Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: July 21, 2017 Guest: Maxine Waters, Tom Hamburger, Lynn Sweet, Tara Dowdell, Rick Wilson
AZI PAYBARAH, POLITICO SENIOR REPORTER: He`s not loyal with the people that were loyal to him, look at Sessions.
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST: OK. Azi Paybarah, Catherine Rampell, Carolyn Ryan, thank you for joining us. That is HARDBALL for now. Chris Matthews is going to return Monday night and "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes starts right now.
JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Good evening from New York, I`m Joy Reid in for Chris Hayes. A bad week for Attorney General Jeff Sessions just got a lot worse. The Washington Post breaking the news that U.S. spy agencies intercepted conversations in which Russia`s former Ambassador to Washington, Sergey Kislyak told superiors in Moscow that did he, in fact, discuss campaign related matters with Sessions including policy issues important to Moscow when the two men during a Presidential campaign. And that`s according to what Kislyak told his superiors. If accurate, it contradicts claims made by Sessions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFF SESSIONS, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: Let me be clear. I never had meetings with Russian operatives or Russian intermediaries about the Trump campaign. And the idea that I was part of a, "continuing exchange of information during the campaign between Trump surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government" is totally false.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: One U.S. official quoted by the post said that Sessions has provided misleading statements that are contradicted by other evidence and a former official add that had the intelligence indicates that Sessions and Kislyak had substantive discussions on matters including Trump`s positions on Russia-related issues and prospects for U.S.-Russian relation in a Trump administration. And joining me now is Ari Melber, host of the new show "THE BEAT" with Ari Melber set to debut on Monday at 6:00 p.m. right here on MSNBC. You know, I know where I`ll be, I`ll be watching "THE BEAT" and congratulations on the show.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Thank you, Joy. Thank you,
REID: Let`s skip to this report. There`s a lot in it that is obviously not good news for Jeff Sessions. We know that he had meetings with Sergey Kislyak that were belatedly disclosed. One in April ahead of Trump`s first major foreign policies speech and another in July during the Republican national convention. When you heard the story, what did it say to you? Do you think that it`s true?
MELBER: I think this report is bad for Jeff Sessions if it is completely true. But I think from an investigative standpoint, and this is something the Special Counsel is going to want to look at. This is hearsay about what the Russians said.
MELBER: So we don`t necessarily take the Russians and the diplomats at their word even if we think where it`s dropping and it might be a little more candid than their public propaganda. And that means that you either think they were misleading or characterizing at a certain way for their bosses, that would be one view, or the other that this is true, that the Intercept broadly reflects a truth and that that truth was obfuscated or lied about by Jeff Sessions. I would note that the editorial in the piece was just interesting. You`ve got people in here saying, well, this means he lied.
So that`s jumping ahead a little bit from what the on the line conduct was. The other point I`ll make which you know from covering this and your reporting has been spot on here, the underlying Don Jr. meeting was bad no matter what because we knew from the e-mail before they even walked in the room, whatever happened in that room, they walked in for and elicit and potentially illegal purpose. By contradistinction, that is not that in my view because it is possible in a different scenario that a Senator could talk to an Ambassador about what is described here as future relations with Russia and not being a bad thing, an isolation.
REID: And sessions has fallen back on the explanation that as a United States Senator, he had conversations with foreign diplomats all the time, that he didn`t necessarily put on the form because he didn`t think they were relevant. However, Jeff Sessions did recuse himself specifically on the Russian investigation, enraging Donald Trump in the process. This in a sense, if Donald Trump were of a mind to really want him gone, this would certainly corroborate the reason why he recused in the first place.
MELBER: Right. And that raises a great question which is do we view this obviously hot story in the Washington Post as of a piece with people who have been raising red flags about what are suspicious -- suspicious doesn`t mean guilty -- but it does mean take a closer look. Suspicious says of interactions and misleading statements about contact with Russia. That would be from say, a whistle blower model of disclosure or is it something else? Someone who simply is saying, if the boss is mad at Sessions, let me add to that weight of evidence. And by the way, it is legally problematic if the reason that Donald Trump wants to remove Jeff Sessions is that he made what was according to him, the right call to recuse himself precisely because of his relationship with the Donald Trump Campaign. That would not be a very proper reason to remove an Attorney General alone.
REID: Right. And he has to remove him for a cause. Let`s listen to James Comey, the former FBI Director as he was testifying before a Congressional Committee about Jeff Sessions recusal. Take a listen.
SEN. RON WYDEN (D), OREGON: What was it about the Attorney General`s own interactions with the Russians or his behavior with regard to the investigation that would have led the entire leadership of the FBI to make this decision?
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: Our judgment as I recall, was that he was very close to and inevitably going to recuse himself for a variety of reasons. We also were aware of facts that I can`t discuss in an open setting that would make his continued engagement in a Russia-related investigation problematic. And so we were -- we were convinced. And in fact, I think we already heard that the career people were recommending that he recuse himself, that he would not be in contact with Russia-related matters much longer. And that turned out to be the case.
