Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: October 26, 2017
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
Guest: Natasha Bertrand, Renato Mariotti, Asawin Suebsaeng, David Weigel
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Who`s next? Who`s the next Republican Senator to race for the doors rather than be replaced by the body snatcher? And that`s HARDBALL for now and it`s all true. Thanks for being with us. "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes starts right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Tonight on ALL IN.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The uranium sale to Russia and the way it was done so underhanded.
REID: The plot to stop Robert Mueller.
SEAN HANNITY, HOST, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: There`s no way the American people can trust Robert Mueller.
REID: Tonight as the Mueller investigation closes in, new signs that Trump is getting desperate. Then --
TRUMP: They are trying to take away our history and our heritage.
REID: Shades of Charlottesville as the Virginia Governor`s Race becomes a referendum on Confederate statues.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m for keeping them up.
REID: And what to make of the President`s opioid announcement.
TRUMP: If we can teach young people and people generally not to start, it`s really, really easy not to take them.
REID: When ALL IN starts now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: Good evening from New York, I`m Joy Reid in for Chris Hayes. Tonight amid signs of Robert Mueller`s investigation could be closing in, the White House is scrambling to discredit the messenger with a big assist from his partners on Fox News.
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HANNITY: There`s no way the American people can trust Robert Mueller to investigate anything Russian related.
GREGG JARRETT, ANCHOR, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: What really stinks here is Mueller, Rosenstein, Andrew Weissmann and James Comey appear to have covered it all up, the Uranium One deal.
SEBASTIAN GORKA, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: We have to have Mueller -- Mueller has to be fired.
HANNITY: And yes, Robert Mueller, I hope you`re watching.
Oh Robert Mueller, are you awake tonight?
And Robert Mueller is now investigating anything involved with Russia, how is that possible?
To be fair and impartial, it`s impossible because of his past role in this. He should resign immediately tonight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: Fox News has been relentlessly hyping a claim that Hillary Clinton sold out our national security by supposedly personally approving a 7-year- old uranium deal with Russia in exchange for a big donation to the Clinton Foundation. It`s a claimed that`s been debunked for years. Note that giant false graphic on snopes.com. But the truth hasn`t stopped the President and his rear guard from pushing the story as the new Watergate and the real Russia scandal. With White House water-carrier Devin Nunes still the Chair of the House Intelligence Committee announcing his own parallel investigation to the real Russia-gate probe -- take that, Democrats -- and Fox News hyping the supposed conspiracy so Defcon One as evidence that just about every Trump antagonist needs to be locked up.
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JARRETT: Somebody`s got to go to jail over this and not just the one who`s been convicted --
HANNITY: Who are the top people that are in jeopardy?
JARRETT: Well, I think Hillary Clinton, anybody at the DNC.
HANNITY: Eric Holder?
JARRETT: James Comey in particular because he may have abused his office, and he could have done it for --
HANNITY: Mueller? Mueller knew.
JARRETT: Covering it up to Congress --
HANNITY: He should have recused himself.
JARRETT: (INAUDIBLE) he should recuse himself.
HANNITY: Same with Rosenstein?
JARRETT: Absolutely. And Jeff Sessions needs to get off his duff and appoint a Special Counsel investigate --
JARRETT: Hillary Clinton, Comey, Loretta Lynch --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: Tonight -- everybody. Tonight, a new Fox News reported development that the President himself personally intervened to lift a gag order on someone with knowledge of the supposed deal in an apparent effort to give the debunked story even more oxygen. The uranium claim is not the only line of attack. Conservative media is also using the news that the Clinton campaign help paid for the Steele dossier Alleging trump ties to Russia to both discredit the claims in the dossier and undermine Mueller.
The news means the FBI`s role in the Russian interference must now be investigated writes the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal, the sibling to Rupert Murdoch`s Fox News, adding with great umbridge that Mueller could best serve the country by resigning to prevent further political turmoil. So why is this counter-offensive happening now? Well, for starters, both Sarah Huckabee Sanders and National Security Expert Juliette Kayyem are predicting that Mueller could go public soon. Kayyem predicting that something could drop before Thanksgiving and claiming this is more than an obstruction charge. There is something big underlying the obstruction.
Meanwhile, each day seems to bring new material for Mueller to work with. Last night the Journal added new details to the bombshell revelation that Trump linked data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica reached out to WikiLeaks with its CEO contacting WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange to offer help organizing the Clinton related e-mails the Web site was releasing. Now, remember, these are the e-mails that our government says were stolen by Russian aligned hackers during the campaign. So if this is true, it means that the Trump campaign`s data firm was trying to help the Russians disseminate anti-Clinton documents stolen by agents of a foreign government.
