All In with Chris Hayes, Transcript 7/18/2017 The Trump Effect

Guests: Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Rosalind Helderman, Renato Mariotti, Jennifer Rubin, Jim Manley

Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: July 18, 2017 Guest: Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Rosalind Helderman, Renato Mariotti, Jennifer Rubin, Jim Manley

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: - told by Donald Trump Jr. that he had told us everything about that meeting, the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. This is everything he said on Hannity. This is everything. Right. This is HARDBALL, for now, thanks for being with us. "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes starts right now.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC CHIEF LEGAL CORRESPONDENT: Good evening from New York, I`m Ari Melber in for Chris Hayes. We have breaking news on Russia tonight. We also have a report on the spectacular failure of the President`s health care push and Senator Bernie Sanders will be here on that. Our top breaking story though, there was another Putin-Trump meeting and the President of United States attended it all by himself. The White House did not disclose this meeting when it occurred, a breach of diplomatic practice as we`ll explain. And the meeting looks even more odd because the two leaders had already met, quite famously for two hours at the G20 summit in Germany.

The Washington Post breaking this rather explosive story this evening noting this second meeting unreported at the time took place at a dinner for G20 leaders, a senior administration official confirming that. And halfway through the meal, Trump left his own seat to occupy a chair next to Putin. Continuing in the article, "Trump was alone and Putin was attended only by his official interpreter. The New York Times also reporting on this today saying, "The intimate dinner conversation of which there`s no official U.S. government record is the latest to raise eyebrows. Foreign leaders who witnessed it later commented privately on the oddity of an American President flaunting such a close rapport with his Russian counterpart.

Now, we can tell you a formal readout would be difficult to write because while Putin had that staffer with him, Donald Trump attended alone. That means President Trump was entirely reliant on Putin`s staff translator in the meeting and that he had no backup or expertise present to represent America`s interests. It`s hard to imagine Donald Trump who prides himself on negotiations showing up alone say, and blindly relying on only the competitor`s lawyer at a key business meeting. If the White House has a good reason for why he would do that with a foreign adversary, they have not yet offered it tonight and they have been asked. Now, this story first broke into the open after something else interesting happened. The foreign affairs expert you may have seen on TV, Ian Bremmer was racing this. He said that basically there was "a meeting that no one`s heard of." And this was this was in a discussion on Charlie Rose.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

IAN BREMMER, Then he has a meeting with a lot of people not in it, only Tillerson, the translators, Lavrov, the Foreign Minister, Russian Foreign Minister and Putin last over two hours, don`t have a clear read out on exactly what was said from either side. Then on top of that, you have an hour that evening that no one`s even heard of.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: That no one`s even heard of until now. Joining me is White House Correspondent for the New York Times, Julie Hirschfeld Davis who reported this story out for the Times. How did we learn about this?

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, THE NEW YORK TIMES WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ian Bremmer is one of the ways. And also there were a lot of foreign leaders in that room who witnessed this exchange and who have privately commented on it and you know, that tends to leak out and it was witnessed by a lot of people. And then after really hours in which I - you know, pressed the White House for answers on this, we finally got some confirmation from senior White House officials, who did acknowledge that, in fact, the meeting took place. That it pretty much unfolded the way it`s been described by people who were in the room. And that, you know, they`re basically describing this as a routine thing. This was leaders and their spouse`s event, that dinner.

MELBER: But it`s not routine.

DAVIS: And you know, it`s nothing unusual, but it`s not routine for one leader to approach another leader and have an hour-long conversation, something this significant, particularly after they just met for the first time formally on the sides of this Summit and to have no other American official and not even a Russian - an American translator present for this meeting. It was-it was very unusual and all of the other leaders around that table recognized that even if President Trump didn`t.

MELBER: In your reporting, have you seen a high-level meeting like this where a U.S. President would enter it alone when a foreign leader had his own staff?

DAVIS: I`ve never seen anything like this. I mean, it`s not unusual necessarily for an American President to decide that one of these private dinners is the place where he wants to buttonhole another leader on an important issue, but when that`s the case, he prepares for that meeting he`ll take the translator that speaks that language. We now know from the White House that President Trump had taken a translator who spoke Japanese to this dinner. So he clearly - if he had - if he planned this this encounter with President Putin, he didn`t tell any of his staff or if he did, they did him a disservice by not sending with him someone who spoke the language, who could be in on that conversation and at the very least, I mean, put aside note taker, if you`re going to have an hour long conversation with another leader, particularly in a sensitive context like this one and they know their questions about this.

