Trump's drug czar choice withdraws Transcript 10/17/17 All In with Chris Hayes

Guests: Renato Mariotti, Naveed Jamali, Jennifer Rubin, Michelle Goldberg

Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: October 17, 2017 Guest: Renato Mariotti, Naveed Jamali, Jennifer Rubin, Michelle Goldberg

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: been more outraged at anything in my life. Everyone should be outraged.

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: An opioid epidemic bombshell.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As far as Tom Marino, so he was a very early supporter of mine.

HAYES: Tonight as Trump`s pick for Drug Czar pulls out --

TRUMP: The opioid crisis is an emergency.

HAYES: How the President who promised to help solve the opioid crisis could be making it worse.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about declaring a written national emergency for this crisis?

HAYES: Then --

TRUMP: ObamaCare is finished, it`s dead, it`s gone.

HAYES: The new bipartisan fix for ObamaCare sabotage.

TRUMP: We shouldn`t mention. It`s gone.

HAYES: Plus the President`s pushback to John McCain --

TRUMP: People have to be careful because at some point I fight back.

HAYES: And the man who says he was recruited to collude with the Russians talks to Robert Mueller.

TRUMP: Russia is fake news.

HAYES: When ALL IN starts right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Good evening from New York, I`m Chris Hayes. The President`s nominee for Drug Czar is out. After an investigation by 60 Minutes and the Washington Post uncovered his role in fueling the deadly opioid crisis. The president chose Republican Congressman Tom Marino from Pennsylvania to lead the Office of National Drug Control Policy at a time when drug overdoses are the leading cause of death for Americans under 50. But according to that investigation by 60 Minutes and the Post, Marino pushed a bill through Congress written by the pharmaceutical industry that prevented federal officials from cracking down on drug distributors at the very height of the crisis. To the DEA agent in charge of monitoring those prescription drugs, it was an outrage.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSEPH RANNAZZISI, FORMER DEA OFFICIAL: I just don`t understand why Congress would pass a bill that strips us of our authority in the height of an opioid epidemic in places like Congressman Marino`s District. Why are these people sponsoring bills when people in their backyards are dying from drugs that are coming from the same people that these bills are protecting?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: After that story broke, the President said he`d take another look at Marino`s nomination.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUM: So he was a very early supporter of mine, the great state of Pennsylvania. He`s a great guy. I did see the report. We`re going to look into the report. We`re going to take it very seriously.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: And this morning, the President tweeted, "Rep. Tom Marino has informed me he is withdrawing his name from consideration as Drug Czar. Tom is a fine man and a great Congressman." But nominating Marino in the first place exemplifies the President`s broader approach to the epidemic of opioid overdose deaths which killed roughly 64,000 Americans last year alone. More Americans dead in one year than over the course of the entire Vietnam war. During his campaign, the President portrayed himself as a champion for the communities devastated by this crisis, many white, rural, and working class.

On a post-election call with the President of Mexico, a transcript of which was leaked to the Washington Post, the President claimed: "I won New Hampshire because New Hampshire is a drug-infested den." But since taking office he has put no real effort into curbing the staggering rate of overdoses in this country. After launching a commission on the opioid crisis headed up by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, months later, the President held a meeting about the commission at his New Jersey golf course during his summer vacation when Christie was out of the country. The first lady and Jared Kushner, however, were present. The President was asked why he had declined to take up the commission`s main recommendation that he officially declare the crisis a national emergency, unlocking funding for a federal response.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: The opioid crisis is an emergency and I`m saying officially right now, it is an emergency, it`s a national emergency. We`re going to spend a lot of time, a lot of effort, and a lot of money on the opioid crisis.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But do you need emergency powers to address it?

TRUMP: We`re going to draw it up and we`re going to make it a national emergency.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: He said that August 10th, we`re going to draw it up. Now, 68 days later, according to our count, the President has yet to draw anything up. He has still not made an official declaration. In the meantime, hundreds, more likely thousands, more Americans have died. The President said yesterday he plans to act soon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We`re going to have a major announcement, probably next week, on the drug crisis and on the opioid massive problem. And I want to get that absolutely right. This country and frankly, the world has a drug problem. The world has a drug problem, but we have and if we`re going to do something about it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Meanwhile his Health and Human Services Secretary was forced to resign over a private jet scandal. The Head of the Drug Enforcement Agency decided to leave citing his dismay and frustration with the President`s administration. And the President`s pick for Drug Czar, that would be Congressman Marino, was revealed to have been in league with the very drug companies that stoked the crisis. Leonard Bernstein is a Health and Medicine Reporter for the Washington Post, one of the Reporters who broke that story. First of all, congratulations on great reporting.

LEONARD BERNSTEIN, HEALTH AND MEDICINE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Thank you.

HAYES: What was Marino`s role in Congress in this piece of legislation and what did the piece of legislation do?

