Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: November 24, 2017 Guest: Miriam Elder, Nick Akerman, Natasha Bertrand, Malcolm Nance; Jill Wine-Banks
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CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Tonight on ALL IN.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There`s been no collusion, no obstruction, and virtually everyone agrees to that.
HAYES: What we know about the investigation into President Trump.
TRUMP: There was no collusion between us and Russia.
HAYES: The case for collusion.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The issue of collusion is still open.
HAYES: The case for obstruction.
JIM COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: I take the President at his word that I was fired because of the Russia investigation.
HAYES: And what following the money could reveal.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We all know why Donald Trump isn`t releasing his taxes, he`s hiding something.
HAYES: When ALL IN starts right now.
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HAYES: Good evening from New York, I`m Chris Hayes. For weeks now, the President and his allies have been insisting that Special Counsel Robert Mueller doesn`t have far to go. And it`s only a matter of time before Mueller clears the President and his inner circle of wrongdoing. But in the wake of the first guilty plea and criminal indictments in the Russia probe last month, it`s clear the President still faces potential legal jeopardy on multiple fronts. There are his international business entanglements which remain completely opaque, thanks to the President`s continued refusal to release his tax returns.
The Special Counsel has already signaled he`s not afraid of follow the money indicting Paul Manafort and Manafort`s deputy Rick Gates on fraud and money laundering charges. There was, of course, the President`s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey in the midst of the Russia probe. A move that he explicitly told our own NBC`s Lester Holt was connected to the ongoing investigation and is now under scrutiny as possible obstruction of justice. And then there`s the central question of collusion. Did the President or his campaign cooperate with Russian operatives who were engaged in a systematic effort to disrupt the American elections?
Amid a cascade of revelations over the last year, lots of political observers are holding out for a smoking gun, the one piece of evidence that proves once and for all that the Trump campaign was in cahoots with Russia. But in the meantime, there is already a circumstantial case for collusion staring us right in the face. A pattern of behavior showing each side was working towards a common goal and that both sides knew they were on the same team as they pursued that goal. We know the Russian government was deeply invested in shaping the election, waging a massive troll campaign on social media and carrying out a wave of attacks -- of hacks specifically directed at one of the two political parties. We also know the other party`s candidate, Donald Trump, took extraordinary pains to avoid ever saying anything bad or critical about Russia or its President Vladimir Putin.
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TRUMP: I think I`d get along very well with Vladimir Putin. I just think so. People would say, what do you mean? I think I`d get along well with him.
He`s running his country and at least he`s a leader, you know, unlike what we have in this country. He`s actually got popularity within his country. They respect him as a leader.
What`s wrong with having Russia work with us instead of always fighting, fighting? What`s wrong with having Russia drop bombs all the hell over ISIS? What`s wrong with that.
He is really very much of a leader. I mean, you can say, oh, isn`t that a terrible thing. The called -- I mean, man has very strong control over a country. Now it`s a very different system and I don`t happen to like the system, but certainly, in that system, he`s been a leader far more than our president has been a leader.
I don`t think anybody knows it was Russia that broke into the DNC. She`s saying Russia, Russia, Russia but I don`t -- maybe it was. I mean, it could be Russia, but it could also be China, it could also be lots of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, OK?
TRUMP: If we got along well, that would be good. If Russia and the United States got along well and went after ISIS, that would be good.
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HAYES: Now, on top of all of that, we also know now that multiple Trump campaign officials jumped at the chance to work with Russian proxies behind the scenes, including the President`s son, Donald Trump Jr., who is eager to collect Russian government dirt on Hillary Clinton, Foreign Policy Adviser George Papadopoulos whose efforts to connect with Russian officials were encouraged by senior campaign aides. And finally we know that as many as nine Trump associates were in contact with Russian officials or agents before the inauguration, meetings that in every case they either neglected to disclose or just straight up lied about.
Joining me now to talk about the status of the case of Donald Trump`s presidential campaign coordinated with the Russian government is an esteemed panel of experts. Miriam Elder is the World Editor of Buzzfeed News, former Moscow Correspondent at The Guardian, Nick Akerman, former Assistant Special Watergate Prosecutor and MSNBC Legal Analyst, Natasha Bertrand, Political Correspondent at the Business Insider where she`s been closely tracking the Russia investigation, and Malcolm Nance a former career U.S. Intelligence officer, now an MSNBC Security Analyst. OK, let`s start with just the concept of the term because it is -- it has become the word that everyone throws around, it`s -- collusion. It`s the charge against the campaign. It`s the thing they explicitly deny, and yet it doesn`t have any specific, Nick -- it has no specific legal meaning.
NICK AKERMAN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: The only legal meaning it can possibly have is conspiracy. It`s a conspiracy to violate another law or a conspiracy to defraud the government or it`s conspiracy to violate the computer fraud and abuse act, the federal hacking statute. So conspiracy does have -- collusion has a legal meaning within conspiracy, which is a crime.
