Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: September 4, 2017
Guest: Harry Enten, Tara Dowdell, Matt Welch, Jess McIntosh
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us. "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes starts right now.
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CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Tonight on ALL IN.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I got the white supremacist, the neo-Nazi, I got them all. Let`s see.
HAYES: What the President did this summer.
TRUMP: KKK, we got KKK. I got them all.
HAYES: The response to Charlottesville.
TRUMP: Very fine people on both sides.
HAYES: The response in North Korea.
TRUMP: They will be met with fire and fury.
HAYES: The response to the hurricane.
TRUMP: Thank you, everybody. What a crowd. What a turnout.
HAYES: The first pardon.
TRUMP: Sheriff Joe was very unfairly treated by the Obama administration.
HAYES: The intensifying Russia investigation.
TRUMP: My son is a wonderful young man. He took a meeting with a Russian lawyer.
HAYES: The fights with his own party.
TRUMP: I`m very disappointed in Mitch.
HAYES: Tonight, where America stands after its first summer of Trump and what happens now that Congress is coming back.
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: I don`t think anyone is interested in having a shutdown.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: No chance, we won`t raise the debt ceiling. No chance. America`s not going to default.
TRUMP: We have to close down our government, we`re building that wall.
HAYES: When ALL IN starts right now.
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HAYES: Good evening from New York, I`m Chris Hayes. This is normally the time of year, right after the Labor Day weekend, when Congress returns to Washington, after a slow and sleepy recess, and the news cycle finally starts to crank back up again. But this year, with this President, hardly a summer day passed by without some big bombshell story. Huge developments in the Russia investigation, a near crisis with North Korea, the infamous two sides response to the violence in Charlottesville, Steve Bannon was fired, transgender troops were banned, sort of, and Sheriff Joe Arpaio was pardoned. And that was just in August. Most Presidents head into their first September hoping the wind at their back can help drive a busy legislative agenda. This President ends the summer setting records with his dismally low approval ratings, including the lowest mark ever for a president in his first year.
By the end of last month, the president was at 34 percent. To help with the summer of Trump in perspective, I`m joined by Harry Enten, he`s Senior Political Writer and Analyst for FiveThirtyEight, Tara Dowdell, a Democratic Consultant who competed on Trump`s Apprentice, Matt Weltch, Editor at Large of Reason Magazine and Jess McIntosh, who was a former Senior Communication Adviser for the Clinton Campaign and current Executive Editor of Shareblue. Good to have you all here. Let`s sort of start with a snapshot of where the President is politically and maybe I`ll start with you because you do a lot of analysis of polling. How would you characterize where the President is politically?
HARRY ENTEN, FIVE THIRTY-EIGHT SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER: Lowest I`ve ever seen. I mean, those numbers tell the story, don`t they? Look at the President`s disapproval rating, it`s already in the high 50s. If you look at his net approval rating, more than 20 percentage points, more of the country disapprove than approve of the President. We just simply never seen that. I guess if we had polling back with Warren G. Harding, maybe we would. But the fact is, that this is the most unpopular President ever through this point in his first term. And more than that, his numbers keep getting lower.
HAYES: Yes, explain that because you -- I thought -- you know, there`s one way of looking at the polling that it looks actually relatively stable, that there`s all these -- anytime there`s a real particularly bad poll, people I think particularly who don`t like the President and want to see him do poorly, you know, trumpet that poll. When you aggregate it all together, right, these sort of separate (INAUDIBLE) from the noise, what do you see in the trajectory?
ENTEN: We`re basically seeing a steady climb downward, right? The President started in the mid-40s and now is down to the mid-30s. And it seems like every single month, he`s losing about a point. Again, sometimes it goes up a little bit and a little bit down but the steady if you -- you know, if you run a simple regression, you see it`s a slope downward.
HAYES: Do people believe that?
JESS MCINTOSH, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, SHAREBLUE: Yes, absolutely.
HAYES: You believe the polling?
MCINTOSH: I absolutely believe the polling. I think that we can`t see the kind of -- remember what summer news used to be like? Like there was no freak out over sharks, like there was no -- like no massive murder trial that we all covered, like nobody got obsessed with anything because they were all watching the President.
HAYES: There was literally one day of an eclipse. And I remember -- and watching --
MCINTOSH: Right. That was the one slowdown.
HAYES: Yes. And I remembered -- watching the eclipse news cycle play out, I was like, this is what news cycles used to be like.
MCINTOSH: That was (INAUDIBLE) are supposed to be. But instead, we`re all tuned into this. And of course, a small piece of his base is eroding every time he does something massively unpopular, really racist, really bigoted. Every time he fails to enact some piece of his agenda that his base was excited about doing, he hasn`t done anything that they wanted and he`s done so much that the rest of the condition didn`t want. I think the polls are more important than usual because like America has this -- we need to know that there are more people who don`t like this than as there are.
HAYES: OK, but I want to ask you this as someone who worked in the Clinton Campaign because I feel like -- I mean, I`m not saying this is not true, right? The polling is what the polling is. He`s clearly very unpopular. He lost the popular vote by 3 million votes. So it`s not surprising in some ways, right? But there was also this sense that people said very similar things about him during the campaign, which he ended up winning, right?
HAYES: That this -- his approval ratings are in the 30s, he`s incredibly unpopular, yadda yadda yadda. How do you understand why it`s different this time around? You know, what I mean? Like are you haunted in some part of your mind, like, we maybe got it wrong that time, are we getting it wrong this time?
