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Flynn pleads guilty to lying to FBI about Russia Transcript 12/1/17 All In with Chris Hayes

Guests: Evan McMullin, Kathryn Rampell, Malcolm Nance, Natasha Bertrand, Chuck Rosenberg, Jill Wine-Banks, Ted Lieu, Mike Quigley, Richard Blumenthal

Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: December 1, 2017 Guest: Evan McMullin, Kathryn Rampell, Malcolm Nance, Natasha Bertrand, Chuck Rosenberg, Jill Wine-Banks, Ted Lieu, Mike Quigley, Richard Blumenthal

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lock him up. Lock him up. Lock him up.

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: The President`s former National Security Adviser pleads guilty to lying to the FBI.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you direct Mike Flynn to discuss sanctions with the Russian ambassador --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- prior to your --

TRUMP: No I didn`t.

HAYES: Tonight, what Michael Flynn`s full cooperation with Robert Mueller means for the President.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: it`s a nightmare for Donald Trump.

HAYES: As the Russia probe reaches Trump`s inner circle.

TRUMP: I didn`t direct him but I would have directed him because that`s his job.

HAYES: Plus, what Michael Flynn`s lie was attempting to hide.

SEAN SPICER, FORMER PRESS SECRETARY, WHITE HOUSE: The only conversation General Flynn had was one, to wish him a merry Christmas wish.


SPICER: Christmas and holiday greetings.

HAYES: And the desperate rush to pass the tax cuts before the next indictment.

TRUMP: It`s all fake news. It`s all fake news.

HAYES: WHEN "all in" starts right now.


HAYES: Good evening from New York, I`m Chris Hayes. Today the former National Security Adviser to the President of the United States pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with the Russian Ambassador. And amid the chaos, Republicans in Congress are going full steam ahead to push a massive corporate tax cut through while they still have a chance because you`d never know who is going to be indicted on Monday. That`s especially true now that we know Flynn is cooperating with Robert Mueller`s Russian investigation, bringing it one step closer to the President`s inner circle, including his son-in-law Jared Kushner, possibly even the President himself. Flynn is now the fourth member of the Trump campaign to be charged with a felony. And unlike the other three who all parted ways with the President by the time he took office, Flynn is in a special category on his own. An early addition to the campaign, he became a close confidant of the President frequently traveling with him on the road and defending him in the press. They grew so close that Trump went on to pick Flynn as his National Security Adviser even after being explicitly warned against it by President Obama right after the election. And unlike the other three who have been charged, Flynn committed his crime inside the White House. He lied to FBI agents in an interview just two days after being sworn in as National Security Adviser. After appearing in federal court this morning, Flynn, who once led "lock her up" chants at the Republican Convention, exited the courthouse to a new chant of his own.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lock him up! Lock him up! Lock him up! Lock him up!


HAYES: Flynn later released his first public statement which read in part, "my guilty plea and agreement to cooperate with the Special Counsel`s office reflect a decision I made in the best interests of my family and of our country. I accept full responsibility for my actions." Under that cooperation agreement, Robert Mueller will soon find out everything Flynn knows about what happened during and after the Trump campaign if he hasn`t already. And there`s reason to believe that Michael Flynn knows a whole heck of a lot. Nevertheless, the White House tried to protect an air of calm today, at least in public. Attorney Ty Cobb is saying in a statement "Nothing about the guilty plea or the charge implicates anyone other than Mr. Flynn. Maybe but Mueller would not make a deal if he didn`t think Flynn could deliver a bigger fish. In court documents released today, it already gives clues about who Mueller may be angling for. Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about his contacts during the transition with the Russian Ambassador insisting they hadn`t discussed new sanctions imposed by the Obama administration. Now we`ve known for months that that wasn`t true. They did discuss the sanctions. The Washington Post broke that story last February leading to Flynn`s resignation. What we didn`t know, until today, is that Flynn was directed to discuss sanctions with the Ambassador by a senior member of the President`s transition team. Someone who, while all this was going on, was with other senior members of the presidential transition team at the Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida. That new information makes it a lot harder to believe what the President told the press right after Flynn stepped down.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you direct Mike Flynn to discuss sanctions with the Russian ambassador --

TRUMP: No, I didn`t.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- prior to your inauguration?

TRUMP: No I didn`t. No, I didn`t.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And would you have fired him --

TRUMP: Excuse me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: if the information hadn`t leaked out?

TRUMP: No, I fired him because of what he said to Mike Pence, very simple. Mike was doing his job. He was calling countries and his counterparts. So it certainly would have been OK with me if he did it. I would have directed him to do it if I thought he wasn`t doing it. I didn`t direct him but I would have directed him because that`s his job.


HAYES: Chuck Rosenberg is a former U.S. Attorney who served as Chief of Staff of the FBI under former Director James Comey and Jill Wine-Banks, former Assistant Special Watergate Prosecutor former General Counsel to the U.S. Army. Chuck, let me begin with you. The significance of this today, what does it mean?

