IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

All In with Chris Hayes, Transcript 9/1/17 Trump's unsent Comey letter

Guests: Glenn Thrush, Betsy Woodruff, Jill Wine Banks, Evan McMullin, Gaby Pacheco, David Jolly, Naveed Jamali

Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: September 1, 2017

Guest: Glenn Thrush, Betsy Woodruff, Jill Wine Banks, Evan McMullin, Gaby Pacheco, David Jolly, Naveed Jamali

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST: Join him Tuesday, special guest Al Franken. "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes starts right now.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I said, if it is possible, would you let me know? Am I under investigation? He said you are not under investigation.

HAYES: A potentially huge piece of new evidence, the original letter that Trump wanted to send to fire his FBI Director now in the hands of the Special Counsel.

JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: I think the President is worried that I was fired because of the Russia investigation.

HAYES: Tonight, the growing case for obstruction of justice. Then the deadline for DACA.

TRUMP: Sometime today or over the weekend, Sunday, Saturday. The latest will be Monday.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We`re actually going to make that announcement on Tuesday.

HAYES: The president caught between hard liners and everybody else.

TRUMP: We love the dreamers. We love everybody.

SANDERS: This President is a President that loves people.

HAYES: Then new details about exactly what Russia did during the election and the revolving door at the White House. Gorka is out, is Sheriff Clarke in?


HAYES: When ALL IN starts right now.


HAYES: Good evening from New York, I`m Chris Hayes. Why did the President of the United States fire a former FBI Director James Comey? That`s the question that is the heart of the investigation being led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into the possibility of collusion with the Russians and crucially whether the President himself committed criminal obstruction of justice. Today we learned for the first time that the President himself wrote down his reasons for firing Comey in a letter he planned to send him on the day of the firing. A letter drafted with the help from White House Aide, Stephen Miller. But that letter was never sent to Comey. According to the New York Times, White House Counsel Don Mcgahn who has frequently failed to restrain the President from his worst impulses found the contents of this letter to be so problematic, he convinced the President not to send it.

That letter with the President`s reasoning for firing the FBI Director Comey is now reportedly in the hands of the Special Counsel Robert Mueller. What it says, we don`t know for sure but according to the Wall Street Journal, the President wanted Comey to publicly state that he, Donald Trump, was not personally under investigation in connection to Russia`s 2016 election interference. The administration official paraphrasing the letter as follows, you`ve told us three times I`m not under investigation but you won`t tell world and it`s hampering the country. Several people who saw the multi-page draft described it in the Times as they "screed." So that letter was never sent.

Instead, a shorter note from the President was publicly released by the White House along with memos from the Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and the official rationale for the firing of James Comey became his handling of the Clinton e-mail investigation. Notably that he was too hard on Hillary Clinton. For days, White House officials insisted the president had nearly acted on the recommendation of the Justice Department.


SEAN SPICER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think the President was given a recommendation by the Deputy Attorney General who the FBI Director reports to. The Attorney General concurred with that that he had lost the confidence to lead the FBI.

MIKE PENCE, UNITED STATES VICE PRESIDENT: The President took strong and decisive leadership here to put the safety and security of the American people first by accepting the recommendation of the Deputy Attorney General.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Isn`t it true that the President had already decided to fire Jim Comey and he asked the Justice Department to put together the rationale for that firing?



HAYES: OK, you heard all that. Now that message disciplined the President accepted the recommendation, not his idea. That lasted a couple days right up until President himself sat down with an interview with NBC`s Lester Holt and admitted, he had intended to fire Comey all along and it had something to do with the Russia investigation which Comey, of course, is then supervising.


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


HAYES: Days later, the Times reported that in a meeting with top Russian diplomats, the day after Comey was let go, the President told them, "I just fired the Head of the FBI. He was crazy. A real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That`s taken off. Remember that Comey had confirmed in Congressional testimony less than two months earlier that the Trump campaign was under investigation for potential ties to Russian sabotage and interference during the 2016 election. But Comey stopped short of announcing that the President himself was not personally under investigation which he later acknowledged, having informed the President in private.

Now, Comey told the Senate panel, he resisted pressure from the President to announce it publicly explaining that he worried about having to update the public should the investigation changed. In that same Senate appearance, following his dismissal, Comey recounted other attempts by the President to influence his conduct as FBI Director including what Comey understood as an order to drop the investigation into the former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.


SEN. JAMES RISCH (R), IDAHO: This is the President speaking. I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go. Now, those are his exact words, is that correct?

COMEY: Correct.

The reason I keep saying his words is I took it as a direction. This is the President of the United States with me alone saying, I hope this. I took it as this is what he wants me to do. I didn`t obey that but that`s the way I took it.


