IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Above the Law President Transcript 12/4/17 All In with Chris Hayes

Guests: Jamie Raskin, Jennifer Rubin, Bruce Bartlett, Jess McIntosh, Rosalind Helderman, Frank Figliuzzi

Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: December 4, 2017 Guest: Jamie Raskin, Jennifer Rubin, Bruce Bartlett, Jess McIntosh, Rosalind Helderman, Frank Figliuzzi

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: And the most mystifying part of it all is the possibility that he, Donald Trump, was trying to do something good here to end the U.S.-Russian course toward a second Cold War. But if that is really the case, why doesn`t he just say so? That`s HARDBALL for now. "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes starts right now.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, when did you find out that Mike Flynn lied to the FBI?

HAYES: The President admits he knew Michael Flynn lied to the FBI.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I feel badly for General Flynn.

HAYES: Tonight, as the obstruction case grows, the President`s lawyers debut the Nixon defense.

RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When the President does it that means that it is not illegal.

HAYES: And the President attacks the FBI.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Robert Mueller poses an existential threat to the Trump Presidency.

HAYES: Then --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let the people of Alabama make the call.

HAYES; As Republicans retreat on their rejection of Roy Moore, the President gives his full endorsement to an alleged child molester.

TRUMP: Roy Moore denies it. That`s all I can say.

HAYES: And from applause in the Senate to outrage in the halls.

AMERICAN CROWD: Don`t kill us! Kill the bill!

HAYES: The growing resistance to the Republican tax plan when ALL IN starts right now.


HAYES: Good evening from New York, I`m Chris Hayes. Tonight the White House is scrambling to counter the growing evidence the President of the United States committed obstruction of justice after the President once again appeared to implicate himself in just such a crime. This as his lawyers say the President is above the law when it comes to obstruction, the same defense Richard Nixon infamously used in the wake of Watergate. The trigger this time, Friday`s explosive news that President Trump`s former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn had pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations with the Russian Ambassador.

On Saturday, the President responded to the Flynn news with this, "I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI. He has plead guilty to the lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide." That tweet caused a major uproar, and with good reason. Think about it. You had the President saying he fired Flynn for lying to the FBI which would mean that when Trump fired Flynn, he knew Flynn had committed a serious crime and yet the President went on to pressure former FBI Director James Comey to drop his investigation into Flynn according to the testimony Comey gave under oath, which for the record trump disputes.

Obstruction of justice just doesn`t get much clearer than that. But Trump lawyer John Dowd had an explanation for the President`s statement. Trump didn`t write the tweet. Dowd told NBC News he, the lawyer drafted the tweet himself and then sent it to Dan Scavino, the White House Social Media Director. So Trump`s lawyer said he wrote the tweet and then e-mailed it over to be published. But when NBC News asked for the original e-mail, he said to Scavino, Dowd said he dictated it orally. In Fox News this morning, Kellyanne Conway insisted Dowd was, of course, telling the truth.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: The lawyers are the ones that understand how to put those tweets together. I was with the President on Saturday all day, frankly and I know that what Mr. Dowd says is correct.


HAYES: OK. Just to be clear what you are being asked to believe, the stories that the President`s lawyer out of nowhere just decided to orally dictate a statement for no reason, appearing to implicate his client for obstruction of justice. That`s what you`re being asked to believe. But even if you don`t buy that story, there is still a big problem. The Washington Post reports that according to Dowd himself, Trump was told in January that Flynn had probably given FBI agents an inaccurate account. That`s before Trump allegedly, again, pressured Comey to drop the investigation of Flynn. So once again, even if you ignore the tweet, we appear to have apparent evidence of obstruction. This morning, as the President was departing for Utah, Trump ignored reporters` questions about when he found out that Flynn lied while insisting Flynn had been treated unfairly.


TRUMP: Well, I feel badly for General Flynn. I feel very badly. He`s led a very strong life and I feel very badly, John. I will say this. Hillary Clinton lied many times to the FBI. Nothing happened to her. Flynn lied and they destroyed his life. I think it`s a shame.


HAYES: Let`s be clear. Hillary Clinton did not lie many times to the FBI. In fact, James Comey testified under oath explicitly last year that, and I quote him here, "We have no basis to conclude she lied to the FBI." But the President`s attempt to shift the focus to Clinton is telling. Remember, the White House`s initial story is that Flynn was freelancing when he spoke to the Russian Ambassador about sanctions, and that he then lied to the Vice President about the nature of the conversation. But that story has fallen apart almost entirely. Documents in Flynn`s plea agreement show Flynn`s discussions were, and I quote again, "Part of a coordinated effort by Mr. Trump`s aides to create foreign policy before they were in power."

