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All In with Chris Hayes, Transcript 8/11/17 Pres. Trump "locked and loaded."

Guests: Sam Seder, Elizabeth Holtzman, Susan Del Percio, Erin Gloria Ryan, Joaquin Castro, Jake Sullivan, Joshua Green, Jonathan O`Connell

Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: August 11, 2017 Guest: Sam Seder, Elizabeth Holtzman, Susan Del Percio, Erin Gloria Ryan, Joaquin Castro, Jake Sullivan, Joshua Green, Jonathan O`Connell

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: The President keep provoking.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: And what I said is what I mean.

HAYES: And provoking.

TRUMP: These words are very, very easy to understand.

HAYES: And provoking.

TRUMP: This man will not get away with what he`s doing believe me.

HAYES: Tonight, amid new hopes of a back channel,

TRUMP: Hopefully it`ll all work out.

HAYES: The president defends his unrelenting rhetoric.

TRUMP: If someone else uttered the exact same words that I uttered, they`d say, what a great statement, what a wonderful statement.

HAYES: Then, Donald Trump Jr. and the bizarre conspiracy theory at the center of a National Security Council controversy. Plus, new Washington Post reporting on how the Trump D.C. Hotel is printing money without filling up its rooms. And the White House wants you to know that the President was kidding when he thanked Vladimir Putin.

TRUMP: I want to thank him because we`re trying to cut down on pay roll.

HAYES: When ALL IN starts right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: These words are very, very easy to understand.

HAYES: And provoking.

TRUMP: This man will not get away with what he`s doing believe me.

HAYES: Tonight, amid new hopes of a back channel,

TRUMP: Hopefully it`ll all work out.

HAYES: The president defends his unrelenting rhetoric.

TRUMP: If someone else uttered the exact same words that I uttered, they`d say, what a great statement, what a wonderful statement.

HAYES: Then, Donald Trump Jr. and the bizarre conspiracy theory at the center of a National Security Council controversy. Plus, new Washington Post reporting on how the Trump D.C. Hotel is printing money without filling up its rooms. And the White House wants you to know that the President was kidding when he thanked Vladimir Putin.

TRUMP: I want to thank him because we`re trying to cut down on pay roll.

HAYES: When ALL IN starts right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Good evening from New York, I`m Chris Hayes. The President of the United States cannot stop talking off the cuff about North Korea and its nuclear program repeatedly escalating a grave situation that he ever one else outside the North Korean government wants to calm down. And it is raising new questions about his fitness for office. After starting the day with a tweet, warning the U.S. military is locked and loaded, the President hold up in his New Jersey golf club sounded off twice today about North Korea which has been developing nuclear weapons possibly capable of reaching the U.S.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: It is a very bad situation, it`s a very dangerous situation. We will see what happens. We think that lots of good things could happen and we could also have a bad solution. But we think lots of good things could happen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What would be a bad solution, sir?

TRUMP: I think you know the answer to that.

We want to talk about a country that has misbehaved for many, many years, decades, actually, through numerous administrations. We`ll either be very, very successful quickly or we`re going to be very, very successful in a different way quickly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: That makes four times in just the last two days the President has taken numerous questions from the press, giving unscripted answers on North Korea and a wide range of other subjects. If the rising nuclear tensions weren`t enough today, the President threw out the possibility of military action against Venezuela.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you tell us what you`re considering for Venezuela, what options are on the table right now to deal with this mess?

TRUMP: We have many options for Venezuela. And by the way, I`m not going to rule out a military option. We have many options for Venezuela. This is our neighbor -

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That would be a U.S.-led military operation?

TRUMP: We don`t talk about it but a military operation and military option is certainly something that we could foresee.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: It`s not clear if the President made up that option on the spot or it was something he discussed with his National Security Team whom he just been meeting with as you`ve seen there standing next to him. For good measure, the President also accused Iran of failing to hold up its end of the international nuclear deal despite the U.S. government already having certified its compliance since Trump became President. On North Korea, the President declined to clarify whether he`s taken new steps to mobilize U.S. Military, this after a tweet first thing this morning, "Military solutions are now fully in place locked and loaded should North Korea act unwisely.

Hopefully, Kim Jong-un will find another path." It appears that so far any escalation has been strictly rhetorical but the words of the American President typically have consequences. After he threatened earlier this week to rain down "fire and fury on North Korea," North Korean government responded by announcing specific new plans to attack Guam, the tiny U.S. territory in the South Pacific. While the governor of Guam has told residence, they`re in no heightened danger, today his government issued emergency guidelines for responding for an imminent missile threat which plays out how to avoid radioactive fallout and warns do not look at the flash or fire ball, it blinds you.

Still, there`s one significant good news today on the North Korea stand up. Associated Press reporting the U.S. has been in regular contact with North Korea through a diplomatic back channel. While it was previously known the U.S. Envoy for North Korean policy, Korean Diplomat have been in talks with 

it was something he discussed with his National Security Team whom he just been meeting with as you`ve seen there standing next to him. For good measure, the President also accused Iran of failing to hold up its end of the international nuclear deal despite the U.S. government already having certified its compliance since Trump became President. On North Korea, the President declined to clarify whether he`s taken new steps to mobilize U.S. Military, this after a tweet first thing this morning, "Military solutions are now fully in place locked and loaded should North Korea act unwisely.