The Trump campaign is trying to play down its connection to Cambridge Analytica, claiming in a statement that it relied only on data from the RNC, "Any claims that voter data from any other source played a key role in the victory are false." But according to the campaign`s own FEC filings, the Trump campaign paid Cambridge Analytica $5.9 million. And there were dozens of profiles of the Mercer-funded Cambridge Analytica as the beating heart of the Trump campaign`s data operation, including this BBC tour of where the operation had been housed.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Cambridge Analytica was here, and so it was just a line of computers, right? This is where their operation was and this is kind of the brain of you know, the data. This was the data center.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the data --this is the data center -- this is the center of the data center.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, that exactly right. Yes, it was. Yes, it was.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: I`m joined now by Business Insider Political Correspondent Natasha Bertrand who`s been covering the Trump camp`s effort to distance itself from Cambridge Analytica and MSNBC Contributor and former FBI Double Agent Naveed Jamali, author of How To Catch A Russian Spy. Natasha, I`ll start with you from where we ended. What`s the significance of this apparent tip to contact WikiLeaks by Cambridge Analytica?
NATASHA BERTRAND, POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, BUSINESS INSIDER: Well, it`s the first known instance that we`ve seen where the Trump campaign directly reached out to WikiLeaks during the election. We saw that Trump throughout the entire election was praising WikiLeaks, was telling Russia to please find these 33,000 missing e-mails. And if true, which Julian Assange has said that this was accurate, that the CEO of Cambridge Analytica did reach out to him and then WikiLeaks basically denied their overtures. Then that indicates that someone with a very, very important prominent role in the Trump campaign, really the beating heart of the entire data operation was trying to essentially conclude with Julian Assange who has been characterized as a tool of the Kremlin.
REID: And give us a timeline of when this outreach was taking place, what point in the campaign was it taking place?
BERTRAND: So, we don`t know exactly when exactly this happened. Cambridge Analytica was hired in June 2016 and the e-mail was supposedly sent in late July right after the Republican National Convention. And it was right around the time I would note that you know, the DNC e-mails were released by WikiLeaks. It was just before the kickoff of the DNC, the Democratic National Convention, that WikiLeaks did this huge data dump of all the DNC e-mails and that was right around the time allegedly Alexander Nix, the CEO sent this e-mail to Julian Assange.
REID: Yes and so, Naveed, do you get the sense that revelations like that that what Natasha was just describing might be the reason that you see this almost sort of hysteria to get some other Russia related story that targets Democrats? I mean, they`ve listed literally every Democrat they can think of. Eric Holder should go down, James Comey should go down, Hillary Clinton and even Bob Mueller. Do you think that those two things are connected?
NAVEED JAMALI, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I think they are. I mean, this -- Joy, this isn`t Watergate. This is stupid Watergate. The sheer grip of this people is only countered by their incompetence. The fact -- you`re absolutely right. I think that there is something big coming. I think that these people are worried and I think that the best thing they can do is do a preemptive attack on whatever it is that`s coming. We don`t know what that thing is. But the fact that these things are coming out now is when there`s no reason to rebut anything is for lack of a better word just curious. And I think it is exactly what you`re -- what you`re leaning towards, which is there is something coming, they know about this, and they`re preemptively trying to distract the American public from something fairly big that`s coming down the pike.
REID: And it`s actually -- you get the sense that because you do have -- I mean, there`s -- there were two different, sort of, lines of attack. There`s the, we don`t have anything to do with Cambridge Analytica so that`s not us. But then you have not only the Trump White House but also people in and around the Donald Trump campaign saying, no, no, look at the connections between these uranium deals and everyone from Eric Holder to Robert Mueller. Do you get the sense that their ultimate target is Mueller?
BERTRAND: So Trump last week said that he has no intention of firing Robert Mueller. He kind of, you know, came out and said, no, let the Russia investigation take its course in so many words. He basically said that he doesn`t have any plans to impede the investigation because if he gave any indication now that he was going to go after Mueller, then that would be bad. That said, his allies around him have been working overtime to really discredit Mueller. And you know, I was also thinking that you know, the Trump administration kind of blew past this October 1st deadline to implement the sanctions on Russia. So perhaps it`s not so much something that they`re looking to preempt that`s happening in the future but something that they`re trying to distract from that they didn`t do already.
REID: And that`s a good point Naveed because you do have an administration that despite its sort of desperation to distance itself from the Russia investigation, it`s been ostentatiously doing things like not implementing the Russia sanctions. Do you get the sense that the-- that this is a White House that is nervous about his ties to Russia or that it sort of flagrantly flaunting the fact that they don`t even feel that they need the sanction in Russia?
JAMALI: I think -- I think it`s both. And look, I went down to HPSCI and I briefed the members HPSCI back in the Spring. I have to tell you, no Republican showed --
REID: Tell us what HPSCI is. Explain what HPSCI is before --
JAMALI: Sorry. The House Intelligence Committee of which you know, Adam Schiff and of course Nunes is part of who supposedly recused himself. From that day forward, the fact that no Republican showed -- this was a nonpartisan brief on the dangers of Russia from a national security standpoint. I was double agent under from under the George W. -- under Bush. There`s nothing partisan about that. The fact that none of them could come or even send a staffer, from that day forward should have told everyone they weren`t serious about actually considering that Russia is a threat. Somehow this has become politicized. Somehow because it`s become politicized, they`ve actually refused to acknowledge that there`s a Russian threat.