And e-mails among top transition officials show that Flynn was in close touch with other senior members of the Trump transition team about dealings with Russia. We don`t yet know if Trump himself was part of those conversations, though. You wouldn`t be faulted for wondering. But there`s now ample evidence to suggest that at the very least, the President knew Flynn had lied to the FBI and subsequently pressured the FBI Director to drop the investigation anyway. Which brings us back to trump lawyer John Dowd, who today foreshadowed the Nixon defense of his client. Dowd suggesting it doesn`t matter if Trump obstructed justice because Donald Trump is, well, above the law.

Dowd telling NBC News the President cannot obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer under the constitution`s Article Two and has every right to express his view of any case. Joining me now Representative Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland, a Member of the House Judiciary Committee which would be where impeachment proceedings would begin. What do you think of the argument that the President`s lawyers appear to want to make now that the President cannot by definition obstruct justice as the chief law enforcement official of the United States?

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Well, I think it`s completely outlandish and absurd. You know, we`ve got no kings here. We`ve got no royals. And no person is above the law, including the President of the United States. That`s certainly something that the Republicans understood when they voted to impeach Bill Clinton for obstruction of justice. And it`s something that Congress has repeatedly emphasized, like when we voted or members of Congress voted to impeach Richard Nixon or to introduce articles of impeachment for Richard Nixon on obstruction of justice. But in some sense, if you think about it, it`s the cardinal offense. If you read Article Two of the constitution, the President`s job is to take care that the laws are faithfully executed and obstruction of justice is the reverse of that. It`s taking care that the laws are frustrated and thwarted.

HAYES: Do you think -- do you have confidence that Congress as currently constituted can enact its constitutional duties to act as a check on that kind of power?

RASKIN: Well, you know, Chris, it`s going to be a political struggle here. So far at least on the House side, the Republicans have pretty much kept their ranks. There have been some important defections on particular issues on the Republican side with Bob Corker and John McCain and Susan Collins on certain things. They seem to be getting back in the fold on taxes but nobody is above the law here. And really, the rule of law is essential for all Americans. And our job is to uphold our oaths of office by defending the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic and to uphold the rule of law. We`ve got to do it.

So, look, I think people are awaiting to see what else comes of the Mueller investigation. We`re calling on all members of Congress to stand by the Special Prosecutor and to defend his independence so that there`s not an attempt to sack him and fire other people involved in investigation. That really would be a constitutional crisis and I think that would lead certainly a majority of members of my caucus to push for impeachment. I mean, that really would be a crisis in the republic.

HAYES: Are you worried that`s where this is headed?

RASKIN: A lot of people are worried that that`s where we`re going. And, you know, on top of all of this strategic machinations, of course, is the problem of the President`s downward mental spiral and increasing chaos. So we need every tool in our constitutional toolkit on the table right now including the people speaking out under the first amendment. All of us using our privileges and rights under the speech and debate clause to speak out in Congress. Impeachment, and the 25th Amendment which says not only that the Vice President and the cabinet has the power to remove a President who cannot successfully discharge the powers and duties of office, but the Vice President in a body setup by Congress. And have I legislation to do that. When I first put it in, I think we only had six or seven cosponsors. Today we`re on the verge of having 50 co-sponsors and we`re picking up new people every single day.

HAYES: Representative Jamie Raskin, thanks for being with me tonight.

RASKIN: My pleasure, Chris.

HAYES: With me now MSNBC Justice and Security Analyst Matt Miller, who is a Chief Spokesperson at the Department of Justice under President Obama and MSNBC Legal Analyst Nick Akerman, former Assistant U.S. and Assistant Special Watergate Prosecutor. Matt, we begin with you and I want to play a concise articulation of what the Dershowitz defense, the President can obstruct justice. He has been making this case in a lot of places. He made it on Fox And Friends which of course the President was watching and enthusiastically tweeted about. Take a listen.


ALAN DERSHOWITZ, AMERICAN LAWYER: You cannot charge a President with obstruction of justice for exercising his constitutional power to fire Comey and his constitutional authority to tell the Justice Department who to investigate, who not to investigate. For obstruction of justice by the President, you need clearly illegal acts. With Nixon, hush money paid, telling people to lie, destroying evidence.


HAYES: Do you agree, Matt?

MATT MILLER, MSNBC JUSTICE AND SECURITY ANALYST: No. It`s such a dangerous argument to make because it essentially says that the President as the chief law enforcement officer, because he is the chief law enforcement officer in the country is above the law, and that nothing he can do is in anyway inappropriate -- any way inappropriate or can be questioned. And the implications of that are dangerous, not just for this investigation, because it doesn`t just mean that the President can fire someone who`s investigating himself and his political allies as he did with James Comey. It doesn`t just mean he can ask the intelligence community to interfere and ask the FBI Director to back off. It also has implications for going forward because if the President can do all of these things and it`s not obstruction of justice, then by extension, he can fire Bob Mueller, and it`s also not obstruction of justice. And that is a dangerous, dangerous argument for the President`s legal team and his allies to be making.