MCINTOSH: Yes. I am haunted regularly, always. But, it was a hypothetical then and now it`s real. Like you`re --
HAYES: (INAUDIBLE), right. So you`re saying that`s the difference. The difference is between, I`m going to vote for this person and what I`m going to do is vote and then we`ll see what he`s like to this is what he`s like.
MCINTOSH: How many people voted for him because they thought he would drain the swamp? How many people voted for him because they thought he would keep out Muslims and build a wall? I mean, terrible reasons to vote for but that`s what they thought they would do, he`s not doing that.
MATT WELCH, EDITOR AT LARGE, REASONS MAGAZINE: It`s also -- it`s also negative polarization though and that obtains. That is still with us. People are motivated by the person that they don`t want to see in the office. And so the support that he retains, I think, when he has those flashpoint moments, that`s when he retains it. Because that`s when the media is ganging up on him and he can just say, it`s all fake news and we`re against them. But if we wipe away all the crazy headlines and the fog and the nonstop news cycle here, what we`re seeing with the Trump administration from the get-go is the same thing that Republicans and Libertarians criticized Obama at in his second term, which is, it`s just a pen and a phone. There isn`t a lot of legislation happening.
HAYES: Which is usually not what`s happening in your first hundred days, two hundred days, first year. That`s when you -- particularly when you have Congress, that`s when you do it.
WELCH: And he has spent a lot of his capital burning his capital. He`s going after Jeff Flake, he`s going after Dean Heller. He`s trying to primary people, he`s trying to reshape the Republican Party to be more Trumpy, and this is making a lot of Republican Senators really unhappy. That`s not going to get tax reform done.
HAYES: Yes. Do you think that matters? So, there`s two issues, right? There`s the general sense of how popular he is, and then there`s how that connects to what kind of influence, power, and capital he has to spend on Capitol Hill. How do you think those two relate at this moment?
TARA DOWDELL, DEMOCRATIC CONSULTANT: Well, I`m going to play devil`s advocate a little bit here because I think with respect to Trump`s base, while maybe there are portions of it that have eroded, and I think those are the portions the people who voted for him were wealthier. Because there`s a lot of talk about sort of the working class people that voted for him. But a lot of very wealthy people in this country, a lot of educated people this country voted for Donald Trump.
HAYES: Yes. The best one-word summary of who voted for Donald Trump is Republicans. Republicans voted for Donald Trump. Like, if you`re trying to figure out like how do -- Republicans voted for Donald Trump by overwhelming margins, particularly a slice of people that didn`t like him in the primary and maybe aren`t crazy about him now.
DOWDELL: Yes, so I think those people are eroding, but with respect to his core base, and I call them fans, he has a cult-like following in this country. And he is putting on the greatest reality show he`s ever put on. This is what he`s doing. He`s entertaining these people, they like the fact that -- some people actually like the fact that nothing`s happening. Because they wanted him to "blow up Washington," and that`s exactly what he`s doing. And so some people have sort of bought into that rationale and they use it to justify continuing to support him. And so I think that we shouldn`t underestimate the strength of who he`s performing for. He`s performing for those fans and those fans still support him.
HAYES: I think there`s a really important distinction there, and Harry, I want you to talk to us which is, there are some people who support Trump or support him in spite of the antics and the personality and there are some people who support him primarily because of that. And it`s the latter category that I think are the fans and the base that are the 30 percent or whatever. It`s the more marginal voters who are the people that are -- where a lot of the political leverage is, particularly when Republicans on Capitol Hill are thinking about it.
ENTEN: I`ll say two things. Number one, Trump`s approval rating among Republicans in the latest Gallup weekly poll was below 80 percent. That`s amazing, right? You`d expect your base, your Republican base to be overwhelmingly supporting you, not just four out of five.
HAYES: Yes, that`s a good point.
ENTEN: And the other thing I pointed out, the Pew Research Center had a great poll question which is, how do you approve of the President`s not just his performance, but his attitude and conduct in office? And only 14 percent of Americans said that they liked it. In fact, the plurality of Republicans said that they had mixed feelings. They do not necessarily like this show. There are some people who certainly do, who want to burn everything -- burn everything to the ground but most people who voted for Donald Trump was hope -- were hoping that he actually do something. And if you look at the legislation passed so far, I think the opinion is he really hasn`t.
HAYES: Well, and that brings us to whether he has any sway on Capitol Hill. We saw he really didn`t during the health care fight. He did a little bit in the House. I think they`re a little more responsive to him, those are gerrymandered districts. Those are districts where a primary from a Trump-backed person could spell the end of your political career. But in the Senate though, not only did he not have any sway, he also doesn`t appear to have the tools or comprehension necessary to make a policy argument to people, which actually do matter.
MCINTOSH: He didn`t try. Like, he never tried to have policy sway. Every time he gives a speech or a rally, it`s about himself. He`s never -- I mean, he tried to give a tax speech just last week and it was about himself and eventually an attack on Claire McCaskill. It -- I did not walk away from that speech knowing what his tax plan was going to be. And I think that the Republicans on the Hill had to have been really disappointed in that. He`s just not -- he`s not able to and he`s not willing to learn how.
WELCH: But let`s separate the legislative Trump agenda and to go with what Tara is saying. The guy has control over the executive branch of government. And he`s doing things or trying to do things -- there are some of which I like and the rest would be might not in terms of reform at the Food and Drug Administration. He`s got people who`ve been working on deregulatory -- regulatory reform in a lot of different places --
HAYES: You were right the first time. I saw you catch yourself.