Hopefully, Kim Jong-un will find another path." It appears that so far any escalation has been strictly rhetorical but the words of the American President typically have consequences. After he threatened earlier this week to rain down "fire and fury on North Korea," North Korean government responded by announcing specific new plans to attack Guam, the tiny U.S. territory in the South Pacific. While the governor of Guam has told residence, they`re in no heightened danger, today his government issued emergency guidelines for responding for an imminent missile threat which plays out how to avoid radioactive fallout and warns do not look at the flash or fire ball, it blinds you.

Still, there`s one significant good news today on the North Korea stand up. Associated Press reporting the U.S. has been in regular contact with North Korea through a diplomatic back channel. While it was previously known the U.S. Envoy for North Korean policy, Korean Diplomat have been in talks with the regime about securing the release of American captives. This is the first indication those talks could address a broader relationship between the two government. It remains to be seen if those efforts can withstand a wild card President who continues to take verbal shots at North Korea`s leader.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: This man will not get away with what he`s doing. Believe me. And if he utters one threat in the form of an overt threat, which by the way, he has been uttering for years, and his family has been uttering for years, if he does anything with respect to Guam, or any place else that`s an American territory or American ally, he will truly regret it. And he will regret it fast.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Earlier this week, the Congressman Joaquin Castro described the President threats to North Korea as reckless. He joins me live from Texas. Do you think the President is helping the situation Congressman?

REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D), TEXAS: No. Not at all. All of these inflammatory statements I think, have just made the situation worse and really have given the United States and Guam and our allies high blood pressure and caused a lot of anxiety. It really makes people feel like we`re living in the 1950s or 1960s again when he that generation was going through the cold war. So I`m hoping that tomorrow because it is the 

regime about securing the release of American captives. This is the first indication those talks could address a broader relationship between the two government. It remains to be seen if those efforts can withstand a wild card President who continues to take verbal shots at North Korea`s leader.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: This man will not get away with what he`s doing. Believe me. And if he utters one threat in the form of an overt threat, which by the way, he has been uttering for years, and his family has been uttering for years, if he does anything with respect to Guam, or any place else that`s an American territory or American ally, he will truly regret it. And he will regret it fast.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Earlier this week, the Congressman Joaquin Castro described the President threats to North Korea as reckless. He joins me live from Texas. Do you think the President is helping the situation Congressman?

REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D), TEXAS: No. Not at all. All of these inflammatory statements I think, have just made the situation worse and really have given the United States and Guam and our allies high blood pressure and caused a lot of anxiety. It really makes people feel like we`re living in the 1950s or 1960s again when he that generation was going through the cold war. So I`m hoping that tomorrow because it is the weekend, the President will take a day off from Twitter and from press conferences and let everything calm down a bit.

HAYES: Would it be better for the leadership of the country if the President just didn`t address this at all?

CASTRO: I think it would for a while. I think that he should allow both the military to be prepared of course, but also for the State Department and Rex Tillerson to allow their diplomats to do their work. I hope that there is a back channel of communication that is set up so that this thing doesn`t escalate more.

HAYES: The President today said that his belief was that the allies in Japan and South Korea which of course, would bear the worst brunt of any military activity. That they loved what he was doing, that they were happy about it. They never felt safer. Do you believe that`s true?

CASTRO: I don`t. And honestly, I don`t think that he has his polls on what the leaders or that the people of South Korea or Japan are thinking and really has not demonstrated any effort in trying to understand what they`re thinking. I mean, remember, last week this administration accomplished something significant. They got the United Nations to put on North Korea the toughest sanctions that that country has ever seen. That`s something that the administration can be proud of, that they achieved and it`s something that they should try to leverage on North Korea. But instead of doing that, every day he`s either having a press conference or his statements get more inflammatory or going on Twitter to continue baiting Kim Jong-un.

HAYES: Has the President`s behavior and statements on this particular issue changed your assessment of his fitness for office?

CASTRO: You know, I think myself and many others would prefer somebody else be sitting in the Oval Office making these decisions with the nuclear codes. But Donald Trump was elected President of the United States by the American people last November and we have to respect that. That said, I feel much more comfortable if it was another Republican even who was in this position.

HAYES: Is there anything Congress can do as you watch this happen? I mean, obviously, the President has the nuclear codes and it`s been the case since the 1940s. The President essentially has the unilateral ability to do that. He has the unilateral ability in practice to essentially order U.S. troops anywhere in the world. Do you think there`s any reassessment happening in Congress of your role?

CASTRO: I think so. Now, remember, this is a Congress that for years has shirked its responsibility of drafting a up a new AUMF, for example. So it very has been a spectator to this kind of decision making but you know, some of my colleagues today were saying that Paul Ryan should call the House back in session. Congress should have an active role in this discussion most certainly because many folks don`t trust the decision making of the President. That means that others in government, including the legislative bodies, have to step in and take on a larger decision making role.

HAYES: Finally, would any military action in Venezuela as the President floated as a possibility today, will that be constitutional, does he have the authority under current authorization to do that?

CASTRO: Well, the war powers act, if we were going to be attacked would give him the power to do that. But remember, in Venezuela, this is a place where we`ve not tried intense diplomacy even. And so I think my sense is that President Trump made comment on the fly. I don`t know how serious or not serious he was about it but you know, before you even talk about any kind of military action, we have to try diplomacy here.