HAYES: The argument seems to me to prove too much. I mean, I think we all have the instinct that if a president walked into the Department of Justice and said I know there`s this public corruption unit. And they`ve got a lot of Democrats that are investigating. If he was a Democrat, shut that down. They shouldn`t be investigating a Democrat. People would say, well, that`s obviously corrupt. You can`t do that.

NICK AKERMAN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: You can`t do that. That`s impossible. Look, John Mitchell, who was Nixon`s campaign manager who was the Attorney General was convicted of obstruction of justice. Richard Nixon was an unindicted co-conspirator in an obstruction of justice conspiracy that was tried in the D.C. District Court in which John Mitchell was convicted. This argument is ridiculous. If this was the only problem that Donald Trump had, I`d say well, that`s all well and good but that is the least of his problems.

HAYES: Well, let`s talk about that. So we`ve got -- yes, I want to -- I want to highlight yet another apparent lie about Flynn`s communications with the Russian Ambassador about sanctions. And again, you got to ask yourself why so many lies about these phone calls? So now we have K.T. McFarland, who is a senior administration official who is on an e-mail chain about the fact you`re going to talk to the Russian about sanctions. She went before Congress and was asked about that and she said no, I`m not aware of that.

AKERMAN: And even worse, she has an e-mail that says the Russians threw the election to Donald Trump.

HAYES: Or that the President was -- President Obama was making that case. It`s a little unclear.

AKERMAN: Oh, I think if you read that in normal English. And I must say I read normal English, that phrase is very clear as to what she said.

HAYES: So what`s the bigger picture in terms of you pointed -- in terms of the plea and all of these lies around Flynn and that phone call, what`s the bigger picture?

AKERMAN: I think the bigger picture is this and it`s in Flynn`s allocution, which he had to make to the court, which he signed off on, which the court based its finding of the guilty plea. The key here is the materiality of the lies. The essential element of lying to an FBI agent is that the lie be material. You can`t just come in and say someone asked you what color are your socks and they`re blue and they were really green. It`s got to be material to something that the FBI is investigating. And here what is alleged and what Flynn agreed to, it was material into the investigation into the conspiracy between the campaign and the Russian government.

HAYES: Does that -- does that scan to you as well, Matt?

MILLER: Yes, I think that`s exactly right. I think it`s material. And then you also look at the fact that it`s very clear that Mike Flynn was lying to cover up for not just himself, but for K.T. McFarland and presumably others at Mar-a-Lago when they had that phone call up to and including the President. And when you add all these things up, all the lies, all the President`s actions to intervene with the FBI and with others in the intelligence community, you know, if you were looking at say -- this fact pattern or this pattern of behavior with a governor, I don`t think there would be any question that this is an obstruction of justice case.

We would all be waiting for the governor to show up in handcuffs at the courthouse. You know, because this is the president, no one can believe that a president would actually behave this way because we`ve never -- I guess since Nixon, anyway, seen a president behave this way. But -- I think when you actually take -- you know, take that out of the equation and just look at the fact pattern, this is a pretty clear and simple obstruction of justice case. The only thing he has going for him now is there is this open question about whether he can be indicted or not or whether it has to be left to Congress where of course there`s still a Republican majority.

AKERMAN: But again, I think the more important case here is the conspiracy.

HAYES: The first order case. You think they`re building -- you think they`re building a very strong conspiracy case.

AKERMAN: Oh, most definitely. It goes all the way back to April of 2016 when Papadopoulos learns of the stolen DNC e-mails. It goes to June 4th when Goldstone is writing about the important dirty dirt they have on Hillary Clinton. It goes into the June 9th meeting, and then out into July where these e-mails are disseminated through Guccifer 2.0 and then through WikiLeaks all arranged by Roger Stone. And then all of these WikiLeaks action --

HAYES: Contact which we now have.

AKERMAN: Right. That we know about now. I mean, there is a major conspiracy. One, either to violate the federal computer hacking law, the computer fraud, and abuse act, or there was a quid pro quo for dropping sanctions in return for help on the election.

HAYES: OK. That is a theory of the case. I mean, this is the thing -- that is -- that quid pro quo is a sort of a speculative question, although I think a plausible theory. But here is the thing, Matt. If you take a step back, Russia criminally intervened to help Donald Trump win the election, criminal sabotage. The newly elected president -- the sitting President, Barack Obama then punished them with sanction and the Trump team coordinated secretly with Russia to mitigate the effect of that punishment and then lied about it. That -- those are the facts we already know.

