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13 days in July Transcript 12/27/17 All In with Chris Hayes

Guests: Matt Welch, Jonathan Lemire, Ro Khanna, Christina Greer

Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES Date: December 27, 2017 Guest: Matt Welch, Jonathan Lemire, Ro Khanna, Christina Greer

STEVE KORNACKI, NBC NEWS NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That is HARDBALL for now. Thank you for being with us and "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes" starts right now.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The entire thing has been a witch hunt.

HAYES: The Mueller investigation picks up steam.

TRUMP: There was no collusion between certainly myself and my campaign.

HAYES: Tonight, Yahoo's Michael Isikoff on the new leads, new witnesses and new evidence in the Mueller probe. Plus, the Flynn family appeal for a pardon as the Trump team readies an attack on Michael Flynn.

Then the new Koch Brothers plan to sell America on Trump's tax law.

TRUMP: That tax bill is something.

HAYES: And 13 days in July, the White House shakeups to healthcare to the Manafort race.

TRUMP: That's pretty tough stuff.

HAYES: A look at two of the most consequential weeks of Trump's first year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Could you address the main headline of this story that you called the President a moron.

HAYES: When ALL IN starts right now.


HAYES: Good evening from New York, I'm Chris Hayes. Contrary to the assurance that the President has gotten lawyers, the Special Counsel's Russia investigation is showing no signs of wrapping up as the year draws to a close. Judging from new developments today, Robert Mueller may just be getting started. It's been widely reported that the President's attorneys Ty Cobb and John Dowd had been predicting the investigation would wind down by the end of 2017. The White House has maintained that and even as Mueller is starting to roll out charges against associates to the President. Listen to Sarah Huckabee Sanders on the same day charges were unsealed against three former Trump campaign aides.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Last week you indicated, Sarah, that you believe that Mr. Mueller is wrapping up his investigation. And I've heard similar things coming from other senior administration officials. Do you still believe that Mr. Mueller is in the process of wrapping up his investigation?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, PRESS SECRETARY, WHITE HOUSE: We still expect this to conclude soon. Yes.


HAYES: The President's team may not be quite as confident as they have been projecting. According to Yahoo! News' Michael Isikoff, the President lawyers are pressing Mueller to wind down the investigation and exonerate their client which they assured the President will happen by early next year. Meanwhile, they're reportedly preparing behind the scenes for what could be a protracted legal battle, one that directly threatens the White House. According to the Washington Post, President Trump's legal team plans to cast former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn as a liar seeking to protect himself if he accuses the President or his senior aides of any wrongdoing. That's according to three people familiar with the strategy. Flynn has been cooperating of course for the Mueller probe since pleading guilty to lying to the FBI, the most senior former Trump adviser known to be working with investigators. But the President could take a different legal tact that avoids confronting Flynn altogether. Flynn's brother actually tweeted at the President yesterday, it's about time you pardon General Flynn who has taken the biggest fall for all of you given the illegitimacy of his confessed crime in the wake of all of this corruption. The tweet has since been taken down probably wisely but it's the mood the President has not ruled out.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: About Michael Flynn, would you consider a pardon for Michael Flynn?

TRUMP: I don't want to talk about pardons for Michael Flynn yet. We'll see what happens. Let's see.


HAYES: Note the yet. Now, Michael Flynn represents just one aspect to the wide-ranging Russia investigation which may still be expanding according to Isikoff's reporting. In just the last few weeks, Mueller's prosecutors have begun questioning Republican National Committee staffers about the party digital operation that worked for the Trump campaign to target voters and key swing states. They are seeking to determine if the joint effort was related to the activities of Russian trolls and bots aimed at influencing American electorate according to two sources. That comes after an earlier report that Mueller was seeking e-mails from Cambridge Analytica that would, of course, be the data firm employed by the Trump campaign. The person who presided over the joint data operation was none other than Jared Kushner, of course, the President's son-in-law who's already in Mueller's crosshairs for having multiple suspicious contacts with the Russian nationals. As the investigation continues to widen, so is the campaign by the President and his allies to discredit Mueller's team, the FBI and really the entirety of federal law enforcement. A day after a sitting Republican Congressman demanded a political purge of the U.S. Justice Department, yet another one of his colleagues echoed that call.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If there was bias there, what are you going to do about it? Are you going to demand a special counsel? Are you going to demand some type of cleanout of the FBI? What's the options?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I think -- I think potentially all of the above. I mean, if there was an abuse of power that's criminal in nature, you know, that would obviously cry out for a special counsel. There needs to be a major overhaul I think of some of the senior leadership.


HAYES: Michael Isikoff is the Chief Investigative Correspondent for Yahoo! News. Michael, it's a great piece and there's a bunch of things to go through. And I want to start with what I think is the first time I've read this reporting that Cobb and Dowd aren't just expecting the investigation to wrap up but are actively pressing for that to be the case. What did you learn about that?