REID: We were aware of facts that I can`t discuss in an open setting, meaning classified facts that had to do with whatever it was that Jeff Sessions was discussing with Russians that he didn`t disclose when he was nominated to the Attorney General, that would seem to make a bad situation worse, right? Because there`s obviously something that Jim Comey felt he couldn`t discuss in open sessions about what Sessions -- what was Sessions is doing.
MELBER: Exactly Joy. That testimony looks more interesting in light of this report. Now, we don`t know whether they`re matching up and this was the reason for that it was something else. But a way to think about recusal which sometimes gets all gummed up as a fancy legal thing, if you`re a doctor, you definitely can`t operate on your wife. It is the kind of conflict that is going to cloud your judgment. You just can do it. But you can operate on a distant friend. What Jim Comey was saying there is that this wasn`t how close friend or we and a reasonable people might disagree. This was not a jump ball of whether he had to recuse. What Jim Comey is saying there is that something tangible that was knowable, evidence, meant wasn`t a close call that he would have to recuse. Was it this kind of something the Washington Post has now reporting or something else? That, we still don`t know.
REID: We actually don`t. Ari Melber, host of the new show, "THE BEAT" that debuts Monday at 6:00 p.m. You will want to want to watch it. Thank you very much, Sir.
MELBER: Thank you.
REID: All right, and joining me now is Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters of California. And Congresswoman, good evening. Thank you for joining me. You -- thank you. You tweeted earlier today that Sean Spicer, the now outgoing Press Secretary for the Trump administration, for Donald Trump. You said congratulations, Sean Spicer. You`ve more guts than Jeff Sessions. Were you surprised that Jeff Sessions didn`t resign when the President expressed such open, lack of confidence in him and are you now thinking that he might be the next to tender his resignation?
REP. MAXINE WATERS (D) CALIFORNIA: Well, I was absolutely shocked that he did not resign. I can`t imagine anyone who has any self-respect being talked about like that by the President of the United States publicly and wanting to remain in the job. I was shocked. And so I don`t know what`s going to happen with him, whether or not he`s going to resign. But obviously, something is very wrong because if they have information that has been intercepted and recorded and even if it is classified, that information can be played with members of Congress in a classified session.
REID: And let`s go back and listen to June 13. And this was Jeff Sessions telling his colleagues, and testifying to the interactions that he had with the Russians and what they were about and not about. This is Jeff Sessions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SESSIONS: Let me state this clearly, colleagues, I have not met with or had any conversation with any Russians or any foreign officials concerning any type of interference with any campaign or election in the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: Now, what Sessions was saying there is that he never had discussions about any type of interference with any campaign or election in the United States. But what we`re seeing in the Washington Post, at least if these intercepts were to be believed, that Sergey Kislyak is to be believed that it wasn`t about interference, it was about future policy in a Trump campaign. In your view, would that rise to a level that might cause your Republican colleagues to start to insist that Jeff Sessions resign?
WATERS: It may or may not. If it was about public policy and perhaps they were saying, well, you know, I think the President leans towards sanctions -- lifting the sanctions, perhaps that kind of conversation does not rise to the point of you know, him having interfered in any way or shared information in any way that would cause them to be accused of collusion. But if in fact it was about the campaign and raising questions about some strategy, something thing the Russians had done to be helpful, or something that they had complied with, that the Russians had shared with them he in order to you know, favor Trump over Hillary, then that is going to be problematic. But the real problem here is, whether or not he`s lying. It doesn`t matter what they said in the conversation. If he lied, you know, it was Bill Clinton, was impeached for lying. And so, that`s where Jeff Sessions is going to have a real problem.
REID: And I`m wondering Congresswoman if this sort of potential concerns you. The Washington Post Tom Hamburger has a piece out in which they talk about the Trump team seeming to control or block Bob Mueller`s Russia investigation saying Trump lawyers are exploring ways to limit or undercut Special Counsel Robert Mueller`s Russia Investigation building a case against which -- against what they alleged was conflicts of interest. Clearly, Donald Trump would like to in the best of all worlds for him fire Bob Mueller. The easiest way to do that, one might argue is to get a new Attorney General who is not recused on Russia and simply have him do it. Are you concern that had this leak, with this interesting timing, so quick after The New York Times interview in which Trump said he had no confidence in Sessions, might push the administration ball down the road in something getting rid of Mueller.
WATERS: Well, I know, and I believe that the President would like the get rid of Mueller. But I think the President understanding that Republicans and Democrats saying, I don`t think you`d better do that. I think this would be very concerning. And so, I think he would certainly rather not do it. But knowing him and what I`ve learned about him, yes, I think Sessions is either going to step down or he will be fired. He`ll find an Attorney General that he can depend on and he may try to have that person fire Mueller. So all of this, all of these things are possible. We, each day, this drip, drip, drip of information, these revelations are doing exactly what I`ve already predicted, and that is, it`s going to lead right to impeachment.