CHUCK ROSENBERG, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, it`s very significant, Chris. It means a couple of things. One is that Mike Flynn when he gets sentenced is going to be a convicted felon, the other is that he`s going to cooperate. That`s what he needs to do for a bunch of reasons. One is, they can compel him to tell the truth. The other of course is that he wants to make sure that whatever sentence he gets, in the end, is as low as possible. And that plea agreement requires him to corroborate fully and truthfully. So significant, you bet it is.

HAYES: Jill, you know, we have heard all along that there were multiple possible indictments coming for Flynn and perhaps his son. One of them was failing to register as a foreign agent which we know -- I think we have her back. One of them was failing to register as a foreign agent, which of course we know Paul Manafort and his deputy have been already indicted for. So Chuck, what does it mean that those sorts of charges are not present today and instead we have this one charge?

ROSENBERG: It doesn`t mean very much, Chris. And here`s why. One charge, one count will make him a convicted felon and that`s a pretty rough way to go through the rest of your life. The other stuff, the other conduct, including either lying on his foreign agent registration forms or omitting information or, you know, whatever else he may have done, all of that stuff, A, is known to Mueller and his team and, B, will have to be made known to the judge because it will factor in his sentencing. So the mere fact that he`s pleading guilty to one count doesn`t mean that all of this other stuff doesn`t come into play at some point for Mr. Flynn.

HAYES: What are the terms of this kind of negotiation and cooperation usually like, Chuck?

ROSENBERG: Well, the terms of this plea agreement are pretty standard. I`ve seen a thousand of them and it doesn`t seem all that different. The fact that they are letting him plead guilty to one count as opposed to making him plead guilty to many is not all that unusual. In some ways it seems quite standard, Chris.

HAYES: Jill, you obviously have experience with Watergate and one of the key things there was John Dean. John Dean was someone who knew a lot and who did flip and that sort of broke things open. How do you compare what happened today with that?

JILL WINE-BANKS: I think we have every reason to believe that Mike Flynn is a knowledgeable person because of the fact that Trump has gone so far out of his way to protect him. He wouldn`t have been doing that if Flynn didn`t know things that would hurt him and his family. That is, Trump and his family, his son and son-in-law. So I think that the fact that he`s cooperating is really bringing us closer to the truth and also I think it`s important that the information that he pled guilty to specifically said that he talked to and was guided by a senior person in the Presidential transition. And, of course, we`re hearing rumors today that that was Jared Kushner but it could have been Pence, it could have been Sessions, it could have been any one of a number of people, all very high up who are now in jeopardy and who will also have information that if they are called upon to choose between going to jail and testifying, may testify and give us even more evidence to sort of draw the final loop around the White House.

HAYES: Chuck, it does seem notable that in --that Mueller included in that plea document, that he was directed to do this by a senior administration official. There`s a little bit of contradictory reports about who that is that directed to make this contact with Kislyak and afterward crucially talked to senior administration officials. And so the entire line from the White House, for months and months and months, which is we have no idea Michael Flynn lied appears not to be true.

ROSENBERG: Right. And so the Mueller team is slowly chipping away at the truth. What they`ll reveal over time is what actually happened. You`re seeing another piece of it today. I don`t draw any conclusion right now about who it is or how far they`ll go, who`s in jeopardy or not in jeopardy. Here`s what I do know Chris. They`re getting at it and they are getting at it in an extraordinarily and deliberate and professional way.

HAYES: What about the pace, Jill? As you know, my colleague Lawrence O`Donnell made a comment this morning and said it was going so much faster than Watergate. And it does seem like the pace of this is going at quite a rapid clip.

BANKS: It is going rapidly. I would like to draw one analogy, which is when John Dean pled guilty, it was Friday, October 19th. Saturday, October 20th was a Saturday Night Massacre. And there is some link between the fact that he was cooperating and testifying and the fact that we were denied the tapes, had the press conference and that`s what led to a huge public outcry that really reversed how the public saw the Watergate investigation and I`m hoping that something from today will get through to most of the people who are currently supporting the President and make them see what the real facts are and that real crimes are being committed by the people in the White House.

HAYES: How serious a crime is it, Chuck, to lie to the FBI?

ROSENBERG: It`s a felony. There are two types of crimes, basically, felonies and misdemeanors. This is a felony. It`s a serious crime. I want to be clear about something, Chris. It doesn`t really matter all that much which felony they picked or which lie they picked to charge as part of the felony. It`s a serious crime. It`s as simple as that.

HAYES: All right, Chuck Rosenberg, and Jill Wine-Banks, great to have you here on a pretty momentous day. My next guests both sit on Congressional committees with jurisdiction on the Russia Probe, Congressman Mike Quigley, a Member of the House Intelligence Committee which is conducting an investigation on its own and Congressman Ted Lieu who sits on the Judiciary Committee where article of impeachment would be introduced. Good to have you both, gentlemen. Congressman Quigley let me begin with you. Were you surprised given that you have access to information that we in the public do not have from your perch of the committee, were you surprised by today`s development?

REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D-IL), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: The timing somewhat. It`s hard to imagine that after last week`s announcement that Mr. Flynn had stopped cooperating with the Trump defense team that something like this wasn`t going to happen. It was clearly an indication that there was cooperation, which is more likely than not leading to some sort of a negotiated plea. So I think -- I felt this was going to happen. It was hard to imagine that the general didn`t have a lot of exposure. But as suggested, it has gained in momentum.