WELCH: Yes. But, so, that is happening apace and some of the only legislation that`s been passed by the Congress, that they used the Congressional Review Act for the first time or the second to 14th times in history. But that`s different and that`s a real thing that`s happening. It`s gotten way undercovered generally speaking because we pay attention to flash grenades.
HAYES: Right. Although we should also say that to me the most significant is what`s happening with DHS and ICE and what`s he`s done with immigration which is real different. It`s just very different in terms of who`s being detained and how often and all that stuff.
WELCH: And also DOJ with Jeff Sessions which so far hasn`t done every terrible thing that he wants to do, but he really wishes that he could.
HAYES: But -- I mean, ultimately though, you do get judged by legislative accomplishments. Both I think at the ballot box, I think -- I mean -- actually I think that`s not true. You get judged by how people`s lives are going (INAUDIBLE). And right now the economy continues to hum along. Do you -- if you had to make a prediction about whether he can get people onboard for any big bills passed this fall, what do you think?
DOWDELL: I think he`s going to have a really tough time doing so because Trump`s worst enemy is Trump, right? So he misses -- to your point, he misses opportunities when he does have the bully pulpit. But he can`t help himself and he has to use it to attack someone. I do want to make another point, though with Trump supporters, because I think that we have to not underestimate Trump. As a Democrat, I think we have to be very careful that we don`t underestimate. There also was a poll that came out that said a massive number of Republicans think that the media is a bigger threat than white supremacist.
HAYES: White supremacists. Yes.
DOWDELL: I mean, that`s clearly Trump influence. I mean, there was no other explanation for that.
HAYES: 40 percent total thought the news media was more a threat than white supremacists.
DOWDELL: Of 50 million people.
HAYES: And for -- and for Trump voters, it`s 75 percent, it`s 75 percent.
MCINTOSH: Look how much stronger Trump is against the news media than he is against white supremacists, of course, they think that.
HAYES: Right, and we should -- I want to talk about that. Stay with me because, in two minutes, I want to talk specifically about the president`s response to Charlottesville. That`s right after the break.
Then, coming up later in the hour, we have a special retrospective, a look at the incredibly shrinking administration.
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SEBASTIAN GORKA, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT: The era of the pajama boy is over January 20th and the alpha males are back.
MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC ANCHOR: I`m Milissa Rehberger with your top stories. Ahead of the President`s expected announcement tomorrow on 800,000 young immigrants, some Republicans in Congress are calling for him to keep the DACA program. Republican lawmakers like James Lankford of Oklahoma say it`s wrong to hold children accountable for their parent`s decision to bring them to this country.
And AAA says average gas prices this holiday weekend are up about 12 cents a gallon after Hurricane Harvey knocked refineries offline. ALL IN with Chris Hayes will be back after this.
HAYES: Last month, white supremacists descending upon Charlottesville, Virginia, for a unite the right rally. They were greeted by counter protesters and after several clashes, the rally was canceled. Later that Saturday afternoon, one of the rally goers, James Alex Fields allegedly drove a car into a crowd of counter protesters killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring dozens of others. A few hours later from his golf club in New Jersey, the President gave his first remarks on the attack, saying he blamed for both sides on what unfolded. The off the cup comment drew swift criticism. On Monday, just few days later, he issued another statement, a notably scripted condemnation of the hate groups involved. But then Tuesday came, and in an impromptu press conference, Donald Trump reached what may have been the lowest point of his Presidency.
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TRUMP: I`ve condemned neo-Nazis, I`ve condemned many different groups, but not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists, by any stretch.
You had some very bad people in that group but you also had people that were very fine people on both sides.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Harry Enten, Tara Dowdell, Matt Weltch and Jess McIntosh are still with me. Why -- that -- the post-Charlottesville moment, more than any moment, of all we`ve talked about, the news cycles of Trump, seemed to hit something. It seemed to strike some core nerve in people. And there`s evidence of that. There`s some evidence in the polling, but also in terms of the business groups leaving and sort of being denounced. Why?
MCINTOSH: He sympathized with Nazis. We`ve never had an American President do that before in our lifetime. It`s really just that simple. And I think that those aren`t American values. If I can quote the Secretary of State, his own Secretary of State, America does not condone those values. America fights Nazis. And here we have this person who`s giving the exact inverse of what he said about Mexicans. That first day that he announced his candidacy for President, he said, you know, they`re sending rapists and they`re sending the worst of their people. I`m assuming some of them are OK.
HAYES: Some I suppose are good people.
MCINTOSH: He said the exact inverse about Nazis. Like, there are a lot of good people in there. Some are obviously bad, but you know, overall --
HAYES: That`s a really, really good point.
WELCH: I think some people on the right kind of scared themselves. Even some of the people who have identified being alt-right scared themselves. Like this is what it is. There`s a good piece in the New York Magazine about the end of the ironic Nazi, the four chair Nazi is over because they actually marched -- they actually had arm bands on there, like, oh, wait a second, I`ve got a tiki torch and I`m outside a black church, what the hell am I doing? There`s that. but there`s a broader question and this harkens back --
HAYES: Scared themselves, a really -- a very interesting idea.