HAYES: OK. Right. That`s a more technical for a specific way. There is also -- you know, to me there`s also the idea of what would -- what constitutes collusion over and above what we know, right? I mean, I want to play this piece of sound of the President which to me in some ways if we discovered this as -- that it was secretly said and then we discovered it, we`d be like, well, here`s the smoking gun. But he just said it into the cameras. Here`s the President asking Russia explicitly while looking into the cameras to find Hillary`s e-mails.
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TRUMP: Russia, if you`re listening, I hope you`re able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.
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HAYES: That is, I mean if we found out that the President secretly had sent a message to a back channel in Russia or through a cutout saying can you find Hillary`s e-mails? That would be massively incriminating, but he just did it in public.
MIRIAM ELDER, WORLD EDITOR, BUZZFEED: Yes, I think you`re precisely right. And everybody`s looking for this smoking gun. This little key that is going to unlock that`s like magically universe of Trump/Russia collusion when it`s precisely staring us in the face. We know that Trump called on Russia to hack -- to release the hacked e-mails. We know that WikiLeaks was talking with Don Jr. and Don Jr. was replying to WikiLeaks. There`s evidence after evidence after evidence that both sides were open up to some sort of collaboration.
HAYES: Yes, what do you think about that, Malcolm? Like it`s very obvious -- it`s very clear that Russian cutouts, agents, intermediaries were attempting to kind of penetrate the Trump campaign, perhaps gauge how game they would be. Do you think just with the facts we know that it`s possible that the conspiracy in Nick`s terms, (INAUDIBLE) legal terms goes just as far as what we know but that is enough to essentially send the signals back and forth between the two parties of what each side is doing?
MALCOLM NANCE, MSNBC SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, I think that we already have all of the information that we need from these circumstantial bits of evidence. What you`re looking for now is what we call the bridge. You want to actually see the orders or the minutes of the meeting or the e-mail that actually says, please do this for us.
NANCE: But, you know, in the Mueller investigation, he has that information. There is just no way he doesn`t have it. And the very fact that he`s going around very circumspect by going through money laundering first, that`s how he squeezes these witnesses and works his way up to conspiracy against the United States. I mean, for the most part, we`re just going to have to be satisfied with the fact that the data we`re getting is from the news media. And when Mueller lays out his case, and I think it will be explosive. I don`t -- I don`t think it will be circumstantial in any way, shape or form, but first, he`s going to have money laundering tied up really tight so that he makes these people talk.
HAYES: So I have always -- my theory has always been a sort of theory of two people painting a fence together on either side of the fence, right? Like, they`re both engaged in the project of painting the fence and they may be even talking to each other like you`re over there, I`m over here, but -- so they`re colluding in a sense, but they`re not like I`ll buy you your paint, you hand me your brush, like they`re not going back and forth, right? That was my thought, Natasha until the Don Jr. e-mail from Goldstone because that e-mail is just so shockingly incriminating and I want to read it again, right? "Emin just called and asked me to contact you with something very interesting.
The Kremlin prosecutor of Russia met with his father Aras this morning. In their meeting offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information they would -- that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father. This is obviously very high level and sensitive information, but it`s part of Russia and its government`s support for Mr. Trump, helped along by Aras and Emin and of course Don Jr., I love it if you what you say it is. I love it especially later into the summer." That to me indicates that they -- that they were not smart or crafty enough to not put things like that in e-mail and that there could be other things that what Malcolm calls the bridge.
NATASHA BERTRAND, POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, BUSINESS INSIDER: Well, this is exactly what I was going to mention when we were talking about whether or not the campaign colluded with Russia. We had it in an e-mail, they intend to collude right there. We had Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner, Donald Trump Jr. meeting with the Russian lawyer at Trump Tower in the hopes of getting dirt on the Hillary Clinton. So, you know, I think it`s really easy to get very, very deep into the weeds on this and start to lose sight of the fact that the intent was there. The campaign clearly wanted to work with the Russians in order to get information that would help them and it continued even into, you know, September when we saw Donald Trump Jr. e-mailing with WikiLeaks. That was after WikiLeaks, of course, have released the DNC e- mails and Donald Trump Jr. was saying, oh, you know, do you have anything else?
HAYES: The communication to WikiLeaks to me in that respect also see that huge development, right? Because that`s where -- if the conspiracy comes together, right, if there is a point of spear where it really, you know, injects itself into the American media and into the campaign, it`s through WikiLeaks.
AKERMAN: It`s huge. I mean, conspiracy is basically an agreement to commit a crime. You can prove an agreement through circumstantial evidence or direct evidence. You don`t need an actual bridge. But here the WikiLeaks is absolutely enormous. At the beginning, the only thing that we knew about was Roger Stone`s connection with WikiLeaks. But over the last couple of months, we learned about Don Jr. dealing with it, Don Jr. basically passing the information on to Don Sr. who actually said the very things that WikiLeaks asked him to say.
HAYES: That is an incredibly incriminating exchange. They basically say, hey, will you tweet this out. The next thing know, the candidate, Donald Trump, the President is tweeting out the thing that Julian Assange is like hey --
AKERMAN: Within 15 minutes if I might add. And then two days later Don Jr. is tweeting out the URL so that people can look at the stolen documents.
