberal, the establishment is against them and they are marginalized. They have to take back power. They now confront the problem of what do you do when you`ve won when you`ve won everything, every institution, every major high point embattlement of the economy except for the The New York Times.

And so they essentially have to make war on the only people that`s left and that`s the media.

JOHNSON: I think at its core, and this goes back 15, 20 years. I think it`s just nihilism. I think there`s a belief on the part of many people in this country that America is already done that it doesn`t matter. We`ve already been soiled. We had that black president for eight years. We`ve got too many liberals, we`ve got LGBT people. They don`t want things to change, because they America is over. They just want to go down swinging. And Trump is that cudgel.

I think is that cudgel that`s saying if we`re losing this country at least we`re going to punch some people on the way out.

HAYES: I also just think -- I mean, I just think that there`s actually a - - there`s some universality here, which is that I think like people do like to feel like they`re the noble victim in an unfair fight. You know, people sort of go for that. I mean, when you complain about the official during a baseball game like, right, like you are giving into that same feeling that is being played out in large which is like that human impulse of I`m screwed, it`s not fair. Like that is a universal human impulse we all have. It`s been sort of channeled and weaponized.

And I would disagree that -- I don`t think it`s nihilism. What I do think is people genuinely, huge swathes of the population on both sides of sort of American political divide, feel deeply disrespected, right. And like that feeling of disrespect, whether it`s built on -- you know, we can argue about substantively whether it`s justified or not, and obviously what the hierarchies are of American society are very clear to me.

But the feeling of it is that is really there and that`s the core that`s driving it all.

GOLDBERG: And also, I mean i don`t -- I would disagree that they`re nihilistic about the country as a whole, but I do think they`re nihilistic about the universality of truth even though that`s ironic, because that used to be a conservative principle, about the idea that truth is anything, but a function of power and that people who are trying to claim that these numbers don`t add up are really just trying to sell some kind of liberal narrative.

HAYES: I was told the other day by a congressman when I quoted the CBO score that the CBO was voodoo economics and that essentially -- no, that it was essentially in exercise to wield to power, which sounded like something that a professor at Brown freshman year would say to me.

Joy Reid, Nicholas Confessore, Michelle Goldberg, and Jason Johnson, thank you so much.

That is ALL IN for this evening. "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now.

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