WELCH: This harkens back to a speech that we`ve all forgotten because there`s been too much news but Trump in Warsaw gave a big speech and it was really weirdly apocalyptic about how the West will never ever, ever, ever fall. And he was going to defend us against this sort of imminent fall. And who were the people that were going to undermine this apparently fragile West that`s been pretty successful over the last 250 years? It was obviously Islamic terrorists but it was also faceless bureaucrats who don`t understand our value or in the language cherish our history.
And so they`re trying to make us all this kind of one person. That kind of sense of apocalyptic clinching of a narrow view of what western civilization is, he has that in common with the protesters in Charlottesville, even if that`s -- I`m not saying that, well, he`s a racist or he`s a white supremacist, but that`s a common trope on the right at this moment. And a lot of people who realize that and have, including a lot of Republicans, like, oh, crap, this is where we`re going with all of this.
HAYES: I think -- I`m curious to get your feedback, too, on -- one of the things that was so revealing about it was, the initial reaction, he adlibbed both sides. He had a prepared statement. He adlibbed both sides, and then came out with the scripted statement, and then that Tuesday press conference. And another breaking point was, I think in people`s imaginations, like, don`t believe anything anyone writes for this guy. Like, don`t just -- don`t chalk it up to him.
HAYES: Just only listen to what he says when he`s unscripted because that`s when you`re actually getting him.
DOWDELL: Exactly. And here`s the thing. He was so angry that he did not get a positive reception to his remake of what he had said. And that`s why he came out because he didn`t want to make -- that`s scripted, those scripted remarks, he didn`t want to make those remarks.
HAYES: Against his will, that`s right.
DOWDELL: And so then he felt justified when he wasn`t given the adoration and adulation for making those remarks.
HAYES: That is a -- that is -- I want to play evidence of this. This is when he`s at -- when he`s in Phoenix, and he`s talking about like, what -- basically, what more do you want? Like he`s the victim here. What more do you want from me? I`ve gone after all of them. Take a listen.
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TRUMP: I hit them with neo-Nazi, I hit them with everything. I got the white supremacist, the neo-Nazi, I got them all in there. Let`s see. Yes, KKK, we have KKK. I got them all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Just literally checking boxes.
DOWDELL: He`s checking boxes.
ENTEN: And it`s all about him. I mean, this is -- this is the thing, right? If you look at the pre-election polling, over 50 percent of the American public thought that racist was a correct adjective to describe Donald Trump and I think there were so many people --
HAYES: Pre-election polling?
ENTEN: Pre-election. And he was still able -- most of the people who voted for him didn`t think that. But remember, he lost the popular vote.
HAYES: Although let`s be clear, there were some who did.
ENTEN: There were some.
HAYES: There`s a non-statistically trivial percentage of voters who thought Donald Trump was a racist and voted for Donald Trump.
ENTEN: And voted for him, anyway.
HAYES: Or not necessarily, "anyway."
ENTEN: Right, both right, both ways.
ENTEN: But you know, I`ll just say that this just confirms the worst thoughts that many Americans had about him and that`s why this was such a turning point. It was like, oh, my God, he`s doing what we thought he might do.
DOWDELL: And I also think it that was hard -- Trump couldn`t use his bully pulpit and his rhetoric to get himself out of this. People saw the video footage of a car driving into a crowd at top speed --
HAYES: A young woman was murdered!
DOWDELL: -- and bodies flying up into the air. They saw a young woman lose her life for saying that she was standing up against hate and bigotry. They heard people marching, with torches, saying "the Jews will not replace us."
HAYES: "Blood and soil, blood and soil," which is a Nazi chant, which they were doing on the Friday night march, which is the one that he went out of his way. That was to me the most mind boggling statement. That march, the tiki torch march --
WELCH: Was the one he said --
HAYES: Was the one he said like, well, the night before, there were some very fine people. Those people, who were swarming outside the synagogue in Charlottesville, I mean --
DOWDELL: And no matter where you got your news from -- because remember, there`s also this bifurcated you know, selection news problem that we have in this country. And so, it didn`t matter where you got your news from, you couldn`t miss all of that. It was just everywhere. And so that`s where I think -- that`s why I think he took a real hit on this, deservedly.
WELCH: And there was no pretense. You know, I looked through the information. The information leading to the Unite the Right Rally, all the iconography and their posters was just deliberately fascist looking.
HAYES: Yes, right, yes.
WELCH: The people had over deeply on record saying a lot of racist things over a long period of time. There were -- local Confederate Monument Protection Society wouldn`t join the protest, because they were like, these people are creeping me out.
HAYES: The quiet part loud. Harry Enten, Tara Dowdell, Matt Welch, Jess McIntosh, thank you all so much for your time.
Still, to come, the is intensifying Russian investigation. What we`ve learned, what we still don`t know. Where the investigation is headed this fall? Plus, how many people in this picture still work at the White House? The numerous administration officials who are gone but not forgotten.
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TRUMP: I like Mr. Bannon. He`s a friend of mine, but Mr. Bannon came on very late you know that. But we`ll see what happens with Mr. Bannon. But he`s a good person and I think the press treats him, frankly, very unfairly.
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HAYES: In the first seven months of the Trump administration, people have come and gone. Well, mostly they`ve gone. At least 20 significant members of the administration have resigned or been fired from the west wing, the Comms Department, the National Security Team among others, but some of the most high-profile firings happened this summer when backstabbings played out in public and the ax started falling left and right.