HAYES: Miriam, you have a skeptical look. I want you to hold that thought because I want to come back and talk more about all this when we continue. Don`t go anywhere.
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TRUMP: There`s no collusion between me and my campaign and the Russians. There has been no collusion. There has been leaking by Comey but there`s been no collusion, no obstruction, and virtually everybody agrees to that.
They leave the meetings all the time and they say, no, we haven`t found any collusion. There is no collusion. You know why? Because I don`t speak to Russians.
There has been absolutely no collusion. It`s been stated that they have no collusion. They ought to get to the end of it because I think the American public is sick of it.
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HAYES: Right. Still with me, Miriam Elder, Nick Akerman, Natasha Bertrand and Malcolm Nance. And Miriam, we were -- so we`re talking about this revelation which to me gets us closer to some idea of what -- I thought Malcolm Nance usually called the bridge. Like some moment where someone says to someone else, hey, push the button, right? Do this thing so that we can screw over Hillary Clinton. And we know as Don Jr. as reported was in communication with WikiLeaks, Atlantic broke that story and you were a little skeptical of that exchange.
ELDER: Well, I`m skeptical on the WikiLeaks front just because I think actually Don Jr. doesn`t come out looking horrific in the grand scheme of what we know about their approach towards governance in general, but more deeply, I`m not sure we`re going to get to that point where everything falls into place and everything makes sense.
HAYES: The bridge, the smoking gun, the thing that connects.
ELDER: The bridge, yes, the smoking gun, I think it`s an incredibly messy think and it`s a lot of moving parts and a lot of missing pieces. The Russians were trying a ton of approaches, throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what would stick. And I`m not sure it was like a beautiful like one piece of pasta.
HAYES: Well, Malcolm you said that -- I want you to respond to that because I also -- I mean, who knows, right? We don`t know what we don`t know. I mean, to one -- to Miriam`s point, it does seem to me there was enough in what we do know that the Russians could conclude like these people will play ball, Donald Trump will defend our interests in public and probably as president so we`d like to see him elected. And so we should really, like, kick it into higher gear because we`ve now sort of run it up the flagpole a few times and they said, hey, we are down to clown, right? So the question of is it even necessary for there to be a bridge?
NANCE: Well, there is necessary to be a bridge. When I wrote my book last year on this, you know, you don`t have to have all the evidence in the intelligence community. We extrapolate what should be there. And then what we do is we start looking for those little bridges, those little arcs over to the other side. You also have to remember that the Mueller investigation has the FBI FISA warrants, which were out well before any of us had really known that this was in operation. Not just Manafort`s, but the ones against Papadopoulos, quite possibly Carter Page and others unnamed.
NANCE: There is a lot of intelligence out there that will give us that information. And that has to be, you know, has to be declassified and then turned over as the evidence into whatever is going to happen. But I`m certain we`re going to find what, you know, that bridge.
HAYES: So here`s another way of thinking about it, Nick because I also think it`s also possible, just another possibility. The bridge doesn`t happen before the election, but in the period after the election and inauguration, there is something that much more looks like that. Because we know there is a lot of contact happening in that transition that looks much more up close and personal, the obviously famous phone calls from Flynn to Kislyak, the Russian banker meeting with Jared Kushner secretly that maybe sort of afterwards, it`s like, oh, I see what you guys did. Thanks for that.
AKERMAN: Yes, but I think we see the bridge before that. The actual glue that holds this all together are the stolen documents from the DNC. We know that as early as April that the Trump campaign knew that there were these stolen documents out there through Papadopoulos. We also know in that e-mail on June 3rd that sent from Goldstone, it wasn`t just -- the piece you left out there, Chris, was the piece about there being some very highly sensitive information that I was going to send to your father`s secretary.
AKERMAN: But instead I`m going to bring it myself. And to me, that has to mean the stolen e-mails. There is nothing else that would make sense.
HAYES: Your theory of the case is they`re brought to the meeting I just want to be clear that there`s no evidence. You seem skeptical of that?
ELDER: I think it`s been revealed it`s part of this whole anti-Magnitzki campaign that that was one -- I think --
HAYES: Well, it reveals the question of whether we think that they`re reliable narrators. I mean, I`m just saying like that`s what they say it is.
AKERMAN: I think that`s a story they`re feeding to the press.
HAYES: Let me --
AKERMAN: Because what they found themselves with was all of these stolen documents which is a felony under New York State Law, it`s also a crime under the federal statute and it was too hot for them to handle. Roger Stone farmed it out, then everybody else jumped on it, Kushner, Don Jr., the President, and they made a complete positive deniability so that they wouldn`t be stuck with the stolen documents.
HAYES: The other -- the last thing I`ll say -- let me go back to you, Malcolm, because we have to let you go in a second --
HAYES: -- is the idea of the so much deception and deceit and forgetting about all of these contacts. I mean, and the thing that sticks out to me the most is just the idea that at some point that Papadopoulos says they got a lot of Hillary Clinton e-mails and you`ve also got an e-mail saying the Russian government is trying to help your dad and no one says or does anything when it becomes clear in the public that the Russians have done something extremely serious and hacked the DNC. And then you send the candidate out in public to obfuscate about it.