HAYES: We just learned yesterday that the President`s attorneys have been meeting with Mueller specifically to lay out arguments against a charge of obstruction of justice submitting memo that`s call into question Comey`s reliability as a potential witness. But this original letter from the President to Comey, as to what is already an expanding universe of evidence at Mueller`s disposal including subpoena documents, secret testimony, and now, according to a report from the Daily Beast, anything collected by the criminal investigations unit of the IRS including possibly the President`s own tax returns. The reporter who broke that story for the Daily Beast, Betsy Woodruff joins me along with New York Times White House Correspondent Glenn Thrush. Glenn, let`s start with you on the memo. It appears that basically what was happening in the White House is that the President really wanted to fire Comey and a lot of people didn`t want him to. And then what happened?

GLENN THRUSH, NEW YORK TIMES WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, then what happened is the President went ahead with drafting along with Stephen Miller -- and by the way, that is one of the unique facets to this. Stephen Miller who is Chief Speech Writer and his main policy appointment particularly on immigration, kind of the keeper of the flame of economic nationalism with the departure of Steve Bannon, has now been dragged into the Russia investigation for the first time. That is a significant development. Don McGahn who is you know, essentially a matador White House counsel --

HAYES: Right.

THRUSH: -- with no other way to put it, actually has on several occasions, particularly in the Comey matter -- and we`ve reported this in a bunch of stories prior to this -- has tried to pump the brakes a lot. And in fact, it was McGahn who brought Ty Cobb the outside counsel inside the White House because he believed that he needed someone working on the pay roll to deal with this. So McGahn has played this role. I think, one of the really interesting questions raised by this letter, the letter itself is fascinating.

But how much is Don McGahn willing to swallow in his job as counsel? He is constantly being annoyed -- I`m sorry, being annoyed, yes, but being overruled by the President, I think less so now with the regime of John Kelly, the new Chief of Staff. But McGahn, we`ve seen in story after story is sort of left in the dust by the President. And you know, Chris, I hadn`t heard the Lester Holt interview for quite some time. When you hear it fresh, it is one of the most extraordinary things I`ve ever heard a President admit.

HAYES: Well, particularly, when you hear, Betsy, when -- I mean, what is so crazy about this set of facts before us, and to Glenn`s point, when you hear the Lester Holt interview fresh, particularly against what they were all saying in the days leading up to it, explicitly saying, this was done under recommendation, on the recommendation. The recommendation was accepted. The Vice President saying that. The entire way that it was gone about was one of artifice in bad faith. And it appears this letter may show us the actual core reasoning behind it all.

BETSY WOODRUFF, THE DAILY BEAST POLITICAL REPORTER: That`s certainly a possibility. Now, we haven`t seen the letter but it seems to be an invaluable window into what the President was thinking and the lead-up to his firing of Comey. My sources have told me, and I`ve reported at the Daily Beast that Rod Rosenstein was absolutely livid with the White House for citing him as the reason the President decided to fire Comey. If you read the memo that Rosenstein gave to the White House, it didn`t actually call for Comey`s firing. Rosenstein is an incredibly intelligent lawyer. Him leaving out a line saying, therefore I think Comey should be fired was not a mistake. That was on purpose.

Now, if you read the Rosenstein memo, the obvious implication certainly seems to be that he wanted Comey to be fired but he didn`t say that. And when you had all those surrogates for Trump parading before the cameras and saying, Rosenstein told us to fire Comey, it made him absolutely irate. And that has contributed to an enormous amount of tension and anger between people at the highest levels of the Justice Department and of the White House. This is something that has been simmering for a long time but shows no sign of abating and that certainly, I think is feeding into why the President has criticized, not only Rod Rosenstein but also Jeff Sessions the Attorney General. Remember, we haven`t yet seen evidence that those two men have really reconciled, have broken bread and come together yet. You can`t overstate the significance of the tensions there.

HAYES: I want to note something here which is that Rosenstein apparently has a copy or had a copy of the actual original -- I think it`s described, Glenn, in the New York Times reporting as screened by a source. Screened is in quotes which is funny. There`s also the word Scribner which pops up I think in the Wall Street Journal article which cracked me up. So, you`ve got -- you`ve got -- Rosenstein has the original copy of that letter. And what I think is so significant here Glenn, is the fact that this is such a turning point in all of this and it`s a turning that`s foreseeable about people around the President across sort of ideological fashion. So it appeared that people like Reince, and Bannon and others around him saying, do not fire Comey, that`s insane, That would be cataclysmic and make your life worse. And what the President did was he run through those stop signs. You have to wonder why right?