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AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Last week, somebody said was like the red wedding in Game of Thrones, with people coming and going and getting -- I`m going to fire everybody and it was really wild.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Before we head into the fall, here`s a look back at the summer exodus.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I will remember you
SEAN SPICER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Photographs of the inaugural proceedings were intentionally framed in a way to minimize the enormous support that had gathered on the national mall.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In a stunning staff shuffle tonight, a familiar face stepping down, this shake up, the sixth, just six months into this young administration.
SPICER: This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period.
ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Sarah Huckabee Sanders is going to be the Press -- oh, you can`t hear me? I`m sorry. Better? Better now? Better now? You guys heard me in the front, though? What`d I say, John? Sarah is going to be the Press Secretary, right?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tonight, a major staff shakeup in the embattled west wing. Chief of Staff Reince Priebus is out.
TRUMP: Reince is a good man.
REINCE PRIEBUS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: But he intuitively determined that it was time to do something differently and I think he`s right.
SCARAMUCCI: Reince Priebus is (BLEEP) paranoid schizophrenic paranoiac, and what he`s going to do, maybe Bill Shine is coming in or something. Let me leak (BLEEP) the thing and see if I can (BLEEP) these people, the way I (BLEEP) Scaramucci for six months.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The President certainly felt that Anthony`s comments were inappropriate for a person in that position.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Scaramucci, originally praised by the President, targeted White House staff with a profanity-laced rant.
SCARAMUCCI: I`m not Steve Bannon. I`m not trying to suck my own (BLEEP).
STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: And that`s what the mainstream media won`t report. They`re absolutely dead wrong about what`s going on today because we have a team that`s just grinding it through.
TRUMP: I like Mr. Bannon. He`s a friend of mine.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The now ousted Chief Strategist telling Bloomberg he`s leaving the White House to fight for President Trump.
TRUMP: Mr. Bannon came on very late. You know that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bannon now becoming one of the last west wing originals to leave the picture.
GORKA: You know, the message I have, it`s a very simple one, it`s a bumper sticker sure. The era of the pajama boy is over January 20th and the alpha males are back.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As you know, you made news last week by resigning from the White House. They have a different take on how you left.
HAYES: So, this does not prove that Gorka was fired, but he`s definitely not allowed back.
GORKA: Don`t test Donald J. Trump.
HAYES: It seems the era of Seb Gorka at the White House is over.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: It`s easy to lose track of the many developments in the Russia investigation or just the last few months. Remember, in July, when news broke that Donald Trump Jr. took a meeting with a Russian lawyer during the presidential election, a meeting that was pitched as the Russian government`s explicit interest in helping the Trump campaign.
Don Jr. came out with a statement on the intent of the meeting that we later learned left out basically every key detail. And now that statement is reportedly a matter of interest to special counsel, Robert Mueller, because, it turns out, the president himself had a hand in crafting it, a fact the president`s attorney initially denied.
Then in August, we learned the FBI had conducted a surprise raid of the home of former Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and Robert Mueller issued grand jury subpoenas for the testimony of PR executives who worked with Manafort.
Now there`s the latest revelations about efforts to build a Trump tower Moscow during the election campaign, a move that one Trump associate claimed, I`m quoting here, "will get Donald elected."
As the bigger picture starts to come into focus, the question becomes where does the investigation go from here?
We have just the people to talk about that, former Watergate prosecutor, Nick Ackerman, who`s been following the Russia developments with us all summer; Rebecca Traister, writer at-large at New York Magazine, Maria Hinojosa, whose many titles include anchor and EP of NPR`s Latino USA; and Josh Barro, senior editor at business Insider.
Nick, let me start with you. You`ve been very clued into this and you also have been around, done this rodeo before. How big are the developments of this summer?
NICK ACKERMAN, FORMER WATERGATE PROSECUTOR: Huge. I mean, the biggest development, I think the key one, is the meeting that took place at Trump Tower, on June 9. I mean, that is going to be the focal point of every investigation.
HAYES: When we learned that, I had -- there`s a great moment in the SNL skit where -- of Lester Holt interviewing Donald Trump, where he like admits he was thinking about Russia with James Comey, and Michael Shea playing Lester Holt goes like, did I get him? Is that it? Like, you just admitted it. And like that email felt like just, OK, did we -- we have it, right? Like we have the evidence here?
ACKERMAN: Not completely. Not completely, because I think there`s more to it.
The question is the documents that were promised to be brought to that meeting. Interestingly, nobody has fessed up to those documents, but we do know that two months...
HAYES: The dirt on Hillary Clinton, that was the idea -- delivering dirt on Hillary Clinton?
ACKERMAN: And we do know two months prior to that meeting that Gucifer and the Russians had hacked into Hillary Clinton`s campaign office and had retrieved emails and documents.
HAYES: That`s a great point.
ACKERMAN: We also know that two weeks after that meeting, all of a sudden those documents appear on the internet and then appear on WikiLeaks. And we also know that Roger Stone, the president`s chief kind of dirty tricks guy, was in contact with Julian Assange and Gucifer immediately after that meeting on June 9.
I think there`s lots of questions there.
HAYES: Rebecca, you covered the Clinton campaign. And one of the things that strikes me when I go back and look at the campaign footage is how much they were talking about this from the beginning. It is striking to go back to debates and realize, like, it was all happening in real-time and the Clinton campaign was talking about it in real-time.
REBECCA TRAISTER, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: Yeah, Hillary Clinton was talking about so much of the very details. I mean, I saw yesterday a clip of her talking about Joe Arpaio. She was talking about so much, but especially about Russia. They clearly were keeping track of this as best they could and trying to piece things together as best they could.