Look, this wasn`t -- Joy, this wasn`t Russian meddling in our election. This was a Russian campaign against the United States. Meddling you know minimizes what happened. And at the end of the day, they`re distracting us, they`re throwing shots, they`re throwing flares to try to take away from the fact that there was something significant that happened. It needs to be fixed and there are most likely Americans who in some part aided the Russians in that activity. And I think that that is very disturbing and should be disturbing and should be given the full and honest treatment that it -- the severity of what is being alleged deserves.
REID: Yes, indeed. Natasha Bertrand and Naveed Jamali, thank you, both for your time tonight. I appreciate it.
JAMALI: Thank you.
REID: Thank you. I`m now joined by former Federal Prosecutor Renato Mariotti and MSNBC Justice and Security Analyst Matt Miller, former Chief Spokesman at the U.S. Department of Justice. And Matt I`ll start with you. Your take on what does seem to be an attempt by the White House and its allies to create a parallel Russia-gate sort of the Russia-gate 2.0 that targets literally every prominent Democrat that they can think of.
MATT MILLER, MSNBC JUSTICE AND SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, it kind of goes back to the campaign when in the debate Hillary Clinton called Donald Trump a puppet of Vladimir Putin. His answer was no puppet, you`re the puppet. That`s basically the answer here. And I think there are two things that work. One, Republicans in Congress basically have to get through every news cycle. You know, there continue to be new revelations about the President`s campaign and their interactions with Russia, interactions -- new revelations about what`s happened in the White House, and they don`t have good answers for why they`re not aggressively investigating that.
So instead, they come up with these conspiracy theories that you know, get them onto Fox News and repeated on Fox News. That`s the first thing. The second thing and I think the much more strategic long-term plan they have is to completely try to undermine the Mueller investigation so when it ends, if the President -- if Mueller finds that the President either knew about something criminal that happened during the campaign or obstructed justice in the White House, when that referral comes back from Mueller to Congress in the form of an impeachment referral, they have done everything they can to undermine his credibility with their base when it happens.
REID: Yes, and you know, Renato, that suggests that they think that there might be something fairly serious coming out of the Mueller probe. What would you guess that sort of that could be?
RENATO MARIOTTI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, the most serious allegation that impacts the President that we know about right now is obstruction. I mean, the -- clearly he was the one who made the decision to fire James Comey. And you notice, you know, you were talking about all of the cast of characters that Fox News is trying to throw into this years old story, and one of them was James Comey and he`s sort of out of place. All these other people were prominent Democrats, James Comey is a career law enforcement guy, but he`s thrown in there because they also have to smear his name because you know, he is the person who was fired by the President and that conduct is at the center of what probably is going to be the most serious charge against the President of the United States.
REID: And Matt, they also through in Eric Holder. It`s not clear really what his connection to their conspiracy theory might be and of course Hillary Clinton. So they do seem to be sort of naming an all-star list of people that -- base that watches Fox News dislikes.
MILLER: Yes, that`s right. look, I think Eric Holder like Hillary Clinton, you know, Republicans just can`t quit either of them. Hillary Clinton, they`ve been going after for 25 years. Look, they -- there`s this crazy thing on the right now where all of the incentive structure is wrong. Fox News raises a conspiracy theory. Sean Hannity is been going about this for weeks. Republicans in Congress answer -- you know, answer that conspiracy theory, answer the Fox News coverage by then ginning up subpoenas, by opening up investigations. They`re rewarded with more coverage on Fox News. And there is really no incentive for them to actually investigate the President when they live in this complete parallel world that is really disconnected from reality. And so, if you turn on Fox or you turn and look at Breitbart, you would think that Loretta Lynch and Eric Holder were the ones that hacked the election, that helped steer it towards Russia. It is -- it is absolutely absurd.
REID: And you know, yes, I`ve -- you know, I`ve taken to calling it Earth 2 sometimes. It`s sort of a completely different world. And Renato, I`m wondering then as a legal matter if this kind of obfuscation where you`re trying to sort of blur the lines between really who was talking to Russia, who was really colluding with Russia, does that have any impact on the investigators?
MARIOTTI: I don`t think it does. I will tell you it`s actually a fairly common technique by people who are subjects of a criminal investigation. When I was a Federal Prosecutor, they always tried to go after me, they tried to go after the investigation, they tried to create distractions and it didn`t work. I think the difference here, unfortunately, is we`re talking about The president of the United States and as you pointed out, there`s this sort of propaganda machine behind him. I mean, I will tell you, you know, I have -- you know, I have family members who voted for Donald Trump and watch Fox News and they do live in that parallel universe and it`s a problem for us as Americans because we can`t come together and deal with the same set of facts. And so, I think as Matt said, I think the setup here is for a political process in Congress if there is, for example, an impeachment referral you know, giving them cover not to act.