BERNSTEIN: So Marino carried the bill through the House. It took him about two years. And it`s important to point out that his version was even worse. It was even tougher on the DEA than the one that eventually passed, the compromise version that went through the Senate. So his role was in shepherding this legislation through the House, holding the hearings and we do know from e-mails that we obtained that this bill was partially crafted by an industry lawyer, a drug industry lawyer.

HAYES: Just to be clear here, you`ve got these distributors, there`s only about three companies that make up 85 percent of the market. They`re kind of the middlemen so to speak. There are millions of pills going out and the DEA at a certain point start saying, wait a second, there`s federal law saying if this is going to dodgy circumstances or what you think are pain mills or fraudulent purposes, you`ve got to obey federal law and not just ship it out no questions asked. They start impounding them. The pharma companies distributors basically say, oh, no, no, no, and do an end-run around the DEA by going to Congress. Is that more or less it?

BERNSTEIN: You know, I couldn`t put it any better than that. There are billions of opioids in circulation legally in this country. Hundreds of millions of them spill out of legitimate supply chain and end up in the hands of users and dealers. When the DEA cracked down on those wholesale distributors, that big three that you mentioned, they got very unhappy. And they didn`t like that law and they went to Congress and they got that law changed.

HAYES: I want to be really clear here because Marino was a key, perhaps one of the most key figures in this. But there are very few good guys on Capitol Hill in this story. This essentially passed by a voice vote, it`s signed by President Obama. And you`ve got ex-Obama officials like Jamie Gorelick at WilmerHale, who`s at the Department of Justice who goes over to be a lawyer for the drug distributors when they`re fighting this law?

BERNSTEIN: She did. She went actually to a law firm, WilmerHale, where she represented Cardinal, one of the big three distributors. I think that as you said, nobody has covered themselves in glory here. You know, we still have questions. The DEA says it was steamrolled by Senator Hatch`s office. Senator Hatch`s office said, nonsense, the DEA collaborated with us and compromised on the language. The Justice Department has been more or less silent about its role. We don`t really know what President Obama knew when he signed the bill. So the end result has not been great for the American public and I think that`s why everyone is so outraged. And it`s sort of hard to find someone other than Joe Rannazzisi who blew the whistle, who turned out to be a good guy in this story.

HAYES: You know, the whistle-blower there, and I think it`s important point, he basically says, look, if these weren`t corporate CEOs, these are folks that would be looking at jail time. We would treat these people, if they were on the corner in urban communities across this country, we`d look at them as dealers.

BERNSTEIN: Many people have said, not just Joe, but other people have said, when are we going to actually arrest a corporate executive in connection with the opioid crisis? That would send a message that a lot of people think would chill the neglectful release of these opioids into the black market.

HAYES: All right, Lenny Bernstein, great reporting again, thank you for it.

BERNSTEIN: Thank you for having me.

HAYES: Senator Maggie Hassen, Democrat from New Hampshire, cosponsoring legislation to repeal Tom Marino`s law reining in the DEA. Senator, first your reaction to Marino withdrawing his name?

SEN. MAGGIE HASSEN (D), NEW HAMPSHIRE: I think Chris, -- first of all, thanks for having me on -- but I think it`s important for everybody just to start by taking a step back here and realizing that we are losing hundreds if not thousands of people a day in the United States to this opioid crisis in large part because we have seen literally millions of opioid pills flooding our country. Sometimes literally millions more pills than there are people in a particular region where a shipment of opioids is sent. And so as we confront this crisis, I am very concerned that the Trump administration would have nominated Representative Marino in the first place, somebody with significant ties to the pharmaceutical industry. I`m encouraged and glad that he withdrew his name from consideration.

But at the end of the day, this administration, every now and then, seems to pay attention to this crisis, an epidemic that is costing us lives every day, but then really doesn`t follow up with any action. And we know that we have a great deal to do on the prevention, treatment, and recovery side of things, on the law enforcement side of things. We know we need more resources on the front lines and is absolutely essential that the administration give us a nominee who is qualified, who doesn`t have connections to the pharmaceutical industry, and who is really interested in focusing on this problem and helping us save lives.

HAYES: To that point, I mean, I find myself astounded that there are 60,000 Americans dying a year. There are more Americans dying from opioids right now than car crashes and from guns. It has become the leading cause of death for many age categories and in many communities and basically, Washington is doing nothing. And when they`re doing nothing, when they`re not doing nothing, they`re doing things that could possibly make it worse. Like, I just don`t understand how you don`t run through the halls of the Senate every day pounding on the marble.

HASSEN: Well, I have been pushing as hard as I can in committees and everywhere else I can think of to insist that we stay focused on the nature of this epidemic, to point out just what you did, which we are losing thousands of people a year to this epidemic. And frankly, if this were another kind of epidemic that didn`t bring with it the stigma of addiction, I think we would be focused more on what we know we can do to stop this. We know what we need to do, there have been recommendations. You know, when I was a Governor, the National Governors Association came together, put bipartisan recommendations on a sheet of paper, began to work at the state level on the number of these issues.