MICHAEL ISIKOFF, CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT, YAHOO! NEWS: Well, look, they have met with Mueller and his team and they have at the same time been assuring the President, that this investigation at least as far as the obstruction probe aims at the White House is winding down. Now, that may or may not be the case, but in terms of Mueller's investigation at large, there's absolutely no indication of that. If anything, it's expanding, he's casting a wider net, he's talking to these additional witnesses I reported on, the RNC staffers. He's getting bank records, he got those thousands of e-mails from the transition team to go through. So if anything, it looks pretty clear that Mueller and his team are digging in for the long haul and this is going to last quite some time.

HAYES: Now, tell me the RNC part of this, what -- who talks to who in Mueller's office? There's actual official questioning that happened at some of the folks that work for the RNC visual team.

ISIKOFF: Right. I'm told that RNC staffers have been questioned as part of this. You showed The Wall Street Journal story saying they had been seeking -- Mueller's team had been getting data from Cambridge Analytica. So it's pretty clear that the whole digital operation is being examined here. And you know, in the context of everything we have learned about the Russian social media operation, how sophisticated it was, the ads on Facebook, the Twitter bots, all of that, and I think you know, one big question that Mueller is trying to resolve is was there some sort of coordination/cooperation there between people and the Trump RNC digital operation and these Russian entities. That doesn't necessarily add up to collusion in the sense that you and I might think of it. It's a very murky area. we should get data brokers who are buying and selling data of voter information that goes from one entity to another. And I think as best as I can tell, Mueller is trying to understand that. It was a big part of the Russian influence campaign and he wants to get to the bottom before he reaches any final conclusions.

HAYES: It does seem that there's the setup for some kind of collision here insofar as we keep hearing that Cobb and Dowd are telling the President that it's going to wrap up. And there's this reporting that there's an expectation of an exoneration. I don't know what that would look like. I mean, that is not the standard way that investigation or a prosecution goes about. Usually, what happens the prosecutor just doesn't prosecute. Sometimes they'd call press conference as James Comey which was highly irregular. But what do you know about what they're looking for from Mueller?

ISIKOFF: Well, this is I think is sort of the biggest issue to watch right now because, look, Mueller is a veteran prosecutor, he was Head of the Justice Department Criminal Division and he's not going to wrap up and exonerate anybody until he gets the full story from every conceivable witness. It just start out with Manafort and Gates. They're under indictment. It looks like it's going to go to trial. That's going to drag on for at least a year. Mueller is not going to issue any final conclusions until he sees that they can -- if Mueller gets convicted, whether he's then willing to tell his story? But absent hearing and accounting for Mueller, you know, Mueller is going to keep the book open. Same goes for Mike Flynn. We know he's cooperating. We don't know what he's telling Mueller but you know, certainly, Mueller is going to want to get a full debrief from Flynn and going to get a full debrief from George Papadopoulos and other cooperating witness. And all of that is going take some time. And I think the fact that it's going to take time, is where the collision is coming from here. Because as the lawyers are telling Trump, hey, hold on. This is going to get cleared us soon. You know, that's where you've got a problem.

HAYES: Yes, Michael Isikoff, great to have you.


HAYES: For more on the Mueller investigation and the push to discredit it, I'm joined by MSNBC National Security Analyst Evelyn Farkas, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense and Julia Ainsley, National Security and Justice Reporter for NBC News. Evelyn, let me start with you because we've been watching this sort of growing chorus of members of Congress with this kind of intimating that there's bias, that there's corruption, illegitimacy sort of shooting through the FBI as a whole, the Justice Department and the Mueller's investigation. Here's Francis Rooney, a member saying he wants to know the political contributions. Let's take a listen.


REP. FRANCIS ROONEY (R), FLORIDA: We should take a look at all of the totality of all the paralegals and FBI people and investigators and find out exactly how many people as well as dollars. That's a point well taken.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And why do you want to do that?

ROONEY: Well, just -- if you're going -- to make --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because you don't trust -- you don't trust the investigation. You don't trust the team?

ROONEY: I have a little bit of concern when I saw those e-mails, when I see that this (INAUDIBLE) worked for Eric Holder and the Clinton Foundation. When I see the reading in Director McCabe's office talking about the dossier. That kind of makes me nervous.


HAYES: What do you make of this.

EVELYN FARKAS, MSNBC NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: It's disgusting politics. I'm sorry to say. I mean, I worked on the Hill, I worked on the Senate for the Armed Services Committee. There are a lot of investigations that were conducted during that timeframe and no one impugned the Inspector General of the Marine Corps or any of the professionals who were doing their jobs. Nobody -- none of those numbers would have dug into you know, how they voted and what their wives did you know, in terms of their professions, whether they were politically active or not. So I think this is a smear job. And it smells like a smear job. I can't believe that it's not putting off the American people frankly speaking. But I don't think it's the proper way to respond. I also think it's -- again, it's likely to backfire. That's what I'm saying by the distastefulness of it.