REID: Yes, absolutely. Well, Matt Miller, thank you for being here tonight. We really appreciate it. Renato Mariotti, former Federal Prosecutor who I understand may be getting back into the game. Tell us a little bit about you. You got a future career change in mind.
MARIOTTI: I am. I guess I should tell you, Joy, I am going to be running for Illinois Attorney General and I just made that decision. I`m making it now. You know, it is definitely a big change for me but I feel like I can`t sit on the sidelines. Donald Trump is doing too much to frankly you know, trample on our rights and he`s you know, he is somebody that can only be stopped by state`s Attorney General. And frankly, I think what we just heard about today is part of that. Congress can`t be counted on to check him. And so I don`t want to sit on the sidelines. So I`m going to be running for that and I`m not a millionaire or insider so I do need people`s support. My Web site is renatomariotti.com and you can check out my thread on Twitter that`s being posted now.
REID: All right, Renato Mariotti, making news making the announcement right here on ALL IN. Thank you very much, Sir. Good luck.
MARIOTTI: Thank you, Joy.
REID: Tonight Republicans talk of waging a GOP civil war, a fight for the soul of the party. But if there was a war, it`s over and the victor is Donald Trump. That`s in two minutes.
REID: Despite all you`ve heard about a Republican civil war raging in Washington and around the country, all evidence points to the fact that whatever war there was is already over and Donald Trump has won. Now he and his allies are purging the last holdouts among Republicans who disagree with his style. Few ever really disagreed with him on policy, leaving behind only those in the GOP who are willing to publicly fall in line, swear undying loyalty to Trump and look the other way at his abuses of the norms that used to define the Presidency. Take John Cornyn of Texas. Here he is justifying his endorsement of disgraced former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore who`s running for Jeff Sessions` old Senate Seat.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you see any of these comments when he said that homosexual comments should be illegal. Do you agree with that?
SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R0, TEXAS: I don`t have to -- I don`t have to agree with somebody to support them over the Democratic nominee. So this is a -- I support the nominee of my party.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s also said that he didn`t think Keith Ellison should be able to be sworn in because he`s a Muslim.
CORNYN: I`ve -- you know, I have disagreements within my own family, doesn`t mean I care for them less, or -- so that`s -- I support the nominee of my party.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
REID: There you go. No matter how outrageous a Republican might be, how bigoted or ignorant, as long as they can win and if they vote with the party, if they let Trump build his wall, get extravagant tax cuts to the rich and take away health care from those who aren`t rich, they`re family. David Weigel of the Washington Post recently wrote about McConnell allies, declaring war on Steve Bannon, Asawin Suebsaeng of the Daily Beast wrote that establishment Republicans agree Steve Bannon is kicking our bleep. Thank you guys for being here. Dave, I will start with you. And I want to -- I want to play Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio, the latter having been very critical of Donald Trump during the campaign right before he said he would be honored to help him win election. This is the two of them today doing a briefing.
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REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: You know what the American people want to see us do? Solve their problems. I don`t think the American people want to see us up here yelling at each other. They want to see us fighting for them.
REP. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: He was elected President. I`m going to work with him for the good of our country and we`re going to try to get good things done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: You know, David, there is a civil war in the Republican Party. One would think that Steve Bannon and friends would want guys like those to be defeated, but they are not fighting Donald Trump. Those guys are absolute utter loyalists to Donald Trump.
DAVID WEIGEL, JOURNALIST, WASHINGTON POST: Yes, it`s hard to have a war and one side keeps surrendering like that. What our story was about in part was the Republican groups that do exist are trying to protect incumbents like the Senate leadership fund which is Mitch McConnell`s organization. They are trying to make Bannon toxic personally. They`re sort of acknowledging that he is a famous figure with more clout than frankly most of them when it comes to the Republican base in large part because of conservative media. So they`re trying to make him toxic with the moderate voters who still can decide Republican primaries in some states. But that`s it. I mean, within the Senate there`s not much of that going on. There are not people -- Jeff Flake did not make his announcement and then go down to campaign for a candidate of his liking in Alabama. There`s just a bit of carping and then wishful thinking as you saw in those clips.
REID: Yes, Asawin, you know, Tim Miller who I believe used to work for Mitch McConnell tweeted out today. He`s a former -- I`m sorry, the former spokesperson for Jeb Bush. He says there`s a war for the future of the GOP and the only person who seems to be fighting it is Steve Bannon. It`s really dispiriting. You know, I`m sort of amused by the fact that in the media you keep hearing that there`s this great war, but I think Dave is right. If there`s a war, it`s sort of a rhetorical war against Steve Bannon and just there`s utter obedience to Donald Trump.