REID: Well, I have to -- just to ask you on that note, Congresswoman because it does seem that the interest of the White House and your Republican colleagues are aligned in this one sense. Both of them would like the Russiagate controversy -- the Russia controversy to go away. Do you -- can you name a few Republican who you think would actually object to a new Attorney General coming in and saying, we finish the investigation, we found nothing, everyone is innocent here, it`s all over. If a new AG would have do that, that could help Republicans. They could move to cutting taxes and getting rid of -- you know, gutting Medicaid. So, what Republican do you think would object to Mueller being fired?
WATERS: I think that there would be several of them, a number of them that would object to him being fired. I think they have gone far enough with this President, defending him, excusing him, and I think they are quietly embarrassed, they are uncomfortable and I think the firing of Mueller would push them a little bit over the top. So it will be more than just a few. I think a number of them would.
REID: All right. Well, we are -- we thank you for being here. I have to ask you on your way out, Tucker Carlson did a sendup to you last night claiming in a conversation of Larry Elder that you are -- you are running for President in 2020. Is there any truth to that?
WATERS: No. Just because I`m going to New Hampshire to be at a Democratic party event for one of colleagues, they made the story up. They`re trying every way they can to discredit me or to make people uncomfortable with me, all of that. So, you got to be hearing a lot more from these people who are all -- you know, aligned around trying to discredit Maxine Waters because she has stayed on Trump`s case so much. And so you got to hear a lot more from them. Don`t believe anything they`re saying.
REID: And I`m glad we`re going to also hear a lot more from you Congresswoman Maxine Waters. Thank you so much for being here.
REID: Thank you. And meanwhile the White House has gone into full combat mode. Sean Spicer is out, a hard core Trump loyalist is in. And the President`s lawyers are moving to undermine Special Counsel Robert Mueller who`s Russia investigation represents a potentially existential threat to the Trump Presidency. This morning, the White House announced that Anthony Scaramucci, a longtime Wall Street financier and former Trump transition team official will become Communications Director. Scaramucci is intensely loyal to the President as he illustrated at the White House Briefing Room today where he defended Trump`s false claim that millions of people illegally voted in the election.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: If the President says it, OK, let me do my research on it. My guess is that there`s probably some level of truth to that. I think what we have found sometimes, the President saw stuff, some of you guys in the media think it`s not true or it isn`t true. It turns out it`s closer to the truth than people think.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: Well, that man, now takes over communications for the White House as Robert Mueller`s Russia Investigation is picking up seemed. Trump seemed to put the Special Counsel on notice Wednesday telling the New York Times Mueller would cross a red line if his investigation delves into Trump`s finances. A (INAUDIBLE) newly minted Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders reiterate today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The President`s point is that he doesn`t want the Special Counsel to move beyond the scope and outside of its mission. And the President has been very clear as have his accountants and team that he has had no financial dealings with Russia. And so, I think we`ve been extremely clear on that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: But there are reports that in fact, Rob Mueller already examining Donald Trump`s finances which have in the past included numerous ties to Russia. I`m joined now by Washington Post Political Reporter Tom Hamburger and Lynn Sweet, Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun Times. And Tom, I`m going to start with you because you have this piece from the Washington Post talking about the push to undermine Mueller. Do you have any reporting to suggest that the White House may view getting rid of Jeff Sessions as another way to do that?
TOM HAMBURGER, WASHINGTON POST POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, you know we`ve had this combination just in the last part of this week of the President letting off steam about his Attorney General at the Justice Department and about Bob Mueller and his investigation, so the two, of course, are intertwined. It would be the Justice Department and the Attorney General or the Deputy Attorney General who would have authority over the future of Bob Mueller and his investigations. The two of them are obviously related and the President`s frustration is connected to both of them. And it`s pointed to what you just mentioned. Bob Mueller is starting to look into Trump family finances and possible connections to Russia and that`s deeply unnerving.
REID: And, we heard today the start of the Scaramucci era and the way that he plans to play the Russia investigation sort of roulette inside that briefing room. This is Scaramucci talking about the investigation and what is or is not happening.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCARAMUCCI: The President himself is not under investigation. And so I think --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But that`s what not he`s accused of. He`s accused of his orbit having ties with Russia. That`s we`re investigating.
SCARAMUCCI: Here`s the problem, OK. I think that whole thing is a hoax. I think it`s a-
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Russia investigation is a hoax?
SCARAMUCCI: 100 percent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: OK, my bad. That is not Anthony Scaramucci today. That is Anthony Scaramucci back in June on with my colleague Nicole Wallace essentially calling the entire thing a hoax. So you can anticipate more of the same coming from the Communications shop at the White House I presume.