HAYES: But nothing happens.

HASSEN: And at the state level we did things like Medicaid expansion, began to get more treatment. But in Washington, what we are seeing from this President is the appointment of a commission. The commission gives interim recommendations and then there`s no follow-through. We see the President say back in August, weeks ago, that he wanted to declare a national emergency and I`m very interested in what kind of emergency he would declare and what resources that would help us marshall. And then he doesn`t follow through on it. Then he nominates somebody who clearly is not qualified to take on the industry the way it needs to be dealt with here.

And again, doesn`t have nominees for Health and Human Services or for permanent leadership at the DEA at a time when it desperately needs it. So I`ll continue to push, I continue to be incredibly grateful to the people of my state who have stood up and talked about the nature of this terrible disease, the loved ones they have lost, and the possibility of getting better at building a better future. That`s what we should be focused on and that is why this lack of action by the administration is so concerning.

HAYES: Final quick question. Has anyone from the White House been in contact with you about this problem?

HASSEN: Not recently, no. And it`s very concerning.

HAYES: Senator Maggie Hassen, thanks for being here tonight.

HASSEN: Thank you very much, Chris.

HAYES: Charlie Sykes is an MSNBC Contributor, Author of the new book How The Right Lost Its Mind. Christina Greer is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Fordham University. And Charlie, what I`m really -- I`m genuinely galled here by the fact that the White House really just does not seem to care. The President talked about it on the campaign trail. He attributes his primary win in New Hampshire from the bleeped phone call. And they have this commission, they appoint this guy who is in the pocket of big pharma and nothing.

CHARLIE SYKES, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, absolutely nothing which is really odd because you have to give him credit for raising the -- raising the issue during the campaign. But I just want to comment, though, that in the last week we have really seen the transformative power of good journalism, you know, with this story. The fact that they under-covered -- they uncovered something that nobody in Congress, Democrats or Republicans, seemed to know what was going on. So you know, what you`re seeing here is not just the inaction of the Trump administration. You are really seeing the swamp in action.

When you think about how this legislation went through that nobody -- that nobody you know, raised a flare about this. You had to do over $100 million in lobbying. This whole culture in Washington where you have industries, including bad actors like some of these pharmaceutical companies having a veto power over this legislation, I mean, this really opens the door to how this happened. This opioid crisis didn`t just happen. It is a manmade crisis but what we learned over the weekend about the legislative process, both Democrats and Republicans is pretty horrific.

HAYES: And yet, I mean, this was the drain the swamp idea, right? And you get -- you got Scott Pruitt of the EPA who says that he`s going to outsource more to the industry that`s polluting. And then he has Marino, this is the guy that he chooses. I thought it was so revealing to when he`s asked yesterday about Marino, Christina, he says, the first thing, what is the first thing he say? He knows the issues as well. He was an early supporter of mine. It was such a tip-off about what this is about.

CHRISTINA GREER, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL SCIENCE, FORDHAM UNIVERSITY: Well, first of all, there are a few things we have to discuss. One, this President is so incompetent and has absolutely no idea what`s going. That`s one. Two --

HAYES: Right. If you said to him, like what are the top-line recommendations of your opioid commission, do you think he could answer?

GREER: He would not. I mean, we know that Obama went across the country for a fuel year answering questions about anything and everything in the health care bill. Donald Trump can`t do more than five minutes of superlatives, right? Everything`s great, kids don`t do drugs. That was like, that`s beyond Nancy Reagan --

HAYES: Literally, he basically said that at the commission meeting.

GREER: That is the policy. Kids, don`t start, don`t do it. But here`s another thing that we have to remind the American public, two things. One, we have the power as American citizens to get rid of these members of Congress who are not doing their jobs. The framers have set it up so that we could ostensibly get rid of all 435 members of the House in November 2018 --

HAYES: Every two years.

GREER: If we want to and one-third of the Senators. If we`re unhappy and we look at the records of people in our state and they aren`t doing their jobs, we can actually vote them out of office. It is possible.

HAYES: Which is to remain because it appears that Marino is going to keep his seat in Congress and up for reelection.

GREER: Of course.

HAYES: And part of -- part of it too here Charlie is the dynamic here is like, I`ve watched this President tweet about 100 times now or talk about or tweet about whether players take the knee during an anthem, right? And it`s like, that`s the kind thing when you program your Presidency like a talk radio show, that`s going to keep the phone -- the phone boards lit up but there`s nothing in it. There`s no red meat in the opioid crisis, there`s no like, it`s a complicated, sad, bad story that needs serious policy-making and what`s striking to me is it`s not something he`s spending a lot of rhetorical energy on because it doesn`t afford him the opportunity to beat the stuffing out of some villain.