But, honestly, it wasn`t sinking in. We weren`t listening. I wasn`t listening. I mean, as somebody who was covering the campaign, I wasn`t thinking a lot about Russia`s role. I was listening, but I don`t know, it was a claim of an opponent against another opponent. It wasn`t -- it didn`t feel real.
You know, I was paying attention, but trying not to get sucked into a conspiracy theory, you know? And that was the dynamic in play, because lots of people on the left were also saying, this is crazy conspiracy theory. This couldn`t be real.
MARIA HINOJOSA, NPR: And I`m a little bit concerned as somebody who actually had to do the bomb shelter thing when I was a kid in grade school, I`ve been hyperaware of it. And I am a political junkie, like all of us, right? So everything we`re watching, every step. But I do worry, out there, kind of like when I was a kid watching Watergate and you just heard all the names and they were just kind of flying by you and it just becomes this huge thing. That`s what I`m concerned about, that for everybody else, it can continue to be this thing that Donald Trump will say, oh, you see, it`s just them coming after me. And I wonder how we as a country and as journalists kind of flip it.
HAYES: Well, I think Watergate is a sort of an interesting precedent, right? Because it was like all these names, and eventually, it wasn`t. It was that the president was guilty.
JOSH BARRO, BUSINESS INSIDER: Well, I think the other thing that we don`t have yet is an indication of a specific policy action for Russia in exchange for this. Because I think the problem with this as an issue is sort of, did we get him is that this was a disinformation campaign. So -- if you show that yeah Russia did this, and yeah, Trump knew about it or maybe had some conversations with him about it, fundamentally the mechanism by which the election was influenced was that Americans received the information and decided to vote for Donald Trump instead of Hillary Clinton. You`re never going to convince people that that was the error that they hacked into American`s minds and caused them to vote the wrong way.
Ultimately, the final decision was made by American voters, and so this never ends up adding up to like Russia stole the election, because it was American voters...
HAYES: The crime, it is worthwhile to keep in mind, the crime was committed. There`s a crime. Criminal intrusion of emails is a crime.
BARRO: But that`s not a crime committed by the Trump campaign, almost certainly.
But this also, it`s a political question. I mean, like there probably will be indictments of various people, but the decision about whether this ends the Trump administration is a political question with congress and other actors.
HAYES: Well, that`s true. But I also think that to me, I have had my own journey on this. That that meeting -- to me, that meeting -- the meeting email was an important one for this reason, I did not think the day before that email came out that that email would have existed. That seemed implausible and cartoonish and conspiratorial past all possible imagings. And then it came out and that has altered my priors about what I`m expecting to come out.
ACKERMAN: But you add to that email exactly the explanation that Donald Trump wrote for his son, which is so antiseptic...
HAYES: Which they lied about.
ACKERMAN: They lied. And they put in a statement by Kushner, which also dovetails with junior`s statement. I mean, it`s like classic investigation. You get two guys who come in, they give you a totally nonsense story, and then you`ve got the opportunity to chip away at it.
HINOJOSA: I think that there is this psychological issue, though, for a lot of regular Americans, and those of us political junkies who are watching this and watching these headlines and being surprised, oh, my god, did we get him? Is that it? That`s it? Right? We now know this happened? Which is, is there going to be a point where anybody can say, OK, now a mechanism is going to kick into place. And that`s a question -- I don`t know, did people ask that throughout Watergate and then suddenly there was a mechanism whereby this kicks in?
Because I think a lot of people out there are like, but we got him, right? We got him, right? But why isn`t anything happening? And it feels -- we feel paralyzed and passive, and what`s going to happen next?
HAYES: Well, here`s what I will say. I think Mueller is going to do something, at some point, to your question before, Maria, about like it`s all floating past us. That seems to me, and I`m curious what you think of it, that when Mueller moves, in whatever direction he moves, if he indicts someone, if he releases some report, that`s going to be a forcing mechanism,I think, in terms of the public awareness. Maybe not.
HINOJOSA: Yes. But also what happened just recently is Donald Trump pardoned Joe Arpaio.
And so for me as a Latina, as a Mexican, I kind of get the message. The president is pardoning somebody who specifically targeted people just like me, illegally, and the president pardoned him.
HAYES: And he`s a political ally.
HINOJOSA: And that`s the message.
So, for everybody else, don`t worry, we`re going to -- I`m going to pardon you,
HAYES: And a lot of people feel like that pardon was a signal.
BARRO: But that`s what makes the news this week about Mueller cooperating with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, so important, because the president can`t issue pardons for state crimes. The attorney general of New York has immense authority to prosecute financial crimes. They`re doing a lot of financial investigations around at least Manafort, maybe other figures.
So that, I think, you know, that gives Mueller the threat of prosecutions the president can`t interfere with.
HAYES: And I think -- that to me also just says how advanced that investigation is and how serious it`s going to get in the fall.
And I think that`s when Mueller starts to move in public ways is when things are really going to change, I think. Republicans head back to the Hill to work on the agenda of a president who spent the summer attacking them with key deadlines in the coming weeks. A preview of the major fights to come.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Build that wall. Now, the obstructionist Democrats would like us not to do it. But believe me, we have to close down our government, we`re building that wall.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m wondering what you can tell the people of Texas to expect in terms of long-term recovery efforts? And in particular, you have been feuding with some key congressional leaders. You`ve also threatened a government shutdown, potentially, next month over border wall funding. Are these going to hamper long-term, the funding that will be needed long- term for recovery?