MELBER: Right. And Julie, these two men here were meeting for the first time in this high profile environment amidst the ongoing questions about whether on the Trump side there was cooperation in illicit criminal activity for what the U.S. intelligence agency say was an international criminal conspiracy to meddle in the election. We know that came up in the two hours, do we have any idea whether any of that came back up in this extra hour?

DAVIS: There`s no - there`s no way of knowing. There`s - I mean, the Kremlin may know. The Kremlin does know. The translator obviously overheard whatever the conversation was and interpreted both sides of it. There is no official U.S. account. There can`t be because there wasn`t another official present. It`s possible the President read it out to one of his top officials, maybe he`s talked to Rex Tillerson about it, maybe he talked to General McMaster who was on the trip, but we certainly haven`t heard any of that from senior officials. At the White House, they`re characterizing this as a brief private conversation and they`re not going to about what was said because it was private conversation. But also because they have no real way of reading something like that out. And that`s the problem here. They knew going into this meeting - the formal meeting with President Putin that all of the atmosphere surrounding about possible collusion were going to make it very difficult for them to come out of that meeting with anything other than a public relations nightmare and this just makes it a little bit -

MELBER: And last question, did they admit to you, the staff that they just don`t know for the reasons you state?

DAVIS: Yes, they do. I mean, they say there was no way to know what was discussed because we weren`t there.

MELBER: Right, which is - which is not good. Julie Hirschfeld Davis taking a break from your reporting and tell us about it. We appreciate it. I want to move on because I got a couple other guests here raring to go. This extra Putin meeting, of course, is just the latest Russia story tonight, not the only big one. There was also a new report today that states Special Counsel Robert Mueller is now investigating the controversial Summit there between Donald Trump Jr., Trump Campaign Leadership and Russian nationals. Now, of course, up until today, that was widely believed to raise potential criminal issues from investigators, but there was no actual indication whether the DOJ had gotten to it yet.

And let`s remember, Mueller`s original assignment appointed in May was to look at crimes related to Russian meddling and the potential involvement of Trump officials. After the firing of FBI Director Comey, Mueller`s aide made it clear would review that as potential obstruction. So those are really two broad topics relating to the hacks and Trump management decisions. Now there is this third topic and it is quite specific, did any crimes mature out of that June 9th meeting at Trump Tower. One element of the crime is present in the writing that led up to the meeting intent. As we saw, "official documents and information offered to incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia which would be useful," they wrote, to your father and stating succinctly it is "part of Russia and its government support of Mr. Trump."

Today as well, The Washington Post identified the eighth person at that now infamous meeting Ike Kaveladze, an American based employee of a Russian real estate company and NBC News confirming the attendance as well. The lawyer for that eighth attendee telling The Washington Post, he received a phone call from a representative of Special Counsel Robert Mueller over the weekend asking if Kaveladze would agree to be interviewed. That is pretty clear and that`s how we know that the Special Counsel is now looking at that very controversial meeting. And so for more on all this, I want to go to the coauthor of that Washington Post piece Rosalind Helderman, Political Enterprise and Investigation who reported there at the Post, also joined by a Renato Mariotti, a former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. Rosalind, you look at this, it`s not as I say surprising, but what does it tell you that Mueller is not wasting any time trying to talk to people at the meeting?

ROSALIND HELDERMAN, THE WASHINGTON POST POLITICAL ENTERPRISE AND INVESTIGATIONS REPORTER: Yes. I mean, we learned about this meeting just a week ago, and by the weekend, he already had people calling asking for interviews. Clearly, this is of keen interest to them and they want to get on it as soon as possible before people lose their memories, before people have a chance to talk to each other potentially. You know, his interest in it is obviously quite high.

MELBER: And do you infer in any way whether he knew about this previously? Because it all grew initially out of Jared Kushner revising his documentation, but this timeline might suggest that it spill in the public, they then start scheduling interviews.

HELDERMAN: Yes, I think the time line suggests that they did not know about this previously and they certainly didn`t know the identities of the people but they clearly were very interested in it as soon as they heard.

MELBER: Renato, from an investigative perspective, I want you to put this very hot recent story of the last week and a half in the context of the other hot recent story of the last hour and a half because would a federal investigator look at the ongoing contacts between say the President and Russia if the theory of the case could include activity after the inauguration, government activity?