ASAWIN SUEBSAENG, POLITICS REPORTER, THE DAILY BEAST: Right, and if you look at this in terms of who has the President`s ear, the ear of the most powerful man on the face of the planet, people who align themselves more with folks like Mitch McConnell, so-called establishment figures, are in open war with the President and having public feuds back and forth all the time. Whereas Steve Bannon, even though he no longer works within Trump`s west wing still speaks to the President on the phone fairly regularly to give him advice and counsel.
My sources in the White House in and outside of the White House tell me that in the past two or three weeks the frequency of the calls between Steve Bannon and President Donald Trump has actually increased. So if we`re looking at which side is winning and which side is losing, at least for now and this could change, we`ll see how the 2018 race is turn out, but it appears that Steve Bannon`s side is ascendant and even people on the establishment side both in and out of Congress are starting to take note.
REID: Yes, and you know, Dave, it strikes me that you know, rather than this being a war or a real purge, what you really basically have is Steve Bannon just issuing a blanket threat. You will either be obedient in public to Donald Trump, you can complain about him on background or reporters if you want, but you will be publicly obedient or we`ll just threaten you with the primaries. He doesn`t have to actually win any, right, for that threat to have salient.
WEIGEL: Well, he`s already -- he`s already won one. Although Bannon did kind of jump to the front of the parade in Alabama, Roy Moore won that primary for a number of reasons. He had been famous in the state for about two decades. He`s starting another -- he`s also very smartly I think endorsed Republican candidates who are fairly well supported by the establishment. In Breitbart, they`re taking credit for Josh Hawley IN Missouri who was recruited by people like John Danforth, one of the most prominent never Trump critics, the former Senator. Bannon and him are on the same side.
What Bannon takes credit for and What Breitbart takes credit for is Hawley coming out and saying maybe he won`t vote for McConnell for Majority Leader. There`s just a constant marling state of argument about what the party stands for. And in Bannon`s mind, this party stands for whatever Donald Trump stands for at that moment. It stands for populism. When it comes to the economic issues and when it comes to a lot of individual candidate positions, they`re really negotiable. All that`s needed is for these guys to be pro Trump and anti-McConnell. That`s how the establishment is defined by somebody who was in the White House until pretty recently.
REID: Yes, and Asawin, have you been able to find substantive differences in terms of policy. You know, Jeff Flake and Cornyn may not like the style of Donald Trump but do you see very many substantive differences between then and him on policy?
SUEBSAENG: Well, between those guys and people like Donald Trump and Steve Bannon, there certainly are substantive differences on hot-button issues such as immigration. People like Trump and Bannon would like something far more restrictive than people like Jeff Flake.
REID: But they`ll vote for it if it`s put in front of them, right? They`ll vote for Trump`s version of it if it`s put in front of them?
SUEBSAENG: Well, we`ll see. We`ll see if Jeff Flake votes for a wall in one form or another. But in terms of people like Mitch McConnell and Jeff Flake, in terms of weaponizing the so-called Republican base for the 2018 races, I think what Steve Bannon and people of his ilk are counting on is that Mitch McConnell is becoming a name synonymous with people like John Boehner and even Barack Obama in terms of what people that the Republican and Conservative base finds anathema. So we`ll see.
REID: Yes, there`s -- using him as an electoral weapon. They`re all on the same side. Dave Weigel, Asawin Suebsaeng, thank you very much for being here. I appreciate you both. And coming up --
SUEBSAENG: Thank you.
REID: Thank you. The President finally addresses the opioid crises by allocating no new money and telling people to simply not do drugs. What it looks like when the President tries to fulfill a campaign promise, ahead.
REID: During the election candidate Trump talked a lot about the opioid crisis. When he became President, he continue to use the tough talk in addressing the epidemic referring to it as a national emergency.
(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 draw it up and we`re going to make it a national emergency.
But this is a national emergency and we are drawing documents now too so attest.
Next week I`m going to be declaring an emergency, a national emergency on drugs. The opioid is a tremendous emergency.
We`re going to be doing a very, very important meeting sometime in the very short, very near future on opioids. In terms of declaring a national emergency which gives us power to do things that you can`t do right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: So today when Donald Trump stepped forward to Present his administration`s battle plan on a crises that last year alone took the lives of 60,000 Americans, do you suppose he went ahead and declared it a national emergency? We`ll give you the answer, next.
REID: Today, Donald Trump did not declare a national emergency on the opioid crises, a technical term that would have immediately freed up federal funds to fight a problem that experts say could cost billions of dollars. Instead, he declared the opioid crises a public health emergency, a different technical term, which basically makes it a little easier for states to shift some very limited funds dedicated to other problems.
But Trump did use his press availability today to tell a personal story designed to demonstrate his empathy for those facing addiction.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I had a brother, Fred, great guy, best looking guy, best personality, much better than mine, but he had a problem. He had a problem with alcohol, and he would tell me, don`t drink. And to this day I`ve never had a drink. And I have no longing for it. I have no interest in it. To this day I`ve never had a cigarette. Don`t worry, those are only two of my good things. I don`t want to tell you about the bad things.
The fact is, if we can teach young people and people generally not to start, it`s really, really easy not to take them. And I think that`s going to end up being our most important thing.