NANCE: Yes, you`re absolutely right. You know, the stolen documents of the DNC, I think a lot of people forget was an intelligence operation that began one year --
NANCE: -- before Donald Trump`s nomination. Which means that the Russians had this operation in play for a very long time.
HAYES: That`s a good point.
NANCE: Win or lose they`re going to use that data. When they brought it over to the RNC, to the Trump team, that was transitioning. Don`t forget about the Michael Cohen November e-mail in which he said that the Russians were looking out for us and that we were going to elect Donald Trump President. By the time this got to Donald Trump Jr., and let me tell you something, I think Donald Trump Jr. is going to turn out to be the nexus of all dirty tricks. He has now shown up in three separate data points that show he was his father`s executive order -- Flynn -- officer and Flynn was most likely the intelligence and operations officer to get the multiple dirty trick contacts done.
HAYES: Yes, Don Jr. is proximity to this. And the idea -- I mean, just to sort of end on this note, the idea that no one ever told Donald Trump Sr. about that Trump Tower meeting is just wildly --
HAYES: -- wildly implausible thing. Malcolm Nance, thanks for your time tonight. The rest of you are going to stay here. Ahead, what will Robert Mueller find as he follows Donald Trump`s money and why the Manafort indictment related to money laundering could be a harbinger of trouble for the President. And next, did the President try to impede the Russia investigation at plain sight? We`ll look at the firing of James Comey in the case of obstruction after this.
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COMEY: It`s my judgment that I was fired because of the Russia investigation. I was fired in some way to change -- or the endeavor was to change the way the Russia investigation was being conducted. That is -- that is a very big deal.
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HAYES: -- President Trump tried to obstruct justice, it is entirely possible that it happened in plain sight. President Trump`s firing of FBI Director James Comey on May 9th is arguably the most obvious attempt by President Trump to impede the Russian investigation and potentially obstruction of justice. The President originally claimed to base his termination on the now infamous memo by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the one citing his rationale, "I cannot defend the director`s handling of the conclusion of the investigation into Secretary Clinton`s e- mails." The idea that President Trump would fire his FBI Director because James Comey had been unfair to Hillary Clinton was far-fetched. And two days later, President Trump confirmed as much when he told NBC News Lester Holt that not only was he going to fire Comey with or without Rosenstein`s recommendation, but one of the prime motivations was the Russia investigation.
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TRUMP: He made a recommendation but regardless of the recommendation, I was going to fire Comey knowing that there was no good time to do it. And, in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story, it`s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.
When I did this now, I said, I probably, maybe will confuse people, maybe I`ll expand that, you know, I`ll lengthen the time because it should be over with. I should -- in my opinion, it should have been over with a long time ago because all it is is an excuse.
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HAYES: News report reinforced what the President himself admitted to Lester Holt. Politico reporting, "he had grown enraged by the Russia investigation, two of his advisers said, frustrated by his inability to control the mushrooming narrative around Russia. It was later revealed that when President Trump met with Russian officials in the Oval Office just one day after firing Comey, according to a document summarizing the meeting and read to the New York Times by an American official, the President told the Russian, "I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy. A real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That`s taken off."
Still, with me here in New York, Miriam Elder, Nick Akerman, Natasha Bertrand, I want to bring in former Assistant Watergate Special Prosecutor Jill Wine-Banks. And Jill, you worked on the Watergate prosecution and one of the articles of impeachment, of course, is obstruction of justice. There was the famous Saturday night massacre. Is there in your mind as someone who worked on an obstruction case against a sitting United States President before enough in terms of what has entered into evidence now and what we know and is confirmed enough for an obstruction case here?
JILL WINE BANKS, FORMER ASSISTANT WATERGATE SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: There is absolutely enough for an obstruction case. I`d be happy to prosecute that one. I think what people need to know is that putting a case together is like putting a puzzle together. And you don`t have all of the pieces at once. You build them one at a time. And circumstantial evidence is often more persuasive than direct testimony. If I see someone come into the room dripping wet with an open wet umbrella, I can circumstantially conclude that it is raining outside and I will be convinced that it`s raining. And the same thing happens. We returned the indictments that led to the convictions before we had the smoking gun tape. That was a very dramatic piece of evidence, but it`s not necessary.
BANKS: And here you`ve had a full discussion of all of the various pieces that have shown obstruction, the firing of Comey, the firing of Yates. We`ve had many more. The asking the FBI to drop the investigation of Flynn. There are so many pieces that are obstructing justice, even the pardoning of Arpaio, which was sending a message to everybody else, you don`t have to cooperate because I`ll take care of you. So I think we have more than enough evidence of acts and furtherance of an obstruction and could easily bring that case.
HAYES: And, Natasha, as you`ve been -- you`ve been reporting, it`s -- the Mueller investigation has that in its purview as well, and, in fact, there is evidence that they`re moving on that in a concerted way as they go along the other parallel tracks.