MILLER: Yes, those are the facts we already know, as well as the fact that the President publicly encouraged the Russians to hack and release you know, Hillary Clinton`s e-mail. At some point, there`s kind of this open source collusion and coordination. It`s not even -- it`s not even behind closed doors. I`m not willing to go as far as Nick is yet. I`m not completely convinced that there ever will be evidence of actual coordination conspiracy. There very may well be. But if there is, the best evidence for it I think still is the fact that they continue to lie about every one of their interactions. If there were an innocent explanation, I`m not so sure why they would continue to lie over and over again. And not just publicly, not just to the press but even when it counts under oath and you can go to jail for doing it. We`ve seen two members of the Trump -- of the Trump inner circle. One member of the Trump inner circle and one lower level surrogate or staffer already charged with that crime.

AKERMAN: But when you take into account the materiality that is set forth in that information, and you see that Flynn lied about something post- election, the question becomes how did the post-election lie relate to the pre-election? That`s the key.

HAYES: That is the big question. Matt Miller and Nick Akerman, thank you, both for being with me. Next, two big Roy Moore headlines. First, new evidence supporting the story of a woman`s teenage relationship with the Alabama Senate Candidate, Second, the President called Roy Moore on the phone and endorsed him today. Those two-stories in two minutes.


HAYES: -- has officially endorsed Roy Moore for Senate, a man accused of sexually molesting a 14-year-old girl he picked up outside a custody hearing when he was a D.A., and also accused of sexually assaulting a girl who was 16. In a statement this morning, Trump said Democrats` refusal to give one vote for massive tax cuts is why we need Republican Roy Moore to win in Alabama. The President also called Moore today and said according to a tweet from Moore, go get them, Roy. Just got off the phone with President Trump who offered his full support and said he needs a fighter to help him in the U.S. Senate. Now, Trump all but endorsed Moore last month after several women told the Washington Post that Moore pursued them when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s.


TRUMP: He denies it. I mean, if you look at what is really going on, he totally denies it. He says it didn`t happen. And you know, you have to listen to him also. You`re talking about he said 40 years ago this did not happen.


HAYES: It was around this time that many other Republicans decided that Roy Moore wasn`t worth saving a Senate Seat.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: I think he should step aside.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you encouraging the write-in campaign with Senator Strange?

MCCONNELL: That`s an option we`re looking at whether or not there is someone who could mount a write-in campaign successfully.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe these allegations to be true?

MCCONNELL: I believe the women, yes.


HAYES: That was Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell less than a month ago calling on Moore to get out of the race. This was McConnell yesterday.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe that Judge Moore should be in the Senate?

MCCONNELL: I`m going to let the people of Alabama make the call. The election has been going on a long time. There`s been a lot of discussion about it. They`re going to make the decision a week from Tuesday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you are prepared to take action if he is indeed elected?

MCCONNELL: The Ethics Committee will have to consider the matters that have been litigated in the campaign should that particular candidate win.


HAYES: With me now Jennifer Rubin, Conservative Columnist for the Washington Post who`s written that Conservatives no longer believe in a set of principles. And I want to start with the analogy to the Access Hollywood tape and then the allegations of Donald Trump. I remember Jason Chaffetz coming on every network he could tearfully saying, I can`t look my daughter in the eye. This is so upsetting. I just -- I can`t endorse Donald Trump. And then it was like a few weeks (INAUDIBLE) yes, of course, I voted for Donald Trump. They`re doing the same thing again.

JENNIFER RUBIN, COLUMNIST, WASHINGTON POST: Yes. If you step back for a moment just like you were talking about the previous segment concerning obstruction of justice, this is the President of the United States whose own Attorney General, whose Senate Majority Leader says there`s no reason to disbelieve these women. And he is saying, sexual predator? Nah. Come on in. I need the vote for a tax bill. How low can you get? And what does that say about a party that has lauded itself as the party of family values, the party that`s tough on crime, the party of children? It is really a low point. I think certainly in the Republican Party, and one of the lowest points in presidential history.

And the fact that someone like Mitch McConnell can get out there and who says I believe it as well, and now says let the people of Alabama decide. That is really just disgraceful. And I got to say to all of my conservative friends out there who keep saying but Gorsuch, but tax reform, but all this stuff, my answer to them is but children, but child molestation, but crime. They are setting someone up who they believe and most of them do to have committed these heinous acts, and they`re saying it doesn`t matter. You can get a pass in life. You can get into the United States Senate. All you have to do is be with us on tax reform. That`s lower than low.

HAYES: This is what Orrin Hatch basically had a similar line with Mitch McConnell. He said well, it happened allegedly a long time ago and the people have to decide. I don`t think he had any choice but to do that to be endorsing Moore. That`s the only Republican we can get down there which I think is unintentionally revealing. Now, this is what Mitt Romney said. Roy Moore as U.S. Senate would be a stain on the GOP and on the nation. Leigh Corfman and other victims are courageous heroes. No vote, no majority is worth losing our honor, our integrity. He is in a distinct minority at this point.