THRUSH: Well, one of the people who urged him to run through this stop sign was his son-in-law Jared Kushner. I happened by accident of history to have pool duty out in Bedminster on the fateful weekend that he made this decision. And we were told, he is enjoying a quiet weekend his family, his daughter Ivanka and his son-in-law Jared Kushner. And little did we know, Kushner was the one who was of that group sort of opposite of Don McGahn, urging him to fire Comey. Do you want to know why? Because Kushner claimed that Democrats -- and you can`t make this stuff up -- would rally Trump`s cause in defense of Trump because they hated Comey over the Hillary Stuff.

Now, the other thing that struck me, and I was in the briefing room today with Sarah Huckabee Sanders on this, I have sympathy for both Sarah and Spicer for being given bad information, having to go out and tell things that weren`t true. But you know, Sarah essentially said that you know, the President moving forward, Sarah was asked I think, specifically about the original cover story that Rosenstein had about Hillary Clinton. And when you realize that the President and his entire team was essentially tying this essentially a casual lie about the reason for firing him when the President was sitting behind the scenes drafting a letter pointedly indicating it was the Russia investigation. That I think is troublesome too. The fact that the cover story was so disingenuous. And by the way, that`s been just totally lost in this entire story.

HAYES: Yes, Betsy Woodruff and Glenn Thrush, Glenn has a -- everyone should read that Daily Beast piece about the IRS and Mueller working together. And Glenn has (INAUDIBLE) on a Times piece which just came out about what President and John Kelly which is basically what you would expect with a lot of fascinating details. Thank you, both.

As to what this latest revelation could mean and the possible obstruction of justice case, I`m joined by former Assistant Watergate Special Prosecutor Jill Wine Banks and Former CIA Operative, Presidential Candidate Evan McMullin. Jill, what do you make of this develoments?

JILL WINE BANKS, FORMER ASSISTANT WATERGATE PROSECUTOR: First of all, I want to point out that the number of episodes of possible obstruction are not limited to just firing Mr. Comey. He first fired the person who told him that Flynn had been compromised and could be a problem, Sally Yates. Then he told Comey, don`t investigate Flynn, couldn`t you drop it? When he didn`t drop it, he got fired. And the list goes on and on. We can keep going into the many possible things. The false statements that he drafted for his son about the June meeting is another possible obstruction. The promise of pardons to all the other people involved is another possible obstruction.

The message he sent with the Arpaio pardon, that don`t worry, you don`t have to cooperate. I`ll pardon you if you are held in contempt. He`s asking Sessions to intervene and drop the Arpaio. So there`s a number of things that to go obstruction well beyond this. And the letter itself, until we see it, of course, we`re only speculating what it is. But it`s just one more obvious portrayal of them trying to find a saleable excuse for having fired him. If the reason had anything to do with what they first claimed, which was the Hillary e-mails, they would have done it when he first was inaugurated. They wouldn`t have waited until May. So that`s not a believable excuse. And it just shows that they were trying to find something that the public might buy.

HAYES: Evan, do you think Republicans on the Hill are -- they`re sort of parallel tracks here, right? So there`s the Mueller investigating looking at the possibility of collusion, coordination, infiltration, whatever it was between the Trump campaign and the Russians, or maybe there was nothing but there`s quite a few points of contact, and then there`s the possibility of obstruction. These are sort of parallel. And I wonder whether how concerned do you think the Republicans are about that later, obstruction case? It seems to me that they`re kind of setting themselves up where the threshold bar is, you got to find some smoking gun or collusion or all of this is nothing despite the very troubling actions the President has taken as Jill just spelled out.

EVAN MCMULLIN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes, I think that`s true. But I think what they`re really looking for is just the political dynamic among their own base. And that I think speaks directly to this letter question where Trump drafts a letter that in the end isn`t advanced. But it says sort of the same thing according to reporting that the ultimate letter said in the sense, that it says that Comey had told him privately that he wasn`t under an investigation and then wanted Comey to say that publicly. Now, there`s a reason why President Trump so badly wanted Comey to do that and it wasn`t for nothing. And we can speculate but I think there are a couple of possibilities.

Number one is that he was probably trying to box in the FBI and Comey to a certain degree to make it difficult for them to pursue an investigation against the President which is exactly the reason by the way that Comey didn`t want to do it, right, and the reason why he didn`t. The other thing speaks to your question, is that President Trump I believed is very focused, focused like laser on defending his base because that protects his flank in the House. The House has impeachment powers. He needs to hold on to his 35 percent of the American electorate which protects him in the House so that he`s protected against impeachment. And so if Comey comes out and says, we`re not investigating the President or if the President comes out and says that for him as he did, that helps protect him politically and keeps that going, that protection going.