TRUMP: No, Judd (ph). I think that you`re going to see very rapid action from congress, certainly from the president. And you`re going to get your funding.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Hurricane Harvey could end up being one of the most costly natural disasters in U.S. history, but when congress returns tomorrow, one of the things on the table is a $1 billion cut in disaster funding in order to fund Donald Trump`s border wall, a wall the president is threatening to do battle with his own party over.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Build that wall. Now, the obstructionist Democrats would like us not to do it, but believe me, if we have to close down our government, we`re building that wall.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Still with me, Nick Ackerman, Rebecca Traister, and Maria Hinojosa, and Josh Barro.
They`re already basically signaling retreat on the wall fight. They`re going to blame it on Harvey, but I wonder what you make -- there`s two ways to think about the wall: it`s a symbol that they`ll never deliver on, because all that matters is a symbol and the thing they actually want to do, which do you see it as?
HINOJOSA: I think that this is going to continue to -- we`re going to talk about it, but I`m not so sure it`s going to get done. I just don`t -- that -- I was on Park Avenue, and I saw the picture on the Daily News. I had just gotten back from being out of the country, and it was like, build the wall, it was Trump`s face, on Park Avenue, on The Daily News, build the wall or I`ll kill this government. And that`s a point where I think some people are just going to say, I don`t -- this is not the way...
HAYES: Right, exactly. And they`ve already indicated they don`t like the politics of it, because now they have the sort of excuse I think, frankly, of Harvey. And they`re already saying, well let`s just kick the can on the shutdown fight.
TRAISTER: My best guess is that this is where we could see the true explosion or implosion of Trump`s relationship with congress, which has been a really interesting dynamic for these very long seven or eight months, because they keep supporting him. They won`t, you know, the Republican leadership is supporting him in these really anodyne ways when he does terrible things. You have Paul Ryan saying things like, oh well racism is bad, but not mentioning Donald Trump.
And the idea is they`re getting something from him. They have majorities. They have a Republican president. They have this unprecedented amount of power, and that they should be getting something because they`re working as a team, so they`re supporting this guy who most of them clearly can`t stand and he`s a real...
HAYES: Piece of work.
TRAISTER: He`s a real piece of work. But there has been this -- we look weak, in fact, because we`re continuing to support this guy. But his frustrations with them have been building, obviously, were building through health care. He`s now pretty open about his loathing for Mitch McDonnell. I mean, there`s been good reporting on that, too, that they openly hate each other now. And I think that`s coming through on Ryan, too.
And what happens when that -- when those bonds of, well, we all have -- we have these majorities because we want to get our tax cuts for the rich, if that doesn`t happen, and if those bonds break down, then what happens? If Trump is cut off from his party as in congress.
HAYES: Do you think that`s make or break? So the setup there being that basically the last big legislative achievement and the domestic policy version of the Gorsuch appointment, which is like the thing all of us normal conservative and Republicans want to see, tax, tax, tax, if that doesn`t happen like...
BARRO: I don`t thinks so. I think it`s different from health care in that if you don`t do tax reform today, you can always do it tomorrow. They sort of eventually had to move on from health care because the bill was so unpopular and so politically damaging to even talk about that they had to move on from it to try to get to something that they thought was more plausible and that a lot of them were more interested in in the first place.
I think they will continue to hold out hope that they`ll eventually pass something.
And the other thing is, the other thing that stops them from breaking out into total open warfare, is that it`s a disaster in the midterms. If you have both of them angry at each other, you have this sort of normal Republicans who are furious with the president and then you have Trump supporters who don`t like congress not sticking them, then it`s just a turnout disaster for Republicans and they all lose.
So, I think that`s a strong forcing mechanism.
TRAISTER: But isn`t the dissent already in the open at this point? Like, the fact that they`re sort of in shambles going into the midterms, is becoming ever more evident, right?
BARRO: Well, I mean -- I mean, the generic ballot polling is ugly for them, but not like total disaster range yet. I think you know they`re complaining more openly. People are less afraid of the president.
Rich Lowry actually made a really great point in a column this week, that the president by going after Jeff Sessions and then not doing anything to him demonstrated tremendous weakness, showed that even if he was furious with someone, he would complain about them but he wouldn`t really do anything about that. And that, I think, has emboldened other members of the cabinet to rebuke him and other members of congress also.
HAYES: He`ll tweet about you, but then that`ll be that.
HINOJOSA: I actually just want to remind people, because we are talking about Houston, Houston is a majority/minority city. The head of the police department, the head of the fire department, it is Selina country.
You also had ICE and border patrol keeping open their checkpoints. So it`s almost like -- like, oh, you want to a build a wall? Build the wall 60 miles from Houston, actually, which is where that checkpoint is. And that, by the way, for many Latinos who probably voted for Trump, in this area, I think this is going to be another moment where, again, it`s another test. And...
HAYES; Because it`s a good point. There are -- he did not do cataclysmically among Latino voters.
HINOJOSA: No. And by the way, there are those in Houston who supported him. So, what`s going to happen to them? It`s another one of these moment -- the chipping away, if you will, of the potential voters who will come back to reelect him.
ACKERMAN: But this is all a situation where it`s just reflective of the fact that when it comes to policy, this president doesn`t know anything.
ACKERMAN: I mean, this wall is ridiculous. HAYES: It`s basic (inaudible) at the heart of it all.