SYKES: Yes. It doesn`t match that narrative, it doesn`t play the culture wars, you know. But as you -- as you said a little bit earlier, you`re talking about an epidemic that kills 60,000 Americans. You know, the question is not just, again, you know, why the President is not talking about this on a regular basis. It`s, how did the federal government actually make it harder to solve this problem? I`m not trying to shift away from you know, Donald Trump. As I agree, Donald Trump is so disconnected with policy, so uninterested in policy. You know, the way that he basically has done this is to say, hey, the opioid issue won me, New Hampshire won me this state. Look how many votes I got.

And therefore you know, you go through the motions, you know, the virtual motions. But you`re absolutely right, he`s not tweeting about it. He`s not tweeting about a lot of things that are actually affecting people`s lives, like the wildfires in the state of California. But this one, and I do think you raise the question, where is the outrage in Congress? Where is the outrage about a crisis that is killing this many Americans, and no one is doing anything about it?

GREER: But I think it`s really complicated for this President because he is also trying to get rid of Medicaid. And Medicaid is the system that is actually helping a lot of people get off of this --

HAYES: Well, it`s covering a lot of people. Although the capacity is nowhere near what`s needed. Just to be clear.

GREER: It`s nowhere near what`s needed. But he`s trying to strip it so that you have nothing, right? No mental -- no mental health services, no physical health services. And so, this is a situation where this President can`t also blame Mexicans as rapists, he can`t blame (INAUDIBLE), he can`t blame Muslims and ISIS. This is actually a much more complicated problem and he can`t race bait with this one.

HAYES: Well, and I should say this as a final note, that at the meetings he`s had about this -- he keeps talking about the border wall. But you know, it`s like the calls coming from inside the House with American pharmaceutical companies putting billions of pills and he wants to build a border wall to stop it. Charlie Sykes and Christina Greer, thank you, both.

SYKES: Thank you.

HAYES: Ahead, late word tonight that Sean Spicer spent part of his Monday with the Mueller investigation. And up next, minutes after the President declared ObamaCare dead, he found out on live T.V. there was a bipartisan fix to save it. We`ll show you how that went along in two minutes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: ObamaCare is a disaster. It`s virtually dead. As far as I`m concerned, it really is dead. And I predicted that a long time ago. It`s a concept that doesn`t work. ObamaCare is everything but dead. The people aren`t going to take it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: President Trump once again today pronouncing the ACA dead, tweeting just a few hours ago, "Any increase in ObamaCare premiums is the fault of the Democrats for giving us a "product" that never had a chance of working." What he neglected to mention of course was his own recent decision to unilaterally, by himself, cut subsidies for lower-income ObamaCare enrollees, a decision that is already raising premiums nationwide.

Just one example, according to philly.com, 2018 premiums are jumping 23 percent more than expected in Pennsylvania, a jump that the Acting Insurance Commissioner in the State attributed to the President`s actions. In contrast, Democratic Senator Patty Murray and Republican Senator Lamar Alexander today announced a preliminary deal to restore those same subsidies if they can get the votes in Congress. The kind of bipartisan deal the President reportedly had been urging Senator Alexander to hammer out in a call this weekend. And when news broke about the deal, the President first appeared to support it as a "short-term solution." Afterwards, the White House declared they couldn`t accept the current deal. Then the President pivoted once again just moments ago, commending the deal and painting it not as a bipartisan compromise but as a Republican triumph.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I`m pleased that Democrats are finally responding to my call for them to take responsibility for their ObamaCare disaster and work with Republicans to provide much-needed relief to the American people. While I commend the bipartisan work done by Senators Alexander and Murray, and I do commend it, I continue to believe Congress must find a solution to the ObamaCare mess, instead of providing bailouts to insurance companies.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Are you confused? You`re not alone. The confusion isn`t surprising. The President has sabotaged ObamaCare for months while failing to deliver on his own health care promises. In fact, the President`s efforts to undermine the wall were what helped inspire the Alexander-Murray bill in the first place.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. PATTY MURRAY (D), WASHINGTON: Chairman Alexander and I were able to find common ground on a number of steps to stabilize the markets and to help protect families from premium spikes as a result of the sabotage we have seen from this administration.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Democratic Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois says the President`s actions on health care are hurting American families and she joins me now. Senator, first let me start with the deal or tentative deal announced by Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray. I`ve seen general enthusiasm from Democrats. John McCain has tweeted in support of it, do you support it?

SEN. TAMMY DUCKWORTH (D), ILLINOIS: I do support it. Most importantly, it undo -- it undoes a lot of the sabotage the President has been trying to wreak havoc on our health care system. So I look forward to seeing the full deal, but for everything from what I`ve seen, it looks good.

HAYES: Do you have any faith or confidence that McConnell will move this through, the President would sign it, that you could possibly ameliorate the sabotage as you called it from the White House?

DUCKWORTH: I certainly hope so. You know, Senator McConnell, certainly I`m sure played a part in Senator Alexander walking away from the negotiation table when we got into the last health care fight. And for him to be back in negotiating with Patty Murray is a sign that perhaps we`re going to be able to have a shot at this. And really you know, the people across Illinois and this country desperately need this deal so they can make sure that they can continue to afford their health insurance.