And so, I -- and I think that`s effective and if you`re Donald Trump trying to protect himself in an impossible situation, you can make an argument for that. But I also think members of Congress disappointed -- I`m disappointed to say this because they should be doing what`s best for the country. But especially in the House, I think many Republicans are more looking to what the popular sentiment is among base rather than, OK, what`s the threshold here. We know Donald Trump is a problem. What substantive threshold is there for moving on impeachment? I think it`s more about where the political wins are.

HAYES: I want to ask you Jill about something Renato Mariotti, former Federal Prosecutor has been on this program quite a bit, (INAUDIBLE) with you, said about Miller. And Glenn sort of highlighted this. This is first time that Miller is really involved in any of this. If Miller agrees to Trump to obstruct justice, that`s a crime called conspiracy. He`s responsible for the acts of co-conspirator. Now that`s ahead of things are right now but it does have Miller now open and exposed in a way that he wasn`t before, right?

BANKS: It does. It absolutely does. I`d also like the add to something Evan said which is, I think the letter is interesting also because once again if what we`re reading is true, it shows that everything revolves around Donald Trump. It was all about him. He was mad because the Director of the FBI wouldn`t say he wasn`t under investigation. He didn`t care about anything else. It was really focused on him. And the other thing I want to point out is that of course, we don`t need an underlying crime. Even if there was no collusion between Donald Trump or any of his team, and the Russians, the obstruction still is a crime. And that`s important to know. The underlying crime needs to be investigated because our democracy depends on fair elections. But it doesn`t require it for an obstruction of justice.

HAYES: Yes. People should also take a second to consider how remarkable and almost preposterous it is for the President of the United States to just sit down with a speech writer and just basically wail verbally on a guy that he doesn`t like just about to fire the FBI Director which is a hugely consequential action and then have to be reeled back in for the pretense of process before he does it. Jill Wine Banks and Evan McMullin, many thanks.

MCMULLIN: Thank you.

HAYES: Coming up, the latest. Will he or won`t he gain on this reality show? How presidency has real consequences for more than 800,000 people. Trump`s moment to choose between his "heart and his base" in two minutes.



TRUMP: We will immediately terminate President Obama`s two illegal executive amnesties in which he defied federal law and the constitution to give amnesty to approximately 5 million illegal immigrants. 5 million.


HAYEs: Candidate Donald Trump repeatedly promised to end the DACA Program which allows undocumented immigrants brought into the country as children to live and work here illegally. The White House is now pledging a final decision soon on whether it will continue the program. The program allows 800,000 people, dreamers as many of them are known, to hold on jobs, earn paychecks, to live simply without constant fear. But despite his campaign promises, President Trump seems to be torn. Within a span of just hours today, the White House wavered on when exactly the President would make a final decision.



TRUMP: Sometime today or over the weekend, we`ll have a decision.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Should dreamers be worried?

TRUMP: We love the dreamers. We love everybody. Thank you very much. Thank you.

We`ll be releasing on DACA sometime over the weekend. Probably Sunday, Saturday, the latest will be Monday.

SANDERS: I just spoke with the President and we`re in the process of finalizing that decision and those details. And we`re actually going to make that announcement on Tuesday of next week.


HAYES: All right. There`s really only one major constituency that favors kicking out the dreamers, rescinding DACA and that`s the Breitbart base represented by Policy Adviser inside the White House Stephen Miller and Attorney General Jeff Sessions over at Justice, along with now former Chief Strategist Steve Bannon. And in contrast to fighting to keep the program are an array of people including basically every Democratic politician, the dreamers themselves who obviously at the most stake in this, CEO`s in corporate America and even many Republicans. Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah tweeted his disagreement as did Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, even Paul Ryan. The Speaker of the House today said he disagreed with the President.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is a lot in the news right now that the President might be looking at pulling back DACA. The dreamer`s act.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Yes, I mean, I actually don`t think he should do that and I believe that this is something Congress has to fix.


HAYES: In 2013, a group of dreamers not only met with Trump but were told they had successfully changed his mind on their status on immigration law. Gaby Pacheco was one of them, she`s in that picture. She joins me along with David Jolly former Florida Republican Congressman who oppose DACA but who favors immigration reform. Gaby, let me start with you because I remember that moment and I remember that meeting and I remember reading an account of it in which at the end of it, the now President Donald Trump then just Donald Trump shook your hand and said you`ve convinced me. What happened in that meeting?

GABY PACHECO, DREAMER AND ACTIVIST: Well, we had a great conversation with the then Donald Trump, now President. And he had a lot of questions for us. He didn`t know about immigration and he asked us, why haven`t you hired an attorney to deal with your problems? Then, we explained to him that, even if we hired the best attorney in the United States, that there is no legal way for to us get some sort of status. So we explained to him DACA and how important that program was. We explain to him immigration reform was needed. And as we were leaving the meeting, he turned to us and he said, you convinced me.