RUBIN: Oh, yes. And by the way, they`ve already lost their honor and integrity. So it`s a little bit late but I admire Mitt Romney on that point. Listen, the whole party has become Trumpized. There`s going to be a very significant poll out tomorrow that`s going to show that about 40 percent of the Republican Party will never abandon him. He could stand on Fifth Avenue and murder people. He could welcome in a pederast and they wouldn`t do anything about it. So the Republican Party is now the party of Trump and this is what they believe. This is what they`re willing to do. And the American people, and I think Conservatives have to take a good look at this and says, is this really becoming for a great country? Is this really how low we want to go?

HAYES: We should note that another woman came forward, Debbie Wesson Gibson who did not accuse Roy Moore of nonconsensual sexual contact. She said she had a consensual relationship. She dated when she was I believe 18 if I`m not mistaken. She said just got her braces off -- 17 -- just got her braces off. But she also says that Moore was now saying, well, I never knew any, this woman was lying. And she was able to come through like another woman who accused Moore with a signature from Roy Moore. And I just want to show these two signatures. On the left is Beverly Young Nelson`s high school yearbook, that`s Roy Moore. On the right is Roy there and Debby Wesson Gibson`s. The conspiracy theory this is forged gets a little harder.

RUBIN: Yes. I mean, they`re going to come up with every excuse in the book. It`s a cult. And when you`re in a cult, you`ll construct any fact pattern to avoid confronting reality. So they could have film. They could have a confession, and it wouldn`t make any difference. You remember the guy in the focus group who said if Jesus came down and said that Roy Moore had done this, I would have to go talk to Roy Moore about it. That`s how bizarrely disconnected from reality, disconnected from any set of principles these people have come.

HAYES: Jennifer Rubin, thanks for joining us. Next, Saturday night, the Senate voted to award one American family a billion dollar tax cut. And tonight the people are out in the streets. The growing anger over the Republican tax plan, next.


HAYES: Just shy of 2:00 a.m. on Saturday morning, Senate Republicans succeeded in passing their massive tax overhaul, a plan heavily skewed for big corporations and billionaire heirs. Now, Trump and Republicans sold that plan on the idea it would help chiefly the middle class. But two Republican Senators in classic cases of accidentally saying the quiet part loud have let slipped far more honest views of what the bill is really about. Utah Republican Orrin Hatch last week got into a spat on the Senate floor why Congress hasn`t yet reauthorized CHIP, that would be the Children`s Health Insurance Program that helps millions of low-income kids across the country. Here was his reasoning.

SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: I have a rough time wanting to spend billions and billions and trillions of dollars to help people who won`t help themselves, won`t lift a finger and expect the federal government to do everything.


HAYES: Now to be fair maybe he wasn`t referring to the children as lay- abouts there. Maybe he just thought the kids` parents were the lazy ones or just lay-abouts in general who are just feeding from the public trough. But Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa left no doubts when he laid out the supposed benefits of killing the estate tax.


SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: I think not having the estate tax recognizes the people that are investing as opposed to those that are just spending every darn penny they have, whether it`s on booze or women or movies.


HAYES: Booze, women, movies. The bill isn`t law yet, and Americans are fighting back. The Washington Director of MoveOn tweeted this photo on Sunday. A packed auditorium in Berks County, Pennsylvania rallying against the tax (INAUDIBLE), a county that Donald Trump won last year. And they are not the only once. The growing backlash against the trump tax plan next.



CROWD: Shame! Shame! Shame! Shame! Shame!.


HAYES: Americans protesting on Capitol Hill today against the GOP tax plan that was passed in the wee hours of Saturday morning. The passage sparked protest across the country, include here in New York this weekend. Protesters were also out in Asheville, North Carolina today. In Pittsburgh, two women chained themselves to the doors of the building that houses Senator Pat Toomey`s office this morning.

In Chicago tonight, what looks like at least hundreds, maybe more, marching downtown against the tax plan.

It`s not surprising why a lot of folks would object to the Republicans` tax plan, which does heavily benefit both the rich and corporations, including Donald Trump himself.

NBC analysis found the House version hands a billion dollar payday, a billion dollars, to the Trump heirs, to the president`s family, that`s billion with a b. Plus, about $20 million to the president himself.

The House and the Senate now need to figure out the differences in their bills before sending the final version to the president`s desk, leaving a potentially narrow window for the opponents to still to try to stop it.

Bruce Bartlett, former deputy assistant secretary for economic policy under George H.W. Bush, the author of "The Truth Matters: A Citizen`s Guide to Separating Facts from Lies and Stopping Fake News in Its Tracks;" Jess McIntosh, the executive editor of Share Blue, a former senior adviser to the Clinton presidential campaign.