Really tough, really big, really great advertising.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Now, if that sounds exactly like First Lady Nancy Reagan`s Just Say No campaign launched back when President Ronald Reagan declared a war on drugs, that`s because it is exactly the same.
Trump today also announced that this Saturday is national prescription drug take back day, meaning on Saturday you can personally solve the opioid crises by simply throwing away your pills at a designated collection site.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: When you can safely turn in these dangerous and horrible drugs for disposal, that will be a wonderful, wonderful period of time for you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: Republican Congressman James Comber of Kentucky joins me now.
And Congressman Comber, thank you very much for being here. I want to start with what you make of the fact that the president, despite having said that the opioid crises is a national emergency, that he didn`t actually declare it a national emergency, he declared a lower designation, public health emergency. Is that good enough for you, sir?
REP. JAMES COMBER, (R) KENTUCKY: It is good enough. I think it`s a great start. I applaud him for bringing attention to this. With his declaration today, it accomplishes many things. I represent a rural area. It makes it more accessible for telehealth to get access to be able to treat this addiction in the rural areas. It frees up federal funds that can be shifted from one agency into the fight against the drug epidemic, and the president is using the bully pulpit to bring attention to this.
It`s great that we`re talking about this tonight
Everybody in America is talking about this. No one has a real clear answer as to how to solve this, but we have to take a scientific approach and let the metrics determine the best way to solve this and I think the president did a great job today bringing this to the forefront.
REID: Well, you know, the bully pulpit is important and it is part of the sort of ceremonial duties of the president. But as I`m sure taht you understand fighting something like the opioid also epidemic takes money. Federal data actually show, indeed, that Medicaid currently pays for about one-fourth of all substance abuse treatment, that`s up from about one- fourth in 1986. And this is from the Atlantic, "losing expanded Medicaid coverage would absolutely hastring our operation to address opioid addiction in eastern Kentucky," that`s according to Cumberland Valley district public health director Christie Green (ph). She said we`re critically dependent on that.
And despite the dependence on Medicaid as a way that people who are the grips of opioid addiction treat themselves, you, sir, just voted for a budget that The Hill reports the following about: "there is a lot of unjustifiable provisions in this budget, according to Democrats, on top of massive tax cuts for the rich, it cuts vital national investments, according to John Yarmuth, ranking member of the House Budget Committee and your colleague from Kentucky, citing more than $4 trillion in mandatory spending cuts including almost $2 trillion in cuts to Medicare and Medicaid.
How can you justify voting for a budget that cuts the very Medicaid funds needed to treat the opioid addicted in your state?
COMBER: Well, there are people that are addicted to opioids that aren`t on Medicaid, so this affects a large group of people.
REID: But the majority of those who are addicted utilize Medicaid in their treatment. How can you justify cutting those funds?
COMBER: And we`re still going to have Medicaid. In Kentucky, we have a Medicaid problem where we have too many people on Medicaid, but that`s another story.
With respect to this, I supported the 21st Century cures act. I came to congress last November during the lame duck session. That was the first major bill I voted for. That provided $1 billion worth of funding that would be sent to the states to battle the opioid crises, $1 billion over two years. So I have supported increased drug funding.
But you know, it`s going to take more than money. We`ve spent a lot of money in America to fight this problem. It`s only getting worse. I think we have to step back. And I think that the president can lead this as far as trying to bring the federal government in line with the state government and local governments. We have to have everybody working together -- the hospitals, the courts, law enforcement, everybody`s going to have to work together on this and we can do this without continually increasing funding...
REID: Well, hospitals actually rely on federal money, Medicaid money, in part of what they do. In Kentucky, 17 of the counties in your state tie for the highest rate of overdose death. Medicaid covers two-fifths of the population in five of your counties. You have over 215,000 people on Medicaid. Do you believe that these folks can be treated without Medicaid funding?
You`re saying it takes more than money, but if you take the money away, how will those people be treated?
COMBER: Well, we`re not taking the money away.
REID: You voted for a budget that cuts it.
COMBER: It`s cuts -- the Medicaid budget is a very large budget, and what the president did today would allow transferring more money. We have a money issue in America. We have a $20 trillion debt. We have to tighten our belts. It`s unfortunate, but there are other avenues to fight drug abuse.
I`m a big believer in faith-based initiatives for recovery to help combat drug abuse.
REID: But doesn`t, really quickly, I know we`re out of time, but doesn`t the budget that was just passed increase the debt? My understanding is the debt will go up because of this budget.
COMBER: This budget will lead to tax reform.
REID: How does that help the deficit? That increases the deficit. If you - -
COMBER: It increases the deficit if you assume there`s not going to be growth. I believe that there`s going to be growth. I believe that we`re going to allow every American to have more money, every businesses to have more money.
In my district 80% of the people do not itemize on their tax returns. We are going to double the standard deduction with tax reform in my poor district and I believe that`s going to help lead to more money in the economy, to more growth, to more jobs being created.