LYNN SWEET, CHICAGO SUN TIMES WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: Here`s what we learned in the briefing room. And I want to go back to that last clip you played about the voter hoax. He was smooth, he was a little bit of charming, he spoke -- you could tell that with Scaramucci, trump wanted a peer, not just somebody who`s a political operative or a strategist. So, you -- things are just too far gone now to dismiss the Russian investigation of a hoax because the Special Counsel is calling witnesses, investigating, looking for document stories come out every night. So in that way, Scaramucci has to come up with something better than name calling if he wants to either steer attention away from the focus on the Russian investigation or somehow diminish it. You can`t pretend this is not happening. And this is where when you`re reporting under Trump White House, he might want to have reporter go through that looking glass and take the punch, reporters won`t do that.
REID: But they won`t do it now, Tom, because there is expand investigation. There`s something that`s taking place and that is called the Mueller investigation. If Jeff Sessions were to be forced out if this revelation in the Washington Post tonight were to force Jeff Sessions to resign and Donald Trump were to replace him with sort of a minimally acceptable figure that Republicans would surely approve because they will approve almost anything this President puts forward. And that person said, well, we`ve gone through all the evidence. We`ve wrapped up the Russia investigation, there`s nothing to see here. There`s no one to indict, there are no crimes here. That would end it. And now he`s got a Communications shop to back that up, right?
HAMBURGER: Well, it`s not entirely clear what would -- what would happen. Of course, it`s not entirely clear that A, Jeff Sessions is going to resign as a result of the story tonight in the Washington Post. If he did resign, Bob Mueller could continue in his role and it would be problematic for a new Attorney General to discontinue or to fire Bob Mueller. If that happened, the expectation would be that there would be a fire storm of reaction and not just from the Democrats. There would be Republican who have expressed admiration for Mueller through the years who would not be pleased to see him depart before his investigation is complete.
REID: And Lynn, well, you know, I wonder if you know, if guys want to offer who those Republicans are because you have seen this sort of unanimous chorus of Trump support no matter what happened. The Republican seems to pretty much line up behind him. And Lynn, I`m wondering from your perspective, are you beginning on hear rumblings of Republicans turning on Jeff Sessions? Because I think that would be a harbinger of what could be Republican acceptance of a new AG who would come in and clear the Russian investigation off the books.
SWEET: I just -- I don`t think it matters who -- the Attorney General would have trouble getting confirmed if Jeff Sessions resigned. And I would bet he will -- this won`t happen quick if he will and if we could get into that, I`ll give you my best example why. But you have to think of who`s confirmable Joy, and the Senators will grill a nominee and get their pledge --
REID: Chris Christie? What about Chris Christie?
SWEET: It doesn`t matter who. They would have to -- the Democrats (INAUDIBLE) they`re not to block the confirmation would have to enlist the pledge to not shut down the Mueller investigation for no grounds. So I think this -- it`s just too late. It doesn`t matter if Sessions is in office or not because a replacement will be in no position to shut it down. He just wouldn`t be confirmed.
REID: All right, your mouth`s in God`s view. We will see. Tom Hamburger, Lynn Sweet, thank you, both for your time. Appreciate it.
SWEET: Thank you.
HAMBURGER: Thank you.
REID: Coming up, report -- new reports that Donald Trump is looking into pardons for friends, family, maybe even himself. We will look at whether or not he has the power to do that. But first, the bizarre scene in the White House Briefing Room today as the New Communication Director repeatedly proclaim how much he loves the President right after this two- minute break.
REID: The new White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci was once quite critical of Donald Trump. He backed Scott Walker then Jeb Bush but like so many Republicans before him, Scaramucci has come around to Trump bigly. So much so that he spent much of his press introduction today gushing about his great and abiding love, even adoration for Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCARAMUCCI: I think he`s got some of the best political instincts in the world and perhaps in history. I love the President.
The President has really good karma, OK, and the world turns back to him. He`s a genuinely a wonderful human being.
I`ve seen this guy throw a dead spiral through a tire. I`ve seen him at Madison Square Garden with a top coat on. He`s standing in the key; he`s hitting foul shots and swishing them, OK? He sinks 30-foot putts.
I don`t think I would be standing here if I didn`t have a good relationship with the President. I love the President. We won the Presidency because of Donald J. Trump. He is an unbelievable politician. If the President says it, OK, let me do more research on it, but my guess is that there`s probably some level of truth to that. Here`s what I will tell you, OK. I love the President.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: Joining me now, Tara Dowdell, Democratic Strategist and Rick Wilson, Republican Strategist and Media Consultant. And Tara, I`m laughing because I almost expected his next sentence to begin with, and when he looks at me -- I mean, it was really something to behold, all of the love that was being shown. Is that something that you know, you know Donald Trump. You were on The Apprentice, you know him better than -- better than I do. Is that something that Donald Trump values in an employee? Somebody who is willing to look at him with that same reverence that Nancy Reagan used to look at Ronnie?