HAYES: Congressman Lieu, one of the things that -- there`s a sort of side part of this and it has to do with essentially the Presidential transition conducting foreign policy during the transition. And we should note that it`s not unusual for incoming administrations to be in contact with foreign governments and talking about things but there`s both the example of the sanctions and this other example in which it appears according to reporting that Jared Kushner directed Michael Flynn to call different governments and attempt to block what the Obama administration was trying to have happen during a U.N. Security Council Vote, essentially undermining the current foreign policy to the U.S. government. What do you make of the seriousness of that?

REP. TED LIEU (D-CA), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: That`s very serious, Chris. That`s why there`s a federal law against it called the Logan Act. We have one President at a time. You cannot conduct your own rogue foreign policy and that`s exactly what the Trump campaign was doing. But also, keep in mind, you have multiple Trump officials not only lying about the Russian contacts but lying about the same exact Russian person Ambassador Kislyak. Michael Flynn lied about his interaction with Kislyak, Jeff Sessions lied and Jared Kushner on a security clearance form lied as well. And this is important because Kislyak is also as Mike Quigley knows, is a spy and spy recruiter for Russia as well.

HAYES: Congressman Quigley, one of the -- one of the key items here is the fact this was on sanctions day. This was the day when the Obama administration was essentially delivering their punitive measures for what Russia had done to a Donald Trump. What does it mean if the Trump campaign or the Trump transition is essentially telling them it`s going to be OK?

QUIGLEY: Right. I mean, look, there`s a reason we have one president at a time. Leave it to the Trump administration to bring out the Logan Act. I don`t know if anyone`s ever been prosecuted under that act, right? It`s an extremely old law and leave it to them to make this relevant. Again, clearly this is a long pattern in history of abuse and an extraordinary flow of connection primarily with one country, Russia, to benefit Russia`s foreign policy and, unfortunately, I think in a coordinated basis with the Trump administration.

HAYES: Congressman Lieu, does this brings things closer to a conclusion today? Do you suspect this goes up to the President of the United States?

LIEU: Well, first off, today is a dark day for America because we`re now seeing evidence of criminal behavior at the highest levels of our government. And I actually think we can draw a very strong inference by today`s plea agreement. I`m a former prosecutor and you wouldn`t do a plea agreement, such as this one, if you`re trying to get lower level people. The only reason you are charged Michael Flynn with just one count as opposed Manafort with a whole laundry list of counts is because you want him to give incriminating and damning information on people above him. There`s only a little number of those folks. It`s Kushner, Mike Pence, Jeff Sessions, Donald Trump Jr. or the President of the United States.

HAYES: And Congressman Quigley, I want your respond to one of those senior people is the Vice President. The Vice President was in Mar-a-Lago that day. The Vice President -- the story has been that Flynn lied to the Vice President, that the Vice President had no idea. Here`s what he had to say on January 15th about that phone conversation. Take a listen.


PENCE: I talked to General Flynn about that conversation and actually it was initiated when -- on Christmas Day. He had sent a text to the Russian Ambassador to express not only Christmas wishes but sympathy for the loss of life in the airline crash that took place. It was strictly coincidental that they had a conversation. They did not discuss anything having to do with the United States` decision to expel diplomats or impose a censure against Russia.


HAYES: We now know that`s definitively not true but are you satisfied that the Vice President was telling the truth, that he knew -- that he did not know that it wasn`t true?

QUIGLEY: I think when we do an investigation like this, it`s important not to draw any assumptions. I think we have to follow the facts wherever we take -- they take us. This is an investigation like many others. It begins at the periphery and moves towards the center. That momentum obviously increases dramatically when people start flipping. I encourage the American public when they ask questions about the Vice President and anybody else in the administration, your patience is starting to pay off. Let`s let Mr. Mueller do his job. Let`s certainly let the House and Senate investigations take their course. So I`m not going to presume or assume that I know anything about what the Vice President knew or didn`t know. Obviously, there are questions about the entire administration. Let us do our job. My concern today, number one, is that this is going to panic the White House and they`re going to enhance their existing efforts to either halt the investigations that are taking place or at least impair them.

HAYES: Don Jr. I believe is headed to your committee next week. Does this change at all your approach to questioning him?

QUIGLEY: Well, we have a habit of not talking about who is going to appear. Obviously, it makes the news sometimes before we even know it. I think there`s a lot of questions for Trump Junior and I look forward to being part of that when and if he appears before our committee.

HAYES: Congressman Lieu, on the Judiciary Committee there, are you confident in your Republican colleague or Democrat colleagues will take steps to protect Robert Mueller if it appears that his job is threatened?

LIEU: I am. And keep in mind that what brought Richard Nixon down was obstruction of justice. That was the first article of impeachment and it was a Saturday Night Massacre where he fired all of these Department of Justice officials. So Donald Trump can try to do that but if he has any recognition of what happened in history, I don`t think he`ll do that. And you have Republicans such as Trey Gowdy who has said you should let Robert Mueller do his job and let the facts go as they should.