RENATO MARIOTTI, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY OF NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS: Well, it certainly would be something that they would look at, and regardless of what was said between the President and Mr. Putin, what I think is, you know, he made a major mistake by meeting alone with Putin with literally no other American present. The implication that could be drawn from that is that he did not want the United States government to be aware of what he was telling Putin. It reminds me of Jared Kushner early on, being - that was reportedly a back channel being created between Jared Kushner and the Russians.

And the difference there was at the time Kushner didn`t know he was going to be investigated for dealing with the Russians. Here, the President is aware that he and his team is being investigated for collusion with the Russians and so he decides to have a meeting with the Russian President with literally no American present to verify what was said or not said during that meeting.

MELBER: Yes, you`re suggesting these reports of a private Putin-Trump meeting that the White House never disclosed is the ultimate back channel?

MARIOTTI: Well, it certainly that implication can be drawn. I mean, no one will know - will probably ever know in the United States at least, what was said during that meeting but an implication can be drawn that there was something that the President wanted to talk to Mr. Putin about that he did not want an American to know. And maybe they talked about the New York Yankees the whole time or something else that`s innocuous but you know, an implication can be drawn that it was something he didn`t want the U.S. government to know. And I think, if you know, combined with a lot of evidence that could be - other evidence that could be used against him.

MELBER: So, walk us through how that works as an investigator. If you had an individual - I mean, Jim Comey testified under oath that he thought Donald Trump cleared the room before they talked about Michael Flynn and that was a signal, piece of evidence that Donald Trump knew what he was doing was wrong and didn`t want extra witnesses. Walk us through how investigators think that through in the context of someone who Donald Trump has welcomed an audience his entire life on just about everything and then all of a sudden we`re led to believe that he`s become very private and shy when he has certain kind of meetings about Flynn, Comey, and apparently as of tonight, meetings with Putin.

MARIOTTI: Well, if I was a prosecutor looking at the evidence, what I would do is look at Mr. Trump`s meeting with other world leaders and see whether or not he brought staff to those meetings. Did he have another one on one with another leader that an another American wasn`t present for? And if there wasn`t, I think you know, combined with other evidence it provides an implication that he had special interest in meeting alone with the Russians. Now, in and of itself, like I said, it could be meeting with them to discuss baseball, or hockey, or something else.

The question is, you know if there`s other evidence out there that shows his concerns about Russia, or dealings with Russia, that could you know, provide evidence of his intent that ultimately could be used against him. And so, if I was representing the President and he asked me if this sort of meeting was a good idea, I would say absolutely not, and that he should never meet with President Putin or anyone else from the Russian government without others present who could you know, corroborate his account and ensure that there is another person who could testify that nothing unusual or concerning happened during that meeting.

MELBER: Rosalind, this was, of course, the pledge made by Donald Trump Jr. in his first big interview after all this, that we had all the info we need.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP JR., PRESIDENT`S SON: Here it is. I`m more than happy to be transparent about it and I`m more than happy to cooperate with everyone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So far as you know, as far as this incident concerns, this is all of it.

TRUMP JR.: This is everything. This is everything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Was that everything?

HELDERMAN: It was not at all everything. Since that interview happened, there`s been sort of this clown car effect of additional people who have been identified to be in the room. First, we had this Russian-American lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin who had - that was a Soviet army veteran who when he was in the army, his duties included counterintelligence. So that was very interesting. We learned that last week, it turns out the lawyer brought a translator, so that`s yet another person. And then today, of course, we have Ike Kaveladze, who`s just yet another person who has a quite interesting back story of his own who was in the room.

MELBER: Final question Rosalind, you talked to White House officials and sometimes they say give us a break. This is not the only story that matters to Americans or Washington. Why can`t you get off Russia? And then you look at a night like tonight and the drip, drip, drip of them holding back this information and we didn`t pick one country. If it was a one-off meeting with Brazil we`d be reporting that. But it always seems, often seems to be Russia. Your view of that.

HELDERMAN: Yes, I mean, I think if that was their attitude, they should release all of the information themselves at once and then we report it once and we move on. They should have told us about this Putin meeting at the time of the meeting when the President was in Germany and there was all the reporting about his interactions with Putin, it would have become a part of that story that story. That would have been it. They should have told us everything, everything they knew about who was in the room, and how this meeting came about and why it was held, this Don Junior meeting at Trump Tower initially just pull the Band-Aid off.