And one of the issues with the drug epidemic is it`s a direct correlation to poverty. Most people that are on Medicaid --
REID: Are poor and need Medicaid funding and if you cut it they`ll have less help. We`re out of time. We`ll debate this another time. Thank you very much. I really appreciate your time tonight. Thank you Congressman James Comber.
COMBER: Thank you very much.
REID: Coming up, shades of Charlottesville as the president frames Virginia`s race for governor about preserving heritage. We`ll discuss that ahead.
Plus, tonight`s Thing One, Thing Two starts next.
REID: Thing One tonight, this is supposed to be the day, the deadline set 25 years ago by congress to unseal the final documents related to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963.
But late tonight, Donald Trump delayed the release of thousands of those files. Of the 35,000 documents expected to be posted, the president approved just 2800 pages for release. The remainder will undergo a six- month review process after intelligence agencies called for selected redactions.
Which leads to the burning question that will continue to occupy the minds of historians and conspiracy theorists alike. What will we learn from the last batch of unreleased documents, and does it relate to this?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TED CRUZ, SENATOR: Donald Trump alleges that my dad was involved in assassinating JFK.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: Ted Cruz`s prediction is Thing Two in 60 seconds. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
REID: Remember this moment in U.S. political history?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: His father, I don`t know his father. I met him once. I think he`s a lovely guy. I think he`s a lovely guy. All I did is point out the fact that on the cover of the National Enquirer there`s a picture of him and crazy Lee Harvey Oswald having breakfast.
CRUZ: This is nuts.
TRUMP: His father was with Lee Harvey Oswald prior to Oswald`s being, you know, shot.
CRUZ: Donald`s source for this is the National Enquirer.
TRUMP: I`ve always said why didn`t the National Enquirer get the Pulitzer Prize for Edwards and O.J. Simpson and all of these things?
The picture was taken of him and Lee Harvey Oswald and they didn`t deny the picture.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cruz denied it.
TRUMP: I don`t think they denied it.
It`s a little hard to do. It looks like him. There was a picture on the front page of the National Enquirer, which does have credibility, and that`s the only thing I know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: Yeah. That happened. And then he became president.
Well, today Senator Cruz was asked by NBC if he hopes the new JFK documents might help clear up this matter.
(BEING VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Are you confident that the release of the JFK files will vindicate your father?
CRUZ: I look forward to seeing what`s in the files, and you know, politics is a strange process. There are ludicrous claims and then there are claims that go beyond ludicrous, and this one falls into the latter category.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Many of those people were there to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert R. Lee. So, this week it`s Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stone Wall Jackson is coming down. I wonder, is it George Washington next week and is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You really do have to ask yourself where does this stop?
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)
REID: It was just over two months ago that Donald Trump set off a firestorm with those comments, defending and even identifying with the white nationalist marchers in Charlottesville who clashed with counter- protesters and chanted Nazi slogans.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[ chanting ]
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: Trump stood by those demonstrators even after one of their ranks plowed his car into a crowd of people, injuring dozens and killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer. Amid the uproar over those comments by the President of the United States, few would have expected his coddling of the Nazi curious far-right would become a Republican rallying cry, particularly not in the very same state where the violence took place. But that`s precisely what`s happening in the race for governor of Virginia. And we`ll tell you about it right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ralph Northam wants to take down Virginia`s Civil War monuments.
RALPH NORTHAM, VIRGINIA STATE SENATOR: I will do everything that I can to remove the statues at the state level.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ralph Northam will take our statues down. Ed Gillespie will preserve them.
ED GILLESPIE, CANDIDATE FOR GOVERNOR OF VIRGINIA: I`m for keeping them up and he`s for taking them down. And that`s a big difference in November.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: There`s an important detail that you might have missed in that ad for Republican Ed Gillespie`s Virginia gubernatorial campaign. That statue in the ad, the one he`s talking about preserving, is almost identical to the statue of Robert E. Lee that drew all those white nationalist protesters to Charlottesville in August, resulting in violent clashes and the death of one young woman.
Gillespie is now running on the white nationalist`s message and he`s doing it with the full backing of the White House, with the President of the United States tweeting today, "Ed Gillespie will turn the really bad Virginia economy numbers around and fast, strong on crime, he might even save our great statue/heritage."
Gillespie might not seem like the most obvious advocate for the confederacy or its alt-right defenders, born and raised in New Jersey, he`s the ultimate Washington insider. A former RNC chairman and White House adviser to George W. Bush, and a pall who went on to found his own corporate lobbying firm.
Once the architect of Bush`s pro-immigration and compassionate conservative platform, Gillespie is now running menacing ads, tying his Democratic opponent to what are portrayed as violent, Latin American criminals. The old scary brown people gamut.
It might be working. The overall polling average has Gillespie running 4 points behind Democrat Ralph Northam. The most recent poll has him up by 8%.