HAYES: All right, Congressman Mike Quigley and Ted Lieu, I appreciate you taking the time tonight.

QUIGLEY: Thank you.

LIEU: Thank you.

HAYES: Still ahead, the desperate rush to pass corporate tax cuts before there`s another indictment. And next Senator Richard Blumenthal on what Michael Flynn`s flipping means to the President and his plan to shield Robert Mueller from being fired in two minutes.


HAYES: -- White House today knew Michael Flynn`s guilty plea was coming and the shocked has ratcheted up the tension. Shortly before noon today, reporters began gathering in the briefing room for scheduled event with Donald Trump and the Prime Minister of Libya. Now the pool reporters as they`re know, began heading out but were abruptly halted. After some confusion, the press was not allowed in, the White House blamed a scheduling error. Why the backtracking? Maybe because according to Politico, no one in the White House was prepared, quoting a source close to the White House, "what they`re freaked out about is that there are no leaks. Papadopoulos didn`t leak, Flynn didn`t leak. They feel like they can`t trust anyone their own counsel didn`t know." A source telling NBC News the President was "blindsided by the news."

According to ABC News, Trump and his legal team found out from news reports this morning. The Daily Beast reports today that Flynn slipping was a shock but not as surprised and that for weeks the President had been feeling personally hurt at the prospect of Flynn turning on him. Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut sits on the Judiciary Committee which is conducting its own probe of Russian interference in the election and potential links to the Trump campaign. Senator, you had this to say earlier today. Congress must now match the Special Counsel`s courage by approving legislation to shield him from the very real threat of improper political interference as I and others have proposed. What do you mean by that?

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: We proposed legislation that would stop the President of the United States from firing the Special Counsel and it would shield the Special Counsel from any sort of political interference which now seems increasingly threatening, not just the President was blindsided but all of his administration and it is a shadowing moment for the Trump presidency. Comparing it to Watergate is a real danger of another Saturday Night Massacre. We should send a signal on a Judiciary Committee of the United States Senate to approve legislation that will shield the Special Counsel, in fact, bar any firing without proper court order so that the President is, in effect, discouraged or deterred from endangering our democracy with this constitutional confrontation and possible conflagration.

HAYES: There has been some enthusiasm for that expressed by certain Republicans, although Mitch McConnell had said he didn`t think it was necessary earlier this year. Do you think you have the -- do you think you have the votes for that?

BLUMENTHAL: We have bipartisan support for it. We have a number of Republican Senators who have joined our bill in the Judiciary Committee. We have already had a hearing. We should have a markup and a vote on the floor of the United States Senate. Whatever its necessity weeks ago, now clearly it is urgent and necessary as is the Judiciary Committee continuing its investigation of obstruction of justice with subpoenas for documents and witness testimony so the American people can hear them under oath and in public before the Judiciary Committee. And I might add just one other point Chris, which I think was important in a question that you asked just a few minutes ago. There`s been a lot of talk about the Logan Act, which is a serious criminal statute. But the FBI was questioning Michael Flynn, not about the Logan Act or about his conversations with the Russians because of a possible violation of the Logan Act. They were investigating collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians. That`s the reason that the formal statement of offense filed by the Special Prosecutor says that he was charged and why he pled guilty. So it all is coming together, so to speak, the Russian collusion and obstruction.

HAYES: So on the obstruction front, there`s also been reports that the President during the summer was sort of frantically calling various members of the Senate trying to get them to back off, to stop their investigation. Obviously, the President went to James Comey and told him to back off Flynn and when he didn`t he fired him. He says he had the Russia investigation in mind when he did so. Does Flynn`s centrality resonate through the case for obstruction as well?

BLUMENTHAL: It does very, very directly and profoundly importantly. We`re still a ways from kind of charges of obstruction against anybody in the Oval Office but clearly, we are at a Watergate moment here. What did he know and when did he know it? And that question applies not only to the President but to Jared Kushner, to Vice President Pence, what did they know as members of the transition team about these approaches to the Russians, about the collusion between the Russian government and the Trump campaign as alleged and that moment will have very dramatic resonance in the course of this investigation and it has to be pursued, it`s being pursued by the Special Counsel.

HAYES: Do you think -- are you confident that Jeff Sessions has not been directed by the President to interfere in any way? He was asked that question by Adam Schiff. Adam Schiff said Sessions refuse to answer. Are you confident that the Attorney General right now isn`t being pressured by the President to interfere?

BLUMENTHAL: I have no confidence whatsoever that the President is avoiding any kind of tactic in stopping this investigation. Clearly, he`s resorted to some very direct threats and intimidation. He`s called the investigation a hoax and a witch hunt. And he has privately berated Attorney General Sessions for recusing himself, as was required, and for failing to intervene before and he has demanded a pledge of loyalty from his then FBI Director James Comey and to drop the investigation. So this President has no clear sense of what the bounds are and what the norms should be legally or ethnically.

HAYES: Senator Richard Blumenthal, thanks for your time.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.