HAYES: All right, Congressman Joaquin Castro, thank you.

CASTRO: Thank you.

HAYES: I`m joined now by someone who knows all too well the challenges of dealing with the nuclear North Korea, Vice President Joe Biden`s former National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan who also served as Senior Policy Adviser Hillary Clinton`s 2016 presidential campaign. And Jake, I want to play a little clip here, warnings about this exact thing which were a pretty constant feature of the Clinton campaign. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: I find it ironic that he is raising nuclear weapons. This is a person who has been very cavalier, even casual about the use of nuclear weapons. He`s advocated more countries, getting them, Japan, Korea, even Saudi Arabia. He said, well, if we have them, why don`t we use them which I think is terrifying.

SEN. TIM KAINE (D), VIRGINIA: Ronald Reagan said something really interesting about nuclear proliferation back in the 1980s. He said the problem with nuclear proliferation is that some fool or maniac could trigger a catastrophic event and I think that`s who Governor Pence` running mate is exactly who President Reagan warned us of

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Is it worse or better or about what you expected?

JAKE SULLIVAN, FORMER JO BIDEN`S NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: I`m sorry to say that it`s about what we expected. One other thing that Secretary Clinton memorably said last year was that a man you can bait with, a tweet, is not a man who should be in control of our nuclear arsenal and look what we`re dealing with now. What Donald Trump is saying, is that if Kim Jong- un taunts him, says things, uses words that he would contemplate using military force, like the world has never seen against North Korea. So, this is a very dangerous situation and it has the possibility of spiraling out of control. And what Donald Trump is doing with his words right now, having a race with Kim Jong-un to see who could be more reckless and bombastic is not strengthening America, it is weakening national security.

HAYES: How tenable would it be to arrive at equilibrium which everyone essentially just agrees to not take the President seriously? So foreign leaders and foreign diplomats understand the President just going to say things they don`t really mean anything, internal members of the U.S. government, the foreign service, people in the Department of Defense. You`ve already seen that say on the transgender military ban. I mean, is that sort of where we`re headed?

SULLIVAN: Well, those are two different questions. It`s not tenable but it is where we`re headed. It`s not tenable because the President of the United States, the leader of the free world, the Commander in Chief of the most powerful military in the world, and the largest economy in the world, has got to have the credibility to be able to speak on behalf of the United States on matters of National Security. And if he lose that`s credibility entirely, and Donald Trump has come dangerously close to doing that if he hasn`t already, then, we are in a worse position as a country.

Unfortunately, I do think that both members of his National Security team and foreign leaders are discounting what he has to say. And the problem when you`re dealing with a crisis like we`re facing with North Korea, is that if you can`t be calm and consistent, if you raise doubts, if you create fears, and you`re dealing with a paranoid regime like the one led by Kim Jong-un, you can end up in a war by accident, by stumbling into it. And so, I don`t think it`s tenable but I do think it is where we`re headed.

HAYES: I want to offer a version of a defense of the Trump administration`s foreign policy and get your response to, which is that, of course, his style has been different. He`s much more bombastic. The tweets, he does all this things. But in the (INAUDIBLE) he thinks against his will, but signed the big sanctions package. They got the 15-0 sanctions against North Korea, they bombed the air strip in Syria which Hillary Clinton said, she would done as well. There haven`t been really significant deviations in the actual actions taken by the administration on foreign policy.

SULLIVAN: Well, first on, North Korea, I do extend my sympathy to the administration. If Hillary Clinton were president instead, she`d be facing the same lousy options that Donald Trump is facing. And she with her National Security team would be struggling with the same difficult circumstances. And this is not an easy thing. We`ve had multiple administrations, Democratic and Republican that have not been able to stop North Korea`s march. So I don`t think we should be too quick to criticize the totality and policy and you`re right, that the sanctions vote at the U.N. Security Council was a significant step forward. But there`s a difference between that, between saying, you know what, they`re trying hard, they`re taking some good steps, they`re looking at all of the options and crediting Donald Trump for in a sense pouring gasoline on top this fire and making the crisis even worse.

More broadly, I don`t think that the trump administration has hued to the line that the Obama administration was on and in many cases, that Hillary Clinton would have continued. He pulled out of the Paris Climate Agreement. He is now making active noises about pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal. He has loosened the rules of engagement so that there are substantially more civilian casualties on the ground in the Middle East. He`s flirted with the possibility of restoring torture. So I think on an any number of issues, he is doing things that are detrimental to bot the interest and the values of the United States.

HAYES: All right, Jake Sullivan, thank you for your time tonight. Come back again soon. OK?