HAYES: OK, I want to come back to you about what do you make of that but I want to go to you David because the lines are crossed all over the place here. So I`m finding all this very -- to set the table, in 2014 all but 11 Republican Congressmen vote to get rid of Daca, OK. And that`s basically the headline position to the party. But now you got Rick Scott, Florida Governor very conservative, coming out today. Your governor saying he`s in favor of illegal immigration but against punishing kids for their parents` action. What`s happening at the Republican Party right now?

DAVID JOLLY, FORMER FLORIDA CONGRESSMAN: I don`t think Rick Scott he had any clarity. That was a perfectly political statement. And listen, it`s a privilege for me to be on with Gaby. Let me say that right out front. Here`s what mainstream Republicans like myself face. And there are many of us, right, in 2014. I actually bought into the Republican narrative that there were constitutional principles involved when we confronted on President Obama on what were four executive orders, DACA and DAPA and others. And Chris, I took to the House floor and screamed and yelled that this President at the time, President Obama was acting outside of his executive authority, that the solution should be within the legislature.

Well, guess what? When it came time for leadership elections, I went to the leadership candidates and I said when are we going to move comprehensive immigration reform? And one of the current leaders on the Republican side of the isle said, do you know what the American people will do to us if we pass comprehensive immigration reform? And that`s when I realized the fix was in. It was a hoax. I bought into the constitutional separation of powers, not ever wanting to believe that the Republican Party was against comprehensive immigration reform but they are. And that is what this President is dealing with. It is why Gaby met -- was met with such insincerity by this President.

HAYES: Well, that is an interesting account of things. I want to drill down a second but to go back to Gaby, to your reference to the meeting there, and Gaby, obviously you`ve been working on this issue for a while. One of the things that`s interesting here is the politics of this are upside down for the President. This is -- a poll on this is 64 percent support, 30 percent oppose. You`ve got a business exec letter from Apple. Today you had the Republican Tennessee Attorney General, who was one of a group of Republican Attorney Generals, suing the President, rescinded when it looks like he was actually going to drop the thing. Do you think that matters ultimately in what is going through in that White House right now?

PACHECO: I think it completely matters. And the fact is that the opposition is not there. I don`t really see where the opposition is to this except for -- and now no longer ten attorney generals but nine. The Tennessee Attorney General decide d I don`t want to be part of this. So I think that everybody is starting to realize that this threat that they have put on Trump to sue DACA is a false threat. There`s nothing there. And even if they were to try to sue which I don`t know what the legal standing would be for that, they wouldn`t be a case probably until a year.

HAYES: Right. So there`s a lawsuit, I should clarify, there`s nine attorney general who are all republicans, who are suing and they`ve issued this somewhat artificial deadline which is part of the reason the President is making this decision. But David, to your point about this -- it`s interesting to watch the wind shift, right with these Republicans. And I want to give you a more cynical interpretation of your actions and you can respond to it.

JOLLY: Sure.

HAYE: Which is basically that Donald Trump keeps making the mistake of calling the bluff of Republicans on what they say they wanted before they got power. So they -- when they could vote to repeal ObamaCare and they had no implications, they also have to (INAUDIBLE) ObamaCare but then they got scared that it would become law. And now it`s DACA and everyone voted to repeal DACA, and now he says, well, you know what, you guys wanted it. I`m actually going to repeal DACA, everyone is freaking out. Why is that not the correct interpretation?

JOLLY: No, Chris, you nailed it. And people like Ryan and Hatch, I don`t think were taking the constitutional position two years ago. They were just taking on the hard right position two years ago. And so, you`re right to call out that hypocrisy. No question at all. But I would also say, listen, to the numbers you just presented, understand that President Trump`s base, that 35 percent, 100 percent of them want to keep or want to do away with DACA. And there`s no question. This is a President who pardoned Joe Arpaio because he was racially profiling people based on the color of their skin and he was cheered for that pardon.

And so going into Tuesday, is this a President that goes to the Bannon advice or goes to the Kelly advice on this question? At the end of the day, listen, I learned my lesson. I took my licks, I fought the issue on constitutional grounds and quickly realize we were a party without constitutional conviction and this was only about being against comprehensive immigration reform and it was wrong.

HAYES: To David`s point Gaby, you know, the two groups of Americans that really know this issue and are focused on it are folks like yourself, folks in the immigrant community and right wing talk radio which (INAUDIBLE) is talking about this all the time and his labor focused on it as well. Gaby Pacheco and David Jolly, thank you for your time.

JOLLY: Good to be with you, Chris.

HAYES: Still ahead, that building is the Russian consulate in San Francisco, California. Why is there smoke pouring from the chimney on this 100-degree summer day? We`ll bring you that story next.