HAYES: It also seems -- Julia, I'm curious how your reporting syncs up with the Michael has reported in terms of your sense of the scope of where things stand with Mueller because the probable sense in the last few weeks, I think after Flynn -- the plea of Flynn was announced, was there was a sort of acceleration. I felt like we were sort of hurtling towards something. And part of that sensation was the President and his allies sort of starting to turn up the heat on Mueller. What's your sense of where things stand right now based on your reporting?

JULIA AINSLEY, NBC NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY AND JUSTICE REPORTER: So Chris, remember at that time it sort of seems like, well, they've already caught this big fish who's willing to cooperate, who gives them everything they need to know and then will see this you know possibly more details that really people are surprised at how much information they already had at that point but it's important to remember that Mueller's mandate is so wide --

HAYES: Right.

AINSLEY: -- he's able to look at anything that -- you know, any string he wants to follow he can go in that direction. And what we know is that, you know, Flynn may be someone who is cooperating, but he also has so many other pieces that he can get to. He wants to look into -- like Mike said, in how the digital operation works. It's a major prong in how Russia would try to influence the U.S. election. And he wants to know if the Trump campaign works with them there. There are countless meetings he needs to dig into and it could be as this continues, there are other layers that are unfolding and a lot of information that you and I just might not know ourselves right now.

HAYES: You know, I keep reminding myself of that aspect of it as we go through trying to get my hands around at the timeline particularly looking back at the Watergate. How long that took. How -- it wasn't until a year and a half you know, it was a year after the break when they find out the tapes. What is your sense? I mean, on the Hill right now, there's a sort of blank movement to try to knock down the Hill investigations. How essential as someone who worked on the Hill, how essential are those Hill investigations in tandem with Mueller?

FARKAS: Well, they are essential. And this is what make me nervous. And I've been publicly calling out you know the Hill and I've been saying we need to set up a 9/11 style commission to lay out to the American people the whole story. So the problem with the Mueller investigation or at least the limitations of it are such that he's not going to give us the whole story. He's only going to give us the data points that lead to prosecution. So what about the rest of it? You know, let's say that Carter Page and Roger Stone were not cooperating. They were not taking gifts from the Russian government in the form of help. So there's no case to be made. They won't be prosecuted. But let's say they got awfully close to the line, then that's part of the overall story. Because while George Papadopoulos is doing what he's doing, there are also doing what they are doing. Jared and Manafort are meeting with Russians. All those little data points, I believe the American public definitely has the right to know how they all get connected.

HAYES: Yes that's a great about just sort of the comprehensive record as independent and criminal inquiry. Julia, there's a piece in the Washington Post that federal prosecutor has also gotten records on the Deutsche Bank loan on Jared Kushner which I thought was interesting. The federal prosecutors have requested records related to the $285 million loan Deutsche Bank gave Jared Kushner's family real estate company one month before Election Day. The company confirmed this week. You know, Manafort has been indicted for things that just had to do with his personal financing. You got to imagine there's some fear of exposure on the behalf of the Kushner real estate empire.

AINSLEY: That's true, Chris. And if we remember, the thing that seems to touch Donald Trump's nerves, the most are the closer Robert Mueller gets to his family and the financial dealings of his family. Kushner, like the Trumps, is involved in a family real estate empire. I mean, he had a lot of dealings over the years before he ever entered into the political arena that could now expose him. And of course, this -- the fact that Mueller is able to subpoena Deutsche Bank and look into all of those is another thing that is going to cause a lot of anxiety at the White House especially if it looks like that this probe is extending far beyond the point that would make the President comfortable.

HAYES: Evelyn Farkas and Julia Ainsley, thanks for your time tonight. Coming up, the billionaire is now trying to sell the rest of America on the tax cut that overwhelmingly benefits them. But first, the new effort to actually stop Russian interference in the next American election. Senator Amy Klobuchar joins me on that in just two minutes.


HAYES: It has been almost a full year since the U.S. intelligence community released their declassified report on the 2016 election concluding that Russia took targeted actions to influence the U.S. electoral process, to undermine American democracy and specifically to harm Hillary Clinton and to help Donald Trump. And while the investigation's into that continues, we learn more and more about what exactly Russia did and with whose help. Remarkably no real steps that we know of have been taken to prevent this from happening in the future. And it's partly due to the fact that this administration has downplayed or outright denied Russia's interference in the first place.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't think it's funny that they, the Russians tried to meddle in the election. You believe --

TRUMP: That I don't know.

I said it very simply. I think it could very well have been Russia but it could well have been other countries.

I believe that President Putin really feels and he feel strongly that he did not meddle in our election.


HAYES: The Washington Post reported this month that Trump has never convened a cabinet-level meeting on interference or what to do about it. Despite that, or perhaps in spite of it, a bipartisan group of Senators is trying to take action introducing a bill called the Secure Elections Act. Joining me now, one of the Senators who introduced that bill today, Democrat Amy Klobuchar from Minnesota.