MELBER: Yes. Well, the Band-Aid is not all the way off from what we can tell. Rosalind Helderman, thank you for your reporting. Renato Mariotti, as always, I appreciate your expertise. Now, coming up, the President who guaranteed nothing but victory has been dealt by his own account a major loss on health care. He`s now advocating for "a failure of health care while proclaiming I`m not going to own it." There`s a lot of fallout to unpack on Trumpcare we`ll be back in two minutes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Six months after taking office, a President who promised on the campaign trail we are going to be tired of winning, well he has a new message, it`s time to let one sixth of the U.S. economy, in his words, fail.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Let ObamaCare fail. It`ll be a lot easier and I think we`re probably in that position where we`ll just let ObamaCare fail. We`re not going to own it. I`m not going to own it. I can tell you the Republicans are not going to own it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: The President today responding to the Republicans led Senate`s failure to pass that bill to repeal and replace ObamaCare, news that broke here in this hour last night. This is is the same president though who made this promise.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: You`re going to have such great health care at a tiny fraction of the cost. And it`s going to be so easy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: So easy. Now Trump`s party controls both political branches. You might call it full control as Trump once tweeted about his predecessor. Obama`s complaints about Republicans stopping his agenda are "BS since he had full control for two years. He can never take responsibility." Today the President not taking his own responsibility for his own party`s failure here on repeal and this was after of course, seven years of promising this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: It would be nice to have Democrat support but really they`re obstructionists. They have no ideas, they have no thought processes, all they want to to do is obstruct government and obstruct period.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: A little history here. After the House its version of the health care bill in May, that same President held a widely premature celebration in the Rose Garden and basked in the applause of those same House Republicans.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Your premiums, they`re going to start to come down. We`re going to get this passed through the Senate. I feel so confident. This has really brought the Republican Party together. As much as we`ve come up with a really incredible health care plan, this has brought the Republican Party together.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Now, that was not a lie. It was just a prediction that proved to not be true. The President followed on that statement perhaps by making it untrue because he threw basically those 217 House Republicans right under the bus for voting for that same bill. That sound you just heard, the deal maker told Republican Senators the House version of the bill he was celebrating was "mean, mean, mean, and cold hearted and a son of a B." Now, depending on what you think of that bill, you might agree with some of that but it certainly didn`t make it easier to get to the Republican unity that he was celebrating there. And a lot of Republicans are in the Senate and that`s where this all ran into trouble.

Leader McConnell there now vowing to hold a straight ObamaCare repeal vote after the other thing, of course, fell apart. But it would not be that straight. It actually, when you look at it, has a two-year delay for Lawmakers to then try to get to the thing they couldn`t do yesterday, the replacement part. And three Republican there have already come out against that new repeal delay plan which suggests it`s got a rocky road. The White House still vowing to fight on, the President inviting Senators tomorrow to talk health care.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: The debate and the battle over health care isn`t over. We`re continuing to push forward to repeal and replace ObamaCare and we`re going to continue fighting for that every single day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: They can keep fighting for it. The question that some Republican Senators have begun answering is how do you fight for something if people don`t like it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you like to see more from the President on this?

LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: You know, I`d like to see a bill that people actually liked. I got to go.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: I got to go. I got to go. Joining me now, people who don`t have to go just yet, Conservative Washington Post Columnist Jennifer Rubin, and Senator Harry Reid`s former Chief Aide Jim Manly. Jim, what are we witnessing here, a master tactician in McConnell having to make up the mistakes of a political neophyte like Donald Trump?

JIM MANLY, SENIOR COMMUNICATIONS ADVISOR FOR SENATOR HARRY REID: No. It`s a stunning rebuke of both Leader McConnell and the President. The fact of the matter is that this has been an amazing display of incompetence anywhere you look at it. When I worked for Senator Reid, he and Obama and Pelosi sat down and they sketched out a strategy - shocking - a strategy to try and do some ball items to try and build some legislative momentum. These guys just swung for the fences and of course, they failed spectacularly. And I`ll beat you to the punch Ari, this vote is not going to pass next week. This thing is dead.

MELBER: Dead, Jennifer?

JENNIFER RUBIN, WASHINGTON POST COLUMNIST: Yes, it absolutely is dead. And Jim (INAUDIBLE) want this days and I actually agree on this. They did not do the job that Pelosi and Reid and President Obama did, which was legislate. They took months and months of hearings of drawing people from various stake holder groups into the White House, into Congress, coming up with a bill that they thought would work. At the end, they did not have Republican support but they had Democratic support. The Republicans refused to do that. I think they were caught flat-footed when President Trump actually won. They never knew what they actually wanted to replace ObamaCare with. And as Senator Graham said, who is in favor of this, very few people.