Bruce, there is a little bit of drama today as the House voted to send this thing to conference, and there was a little bit of balking by the House Freedom Caucus because they`re ticked off about, you know, the CR resolution, yadda, yadda. Is there any chance to stop this thing?

BRUCE BARTLETT, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR ECONOMIC POLICY: Well, theoretically, yes. But in practice, no. It`s -- it would be ridiculous for a member of congress to vote for this legislation and then vote against the conference report. I don`t see how they could possibly benefit in any way by doing this.

So basically, it`s just a done deal. It`s just, you know, dotting I`s and crossing T`s.

HAYES: And yet we`ve seen a really interesting wave of mobilization just in the last 48 hours that there is some question about the comparing the mobilization against the ACA repeal.


HAYES: I think it`s a little harder to get people amped up about corporate taxes and, say, Medicaid cuts.

What is your assessment of where the sort of politics of this are?

MCINTOSH: I do disagree just a little bit. I think that the one place where this might actually hurt is if we can get phone calls going into those House members who now have to reconcile with the Senate in enough numbers that we can get them to say you know what I heard from the people at home and this is what they`re thinking.

It`s unlikely because they`re all Republicans and they`ve already voted for something similar. However, I think the media largely ignored the public backlash to this. It was happening. And it was happening at an organic grassroots level, much like it did with Obamacare repeal, only it was sort of happening in the dark. It was happening in town halls without a lot of coverage.

I think the comments lately have been incredibly illuminating to show exactly the disdain that the Republican Party has for working families. They literally believe if you are not rich, you blew your money on booze and women. American workers are hearing that all over the country right now, and it sounds a lot like that moment in the Obamacare repeal fight where they were like if you can`t afford health care, just maybe skip on a new iPhone. They have no idea. And that`s going to make people mad.

HAYES: Well, Bruce, this is what I thought was interesting, because so much of this has been bait and switch. Like this is -- you know you can design a tax cut that, say, primarily benefits people that are, you know, middle and low income wage earners. You could do that. That`s not what this tax cut does. And yet there has been this bait and switch saying, no, no, no, it`s going to help those people. There is something refreshing about people like Grassley at least being honest what the theory is here.

BARTLETT: Well, I don`t think they`ve really been very secretive about this. I`ve been writing about it for weeks. All Republicans believe in something called starve the beast. They want to slash what are called entitlement programs which are mostly Social Security and Medicare, and they don`t think they can get the political support to do it unless they have a deficit.

HAYES: Right.

BARLETT: That is so large that they have no choice. And this has been obvious for a long time. This is just part one of a two-step process.

And I think they`re kind of foolish to be giving away the game before this thing is locked up. But I`m glad to hear them saying these things. But I knew it was coming.

HAYES: That`s a great point that Bruce is making. The deficits are the point, because what the deficits do is if you cut taxes like George W. Bush did twice in his first term, like they`re doing now, you then create a pressure you can use against a possible Democratic successor if they want to do anything on the spending side.

MCINTOSH: I just think this idea that deficits are going to be a winning argument or argument that Republicans needs to do some kind of mental gymnastics around in order to prop them up as a way to cut entitlements, I think those days are gone. The people who elected these...

HAYES: That`s the risk you run. That`s a great point.

MCINTOSH: ...Republicans were these odd populist, xenophobic Republicans who decided that these people were going to put money and rights back in their hands when they had been taken by unnamed folks a while ago.

HAYES: And voted for guy that said I will not cut Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid.

MCINTOSH: They don`t care about the deficits. I mean, the Mitt Romneys of the world are going to get the vapors over the fact that this thing raises the deficit and they might be able to see this as a means to cut entitlements down the line, but the people who are going to stand for reelection in 2018 aren`t going to get that from their base.

HAYES: Do you think we`re at a breaking point, Bruce, in which the game of deficits does become just too worn out?

BARTLETT: Well, we will see. But Republicans have been getting away with this for 40 years. In fact, I think probably the biggest lie in American politics is that Republicans don`t like deficits. They love deficits. It gives them a perfect excuse to slash spending for the poor and the middle class who are just going to waste the money on booze and things of that sort, and it ties the hands of a Democratic president or a Democratic congress when they are in power, because that is the only time Republicans will actually do anything about the deficit.

And if they bring down the deficit, it`s like putting money into a savings account that Republicans can later use to cut taxes some more.

HAYES: Right.

BARLETT: So the Republicans love deficits.

HAYES: Are people`s memories long enough that this is going to be front of mind for folks that are running for office, making calls, volunteering and voting in 2018?

MCINTOSH: Especially if this is the only legislative achievement that they have. This is going to be the thing that they have to run on.

And since this thing is passed on a piece of paper with scribbles on it and X`s out and someone`s handwritten note saying ignore this section, we`re going to spend a long time figuring out what this thing does. We`re just now starting to learn that they maybe hastily written -- wrote it so hastily that they screwed up some of their favorite tax exemptions and their donor are going to be angry at them for doing it.