HAYES: So what's the legislation do?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, I was listening to your previous guest Chris, and of course the number one is to get to the bottom of what happened and allow that investigation to continue and allow Director Mueller to keep directing that investigation. But the second piece is to make sure that we do everything to protect our elections so this doesn't happen again. We know that Russians tried to hack into 21 state's electronic equipment. We know that our intelligence agencies has said this have happened. And by the way, even though the President may not be admitting this has happened, he's own heads of intelligence, the head of the FBI, the Director of National Intelligence having fact embraced those reports and have said that in fact, that happened. So that is why this is bipartisan. Senator James Lankford, Senator Lindsay Graham and Senator Pamela Harris and myself have introduced this bill. And what it does is it basically says, one, we have to share information with the states immediately so they don't find out about this months later and that Homeland Security is sharing any threats to election infrastructure and that secondly, that we give grants for them to upgrade their equipment when over forty states have not upgraded their equipment for over ten years.

HAYES: All right, so my sense is that from reading this sort of executive summary, the legislation. This has focused on the most core sort of feature of the election integrity which is yet sort of cyber defense of the actual electronic systems in place at the state level for voter registration and voting, is that correct?

KLOBUCHAR: That's correct. As you know, Illinois got hacked into their voter information. Right there, that was some most serious hacks. So it does those things and then has best practices, things like backup paper ballots which we know would be very helpful if a hack were to occur.

HAYES: Has the states done anything? I mean, it's been a little hard. I know that there's a real kind of territorial ethos among state election officials. They do not like the federal government telling them what to do. I've covered some of those fights before, the Help America Vote Act which was passed after the Florida debacle in 2000. So I know there's some sort of turf issues. Is the receptivity on part of states like do they want essentially the federal government to help them and have they taken steps on their own to protect the integrity of future elections?

KLOBUCHAR: Yes, a number of states are taking steps but I think what was frustrating to them, both Republican and Democratic Secretary of States, they want to protect their elections. They don't want to have that same election equipment or everything exactly the same. That would to more hacks. But they want our help and they want information. If they are prohibited from getting information about hacking attempts in other states, how is a small county in Minnesota going to protect itself if they don't know what's going on somewhere else in Florida? So is sharing with classified material, with classified designations for certain state officials to get that information so they can protect their equipment. And I would note the cost of this Chris, is three percent of one aircraft carrier. When you think of the cyber warfare we're experiencing and we're doing nothing to protect the fundamental working of our democracy.

HAYES: I think percentage of an aircraft carrier is a very useful shorthand for all governments spending. I want to read you this Op-Ed by Mike Morell and Mike Rogers, former CIA Acting Director and former Chair of Utah Committee. The United States has failed to establish deterrents in the aftermath of Russia's interference in 2016 election. We know we failed because Russia continues to aggressively employ the most significant aspect of its toolkit. The use of social media as a platform to disseminate propaganda designed to weaken our nation. Seems to me that there's not much that you can do about that statutorily without running afoul on the first amendment. What's your view on that?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, that's another bill that Senator McCain and Warner and I have the Honest Ads Act which I think you've covered. And that is at least we should be able to do something about paid political ads on social media. As you know, those companies have been maintaining that they don't have to follow the rules that apply to print and radio and T.V. We think those exact same rules should apply so that when you see an ad flash up on your Facebook page or your Twitter page, you know who's paying for it with a disclaimer but it's also disclosed so that campaigns and press can track what those ads are. Otherwise, it's like the wild west with billions of dollars spent with no rules in place.

HAYES: All right, Senator Amy Klobuchar, thank you for your time tonight.

KLOBUCHAR: All right, thanks, Chris. It was great to be on. And why don't you visit here because it was 35 degrees below zero without wind chill in International Falls, Minnesota? And the super bowl is coming and you guys are broadcasting it on NBC so what can go wrong?

HAYES: I was just reminiscing with my -- I'm reminiscing my wife about the winters in Chicago. And I would put a plastic sheet on our windows and like the blow drier to make it sealed because we're in a rental apartment and it was too cold. But stay warm out there. We'll try to get over there and cover



KLOBUCHAR: Thank you.

HAYES: Up next, the balance of power in the Virginia Statehouse hanging by one contested ballot. Today an update on the high stakes nail-biter. We'll have the update next.


HAYES: The fate of the majority in the Virginia state legislature now rest on one single solitary questionable ballot. Republicans control the legislature for 17 straight years but a recount of last month's election form the 94th district evenly split the house. The Democrats winning that race by one single vote. Then a three-judge circuit court panel ruled that this ballot in which the voter marked both the Democrat and the Republican counted for the Republican which then tied that race. Officials are going to break the tie in this one race by drawing names. But now that plan was postponed while the case heads back to court. Laura Vozzela has been covering the race, a Virginia Politics Reporter for the Washington Post joins us from Richmond tonight. I understand the Democrat Shelly Simonds is suing right now to get that ballot thrown out. What's the case?