MELBER: Well, Jennifer, I have a quick and then a longer question for you. From a conservative perspective would you describe the vote they did have, the vote count the Republicans have on this as impressive?

RUBIN: I`m sorry, the Democrats had as impressive?

MELBER: The Republicans yesterday, was that impressive for conservatives? Is that a word you would use?

RUBIN: No, it would not be impressive.

MELBER: All right. My follow up question is take a listen to the President`s score card of it and then we`ll talk about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We have 52 people, we had four noes. Now, we might have had another one somewhere in there but essentially the vote would have been pretty close to, if you look at it, 48-4. That`s a pretty impressive vote by any standard.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Pretty impressive by any standard, Jennifer.

RUBIN: First of all, I don`t think it would have been four noes. I think as Susan Collins said over the weekend, you probably would have had eight or ten. And listen, all that counts is if you can get to 51 or in this case even 50 and they never had that. You know, what`s strikes me every time I hear the President is you`re absolutely convinced he has no idea what he`s talking about. He doesn`t know what`s in the legislation, he doesn`t know what`s popular, he doesn`t know what`s possible. And I think it`s really hard for a party in power when the White House is not only unhelpful but is completely dysfunctional and obviously out to lunch. So Mitch McConnell certainly had his hands full. I don`t defend how he dealt with this but at least with the Democrats they had a White House that was engaged and knowledgeable about the topic.

MELBER: Right. Well, to be fair though, I mean, Jim, just reading back the Trump statement here, when he says 48-4. Obviously, everyone knows there are 52 total members of the U.S. Senate so - I mean, it`s a fair count.

MANLEY: Well, horseshoe - close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades as the old saying goes. Yes, I had no idea. This must be the new math that people are focusing on because I have no idea of what he`s talking about there. And to Jennifer`s point, it just demonstrates the utter lack of understanding of how the Hill operates. Again they seriously miscalculated. They overreached, tried to put too much into this bill, including repealing ObamaCare, gutting Medicaid, and, you know, it was destined to fail.

And then, of course, you throw in the process that Leader McConnell used where he tried to put together the bill in secret, the exact opposite by the way of what Senator Reid did and President Obama, and he tried to jam it through the Senate. And finally his caucus --- his own caucus said no, this is too much. We are not going to go for this. And so, what is going to happen? Next week, Senator McConnell is going to force a vote in the Senate where - that is going to allow his colleagues to be tagged as voting to take away health care for 32 million Americans.

MELBER: And does Trump own it? He says he doesn`t own it.

MANLEY: He owns it lock, stock and barrel and as does McConnell and the rest of his caucus. I`ve never seen anything like it. The job of a Leader in the Senate is protect his caucus. All McConnell was going to do here is force his folks to take a vote that they are going to own from here on out. It`s just an amazing lack - utter lack of regard from the Senate and a debasement of the legislative process.

MELBER: Jennifer, does he own it or are we witnessing something that Donald Trump knew a lot about in his business life as well which is a kind of a slow motion political bankruptcy?

RUBIN: Well, it probably is a bankruptcy. He is going to own this and the other person who screwed up big time, of course, was Speaker Ryan. He had those people take a vote on a bill that was even probably less popular than the one that here. He had a lot of moderates walk the plank and those people are going to be very vulnerable in 2018. So if Republicans are mad at people, they might be mad at their leadership in each house who apparently have no regard as Jim said for protecting their members from hard votes.

MELBER: Well, we had a Conservative here and a Democratic Insider and it`s what we would call a hot panel or a hot bench. I appreciate all your energy and enthusiasm, both of you.

RUBIN: Thank you.

MELBER: Still to come, Senator Bernie Sanders calling last night`s defeat of Trumpcare and the Senate a victory for the people of this country. He`s going to join me to talk about that and I`m going to ask him, of course, about the Russian hacking including at the DNC. That`s ahead.

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MELBER: Republican Jerry Moran of Kansas was one of the two Senators who killed officially that latest version of health care bill and he may have been influenced it turns out by an outpouring of opposition in his home state. Moran was one of the few Republicans who held public town halls during the most recent July fourth recess and he got an earful from his constituents including many apparent Republicans saying don`t support this bill. Another Senator across the aisle, Bernie Sanders has actually been working on all of that, whipping up what is commonly called the resistance. I`m going to speak with Senator Sanders about the latest Trumpcare fail right after this break.