HAYES: There was acrid black smoke billowing out of the chimney of the Russian consulate in San Francisco today. And if you`re wondering if it was just the result of staffers building a fire to keep warm, well, probably not seeing as temperatures in the city hit 100 degrees today, prompting the National Weather Service to issue an excessive heat warning.

You`ll recall that in December, President Obama seized two Russian diplomatic compounds and expelled 35 diplomats in response specifically to Russian interference in the election.

Now, Russia initially didn`t respond in kind, which was surprising and possibly due to assurances from former national security adviser Michael Flynn that the Trump administration would reverse the decision.

Then, about a month ago, the Senate joined the House in overwhelmingly passing new Russian sanctions. And President Trump ultimately signed the bill, though he made clear he wasn`t happy about it.

Between the bill`s passage and its signing Vladimir Putin then responded ordering the U.S. to reduce its diplomatic staff in Russia by 755 people, a move that was somewhat strangely and sarcastically welcomed by President Trump, but which then prompted the State Department just yesterday to order Russia to close its consulate in San Francisco, sort of a game of tit for tat.

And the Russians were only given 48 hours to clear out. And as anyone who reads spy novels or has worked in an embassy knows, when any diplomatic building is being abandoned, well, things tend to get set on fire.

When firefighters showed up at the consulate today, Russian officials assured them everything was fine. AP reporting the Russian official said that on this incredibly hot day, consular staff were simply burning unidentified items in the fireplace.

When we come back, I`ll ask a former FBI double agent about what exactly the Russian might have been setting on fire as well as a new report about the election tampering that no one is talking about. That`s next.


HAYES: Most of the attention on Russia`s influence on the election has been on email hacking and possible collusion with the Trump administration rather than on what actually went down on election day, though that`s starting to change. In June, The Intercept published a top secret NSA report detailing Russian hack days before the election cyber attack on a voting software supplier called VR Systems, whose election software was used in the Democratic stronghold of Durham, North Carolina. And that`s the same place where scores of voters were turned away from the polls or delayed due to software snafus.

Now, we don`t know if that was due to Russian hacking, but it might have been. And VR Systems also operated in seven other states. Today, the New York Times reports the hacking of electoral systems was more extensive than previously disclosed, and hackers breached at least two other providers of critical election services well ahead of the 2016 voting.

Here to break down the hacking revelations and the Russian consulate fire in San Francisco. Former FBI double agent Naveed Jamali, MSNBC contributor and author of "How to Catch a Russian Spy."

So let`s start with the fires. Someone just - I think Foreign Policy took a snap shot. There`s a Russian trade consulate where they`re not even doing it inside, they`re doing it outside, because like what are you trying to hide at this point? This is standard operating procedure, though, right?

NAVEED JAMALI, FRM. FBI DOUBLE AGENT: Absolutely. They`re not going to leave anything behind. If those ashes could talk. I mean, yeah, this is what they`re doing. They`re trying to clear house and this is real, those guys are gone. That facility is going to be taken by the United States government. And whatever is left there is free game.

HAYES: Yeah, and we would do -- I mean everyone would do it. Whatever diplomatic facility in any regime you would be burning.

JAMALI: Absolutely.

HAYES: So The Times story today was fascinating to me for a number of reasons. One is, it highlighted one aspect of the story that in some ways is the most troublesome and also the kind of least focused on, because there`s so much on Russia and Trump understandably, but in terms like are the 2018 elections going to be messed with, this has huge implications.

JAMALI: Absolutely. Look, there is such a fear that the 2016 elections were illegitimate, that someone came in and actually physically messed with the actual tabulation and the totals.


HAYES: We have no evidence of that happening. I want to be very clear.

JAMALI: But even if they didn`t do that, the fact people that believe that undermines the belief in that core institution. That alone has huge ramifications.

HAYES: One of the things that was clear in the New York Times reporting and other places is that the system so dispersed that had the amount, like security protocols vastly vary. And there`s no unified system to protect the architecture.

JAMALI: That`s exactly right. And when you start looking at these actual systems, whether it`s the check-in, whether it`s the actual vote tabulation itself, you start realizing that there`s secondary and tertiary companies that are involved in this. And so to make sure -- what state of protection do those companies fall under? Do we know who is working at them?

Look, one of the big things, Chris, that we look at when you think of foreign intelligence operations, one of the things they can do is buy American companies. And at what level do we start to look at this and say how far down the slope do we have to figure out--

HAYES: Right, because if you`re a county in Louisiana and you`ve got the - - you`re at the board of elections for the county and the contract is you send out your RFP for the contract to run your software, you don`t necessarily know how good their security is. And that`s happening across thousands of--

JAMALI: That`s exactly right. You know, not that there`s anything wrong with Bulgaria, but they may outsource the programming to a Bulgarian firm. You don`t know. You`re buying a product that`s from this company. We don`t know the sums and pieces of those individual components.