LAURA VOZZELA, VIRGINIA POLITICS REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: Well, technically she hasn't filed the lawsuit but she has filed the motion with the three-judge panel that initially decided to count that ballot asking them to reconsider.

HAYES: So what are the rules here? I mean, I have to say, so she wins by one vote, there was all this sort of news cycle about her winning by one vote and they split the house. And then someone remembered this ballot existed and took another look at it and it sure does look to me like a spoiled ballot. Like making up the intent seems very hard. What is Virginia law say on this?

VOZZELA: Well, actually it's even more convoluted than that. The incumbent Republican initially won by ten votes but then they did a recount because it was so close and she came out one vote ahead in the recount. During the recount process there are Democratic and Republican observers, of course, and a Republican observer after the fact. He didn't object during the proceedings but then after the fact when it was all said and done came forward and said, well, there was this one ballot. And I didn't make a stink but maybe we should look at it. So they took it to the court which there's a three-judge panel that reviews the recount the next day before it's actually certified. And they took a look and they divined the intent of the voter. It's pretty tricky business though trying to read the minds of the voters.

HAYES: Yes, I just want to show that up again because part of what makes this confusing if we can show that on the screen is that they voted for Gillespie, the Republican for governor, you see it there. There's -- it's filled in and also exed out and then voted for both Shelly Simonds and David Yancey and then there's a line through Shelly Simonds. I mean, who knows what that means? Like some ballots are considered spoiled right and just thrown out where voter intent cannot be divined, right?

VOZZELA: Right. And in fact, that's what they did during the recount. And it looks like in Gillespie -- of course who knows but it almost looks like the voter went and made an x and then realized, oh, I'm supposed to fill in a bubble.

HAYES: Right.

VOZZELA: So filled in that bubble, filled in the others. But then you could look at the Simonds/Yancey race, the delegates race, and see that it almost looks like that the voter could have been starting out doing another x again, made that one line and then remembered to no, I'm filling in bubbles here and then for whatever reason filled in the next bubble or it might have been x-ing it out. It's certainly not clear to me but I'm not one of the judges so I don't know.

HAYES: I think your -- I'm just going to credit your non-judicial take on this as extremely confusing. We'll see -- we'll see what the courts say, but I think that's my layperson's view. Laura Vozzela thank you.

VOZZELA: Thank you.

HAYES: Coming up, the 13 critical days that helped shape Trump's first year and why the President is still mad at Jeff Sessions Next.


HAYES: As we begin to take stock of President Trump's first year in office, the Associated Press reminds us of a highly consequential 13 day stretch just six months into the presidency. It started on July 19th when President Trump in an interview with The New York Times expressed deep frustration about Attorney General Jeff Sessions' decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. The relationship between the two men is still sour.

The next day after a meeting at the Pentagon between President Trump and his advisers, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reportedly referred to the president as a quote, moron.

The following day Anthony "the Mooch" Scaramucci joined the Trump administration as the new White House communications director, even blowing a kiss at the end of his introduction at the White House press room. Apparently in protest, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer quit. Then July 26, the home of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort a raid, shifting the Russia investigation into another gear.

The the next day, Anthony Scaramucci's profanity laced interview with The New Yorker, the next day in the wee hours of the morning, Senator John McCain gives his iconic thumbs down to the skinny repeal of Obamacare.

Later that same day, Friday, July 28, President Trump tweeted that he was making retired four star general John Kelly his new chief of staff, replacing Reince Priebus. And the following Monday, well, communications director Anthony Scaramucci, much to the chagrin of cable news producers everywhere, was fired.

One of the co-authors of the extensive AP's "13 Days in July: The Trump White House's Crucible" that lays it all out, Jonathan Lemire joins me now.

Why was this such an important period?

JONATHAN LEMIRE, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Well, we found that -- this is obviously a White House that has produced no shortage of headlines throughout this year, but for these 13 days not only was it particularly frenzied, but the news that came out of that period is still having consequences today, that the White House was shaped, nearly broken, by these 13 days between July 19 and the 31 but really changed. And the people we talked to in the White House say there was some good and some bad.

HAYES: How has it changed?

LEMIRE: Well, certainly, first of all, senior staff, major changes, first and foremost, is the new Chief of Staff John Kelly who has clamped down on some of the in-fighting in the West Wing, who has controlled, the change of flow of information to the president, who has put together some sort of structure...

HAYES: I mean, he still DVRs Fox and Friends.

LEMIRE: For sure. He does. And Kelly, and this could be a criticism of his, has said that he doesn't believe Twitter is part of his job, which is a significant source of information for him.

HAYES: Or is television watching. I mean, those are two -- it does seem to me that whatever Kelly has done in the paper flow, which does seem to be changed and more disciplined.

LEMIRE: It's a more organized White House than it was.

HAYES: Yes, right. I mean, he's getting documents but he's watching...

LEMIRE: That's right.