HAYES: Up next, a reminder of just how blatantly obvious it was even just a few days into the Trump administration that people were lying about Flynn`s contacts with the Russians.


HAYES: At the very heart of today`s Michael Flynn`s news are the repeated lies or false statements made by members of the Trump administration while Flynn`s calls to Russian Ambassador were coming to light. On January 12th, the spark of what become a raging bonfire when the Washington Post`s David Ignatius revealed that "according to a senior U.S. government official, Flynn phoned Russia Ambassador Sergey Kislyak several times on December 29th." Now, December 29th was, of course, the day that the Obama administration announced sanctions against Russia specifically to punish it for its inference in the Presidential election on behalf of Donald Trump. Trump`s Spokesman Sean Spicer initially offered this explanation.


SPICER: On Christmas Day, General Flynn reached out to the Ambassador and sent him a text and it said, you know, I want to wish you a Merry Christmas and a happy new year. The Ambassador texted him back wishing him a merry Christmas as well. And then subsequently on the 28th of December texted him and said I`d like to give you a call, may I? And then he took that call on the 28th and the call centered around the logistics of setting up a call with the President of Russia and the President-Elect after he was sworn in.


HAYES: Don`t you love that pause before he says logistics? That`s how you know he`s not telling the truth. All right, so Spicer says Flynn spoke with Kislyak on December 28th, not the 29th which is the day of the sanctions were announced. Hours later, Spicer changed his story.


SPICER: That call took place on the 29th of December, at which time General Flynn was asked whether or not he would help set up a call after the inauguration with President Putin and then President Trump. The only conversation that General Flynn had was one, to wish him a Merry Christmas, two, to express his sympathies for the loss of life that occurred during the plane crash that took the lives of their military choir.


HAYES: OK. So Spicer comes out to correct. He says he did talk -- that`s Michael Flynn did talk to the Ambassador on the day that the sanctions were announced but total coincidence. He was just calling to talk about Christmas and to express condolences. That`s it. But then a few days after that, Reuters reports said that Flynn had not one but five calls with Kislyak on December 29th, the day of the sanctions. Five calls. Five calls to say Merry Christmas and keep offering condolences?

Weeks later, at his first official briefing as press secretary, Spicer would still claim it was just a single call, but declared that Flynn discussed four topics, none of which were sanctions.


SEAN SPICER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There`s been one call. I talked to General Flynn about this again last night. One call, talked about four subjects. One was the loss of life that occurred in the plane crash that took their military choir, two was Christmas and holiday greetings, three was to facilitate -- or talk about a conference in Syria on ISIS, and four was to set up -- to talk about after the inauguration, setting up a call between President Putin and President Trump.


HAYES: that would not be the last time the white house`s official position on Flynn`s contact would change, but today we learned that the final version they settled on also turns out to be false. That`s next.


HAYES: President Trump fire Michael Flynn. The Trump administration had finally landed on its definitive explanation of Flynn`s actions. Michael Flynn, they said, lied to everyone. They claimed no one knew that he discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador on December 29th and Flynn supposedly lost his job because of that lie.

Today, we learned that story, perpetuated for nine months, is not true. As Flynn admitted in court, he discussed the calls at the time with senior members of the Trump transition team.

MSNBC justice and security analyst Matt Miller is a former chief spokesperson at the Justice Department of the Obama administration, MSNBC terrorism analyst Malcolm Nance is the author of The Plot to Hack America, and Natasha Bertrand is a political correspondent as Business Insider who has been following this all very closely.

Matt, let me start with you, what are the implications of the fact that that plea document says that after he had that call with Kislyak specifically about sanctions, he debriefs senior transition team officials at Mar-a-Lago?

MATT MILLER, MSNBC JUSTICE AND SECURITY ANALYST: I think it`s critical because it shows when Michael Flynn lied to the FBI in his interview, he wasn`t lying just to cover up his own wrongdoing, he was lying it was to cover up this story on behalf of the entire Trump administration, on behalf of senior officials on the Trump transition, and you have to think most likely the president himself.

Why is that important? Because it goes to what Trump had in his mind when he asked Jim Comey for the loyalty pledge a couple of days after that interview, after the White House was warned about Flynn. It goes to his state of mind when he asked Jim Comey to back off of Mike Flynn. If the president knew that Mike Flynn could blow the cover on this entire White House lie, then that`s the corrupt purpose that goes to show that he was committing a criminal act when he made these requests. That`s obstruction of justice. That could be the entire ball game.

HAYES: And here`s the thing to me, Malcolm, is why lie? You could 100 percent your -- here`s why, right? Game it out. You`re the transition. The president is going to be the new president in 20 days. A big new foreign policy initiative is announced sanctioning Russia. Michael Flynn could have called Sergey Kislyak and said the following: I want to reiterate there is one foreign policy at a time. I do not represent the current president, but as you make your decision I want to reiterate there will be a new administration that will be reviewing our relationship with Russia and you should be aware of that before you make your decision.

And then you could tell the truth about that phone call. If that`s all you`re doing, there`s no reason to lie. So why lie?

MALCOLM NANCE, AUTHOR: It`s an outstanding question. We`ve been asking that question for well over a year.