Next, the paranoia fueled memo written by a now fired National Security Council staffer that reportedly found its way to the President`s desk. How it sent shock waves to the NSC and what it tells us about the type of people who staff the highest levels of the government, in two minutes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES: As Americans fret about whether President Trump is going to bluster his way into a nuclear war, we`re learning more about the world view of some of the people who are staffed his government at the very highest levels and it not reassuring. Foreign Policy Magazine published a memo entitled, POTUS and Political Warfare, written by a now form he National Security Council Staffer named Rich Higgins who says things like this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICH HIGGINS, POTUS AND POLITICAL WARFARE AUTHOR: Anybody who spent time in the Middle East will recognize this. Critical thinking and reason do not exist in the Middle East as we understand them here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Higgins` NSC memo reflects not the silver analysis you might have expected (INAUDIBLE) for defending the country but rather the sort of paranoid world view of a conspiracy theorist. He weaves together a vast array of alleged enemies of the President that he calls it cultural Marxists, a group that includes deep state actors, globalists, bankers, Islamist, and establishment Republicans who are engaged in political warfare to destroy both the President and the nation as we know it. The memo somewhat reassuringly got Higgins fired after it was discovered by National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster who had reportedly been trying to root out whoever it was leaking to an anti-McMaster alt-right blogger ad Pizzagate conspiracy theorist. But before Higgins was dismissed, his memo made its way to Donald Trump Jr. who Foreign Policy Magazine reported gave to his dad.

The President and I quote reported here who gushed over it according to sources. Trump later learned from Sean Hannity, the Fox News Host and close friend of the President, the memo`s author had been fired, Trump was furious. The Senior Administration Official said he is still furious. Joshua Green has been covering the feud McMaster and Steve Bannon for Bloomberg Businessweek, he`s the author of Devil`s Bargain, Steve Bannon and Donald Trump and the Storming of the Presidency. This memo is really, really something else. Did it surprise you when you read it?

JOSHUA GREEN, BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it did. You know, I read it three times and my conclusion is that this is the product of a mind more fevered than Steve Bannon`s. It is just bizarre and batty and disjointed and while it does reflect, it does kind of hit some of the notes that I know Bannon believes in, the idea that the deep state and the media and the political establishments in both parties are trying to undermine or contain Donald Trump, it`s just so weird and rambling that it doesn`t really reflect the way that Bannon thinks and speaks. He has a lot of -a lot of vices but he is actually a very cogent thinker and writer. So, it didn`t sound like something that was the product of him.

HAYES: And yet, he is-I mean, the reason that he`s sort if relevant here is what appears to be this proxy lure that happening over the National Security Council with Bannon on one side and McMaster on the other. What is your understanding from your reporting about what is going on there?

GREEN: Well, I mean, basically Bannon and McMaster represent two different factions in American foreign policy. And Bannon and the nationalists around him favor a less interventionist foreign policy with a focus on 

combatting radical Islam in China and McMaster is more of a traditional hawkish foreign policy guy who wants to be more aggressive in places like Syria and Afghanistan and North Korea. And the reason it`s such a bitter ideological dispute, I think, is that Bannon feels like McMaster represents what the nationalist faction calls the war party.

And so, on every issue that has come up before the administration, whether it`s foreign policy issue or whether it`s Afghanistan or Syria or now North Korea, they just have distinctly different viewpoints. And Bannon is not a guy who likes to kind fall back and defer to other people. And even though he`s been kicked off the National Security Council, he obviously still has a voice in the administration`s foreign policy and is trying to exert his influence through other channels.

HAYES: I should - we should be clear that to the extent there`s a war party, the other side, the Bannon side on Afghanistan, wants to essentially outsource the conflict of 5,000 mercenaries by (INAUDIBLE) does not exactly like there`s like a big peace faction on the other side.

GREEN: Yes, I mean, Bannon`s view, to the extent that I understand it is that he wants - he wants to U.S. troops out Afghanistan. He wants to wind down the U.S. military presence and along with Jared Kushner, it sounds like they`ve come up with a slightly crazy sounding plan to essentially send mercenaries in their place. So, it isn`t that Bannon is a pacifist by any means but he wants to scale back American military involvement in most places.

HAYES: And you`ve got this remarkably bizarre situation. So McMaster is trying to sort through the NSC and find people like this. You got the author of this memo who`s been fired. It makes you wonder who else is there. Meanwhile, in the showdown with Bannon, the sort of, the Breitbart Publication that he used to run is waging this absolutely merciless ideological warfare against the President`s National Security Adviser, day after day. Zionist Organization of America analysis determines McMaster hostile to Trump, calls for reassignment. You`ve got McMaster leaks, you`ve got cartoons circulating the internet on the alt right fringe that are said (INAUDIBLE) Bannon of McMaster is a puppet of George Soros. And this is really bizarre.

GREEN: It is. But I think that you know, Breitbart sees itself as part of this nationalist faction trying to stand up for their guy in the White House and trying to push back against you know, the "globalists," like McMaster who are doing things like not repealing their Iran nuclear deal as Trump promised to do when he got elected President and essentially luring Trump away from his true nationalist, populist impulses, which he gave air to during the campaign. And so, I think at least on the Breitbart side, this may be true on the McMasters side, too, it really is a kind of struggle for the soul of the Trump Presidency.

HAYES: All right, fascinating insights Josh Green, thanks so much.

GREEN: Thank you.

HAYES: Coming up, how a hotel short on guests is still flush with cash. Here`s a hint that the President`s name on it, that after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES: The Trump International Hotel is raking it in. Despite expectations, it would lose money the first four months of the year, the hotel instead it made a, $2 million profit. The Washington Post reporting the $4.1 million swing from projected losses to profitability represents a 192 percent improvement over what the Trump family planned to make when the company opened the hotel in Washington D.C. in the Fall. That doesn`t mean the hotel is book solid, quite the opposite. In fact, according to Wall Street Journal, the Trump International has an occupancy rate at 44.4 percent, well below the 69.5 percent of comparable hotels.