TARA DOWDELL, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Absolutely. There`s nothing more in the world that Donald Trump loves than validation and adulation. I mean, we know that. But one of the things as interesting about Scaramucci, in particular, is that he said Trump is like an outstanding politician. Scaramucci is a politician. I mean, this is a guy that remember, he -- all -- he is very similar to Donald Trump, very similar to Donald Trump. So he`s a guy that had a company that got his company to license a show and then removes the host so that he could host the show. So they`re very similar people. So, who better to represent Trump than someone who is essentially just like Trump?
REID: Yes. And it`s interesting, Rick Wilson, that it does seem what Donald Trump is doing is he sort of a massing kind of a mini army of people who will go around the table and tell him how wonderful he is but who also have that secondary element of looking on TV the way Donald Trump expects a person to look on TV?
RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST AND MEDIA CONSULTANT: Sure. It`s the - - it`s the good suit, the hair product, the sort of Wall Street bluster. And Trump has that sort of has wired into his self -- his own self-image that he`s this commander of this titan of industry and what not. And Scaramucci obviously tries to play that same kind of role. But you know, with the --with the bonus for Trump of the relentless you know, sucking up like an industrial vacuum for this guy. He is just on fire with how much he loves Donald Trump.
REID: Yes. There`s something about it that is a bit authoritarian. Sort of the way that authoritarian sort of citizen than people around those kind of leaders to talk about a leader, not the way the Americans do. But it is interesting because I want to -- you know, turn back to the Sessions just for a momentary because one of the things that we do see reported in the Washington Post. There`s --is his attempt to undermine Bob Mueller, to try to cast dispersions on him and his team. And one of the ways they`re doing it is by talking about the fact that they donate to Democrats. Well, Anthony Scaramucci has a long history of political donations to Democrats including Vice President Al Gore, John Kerry, big money to Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, on and on and on. So does that then undermine the case for getting rid of Bob Mueller perhaps by getting rid of Jeff Sessions?
DOWDELL: Well look, Scaramucci as I was saying earlier. He is an operator. He is a guy, I was having a conversation with a friend of mine who`s a finance director for Democratic candidates and we were laughing about the fact that she was saying, I remember when he was -- all of my fund-raisers for all of my Democratic clients and this was recently. And she said he was there at a lot of the fund raisers, that she host it for different Democratic clients. So I think, you know, so Trump`s arguments are always projection base, right? So undermining Mueller by saying he gave to Democrats. Trump gave to Democrats. I worked for the Governor of New Jersey. Trump supported the Governor, the Democratic Governor for whom I worked. So this is you know, typical. That`s what he does, he projects, goes on the defensive with the projection and then hopes that no one brings up the hypocrisy.
REID: And you know, what`s interesting Rick, because you tend to call them cuckservative. That there is this sort of movement around Donald Trump that sort of doesn`t care about the fact that he was a Democrat, and then an Independent, and then a Republican. He sort of bounced around ideologically. And they clearly don`t care necessarily that this guy, people call (INAUDIBLE) and Anthony Scaramucci gave to Democrats also called Donald Trump the Queen`s real estate bully, attacked him for going after Wall Street, he`s a huge defender of Wall Street. So would you expect that if this is some sort of -- sort of maneuver that the Trump team could pull out. Getting Sessions out, putting someone else in, they fire Mueller, would you expect this new breed of Republican to object sort of raise an objection?
WILSON: No, no, no. They`ve completely abandoned the rule of law. They completely abandoned the conservative principles. The only thing the cuckservatives care about is watching Donald Trump tear things up, break glass knock over the furniture, scream about the liberal media, blah, blah, blah. And so they accept all these heresies. Let`s put it this way. Anthony Scaramucci is also one of the major donors to Attorney General Schneiderman in New York who is right now investigating a variety of Donald Trump`s frauds in New York. He`s also a guy who`s called for gun control and gay marriage. I don`t know how these cuckservative guys are all -- they`re all great with another -- declaring him the miracle worker. He`s going to fix everything wrong in Trump world. And the fact of the matter is, these guys -- they will ignore and will ally any possible sin that anybody around Trump has committed or anything that`s way off the conservative reservation just because it keeps the sweet, sweet clicks of the crazy Trump base coming to him.
REID: And I go to --on the way out, I`m going to get to give me a prediction because of Jeff Session, you know, whatever you think of (INAUDIBLE) as somebody who`s been in the conservative camp solidly on things like immigration and everything for decades. Do you expect Rick Wilson that he will last out -- that he last? Will he resign or stay?
WILSON: No I do not. I expect -- I think they`re pushing him to get out. I think this leak came from the White House. I think they`re absolutely trying to knock Jeff Sessions out of the box so they can try to get rid of Bob Mueller.
REID: We are out of time.
WILSON: They`re lawless.
DOWDELL: I agree. I think -- I think this the leak from the White House and I think they`re trying to push him out but I think he`s hanging on by his claws.
REID: Hanging on, hanging on. Tara Dowdell, Rick Wilson, thank you, both for joining us. Appreciate it.