There has to be an underlying reason that has yet to be exposed that Michael Flynn decided was worth trying to hide not only from the transition team or depending on who he spoke to, but to the entirety of the United States government.

This is the former director of defense intelligence agency. He would be very aware that we do counterintelligence monitoring of communications with foreign diplomats and suspected agents in the United States. Perhaps he thought he was master of the universe after winning the election and nobody would know about this.

But whatever he did, he was very aware that he was -- that there was a transcript of this both on the Russian side and on U.S. intelligence side and maybe he thought he could get away with it, that he would be in charge of suppressing that and they could get away with -- you know, and do whatever they wanted to do with this information.

HAYES: Which makes it all the more weird and reckless that he lied, that he lied to FBI investigators, Natasha, and it brings back to the point that Matt said, which is if that -- if as we know, one of the key things we learned today is that after that phone call happens, there`s a briefing. He briefs the people at Mar-a-Lago, the senior transition team leadership.

We don`t know who that is, but we Reince Priebus was there. We know the president himself was there. Jared Kushner was there. That he briefs those folks about what he did, right?

How -- I mean, it`s rather implausible to me that Donald Trump does not know that that happened.

NATASHA BERTRAND, BUSINESS INSIDER: Right. And we especially, we have to look at all of this as something that did not happen in a vacuum.

HAYES: Right.

BERTRAND: You have to look at it within the context of the fact that the Russians interfered in the elections specifically to help Donald Trump win.

HAYES: And then we`re being punished for it on that day.


And there may have been this thinking by the Trump people that they needed to somehow repay the Russians by assuring them that they were going to lift sanctions.

And, you know, it`s also worth noting that the end of December was not the first time that Kushner and Flynn and everyone discussed Sergey Kislyak. They actually met at Trump Tower on December 1 and that is where Kushner proposed this backchannel plan to communicate with Moscow that he later said had to do with Syria.

So, none of this happened in a vacuum. This was all leading up to this moment, right. The sanctions were at the core of the Russians` outreach in Donald Trump`s presidential campaign. That`s the entire reason really why they wanted him to win. So the fact that Flynn was making such a concerted effort to reassure them that they were then going to then lift the sanctions is really in line with what we saw throughout 2016.

HAYES: And Matt, there`s something so remarkable -- I mean, you worked for the attorney general and in the administration. I mean, think about this, Michael Flynn is sworn in to be the National Security Adviser of the United States. It`s an adviser to the president who runs the national security process in this country, the most powerful country in the history of human beings on the Earth OK.

And he now has that job. And two days later, he`s got to sit down with the FBI who come to his office to basically depose him about this phone call and he lies to them two days after he gets this job. It is an astounding action to take.

MILLER: Yeah. It`s astoundingly stupid action to take. I mean, a dumb thing for him to do, knowing as he must, as Malcolm said, that there would have been U.S. intercepts that would have heard his call.

But the other part about this is so after he lies to the FBI and Sally Yates comes over two days later and gives the warning to Don McGahn, one of the questions has always been why didn`t the White House do something about this?

Well, now we know why the White House didn`t do something about it, because the White House was in on that lie.

HAYES: That`s exactly right.

MILLER: We don`t know whether they knew that he was lying to the FBI or not, but the lie that he told the FBI is the same lie the White House had been telling since Sean Spicer said it in the clip that you played on through the vice president himself saying it on the Sunday shows in January.

This was a lie that was being told from the top on down.

HAYES: Malcolm, what do you say to people today who react to the news and said, well, you know, they got him for lying to the FBI. The thing he lied about isn`t collusion. No one gets prosecuted for the Logan Act. You guys -- you guys, you, who are believers in the collusion case, which I count you in that group, there still is no evidence of collusion.

NANCE: Well, I`m actually in the conspiracy camp because collusion is a nice word, but it isn`t a law.

HAYES: Collusion is too light for your...

NANCE: It`s way too light.

I mean, let me tell you something, he has bigger issues. And as you`re seeing in the Mueller investigation, they`re going after low-hanging fruit right out of the box -- with Manafort, low-hanging fruit was international money laundering. With Flynn, it was this phone conversation. And let me tell you, I`ve done a boatload of wiretaps and that conversation had five points to it. He called them five times that day. And that means, in call number one, initial consultation. Call number two, agenda and proper. Call number three, counter negotiation. Call four, final counter negotiation. Call five, counter agreement.

So, I don`t even have to know what`s in the phone call to know that there was an agreement being cut with the government of Russia. And Mike Flynn went out there and could not do that without the agreement of either the president or the vice president.

HAYES: Right.

There`s reporting in some quarters, I don`t think we have it as a news organization, but there are some reputable news organizations who are reporting that the senior administration official that he consulted to prior to the call was Katie McFarland who was actually I believe brought in as his deputy to the National Security Council, but she also was at Mar-a- Lago.

BERTRAND: Right. And the point that many national security experts and former Obama administration officials were making to me is that Katie McFarland would not have ordered Michael Flynn to speak to Sergey Kislyak. She would have gotten that...

HAYES: Right.