I want to ask about his relationship to congress, more pointedly about what that relationship is particularly in reference to what Nixon`s relationship was like in congress. Stay with us. We`re going to talk about that after this break.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: And think, think. We were just one vote away from victory after seven years of everybody proclaiming repeal and replace. One vote away. One vote away. I will not mention any names. Very presidential, isn`t it? Very presidential.
And nobody wants me to talk about your other senator who is weak on borders, weak on crime. So I won`t talk about him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: The president lashing out at Arizona Republican Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake in their home state last month, just two of a long list of Republicans the president is publicly feuding with.
Still with me, Nick Ackerman, Rebecca Traister, Maria Hinojosa and Josh Barro.
And Nick, Nixon faced a Democratic congress which is key, because when we look at Times actual impeachment articles have been drawn up or pursued, it`s always been sort of opposition.
What do you make -- what implication does the president`s relationship with congressional republicans have for how the investigation unfolds?
ACKERMAN: Oh, I think it`s huge. Because Nixon had a good very relationship with congress in comparison with Trump.
I mean, look, the only reason that Nixon -- when the tapes came out, that`s when the Republican congress realized oh my god this guy really is a crook, and that`s when Barry Goldwater and a group of establishment Republicans went to the White House and read him the tea leaves and said, man, it`s time to get out of dodge and that`s what happened.
HAYES: I think that -- you wrote a piece that I thought was interesting where you business posited that Republicans in congress have been checking him more than maybe people appreciate. And I think there`s -- I didn`t necessarily completely agree with the column, but there is something to it.
BARRO: Yeah. Well, I mean, the most significant piece of legislation that has come out of this congress is this Russia sanctions bill basically taking away what would ordinarily be a prerogative of the president saying we don`t trust you to conduct foreign affairs with Russian and passing by overwhelming bipartisan margins, a thing basically imposing congress`s own foreign policy.
And then you`ve head all of these hearings. And I think a lot of liberals look at the hearings and say, well, you know, the Republicans don`t ask good questions, some of them are covering for hte president, but they don`t have to hold these hearings at all. It`s a remarkable thing that we`re a few months into a Republican administration with a Republican congress and the Republican congress, or at least the Senate committees -- the House committees have been kind of embarrassing, the Senate committees have been conducting a serious damaging investigation to the president and they don`t have to do that.
HAYES: The other part of this, Rebecca, is that he -- you`re talking about the sort of personal feud building, the president, he`s not inventing it, like he really doesn`t like these people.
HAYES: And they really don`t like him. And like at a certain level personality does matter. And it`s only going to get worse.
TRAISTER: Right. And it feeds what is for him those tremendous martyr complex, his tremendous victim complex. You can hear it in everything that he says. Everyone is after him.
I find this moment very terrifying. The Russian investigation circling in, whatever relationships he had with his own party are disintegrating fast. And I think he gets very scary and unpredictable when he`s in a corner.
And right now what the setup for him is everyone is after me. He demonizes the media, the media is after me, fake news. My own party, one vote away, my own party gets in the way of doing this thing we -- now who is we? Me and my 30 percent of people who still like me, and that`s a really core base. And they want some really scary things.
Democrats are obstructionists. The establishment is out to get me. I`m being persecuted. This is setting up a narrative where he is the ultimate victim of the witch hunt. And he`s been using that phrase for months. He is a witch hunt. He is a victim of the witch hunt. And I think that is setting us up for whatever his view of the next chapter is going to be when it`s the whole world against Trump.
And I actually think that the departures of Bannon and Gorka from his inner circle going into the outside also supports that. The establishment is emptied of his allies. He alone is there.
HINOJOSA: Right. So we were talking about this in terms of like if everything is going to explode and you get really worried and I get very concerned and then I happen to be interviewing Delores Huerta (ph) about an hour or so ago. She`s got a documentary coming out about her life, supported -- actually created by Carlos Santana. And she`s 87, has been around the block a long time, right? And so when I asked her, so where do we go from here?
HAYES: How scared are you?
HINOJOSA: She`s just like, you know, those 20,000 people that came out in Boston to protest against the white supremacists, they were mostly anglo. And so she says, that`s an amazing organizing opportunity for Latinos.
And I`m just like, OK, I never would have thought that. So that is where I think on all of us, there is that question of what is this moment. And by the way, we`re all exhausted, right? How much more can we do. All of us are exhausted and yet there are many who are just saying what is the opportunity. How do we engage deeper. I mean, I`m still asking people, like the guy I saw in Connecticut at the hardware store, I was like, so, who did you vote for? And he was like, Trump. And I`m really regretting it now without any prompting.
HAYES: So, there`s two dynamics there, right. There`s the like -- to the degree -- there`s some set of voters that are moving away. I think Rebecca`s model for the fall is a really useful one, right, like Trump against the world increasingly. They`re going to pretend to work together on tax reform. We`ll see how it goes.
And then -- right, that question about, like, what -- I guess the question is -- it always feels -- i have this line about him where it always feels like the last part of the farce where the guy is going back and forth between the two rooms like putting a mustache on and he`s about to get felt out. And it`s felt like that since day one. And the last part of the farce keeps going and there`s never the ending. So, we`ll see this fall is the last part of the farce actually happens.
Nick Ackerman, Rebecca Traister, Maria Hinojosa, and Josh Barro, I appreciate you all coming. Many thanks.
That is all in for this evening. We`ll be back at the desk 8:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow night. Be there.
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