BERTRAND: Mueller recently requested thousands of documents from the Justice Department you know, memorial -- that memorialized the firing of FBI Director James Comey and also around the time that Jeff Sessions recused himself in the Russia investigation. But there is a very important piece of evidence that Mueller does have in his possession right now which is a letter that Donald Trump wrote while he was in New Jersey on the weekend before he decided to fire James Comey, outlining the reasons why he wanted James Comey gone.
HAYES: The real reasons. Like he dictated it to Stephen Miller and then apparently the White House Counsel was like --
BERTRAND: And that`s going to be a reason why Don McGahn, the White House Counsel, is going to be a very important witness in all of this and he`s going to be questioned by Mueller shortly. Apparently, you know, he actually told Trump we can`t use this as a reason to fire James Comey. So then, at that point, they sent it to the Justice Department and then Sessions and Rosenstein then wrote their memos outlining the reasons why they wanted him gone.
HAYES: I want to play just to remind people of just how incriminating the Comey testimony is. You know, he can think that Comey is not telling the truth and not recalling, but this is a guy under oath saying these things. This is him talking about Trump asking him if he can basically met -- let Michael Flynn off the hook. Take a listen.
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JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: I took it as a direction.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.
COMEY: I mean, this is the president of the United States with me alone saying, I hope this. I took it as, this is what he wanted me to do. I didn`t obey that, but that`s the way I took it.
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HAYES: So, clears everyone out of the room, says can you let Michael Flynn go? Then he doesn`t let Michael -- he pursues the Russia investigation, Michael Flynn. And then he`s fired and here is Comey reflecting on why he thinks he was fired.
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COMEY: It`s my judgment that I was fired because of the Russia investigation. I was fired in some way to change -- or the endeavor was to change the way the Russia investigation was being conducted. That is a very big deal.
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HAYES: And then the final checkers move there is that the president said that he fired him because the Russia investigation on live television to Lester Holt. So they agree about that.
AKERMAN: Right. I agree with Jill totally. I mean, there is enough evidence right now to indict Donald Trump, but I think a key --
HAYES: Wait, I want to be clear on this because Natasha and I have spoken about this. If it is the case that Mueller comes to a conclusion that obstruction of justice was committed and there is a case for it, he is certainly not going to indict the sitting president. He is going to present some sort of case and let Congress take it, right?
AKERMAN: Probably so, but not necessarily. But the key to this is what he`s going to do with Michael Flynn. There is a reason why Donald Trump did not want Comey to be looked -- wanted Comey to let Michael Flynn go.
And whatever that reason is, is going to be an awfully powerful motive to this obstruction, and even though motive is not a critical element to prove an obstruction case, I guarantee you if Mueller brings that and refer it is to Congress, the motive is going to be a key piece of that charge.
HAYES: Yes, Michael Flynn is an interesting case. I want to talk about him because he is -- a lot of people think he is in the crosshairs of possible indictment as well, for a number of reasons. We`re going to talk about that ahead.
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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: How do you take a job and then recuse yourself? If he would have recused himself before the job, I would have said, thanks, Jeff, but I can`t, you know, I`m not going to take you. It`s extremely unfair -- and that`s a mild word -- to the president.
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HAYES: The president expressing his displeasure with Jeff Sessions who, of course, was recused from the Russia investigation.
I still have Miriam Elder, Nick Akerman, Natasha Bertrand, and Jill Wine- Banks.
And Nick was talking about Michael Flynn. It`s easy -- there are so many characters here but it`s easy to forget that first domino in the whole thing is that Michael Flynn has several phone calls with the Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak on the day the Obama administration announces these retaliatory sanctions and they lie about. They lie about it in public.
And ultimately, we find out that Michael Flynn lies to FBI investigators. The number two at the Justice Department who has been the acting head during this transition period basically freaks out and says to the White House twice, calls them twice to be like, your guy is lying to FBI investigators about what he told a Russian ambassador. This is really bad news. She ends up, of course, getting fired.
And then the president looks to protect Michael Flynn in his interactions with Comey.
How central do you think all of that is?
ELDER: I think that Mike Flynn is probably the most interesting character in all of this because he`s the most protected, but also because he`s the one whose motivation I don`t think has been uncovered in its entirety. I always have that image in my head of him sitting at table at the Russia Today anniversary dinner with Vladimir Putin.
How does a retired general, how does someone like that ends up at the table of a massive Russian propaganda machine?
HAYES: Right. That`s before any of this started. That`s a year earlier. There is a sense in which he`s being cultivated, even before.
And he`s also central -- Jill, the protecting -- protecting Flynn is central to what the actions the president takes with respect to Comey. And then there is the question of Sessions. I mean, there is an open question of whether he will take further action towards the Department of Justice, towards Rosenstein or towards Mueller to thwart the investigation if it starts getting even closer to him.
WINE-BANKS: Absolutely. And he certainly has indicated it, but I think he has been tamped down by his lawyers who have said, you`ve got to get control of this. It`s going to hurt you more.