HAYES: I mean, how much -- I mean, part of what is so frustrating about this entire sort of through the looking glass moment is that it seems like I can`t tell sometimes if we`re starting to get paranoid or the paranoia is justified. And then sometimes it seems like the paranoia in some way is the point on the part of the folks that did the interference.

JAMALI: That`s exactly right.

Look, the Russians don`t even have to have done anything to keep this paranoia going.

2018, 2020 we`re of course to wonder if -- when the elections come out if the numbers are actually real. There`s going to be a real fear that your vote doesn`t count. And I think that`s a fair concern.

HAYES: And not only the fear about that, but you know part of the problem with The Times article highlighted is, you know, systems break down, right, all the time. So, I mean, I`ve worked around elections for most of my adult life and this, you know, this election problem here, this election problem there, now you`ve got this sort of tincture of doubt in the back of your mind.

JAMALI: That`s right. And the only saving grace I can say insofar as the Russians, because, look, it doesn`t have to just be the Russians that can come in and meddle with these infrastructures, but the reality is President Obama did add election systems to the critical infrastructure list.

So, when you think about that, the Russians would have, in fact a very good motivation to not actually do something. That would be an escalation that I think they would not want to cross lightly.

HAYES: Very good point. Naveed Jamali, thanks as always for being with me. Good to have you here in studio.

Still ahead, who is President Trump talking to when John Kelly isn`t looking? Here`s a hint, he recently left the White House. That report ahead.

But first, tonight`s very excellent Thing One, Thing Two after the break.


HAYES: Thing One tonight, if you watch the news a lot, you might notice that whenever we do a story about the United States Supreme Court, we are always, always showing these same couple clips of video. We got that B roll. But this class picture is about all we got. We very rarely see these nine people out of this setting in the court wearing the black robes.

But, you`re in luck tonight, folks, because we just spotted a Supreme Court justice in the wild. Sonia Sotomayor at a baseball game. And wait, she`s wearing a robe to Yankee Stadium?

Do they just wear robes around wherever they go? There`s an answer to that in Thing Two in 60 seconds.


HAYES: So, the New York Yankees have a player named Aaron Judge. You may have heard about his recent consecutive strikeout streak of 37 games or him winning the home run derby depending on your baseball allegiance. But he is a very, very good player and fans absolutely adore him, so much so that there`s a special Aaron Judge fan section in the stands at Yankee Stadium called The Judge`s Chambers where all the fans wear robes, hold gavels and when Judge comes to bat, all rise.

And last night, there was the greatest sports sighting at a sports events since Ruth Bader Ginsburg was ringside at the Mayweather-McGregor fight.

OK, that never happened. But this did. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor at the Yankee game in the Judge`s Chambers wearing the New York Yankee`s robe. Sotomayor is a die hard Yankee fan. She was born and raised in the Bronx, my home borough.

So, even though Aaron Judge went hitless last night, which, ouch, the real judge still returned a favorable verdict.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the Judge`s Chambers, a real big time judge in the glasses. That is judge Sonia Sotomayor of the Supreme Court of the United States. And he works the wall.



HAYES: Sebastian Gorka officially departed the White House a week ago. And while the White House claims Gorka`s exit was not from him resigning, he is still insisting he chose to leave.


SEBASTIAN GORKA, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: When you have one of the most important national security speeches in his early tenure not mention the key phrase, radical Islam or radical Islamic terrorism, then we have to take the game to the outside. So we`re starting have a MAGA phase two and people like Steve and myself have a whole slew of tools -- I was going say weapons, but let`s say tools, let`s say a basket full of tools for our fellow deplorables that we can use on the outside to support the president and keep the MAGA train running on its rails.


HAYES: That was yesterday. Today, MAGA phase two apparently began with Gorka humping his personal items into a Ford Mustang parked outside the White House gates, which would make sense, given our reporting earlier this week that Gorka`s status had been changed to do not admit in the White House security system.

With the departure of Breitbart allies, Gorka and Steve Bannon, it might seem that new White House chief of John Kelly making his mark in the administration, clearing out some of the most controversial figures, but then comes news of outgoing Milwaukee Sheriff David Clark, who has faced repeated allegations of mistreatment of inmates in his jails, some of whom have died, and is expected to take a job in the Trump administration, according to two sources familiar with the matter, reports Politico.

How much of a grip does John Kelly actually have in the West Wing, and what about President Trump calling Steve Bannon from his personal cell phone when Kelly is not around? That story just after this break.