So, I don`t think that this is going to like go away once the president signs it. I think it just becomes bigger.

HAYES: Excellent point, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce had a fit today about the fact the alternative minimum tax for corporations is still in the bill, which they were supposed to kill. But, you know, things happen at 2:00 in the morning.

Bruce Bartlett and Jess McIntosh, thanks for joining me.

Still ahead, how the Trump administration is laying the groundwork to potentially discredit or even remove Special Counsel Robert Mueller. New details from inside the investigation ahead.

Plus, Reince watch in tonight`s must watch Thing One, Thing Two, next.


HAYES: Thing One tonight, we just learned a little something about Reince Priebus. Remember him? He was President Trump`s first chief of staff. And in that role, Priebus was one of the key figures doing damage control after Michael Flynn was let go in February.

And the story about Flynn, remember, that the Trump administration settled on at the time was that, oh, Flynn was some rogue operator. No one knew that he talked to the Russian ambassador about sanctions. And then the gall of the guy, he lied to everyone, including the vice president about that call.

The story was Flynn was fired for those lies, and here is Reince Priebus in February calling Flynn a liar.


REINCE PRIEBUS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: It was the fact that he wasn`t straight or honest. And I just found it hard to believe that you would have a conversation with the Russian ambassador and not remember it.


HAYES: But what if Reince Priebus wasn`t being straight or honest? That`s Thing Two in 60 seconds.


HAYES: The White House claims since February that Michael Flynn lied to everyone about his call to the Russian ambassador. But we know that`s not true. And now we know even Reince Priebus knew about it from the start. Before and after that call with the Russian ambassador, Flynn spoke with a senior member of the Trump transition, K.T. McFarland. And this weekend, The New York Times reported that McFarland sent an email that day specifically about contacting Russia to talk sanctions.

"As part of the outreach, Ms. McFarland wrote. Mr. Flynn would be speaking with the Russian ambassador, Mr. Kislyak" hours after Mr. Obama`s sanctions were announced. Mr. Bossert forwarded Ms. McFArland`s December 29 email exchange about the sanctions to six other Trump advisers including, drum roll, Reince Priebus.

So, Reince was reportedly on that email chain about Michael Flynn calling the Russian ambassador to talk about sanctions when it happened. Keep that in mind as you watch this clip of Reince Priebus from February when he went on Meet the Press with an intricate story claiming he and others at the White House knew nothing.


PRIEBUS: Some time after January 27, it was -- our legal counsel got a heads up from Sally Yates that something wasn`t adding up with his story. We started thinking about whether or not Michael Flynn was being straight with us, and that`s when we started asking a lot of questions and sort of deposing Michael Flynn and figuring out what he knew or what he didn`t know. He maintained the fact that he never talked to the Russian ambassador about sanctions, but still something wasn`t adding up. And eventually, we determined that he did in fact talk about the sanctions. Even though we didn`t believe that it was illegal, the fact was that it turned more or less into a conversation about whether or not he was being honest with us and the vice president.

The fact that he wasn`t straight or honest -- and I just found it hard to believe that you would have a conversation with the Russian ambassador and not remember it.



HAYES: Donald Trump has repeatedly attacked the intelligence community when he didn`t like its finding that Russia interfered with the presidential election. And now President Trump has declared essentially open warfare on the FBI in an apparent attempt to discredit an investigation that is ever edging closer to him.

President Trump seized on the story that Special Counsel Robert Mueller removed a top agent from that Russia inquiry this summer over possible anti-Trump texts the agent sent. A spokesman for the special counsel`s office told The New York Times, quote, immediately upon learning of the allegations, the special counsel`s office removed Peter Strzok from the investigation.

But the agent`s reported participation in both the Russia investigation and the Clinton email probe provided President Trump with a useful target. The president tweeting, quote, "report anti-Trump FBI agent led Clinton email probe. Now it all starts to make sense."

The agent, a former army officer, was widely respected in the agency, according to The Times.

The president`s attack on the FBI didn`t stop there. The president tweeting, quote, "after years of Comey with the phony and dishonest Clinton investigation and more running the FBI, its reputation is in tatters, worst in history. But fear not, we will bring it back to greatness."

If it looks like President Trump is laying the groundwork to either remove or discredit Robert Mueller, new reporting from inside the Mueller investigation shows that Mueller is, well, far from rattled. That`s next.



CHRIS RUDDY, NEWSMAX: You know, at the end of the day my view is that Robert Mueller poses a existential threat to the Trump presidency. He`s gotten four major, two convictions, two plea agreements, lightning speed. During the Clinton years it took --


HAYES: Chris Ruddy of Newsmax, a Trump confident and friend is trying to get the message across that the Mueller investigation poses a real threat to the Trump presidency. As that investigation continues, White House council Don McGahn was expected to return early this week to the secretive nerve center of the Mueller investigation for the second session of interviews. He is, according to the Washington Post, one of two dozen current and past Trump advisers, each of whom has made the trek to the special counsel`s secure office suite.