Jason Johnson is politics editor at The Root and MSNBC contributor, and Sarah Rumpf, who is a Republican strategist opposed to Donald Trump.
So Sarah, I`m going to start with you, it was a tweet by a former Romney adviser, Mitt Romney adviser, Gabe Schoenfeld that said, "I worked with Ed Gillespie on the Romney campaign, a great guy now covering himself in filth." What does it say about the Republican party that one must cover themselves in that alt-right filth, as Schoenfeld put it, in order to run for governor of Virginia, of all places?
SARAH RUMPH, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I do want to draw an important distinction, because Donald Trump is rightfully getting criticized for his "fine people" comment, because what happened in Charlottesville was not a bunch of history buffs and Confederate War reenactors showing up. It was an alt-right, white supremacist rally, it was organized by those groups, the National Policy Institute, which is Richard Spencer`s group, the Daily Stormer, a white supremacist website, and other groups like that. That`s what that was. So when Trump called them "fine people," that`s why everyone got mad and criticized it.
Now, that does not mean that everyone who is hesitant to take down the statues is a white supremacist. That`s -- I don`t think that`s fair to say. And...
REID: Go on.
RUMPH: When I`m looking at this, I honestly -- because we have this same issue in my hometown. My middle school was Robert E. Lee middle school and our mascot was the Rebels, and our local community decided and they renamed the school, it`s College Park middle, it`s the Bulldogs now. That`s great.
This is something I think both the Democrats and Republicans are wrong. Whether you support taking the statues down, the majority of people who want the statues taken down want it done orderly, lawfully. They don`t want vandals in the middle of the night blowing them up. And if you`re someone who wants to preserve them, you`re going to feel better about it if it`s something that is discussed, transparently and openly. If it`s local referendums and local initiatives, as much as possible. And having a fair discussion in the local communities. Have the colleges where these things are hosted, the local parks, the cities, ecetera.
REID: All right, we`re not going into a whole fight, though. We`re talking about this particular thing and I think Jason wants in.
JASON JOHNSON, THE ROOT: Joy, this is the thing, this is what`s entertaining to me about this. The ad says, Ralph Northam is going to take down our statues. He`s not talking about me! He`s not talking about you. He says "our." He`s talking about racists and bigots. People who see these things as symbolically important, not history buffs.
And what Ed Gillespie is doing, which is extremely problematic, is he`s decided, look, since I can`t seem to win this race, since I`m still four to five points behind by focusing on policy, I`m going to throw all of this red meat out there for the racists and the demagogues. I`m going to talk about MS-13, I`m going to talk about sanctuary cities, when there are no sanctuary cities in Virginia and I`m going to use all of these distractions other than focusing on the fact that you have two mainstream center-right Democrats and Republicans running against each other and he wants to cloak himself in Trumpness.
And that, you know, anyone who is running for governor who wants to use a terrorist attack symbolism in order to get elected is not somebody I would want to vote for.
REID: And to that point, Sarah, you do have a situation where this is where Charlottesville took place. Virginia is, you know, a particularly, you know, sort of fraught place to have this kind of message. The Virginia Republican party tweeted and then took down a tweet and apologized for tweeting, "Ralph Northam has turned his back on his own family`s heritage in demanding monument removal."
This is a pointed attack, because of Charlottesville. Isn`t it clear that Ed Gillespie is trying to ride that Charlottesville negative wave into office?
RUMPH: I mean, I think that it is a bit of a stretch to say that he is trying to ally with these alt-right people...
REID: Then why`s he doing it? He`s from New Jersey.
RUMPH: He lives in Virginia. He`s lived in Virginia for a very long time. He`s been active in Virginia Republican politics.
REID: Has he been active in pro-confederate politics. Pro-confederacy, sort of defense of the confederate flag and that kind of thing? I don`t remember that in his history.
RUMPH: You know, I`m not an expert on the intricacies of Virginia politics, but I do want to talk about this MS-13 angle because I do find that very disappointing. Ed Gillespie on criminal justice reform has an excellent record and his positions are very good. They`re very much in line with the conservative criminal justice reform that has been successful in Texas and other places.
RUMPH: Policies that are directing people to --
REID: We`re running out of time. Let me give Jason --
RUMPH: So we`re taking this angry MS-13 ad is the wrong message.
JOHNSON: At the end of the day, if you actually want to get elected governor in a state, it`s not going to be about Trump, it`s going to be about what you can do. You have to run on policy. And when you can`t win on policy, you see candidates doing what like Ed Gillespie is doing. I`m going to use race, I`m going to use dog whistles, I`m going to use whatever I can because I can`t win on substance. And that`s a disturbing thing too many Republicans are falling for. Stick to policy. You can win that way.
REID: Well, we`ll see. Jason Johnson, Sarah Rumph, thank you very much. Sorry we were truncated on time.
That is All In for this evening. And of course, you can always catch me here at 10:00 a.m. eastern for my show, A.M. Joy.
The Rachel Maddow Show starts right this second. Good evening Rachel.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END
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