HAYES: What do you say if the President says, look, this is exactly -- this is how it worked, I cut the CSRs, I forced Congress to negotiate, and I made this happen.

DUCKWORTH: Well, what I have to say is, he`s done everything to sabotage health care in this country to include cutting the budget for the office that signs people up for health care. And he certainly hasn`t changed any of those actions. The people who made this deal happen were Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray and they are the ones who should get the full benefits of any type of accolade that happen. But let`s make sure we get this thing passed and signed first. We still have to get this passed both in the Senate and the House and the President has to sign it. There`s a lot of sabotage the White House can still pull.

HAYES: Senator, since I have you here, I wanted to ask you a question about some news that happened yesterday and today which is about the President`s reaction to the four slain service members in Niger. The President hadn`t spoken about them publicly. He was sort of forced to yesterday. He kind of casually mentioned that previous Presidents didn`t call of family of those who are killed in action. Today the White House on a sort of offensive that Barack Obama never called John Kelly when his son was killed in action, I believe in 2010, in Afghanistan. And as someone who is a veteran yourself, what do you make of this?

DUCKWORTH: Well, the President casually says all sorts of things that are not true. I was there in 2009 when President Obama visited Section 60 at Arlington National Cemetery and personally embraced the families of our fallen heroes there at Arlington. He was back multiple times. He called, he met with, he certainly remained in contact through multiple channels with families of the fallen. You know, there`s only one person here that is -- who has a record of using gold star families as political ploys, and that`s Donald Trump.

HAYES: Do you think that the nation is owed a further explanation of what exactly the circumstances were under which those four green berets were killed?

DUCKWORTH: Certainly. I think what happened with those four special forces troops is a great example of the fact that Americans don`t even know where our troops are around the world right now. If you talk to Americans just a month ago, most of them would probably not know that we have troops in Niger, that we have troops in Djibouti, that we have troops all around the world who everyday sacrifice and protect and defend our nation on foreign soil. And yet we don`t even know where these folks are. And to have the President of the United States use the deaths of these heroes for political gain is simply unacceptable.

HAYES: All right, Senator Tammy Duckworth, thanks for joining me.

DUCKWORTH: Thank you.

HAYES: Tonight, why the White House is stonewalling House investigators on their own use of personal e-mail and late developments in the Russia investigations, those stories ahead.

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HAYES: Close your eyes and imagine for a minute that we were nine months into the Hillary Clinton Presidency and the Chairman of the House Oversight Committee Trey Gowdy requested information on whether Clinton White House officials had used private personal e-mail since the election. Now imagine the response the Clinton White House just stonewalled. What do you think we would be talking about today? Well, that`s exactly what is happening in this White House right now. Following a political report that Trump`s son- in-law and Senior Adviser Jared Kushner, as well as other White House officials, have used personal e-mail for official business. The House Oversight Committee requested the White House specify who exactly had ever done so. But the President`s Congressionally on march short responded with a (INAUDIBLE) two page none answer with recent part, "the White House and covered employees endeavor to comply with all relevant laws."

I like that, endeavor, their trying to comply with the law. That prompted the Democratic member of the Oversight Committee to say, the White House has completely blown off the Committee. If the White House won`t provide documents of basic oversight the Chairman should send subpoenas. And aid to Chairman Gowdy said lawmakers "are currently evaluating whether there has been compliance, partial compliance, or noncompliance by the White House." Meanwhile, in the investigation the White House cannot stonewall, the Russia investigation, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has now interviewed a cyber-security expert who wrote an article entitled, and I quote, "The Time I Got Recruited to Collude with the Russians." That`s next.

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HAYES: Special Counsel Robert Mueller has now reportedly interviewed a figure who may be key in unraveling the collusion side of the Russia investigation, if that is what bears out. And it has to do with a very strange story that was first reported in The Wall Street Journal. You may remember this, it was about a GOP operative named Peter Smith who sought Clinton emails, presumably the ones that she had deleted, from hackers before the election. He also sought help from a cyber security expert named Matt Tate who was so alarmed by the scheme he came out with his side of the story after it was all over, provocatively entitled "The time I got recruited to collude with the Russians."

Tate wrote that Smith, quote, "never expressed any discomfort with the possibility the emails he was seeking were potentially from a Russian front, a likelihood he was happy to acknowledge. If they were genuine, they would hurt Clinton`s chances and therefore help Trump."

Now Tate has talked to Mueller, according to Business Insider, the first confirmation that Mueller is following this particular and peculiar thread of the story.

Meanwhile, there`s news on the obstruction of justice side of the Russia investigation today as well. Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer met with Mueller`s team for much of today, according to Politico, and was grilled about the firing of James Comey.

MSNBC intelligence analyst Naveed Jamali, former FBI agent; and Renato Mariotti, former federal prosecutor joined me now.