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MELBER: Senator Bernie Sanders has been traveling the country for the last several weeks speaking to people in many states, including West Virginia about this Republican health care proposal. Today, I asked Senator Sanders if today did mark a victory for him in defending Obamacare?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, (I) VERMONT: It is a victory for the American people who stood up by the millions, Ari, in town meetings and rallies, who bombarded Capitol Hill with emails and phone call and said that you know what, we`re not going to allow 22 million Smericans to be thrown off of health insurance. We`re not going to see premiums for older workers doubling. We`re not going to defund Planned Parenthood. We`re not going to cut Medicaid by $800 billion. We`re not going to make it almost impossible for people with preexisting conditions to get affordable health care.

It`s a victory for the American people, and all of those -- all of us who believe that we have got to move to what a health care for all system, that health care is a right of all people, not a privilege.

MELBER: And President Trump, as you know, had this to say today about the road ahead.

TRUMP: Let Obamacare fail. It`ll be a lot easier. And I think we`re probably in that position where we`ll just let Obamacare fail. We`re not going to own it. I`m not going to own it. I can tell you the Republicans are not going to own it.

MELBER: What`s your response to the president?

SANDERS: Well, my response is last I heard, Trump was the president of the United States, the leader of our country, Republicans control the House and the Senate. And it is beyond comprehension, although i know it`s -- you know, we keep saying this about Donald Trump, but it is beyond comprehension that you have a president who basically wants millions of people to suffer so he thinks he can win some political points.

The truth is, as everybody knows, the Affordable Care Act is far from perfect. What we need to improve it, not destroy it. What we need to is, among other things in my view, lower the cost of prescription drugs, save consumers, save the government substantial sums of money. And what we need to do is provide for a public option in every state in this country. What we need to do is lower the cost -- lower Medicare eligibility from 65 to 55 and then begin the process of doing what every other major country on Earth is doing, and that is guaranteeing health care for all people and as a right through a Medicare for all single payer program.

MELBER: Well, Senator, one thing that you and Mitch McConnell have had in common here is you have both maintained pretty consistent positions on the policy. The president has not. He has been all over the map as you know. Do you think that has helped or hurt the Republicans to have a president who says he`s for this and then against it, that the health care bill the House had was great and he held a whole reception for it and then said it was mean. Has that helped or hurt them?

SANDERS: I think it`s hurt them a whole lot. You have a president who as a candidate says I`m going to provide great health care to everybody, to everybody, who then tells us, as you just mentioned, after supporting the passage of the House bill says it`s kind of a mean bill and then gives different signals to the Republican leadership. I think it is not easy to be a Republican in the United States congress with Donald Trump as the president.

But, having said that, look, our job is to get beyond the politics of this, our job is to do what every other country does, guarantee, major country, guarantee health care to all people, to ask simple questions why is it that under our dysfunctional system we are spending far more per capita on health care than any other nation. Why do we pay by far the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs, why are our health care outcomes in terms of life expectancy, in terms of infant mortality, in many cases, not as good as other countries.

So, we`ve got a lot of work to do, and I look forward to getting actively involved in that.

MELBER: Senator, I want to turn to Russia, the hacks, 2016, as you know often in the news. But look at it on the Democratic primary side. As you know, some of the hacks helped Donald Trump and some also involved a debate between you and Hillary Clinton. There was a hacked email, for example, that exposed that the DNC chair, Wasserman-Shultz, in response to you saying that if you were president you`d remove her, she said, well, quote, he isn`t going to be president.

And then you, among others, called for her to resign, in part, after those leaks. When you look back at that, which happened, after the leaks she did ultimately get ousted right before the convention, what we didn`t fully know then that is so understood now is that those were partly operations of Russia, according to to U.S. intelligence.

Did you, in a way, benefit from that and would you do it different then knowing what we know now?

SANDERS: Well, knowing what we know now doesn`t help me figure out what I would have done back then. All I can say is a couple of things. Number one, Russian hacking in the United States and their cyber warfare in France, Estonia, the Ukraine, is very, very, very dangerous stuff. It is unacceptable. And the Russians cannot be allowed to get away with that stuff. This is cyber warfare. And the Russian effort very clearly is to destabilize our democracy, destabilize other democracies around the world. And they are going to have to pay a price for that. That cannot be allowed to continue.

MELBER: But at the time, I mean, it does look different in hindsight. Did you know then that this might have been part of their design was to leak these emails so there would be more rifts in the Democratic Party?