Instead, the hotel profits this year largely came from two sources. The average room rate which is nearly $165 more than comparable hotels, $8.2 million spending on food and drinks so far at the hotel this year which the Washington Post reports is 37.2 percent more than expected. Clearly, there is a disconnect here between price and demand but the hotel offers something other D.C. properties don`t, proximity of the President and the chance to put money in his pockets. The reporter who broke the story joins me next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I just want to thank everybody for coming. We have had so many inquiries as to how we`re doing at the old post office, what was formerly the old post office and upstairs is almost complete, the rooms are almost complete. We have close to 300 rooms, super luxury and it`s going to be amazing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: President Trump`s persistent hawking of his new D.C. hotel while he was on the campaign trail paid off big league. The Washington Post reporting that the hotel made $2 million profit in just four months. The reporter who broke that story for the Washington Post is Jonathan O`Connell joins me now. Jonathan, how did you get data to get a sense of how the business is performing?

JONATHAN O`CONNELL, THE WASHINGTON POST REPORTER: I just found it on the internet yesterday. The government General Service Administration which is the federal agency that leases that property to Mr. Trump`s company, they posted three months` worth of really detailed - really detailed financial documents related to the hotel. I mean, they also showed the performance from January through April so it`s the first real hard picture at the money that that the hotel is making.

HAYES: And it seems to me from your article that there`s a little bit of a gap in terms of the - what you would expect from the occupancy rate and what the actual numbers are. Explain that.

O`CONNELL: Yes, it`s interesting. Most hotel - successful hotels have a great occupancy rate meaning a lot of the rooms are rented and then they`re also showing in terms of how much they can charge for a room. The Trump Hotel is very different from them. It`s very unique kind of success financially and that the hotels are - the rooms are only about 44 percent occupied, which is really low for the -- among its competitors, but they`re getting like $650 a night per room which is way above the average even when you compare it to hotels like the Hay-Adams or the Four Seasons, other, you know, very long-standing grand Washington hotels.

People are willing to spend for whatever reason, much more to stay in a Trump hotel, at least they have so far this year.

HAYES: So I guess next question is, what is the for whatever reason? I mean, it`s one thing if people just want to stay, the thrill of staying in the hotel of the president of the United States, it is quite another if you have foreign governments or interests or lobby groups who are explicitly paying this premium because they want to curry favor. Do we know which it is?

O`CONNELL: We know some things. We obviously know that there are people, the hotel has become such a center of Republican politics in Washington. You know, if you spend time there on any different weeknight, you can see a member of the cabinet, you can see somebody from Trump`s inner circle. You can see someone from Trump`s family there. There are interest groups who stay there and hold meetings there and spend a lot of money there.

It`s a place where -- if you want to be close to the Trump administration, it is a place to be. And, you know, we had a staffer in there run into the president of Romania at the hotel bar the day before he had a press conference with the president in the Rose Garden the next day.

So, there are people -- I mean, I think that speaks to the fact that if people really want to stay at that hotel for whatever -- again, for whatever reason, but for maybe access to the president or to be close to Republican politics, they`re willing to spend extra to do it.

HAYES: The president of Romania anecdote is perfect, right, because presumably that`s a strategic decision undertaken by that foreign dignitary who wants to be able to say to the president the next day, hey I was at your hotel and get off on a good foot.

But there are some critics who say that`s actually a violation of the emoluments clause of the constitution or at least a sort of facie (ph) violation of a basic sense of quid pro quo.

O`CONNELL: Yeah, so that`s where things get a little tricky from a legal perspective for Trump`s company. The emoluments clause prevents, and it has not been litigated in court anywhere, so it is hard to tell what it will prevent practically. But it prevents any payments or benefits to the president from foreign governments. So the people running the hotel, the managers of the hotel, have specifically broken down their earnings into two different ledgers. One ledger is the earnings from foreign governments and the rest, the other ledger with everything else. And they`re planning to donate the profits from at least the big ticket business from foreign government to the U.S. Treasury at the end of the year.

Now, I don`t think that they`re tracking every single foreign leader who maybe stays overnight or has a coffee at the bar. So, at some point, the courts may decide whether it is a problem or not. The other thing is the fact that they can charge so much more than other hotels in Washington, you know, sometimes 100 dollars or 200 dollars more above competitors. That could potentially be a problem also, because if it looks like it is above market rate, people may interpret that, or it could be interpreted legally as some sort of -- more like a gift than really a payment for a market service.

HAYES: Right. You can get in trouble in campaign finance law, for instance, if you sell someone a house below market rate or -- right -- there are market transactions that if they deviate too far from what the market clearing rate is, the law, whether for tax purposes or campaign finance purposes can interpret it as essentially a gift.

O`CONNELL: Again, yeah, this hasn`t been in the courts yet, and no courts have decided it. But any time it looks a little squirrely in terms of not being -- you know, the going rate for something, it is just an opportunity for all these legal attacks on the president`s company. It just presents potentially an opening for them.

HAYES: Excellent reporting from Jonathan O`Connell, thanks so much for your insights.

O`CONNELL: I really appreciate it very much, Chris.

HAYES: Ahead, while at his New Jersey Golf Club, the president has taken more questions from the press on camera than he has in months from Putin to McConnell to Venezuela. We`ll break it down with the panel ahead.