Rosalind Helderman is a political enterprise and investigation reporter for The Washington Post who contributed to a new report on Mueller`s team that might send chills down the spine of anyone caught up in that investigation, and NBC News National Security contributor, Frank Figliuzzi, who is former assistant director for counter intelligence at the FBI under Robert Mueller when Mueller served as director.

Rosaland, describe to us as you do in the piece a little bit, what it is like if you`re, say, Don McGahn going to one of these interviews. What is that experience like?

ROSALIND HELDERMAN, THE WASHINGTON POST: It`s a long and difficult day for the people that go to that office. The special counsel has set up shop at an anonymous building in Southwest Washington. It`s a different building than the headquarters of the Department of Justice. Witnesses come in through a loading dock area and then are ushered into a garage so they can go in without being spotted by the press or the public, and then they sit in a windowless conference room while groups of prosecutors or FBI agents, two or three at a time sort of cycle in and out of the room asking questions about different topics.

We`re told that Robert Mueller himself often greets the witnesses and sits in sometimes, but generally sitting against the back wall silently, watching as staff methodically asking question after question for hours after hours.

HAYES: Frank, is this standard operating procedure?

FRANK FIGLIUZZI, NBC NEWS: We`re talking about almost an unprecedented situation right now, so it`s hard to characterize this as standard procedure. What I think is being described here makes sense, which is that you`ll have teams or cells of agents assigned for a particular target. You might have some team working Flint. Some team working another target, and they will come in and ask the same witness different types of questions. So when the witness thinks that they are done for the time being, they don`t necessarily realize that there is another team of agents outside the door because they will come at it from a different approach based on a different subject.

HAYES: What has this done to the folks that experienced this, Rosalind, based on your reporting.

HELDERMAN: One thing we`ve been told by people that have been through the room is that the agents, the prosecutors are extraordinary confident and methodical and calm to a degree that some people have found unnerving. They have even been friendly and have joked around and as one person said, a lawyer, when they act like that, that`s how you know your guy is in trouble.

HAYES: Frank, what do you make of the president`s fuselage directed at the FBI at it`s reputation and what is that doing inside that institution right now?

FIGLIUZZI: Unfortunately, I don`t think it`s unexpected. We`ve seen the president lash out at the other agencies and the intelligence community, and now all he has left to do is lash out at the FBI.

Unfortunately, the Russians have for years tried to have Americans question their agencies, question our form of government and now unfortunately, we have a president whose causing people to question their agencies and question the FBI, but the FBI will go on with its apolitical people, its men and women doing their job every day. They saw this coming and it`s part of the job.

HAYES: Do you -- what is your reporting suggest, Rosalind about Mueller`s state of mind in all of this and the degree of which he is able to kind of insulate himself from the swirling winds around this investigation?

HELDERMAN: Our story referred to Mueller as a sphinx in these interviews and I think he is doing a remarkably good job about not letting on what`s in his mind. It`s interesting his prosecutors have not been holding press conferences as they have gotten guilty pleas. They are running a very tight ship and appear to be plowing forward.

One thing I can tell you though is that Ty Cobb, the White House lawyer, told one of my colleagues just today, repeated what he said recently that he hopes this thing will wrap up by New Years. People who have been in that room get the strong indication that it`s certainly not wrapping up any time soon and we`re aware of people who have just been asked to come in for interviews and turnover documents in recent days.

HAYES: Frank, what do you think about the idea that from Ty Cobb this will wrap up by New Years?

FIGLIUZZI: I think it`s wishful thinking. I think you`ve just reported this evening additional information, including information on Reince Priebus that causes this to continue on. I don`t see this wrapping up by the New Year and I understand the wishful thinking. But this has to play out and rest assured, Bob Mueller`s team will do an incredibly thorough job and it won`t be over until it`s over.

HAYES: Do you think, Rosalind, this news about the agent removed from the case in the summer who apparently appears as perhaps having an affair with a co-worker with whom he exchanged text messages, which may have been about the president`s tweets? It`s sort of unclear. How much impact will that have?

HELDERMAN: I think we`ll be hearing an enormous amount about it. I think the hill will ask a great deal of questions. I suspect the texts that were the reason he was removed will eventually get to the hill and become public. Ultimately, I`m not sure it has the ability to derail Mueller unless the president chooses to take action.

HAYES: That is the big question if the president has been given a sort of cause here to get rid of him. Rosalind Helderman and Frank Figliuzzi, thank you both.

HELDERMAN: Thank you.

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



Copy: Content and programming copyright 2017 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2017 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.