SANDERS: What we knew -- well, of course we knew that. And of crouse we knew they were trying to cause divisiveness within the Democratic Party. That`s no great secret.

MELBER: And final question, when you hear the president say that any politician would take meetings with foreign nationals offering dirt on their opponents, do you agree with that? Does that strike you as absurd or even him potentially saying any politician would open themselves up to criminal activity?

SANDERS: Of course it is absurd. We meet often, with ambassadors and representatives of countries all over the world. Of course, that`s what you should do. But that is very different from breaking the law and meeting about campaign matters with representatives of foreign governments. That just simply happens to be against the law. Most politicians, President Trump, do not do that.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MELBER: Thanks to Senator Sanders for joining us.

Now coming up, a new low, how this president just notched the worst approval rating six months into any presidency in the history of modern polling.

And, Trump hearts trucks as Thing One, Thing Two right after this break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MELBER: Thing One tonight, President Trump hearts trucks, and not just because he wore a button saying I heart trucks, although that was one indicator, but because he really seems to enjoy having trucks at the White House. Wouldn`t you?

There was a slew of big trucks yesterday, you can see, including a shiny red fire truck he couldn`t help but climb up into the cab for some hands on inspection, much like he did it earlier this year when there was a big rig parked outside taking the driver`s seat as a tough king of the road.

But there`s another trend developing, each time the president has hoped behind the wheel of a big rig truck, it has been, been it turns out, as a major policy priority was crashing on Capitol Hill. That`s Thing Two in 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Where`s the fire? Put it out fast.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: They have fun. President Trump inspecting a fire truck at the White House. This was part of that made in America product tour just yesterday. But over on Capitol Hill it was less fun, Republicans` latest attempt to pass health care was about to go up in flames. One Republican lawmaker reportedly telling White House reporter Jeff Zeleny, Trump was playing with a fire truck and trying on a cowboy hat as the bill was collapsing and he had no clue.

This is not the first time the president was busy with big rigs while the GOP health care push was actually veering off course. As the president was doing that on March 23, within that actually the same minute there was news breaking on Capitol Hill.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right, breaking news coming in to MSNBC. Per a top GOP leadership source, the vote on health care not happening today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: You can`t make it up, and you don`t need to, because that really happened.

What we`re telling you is that every time the president climbs into a truck in front of the cameras, a Republican health care bill dies.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: This 45th president of the United States has been in office just about six months this week and his approval rating is hitting new lows, especially compared to the other 44. Bill Clinton`s job approval rating was about 43 percent six months into his presidency in Gallup. It did rebound. George W. Bush was at 57 percent. Obama, 57 percent, that was leading into the summer of his own big health care battles, although more victorious then this president thus far.

And then Trump`s job approval, six months into the term, 39 percent in Gallup, the weakest out of those four past presidents. And another new poll has Trump`s job approval down lower at just 36 percent, which as a matter of math is lowest of any president at this point in the presidency of the last 70 years, basically since the advent of modern polling.

This was disturbing, or at least notable enough that President Trump decided to address it explicitly. He tweeted that this poll from ABC/Washington Post basically 40 percent is not bad, he argued, and it was about the most inaccurate poll around election time.

So not true, but even if it were it`s OK seems to be the line there.

Now, there is one segment of the population, to be fair, that has remained very strong in public approval for President Trump: registered Republican voters.

So, what would it take for his own party to potentially turn against him? Some reporting on that next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFEID FEMALE: I think it`s the congress, because they -- President Trump has only been in six months. I mean, how can it be his fault?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I can say something to the president, I would say stay strong and face both the Democrats and the establishment Republicans, because regular Americans like myself are behind you and we will help you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Some good news there in our reporting on President Trump`s supporters. The general poll numbers slipping but his supporters are with him.

The poll I was just telling you about, that Washington Post/ABC with that record low rating of 36, but 82 percent of Republicans approve of Donald Trump. And a poll today from public policy polling finds 32 percent of Trump voters don`t believe Donald Trump Junior even met with a Russian lawyer to get dirt on Hillary Clinton even though our source for that is Donald Trump Junior and his transparent Twitter account.

On the trail, Trump used foils like the media, Hillary Clinton and the deep state to rally supporters against any perceived enemies and hold on to what is obviously some very strong approval, and it`s still working for him in many ways in the White House.

Look at this tweet today: totally obstruct, he says of the Democrats strategy, and explained Republican failure on health care.