But there's certainly more of it -- there's some more discipline in the building, if not perhaps with the president himself.

HAYES: Right.

LEMIRE: We saw these two weeks really lay bear the splintering of the president's relationship with two key cabinet members. As you just mentioned in the intro, it was the meeting at the tank when Mattis and Tillerson and others sort of had to take the president to school as to why the United States has assets around the globe, why this was important. And to make that case they said like well this affects businesses, like, say, the Trump organization.

HAYES: Right. Right.

LEMIRE: And after that meeting is when Rex Tillerson reportedly called him a moron and that relationship has never quite recovered.

Also, the Jeff Sessions rift is still ongoing and showing no signs of healing.

HAYES: That is one of the more bizarre twists here. I mean, Sessions -- there probably is no one more ideologically aligned with whatever Trumpism constitutes, if that's coherent ideology, I'm not sure, but to the extent there is one, Jeff Sessions sort of embodies it. And yet it seems the reporting indicates that the president's still mad at him and now blaming him for the loss of the Alabama senate seat.

LEMIRE: Yeah, it is. I mean, it is a -- to this point, a rift that has not been repaired. The president has fuming off and on privately about Sessions for months. Publicly, of course, he's tweeted about him in an unprecedented way, attacks on his own members of his own cabinet. But he's been telling people recently, you know, as he's been looking to sort of assign blame for the Roy Moore defeat in Alabama and he's gone through cycles of blaming Steve Bannon, or blaming the initial advice that had him backing Luther Strange to begin with.

But now he's even told some advisers, well, you know, if I had known that Sessions was going to recuse himself, I never would have appointed him attorney general. If I didn't appoint him attorney general he'd have been in the senate, and therefore I wouldn't have gotten into this mess in the first place.

HAYES: Right.

I wonder how that one will play out, that relationship between the attorney general and the president of the United States.

LEMIRE: People around the president have really told him, look, you should let this one go, that Sessions is still...

HAYES: Numerous times. I mean, they took a run at him back in the summer when he was really ramping it up. And I remember there were all sorts of signs being sent both from the Hill, from the sort of Republican establishment, from the sort of conservative magazines like do not touch Jeff Sessions.

LEMIRE: Across the board, Sessions, you know, long-time -- obviously a veteran senator, very popular on the Hill to this day.

You know, the Bannon wing still really believes in Jeff Sessions, thinks that he has done good work at DOJ for conservative causes, and they think that if Trump were to fire Sessions, he'd alienate portions of his base.

HAYES: Jonathan Lemire, that was great reporting, thanks to have you.

LEMIRE: Thank you.

Coming up, the billionaires behind the latest effort to sell Trump's massively unpopular tax bill, but first the president plays hide and seek on the golf course in tonight's Thing One, Thing Two next.


HAYES: Thing One tonight, President Trump tweeted out Monday, "I hope everyone is having a great Christmas. Then tomorrow it's back to work in order to make America great again." And so once again we go through this absolutely absurd charade in which the president insists he's hard at work when everyone, everyone knows he's actually spending the day golfing.

Yesterday, the day he said he would be getting back to work, CNN got this footage of him golfing. It seems someone wasn't too thrilled since today a mysterious white box truck blocked their camera from filming the golf course. We don't know we know if that truck had any connection to the White House, but we do know that Trump's aides really don't want people knowing he plays golf, sometimes he does a lot.

By NBC's count, President Trump has spent more one in four days in office at his own golf properties 86 days of golfing, that's a lot of golfing. But the White House routinely refuses to acknowledge the basic and obvious truth the president is hitting the links even when reporters see his clubs loaded into the car. They maintain he has a full schedule of, and this is my favorite phrase, meetings and calls.

So why all of the lying? That's thing two, along with one of our favorite montages in just 60 seconds.


HAYES: President Trump has spent 86 days playing golf so far, averaging a round of golf once every four days, which is probably why the White House never admits he's golfing. President Trump is on track to play more golf in four years than President Obama did in eight.


TRUMP: I love golf, but if I were in the White House, I don't think I'd ever see Turnberry again, I don't think I'd ever see Doral again. I own Doral in Miami. I don't think I would see many of the places that I have. I don't think I'd ever see anything, I'd just want to stay in the White House and work my ass off and make great deals, right? Who is going to leave?

There won't be time to go on vacations. There won't be time to go golfing all the time.

I'm not going to play much golf, because there's a lot of work to be done.

You need leadership. You know, you can't fly to Hawaii to play golf.

I don't know where the president was, he wasn't very far away. Maybe he was playing golf.

Obama it was reported today played 250 rounds of golf.

Obama went golfing every day.

Let Obama go play golf every day.

Obama plays more golf than professional players on the PGA Tour.

Playing a lot of golf. He's played more than most PGA touring professionals play.

More than a guy who plays on the PGA tour plays.

PGA tour.

Plays more golf.

Plays more golf.

PGA tour.

PGA tour.