And fighting for love in tonight`s Thing One, Thing Two next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES: Thing One tonight, President Trump`s followers fighting for his attention.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: You have the leaks where people want to love me and they`re all fighting for love. Actually I am somewhat honored by them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: But the battle for the president`s love extends beyond the White House. In the race for Alabama senate, one candidate has said god put Donald Trump in the White House while two others have released fawning adds with titles like support Trump and Trump man.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Others attack our president, I`m fighting with him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wrote a $2,500 check to help President Trump beat Hillary. And in congress, I vote with President Trump 95 percent of the time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will fight for President Trump`s agenda every day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I support President Trump`s America First agenda.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: As we reported earlier this week, it was Luther Strange who won the rose from President Trump, his campaign nodded to it in this new ad. In the first poll since that endorsement, Strange`s competitor Roy Moore actually increased his lead.

But it is the other candidate, Mo Brooks, who is having an especially hard time with the Trump endorsement. And accepting the fact that he is just not that into you. That`s Thing Two in 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MOS BROOKS, ALABAMA SENATE CANDIDATE: It makes no sense to, on the one hand, criticize Mitch McConnell, on the way the Senate is operating, but on the other hand to endorse Mitch McConnell`s candidate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Alabama Senate candidate Mo Brooks is having a hard time accepting rejection. So far he is claiming that Mitch McConnell and the swamp somehow mislead the president into endorsing current Senator Luther Strange. He`s asked Trump reconsider endorsement @RealDonaldTrump?

And today, three days after he was scorned his most direct appeal yet, a say anything boom box moment in a straight to camera ad titled To the President.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BROOKS: They fight to save the 60 percent rule that kills your agenda. I sure don`t. McConnell and Strange are weak, but together we can be strong.

Mr. President, isn`t it time we tell McConnell and Strange, you`re fired.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were you being sarcastic when you thanked Vladimir Putin for expelling 755 diplomats from Russia?

TRUMP: In order to reduce our pay roll, absolutely. I think you know that. I think you know that. We`ll see. In fact, I was just speaking to the secretary and we`re talking about coming up with an answer when, Rex, tell me?

REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: By September 1.

TRUMP: By September 1, we`ll have a response. But we have reduced payroll very substantially.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Still unclear, despite his answer tonight, whether President Trump was, indeed, just joking when he said that Russian President Vladimir Putin did the U.S. a favor by expelling American diplomats from Russia.

Let`s bring in former congressman Elizabeth Holtzmann who served on the House Judiciary Committee during Watergate; Republican Strategist Susan Del Percio; Erin Gloria Ryan, she`s senior editor at The Daily Beast; and MSNBC Contributor Sam Seder, host of the Majority Report with Sam Seder.

Well, two things about that response to Putin. One is he does this a lot where he says he`s joking. You know, Russia, if you`re listening, please hack Hillary Clinton`s emails. And two, it is just also clear if he was joking, Susan, like what exactly is the response?

SUSAN DEL PERCIO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: And it is often with his jokes, disturbing, because let`s not forget there are the staff that were in the Russian embassy that now do not have jobs and they are targeted, in fact, by their government. So, they are pariahs now and they`re out on the street. They`re not getting another job so quickly.

Then you have the staff there who have now been sent home. These are families. These are uprooting families.

So, as much as it`s easy to look at this and you can say, oh, look, is he joking? Is he not joking? It is really significant when you look at one of the places where we do want to have people on the ground and hearing what`s going on that we end up saying, oh, it`s great we cut our payroll. It is a joke, but it is pathetic.

HAYES: He also said this thing tonight about Venezuela that just -- we played it in the A block and we haven`t talked about it just out of nowhere. And sometimes you can lead the president to saying things if you walk him up to it. But this was just like, well, what are the options? And he just out of nowhere, well, there is a military option and we`re close.

And I guess at this point I`m like, what should we make of the president`s words in just a broad sense? Like, should we take that seriously? Should we take seriously when he says that?

SAM SEDER, HOST, MAJORITY REPORT: Well, it`s not so much what we do, it`s what the rest of the world does is whether or not we should take it seriously.

I mean, obviously, there`s a sense within the White House and throughout our government that this guy is just going to say anything at any time. And we`ve always. We`re going to put out a series of fires.

But we should take it seriously insofar as he can act on these things. And it`s -- I mean, I think to a certain extent, I`m not convinced that`s not part of point. I mean, you know, there was a lot of stuff that happened at the beginning of the week. It feels like a long time ago with Manafort. And I don`t know that he in his mind calculates, I`m going to distract people. I think it`s as much he is trying on distract himself on some level.

ERIN GLORIA RYAN, THE DAILY BEAST: Yeah, I mean, first of all there are a couple of things going on here. First of all, there`s no -- you know, if there is I`m just kidding clause in international diplomacy, I was never informed of it. And I think most people who are dealing in international diplomacy were not informed of the I`m just kidding clause.

Second thing going back to what you were saying, Sam, about what happened earlier this week, like I was saying before we went on air, like if I was given a history test about what happened on Monday, I would fail. Like so many things are happening all the time. It is not clear that Donald Trump is capable of remembering them as they`re happening.

HAYES: That`s the other question, whether he`s actually --

RYAN: Right, much less several days later when they need to be brought up again.