Joining me now, we have by phone out in the field from Colorado Peter Hessler who wrote a big piece about this in The New Yorker, "How Trump is transforming rural America," and that`s not all.

We`re also joined by Jess McIntosh, executive editor of Share Blue and a former senior adviser to the Hillary Clinton campaign.

Peter, what did you find out there?

PETER HESSLER, THE NEW YORKER: Yeah, I`ve been coming out here to a city called Grand Junction in western Colorado since October of last year.

You know, this was a county where Trump won almost 65 percent of the vote, and I have found what the polls sort of indicate which is that there`s no change in the support. You know, I have never met a single person who voted for President Trump who expressed any regret at this point.

MELBER: Why?

HESSLER: You know, I think part of this is that they see the opposition to him as being unfair. And they believe that, you know, like the Russia investigation is not legitimate and that that saps him and that that has prevented him from accomplishing the things that he`s said he`s going to do.

Also, it`s probably just human behavior. You know, when people make a commitment to something, I think it takes them time to change their mind if they do change their mind.

MALBER: Right. You`re talking about the deeper desire that humans have to be right.

Jess, we have three minutes. So, I`d like you to unpack where that comes from, the heart, the mind, the spirit. I think that`s a fair place to start.

JESS MCINTOSH, SHARE BLUE: That`s an absolutely fair question.

MELBER: But I`d like you to also acknowledge the fact that Donald Trump is really good at politics. And there was the idea that he was a neophyte, and he was new. And he may not be good at government, but in terms of politics here is a guy who has won, who is power, and is still by what I can tell benefiting from one of the most powerful forces in politics, which is the idea that you are against something, that you`re the opposition and that`s when you have to fight the hardest and stay unified.

MCINTOSH: He has commodified that. He has made that an entire brand for himself and I believe that there will always be a certain minority, and I do want to stress that not only are Trump voters the minority, Trump supporters are the minority. We spend a lot of time, and Peter`s piece is excellent, deep diving into who these people are, where they feel wronged, why they do what they do but they are the minority of our country.

There are a number of them that will believe that the Russian meeting didn`t happen despite the fact that Donald Senior and Junior say that it did, that the media institutions are colluding with our liberal colleges to make sure that conservative values can`t be taken seriously in this country. They will believe what Alex Jones says. They will believe that nothing is true in The New York Times or The Washington Post. I`m not sure how to reach those people except with family conversations and neighbors talking to neighbors.

But this is -- what`s happening with Donald Trump now is that he is losing not just the establishment Republicans, but we saw folks in small towns in Kansas show up, half the population of a tiny town in Kansas showed up to protest Trumpcare. That wasn`t just liberal elites on the coast.

This is a red state rural resistance, and we are seeing -- that is the reason why the vote to repeal isn`t going to happen the way Trump would want it to. It`s not about the coastal elites at this point.

MELBER: So, Peter, you look at that level of loyalty and it reminds me of something I covered a lot during the campaign, which was people who love Donald Trump so much, they spent money to go to Trump University, which was a business to give out business advice that went out of business and the customer who sued it went from originally loving him so much that they were paying for it to suing him because they decided he was actually a con.

Is that any kind of example or predicate for what some plurality of Trump voters might ultimately feel from your reporting?

HESSLER: Well, I think there are always two sides of Trump that appeal to people. One was the pragmatic. They saw him as a businessman. He gets things done. If he goes into office, he`s not going to behave like other politicians. He`s going to drain the swamp and so on.

The other side was the emotional side, that somehow he spoke to people who feel alienated from our political discourse, people who feel ignored by the coastal media and the coastal elites, and so both of these dynamics were there before he came into office.

What I have noticed is that since he`s been in office, of course there hasn`t been a lot of pragmatic progress. He hasn`t really behaved like a businessman who just wants to get things done. And so what ends up happening is that the supporters I find are more likely now to connect to the emotional side of it and his attacks.

And so I think this -- and those attacks, of course, also make it even less likely for him to get things done, because those attacks don`t work with institutions, they don`t work with professional politicians.

MELBER: And life is made of feelings.

Jess, in a sentence, what`s the best argument to those voters?

MCINTOSH: I think it`s going to be the substance of what he can or can`t get down as he goes forward. They voted for him for a reason and he`s not going to be able to deliver on any of them except for those who just want to watch it all burn.

MELBER: Jess, appreciate you being here. And Peter, fitting that you called in because that`s what Donald Trump does for a lot of interviews. So, thank you very much.

That`s All In.

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