It`s sort of what happened on the Saturday night massacre. The public reaction was so overwhelming that Nixon was forced to reverse himself and that could happen here as well if the public got outraged enough.
But if I could go back to one thing that Nick said, which I agree with, but I just want to put it in the context, when the time came for a decision about indictment versus impeachment, my trial team was pretty adamant that we should indict the president.
WINE-BANKS: And thought that we had grounds for doing it.
WINE-BANKS: But we also had Leon Jaworski saying impeachment is the right method, not indictment. There is now a Ken Starr memo that says you can indict a sitting president. So, it`s an open question now whether you could or not indict the president.
HAYES: I mean, what`s remarkable about this is just that, you know, we were talking about the smoking gun or the bridge, when you`re talking about the collusion case, the first order case, a lot remains murky about that, a lot remains murky about what the Russians did. We should keep in mind, there might be criminal indictments against Russian actors here, right? I mean, the people that actually committed the crime of intrusion into these servers.
But the idea that like the obstruction case is actually just there in front of us. The idea that you can have a moment where people wake up and Robert Mueller says, we`re indicting the president of the United States for obstruction of justice, that seems preposterous but also not implausible.
BERTRAND: And this is one of the reasons why I think he wants to get at why Donald Trump was so angry when Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation. I mean, Donald Trump came out and told "The New York Times" that I never would have hired Jeff Sessions if I had known he was going to step down from this investigation. Why? I mean --
HAYES: He`s told the Russians like I got rid of Comey and now the pressure is off. Clearly, he`s stressing is it.
BERTRAND: Exactly. There is a lot that Mueller has in his toolbox he can leverage the president in telling him about why he fired Comey and why he was so upset about Sessions.
HAYES: One of the things I think of in terms of the president, a lot of people say firing Comey was a mistake and Steve Bannon says catastrophic and these sort of drip, drip, drip disclosures of a mistake, but the president is the only person who knows what he did, right? I mean, you can`t make sense of whether he`s behaving rationally or not if you don`t know what the underlying facts are. It`s possible what he did is so incriminating and so bad that you just -- you know, you roll your dice by firing Comey and hope it works.
AKERMAN: Well, he`s certainly acting that way. He not only fired Comey, but he came up with this ridiculous statement for his son about the June 9th meeting.
HAYES: That`s right.
AKERMAN: And then another statement for Kushner. We don`t know that Trump wrote that but it sure looks like it, because they both dovetail so neatly together. It seems he`s ignoring the lawyers and he`s doing all the so- called strategizing on this case.
HAYES: Well, Jill, this brings me, you just mentioned Jared Kushner. So, I think we think about the collusion track and the obstruction track and having to do with the president and James Comey, but it would be possible if someone was conspiring in furtherance of that, who wasn`t the president, to be indicted for obstruction as well, right?
WINE-BANKS: Absolutely. And he also may have to be worrying about protecting his son-in-law, his son, as well as himself. And you`re right, we don`t know exactly what he did, but we do have the outward manifestations of some things that are clear pointers to criminal violations. So I think there is enough to proceed against him. Certainly, any other person would be indicted based on what we already know, but we treat the president differently.
WINE-BANKS: And I think that`s probably appropriate that he has to have more evidence than an ordinary person.
HAYES: Yes. All right. Jill Wine-Banks, thanks so much for your time.
Next, the first charges to come out of the Mueller investigation had nothing to do with obstruction or collusion or even about Russia. They were about the financial dealings of the people in the Trump orbit. Why the president is wary of Mueller following his money after this.
HAYES: -- prompted some of the very first charges in Robert Mueller`s investigation, it was financial dealings. President Trump`s former campaign manager Paul Manafort and his deputy Rick Gates were indicted nearly four weeks ago for their alleged laundering of tens of millions of dollars from Ukraine. In other words, Robert Mueller followed the money and that is something President Trump has made clear he does not want Mueller to do with him.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
REPORTER: If Mueller was looking at your finances and your family`s finances unrelated to Russia, is that a red line?
REPORTER: Would that be a breach of what his actual charge is?
TRUMP: I would say yes. I would say yes.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
HAYES: We don`t, of course, know what Trump`s actual finances are because he`s refused to release his tax returns. We do know that Mueller has probably examined those returns and we also know there are tons of questionable dealings in Donald Trump`s path. Just like in the report, a hotel in Azerbaijan that appears to be a corrupt operation engineered by oligarchs, a stalled 2011 plan to build a Trump Tower in the city of Batumi that involved unorthodox financial practices that several experts describe as red flags for bank fraud and money laundering, Trump`s sale of a Florida mansion no one wanted to a Russian fertilizer king for a whopping $95 million.
Mueller`s team`s reportedly looking into the Trump SoHo condo development as well as the Trump-owned 2013 Miss Universe pageant for which a prominent Russian developer paid $20 million. Just last week, we learned that Christopher Steele, that would be the author of that partially verified, though not completely corroborated dossier on Trump and Russia said investigators needed to look at the contracts for the hotel deals and land deals that Trump had pursued with Russian nationals.