WILSON: Thank Joy,
REID: All right. Still to come -- thank you. More on the breaking news about Jeff Sessions and the reporting that the President is considering pardoning himself. Can he even do that? Stay with us.
REID: We now know that Donald Trump is talking to his lawyers about pardons. But the big question is could Donald Trump pardon himself? It is not clear that he could. Back in 1974, the office of legal counsel told Richard Nixon that he could not pardon himself, and Nixon, as historians have noted, thought it would be dishonorable even to try. So he never got to test the theory.
Donald Trump could wind up giving us one more constitutional lesson and that is next.
REID: The power of the president to pardon is described in the U.S. constitution this way, "and he shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States except in cases of impeachment."
Legal scholars say that whether the president can pardon himself for an offense is a legal gray area. But they agree on two thing, a president who pardons himself would not protect himself from the process of impeachment, and a president who pardons himself would by definition be admitting to a crime or crimes.
Joining me now is Elizabeth Holtzman, a former congresswoman from Brooklyn who served on the House Judiciary committee when it recommended three articles of impeachment against then President Richard Nixon.
Great to have you here. Thank you for coming.
So, let`s get to that first question, can a president pardon himself?
ELIZABETH HOLTZMAN, FRM. CONGRESSWOMAN: I don`t believe so. I think it would be completely invalid. And I don`t think it is a gray area actually. It is true the constitution says -- doesn`t say the president can`t pardon himself, but there`s nothing in the constitution -- in the history of the pardon power that suggests a president has the power to pardon himself. It goes against everything in the constitution, which is, we have a government of limited powers.
Just think, if a president could pardon himself, he could commit whatever, or she, whatever monstrous crime he or she wanted to and exist with impunity.
HOLTZMAN: Murder, whatever. So, that`s not what the constitution envisioned.
And the other thing is that there`s actually a part of the debates on the constitution that make it very clear that the framers understood that there wasn`t going to be a pardon power, because they talk about how a president can still be prosecuted after some acts take place.
And they would never be able to talk about still being prosecuted if a president had pardon power. So, I wrote an op ed piece about this in the Washington Post and explained it, but I actually think the debates in the constitution are completely conclusive.
REID: Basically because what you`re saying is that the president had -- if he pardoned himself, then would not be prosecutable, so therefore it wouldn`t make any sense.
HOLTZMAN: Correct. So, the framers are saying.
But he will still be prosecutable, so there was no idea that he`d ever--
REID: But let`s play this out for a second. Because, you know, we are dealing with a very sui generis situation. Donald Trump is a unique president, to say the least, and the support and sort of adherence and faith in him that we`ve seen from Republicans seem to be absolute. Nothing seems to break it.
Let`s say that Donald Trump tried it, that he tried to pardon himself, it was litigated, maybe it went to court and he won, and he wound up a pardoned president having admitted to crimes. How could he serve?
HOLTZMAN: Well, I think there`d be an issue about impeachment. He couldn`t serve. I think he would be at that point thumbing his nose at every institution of our government, the rule of law, the constitution, the idea that the president is the chief law enforcement officer of the country, sworn to uphold the laws, to take care that they`re faithfully executed. It would be an outrage against everything we stand for, against Democratic institutions.
And I saw what happened during Watergate. President Nixon was elected with one of the biggest landslides in American history. That was in November 1972. Just about ten months later, October, 1973, the American people said congress you have to act on impeachment. Why? Because they saw the evidence against the president.
So the American people changed their mind. They had supported Nixon. They said more important than the president, than a party is the constitution of the United States and the Democratic institutions that have kept us going for hundreds of years.
REID: Another question I have had is whether or not prosecution could ever happen to a president in office. Di Spiro Agnew, was he indicted while he was in office?
HOLTZMAN: I believe so. But the question about a president, that has never been decided. I think it could happen, because the only person that has had any authority and ruled on this was Jaworski, Leon Jaworski, who was a special prosecutor against Nixon.
The grand jury in the Watergate matter wanted to indict Richard Nixon. And he said to them you cannot do this because a sitting president can`t be indicted. That was his decision. One person. It`s not a court. He wasn`t a scholar. And so the grand jury compromised. They named him as an unindicted co-conspirator.
REID: Wow, so fascinating. Elizabether Holtzman, I could talk to you about this all night. Thank you so much.
HOLTZMAN: Thank you.
REID: Really appreciate you being here.
OK, up ahead, is there a red line for the GOP on Donald Trump? at what point would Trump`s actions go too far even for Republican lawmakers? We will discuss ahead.
But, first, a look into the archives in tonight`s Thing One, Thing Two just after the break.
REID: Thing One tonight, the new White House communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, apologized to Donald Trump for what he said for the 50th time for saying this in 2015.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCARAMUCCI: That`s another hack politician.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you call Donald Trump a hack?