BERTRAND: She would have gotten that instruction from someone much higher up than her.

HAYES: She is not the person who is making that kind of call.

BERTRAND: No. She came in as Michael Flynn`s deputy. She was his deputy National Security Adviser. She was much lower on the food chain.

She may have been very close to the Trump family, but that did not give her the authority necessarily to tell Michael Flynn, yes, please talk to Sergey Kislyak. You need to do this.

HAYES: Matt, I keep coming back to the reporting that we have about the meeting I think it was a day or two after the election when Donald Trump went to Washington, D.C., and he met with President Obama. And we all saw that image. And it was sort of sinking in for everyone that this was what was happening. We`re going from President Obama to President Trump. And the reporting we have of that meeting is that President Obama told Trump two things, basically, North Korea is really dangerous, you should focus on them, and do not hire Michael Flynn.

MILLER: Yeah. And it`s possible he ignored that warning because he would ignore anything that Barack Obama told him to. Let`s not discount that possibility.

But I think it`s just as likely that look, he was close to Michael Flynn. Whatever Michael -- whatever happened with respect to Russia, if there was collusion or coordination or conspiracy or which ever word you want to use during the campaign, Michael Flynn would be likely to know it.

And for those people that say that there`s nothing in this charging document today or this statement of defense that shows collusion, that`s absolutely right. But if you think that Bob Mueller put all the evidence that Mike Flynn gave him into this document today, you don`t know how federal prosecutions work.

HAYES: Absolutely.

MILLER: He has taken the most serious information and is holding it in advance to go talk to witnesses, see if they tell him the truth, see if they lie, and make a case further up the chain than Flynn.

HAYES: All right, Matt Miller, Malcolm Nance, and Natasha Bertrand, thank you all.

Ahead, why Senate Republicans are rushing to pass a major tax cut bill tonight before the next big development in the Russia investigation. The truly bizarre scene playing out right now on Capitol Hill.


SEN. JON TESTER, (D) MONTANA: This is the night we`re going to be voting on the tax bill. I just got the tax bill 25 minutes ago. This is the tax bill. See how thick it is?



HAYES: Around the time that President Trump`s former national security adviser Michael Flynn was leaving a D.C. courthouse after pleading guilty to lying to the FBI, Mitch McConnell was on Capitol Hill triumphantly proclaiming to reporters we have the votes.

He did not, however, have a bill. Republicans were still jamming last- minute provisions into their massive tax package that primarily benefits corporations and the wealthy while adding a trillion dollars to the national debt, at least, and we should note delivering a body blow to Obamacare.


SEN. RON WYDEN, (D) OREGON: There was not one single hearing, not one on the specifics with respect to the legislation. There was not one single hearing on the health changes that the majority seeks to make that put a dagger into the heart of the Affordable Care Act.


HAYES: Republicans are set to try to complete their mad dash to pass the bill at any moment tonight. We don`t know when. After spending today loading it with handwritten handouts to corporation and the wealthy they tried to keep secret.

NBC News had to get the text of the nearly 500-page bill from a lobbyist just a short time ago. They are the ones that had it.

And this is the reason Republicans gritted their teeth and got behind Donald Trump. They know he may be dangerous. They know he may have colluded with a foreign adversary to disrupt and sabotage an American election, but they also know that he will sign whatever they and their donors want and apparently that`s enough.

We will show you one senator`s outraged response tonight, video you must see, just after this break.


HAYES: Senate GOP is in such a massive rush to give benefits to corporations and the wealthy, it is literally rewriting the American tax code at this hour by hand.


MONTANA: Hey, happy holidays, everybody. It`s the night we`re going to be voting on the tax bill. I just got the tax bill 25 days ago. This is the tax bill. See how thick it is? That`s what it looks like. Oh, no, let`s look at the bill. This is what it really looks like.

I want you to take a look at this, folks. This is your government at work. Here is the bill as its written. Here is the modifications that are in it. I can read one words, it`s called add this language. Can you tell me what that word is?

If you can, you got better eyes than me. This is unbelievable.

We are doing massive tax reform on an absolute incredible timeline. This is going to affect everybody in this country. It`s going to shift money from middle class families to the rich. It`s amazing. And we`ve been given this 20 minutes ago, 25 minutes ago. We`re supposed to vote on it in a couple hours.


HAYES: With me now, 2016 independent presidential candidate Ed McMullin, the former policy director for the House Republican conference, and Kathryn Rampell, opinion columnist at The Washington Post.

You worked on The Hill, you worked on the House said of The Hill, crafting legislation. Isn`t this exactly what even Never Trumpers such as yourself live for as a Republican?


I mean, I would say that what we live for -- what we used to live for as Republicans is sure, lowering taxes where we could, fiscal responsibility, ultimately paying down the debt.

And what we have now, we are already running in deficits, our budgets are running in deficits, but we`re now adding to that. That`s what this bill does.

And it represents a tremendous departure from what we used to stand for: fiscal responsibility.

Now, I know there are disagreements between the left and right on whether that`s necessary, but I think it`s healthy for a party, for one party in Washington, to make that argument that there needs to be fiscal responsibility, that we should eliminate our deficits and pay down debt.