That`s just Trump himself. There is also the family. To take but one example, Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. barely avoided being indicted back in 2012 for allegedly misleading perspective buyers at Trump SoHo. All of it is potentially under the microscope of Robert Mueller and his team.
Still with me, "BuzzFeed" world editor Miriam Elder, former assistant Watergate prosecutor Nick Akerman, and "Business Insider" political correspondent, Natasha Bertrand. Joining the table, someone who has done a lot of reporting on President Trump`s finances, "New York Times" political investigative reporter, MSNBC contributor, Nick Confessore.
Nick, let me start with you. What always strikes me about Manafort and the Manafort indictments is Manafort is one of these people that people were writing about how shady he was for years and how shady his finances were for years. And he went along not getting indicting until Robert Mueller came along, looked at his finances for six months and said here`s 12 indictable offenses. If you`re the president of the United States, you`ve got to be worried about that.
NICK CONFESSORE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Look, in fact, he was under investigation before Trump came around. So, look, the money trail is always there. It stretches back decades. You can take the list that you just read of Trump and Russia involvement and keep going for like 20 minutes of properties Russians have bought, prominent Russians, oligarchs, it goes back a ways.
And we know also the Trump White House has put a red line in the sand if you go beyond this collusion thing, we`ll flip out, we`ll try to fire the special prosecutor. So, something is there that they`re sensitive about it. It goes back to the other question, Trump in the campaign had the two principles, trade, the wall.
And the third one, be nice to Russia.
CONFESSORE: Where did that come from?
I think if you`re looking at this investigation, it`s clear that Mueller has brought in people with experience in financial crimes and money laundering and your top campaign guy from a period in the campaign has already gotten nabbed in those very crimes, yes, it`s super worrisome.
HAYES: How much do you think as someone who has covered Russia and lived there as a correspondent -- there are a lot of Russian oligarchs in the sort of global luxury real estate market around the world, buying lots of properties because it`s a useful vehicle to park assets. It`s a way of evading detection, et cetera.
How much do you think that Trump is a person with selling those kinds of properties and they`re parking the money in there? And how much do you have a sense that Russian oligarchs who are doing that are sort of in contact with some greater political intelligence agenda?
ELDER: I think what you said is absolutely correct, that Russians love to buy property in New York and Miami and London to park their cash abroad and to have a place to flee. If you are successful in Russia, if you reach a certain level of success then you have been blessed by the state. Does that mean that you receive orders from the state that you must participate in this grand collusion exercise to get Trump elected? Not necessarily. I think that in this case, it seems to me like real estate is a really, really shady business.
HAYES: No, it`s a great point.
ELDER: It`s a shady business in New York. It`s a shady business in Baku, in Moscow, and this is where like all the shadiness comes together.
HAYES: That to me is the question. There is always this question of could any -- like, does -- Natasha, are Trump`s finances particularly sketchy or are they just New York real estate practices and if you put real estate developers under a microscope, you`re going to find some shady stuff. Which of those do you have is more accurate?
BERTRAND: It is inherently sketchy, but I think you also have to look at the reason Mueller is looking at Paul Manafort and Trump`s finances, it`s to leverage information out of them. Ultimately his investigation is about Russia`s election interference and whether or not the campaign colluded. So as far as financial, you know, conflicts arises out of his investigation, I think that`s all towards an end game of him trying to get information about the extent of the conspiracy that happened here or not.
HAYES: I see. So, as a legal strategy, the idea here and the same way we saw with Manafort and Gates, you have undeniable offenses, you then have leverage and that leverage can be used in furtherance of discovering what actually happened between Russia and the campaign.
AKERMAN: And just about every one of those things you mention, Chris, relates to Russia. I mean, even Trump SoHo relates to Russia. I mean, the D.A. office dropped the ball completely on charges against Don Jr. and Ivanka for having lied to investors. But there`s more --
HAYES: I should say they are caught in e-mails materially misrepresenting the vacancy rates.
HAYES: They are saying they know they aren`t telling the truth about the vacancy rates.
AKERMAN: Right, but it`s more than that. I mean, the investigators and that completely dropped the ball. They had to make a certain 15 percent or the deal wouldn`t go through under New York state law.
I`ll bet you anything if you looked at some of those 15 percent, you`re going to find a lot of Russian names, a lot of Russian money parked there. You also had Felix who is a principal in the Bay Rock Group who wasn`t even disclosed in the perspective for that deal. Again, that guy with lots of Russian connections.
HAYES: There is also the $95 million that went from Russia to the president to take a property off his hands that no one wanted to buy. I want to talk about that when we come back.
Everyone stick around. We`ll see you on the flip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You don`t learn very much from tax return, let me tell you know. I will absolutely give my return but I`m being audited now for two or three years so I can`t do it until the audit is finished, obviously.
You know, the only one that cares about my tax returns are reporters.
REPORTER: You don`t think the American public is concerned about it?
TRUMP: I don`t think so. I won. I became president. No, I don`t think they care at all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Still here, Miriam Elder, Nick Akerman, Natasha Bertrand, and Nick Confessore.