I mean, this guy, golf, golf, golf, golf. More, more, more. Learning how to chip. Learning how to hit the drive. Learning how to putt. Oh, I want more.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe there's a need for Republicans to go out and sell this bill given how American are currently viewing it?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R) KENTUCKY: Absolutely. I mean, we're looking forward to it. My view is this, if we can't sell this to the American people, we ought to go into another line of work.


HAYES: Senate Republicans are getting some help in selling their very unpopular tax bill, which is polling at less than 30 percent. The Koch brothers are coming to the rescue. Their political network, funded by wealthy GOP donors, had already invested $20 million to push for the bill before its passage and now, according to BuzzFeed, they will launch a multi-million dollar campaign with, quote, fullscale nationwide education campaign to try and convince Middle Class Americans to support a tax cut that largely benefits both the rich and corporations.

Congressman Ro Khanna, Democrat of California, joins me. Do you think they'll have success as the withholdings get recalculated in the spring and there are some expectations that people have such low opinion of this bill they're actually underestimating the number of people that will get a tax cut, people will see a little bit more money in their paycheck?

REP. RO KHANNA, (D) CALIFORNIA: I think people get it. They know that this is largely a corporate tax cut. You know, President Obama in 2009 actually passed a bigger middle class tax cut. I was in the administration and people didn't notice that and that was about $1,000 more than this. So this is temporary. They know the vast majority of benefit goes to shareholders, they're going to go into stock buy backs, and it doesn't help working families.

HAYES: How big a role do you imagine megadonors and super PACs, like the Koch network, are going to play in 2018?

KHANNA: Well, look. I mean, they're going to be out in full force, but the problem is tougher than just saying we need to defeat the agenda of self-interested donors. This is actually a mantra of these folks. I mean, they believe that the economic concentration of the investor class is a good thing. They want Peter Thiels to get the money, because they believe people with pedigree and networks invest it and drive economic growth.

And I think what the Democrats need to say is actually we need bet on real people. It's -- economic growth of the country is driven by nurses, and factory workers, and teachers, and we need to give them the money and trust them with the economy. We have to win the philosophical argument I think to succeed.

HAYES: I wonder how much that philosophical argument is even up for the debate in the hands of the voters. I mean, one of the things that's remarkable about this tax cut is the tax cut is unpopular. It almost seems the Democrats have won the philosophical and rhetorical debate and it didn't matter and they passed it anyway and now they're just going to roll the dice, that they can throw enough ad money at it to get out alive.

KHANNA: Yeah, and I think, look, they actually believe this stuff. When you talk to Republican colleagues, they are convinced on the whole trickle down economics. And you can argue until you're blue in the face. I mean, their own conservative economists say only 20 percent of corporate tax cuts will actually get to workers and that will be years from now. And yet they just believe this as a mantra and it's amazing to me. I mean, they don't care about the public opinion polls. I agree with you that we won the debate. The one place I do think the Democrats need to do more is to say that our vision actually is going to produce economic growth. It's the only thing that ever has is investing in the middle class tax cut and putting money in working class families.

And the reason is simple, look, Apple and these companies are sitting on billions of dollars. If they wanted to create more jobs, they could already do that. The reason they haven't is because they don't have people buying their products. So, it's common sense if you give people money to buy the products, that's what is going to create growth.

So, I do think we need to make that argument.

HAYES: All right, Congressman Ro Khanna, thanks for making time tonight.

KHANNA: Thank you.

HAYES: Now that Trump has his tax cut, Republicans have new targets in the new year. The latest push to cut Social Security and Medicare next.


HAYES: Republican tax cut is expected to add more than a trillion dollars to the deficit and House Speaker Paul Ryan has been very clear about his solution for the revenue shortage he helped create.


REP. PAUL RYAN, (R) WISCONSIN: We're going to have to get back next year at entitlement reform, which is how you tackle the debt and the deficit.

Frankly, it's the health care entitlements that are the big drivers of our debt. So, we spend more time on the health care entitlements because that's where the problem lies fiscally speaking.


HAYES: Matt Welch, editor-at-large at Reason Magazine, Christina Greer is a fellow and resident at New York University's McSilver Institute for Poverty, Policy and Research. And I'll start with you. They have sent signals. I mean, the tax cut was, you know, I think probably would have been signed into law by Mark Rubio or Jeb Bush, it was largely what sort of doctrinaire Republican Party wanted.

And now they're sending the like signals that the doctrinaire Republican Ryan budget of go after entitlements and social insurance is happening and is that your expectation as well?

CHRISTINA GREER, FELLOW, NYU: Well, I mean, the way they've structured this tax bill, something has to get cut, and so they're framing it as entitlements, but we know that this is the social safety network, right. And this is what LBJ put together, this is something that has kept poor Americans, poor white Americans, afloat. And the way they framed it to their constituents, though, is it's these people who are taking...

HAYES: It's welfare.

GREER: Who are taking the money from our government.