Renato, I have always been intrigued by this story, the Smith story. It`s strange for many reasons. After Smith basically talked to a reporter, he committed suicide just a few weeks later. And it was an effort, a very clear effort, to try to get those deleted emails from Russian hackers. There`s a question about how related it is to the campaign.

What is the significance of Tate being interviewed by Mueller?

RENATO MARIOTTI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, it tells us a couple of things. First of all, it tells us that Mueller is interested in this whole line of inquiry. So Mueller is not interviewing Tate because he has something to say about obstruction of justice, regarding the Comey firing, or what happened in Trump Tower, Tate specifically knows about this specific set of facts.

And you know, if you read that story, one piece of it I thought was very interesting, Chris, is where he talks about this nonprofit that was set up with a number -- with the names of many bigwigs in the Trump camp, including Kellyanne Conway and Manafort and others, that was set up to sort of disguise the campaign`s involvement with this information. I suspect that Mueller is interested in finding out what Tate knew about that, what Smith told Tate before he mysteriously passed away.

And, you know, I would expect that Mueller is going to be following up when he questions some of those other individuals.

HAYES: Naveed, what`s going on here is this -- I think one of the things we`ve sort of gotten to in the investigation is the idea of cutouts. So if anyone was doing anything, sort of hand in glove, it was being done through sort of plausibly deniable, quasi third parties. Is that your understanding of where we are in the investigation now?

NAVEED JAMALI, FORMER FBI DOUBLE AGENT: I think that`s exactly right. And whether it was the folks who met with Don Junior, or Gucifer who spoke to Roger Stone allegedly, or perhaps some of these people that were speaking to Peter Smith offering what I would call a dangle, opposition research, or information that`s detrimental to Hillary Clinton, what you`re seeing is exactly that, the sort of targeting using cutouts, using people that if they are traced, if they are identified, are very difficult to trace exactly back to the Kremlin.

Even though a layperson can look at this and say, it`s pretty likely this was a directed action. But that`s the point is whether this is illegal or not, what you are seeing here on the national security side is much more, not dotted lines, but much more solid lines, tracing back to the Kremlin.

HAYES: There`s another person that Mueller`s team has talked to, Renato, and I wanted to ask about him, Keith Kellogg, who served as the interim national security adviser after Michael Flynn was fired. He was, I believe, a kind of -- played a somewhat role as a deputy to Flynn himself. What do you make of that?

MARIOTTI: Well, certainly I think that Mueller`s going to be interested in whatever Flynn told him. But also I think that we already know from other reports that Mueller is interested in Flynn`s firing and the circumstances around it, not because that was meant to obstruct Mueller`s investigation - - excuse me, the FBI investigation in the way that the Comey firing was, but because I imagine that Mueller is interested in hearing what everyone had to say about what Flynn knew and what the downsides were of firing Flynn.

Because Flynn knew where the bodies were buried potentially and his knowledge and what he has to say could potentially be useful given that Mueller appears to be going after Flynn.

HAYES: I haven`t, Naveed, gotten to talk to you until -- since NBC broke the story about Paul Manafort, who of course, was campaign chair, and a Russian oligarch by the name of Oleg Deripaska, who we knew Manafort had been in business with. There was -- in fact, he had been sued by Deripaska. We knew he sent an email to Deripaska when he got the job -- to his subordinate about Deripaska, basically saying, has Oleg seen this? And can we be made whole?

But NBC uncovered 30 million more dollars that changed hands between these two men. As someone who worked in counter intelligence like what crosses your mind when you see that?

JAMALI: Motive? I mean, I don`t know any more simple way to put it, but it really is true. You know, in counter intelligence, there`s four pillars of motivation that are the cornerstone of spies. And it`s an acronym known as MICE -- money, ideology, coercion, and ego. And money always plays a role when it comes to these things. It`s the easiest way to get people to do what you want them to do.

And, look, unfortunately for a lot of these players, there`s a trail when you start dealing with money at that level.

HAYES: As a prosecutor, Renato, that story on Oleg Deripaska, that NBC News reporting on Manafort, what did you make of it?

MARIOTTI: Well, I`ll tell you, I actually can verify that a prosecutor would look at it in a similar way in terms of motive. Certainly it provides a motive for Manafort to be offering those private briefings that we heard about that Manafort allegedly offered that same oligarch in an email.

You know, why would the chair of a presidential campaign in the United States give special access to a Russian oligarch? Well, we now have 30 million additional reasons why.

HAYES: Yeah, I mean, the way I sort of think of where we are right now, you`ve got all these -- we`ve revealed these moments of the two sides, if you think of them, right, the Trump campaign and Russians or Russian- affiliated agents or actors or those aligned with the Kremlin, sort of feeling each other out in all kinds of ways -- emails, approaches, dangles. And there`s this question of, like, is that where it got? And it just sort of stopped there and everyone just thought to themselves, well, I kind of see what you`re doing, you kind of see what I`m doing? Or whether we got further? Is that sort of where we`re at, Naveed?