So, a few things, one is to go back to this idea of how much of this is the nature of the business that Trump is in and how much is particularly Russia, there is this one notable sale right? He`s got a white elephant property in Philadelphia he can`t get rid of and sales it for $95 million for a Russian oligarch, which a lot of people, Rachel covered, a lot of people think like, that`s kind of a weird sale.
You were saying that like, it may or may not be. These kind of sales happen all the time.
ELDER: Yes. I think, you know, after seven years of living and working in Russia, reporting on all sorts of business dealings, finding a clean business deal was like the rare thing.
ELDER: Everything is really messy. It`s one of the most corrupt countries in the world. So, yes, it`s possible that there was something more going on, but it`s also possible that he was, you know, parking his money through the Trump Organization or something like that.
HAYES: Right, or that he had or the purchase of the property had motivations entirely unrelated to Donald Trump that also were sketchy.
HAYES: There is the fact there is so much Russian and Saudi money through the global real estate system.
CONFESSORE: Absolutely. Look, if you`re a builder of high-end real estate in the last 30 years, at some point you were probably asking for Russian money, and at some point, you`re probably asking for Saudi money. If you`re a seller of the apartments in New York, you`re definitely trying to get some Russian money because those are the people who have money to buy these super luxury apartments.
So, the real estate market is swimming in Russian money. This is a guy that builds a lot of real estate in New York.
HAYES: Right. There is an additional thing that complicates that, right, because his son at one point talked about how much was Russian money and there was someone who went through long periods unlike other New York City real estate developers, he was cut off tradition sources of capital.
AKERMAN: Right, because he declared bankruptcy so many times. Huge amounts of money and bankruptcy, a billion dollars that the banks weren`t loaning money. So, who do you go to? It`s either A loan shark in Brooklyn or you go to the Russians. I mean, that`s it.
The loan sharks in Brooklyn don`t have that much money. So, the Russians do. That`s who you go to, the other organized crime group.
HAYES: That -- we should say that there is something particular about Donald Trump`s financial situation about the multiple bankruptcies, because like unlike other real estate developers, he was squeezed off from the traditional sources of capital and real estate, the entire game of real estate is that you borrow money, you invest it. You hope to make money and get out. That`s basically it.
If you can`t borrow money, you have a much harder time.
BERTRAND: One of the most interesting things to the sale was the timing of it. It happened in 2008 when Trump was going through essentially, you know, multiple bankruptcies. No one would loan to him. This was a huge infusion of cash into his bank account. So, you know, when you look at the circumstances surrounding that sale and then it starts to become a little bit more questionable.
HAYES: Can you imagine a world in which there is -- game out the possibility of some kind of indictments related to these offenses that don`t relate back to the sort of core question about Russian political interference.
CONFESSORE: I would say highly likely. We know for certain the president is extraordinarily sensitive about his finances. He`s the first president in decades not to release his tax returns. There is something there, there is some ball there. We`re not sure what it is.
And so, if you`re asking what kind of interest did the Russians have in helping elect him, sure, there is an answer there. But if you`re asking what leverage did the Russians have over the president that made him and drove him towards these policies on the Ukraine and elsewhere, the answer might be in his finances.
HAYES: Right, that`s another great point.
CONFESSORE: And financial relationships.
HAYES: Right, and maybe that those two as you`re talking about, the sort of degree of sketchiness that maybe there are deals that he knows were sketchy happening all along that he`s worried about coming out.
ELDER: Absolutely. This is back to my idea of the smoking gun. I do think the Russians had targeted Donald Trump a long time ago. They have known him for decades. They`ve known what type of person he is, which the entire American public knows what type of a person he is, and they have information on him. This is the game that the Russians play. They collect information and deploy it when it`s useful.
HAYES: So, you think that`s one of the things that is alleged in this Steele dossier, right, that he was cultivated for along time, and that they compiled compromised material on him.
ELDER: I mean, beyond extra to the dossier, he had been going to Russia and when you have a big real estate developer arriving in Russia the `90s, you can be certain the security services were keeping tabs on him.
HAYES: I mean, even particularly that 2013 visit, which to me ends up being so important because of the fact that the one really concrete, would you like to collude with the Russian government comes to the intermediaries there are who also, we should note, real estate developers, right? That`s a real estate development family. The pageant is held in one of their developments, right, in Moscow. There is already a bunch of red flags around that particular --
AKERMAN: Right. To go back to your point about what Mueller is going to do in terms of the Russian financials plus the collusion, I think what you saw with the Papadopoulos -- and Manafort is what he wants to do all along. He wants to tie together the same time the Russian collusion, as well as the financial.
AKERMAN: So, I think what he is looking to do, at least with Trump`s financials is to tie it into the collusion. I mean, even though prosecutor doesn`t have to act politically, that`s where he`s going to be headed.
HAYES: Miriam Elder, Nick Akerman, Natasha Bertrand and Nick Confessore, thanks so much for being here.
That is ALL IN for this evening. We`ll be back on Monday. Good night.
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