It's welfare and we know that the color of welfare, framed by the Republicans, is a very black and Latino picture, but we know the real numbers say that white Americans are the primary beneficiary of all these entitlement programs.

So, Paul Ryan is essentially looking at the members of his party, people who vote religiously with the Republican Party in saying I'm going to take away the life that you know, but because I framed it in a way as entitlements that you think are for black and brown people, then you're going to cosign it.

HAYES: There is amazing reporting on this, actually, about this argument with Mick Mulvaney and the president about welfare where Mick Mulvaney is like Social Security, it's like oh, no, no, you can't do that. I said wouldn't cut that. Medicare, no, no, no. Disability? He's like, OK. OK, disability is welfare. It's like, well, good luck cutting disability in Trump's America right now like that -- like...

MATT WELCH, REASON MAGAZINE: Anything, to be honest, in Trump's America. I'm someone who wants to see cuts, being a heartless libertarian bastard and everything, but here's what the Republicans did. And Mick Mulvaney is a key figure. This Mick Mulvaney wrote a piece in The Wall Street Journal in 2015 saying there is no honest way to have deficit spending from a Republican to justify it, from a Republican point of view.

In 2018, or 2017, what does he say, we need new deficits.

HAYES: I love that quote.

WELCH: In order to pass this tax reform, what Republicans did is say we're going to increase spending. The deficit has already gone up until Donald Trump, it's at $666 billion, a great number there. It's going go up to a trillion dollars I think pretty soon. And there is no economic crisis or something big to justify that intellectually. They're just going full speed ahead into that. They are not cutting government.

GREER: Because he does not fundamentally understand money. I mean, seriously.

HAYES: But he understands debt, like that's actually...

GREER: He understands moving debt around.

HAYES: He does.

GREER: Like he got the money from his daddy, and he is able to sort of take that money and he's constantly in debt.

HAYES: And wriggle out from creditors time and again.

GREER: Always. Always. And that's what he's doing with the American economy. But the difference is, there's a between between the American economic and the American people. And the people are going to suffer. Donald Trump and his ilk, and many of the elected Republicans who are in Washington, D.C. they will be more than fine. This tax bill is structured for them and their donors to be absolutely OK.

It's the American public that will see the crushing benefits of no disability, you know they're going to defund education...

HAYES: If they can sell those. That's my big question about going into this year.

WELCH: Trump campaigned against the Paul Ryan ideas right?


He won a crowded president's primary 17 people, because not only is there no constituency in America for Paul Ryan's vision, there's no constituency in the Republican primary base for Paul Ryanism.

WELCH: And now what do we hear about Paul Ryan is that he's thinking about peacing out.

GREER: Cashing out.

WELCH: This great project of Paul Ryan's, this is what he's talked about ever since he got into congress years ago is that he wants to tackle long-term entitlement reform. That project, I believe, is dead. It no longer exists.

HAYES: well, that's going to be -- that leads to my second question, is I have a theory that they're ending this first year of Trump very united, the Republican Party, the different wings like the judges, they like Gorsuch, and they like the tax bill. And they're happy with that. And, look, if a bunch more immigrants are getting deported, some of them are really into that, some of them aren't, but it's sort of no skin off their nose. And the president says outrageous things all the time and you just sort of...

GREER: It's become noise, unfortunately. And so...

HAYES: For the Republican Party, I don't think for voters it has.

GREER: And it's become normalized noise for them and they just sort of say, well, you know, that's Don and they keep moving because they are certain things that they're getting.

The issue is, and we have talked about this for the past year, I was always pretty confident that we would be OK, because even if we had one of the branches that is just out-of-bounds, Donald Trump, the other two branches of government in the legislative and the judicial would sort of keep us nice and steady and safe and the way the framers intended.

Unfortunately, it seems as though the courts have become extremely partisan and now we're seeing highly unqualified people just are rolling in based on Trump's recommendations and we're also seeing the legislative branch abdicating to the whims and some of this president and some of his extremist policies and not really sticking up for the American people as the legislative branch.

And so now we have three weekend branches as opposed to one, which makes me a little concerned.

WELCH: I think most of the last 11 months there's -- Republicans have been sort of holding their nose and saying, but Gorsuch, and at least they got a guy who is a pretty good jurist, at least they have some good -- there are some lousy people who got withdrawn, but people like Don Wilt (ph), they're great judges and who are going to rule against Trump in ways that hopefully a lot of us will find copacetic. They've been saying that.

But now they got, but tax reform, too. So, they are feeling better than they have been.

But going forward, are they going to agree on infrastructure? Are they going to agree on anything major? I just have a lot of skepticism that's going to happen.

HAYES: I think we are going to see -- it's going to be very interesting when things intensify in the first half of this coming year about what this congress does.

My prediction is that they are hanging together and they're going to have longer than people expect or anticipate. Matt Welch and Christina Greer, many thanks.

That is All In for this evening. The Rachel Maddow Show starts right now with the one and only Joy Reid in for Rachel. Good evening, Joy.



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