HAYES: But then there`s this question that Sam brings up about is this like intentional or not. What`s your read on that?

ELIZABETH HOLTZMAN, FRM. CONGRESSWOMAN: It could very well be.

I mean, Trump`s numbers have been going way down. I mean, a couple of things that we need to keep on background, his numbers have been going way down. The investigation against him is going way up, accelerating, more people are being hired, FBI breaks into his campaign manager`s office. He said it`s tough stuff. I mean, it hit him, because it`s not only Manafort, it`s Donald Jr. and it`s Jared Kushner, and it could be the president himself.

HAYES: That point about it hitting him, we don`t have the tape pulled, but the moment -- when he says tough stuff, there is a look of genuine dread in his eyes, 100 percent.

HOLTZMAN: He`s panicked about it.

I also want to say one thing about Putin, it is not just that it`s a joke - - you know, we don`t have it`s a joke in our vocabulary for international relations, but when was the last time he ever said anything critical about Putin? I mean, he cannot bring himself to say anything critical about him and that`s just amazing.

RYAN: Well, this could be all one big joke where then afterwards he`d be like I was just kidding every time I didn`t say something critical --

HOLTZMAN: It`s not a joke, though. I think it could really all go back to this Russian investigation and his connection.

HAYES: And your point -- there`s a -- in your Times piece about the fact that it really is the case. I mean, this is someone who will feud with anyone. He`s feuding with Mitch McConnell. He`ll feud with Jeff Sessions. I mean, he`ll -- .

DEL PERCIO: Well, he doesn`t know how to govern.

HAYES: Wait, but I want to stay on this point. Why do you, what is your theory? How do you interpret the fact, this is a person who will fight with everyone from Rosie O`Donnell to his attorney general, the majority leader, and will never say a bad thing about Vladimir Putin, not once will ever --

DEL PERCIO: It`s bizarre. There`s no explaining it, there`s no defending it, there`s no rationale to it. It is the way he is and it is something that is going to be -- continue to be a problem for him. And we`ll talk about it like this. But none of us are going to come up with an answer unless we can sit down with a shrink. I mean, let`s --

HAYES: No, but maybe -- she`s saying it`s not a shrink --

HOLTZMAN: I`m saying it may be a real reason which is his connection with Putin and Russia.

HAYES: It is very clear -- I mean, the one thing that is clear in the available entered evidence is that he just won`t -- he will not say -- I mean, even the joking part is a way for him to say a thing, because he has to say a thing, but not actually say the thing which the U.S. government would normally say, which this is a bad decision.

SEDER: In that clip you just played, he just handed it off to Tillerson. He will not articulate it. It may be daddy issues. It may be because some videotape out there. We will never know. But -- I mean, it could be -- but --

RYAN: He is like Schroedinger`s jerk. Like, he is both a jerk and not a jerk, because he said I`m just kidding.

And, you know, going back to what you were saying about Donald Trump not being able to govern, I think what`s really interesting is that he came in as like an outsider. But now it is clear that Donald Trump is an outsider to government like I`m an outsider to heart surgery.

I don`t know what I`m doing.

HAYES: And he is an outsider to his own government, which is actually something that has developed and we`re going to talk about that just after this break. Stick around. We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, a number of Republican Senators have rushed to the defense of Senate Majority Leader McConnell in the last day or so. What do you make of that, and have you reached out --

TRUMP: I don`t make anything of it. We should have had health care approved. We should have known that he had a couple of votes that turned on him, and that should have been very easy to handle whether it`s through the fact that you take away a committee chairmanship or do whatever you have to do, but what happened, in my opinion last week, is unacceptable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: President Trump once again tonight complaining about Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell`s inability to get health care reform through the Senate. Still with me, Elizabeth Holtzman, Susan Del Percio, Erin Gloria Ryan and Sam Seder.

Susan, a bunch of senators today tweeting their support of Mitch McConnell which seemed their slightly veiled way of supporting him.

What do you make of this back and forth?

DEL PERCIO: Well, it`s interesting because it`s the same senators for the most part that said don`t go after former Senator Sessions when Trump was 

talking about potentially firing him, or people around the president were talking about firing him.

This is a really weird battle.

Now, granted, Mitch McConnell said some things in his district, and the president felt the need to respond. And the president isn`t 100 percent wrong here. And you know I`m not a big defender of him, but the fact is, is that Republicans were talking about this for seven years. They offered no plan.

The president is right when he says they should have been able to do something and get it through.

However, the president also said health care is easy and I alone can negotiate it. And that`s where he -- that`s where the wheels kind of fall off of his argument, is that -- and to pick this fight with the most important ally you can have -- he can`t -- this is no longer a populist president in the way people are talking about maybe he is more independent because he is throwing away both parties. An independent would be working with both parties, not trying to isolate both parties. That`s the difference.

SEDER: I don`t think it`s real. I just don`t think any part of it is meaningful.

I mean, if Mitch McConnell wants to engage in this fight, he could say you know what also would have helped, if you didn`t take the 51st vote and say that guy wasn`t a hero.

HAYES: That`s a fair point.

SEDER: I mean, if Mitch McConnell wants to turn his back on Donald Trump, he could.