Right now, we don`t have that. And what you see here is a Republican Party that is changing not only in its tone with Donald Trump and its I would say lack of decency among leaders with the president for sure, but also the policies are changing, the actual policies.

HAYES: I think to me it`s both the policy and it`s the way they have gone about this, which is every bit as abnormal as Donald Trump`s tweets are.

You know, the way they are passing major legislation at this hour -- I mean, it`s true, legislating is a mess. There is lots of amendments that get stuck in -- there`s what they call stocking stuffers you fill the Christmas tree. There`s even handwriting on bills sometimes. The speed, though, with which they are hammering this thing through really is quite unprecedented.

KATHRYN RAMPELL, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yeah, but they have to jam this thing through because the more time that this is exposed to the public, the more the public will hate it. This is the most hated piece of tax legislation ever. It`s more unpopular even in tax hikes than the Clinton tax hikes than the George H.W. Bush tax hikes.

HAYES: I want to just reiterate that. Because there was a great chart showing the polling. This bill right now, which are tax cuts, ostensibly, although mostly corporations and wealthy heirs, this bill is less popular as a tax cut bill than tax increases under Clinton and H.W. Bush.

RAMPELL: Right, because it`s a huge give away to rich people. It`s basically not only saying we`re not going to give goodies away to the poor and middle class, which for the record the George Bush tax cuts actually did do.

HAYES: Did a better job of, yes.

RAMPELL: Not only that we`re not going to give things away to them, we`re going to take from them to cross-subsidize the rich.

And beyond that, if you look a little bit further along down the line, Republicans are already making known that they are going to use the deficits that result from this as an excuse to shred the social safety net.

So, this is very bad for the middle class and the poor.

HAYES: And not only that -- so, you know, so there is one level at which, you know, I keep saying to people on Twitter and other Republicans, like just vote on Monday. Just vote on Monday.

RAMPELL: They have the votes now.

HAYES: Just vote on monday.

You can vote on Monday. It`s 500 pages. It`s the American tax code. There is stuff in there for the beer lobby. There`s stuff in there for private equity. Lord knows what`s been jammed in for every other K Street interest that managed to shove something in at the last second.

RAMPELL: Yeah, but if they wait to vote on Monday, the public will know what`s in it.

HAYES: Well, see, that`s what...

RAMPELL: Lawmakers will themselves might even learn what is in it and not like it anymore.

HAYES: Not only that, to me, it also relates to the Flynn news today.

This is John Harwood I thought had a really good column today. He said barely 10 months exuberant Republicans took control of the entire federal government, their prevailing mood has now turned to desperation. And you get the sense of like, you know, the president`s former National Security Adviser got indicted today for committing a crime in the White House. You better get your stuff passed now.

MCMULLIN: That`s right. And so this is a do or die moment for the party. They have to get something done. They have to get something that will keep their base with them especially heading into 2018 and beyond that. And they have to get something done.

Now, the challenge here, I think, is still going to come in garnering more support than just their most hard-core base, because this is such an unpopular bill. But they are in a tough spot. And then you look at the Roy Moore race and if he were to lose, then the Republican would have an even harder time getting things done.

So, they are just in a tough spot. They are not going to have Donald Trump to help them in 2018 or beyond. So they have got to have something to show for it, and they see this administration going down the tubes now. This administration is more vulnerable than its ever been with the news about Flynn today. And this is what they made the grand compromise for.

HAYES: This is it.

MCMULLIN: And so if they don`t get it -- if they don`t get it done, then...

RAMPELL: Yeah, but even Republicans are not so keen on this bill. Like, if you look at the voting public and you ask people do you think this bill will lower your taxes? Only a quarter of Republicans think that it will help them.

HAYES: Yes. Although, the donor class is into it, we should say.

RAMPELL: Not even all of the donor class, because...

HAYES: Some of the donor class.

RAMPELL: They are upset about the fact that the state and local tax deduction will be eliminated.

HAYES: Yes. The people of Greenwich...some of them in Greenwich are going to take it on the nose.

RAMPELL: That`s where the donors are based.

HAYES: Well, here is to me the larger thing, right, is that if you are -- Jeff Flake to me is a perfect example, right. Jeff Flake, who wrote his book about how terrible Trump is. He`s going to give his speeches. At the end of this whole thing, Jeff Flake is a yes on this bill.

MCMULLIN: Yeah, but I would say on that.

RAMPELL: It`s very disappointing.

MCMULLIN: Look, I think the way this is moving forward is a disappointment. I think the fact that it is going to add to the debt is a disappointment. I would like to see corporate rates lowered. I would like to see us more competitive. But I think -- I think it`s irresponsible to do what they`re doing now at a time when unemployment is at a record low, the stock market at a record high.

If we can`t institute fiscally responsible policies in this context when Republicans control all of Washington we`re never going to do it.

HAYES: Well, when you are going to do it is when there is a recession and the austerity hammer is going to be brought down on health care spending and things like that.

McMullin and Kathryn Rampell, thank you both.

That is All In for this evening. The Rachel Maddow Show starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.



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