JAMALI: I think that`s right. And I think, you know, Chris, there`s a lot of actor that we know about, but there very well may be some that we don`t. The Peter Smith, for example, is a perfect example of that.

And, you know, look, it`s very clear the Russians were up to their eyeballs in trying to do something here. They did it with Facebook. They did it with Twitter. They did it in this wide swathe. That doesn`t mean they didn`t target individuals for recruitment. That doesn`t mean that they hadn`t targeted people well before the election that we`re now starting to see kind of pop their heads up.

HAYES: All right. Naveed Jamali and Renato Mariotti, thank you very much.

Still to come, what Senator John McCain said that earned him rousing applause and the warning President Trump issued in response.

Plus, many people are saying Thing One, Thing Two is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES: Thing One tonight, it`s one of President Trump`s favorite fictions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We`re going to reduce taxes tremendously because we have the highest tax rate anywhere in the world. We`re the highest taxed major country anywhere in the world by far. We`re the highest-taxed nation in the developed world.

Highest-taxed nation in the world.

The highest-taxed nation in the world.

We`re the highest-taxed nation in the world.

And I think in the undeveloped world too.

Highest-taxed nation.

Highest-taxed nation.

But I have to be very accurate with these people, because they`ll start claiming all sorts of things.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Right, because that`s not at all in any way, shape or form true, not true at all, demonstrably false. And I just pointed out as demonstrably false so often you`d think maybe the president would just stop saying it at some point.

Even as far back as May of last year, Politifact was already writing headlines like, "For the third time, Donald Trump, the U.S. is not the highest-taxed nation in the world."

We haven`t kept the count through today, but one reporter from Scripps News Service was ready for it this afternoon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They`ve repeatedly said that we`re the highest-taxed nation in the world. When that`s been seen as objectively false. How, with the credibility you need to pass tax reform...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: The president did respond to that reporter. Do you think his response was a true thing or a false thing? That`s Thing Two in 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAYES: The president was finally called to account today for constantly repeating his false claim that the U.S. is the highest-taxed nation in the world.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Some people say it differently, and they`ll say we`re the highest developed nation taxed in the world...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Then why don`t you say that it way?

TRUMP: Because a lot of people know exactly what I`m talking about. And in many cases they think I`m right when I say the highest.

As far as I`m concerned, I think we`re really essentially the highest. But if you`d like to add the developed nation, you can say that too.

But a lot of people agree that the way I`m saying it is exactly correct. Thank you very much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: OK, so first off, nope. Despite having a high corporate tax rate, at least on the books, the U.S. is actually among the lowest-taxed developed nations, that`s the OECD. In fact, we`re almost the lowest-taxed nation.

But the president has his own concept of truth. To him, the question isn`t whether he`s right, it`s whether many people are saying it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: You know what`s important? Millions of people agree with me when I say that. If you would have looked on one of the other networks and all the people that were calling in, they`re saying, we agree with Mr. Trump. We agree. They`re very smart people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think that talking about millions of illegal votes is dangerous to this country?

TRUMP: No, not at all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ...with presenting the evidence?

TRUMP: Not at all, because many people feel the same way that I do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: To fear the world we have organized and led for three-quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain the last, best hope of earth, for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems...

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Blistering speech from Senator John McCain last night after he was awarded the National Constitution Center`s Liberty Medal, calling out many of the current administration`s policies and some of their supporters, the ones who march with Tiki torches.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: We live in a land made of ideals, not blood and soil. We are the custodians of those ideals at home and their champion abroad.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Blood and soil there.

Not once throughout his entire acceptance speech did the Arizona Republican mention the president by name, but during a radio interview this morning, the president was quick to take exception.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIIFED MALE: You heard what he said yesterday, Senator McCain?

TRUMP: Yeah, well, I hear it. And people have to be careful because at some point I fight back. You know, I`m being very nice. I`m being very, very nice. But at some point I fight back, and it won`t be pretty.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: The president of the United States talking about fighting back against an 81-year-old diagnosed with possibly terminal brain cancer, Senator John McCain`s response to Mr. Trump next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Trump said on the radio, "I heard and people have to be careful, because at some point I fight back, at some point I will fight back, and it won`t be pretty" talking about you.

MCCAIN: I don`t comment on what the president says, I comment on what he does. And I will say that I have, I have faced some pretty tough adversaries in the past. I`m not interested in confronting the president, I`m interested in working with the president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Well, Senator McCain managed to side step Donald Trump`s comments, hard to ignore the frustration the president has openly shown for Republicans in the Senate as he continues to blame and sometimes berate lawmakers in his own party for his own failing agenda.

And that`s a sentiment shared by White House budget director Mick Mulvaney, who said, "you ask me if the Republican-controlled Senate is an impediment to the administration`s agenda. All I can tell you is so far, the answer is yes."

Conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post, Michelle Goldberg, columnist for The New York Times who have both been following the fractured state of the GOP, join me now.

Jennifer, I`ll start with you. So, the whole big -- the sort of idea here that Bannon and others have is that the agenda stalled and the reason is the establishment and Mitch McConnell and the incumbents in the Republican Senate.

I want to play what you Bannon said about McConnell which is almost comical, actually, over the weekend. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE BANNON, BREITBART NEWS: Now, Mitch, I don`t know if you are watching today. I don`t know if you are watching valued voters.

Up on Capitol Hill, because I have been getting calls, it`s like before the ides of March. Right? The only question, and this is an analogy or metaphor or whatever you want to call it, they`re just looking to find out who is going to be Brutus to your Julius Caesar.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Like most high schools students in America, he`s read Julius Caesar. But this is the idea, it`s like McConnell and the incumbents in the Senate, they`re the ones to blame?

JENNIFER RUBIN, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, there is a truth to that and that is that none of them have an idea what they want to do --

HAYES: That`s exactly correct.

RUBIN: None of them have a health care plan that they were able to come up with as a reasonable alternative to Obamacare. They are floundering around on tax cuts or tax reform. There is a modicum of truth.

But the fact we all know of course that the best set, the most disciplined Senate, the most noble Senate could not possibly work with a president like this who is in a space of 24 hours, changes his mind in something as fundamental as Obamacare is dead, I want to kill it, to, oh, Alexander and Murray seem to have come up with a great compromise.

HAYES: I think they were on three different positions just on that particular issue today and to me, the key moment here, Michelle, the Roy Moore moment. I think people are losing sight of how --

MICHELLE GOLDBERG, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Of how wild he is. Because so much is wild right now. Right?

HAYES: That was, I think it scared the White House, because they put their chips behind Luther Strange. I think everyone in the GOP is like, oh, we can`t control any of this. Like, this is what our voters want.

GOLDBERG: Right. But I also think it`s created an illusion that Steve Bannon is controlling all this.

HAYES: Which is ridiculous. Steve Bannon is not the reason Roy Moore won that race.

GOLDBERG: Right. But now there is this whole mystic around Steve Bannon. He tried to unseat Paul Ryan. I`m certainly no fan of Paul Ryan, but I believe that the challenger lost by 68 points. And so the idea that Steve Bannon is going to singlehandedly unmake the Senate or remake the Senate is ridiculous.

But the other thing -- HAYES: It`s the voters. I just want to be clear. It`s not Bannon and his two-shirted swagger. It`s the voters.

GOLDBERG: So I think that it will be in some districts, they will rebel and in other districts, they won`t. Alabama is pretty specific. I think that`s what`s happening is that the Republicans are reaping decades of lying to people. You know, they`ve lied to people about Obamacare. They`ve lied to people about the way the economy works. They`ve lied to people about basically every facet of American governance, so now people, rightfully, don`t understand well, now you are in office and why haven`t you fixed it.

Why haven`t you enacted all these policies that you told us will fix everything. Because those policies never have been, in as much as they`ve existed, they have always been fantastical.

HAYES: What`s remarkable about this, Jennifer, is that they`re fighting, the thing they`re trying to do is slash the corporate tax rate right now. That`s the perfect like give away on the con.

You have all this power. You control the government. Whatever you want to do. You can control the government. Whatever you want to do for the American people, for your voters. Heck, go try to build a wall, if that`s what you want to do?

No, they`re focused like a laser on slashing the cooperate tax rate.

RUBIN: Yeah. My favorite gimmick is the 25% pass through rate, which is a direct gift to Donald Trump and the inherent members of the cabinet. That one is a classic.

I do think this is reaping the whirlwind. I think a lot has to do with this nonsense that they have perpetrated. That the problems of white rural and white urban America are traceable to foreigners, whether they`re immigrants, whether they`re trade partners, and this whole theory of trade is complete utter nonsense.

And so now they have an expectation that gosh, if you just round up all illegal aliens, get rid of them, times will be good again.

So it`s this false premise and these false demons that they`ve created. And now they`re stuck with the problem of what are you going to do?

HAYES: And I think there will be more Roy Moores. You have Kelli Ward who is called `Chemtrails Kelly` by the Republican Jeff Flake in Arizona, she has a shot.

GOLDBERG: I think she has more than a shot. I would be shocked if she didn`t prevail. Although then I would think the Democrats have a real chance to pick up the seats.

It`s such chaos and it`s not even chaos that`s graspable on ideological lines. Right? It`s all kind of aspects and clusters of resentment and hatred.

HAYES: That`s why you have Michael Grimm, Staten Island ex-con, and Roy Moore, Mr. Ten Commandments on the same sort of Bannon wing of this thing.

Jennifer Rubin, Michelle Goldberg, thanks for joining us tonight.

That is All In. The Rachel Maddow Show starts right now.

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