SCARAMUCCI: He`s a hack politician. It`s anti-American. It`s very, very divisive.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think Donald is a--
SCARAMUCCI: I`ll tell you who he will be president of, you can tell Donald I said this, the Queens County bullies association.
UNIDENITIFIED FEMALE: Why is he resonating? Why is he resonating?
SCARAMUCCI: Inherited money dude from Queens County, bring it, Donald.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Well, we dug into the archives to find another Scaramucci classic, how to be fair with President Obama. You`ll want to see that. It is Thing Two in 60 seconds.
REID: Back in September 2010, then hedge fund manager Anthony Scaramucci asked a question at a CNBC town hall with President Obama. The president did not agree with Scaramucci`s point, far from it, and offered a five plus minute response to explain why. Here`s a portion of that interaction.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SACARAMUCCI: I also went to law school with you with Brian Mathis.
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It`s great to see you. You`ve done very well. Congratulations. That`s great. That`s great.
SCARAMUCCI: The question I have, sir, this is something I have, sir, and this is something I really -- you know, a lot of my friends are thinking about. Listen, I represent the Wall Street community. We have felt like a pinata. Maybe you don`t feel like you`re whacking with us a stick, but we certainly feel like we`ve been whacked with a stick.
OBAMA: What I hear folks who say that somehow we`re being too tough on Wall Street, but after a huge crisis, the top 25 hedge fund managers took home a billion dollars in income that year, a billion.
If you`re making a billion dollars a year, after a very bad financial crisis where 8 million people lost their jobs and small businesses the can`t get loans, then I think that you shouldn`t be feeling put upon. The notion that somehow me saying maybe you should be taxed more like your secretary when you`re pulling home a billion dollars or $100 million a year, I don`t think is me being extremist or me being anti-business.
OBAMA: And that`s the confusion I`ve been getting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCARAMUCCI: I predicted the president will get a win in health care. That`s my honest prediction just because I`ve seen him in operation over the last 20 plus years. The president has really good karma.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: Great karma.
Despite the ongoing chaos in the White House, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is still planning to vote to open debate on a health care bill next week.
But what exactly is that health care bill? Well, that`s a little hard to say right now even for the people casting the votes.
Senator Susan Collins of Maine who helped scuttle the last two attempts at a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare said yesterday that, quote, I don`t even know what we`re proceeding to next week.
Republican Senators are noncommittal because, quote, they aren`t sure what the bill looks like and they fear starting a process with an unknown ending.
The latest battle, whether some of the bill might actually need 60 votes, more than the 50 McConnell has already struggled to round up.
If that happens, as Matt Fuller of the Huffington Post tweeted, it`s dead.
But there`s at least one person who doesn`t seem to care much what`s in the bill as something, anything, gets passed: Donald Trump. Here he is tweeting about waiting, quote, at my desk, pen in hand, for a bill, any bill at all, apparently, as long as he can say he got a win.
This is all happening as investigations continue, and indeed expand, into Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether Trump`s campaign colluded in that effort. None of that has made Republicans so much as hesitate before pushing to overhaul one-sixth of our economy, potentially taking away health care from tens of millions of people.
Is there anything that Trump can do, anything at all, that would slow Republicans down, or even make them react? Do Republicans have a moral, ethical or constitutional red line when it comes the Trump? We`ll discuss next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What would it take for them to go up against him. If he fired Bob Mueller, what would happen?
REP. MIKE MCCAUL, (R) TEXAS: Well, I think if he fired Bob Mueller, I think you would see a tremendous backlash response from both Democrats but also House Republicans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: Is there a point at which Donald Trump`s behavior crosses a line for congressional Republicans? Let`s ask former Republican Congressman David Jolly, and MSNBC contributor Charlie Sykes, the author of "How the Right Lost its Mind."
All right, David Jolly, you first. Do you buy what you just heard from that Republican congressman that if Donald Trump were to find a way to fire Bob Mueller that there would a backlash, that Republicans would break from him?
DAVID JOLLY, FORMER REPUBLICAN CONGRESSMAN: No, I don`t think that`s enough. Listen, I think it would require strong evidence of either civil or criminal violations, either more groundbreaking reporting or Mueller reports -- kind of like when we saw Bill Clinton and the perjury charge that was undeniable.
But I also think that`s why you`re seeing the White House begin to undermine Mueller and his credibility. Because even when there was evidence of perjury against Bill Clinton, the final argument of Democrats, David Bonner (ph), the number two Democrat in the House, and I was on The Hill at the time. He took to the House floor and said how dare the American people and this congress try to deny us a president that was duly elected.
I don`t think these Republicans break until it gets much, much worse and we have evidence of a true lawful violation.
REID: But you know, Charlie, the difference there, of course, is the thing that Bill Clinton was accused of lying about was a sexual affair with somebody who while young was an adult. In this case we`re talking about collusion with an adversarial foreign power and Republicans haven`t blinked.