Donald Trump is just doing what he does in every situation, which is I`m going to create a conflict. I mean, it`s analogous to what`s going on --

DEL PERCIO: Republicans should have been able to do something. I mean --

HAYES: Right, but the other thing is that he doesn`t --

SEDER: That problem would have existed regardless of who was president. I mean, the only thing that Donald Trump probably did -- if there is anything that Donald Trump impacted this it was that he kept the Democratic caucus tight.

DEL PERCIO: But you know what, the fact is that if any -- if it was any other Republican president, they would not have had the problems that they had, especially -- I mean, calling their own bill mean.

HAYES: So, in some ways I disagree because I think ultimately -- I think 

the problem is structural, and it preceded Donald Trump. What didn`t help was that Donald Trump -- the way they did it was he didn`t sell it at all, right, because he couldn`t, because as you see from these press conferences, it was unsellable.

(CROSSTALK)

HOLTZMAN: He had no plan. Donald Trump had no plan. And he never understood the Republicans` plan, so he couldn`t sell it. He couldn`t talk about it. He couldn`t negotiate it.

HAYES: It`s not just that, though, it`s not just health care. I have noticed in these conferences, he cannot stay on the same topic for more than three sentences. It is really a bright blinking light to me.

RYAN: But I also think that he is not accustomed to people writing down what he is saying and then going back to things that he said a couple of weeks before. Like when you are a real estate developer and you are dealing with hype, when you are a brand and dealing with hype, or you are an EP on a network TV show and you are dealing with next week on this, that`s all have you to do know.

But Donald Trump is just -- all he is concerned with is what just happened and what`s going to happen in the next five seconds.

DEL PERCIO: And he also is only used to making a deal with somebody typically in real estate or television where you can make a deal, you can get into a big argument, but if you can also down the road a year from now partner up with somebody else, which is --

HAYES: Which is also true in politics. Look at Rick Perry serving in his cabinet.

DEL PERCIO: But he doesn`t understand how all of a sudden people won`t switch back. He`s like oh, well, we just talked about health care. Why can`t you get on the bandwagon with my infrastructure program?

SEDER: I think that this is the best place for Mitch McConnell to be because they`re going to find out -- he doesn`t care, but he wants to be in a position where they can cut either way, whatever happens in 2018, whatever happens with Donald Trump. I mean, they want flexibility. So, nobody wants to be tied to Donald Trump. And they`re going to do what`s in their interest.

Look, Grover Norquist said, all we need is a hand to sign the thing. And it turns out wrong. You also need some ideas and something for them to sign.

HAYES: But there`s also just to button up this idea, there`s also something about it, I increasingly think the president is most comfortable as a commentator on his own presidency. He actually -- the thing that he likes the most is saying stuff and watching the coverage, sitting there watching cable news tweeting about it, as opposed to presidenting.

And so --

DEL PERCIO: and then talking about himself in third person.

HAYES: When he talks about McConnell, he is just -- the role he likes best is playing the role of essentially a cable news pundit as opposed to the guy who is actually doing things.

RYAN: Right, but I also think, like, when it comes to punditry, there`s an element of that that is kind of like sport too. You know, like, he watches -- he talks about it like an ESPN commentator talks about it.

HAYES: With no stakes, yeah.

HOLTZMAN: But it`s not even punditry. He doesn`t really even understand the issues. This is the most superficial --

HAYES: Well, I have seen some pundits.

HOLTZMAN: Yeah, well, OK. But some pundits. Present company.

HAYES: Obviously. Obviously.

HOLTZMAN: But seriously. He doesn`t understand one of the most superficial part of this. So, that is what he is dealing with.

I think the point you made is really important. How much can he even absorb? How much is he even interested in absorbing? He just wants a deal with the fighting, with the words, with being a provocateur, with getting more media coverage. That`s what excites him.

DEL PERCIO: He still goes out there and talks about the votes he got.

HAYES: Oh, yeah. Even when he is talking about North Korea.

I guess my question is do you end up in -- when we come back in the fall, is there this idea where know just says people in his own government, outside the government, in congress just all agree that, like, let`s treat them the way -- let`s act as if the president is actually a capable news pundit, like he is just a guy saying stuff, and we`ll go about doing what we`re doing. I think that`s what we`re headed towards.

DEL PERCIO: At the end of the day he just wants to sound something. He doesn`t care what the health care legislation looks like or the tax bill. So, if they can get something -- if they can actually get some work done --

HAYES: Just don`t listen to him. Do whatever you want to do.

HOLTZMAN: But can he even read it? And another question is what kind of briefings are they giving him?

HAYES: I have no idea.

HOLTZMAN: I mean, that`s a serious question.

RYAN: Graphics and his Twitter mentions.

HAYES: And cable news chryons.

DEL PERCIO: He gets a reel every morning of his greatest hits.

SEDER: How much -- I mean, the last thing, it seems to me, that the Republican Party took basically Trump dictated to them was that we`re going to do repeal and replace. It may be a week. It may be today. It may be a moment afterwards. And that was back in, like, early February, I think. After that, you know, it`s really -- I don`t think they`re listening to him anyway.

HAYES: Exactly. The big test when they come back is whether they listen to that, because he`s very clear about it.

Elizabeth Holtzman, Susan Del Percio, Erin Gloria Ryan, Sam Seder, many thanks to all of you for being here.

That is All In for this evening on this Friday night.

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

END