HAYES: White House chief of staff John Kelly reportedly has a new system that`s designed to restrict access to the president. The president, for his part, seems sick of it. In a piece published today, The Washington Post reported the president continues to call business friends and outside advisers, including former chief strategist Steven K. Bannon, from his personal phone when Kelly is not around, said people with knowledge of the calls.

With me now, Lawrence O`Donnell, the host of MSNBC`s last word with Lawrence O`Donnell.

And Lawrence, the last time that I had you on this program, Kelly had just been hired amidst the insane Scaramucci fiasco. And you said the day one task of John Kelly is Scaramucci gets sent packing day one, and indeed he did. So, well called. What do you think of the Kelly tenure so far?

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, LAST WORD HOST: Well, you know the job is exactly what Kelly is trying to define it to be. That`s what he`s supposed to be. That`s what it`s -- he`s supposed to be the person who controls access to the president.

You know, Richard Nixon militarized this title into chief of staff before that, the job was called the appointments secretary, because appointments, time with the president, is the single most valuable thing that exists in the White House. And for the president, time alone is the most valuable thing that the president can have, especially if the president has any kind of contemplative life at all, any ability to think. And you`ll often see, Chris, as you know in presidential memoirs of the more thoughtful ones that that`s the thing they wished they had more time for, if there was just a way they could stop the sensation of the world coming at them at 200 miles an hour all day.

And so Kelly is doing what the job is supposed to be. And of course, this White House absolutely can`t bear it. And apparently, according to our inside reports at this point, the person who can`t stand it the most is the man who`s being protected from all of that craziness, Donald Trump.

HAYES: Of course.

Well, there`s a great new Times piece that was just published, "Forceful chief of staff grates on Trump and the feeling is mutual, which starts with the lead in which Trump apparently dressed down Kelly in front of people and Kelly says that`s the first time he had been talked to that way in 35 years of public service.

And the question the hangs over the piece isn`t when will Trump fire Kelly, it`s when is Kelly going to sick of it and leave.

O`DONNELL: Yeah, and they make the point, as we all know, that Trump needs tell Kelly more than Kelly needs Trump. And in today`s military, the people at the higher end are much more educated than they have been in the past.

I mean, West Point has always been turning out a combination of scholars and warriors, but now more so than ever. And you can get through 35 years in our military now, as Kelly apparently has, without getting yelled at by a crazy man. And one of the many reasons for that is that the person who has the power to yell at you in the military also has the power give you orders, orders that you must not question, orders that you must carry out on the spot. And so you don`t have to yell when you can give someone an order.

HAYES: Right. You`re not fighting over what you`re going to do, which is the whole point of arguments.

O`DONNELL: Right. Exactly. And so for Kelly, of course this would be a shocking style and a shocking thing to fit, but obviously he`s a smart enough guy as anyone out there would be to know this is what he was walking into. And I`m sure at the outset he and his wife had a discussion about we don`t know how long this one is going to last.

HAYES: What do you make of -- I was pretty surprised about the Sheriff Clark news, David Clark news, yesterday partly because his name had been floated at DHS. It seemed very clear no one at DHS wanted him. In fact, we have some off the record anonymously from DHS saying, "on lord, no. No, no, no, no, no, no, no."

It appears he might be going to the White House. And that to me signals that whatever control Kelly has managed to exert it`s not total.

O`DONNELL: Well, let`s see what actually happens here. If he makes it into the White House, that almost negates getting rid of Bannon, getting rid of Sebastian Gorka. I mean, that`s the flow going the wrong way. This is the kind of person that Kelly was getting out of the White House.

But the reason why you should be suspecting the White House is it`s really hard to conceive of this guy getting confirmed by the Senate for anything at any level. And I don`t think -- if he`s wise at all, I don`t think he would want to try to go through the Senate confirmation process. So, that leaves us with something inside the White House that doesn`t need confirmation.

HAYES: It also leaves the White House unbelievably understaffed.


HAYES: It`s not just the White House, the entire federal government is basically running headless at this point.

O`DONNELL: Well, and the good news of that, in most cases, is that what you have are career people who are filling into the spot that a Trump appointee would go. The country is better off in the condition that`s in right now, at the staffing levels that it`s in right now. And the thing about the White House being understaffed, the one person who absolutely has no idea that it`s understaffed is the president. He has not the slightest what -- how many desks are supposed to be filled by who doing what in the White House.

HAYES: All right, Lawrence O`Donnell, host of the Last Word with Lawrence O`Donnell live tonight in just one hour.

O`DONNELL: Yes, it`s that Friday night Trump watch, Chris. You never know on Friday nights.

HAYES: You do not want to leave your seat for that. So, stay right there. Thank you, Lawrence.

All right, that is All In for this evening. The Rachel Maddow Show starts right now with Joy Reid in for Rachel.



Copy: Content and programming copyright 2017 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2017 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.