Paul Ryan has just steadfastly blinked into the camera and said but we`re going to cut taxes and we`re going to do what we want to do. Do you believe that firing Bob Mueller would not just be another instance of them saying well, you know, he a has the right to do it.
CHARLIE SYKES, CONSERVATIVE RADIO SHOW HOST: You know, the predictions that that would be the red line I think is the triumph of hope over experience. I mean, if there is a red line, we have not seen what it is. The Republicans haven`t indicated that they`re prepared to blink on any of this.
And you know, we may about to find out, because there`s no question about it that the Trump White House and the Trump media seems to be preparing the battlefield for all of that. I mean they seem to be gearing up and you get into -- get very, very close to a real constitutional crisis.
And by the way, this is where someone like John McCain is so crucial. You remember back in 1974, during Watergate, it was Republican Senator Barry Goldwater who led the Republican Senate delegation to go meet with President Richard Nixon and tell him, you know, your support is gone, you need to go.
I can`t imagine anybody other than McCain at this point leading that sort of a delegation to say, OK, this is the red line. You`ve gone too far. In his absence, where are we going to get the leadership?
REID: Yeah, Barry Goldwater did that despite the fact that Nixon`s support among his diehard voters was not gone at all. His support among Republicans had gone.
And you know, David, I wonder -- let`s ask the same question second round. If Trump was to find a way to pardon himself, and Elizabeth Holtzman was great on earlier saying he can`t do it. But let`s say he did it. There was a lawsuit. He won the lawsuit in one of the federal courts where he`s appointed the judge and then he is still serving.
Would Republicans continue to serve with and serve a president who had essentially admitted to crimes and pardoned himself?
JOLLY: Well, I think if he pardons himself, that is admission of gift, and so I do think he would see the House, perhaps, move towards impeachment. But I don`t know that they could do that.
And, listen, here`s why, here are the politics of it. Republicans were elected by Republican voters largely. They don`t get any additional votes by coming out against Donald Trump. I was a rather moderate Republican member of congress and I remember an adviser saying to me, you might be in favor of marriage equality, but you`re not going to get any extra votes for that, you`re just going to lose votes among your base. And so Republicans like Paul Ryan, establishment Republicans, they are faced with a quandary right now. Because if they come against Donald Trump, they`re not going to get additional votes for that back home. Those Democrats are not going to move to Paul Ryan, and yet he`s going to lose the base of Republicans that elected him.
Listen, listen is a matter of country over party. And at some point, hopefully Republicans follow folks like Charlie, myself and others who have said, you know what, this president perhaps is not the right president for our party nor for the country and now is the time to give voice to that.
REID: And Charlie Sykes, you`re from Wisconsin. You`ve now seen one member of the Wisconsin club pushed out, Sean Spicer. Reince Priebus, who is member number two of that club on tender hooks, according to a lot of reporting, and Paul Ryan sort of in the middle. That`s the three of them. Do you see any evidence that the people who support Paul Ryan in the House would start to move away from Donald Trump now that he has pushed out a former RNC favorite?
SYKES: Not really. I mean, it will be interesting to see what the dynamic is, if Sean Spicer begins to experience the strange new respect, having been the first member to resign. Maybe that will be a signal to others that, hey, maybe you know getting in the life boats of this particular political titanic is not necessarily that bad of an idea.
But David`s analysis is absolutely correct. As long as the Republican base is behind Trump, do not expect Republican elected officials to move. I mean at this point I`m more likely to run over a unicorn on the way home than we are to see Republicans who are going to stand up to Donald Trump in the absence of something really outrageous and egregious, which they don`t think that they`ve seen at all yet.
REID: Let`s go to Jeff Sessions. And this will be round three on this question. Jeff Sessions, who is somebody, a member in good standing of the right, the far right conservative movement, a former member of the body, a former senator. If he were to be pushed out, do you see fellow Republicans turning on him and shoving him the rest of the way out the door or turning on Rrump for pushing him out.
JOLLY: No, not at all. Listen, the Trump base loves Trump when his back is against the wall and in a corner we`re seeing that. Listen, Trump hired attorneys for his son two weeks before news of the Russian meeting. He distanced himself from Session just a couple of days before we saw the news report tonight. And so they`re going to stick with Trump.
My question, and to Charlie`s point, is what does Sean Spicer do with the new platform he has when he leaves in August? You know, Scot McClellan left Bush 43 in `06 and turned around and criticized him and wrote a tell all book. Does Sean Spicer put country over party and now begin to give evidence to everything Trump has done or does he fall in line?
REID: I wouldn`t -- last word, Charlie Sykes, very quickly?
SYKES: No, wouldn`t expect that he would do that do that either.
Yeah, look, Jeff Sessions is not going to be a make or break. I mean, if in fact this story is true. If it is true, then I think that, you know, his time is up. But then Donald Trump is already basically implied that he`s prepared to throw him under the bus.
David Jolly, Charlie Sykes, thanks for joining me. And that is All In this evening. Thank you.
Chris Hayes is back on Monday.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END